A journey into the history of the Ainsworth pioneering family of the Nambucca

Pioneer Isaac Ainsworth has a large headstone on his grave. It is situated in the Nambucca Cemetery not far from that of Marmaduke England and Robert Gordon.

John and Eliza Ainsworth in 1912

John and Eliza Ainsworth in 1912

Isaac was reported as being an Englishman from Birmingham. His connection to the Nambucca was likely through his brother-in-law, William Holt Smith, who was Australian born and had been a sawyer on the Nambucca in the early 1840s.

Smith and Isaac selected land in Frederickton, on the Macleay, on the same day in 1867, in the same parish. Isaac had married Charlotte Smith at Austral Eden, on the Macleay, in 1856. So therefore, like other settlers, Isaac undertook his pioneering of the Nambucca fully supported and aided by his wife.

Isaac and Charlotte Ainsworth with their daughter Gertrude

Isaac and Charlotte Ainsworth with their daughter Gertrude

The next record of Isaac is his arrival at Deep Creek after 1875. There he joined the Englands, the Buchanans and the Greers becoming the foundation of a small, but closely knit community in that part of the valley.

The connections between families is very much in evidence with Isaac and Charlotte's marriage as Charlotte's sister Eliza later married John Bowen Ainsworth who was Isaac's cousin. Here we should note that Nambucca has a strong connection with Austral Eden.

Some one-third of marriages with Nambucca connections at the time had spouses declaring Austral Eden as their birth place. It is evidence that people looked further afield for prosperity but chose destinations where they would have connections already. (In a previous article on Robert Gordon I noted that he and many others must have known each other in Balmain in Sydney).

It seems the movement to Nambucca by Isaac and Charlotte was prompted by heavy flooding at Austral Eden. Like others they would have maintained relationships with people on the Macleay.

There was a well-established bridle track running six or seven kilometres from Scotts Head to the old mouth of the Macleay at Grassy Head. They moved to land that had been taken up by their son at the age of seventeen. They must have lived between there and Austral Eden for some of the time as two of their later children were born there.

John and Eliza Ainsworth, cousin and sister of the Isaac Ainsworths, settled on the Nambucca by 1873. They prospered from timber-getting, land selection and dairy farming.

They may have profited from selling or sub-dividing land. This branch of the Ainsworth's is known for being public benefactors and this is more notable as it seems they both came from convict backgrounds.

References: The Valley of the Crooked River by Norma Townsend and Red Cedar Our Heritage by Alex Gaddes are littered with references to the Ainsworths all with different Christian names so the number of them in the valley was significant.

Records of the Nambucca Headland Museum were also used for this article.

More from local history enthusiast Rachel Burns: Early Nambucca timber mills: The pioneering story of the Buckmans

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