Manning River History

A Manning Valley Timeline


Captain Cook, sailing a fair distance from shore, observed three prominent mountains grouped together, which he called the Three Brothers. They also observed smoke from the fires of aborigines. (The district TV towers are now located on Middle Brother Mountain.)

Aborigines had been living in Australia for many thousands of years.  In the days before the white man, the Biripi lived in the area between Tuncurry in the south to Telegraph Point in the north, and as far west as Gloucester and Nowendoc.  They lived in harmony with the land and the sea  –  it was little disturbed by their presence.


John Oxley and George Evans set out from Bathurst on an expedition of exploration. They went north-east along the Macquarie, Castlereagh and Peel Rivers. They eventually crossed the Great Dividing Range and headed east to the coast (near where Walcha is today). They climbed Mount Seaview and saw the Hastings River to the east and the Manning River in the distant south-east.

They travelled to the mouth of the Hastings and named it Port Macquarie. Then they proceeded south to Camden Haven and on to Harrington at the northern mouth of the Manning. They did not realize it was a large river and named it Harrington Inlet.

Using a boat they had found further up the coast, they crossed to the south side (Manning Point on Mitchell’s Island). They were able to cross Old Bar at low tide and found the wreck of the “Jane” from which the boat had come. The southern mouth of the Manning was named Farqhar Inlet.

They needed the boat to cross the river at Tuncurry, where they saw the wreck of the “Governor Hunter”. William Blake was speared by an aboriginal when he wandered away from the main group. They continued south, reaching Port Stephens on November 1, before travelling onto Sydney.


A penal colony at Port Macquarie was established, when Captain Allman landed with convicts and soldiers.


The Australian Agricultural Company, which had been formed in England for the specific purpose of agricultural investment in Australia, asked John Oxley for a recommendation of where they should operate. They accepted his second recommendation – the area north of Port Stephens (a deep harbour). His first had been the Hasting Valley area.

Now that he was the Surveyor-General of NSW, Oxley ordered Henry Dangar, a surveyor employed by the Company, to examine the area between Port Macquarie and Port Stephens. Dangar went west from the Hunter then north through mountainous country. He found a large stream flowing east, but only followed it until he was about 40 km from the sea, before heading north east to Port Macquarie. (This was the Manning River.)


Dangar returned again to this river, but this time followed it to the sea at the southern outlet. He assumed that the outlet at Harrington was also the same river. He named it the Manning River after Sir William Manning, the Deputy Govenor of the Australian Agricultural Company.

The Company’s Estate was now established as going from Port Stephens to the Manning as the northern border and the Gloucestor Valley in the west.


Thomas Florance, a government surveyor, mapped the position of the Manning River.

During the year two attempts were made to sail into the Manning across the bar at Old Bar and one attempt at Harrington – all failed.

Robert Dawson, the manager of the Company stationed at Port Stephens, sent a party including surveyor John Armstrong to survey north of the Manning. They then surveyed the Manning River up to the mouth of a tributary opposite Dumaresque Island (naming it the Dawson River) and then down the southern branch.

John Guilding was impressed with the plains in the Ghinni Ghinni area and decided he would return to settle there. He planted sugar cane, maize and tobacco before he left. The party then mapped the river 40 km upstream, where they could go no further. On their return to Old Bar, one of the party was injured by a spear from an aborigine, cutting short the expedition.


John Guilding was granted an estate where he wanted it. He called it “Mooto” (now called Moto). Guilding had nine men working for him including seven convicts. A. P. Snow was granted an estate on Jones Island but found it had salt marshes and was not suitable for the tropical crops he wanted to grow. He moved south of Guilding’s estate to “Goonal Goonal”. When refused permission to settle there, he left the district.

Hart Davis received a grant of land on the Landsdowne River but never took it up.


William Wynter arrived in Sydney on the “Pyramus” with his wife, Elizabeth, and three children, Mary, William and Thomas. He was 41 years of age and retired from the navy after 30 years service. This service gave him due consideration when he applied for a grant of land. He was awarded 2560 acres and selected it on the northern side of the Manning. In his letters to the government, he used the aboriginal word “Taree” as the name of his selection.

