Wolfe Reserve and Wolfe Point

Wolfe Reserve was named after James Wolfe,

Hector McWilliam named all of his streets and reserves in Old Tuross after famous wartime leaders or famous battles.

The area now known as Wolfe Reserve was established as a public reserve when the Tuross Head penninsular was first subdivided in 1924

The reserve and public road are a vestige of the original stock route from the 1850's that saw cattle moved up and down the coast. The Tuross bar was closed for over a decade in the late 1800's and cattle were moved via this route between Moruya and Bodalla. When the bar was open the cattle were swum across on the turn of a low tide.

In the 1850's they tried Tuross Lake as a port. One steamer made it through the entrance but was trapped in the lake for seven weeks when the bar closed over behind it. The 'entrance' to the Tuross River, as is the case now, was there only at times, and it could shift its position dramatically from one tide to the next.

The reserve was formally gazetted as a public reserve (R58218)
on the 7th August 1925

(note W.R. is abbrev. Wolfe Reserve and was named by Hector McWilliam)

Wolfe Reserve was named after Major General James Peter Wolfe (3 January 1727 – 13 September 1759). He was a British Army officer, known for his training reforms but remembered chiefly for his victory over the French at the Battle of Quebec in Canada in 1759

Other examples in old Tuross of names Hector McWilliam used are:
Nelson, Hood, Jutland Trafalgar, Beatty, Raleigh, Sturdee, Drake, Cradock, Jellicoe,
Chatham, Clive

Below shown as reserve in 1927

The point itself is officially unnamed with the Geographical Names Board however Wolfe Reserve has been written on a few
old plans with the NSW Registrar General.

Wolfe Reserve has a single Norfolk pine on it and at its base you will find plaques dedicated to two lost
souls killed on the Tuross Bar

Frank Rankin 2/6/1951
Gregory Kelly 6/10/1986

Others know to have drowned on the bar are:

Frederick Maessy 26th March, 1867

Thomas Mahon 26th March, 1867
George Magill 26th March, 1867

Thomas Mahon and George Magill are buried in the reserve between Bridges Avenue and Chauvel Crescent.
(see details below)


This report was printed in the
Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser
Friday 5 April 1867

It has never fallen to my lot to record more melancholy accidents, nor attend with more harrowing details, than these I am about to relate. It commenced raining heavily here on Saturday afternoon and continued, with little intermission until early on Tuesday morning in, consequence of which a heavy flood was coming down the river Tuross.

Being anxious to witness the notion of the flood on the Tuross bar, and also to judge by the debris as to the extent of the damage up the river, Mr. Dansey and a party of four started down the lake from the Tuross saw mill, intending to land at a particular spot which they reached as an oar broke.

A French sailor and another young man named Parson's, went down in a flat-bottomed dingy, and also landed in safety after breaking a paddle. Parsons here joined our party on land and thus escaped a watery grave. Another party, consisting of Mr. Francis Hawdon (son of John Hawdon, Esq., of Kyla Park), his friend Mr. George Magill, and a servant man named Thomas Mahon, also arrived safely having followed Mr. Dansey's directions.

As we were mounting the hill we were amazed at seeing the Frenchman (whose name was Frederick Maessy) rowing swiftly down the current apparently rejoicing at the speed he went. We shouted but he still pulled on. I exclaimed, " Run, the man is mad" but we only reached the Heads in time to see him throw away his oars, leap overboard, regain his boat and finally get capsized in the boiling water along his boat when they disappeared.

We were returning sorrowfully up the beach when to our intense horror we perceived Mr. Hawdon's boat gliding swiftly down the same treacherous course to its destruction. They evidently felt their danger and used every effort to avoid poor Fred's fate but to no purpose. At this point Mr. Hawdon stripped and took to the water, which, though running, at a fearful rate was as smooth as glass inside.

On came the boat , swifter and swifter with its two doomed occupants grasping the gunwale. It passed, safely through the first break and they had the presence of mind to pull a few strokes here, or had they stripped previously and jumped over at this spot, there was a bare possibility of their being saved but they were evidently too much overcome to use any exertion.

Mr. Magill had stripped off his trousers' and leaped overboard followed by the other poor fellow in his cloths; but, after a few ineffectual struggles, they both disappeared. The feelings of the spectators, who were almost within reach of the doomed ones, but without means to aid or save, no tongue can tell. In the meantime, Mr, Gooden, saw-mill engineer, had never taken his eyes from the struggling form of Mr.Hawdon, who was carried by the current into the breakers rather before the boat reached them.

