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Before European settlement, the Clarence River marked the border between the Bundjalung and Gumbainggir nations, and so descendants of both language groups can now be found in the Grafton region.


Grafton, like many other settlements in the area, was first opened up to white settlement by the cedar-getters. An escaped convict, Richard Craig, 'discovered' the district in 1831. With the wealth of 'red gold' cedar just waiting for exploitation, he was given a pardon and one hundred pounds to bring a party of cedar-getters on the cutter 'Prince George' to the region. Word of such wealth to be had did not take long to spread and one of the arrivals was pioneer John Small on the 'Susan' in 1838, and he first occupied land on Woodford Island. 'The Settlement' (as the embryonic Grafton was then imaginatively named) was established shortly after.