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Located on fertile land in the Gwydir Valley and McIntyre River Valley, Moree was first inhabited by the Kamilaroi Aboriginal people and Moree takes its name from a Kamilaroi word meaning 'long water hole' or 'rising sun'. The Kamilaroi people believe the spirit of a dead man travels up into the sky by means of a carved tree. Australia's second largest Indigenous language group were carvers rather than painters. In 1918 Australian Museum director R. Etheridge published research on Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri carved trees, known as Dendroglyphs. He observed the trees were often located near burial sites, were used to mark 'bora' or initiation grounds, and the designs were of creatures and kinship affiliations of the deceased. Moree's Kamilaroi people still approach carved trees with wariness. Highly acclaimed Aboriginal artist Lawrence Leslie was commissioned to carve 'gateway to Moree' trees depicting four traditional Kamilaroi creatures - the goanna, brolga, pelican and snake. The trees are intended to be sculptures rather than sacred or ritualistic totems.
Sent to investigate stories of an inland sea told by recently captured escaped convict George Clarke, explorer Major Thomas Mitchell would traverse the waterways of northern New South Wales in 1832. Although he found no inland sea during his expedition, the fertile riverside land he found would quickly become a popular choice for squatters who established cattle runs in the district.
The first real growth for the town, situated in northwest New South Wales 640 kilometres from Sydney and 480 kilometres from Brisbane, would occur in 1852 when James and Mary Brand would build a goods store on the Mehi River to service the local community, with the addition of a post office a year later. Following a move to Singleton, Mary Brand would return to Moree in 1861 after the death of her husband and after an unsuccessful bid to repurchase the store her family had built a decade earlier, instead established the Bank Hotel which would be Moree's first Inn.
With the area gazetted for a town in the early 1860s and the Roberts Lands Act coming into effect shortly afterwards, Moree quickly grew into a flourishing rural centre, with schools and churches built in the 1860s and a CBC Bank established in 1884. With fires sweeping through the town in 1908 and 1928 coupled with equally destructive flooding, much of the towns heritage architecture has been destroyed over time, and today the majority of the Moree's oldest architecture dates back to the 1930s and 1940s. The best preserved examples of colonial architecture which have survived these disasters are the Moree Courthouse and the Lands Office.
The discovery of artesian water in 1895 would prove an important boost for the town, with the Moree Bore Baths famed ability to cure ailments attracting visitors from around Australia and overseas. This continues to form an intrinsic part of Moree tourism, with the town now known as the Artesian Spa Capital of Australia. Agricultural farms have always flourished in Moree, and today grain, cotton and grape seed crops are amongst the most successful, yet less traditional pursuits have also enjoyed significant successes including the largest pecan nut orchard in the southern hemisphere. The Trawalla Pecan Nut Farm produces 95% of Australia's pecan nuts from 70,000 trees.