PASSED daily by hundreds of vehicles on the M1 Motorway, the Maria River State Forest contains a link to Kempsey's early past.
In 1838, the selection of a site on the Maria River for the township of Mariaville, County Macquarie, was notified and lots were offered for sale at £2 ($4) per acre.
The logic behind the planned town seemed sound enough, Mariaville would be located on the busy river traffic route between Port Macquarie and Kempsey.
The Mariaville site was at the head of navigation on the Maria River and it was here the exploring party of Captain Wright had arrived in 1826 from Port Macquarie in their search for the New or later Macleay River described by Aboriginals and runaway convicts.
Leaving the Maria, Wright's party carried their small boat overland until they reached the Macleay. There they put their boat in the water again and made a thorough exploration of this new river, returning to Port Macquarie with glowing reports of it.
Enoch Rudder took the same route to reach his newly purchased land at Kempsey nine years later. Rudder employed a team of six bullocks to pull his boat on a sledge across country after leaving the Maria River, clearing a track as he went.
A boat harbour was built at the head of navigation on the Maria River, on the opposite side of the river to the planned township, and by 1836 a constable's hut was put up. Later an inn would be erected at Mariaville, which was also known as Boat Harbour.
James Thomson, a carpenter and joiner by trade, had already built the Bush Inn at East Kempsey on one of three allotments he had purchased from Enoch Rudder in 1836. James built many other buildings in Kempsey and sold his East Kempsey allotments including the Bush Inn back to Enoch Rudder in 1840.
He then built the Ship Inn at Mariaville around 1841, the Port Macquarie Police Magistrate recommending his licence application stating that the neighbourhood was "much in want of such accommodation".
The Ship Inn was apparently short-lived and by 1844 James Thomson was running the Harts Head Inn at Rollands Plains.
Only three allotments originally advertised at Mariaville were sold and in May 1896 the village was officially cancelled.
Groups of historians, archaeologists and other interested parties visiting the site of Mariaville in recent years could find only piles of bricks and some old broken bottles, which may have belonged to either the constable's hut or the Ship Inn, these being only traces of the original planned township.
Mariaville never became a reality, possibly because the 'way' of the ships was better suited to the coastal sea routes.