Stock and station agents set up in Lismore
THE Richmond River District went through several stages in the history of white settlement.
First came the graziers and timber-getters, then selections were made and farms began to appear.
It was not until after the Robertson Land Acts of the 1860s, however, that the major development began in farming.
Until then graziers had claimed most of the cleared area and did not encourage farmers on or near their leaseholds.
However, they wanted large areas of land and left most small pockets to the farmer.
As timber was cut out farms could be established there, but this was a long and tedious business of clearing, burning, and building.
The Robertson Land Acts restricted the power of the graziers.
This resulted in people already in the area taking up selections.
Most of these people had small crops such as corn and they usually kept pigs.
A few dairies were started, but these were not often successful because the cattle were mainly from herds already in the area, usually beef cattle.
If a dairy was successful there was the problem of getting the product to market.
Sugar cane therefore became a popular crop and small sugar mills sprang up all over the District.
Few produced good quality sugar, however.
Eventually, the CSR was persuaded to build a sugar mill at Broadwater.
Sugar quality improved but many farmers found it difficult to get their cane to the Mill and so decided to change over to dairying which, by then, had begun to thrive.
Dairying had taken off largely because of an influx of new settlers, mainly from the South Coast where dairying had been well established for some years.
There was a shortage of good farming land there and many looked to the Northern Rivers to solve this problem.
They selected new land or bought out established areas.
They brought with them their stock and plant, and perhaps what was more important, their knowledge.
They believed two things were paramount for a successful industry - the need for good stock and station agents, and the building of co-operatives.
Two men who played a major role in this development were John Elliott and Samuel Robert Cooke.
Both came to the Richmond from the South Coast where they had been successful farmers and the sons of farmers.
They both selected property in the Coopers Creek area in the late 1880s.
By the early 1890s they had several farms and Samuel Cooke had moved his headquarters to Bexhill.
It was about this time that they decided to go into partnership as stock and station agents.
John Elliott, who by this time had moved his family to Corndale, appears to have begun the business, John Elliott & Co, which was based in Lismore.
Shortly before Elliott died in 1909 Cooke left the partnership and joined another agent.
Both men knew the District well and the potential of each area.
They could therefore give sound advice to those wishing to move here.
By this time many properties were changing hands frequently with fluctuating economic conditions and also because some men considered the work involved was not worth the small returns, especially if they had a large mortgage.
Cooke was more interested in cattle while Elliott was well known for his knowledge of horses and pigs.
Both men were members of local show societies and had been frequent prize winners with their stock.
Cooke was also a Director of Norco.