The first and most important exports from the Manning Valley were the valuable cedar trees – known as “Red Gold” – attracting transient cedar getters to cut them down and float them down rivers and creeks for shipping to navigable waters to be taken to Sydney. Most were in excess of 100 years old. Today the cedar industry has been wiped out.
The Birth of Shipbuilding on the Manning River
It was soon recognised that the timbers, so suitable for shipbuilding and so readily at hand in the Manning, inspired a shipbuilding industry that still continues today with the Steber firm. The first permanent settler, William Wynter, had the first ship build for him by John Gillies and named it the ‘Tattee’. The most productive shipbuilder though was Alexander Neuton who build over 40 ships.
Master Mariner: Captain Jean Benaud
Arriving in Sydney in 1840 on a whaling ship, the French-born Jean Benaud soon became a sailing captain of note in Australian waters. His main voyages in both sail and paddle-wheel steamer were along the north coast of NSW and into its rivers. Following his marriage in 1858, he settled in Taree, but continued his trade as a shipping captain. Jean Bernaud was the great-grandfather of former Australian cricket captain and TV commentator, Richie Benaud.
The following articles, slightly abridged, appeared in newspapers in the 1930s recalling the “old days” in the Manning Valley during the 19th century.
Islands in the Stream
The Manning River delta contains many islands. The larger ones were promptly settled and farmed. Quite a number of islands closer to the riverbank were attached to that riverbank. Some islands were established as reservations but were then occupied at various times. There were other small islands for which the settlers could find no use. Due to floodwaters, island specks sometimes appeared only to disappear at a later date.
The Many Roles of the Court of Petty Sessions: Part 1
In the 19th century, the Court of Petty Sessions was conducted by local men, acting in an honorary capacity, and, generally, without any legal training. Mid-century there were no lawyers present in the Valley, and no local newspapers to vet the proceedings of this Court until 1865. In Part 1, the licensing of auctioneers, hawkers and slaughterers is examined as well as local infrastructure responsibilities such as roads and punts. Part 2 will appear in the next journal.