This project very consciously limits its scope to the Williams River Valley, and even then largely to the stretch from its headwaters beneath the Barringtons to Clarence Town. This is only about 60 kms or so of a valley that is perhaps 10 kms wide at its narrowest points and much less for most of its length. Even today, with its population at perhaps 3,000 people the highest it has ever been, is not large. So why devote so much historical effort to such a small local area?
The advantage of such a narrow focus is that a great deal of historical depth can be achieved. The constant shifting of evidence and sources relevant to this limited area constantly yields surprisingly fruitful results. As well, this in-depth approach throws up an amazing number of questions across a very broad range to be asked and gradually answered.
- Dungog – the name of the major town on the Williams River since 1833 and of a police district for much of the 19th century – is an unusual word that as more and more material becomes digital and so subject to powerful search engines gives great advantages in sifting out small contributions to the research.
- One such example was the discovery of the little known first letterbook in a series of Dungog Magistrates Letterbooks running from 1834 until 1851. This very underused resource is held in the NSW State Archives whose holding only begins in 1839. The discovery that a mislabeled Dungog ‘Police Office’ Letterbook held by the National Library was in fact the first in this valuable series greatly adds to our historical knowledge.
Questions thrown up: