TOUGH LIFE: Early settlers Robert and Susan Bridger started their life together at Mullumbimby Creek.
TOUGH LIFE: Early settlers Robert and Susan Bridger started their life together at Mullumbimby Creek. Photo: Tweed Daily

Tough trek through mud to claim 300 acres and a new life

AS EARLY settlers moved to the Northern Rivers to take up their land selections, the going was tough.

Pioneer Robert Bridger described his first time travelling to the Brunswick Heads area, to the Tweed Daily some 50 years after the event.

It is a window into the lives of our ancestors when there were no direct roads, no cars and no aeroplanes to move them around.

Still they came to the area to start new lives and provide for their children, building communities along the way.

"On February 2 ... my father and I came to the North Coast, where I was to take up 300 acres on Mullumbimby Creek," Mr Bridger told the Tweed Daily.

"We left Robert Marshall, who kept accommodation for travellers, and went to Billinudgel. We camped there for the night and next morning made an early start in the rain for Murwillumbah, finally crossing McLeod's Plains and scaling the steep hills to the Tweed."

By February 9 he had made it to the Conditional Purchase office where he made his claim for land.

This all happened in 1882.

Mr Bridger described the plentiful redbills, ducks, plovers and wild geese the party saw on their travels.

Rain had started three months earlier and would continue for the next two years with not much dry weather.

They travelled back to Condong and stayed with a friend.

Mr Bridger remembered the area of Montecollum covered with lawyer vine and stinging trees, fig, teak, ironbark and rosewood trees as well.

The quagmire roads were travelled on horseback or on foot and weren't easy going.

Hotels and other accommodation, including camping, were used when the party wasn't able to stay with friends.

At one point Mr Bridger's father James hurt his ankle and nursed it with a piece of lawyer vine placed under the foot and looped through his hand.

Where there were no roads they travelled by boat to Woodburn, coach to Chatsworth and, finally, boat to Maclean.

At Maclean, Mr Bridger had three months grace before taking up his land selection, so spent the time preparing the gear he would need to establish his farm when he returned with his wife Sarah.

The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1933.

In 1934, Mr Bridger died, and was buried at the new cemetery on the Old Lismore Rd.

References: Early Days on Tweed and Brunswick, Tweed Daily, March 29, 1933; Obituary - Mr Robert Bridger, Tweed Daily, September 20, 1934; Pioneers of the Brunswick, Tweed Daily, July 19, 1933.



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