Clan Coutts Society

Clan Coutts Society

Coutts Crossing

Coutts Crossing (including Nymboida)
Tiny village south of Grafton
Coutts Crossing is located on the banks of the Orara River on the main Grafton to Armidale Road, 20 km south-west of Grafton and 669 km north-east of Sydney. Situated in a pastoral district, it has about 50 houses, a general store and a tavern for meals and drinks. Up the end of town is the Coutts Crossing Union Church which is shared by the Anglicans and the Uniting Church. There is a nine-hole golf course and a sporting complex at McIntosh Park.

The area was occupied by the Gumbaingirr Aborigines prior to European settlement. Ex-convict Richard Craig, who was probably responsible for the first European exploration and settlement of the Clarence River (see entry on Grafton), led a party of potential settlers from the plains near Guyra to the Nymboida district in 1840. The principals of the trek were William Forster and his uncle, Gregory Blaxland - the son of the famous explorer. They became the first Europeans in the area to be attacked by Aborigines when they set up camp at the junction of the Orara River and Kangaroo Creek. One member of the party and one Aborigine were killed.

Undeterred, William Forster set up the Geergarrow property, upon which the village of Coutts Crossing later developed. An interesting man, he was an essayist, poet, satirist, critic and politician who served as colonial secretary and, in 1859-60, as premier of NSW. He was a highly independent, erudite man and a very successful pastoralist who, in 1839, had taken part in one of the first overland expeditions to Port Phillip (now Melbourne).

On the southern boundary of the Geergarrow property, Blaxland established the Nymboida run while a contemporary settler, Thomas Coutts, established Kangaroo Creek station in 1840. Coutts crossed the river at the future village site during his excursions to South Grafton.

In the 1840s Coutts too was involved in a great detail of conflict with the local Aborigines who suffered from the loss of their hunting grounds and the displacement of their traditional food sources (e.g., kangaroos) by sheep. They killed his sheep and three of his employees and it is likely that Coutts and his employees had mistreated and killed indigenous people. Things came to a head in 1848 when local Aborigines obtained, from Coutts, flour that had been laced with arsenic. At least seven (some say twenty) people were poisoned and Coutts was arrested but appears not to have been tried. The general population of Grafton were shocked and the Aborigines engaged in retaliatory measures. They killed another of Coutts' shepherds and either stole 900 sheep or killed another 2500, depending on which source is credited.

Timbergetting was extensively practiced in the Nymboida area and along Kangaroo Creek from the mid-19th century.

The villages of Coutts Crossing and Nymboida developed after the 1861 Robertson Land Act enabled the break-up of the large pastoral properties. Dairying and agriculture emerged and public schools opened at Nymboida in 1879 and at Coutts Crossing in 1913. The latter received a post office in the 1880s. A creamery was established at Coutts Crossing some time in the late 19th century.

The Orara Gold Field was established to the south-west of Nymboida in 1881 and coal was first mined at Nymboida in 1909, although a major mining operation was not established until the Second World War. When the company closed the mine in 1975 the miners continued to turn up for work and the company eventually handed them control of the mine which they continued to run off their own initiative until 1979.

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