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Gresford history

There is evidence of human habitation in Australia for 65,000 years or longer prior to European colonisation in 1788.

The Gringai/Guringay lived continually in the Barrington, Barrington Tops, Gloucester, Dungog and Gesford areas of NSW long before the first white settlers arrived. A language analysis shows that the Gadhang (Taree dialect), Warrimay (Worimi), Guringay (Gringai), and Birrbay (Biripi) are dialects of one language, the Kattang/Gadhang language, while the people known as Awabakal, Kuringgai, Wonnarua, and possibly Geawegal spoke a language common to the Hunter river/Lake Macquarie area.

The Worimi, Biripi and Gringai were divided into a number of Nurras or clans. Nurras were local groups within tribes, each occupying a definite part of the tribal territory.

The Gringai are the custodians within the boundaries of the Allyn and Williams river upstream to Gummi Falls on the Manning River known as Kummi Kummi – Barrington Tops – (Beann Beann), Rawdon Vale, Barrington, Gloucester up to the Manning river down to Dungog, Gresford and Worimi from Gresford, Paterson to the Hunter River and Port Stephens up the coast to Manning River Taree.

Barrington Tops National Park and State Conservation Area overlie the territories of several Aboriginal groups the eastern side is the traditional country of the Worimi Gringai and Biripi people. The southern valleys were occupied by the Gringai the western side is Wonnarua country. The Biripi took in the area between Tuncurry, Taree and Gloucester. Worimi territory extended from Barrington Tops and Forster in the north, to Maitland and the Hunter River in the south.

The Gringai occupied the valleys year-round, visiting the plateaus in spring and summer to gather food. During winter they would hunt kangaroos, emus, possums and wombats, fish and other animals. A wide range of plant foods was collected from the lowland forests. The edible fruits found in the Barrington Tops area include: orange thorn, wild apple tree, figs, native cherry, geebung, native raspberry, lillypilly and Bush medicines. Other traditional plant foods include the bulbs of many orchids and the starch from the crown of tree ferns and the starch from stinging tree roots being roasted to make bread.

When Europeans settled in the Dungog, Gloucester-Manning area in the 1820s and 1830s, the Aboriginal people lost their homelands to logging, clearing and livestock. Traditional hunting grounds were depleted, and sacred sites were destroyed. Wildlife dwindled. Oral history tells us that by 1840 the natural food supplies were almost exhausted. Starving Aboriginal people began killing stock the settlers and government troopers retaliated with random shootings and massacres. Around the Manning Valley basin, there were reports of waterholes and gifts of food being laced with arsenic known as “The Harmony ” the first recorded method of killing Aboriginal people with arsenic in NSW.

The Gringai are now very strong in numbers even after the killings and bloodshed. Many Gringai people still live on Country.

(Information provided by Robert Syron, Gringai man, 2018)

The first recorded Europeans in the district were timber-getters who began extracting valuable red cedar around 1812 by following the Gringai trails through the forests. The Hunter Valley was locked out to free settlers prior to 1820, which resulted in the first local land grants being made around 1826 when George Townsend (Trevallyn), Charles Boydell (Camyr Allyn) and Alexander Park (Lewinsbrook), received their grants. Townshend and Boydell were neighbours in Wales and many other Welsh settlers followed. Locality names including Gresford, Eccleston, Halton, Trevallyn, the Allyn river, Summer Hill and Caergwrle continue to reflect these strong Welsh links, as does the signing of a Sister Village Agreement with Gresford in Wales in 2002

Early settlers were assigned convict servants in proportion to the wealth they brought with them. They also employed ‘ticket-of-leave’ (ex-convict) labourers. Their aim was to develop the land and grow independent settlements. They grew tobacco, fruit, wheat and corn which were transported by road to Paterson before being shipped to Morpeth for distribution to local and overseas markets.

The district’s vineyeards were amongst the earliest in the Hunter Valley. The first grapes were planted in the late 1820s with viticulture in the area growing in importance during the 1830s. Dr Henry Lindeman, who originally set up a medical practice in Gresford, turned his interests to viticulture and established the now well known Linderman brand. Dr Lindeman brought a professional approach to the local industry and during the mid to late 1800s Gresford wines were very highly regarded and even exported, winning international medals. However, the combination of severe droughts, changing tastes, disease and an influx of cheap wine from other regions temporarily ended wine production in the district around the turn of the century. Dr Henry Lindeman, with many other family members, is buried at St Anne’s church, Gresford.

The district is now involved in the production of quality wine, dairy, beef and olives. Organic poultry and vegetable farming is filling niche markets with superb produce both locally and overseas. Small businesses are continually providing specialist products and services to locals and visitors to the district. The tourism industry hosts a growing number of visitors who recognise the magnificent environment, rich history, friendly people and proximity to major centres.

Easter Saturday Billycart Derby

Click here to go to the Billy Cart Derby website.

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