8 - Further Timber Industry
Woolgoolga Timber Industry
The timber industry was the first industry in Woolgoolga and along with crop farming was a major part of the reason for European settlement. Cedar cutters had been recorded in the area from the 1830s onwards, but it wasn’t until the 1870s that there was a permanent European settlement at Woolgoolga. The first timber mill was built in 1883 and the town was officially gazetted as “Woogoolga” in 1888 and not officially changed to “Woolgoolga” until 1966.
Originally bullock teams hauled timber wagons from the Jesse Simpson forest down along Woolgoolga Creek to Woolgoolga Beach where the timber was “floated out” to schooners waiting in the Bay. Cedar, beech and ash were the majority of the trees logged. Ships brought supplies for settlers and left with timber. In 1887, William Pullen built a small jetty to ship his timber and sugar out of Woolgoolga. The British Australian Timber company was established in 1888 and prospered in the town. In 1907 the bullock teams were replaced with a steam locomotive that pulled wagons loaded with logs along a tramway alongside Woolgoolga Creek Road to a timber mill on the site of the present day Bowling Club at the end of Boundary Street.
The logs were then shunted on rails from the mill out onto a jetty built by the government in 1892 and extending almost half a kilometer out into Woolgoolga Bay. A further mill, the Great Northern Timber Mill was established in 1912. A few of the ships loading timber met their fate in storms while at anchor in the Bay, including the Buster (a 310 ton 39 meter long barquentine) which was to head for New Zealand after taking on a load of timber. It broke its moorings soon after arrival and was wrecked in February 1893 (see Shipwrecks & Lighthouse section), but parts of the wreck are still revealed at times in the sands between the surf club building and the entrance to Woolgoolga Lake.
The jetty was demolished progressively from about 1952 to 1961. Mooring buoys used in the bay at the end of the jetty are now decorated and located at the intersection of Wharf and Beach Street. A piece of track and one of the railway wagons, complete with large log (photo above), are on display next to the Woolgoolga Art Gallery in Turon Parade (photo below). This reminder of Woolgoolga’s timber history was constructed by Neil Yeates, Ron Rediger and Jim Limbert as a 1988 Bicentennial Project. From 1910 through to around 1950, timber was a major industry in the Woolgoolga area, at times employing half of the population in that industry. There were at least 8 large mills which operated in the local area.