People have lived in these rich valleys for thousands of years. Prior to European settlement, the Gringai clan of the Wanaruah tribe lived throughout the district. Traditionally, the Gringai people spent the winters in the valleys and migrated into the mountain hunting grounds during summer.
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.