The Warrah lands were initially part of the domain of the Kamilaroi peoples from whom they take their name. Henry Dangar (1796-1861), surveyor, was the first colonist to gauge the land use potential of Warrah. Dangar knew
well the enclosed valley north of Mt Gregson and fed by Warrah, Borambil and Chilcotts creeks. Five journeys of exploration, survey and evaluation, centred on squatter Parnell's stock station, gave him an unrivalled knowledge of the interior. However, major
use of the Liverpool Plains Estate as a fattening station did not occur until the 1861-1888 period during which phase Warrah emerged as Australia's finest pastoral property, a reputation retained until the 1920s.
The Australian Agricultural Company, aided by Dangar's shrewd judgement, chose Liverpool Plains as one of its alternate grants. A large rectangular block (30 miles x 13 miles; 249,600 ac) of well grassed, dark rich soils, fed by
eleven creeks flowing out of the Liverpool Range to a confluence near Kickerbell with the Mooki River, played a significant role in corporate pastoralism as the AA Company evolved during the 1833-1969 period.
The Company began occupation of the gentle rise of forest land above Thomas Parnell's hut in 1833. Parnell was not the only squatter on the plains. The unprecedented movement beyond the twenty counties of 1829-30 had been pioneered,
according to David Denholm, by the Baldwin family with their vanguard station of "Yarramanbah", west of Warrah Ridge. When a Government Order first proclaimed limits of settlement in 1826, Baldwin's stock already grazed within sight of Mount Parry. The rapid
occupation of seven stations between Warrah and Phillips Creek encountered strong resistance from the Kamilaroi.
Closer settlement of Liverpool Plains, and the associated Peel Valley
and Gwydir districts, came in the early twentieth century. It was facilitated by strong legislation, new wheat types and changing technologies of transport and communications. Restructuring of the banking system, legislation on industrial relations, discontent
in the country towns and powerful ideology about the rural countryside, as well as evolving policies on immigration, were fostering an environment advocating change and social mobility. Families in the Hunter Valley and in locations as distant as Victoria
discussed chancing their fortunes, for the betterment of their children, on the newly proclaimed settlement purchase area on the sunny side of the Liverpool Range.
Frederick Poate (1855-1935), played a major role in Crown acquisition of the first substantial subdivision of the estate. Poate judged the south-east corner of the Liverpool Plains Estate would be most suitable for a closer settlement scheme. A large section
of 45006 ac was excised in 1909 from the historic grant, when the government proclaimed the Warrah Settlement Purchase Area, and made available to a new class of settlers. Dairy farming and barley growing would replace broad acres pastoralism. The Australian
Agricultural Company regrouped its operations on the remainder of the grant. James Henry, General Superintendent (1919-1932) stated it grazed not a head of cattle nor flock of sheep less than before the setting up of New South Wales most successful closer
However, for the Australian Agricultural Company the new generation of eager-faced farmers, discussing around kitchen hearths their chances in the ballot for the
pastoral land awaiting the disc plough, was unfortunate. Its enterprises on "Warrah" had involved expensive outlays and slow returns. Hard experience in adapting cultural baggage from the British heritage to a distinctive, if harsh, Australian landscape, fostered
an understandable reluctance to yield to new pressures and new times.
In 1875 Richard Hudson, overseer at “West Warrah” since 1861, replaced Craik while Jesse Gregson assumed
office from Merrewether. Hudson engineered removal of 40,000 sheep to Glen Morrison and Ingelba on the headwaters of the Macdonald (Namoi) river to offset severe drought in 1877-78. George Fairbairn, Hudson's successor (1880-1910) followed suit in 1883 as
severe drought again tested the permanence of previous achievements. The combination of Gregson and Fairbairn brought "Warrah" to its peak of national achievement.
When Frederick Livingstone-Learmonth
succeeded Gregson in 1905 he was able to rely on the proven capacity of George Fairbairn. At the beginning of the century "Warrah" ran 177,088 sheep. "Warrah" and "Gloucester" grazed 17,290 cattle. A policy of reserving "Warrah" for pastoral purposes and not
selling any land on the Liverpool Plains had been instituted. Artificial feeding had enabled the Company to survive reasonably unscathed from the extreme conditions of the prolonged drought which marked the turn of the century. This drought, and the rabbit
plague, which reduced the national flock from 106,400,000 in 1891 to 53,400,000 in 1902 left the Company secure and planning for future operations. The sale of the semi-coastal lands (206,000 ac) to the Gloucester Estates Syndicate simplified management tasks.
The completion by the end of 1901 of a modern new wool shed at "Windy" positioned activities for the full recovery which came with the good rains of 1903. From then until the year of unexampled prosperity in 1908 activities were routine except for intensifying
of wire netting to deal with the rabbit menace.
By 1908 the liberal-reform government of Charles Wade had indicated firmly that it intended to acquire sections of Warrah-Liverpool Plains
Estate under clauses of the new proclaimed Closer Settlement Act. Learmonth advised a voluntary Willow Tree sub-division (auctioned November 1908) partly to establish the value of the land by private sale. When, on 1 July 1909, government proclaimed the Warrah
Settlement Purchase Area, Learmonth protested "distinct breach of faith by a previous arrangement" only to be told of a change of policy and a new bill. There can be little doubt that this compulsory acquisition was the first of a number of factors motivating
his resignation and removal to England. To offset the loss of the 45006 ac subdivision Learmonth recommended purchase of "Corona", a sheep station west of Longreach, Queensland belonging to his family's Groongal Pastoral Company. This 1911 purchase presaged
a pattern of purchase and lease throughout northern and Western Australia.
By the 1920s the reduction of the estate, begun with the Willow Tree Subdivision (1908), was well under way.
The 1969 auction of Warrah Homestead ended a process of withdrawal with the exception of the important, still large (33846ac; 13697ha) Windy Station in the north west corner of the original grant. "Windy" remains today the only New South Wales station of Australia's
third largest beef cattle producer. The corporation which facilitated pastoral occupation of northern New South Wales is concentrated today in the Top end.
Balloting for farms took
place on and after 8 January 1912. All but four of the 84 farms were taken up during 1912.
Despite predictions of gloom by local community leaders, the area proved very popular, particularly
with Hunter River residents who were well aware of the quality of the land available. Many of them had passed through on their way to the shearing sheds of the north west and were only too willing to bring their families to start a new life north of the Liverpool
Range. The sceptics were to be proved very wrong as later chapters of our book will show.
The scene, before squatters and the Australian Agricultural CompanyHad any effect on the landscape
can best be described by Sir Edward parry, Commissioner for the AA Company on his first trip to the area in 1830.
“It is all (Warrah) a most splendid country - not a single acre
on which sheep may not feed. Apple trees (Angophora floribunda) in valleys, box on hills. Rich black deep soils in all the flats, not like our alluvial flats (lower Hunter valley). All the valleys, about 10 or 12 miles long, terminate in the Plains.
The points where the forest land projects into the Plains are all exquisitively beautiful, being thinly timbered with box and appletree, covered with verdant grass, and gently sloping down to the Plains.”