The first Settlers – Antonio Pezzutti and his family were the first survivors of the Marquis de Ray expedition to settle at New Italy. He met with Rocco Caminotti, a man of Italian origin who had been working on a North Coast steamer. While there he had noticed land still available for selection on the banks of the fertile Richmond River. Knowing of the Italian’s wish to settle together he suggested Pezzutti accompany him to investigate the region. Mr Caminotti believed that this would be a suitable area for the Italians to settle and live in close proximity.
In April 1882 Antonio Pezzutti and Rocco Caminotti visited Swan Bay and selected land on the South Woodburn Chatsworth Island Coach Route at the site known as New Italy. Other settlers in the area considered the land selected by the New Italy settlers barren and furthermore there was no permanent water supply to the settlement. Mr Pezzutti selected forty acres of land, a similar acreage to that taken by most of the Italian settlers. This was considered unusual in the context of the larger pastoral acreages common to NSW. However most of the migrants reported that they were agricultural labourers upon arrival to Australia and were used to the small scale intensive farming of Europe. By 29 July Angela Pezzutti gave birth to the first child to be born on the settlement rising from the bush.
Like many of the Italian settlers Mr Pezzutti cultivated a variety of agricultural pursuits on his selection but was particularly successful with the growing of grapes and the production of wine. It is not clear when Mr Pezzutti’s endeavours grew to the establishment of a post office, store and wine shop, but he had started to facilitate the delivery of mail to New Italy as early as 1884. He would travel to the Pacific Highway and meet the mail coach as it passed between Ballina and Grafton and return with mail items for the community. In the mid 1890′s Mr Pezzutti had constructed a significant dwelling on his property and was producing substantial quantities of grapes and wines. Mr Pezzutti was also involved in the silk production at New Italy.
In 1891 government interest in the industry had decreased and a request from New Italy for the Government to purchase a reeling machine was met with no response. Showing their resourcefulness Pezzutti and Martinuzzi devised and built a machine, which received much praise from J. S. Campbell, Director of Agriculture when he visited the settlement in November 1892. Mr Campbell supported a more professionally developed silk industry at New Italy, as did the press. However the onset of a depression in NSW and a fire at the settlement ended the silk production as a large-scale, Government sponsored industry. In his dwelling Mr Pezzutti also had a large room where the community would gather for dancing and singing, they could also buy wine from his store. Conveniently situated in the centre of the settlement Mr Pezzutti√≠s store also sold draperies and groceries. By 1900 Mr Pezzutti’s place served as the New Italy Post Office and store. The authorities extended the Penny postal service to New Italy by 1904 with daily deliveries being made to Mr. Pezzutti’s place. In 1910 Antonio Pezzutti passed away at the age of 63.
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