cobargo - the name
The town perhaps got its name from an aboriginal word meaning
'Grandfather', although there is little evidence to support this theory. The
other possibility is the local Aboriginal word 'cubago' which some sources
claim was used to describe Mount Dromedary. This also seems doubtful as the
local Aboriginal community now insist that Dromedary is correctly named
'Gulaga' - about as far from 'Cubargo' as you could get. All we really know
for sure is that in 1840 Alexander Imlay had a property called 'Cobargo'.
the first settlers
William Duggan Tarlington was the
first white squatter to set foot in the Cobargo district, in February 1829.
W.D. Tarlington, originally
William Duggan, was born in 1806 as the bastard son of a convict, Margaret
Duggan (a servant from Lancaster, sentenced to life for stealing clothes).
The father was apparently a William Ruffian. He subsequently adopted the
name Tarlington when his mother Margaret married John Tarlington in 1811.
John Tarlington was also a convict, coming to Australia on the
'Matilda' in 1791.
Tarlinton (the 'g' was lost
somewhere between 1811 and today) came to Cobargo from Braidwood and arrived
in the district looking for pastoral land. He liked what he saw and obtained
a squatting licence for an extensive landholding just south of the present
town. He took up full residence in about 1852 and commenced work on the
'Bredbatoura' homestead (which is still there today).
In 1840 Alexander Imlay also
gained a squatting licence for the property 'Cobargo' and acquired
In the 1860's many new settlers
had started to arrive to exploit the lush growth of black wattle trees.
Wattle bark was sent away to be used in the tanning of hides, generally to
make leather goods.
Cobargo was first known as
'Wattletown' and as 'The Junction' because of its location at the junction
of the Narira and Bredbatoura Creeks.
1860 - 1900
In 1864 there was an act of murder
in the Tarlinton family. One of W. D. Tarlinton's unmarried daughters,
Margaret, bore a child to an Aboriginal farmhand (either Dick Holloway or
Briney), but within hours of the birth the other daughter, Elizabeth, was
seen burying the baby's strangled body in a makeshift grave near the
'Bredbatoura' homestead. Margaret was subsequently charged with murder in
1869 but unfortunately in those days acts against 'blackfellas', even
murder, by 'a most respectable resident in the district' were not treated
seriously and the case was dismissed (even though the court transcripts of
the case show that by today's standards she would have been convicted of the
A local school began operating in
February 1871 with a Mr John O'Reilly as teacher. The township then had a
post office, General Store, Public School, Hotel, Church and several
blacksmith shops. Dairying commenced in the 1870's with the main product
being butter. This was shipped to Sydney from Bermagui in kegs and the
remains of the original shipping jetty can still be seen at Bermagui.
It wasn't until the improvement of
the coast road in the 1880's and the construction of a bridge over Narira
Creek in 1882 that the village really started growing. On the 30th May 1885
the Cobargo Agricultural Society was formed (with Mr W. D. Tarlinton as
chairman) and the first Cobargo Show was held in April 1889.
The construction of the 'Australian Joint Stock Bank'
building and manager's residence was commenced in 1884 and the bank opened
in 1887. (It was taken over by the Bank of New South Wales in 1903). The
bank continued in these premises until 1917. The original building remains
as the oldest house in town and is now the 'Colour Flash' opal jewellery. It
is preserved in a beautiful condition and is a 'must see' for visitors - it
is the first building on the left as you turn into Bermagui Road.
In 1887 the School of Arts Hall
was erected, again mainly from local hardwood. The hall had a good supply of
books, magazines and newspapers. Even today it is still used by community
groups an for larger town functions.
In the 1890's the town and
surrounding district was large enough to sustain a local newspaper - the
The present Post Office building was
erected in 1890. The building also became a telephone exchange in 1910 when
the postmaster was also responsible for telephone line repair work in the
area. The Post Office was also very significant for many local people as
from 1918 the postmaster's wife, Mrs Merrion, conducted a maternity home in
1900 - 2000
The Butter Factory and
Co-Operative were established in 1901 on the banks of Narira Creek but were
gutted by fire in 1926. The factory was soon rebuilt and operations
continued until 1975. In 1980 the factory closed because of decreased cream
supply due to the new emphasis on bulk milk production.
Bushranger Ben Hall's wife Bridget
was also a resident of Cobargo for some time. She died in 1923 aged 85 and
was buried in the Catholic cemetery, however the grave is not marked. In
1862 she left Ben for a policeman Mr James Taylor and some believe this may
be the real reason that Ben became a bushranger.
Many of the early
families are still well represented in the district today. The Salways,
Cullens, Motbeys, Allens, Gillespies and Tarlintons are all direct
descendants of the original settlers.
See also Indigenous History