In 1865, eight miles southwest of Moss Vale, a railway camp was established. This would become the town of Bundanoon.
The camp was a construction hub for the Moss Vale-Marulan section of the Great Southern Railway. It was located in a heavily timbered area, known as Barren Ground, with the nearest established settlement being Sutton Forest. Labourers and their families lived in tents around a make-shift village. When the rail opened to Goulburn in May 1869, most workers had moved on but some stayed.
A station and rail loop opened near Barren Ground on August 6, 1869 and was named Jordan’s Crossing, as the rail installation bisected the 40-acre property of Frederick and Charles Jordan.
Coal, sandstone and timber were abundant in the area and in great demand by the railways. Mines, quarries and sawmills opened and a village was established on subdivided land at Jordan’s Crossing. Boarding houses opened to cater for holiday makers attracted by the area’s picturesque natural beauty and healthy climate.
Residents felt the lack of rapid postal and telegraph services, and began agitating. For nearly 30 years they had to make do with unofficial services as the first official Post & Telegraph Office was not provided until 1899.
This period is well documented, as the NSW Postmaster-General's Department maintained files of all policies and correspondence for each locality. These written records were preserved and have now been digitized by the National Archives. The file for Jordan’s Crossing/Bundanoon (1871-1899) provides a rare insight into village life. It was transcribed in 2010 by Bundanoon History Group’s then archivist Liz Walker.
The first PMG record, dated 21 April 1871, is a petition to the Postmaster-General signed by 62 people: “We the undersigned residents at, and in the vicinity of, Jordan's Crossing situated on the Southern Railway Line, and others interested in this locality, respectfully beg to bring under your notice the serious inconvenience and loss we sustain from there being no post office nearer to the above-named place than Sutton Forest, which is very difficult of access from Jordan's Crossing, and in fact almost unapproachable in the winter time, or after heavy rain.”
“The locality of Jordan's Crossing is fast becoming one of importance, especially since the opening up of their coal mines by the Rock Roof Coal Mining Company who employ a great number of men. The Railway Stationmaster at Jordan's Crossing would, we presume, be glad to do duty also as postmaster. The outlay required therefore by the Government would be but trifling.”
This prompted the PMG Department to ask postal staff at the surrounding localities of Murrimbah, Moss Vale and Mooroowoolen (Marulan) as to whether the petition should be actioned. One said yes, one said no and one expressed no opinion. No decision was reached.
George Wilson Osborn wrote to the Postmaster General in January 1872 complaining of the mail service between Jordan's Crossing and Moss Vale. George and wife Dinah had moved to Jordan’s Crossing around 1867, purchased land near the railway station and established a dairy. It was on a portion of this land, which he subdivided, that the village took shape.
George suggested that a letter box be placed on the station platform in which a bag could be placed (twice a week), in charge of a responsible person. He said this would be quite sufficient and would be very little expense to the Government.
The manager of the Rock Roof Coal Mine, Robert Longmore, also wrote to the PMG expressing frustration with the inadequate postal service which was impacting his business. He had attempted to take matters into his own hands by entering into an arrangement with the Moss Vale Postmaster to get improved mail deliveries for Jordan's Crossing, which had worked for a while then stopped.
Longmore claimed that when Jordan's Crossing residents did not send suitable Christmas gifts the service was discontinued. Since then residents had been compelled to take it in turns to collect, weekly, the mail from Moss Vale.
Would the postal authorities heed their plight?
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part 2 of a four-part series.