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In 1831 convict Richard Craig escaped from Moreton Bay and engaged an intermediary between himself and the Government in Sydney. In return for his pardon & 100 pounds, he would escort a party up to the "Big River" and the area known by the aborigines as "The Booryimba" where there were stands of cedar right to the waters edge. Craig was successful and the party navigated their way on the revenue cutter "Prince George".
John Small sailed to the river in 1838 after hearing of Craig and his cedar story. Accompanied by his son, also named John, they negotiated their way on board the "Susan" commanded by Henry Thorne and accompanied by Henry Gillett, Francis Freeburn, Steve King and Henry Burns. The first settlement incidentally occurred on Woodford Island. William Borlace Wilson and his brother Christopher arrived in 1839 as contract surveyors and were followed by William Wedge Darke who laid out the town, originally named "The Settlement" from 1848. The first sale of town land blocks took place in January 1851 at the Police Station.
Grafton was officially named by Governor Fitzroy after his Grandfather, the Duke of Grafton, whose seat is "Euston Hall" Thetford, Norfolk, England. Several streets carry the names associated with the family, namely Prince, Fitzroy, Villiers and Duke.
The river crossing caused a few problems in the early days with row boats the only means until the 1920ís when two train ferries the "Swallow" and Induna" were put into service. Increased demand and public pressure resulted in the commencement of the Grafton bridge in 1928 and completed in 1932.
Throughout the history of Grafton there have been frequent floods which inundated the City. Significant floods were experienced in 1863, 1890, 1928, 1950, 1954 & 1967. The 1890 flood is still the highest recorded peak, while calls for Government assistance were rejected until 1967 when the flood mitigation project was put into operation.
Grafton is also known as the "City of Trees". On 8 April 1874, Grafton's municipal representatives resolved to adopt a street tree planting policy for the Municipality. In July 1879, a tender ws accepted from a seed merchant, Mr H A Volkers, who is credited with introducing the Jacaranda trees to Grafton. The first 60 trees planted by Mr Volkers were in Pound Street between Mary and Villiers Streets. In 1880 further plantings were carried out, including the first Jacaranda trees. 1907-8 saw the creation of Jacaranda Avenue (now known as Pound Street).
In 1858, sixty nine inhabitants of Grafton and South Grafton petition for a Municipality. The proclamation was gazetted on 20 July 1859. The first Mayor, Alderman J E Chapman, was elected in September 1859. Grafton was proclaimed a City in 1885. In December 1897, South Grafton held its first elections as a Municipal town independent of Grafton. The first Mayor, Alderman JT McKittrick was then duly elected. In 1956 South Grafton and small areas of adjoining Shires were amalgamated with Grafton with the new Grafton City Council being elected on December 7 1957. In 1923 the 9th Duke endowed the City with the right to use his escutcheon as its Coat of Arms adopting his heraldic device.
Area & Population
Grafton City Council has an area of 80 square kilometres and a population of 18,190.
Extract compiled by Alex Rogers, 1998 (information and image courtesy of the Grafton City Council)