In 1827, Alan Cunningham passed approximately 15 miles west of Tenterfield, but settlement did not occur until many years later.
In 1841 it was taken over by Sir Stuart Donaldson, who was running 18,000 sheep on a property that he named Tenterfield Station. While there has been debate about the naming of Tenterfield, the most generally accepted evidence is in favour of Donaldson naming the region after the home of his aunts in Haddington, Scotland. The name originated in the Mill District where “Tenters” (hooks) were set in the field and used to dry the flax, which was later used to weave cloth.
Donaldson was the first premier of NSW and made biannual trips to Tenterfield to inspect his holdings there, which covered 100,000 acres of unfenced land.
Tenterfield Post Office opened on 1 January 1849, and the township was gazetted in 1851, with allotments being sold in 1854. In 1858 gold was discovered at Drake, and shortly afterwards at Timbarra and Boonoo Boonoo. During 1859 an AJS Bank opened and in 1860 an Anglican Church was built. In the 1860s the Tenterfield Chronicle was published, the district court was established, the building of a hospital commenced and a public school was opened. In 1870 the population was less than 900, but the town had five hotels, a school of arts and three churches. The existing Tenterfield Post Office was constructed in 1881.
The railway opened to Tenterfield on 19 October 1886, and in June 1888 to nearby Wallangarra (on the QLD border). For the first time, Sydney and Brisbane were linked by rail, with a break-of-gauge at Wallangarra. The break-of-gauge meant that all trains would have to stop at Wallangarra, all passengers and luggage (including entire Circuses) would have to disembark, and then board another train to continue on their journey. The railway was subsequently bypassed by the standard gauge North Coast Line in 1932.
Tenterfield Post Office Corner - 1870s
Corner Rouse Street & High Street