Port Macquarie is celebrating the bicentenary of European settlement in 2021. The Port News is publishing a series of articles leading up to the event.
The decision to stop convict settlement to Port Macquarie left a void that took a number of years to overcome.
The colonial office's decision to route convicts to Morton Bay and Norfolk Island meant that government-run services for Port Macquarie were stopped.
The loss of the weekly steamer service and the closure of the commissariat store left local farmers without a reliable service to transport produce to the Sydney market and to sell their local product.
It took a number of years for Port Macquarie to get on a more stable footing.
However, free settlers began to realise the significant possibilities the fledgling village offered, with its excellent crop growing conditions and a harbour adequate in accommodating shipping.
Along with settlement came the push for roads to take advantage of quick turnaround of product to market, including the highly-prized cedar industry.
It was even recognised as a holiday destination for Sydney residents.
A number of outlying areas became central in the growing of produce, including tobacco, maize, wheat and sugar cane. At one point, Port Macquarie and district boasted as many as 12 sugar mills.
Vineyards also sprung up across the region.
In his excellent book, Federation Comes to Port Macquarie, the late Ralph Ferrett, outlined how Port Macquarie had not only survived severe depression years but had already been earmarked for a bright future.
"In 1856, an article in The Empire, optimistically portrayed the future of Port Macquarie as a great trading centre," the book boasts.
"New houses are occupied as fast as they can be built in this rapidly improving town; and the Hastings with its numerous navigable branches is vying with older districts of the colony in respect to cultivation, and the herds spreading over its undulating banks and meadows."
The introduction of the telegraph as a means of communication would send the growth rate soaring further with outlying villages now linked by the new-age method.
For the two decades from the 1880s, Port Macquarie had firmly established itself as the centre through which primary producers could send their produce to the lucrative Sydney markets.
The School of Arts was built on Clarence Street serving as a cultural and social centre for many community events.
Port Macquarie continued to make progress, becoming incorporated as a municipal council in 1886; our first mayor James McInerney presided over the first council meeting on June 7, 1887 in the Good Templars Hall, according to Mr Ferrett's book.
The Port Macquarie and Hastings District Agriculture and Horticulture Society hosted its fifth annual show in 1889 - the showground was west of the gaol.
By 1899, the Port Macquarie News was advertising a host of commercial ventures in the village - from accountants to cordial manufacturers to butchers, a house and buggy builder and a chemist and men's mercers.
"For the timber industry, the newspaper reported as many as nine sailing vessels being in the port at the one time," Mr Ferrett noted in his book.
With entrepreneurs eyeing the potential Port Macquarie had to offer, the idea of a federation loomed large in conversations.
The concept of federation was not new to the colony and had been openly discussed from the mid-1850s.
However the debate and discussion was rife with mistrust and self-interest.
The father of federation, Henry Parkes, had mooted several ideas on federation but his quest drew a blank.
Into the debate stepped a lawyer, Edmund Barton, who filled the void left when Parkes' fell ill.
Already an experienced politician in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council of NSW, he was speaker for four years and twice attorney-general.
But even the capable Barton felt the drag of his fellow ministers, according to a report in the Port Macquarie News at the time.
However, federation supporters opted for a proactive course of action and a series of conferences and meetings were held to "excite public opinion in favour of federation", Ferrett says in his book.
Barton was to take advantage of a redistribution of electoral boundaries which recognised the seat of Hastings-Macleay.
Frank Clarke resigns
A by-election was scheduled for the seat after the resignation of the just-elected member, Frank Clarke.
In a fierce contest Barton prevailed to become the local member, enabling him the chance to press ahead with the federation concept in the NSW parliament.
A referendum to gauge public support for federation in June 1899 was successful.
Barton would eventually be invited to form the first cabinet of a federated colony. The commonwealth was proclaimed on January 1, 1901 in Sydney.
"In Port Macquarie, Commonwealth Day parades, speeches, picnics and a fireworks display had been planned. However, an evening thunderstorm put a stop to the planned fireworks displays," Mr Ferrett says in his book.
"A procession headed by the Port Macquarie band set off for the showground via Horton, William and Grant streets.
"The commonwealth elections in March confirmed the popularity of Edmund Barton's leadership and confirmed his position as Australia's first prime minister."
Fifteen years later, Australia would be plunged into the first world war which would see many of its citizens, including the Hastings, volunteering to the cause.
More bicentenary news:
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