He is a powerful swimmer, and by dint of great exertion contrived to keep his head above water, boiling and roaring as it were. He was carried out, how far I am afraid to say when by the mercy of God's providence , a sort of current drove him towards the over-strained spectators, who,' forming a chain rushed in to meet him and dragged him panting and exhausted, to the beach. He is since perfectly recovered, ' A more miraculous escape I have scarcly heard of. It is a dream to us.

The men who formed the living chain were G.H. Gooden, James Southam, Daniel Southam, William Parsons, and Jesse Cole. The Frenchman's boat has since been recovered three miles up the north beach, but although a diligent search has been instituted and kept up, no traces of any of the bodies or of the other boat have as yet been discovered.

The bridges are washed away between Moruya and Bodalla but I am in no position to give you any news from Bodalla. Mr. Mort's large and valuable punt, May Queen, was brought down on Monday evening and night with great difficulty and danger, but she is at present perfectly safe at the Tuross Saw Mill Jetty.

Coila, March 28, 1867

Great Flood in the Moruya District.

(From the Examiner, March 29, 1867.)

Sad and serious is the change in this district's prospects from this day week, and short was the
time for the accomplishment of the dreadful results — three persons drowned— crops and fencing destroyed — and many driven temporarily from their homes. It was only last week that almost everyone in this district was full of congratulations on the bright prospects before us.

It was fully expected that at least 3000 tons of potatoes would be shipped from this district. Prices were fair, and in corn the produce promised nearly double the last year's crop. These bright hopes, however, have been, by the mysterious working of all wise Providence, shadowed by a terrible visitation.

Bad as the district has suffered, Tuross Lake was the scene of the most direful disaster, that of the drowning of three young men, entering upon the very prime of life, and what adds to the direful occurrence, whilst occupying themselves for no earthly purpose but the madly satisfying of their useless curiosity. One of the party, an eye-witness to the melancholy end of the young men, sends us an account, published below, but we are able to supply a few additional particulars.

Whilst the three on the lake, in company with a fourth containing Mr. Brice and his daughter, one of the young men proposed to row down and have a peep at what the water was doing at the heads. The Tuross Lake was more than a mile across, and though there was a powerful flow running into it from the land the great breadth of water where they were was free from current.

On nearing the sea, however, there are two sandspit, one on each side which narrow the water to three hundred yards, and the breakers here are fearful, literally like mountains; and the narrow stream leading to the opening is for some distance like a seething cauldron. The narrow part begins about a mile from the heads or bar at the heads. After the whole party had landed in safety, probably landing through the oar breaking as detailed below, Massey was dissatisfied, and proposed going further, his companion positively refused, and he then said he would take the boat himself.

He accordingly started, and was followed by a second boat, in which were Mr F. Hawdon, and the two unfortunutes Messrs Magill and Thomas Mahon Mr Brice and his boat were following at some distance. After proceeding some distance they began to feel the current, and Mr Hawdon beckoned Mr Brice back, which advice was followed. Mr Hawdon advised to make for a small bay in the spit, but poor Massey kept pushing on, and Magill insisted on following. No advice would deter them

At last, within a mile of the heads Mr Hawdon leaped out of the boat with the intention of swimming to land, but was immediately borne away by the current far ahead of the boat he had just left. Massey, however was first, and just before reaching the breakers he jumped out of his boat, but was instantly engulfed to rise no more alive.

Mr Hawdon was borne over the spot where Massey had just perished and then commenced a struggle for life which could not have been victoriously fought by one in ten thousand, Meanwhile, after Mr Hawdon jumped from the boat his companions appeared paralysed, but gradually to become sensible of their dangerous position, when they (too late) endeavoured to reach the side. They, however, were driven towards the mighty breakers notwithstanding all their efforts and just before reaching them they also leaped from the boat and endeavoured to swim towards the side.

The struggle was but for a moment, they also were almost instantly engulfed. Mr Hawdon, now the only one left of the four, still maintained his struggle. Though burled over and over, as though but a sheet of paper, he continued to catch a breath when he could, and to swim, edging inch by inch nearer to the friendly side to which the party on land (having ran from the first landing place) were beckoning him.

At last after buffeting with the breakers half an hour, he reached an eddy, which whirled him round and threw him so that those on shore, by joining hands to form a chain, the one furthest in the water could reach him, when he was placed in safety.

