Colonel William Paterson first surveyed the area along what is now known as the Paterson River in 1801. The first settlers to the area were cedar getters who started settlement along the Paterson River in 1812. These were mostly convict cutting gangs sent to the cedar forests along the banks of the river. The settlement was built and mainly inhabited by convicts until free settlers moved into the area in 1821 and paved the way for further development.
The village of Paterson is the largest urban centre in Paterson Planning District, and the earliest recorded settlement in the Dungog Shire. Paterson is located 61 klms north of Newcastle and 19 km north of Maitland, and is situated on the Paterson River below its confluence with the Allyn.In the early 1800's Susannah Ward surrendered 90 aces of her estate for the purpose of establishing a town, and the settlers petitioned the Government for a wharf, which became the focal point around which Paterson grew.
The wharf was established in 1877 after local agitation. Although Paterson was the Hunter Region's third town site to be surveyed (in 1833 after Newcastle and Maitland), it was not proclaimed as a town until 1885. The town became an important trading post for boats from Newcastle and Morpeth, and a market centre for farmers north of the town to bring produce. The Paterson Steamship Company was formed to facilitate this. Paterson developed rapidly, due to its importance as a port. Produce was transported from the fertile Paterson Valley to Newcastle mostly in the form of citrus fruits, tobacco, grains, grapes and wine.
As the years went on, ship building became prominent with two yards being established. However, river trade declined in the 1850's as the road to Maitland was improved. The town continued to develop in spite of this, outgrowing its original survey site. Timber mills were established in the Paterson area in the 1870's. In the 1890's, the building of the North Coast Railway further reduced the importance of the river trade and even though the railway eventually linked Paterson with Dungog, it brought few benefits to the town. Throughout the 1900's agriculture has become the major economic activity in the Paterson area. Paterson is today a small rural village with many points of historical interest.
Vacy came into being as a private town on the estate of the Cory family, taken up in 1824. It existed in this fashion until its subdivision and sale in 1927. Its ribbon development along Gresford Road, as opposed to the traditional grid layout, is a testament to its origins. Most of the early buildings were erected for Cory's tenants.
Vacy was a convenient stopover point for travellers between Gresford and Paterson, and an inn was in existence in 1859. Cory established the first church, school and post office and Vacy also boasted tobacco and arrowroot factories. The population of Vacy continued to expand from 30 in 1866 to an unspecified number at the end of the century.
During this time a blacksmith, bakery, butcher, general store, cattle saleyard, arrowroot factory and creamery were established. The town's only hotel was established on the old road leading to the low level bridge on the Gresford side prior to the new bridge being constructed in 1898. In 1927 the town was sold in 50 lots, including homes, shops, the hotel, dairy farms and orchards. Vacy is today a tiny village which nevertheless has retained may of it's facilities.
The village of Martins Creek was named after Edward Martin who settled on the Paterson River near its junction with Martins Creek in 1851. Martin was followed by other settlers who soon filled the surrounding land, with most settlers on smaller allotments and of modest means. Settlers engaged in a variety of agricultural pursuits.
The railway passed through Martins creek in 1908, considerably altering the fortunes of the village. State and private andacite (blue metal) quarries opened in 1913 to provide ballast for the railway and later for roads and other construction. At their peak of production the quarries employed one hundred men. Since the closure of the quarries. Martins Creek has lost its post office and general store and exists today as a small residential village.
The locality now known as Gostwyck was one of the earliest estate developments in the Paterson district, taken up by Edward Gostwyck Cory in 1823 the Paterson River. Cory established vineyards, tobacco, wheat plantations, a flour mill and bloodstock on the property, with the river being used to tranpsort grain and flour to Raymond Terrace and Morpeth.
A timber mill replaced the flour mill in the late 1800's and the estate was subdivided in 1902 after which a butter and ice cream factory were established. By 1927, after the factory's closure, Gostwyck had ceased to exist as a town on road maps.
The locality of Hilldale is separated from neighbouring Wallarobba by the Wallarobba Mountain Range. It is cradled in the north by Mount Ararat and in the south by Mount Douglas, which separates it from Martins Creek. Settlement took place after 1861 by immigrants taking up Crown land, most of whom had previously worked on farms and vineyards on the large estates in the Gresford District. The locality was known as Big Creek until 1905, when the name was changed for postal purposes.
A national school was established in 1879 and closed in 1968. A post office and store were established in Hilldale in 1913, however there had been a Receiving Office earlier. Both closed in 1978. Original industries in the locality included tobacco, viticulture, citrus, stone fruits and walnuts. Dairying and beef production are now the predominant activities. In 1952 Hilldale had a population of 150 people, this had declined to 50 by 1972. Hilldale is today a scattered rural community.
Extract from Dungog Shire Council's Community Profile of Dungog Local Government Area 1999