Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Teralba (2284)

"This now little township, which has sprung up like a mushroom, has some comfortable miners residences already built in it. Mr. T. Williams, late of Minmi, has just opened a new hotel there, which is situated close to the edge of the lake. He seems to be one of the right sort, and is doing a flourishing trade, as it is the only hotel within several miles. There are two butchers' shops, two stores, and a baker's shop to supply the people's wants, with a good school for the children." - The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser 13th December 1887.

It would seem that our good correspondent from the Maitland Mercury forgot to add that Teralba also had a Post Office, although the Post Office was known as Winding Creek at that time.

original letter/newspaper receiver  
Teralba is a small community situated on the northern edge of Lake Macquarie (about 20 kilometres from Newcastle) and is part of an area of 914 acres that was originally granted to Capt. James St. John Ranclaud in the 1830's. Upon his death in 1842 the title passed to James Mitchell, who combined the Ranclaud land with his existing Lake Macquarie holdings and the area became known as the Awaba Park Estate. Upon his death in 1896, the Mitchell estate was then bequeathed to his daughter, Margaret Quigley, who continued to develop the land for pastoral enterprises. 

In the 1880's the NSW Government decided to extend the railway from Homebush to Newcastle and so it was from this great engineering achievement that the town of Teralba (or Tirelbah, as it was known to the local aborigines) began to rise from the scrub. The site was chosen by the contractors because of the access to a fresh water stream and that they were able to quarry the much needed ballast from a site that was known as 'Big Hill'

Teralba PO - 1920's  (NLA C4076)
As men sought employment on the railway, a town quickly established around the quarry and by 1885 there were over one hundred men employed in the quarry. A lot of these workers were accompanied by their families, living in rudimentary accommodation, mostly tents and dealing with the harsh environment of the Australian bush. It should also be remembered that at the time there were also over 45 children living in the fledgling camp as well ... hard days indeed!    

As the camp expanded the needs of a Post Office were required and so on the 1st January 1885 the Winding Creek Post Office opened, with Mr S.G. Hooper appointed as the first Postmaster. Who Mr Hooper was I can't ascertain, however, as most of the business owners can be identified, Mr Hooper could have been a mine manager at the  Amos & Co. gravel quarry, which was not uncommon in the early days of the Post Office. The mail was initially conveyed from Wallsend to Teralba (Winding Creek) three times per week via horse/coach and was incorporated into the existing Wallsend to Cooranbong mail run.

Street Posting Box circa 1870's
Luckily for the residents of Teralba a viable coal seam was also opened up in 1886, so once the railway reached Teralba in August 1887, the little township continued to thrive. Also coinciding with the arrival of the railway, the postal and telegraph operations were transferred to the railway station on the 1st January 1888 with the Officer in Charge Mr H.F. Nesbitt appointed the new Postmaster, his remuneration for performance both tasks was £150 p.a. ($115,000). The arrival of the railway also provided Teralba with a direct link to Sydney with the mail now arriving daily at 4.30pm without it having to come via Newcastle and Wallsend. The Teralba Post Office continued to grow, becoming a Money Order Office  (3/6/1889) and then a branch of the Government Savings Bank (1/10/1895). 

The growth of the Post Office was forcing more and more people to cross the busy main north railway so calls were made to find a more suitable location for the Post Office. The site that was eventually chosen on the western side of William St (possibly at 61 William St ) and the 'new' £700 ($85,500) non official Post Office was eventually opened on the 12th August 1904 with Miss M. O'Shannessy  appointed Postmistress.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, on the 4th October 1924 the Postmaster-General called for tenders for the "Removal and re erection of post office building, repairs and painting, and installation of electric light". Who accepted the tender and when the work was actually done is still unclear, however we do know that the Post Office, including of the original building,  were moved from it's William St location to 42 York St in 1924/25. In 1996 Teralba became a Licensed Post Office (LPO) and then the current owners, Llynda & Peter Cleary, finally moved the Post Office from the cramped 100 year old building to combine the Teralba Post Office with their newsagency next door.

So it doesn't matter if it is called Tirelbah, Awaba Park Estate, Fresh Water Creek, Winding Creek, Big Hill, Glen Mitchell, Gravel Pits, Ballast Pit, Billy Goat Hill, Hillsborough, Quigley Estate or even Monkey Town .... the present day Teralba is still being served by Australia Post, as it has been for over 125 years!  

I would like to thank the NCC Library, LMCC Library, Trove Australia, Newcastle Family History Assoc. and Llynda & Peter Cleary for their assistance in compiling this blog.  

Teralba Update -  Teralba no longer has a Post Office. A few weeks ago the newsagency ceased to be an LPO & the licence has been downgraded to a CPA (Community Postal Agency).

P.S. I mentioned in an earlier blog about how I come across some interesting side stories during my research. However, some of those stories are tragic and with the railway running through the middle of town, some of those stories are truly heart wrenching. On the 17th December 1911, one week prior to Christmas, two young girls were killed in a terrible tragedy. Below this is the SMH report from Monday 18/12/1911 -

“A double fatality occurred line near Teralba yesterday, when two little girls were dashed to death by a passing train

At about 3.15 yesterday afternoon Ada Duncan, aged 10 years and 9 months; Clara Duncan, aged 8 years; and Gladys Duncan passed through tho wicket-gates about half a mile north of the Teralba railway station. They were about to cross the rails, when they noticed an empty ballast train travelling from Teralba towards Newcastle. As their attention was directed towards this train, they   failed to notice the Tamworth mail, which was dashing along towards Sydney. When the ballast train had passed, the children attempted to cross, but Ada and Clara were struck by the englne of the Tamworth mail. Ada was dragged about half a dozen yards, and was killed instantaneously. Clara was thrown clear of the rails, but was badly injured. She was brought on to Newcastle, and taken to the Newcastle Hospital, where she died at 17.30 last night.

Gladys appears to have had a narrow escape. The little girl Ada, who was killed instantaneously, was a cousin to the two other girls. Ada had arrived from Dora Creek at about midday, and the three children were taking a walk when the accldent occurred. Clara and Gladys were sisters, and lived with their mother In Victoria Street, Teralba. Their father, Robert Duncan, died recently.

An inquest will be held at the Courthouse, Teralba, at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning"

site of the former wicket gates at Teralba

That makes this tragic accident 100 years old this year and so I plan to give reflection on the 17/12/2011 to the two young lives, Ada and Clara Duncan, who were snatched away well before their time.


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