The rate of the current may be judged by the words of one of the party on land, who states that whilst they were running 300 yards the boats had traversed to the breakers, a mile. As may be supposed, Mr Hawdon is an excellent swimmer, but it is wonderful how he kept his presence of mind amid the cataracts continually hurling him over and over, and incessantly bearing down upon him. The following is from the pen of one of the party who remained on the land : —

"27th March, 1867.
I am exceedingly distressed at having to inform you of two most melancholy casualties which occured yesterday at the Tuross Heads, and both attended loss of life.

The river as you may well suppose was very heavily flooded, and three boats started down the Tuross Lake, to witness the effect of the flood upon the bar.

One boat containing Mr Dansey, Mr Gooden, Mr Southam and three others from the sawmill arrived in safety, only breaking an oar.

The second, a flat-bottomed dingy, with Frederick Massey and William Parsons on board, also reached in safety, and Parsons landed ; but Massey with a broken oar rashly ventured round Sandy Point, and we shortly saw that nothing short of a miracle could save him from going to sea.

We all made for the Heads, and just reached them in time to see the unfortunate men in the first break under the flagstaff, where he threw away his oars and leaped overboard.

He was a powerful swimmer, and reached his boat again, getting on her stern, but the sea struck
her capsizing her, and we saw nothing more of poor Massey.

We were returning up the beach, when, to our horror, we perceived the third boat containing Mr Francis Hawdon (who was most miraculously saved), Mr George Magill and Thomas Mahon, sweeping down the same fatal track to destruction It seems they had landed in safety as directed by Mr Dansey, but deceived by the confidence of poor Massey, had again put off, and were immediately swept away by the current.

We were powerless to save or even aid them save by signs, and the poor fellows did their utmost, but finding it unavailing, Mr Hawdon stripped and jumped overboard inside the spit, his two companions remaining in the boat, evidently nerveless.

The boat rushed through the first breakers, and just before reaching the breakers on the bar, they both leaped overboard, and almost immediately sank.

"Meanwhile, Mr Gordon, one of the spectators, kept his eye steadily on Mr Hawdon, who struck out powerfully, but who, by the strength of the current, was carried into the breakers almost simultaneously with the boat, and was buffeted about on the bar for from fifteen to twenty minutes. Gooden and the others made signs which Mr Hawdon understood, and by God's mercy got into an eddy, and by the assistance of those on shore, was at length drawn to land in a very exhausted condition, but I am happy to say he has since thoroughly recovered. A diligent
search has been kept up for the bodies, but as yet nothing but the Frenchman's boat (which was carried to Coila beach) has been as yet recovered.

The following are the names of those drowned :

— from the first boat, Frederick Massey, a French sailor, employed by Hichard Dansey as
puntman ;

from the second boat, George Magill, gentleman, lately residing with John Hawdon, at
Kyla Park, and Thomas Mahon, lately servant to Mr. John Hawdon.

Thomas Mahon and George Magill are both buried in the reserve between Bridges Avenue and Chauvel Crescent.

(From a correspondent of the Empire.} – The Late Fatal Boat Accidents

The late lamentable accidents at the Tuross Heads has cast an additional gloom over the neighbourhood, already desponding enough on account of the recent high flood. A constant and careful search was kept up along the beach north of the Tuross, which resulted in the finding, on the evening of the 28th, of the body of Mr. George Magill ; and on the morning of the 29th, the body of Thomas Mahon- both about a mile north of the scene of the disaster. Notwithstanding the most careful search, the body of the unfortunate Frenchman has not yet been found.

On Friday evening, W. S. Caswell, Esq , held an inquest on the sea-shore, in the open air, when evidence in accordance with the facts I have already detailed was adduced, and a verdict of " accidental drowning" was returned. The bodies of the unfortunate men were then placed in hastily constructed coffins, and it being then quite dark, were interred in an oak scrub, by the light of a flickering wood fire ; the Rev. P. Fitzgerald, the Presbyterian minister, uttering a short prayer over the graves, and so closed this sad drama.

The scene was a wild and melancholy one, the sea moaning hard by, the fitful glare of the wood fire lighting up the scared faces of the spectators, and the wind sighing through the oak boughs over head, rendered it very impressive. Our local journal has endeavoured to attach blame to the survivors, but the evidence taken before the coroner sufficiently exonerates them from all imputation on their conduct.

You can Read Francis Hawdon's statement from the Inquest here



Above: the latest pan of the Tuross River mouth from Wolfe Point