Back to Cathcart Federation celebrations

Looking back to the past

The pioneers of Cathcart struggled to make a living and establish themselves in their small and isolated community.

The roads were rough, communication was limited to letters and infrequent newspapers, services such as education and medical care were rudimentary, cash was hard to come by and the markets for their produce were distant.

Wool and meat

The Imlay Brothers traded their livestock from Cathcart and other holdings chiefly to Hobart and Launceston. Monaro traders such as the Imlays were able to gain an income from the reliable shipment of live cattle and sheep to Tasmania.

Trade from Twofold Bay to Tasmania was extensive. In 1834 the "Clarence" and "John Charlotte" sailed with cattle from Twofold Bay to Tasmania. In 1834 the schooner "Friendship" and the barque "James" with similar cargo.

In 1836 the "Merope", "Matchless", Brougham", "Lady of the Lake", "Lindsay" and "Harlequin" all carried livestock from Twofold Bay to Tasmania.

In the years 1834-35 more than 1500 cattle and 12,000 sheep were loaded at Cattle Bay live for Tasmania. These shipments were vital to the survival of Tasmanian settlements during those years.

Following the Imlay Brothers insolvency in the early 1840s due to drought, fires and rural depression, the trade was continued by Ben Boyd for a time.

In the 1837 Census, Badgery had a flock of 3161 sheep and these along with Martin's 501 marked the beginning of wool production in the Cathcart district. The wool from these early colonial flocks was shipped to England.

The natural increase of sheep in these first few years was prolific, but gradually problems arose with disease so that flock numbers were stabilised.


One of the very earliest money earners for Cathcart pioneers was trade in the hides of native animals such as kangaroo, wallaby, possum, and native bear (koala).

Native animals also provided a source of food and warmth as fur rugs and throw covers in the home. The skin and fur trade quickly became an industry that helped the battlers in establishing a home.

Kangaroo and wallaby skins brought high prices and native bear hides were keenly sought by dealers competing with one another.

An article from the \pi\Bombala Times\px\ dated September 18, 1884 announces a "...big trade in possum skins. Monaro dealer made 2000 pounds profit by selling to English, French and German markets."

These animal hides provided an income derived from hunting which allowed the pioneers to fence and clear land and build up the herds and flocks of livestock.


The first sawmill was probably Maurice McKinnery's Cathcart sawmill, established in 1865 amongst the magnificent stands of the Tantawangalo forest.

McKinnery milled in the area and owned a store until 1883. An advertisement from the \pi\Bombala Herald\px\ (1877-1883) states that a two-roomed house could be built for as little as 22 pounds.


Until quite recent times many farming families milked a house cow for fresh milk and cream.

From the earliest days there were those who milked a few cows, scalded the milk, skimmed the cream, made it into butter, then either sold it to the teamsters or walked to Bombala to sell the results of their hard work to the townspeople.

However by the 1880s, dairying was increasing and by the 1890s dairying at Cathcart became a way of life for the majority of people for more than 40 years.

At first milk was carted to Stewarts' community separator one mile from Cathcart opposite to where the Union Church once stood. After the milk was separated the farmer took the milk back to his farm to feed the calves or pigs.

From 1895 to 1906 separators appeared on most Cathcart dairies. The Cathcart Co-Operative Dairy Society Ltd opened a butter factory at Cathcart in 1906. Charlie Robinson was the man in charge and lived for a short time in a hut beside the butter factory, situated in Throsby Street.

At the Cathcart Co-Operative Dairy Society meeting on March 29, 1915 the chairman, James Crotty, reported to 20 shareholders present that the preceding six months the co-op manufactured 119,353lb of butter ie over 53 tons grossing almost 6000 pounds.

This was a production record for a six-month period at that time.

Eventually butter prices went down and manufacturing costs at Cathcart went up to three and a half pence per pound which was about 30 per cent of what the butter brought.

Some suppliers began to leave the local factory and send their cream to Pambula and Bimbaya. Due to the decline in supply plus the rabbit plague and other factors the Cathcart Butter Factory ceased to receive supplies and closed at the end of January 1927 with a clearance sale held on August 20 of that year.

Dairying did continue at Cathcart - with improved pasture management, better breeding programs and reducing rabbit numbers, Cathcart dairies could hold their own with the best on the coast.

Gradually, first one then another producer dropped out of dairying as the years went by due to improving prices for wool, beef and lamb.

In the winter of 1964 the last dairy transferred to grazing when Gerathy's they turned their herd out for the last time and so the era of dairying at Cathcart came to an end.