His description of the selection to the Suveyor General was: “… to the westward of the Dawson River ……northerly from a bight or bend in the River Manning, just above the western corner of Dumaresque Island ……. the whole of the neck of land formed by the Bend of the River and as much of the adjoining land to the northward as will complete number of acres authorized to be selected.”

The Wynter family, and the four convicts assigned to them, stayed at “Goonal Goonal” briefly before moving to their Taree Estate on the treeless flats opposite present day Tinonee.


Guilding lost his estate after mortgage problems, and left the district. William Wynter was the only settler on the Manning.


William Wynter wrote to the Colonial Secretary stating that there were now a number of groups of squatters who had arrived on the Manning and were cutting cedar trees.   He had his own cedar cutting site called ’The Cedar Party’ (near present-day Wingham)

William Wynter had his own boat, the ’Tarree’, 48 tons with two masts, built on the Manning.  It commenced trading along the NSW coast in September. He had complained that, as he was alone and the river entrance was dangerous, ships had been reluctant to visit and trade with him.


The government tried to control cedar cutting by issuing licences.  William Wynter and Dr. Fattorini were the first on the Manning to receive licences.

[Red Cedar was highly valuable and used for many things, especially furniture.  It obtained a beautiful red lustre when polished – but only matured after growing for 100 years or more. It can only grow in the middle of rainforests.  Giant cedars can grow for 1000 years and be over 35 metres tall.]


First properties bought were:

  • ’Braynbyn’ (later known as ’Brimbin’), 960 acres,  on the Dawson River by A. C. Innes.
  • ’Mondrook’, 980 acres, on the Manning opposite the ’Tarree’ estate by C. Steele.
  • ’Mt. George’, 895 acres, by Isabella Mary Kelly.
  • An unnamed property of 726 acres further up river from Mt. George by T. Steele.
  • ’Purfleet’, 1280 acres, south of  Tarree, by W. Caswell (1838).


Henry Flett, a Scot, first took up land at Killawarra.  He later married Mary Wynter, daughter of William Wynter, and bought her father’s estate, ’Tarree’.


The population on the Manning reached about 300 in 1841.  Below are figures taken from the 1841 census:

  • Brown’s Creek  –  7
  • Brymbyn  –  9 and 2 servants
  • Bungy Bungy  –  30 and 8 servants
  • Cateye  –  6
  • Cedar Party  –  12
  • Croki  –  13 with 7 servants
  • Cundle Cundle  –  35 and 3 servants
  • Duramba  –  7 and 4 servants
  • Johnson’s Station  –  7 and 5 servants
  • Killawarra  –  21 and 13 servants
  • Koory Island (Jones Island)  –  15
  • Lewis’ Station  –  11 and 10 servants
  • Mitchell Island  –  5 and 1 servant
  • Mondrook  –  15
  • Mt. George  –  13 and 8 servants
  • Pelican Island  –  14
  • Tarree  –  25 with 14 servants
  • Yakengat  –  15

N.B. The “servants” were “assigned servants”, who were convicts assigned to settlers.


The ’Sovereign’, 119 tons and under the command of Captain Cape, successfully entered the Manning River.  It ran aground on shallow flats near the mouth but floated off several hours later before proceeding up river to Taree. There she loaded 94 bales of wool as well as a quantity of wheat.  It was the largest ship up to this time to enter the Manning.


The village of Wingham is proclaimed. It had been surveyed by John Gormon under instructions from the Surveyor-General.  It was chosen for a number of reasons:

  • Boats of a reasonable size were not able to travel further up river.
  • It was central to existing farms.
  • It was on the high road between Maitland and Port Macquarie.
  • The river was fordable at low tide.

Although it was proclaimed there was not a great demand for village lots.


In September, village lots at Wingham were sold at public auction. Henry Flett, who now owned the Tarree estate, set aside about 100 acres for the establishment of the village of Taree.  He laid out the streets and named them.  In December, a total of 40 allotments were sold at a public auction.



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DeafDave is a Deaf person who uses Auslan (Australian Sign Language). He is from Australia.
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1 Response to Manning River History

  1. Was wondering if you have any information on a female convict Mary Taylor who was assigned to William Wynter?. She is mentioned as assigned in a muster in 1837. She arrived Sydney in 1830 per Roslin Castle and was sent to Port Macquarie in 1833. Last heard of in correspondence in 1844.

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