Grafton Rowing Club History: North Coast
Prior to the expansion of the railway system in NSW, shipping was the main form of transport for people and goods along the eastern seaboard. Many ships carried freight and passengers to and from Grafton and other towns on the Clarence River which was, for many years, the centre of the thriving North Coast shipping trade. There was even a "Grafton Wharf" in Sydney:
The photo above shows the busy Grafton Wharf in Sussex Street, Sydney, about 1890 - the masts of ships can be seen on the right. The area where the ships are tied up was originally called Cockle Bay, but its name was changed to Darling Harbour in 1830 (when Governor Darling decided to confer his own name on the bay).
"Sussex Street, throughout its whole length, is but slightly elevated above the level of Darling Harbour. It forms the main thoroughfare between the wharves, warehouses, flour-mills, shipbuilding yards, and manufactories, which are posited between it and Darling Harbour" (James Maclehose, "Pictures of Sydney", 1838).
The picture above is taken from the Sydney Town Hall in 1870 (sorry it is not very clear). Darling Harbour and Sussex Street are in the lower right hand corner. Ships can be seen anchored in Darling Harbour and around into Johnston's Bay (centre right). The old Pyrmont Bridge can be seen joining Sydney to Pyrmont Point, with a large factory (probably a steam flour mill since eight such mills existed in the area at the time) to the right of the bridge on the site of the Pyrmont Power Station (and "Darling Island Goods Yard").
The first private vessels to arrive on the Clarence were two small sailing vessels with timber getters aboard in 1838, hoping to find the great stands of Australian Red Cedar described by an escaped convict named Craig. The "Susan", owned by Thomas Small, and the "Taree", owned by Francis Girard, initially stopped at Maclean and Tyndale respectively. These two men returned to the area again not much later and became the first farmers on the river, both grazing cattle. Girard's property "Waterview" was the first run on the river. Many settlers followed, so the shipping industry, which was the fastest and most reliable transport method at the time, boomed.