The willow Tree Inn was one of the earliest inns on the Liverpool Plains. The area had been occupied by James Chilcott in 1839. His son John Chilcott obtained a depasturage licence in 1841 but never resided there,
employing one Alexander Paterson as manager.
James Terry appears to have been the first publican of this Inn, in 1850. By 1851 the Willow Tree Inn was a well established business as the following advertisement
in the Maitland Mercury newspaper relates
“The Willow Tree Inn. Round waterholes, Liverpool Plains. James Terry, in returning his sincere thanks for the very liberal patronage with which he has been
favoured since opening the Inn, begs to inform his friends and the public, that he has just laid in a stock of first rate wines, spirits and malt liquors, which he can confidently recommend, having been selected by him from one of the first rate business houses
in Sydney. Travellers patronising the Willow Tree Inn will find clean beds, good meals, with civilty and attention. The stables are equal to any on the line of road, and are being kept constantly supplied with the best hay and corn that can be procured, and
attended to by a sober and carefull groom. Adjoining the house is a considerable extent of grassed land, reserved for the use of travellers, with stockyards and abundance of water. James Terry has on hand several first rate saddle horses, for sale, exchange
of hire. Willow Tree, Liverpool Plains, May 14, 1851”.
John Joseph Kerney was publican by mid 1852. The Inn was for sale by 1853 and Kerney returned to Mudgee.
The next publican was Henry Chivers, who had arrived in NSW on the “Charles Kerr” on 9th October 1837 with 250 other male convicts. He gained ticket of leave at Maitland in 1841 and married Horora Griffen there in 1843. Chivers
left his wife and children in Maitland while he operated a general store at Golden Point on the Peel River near Nundle, during the early gold rush days, until he was granted the liquor licence for the Willow Tree Inn, in 1853. Solomon and Chivers had bought
the Inn from Kernay, plus 320 acres of land for £1504 at a land auction at Newcastle on 5th April 1853, part of the A.A.Co Warrah estate.
Another news item in the Maitland Mercury establishes
Chivers at the Inn. Charles Wallace left the Willow Tree Inn on horseback on 6th October 1854, ten miles from Murrurundi, in company of others. He started to show off his mare to fellow travellers, and was thrown against a tree. Travellers rode
back to Andrew Loders, who hastened to the spot. Dr Thomas from Murrurundi was sent for, and Wallace was brought back to Chiver’s Willow Tree Inn. Wallace died 24 hours later. Mr Loder had him buried on his property and the grave was fenced in.
Another publican from 1856 to 1868 was William Britton, who came from the Red Cow Inn at Doughboy Hollow.
Thomas Guest became licensee in 1871. He arrived from Muswellbrook
with his wife Charlotte and six children, and in 1872 he was also in charge of the Willow Tree Post Office, which was established in that year in conjuction with the Inn. Guest received a payment of £10 per annum, but the office closed in 1873. Thomas
Guest moved to Maitland in 1888 after his wife Charlotte died at Tamworth, and Thomas died at Maitland in 1894.
Irishman Joshua Edward Upton, born in 1846 at Parsontown, Kings County, was employed on Warrah
Station from 1870 to 1887. He was married in Murrurundi in 1871 to Mary Ann Wilson, and they had 14 children, born at Warrah and Willow Tree from 1871 to 1895. Upton held the liquor licence for the old Willow Tree Inn from 1890 till 1908. His wife died on
1st October 1916 and Joshua passed away on 19th Nov 1921. They are both buried in the Willow Tree cemetery.
Next to hold the liquor licence was Hunter Ham.
An article written by Len Benham. Len wrote,
“The first Willow Tree Inn building remained for many years until removed by the Heyman family, who purchased the land from Hunter Ham.”
Willow Tree’s present Hotel was built by Mrs Ann Upton in 1913 and she was also the postmistress from 1913 to 1915.