In 1860 the small township of Orange, comprising barely 90 houses and less than 500 people, was incorporated as a municipality.
It was 14 years since a site for the Village of Orange had been determined.
The campaign for municipal government was started on July 18, 1859 when, as the Bathurst Free Press reported, “a respectable and numerous meeting almost unanimously agreed to apply for the immediate incorporation of Orange”.
It was believed that many local improvements could be carried out to great advantage if a municipal corporation existed.
The petition was signed by 81 people, whose names read like a street directory of today’s city.
It led to Orange being proclaimed a municipality on January 9, 1860. The original municipality covered 640 acres and included 10 miles of city streets.
At noon on February 2, 1860, the returning officer Charles Blakefield received nominations from 11 candidates.
A flurry of electioneering followed with the candidates being accused of “wooing the sweet vote”.
The election was held on February 9 and according to the newspaper report “was conducted with the utmost decorum”.
Only 49 electors voted but the turnout was considered to be a great success, showing “an amount of zeal rarely displayed in country elections, only four or five electors being absent in the whole number who were really eligible to vote”.
Under the property franchise, owners had the right to up to four votes each depending on the value of their properties.
John Woodward topped the poll with 37 votes, and James Dale (32), George McKay (30), Dennis Hanrahan (27), John Peisley (20) and William Tucker Evans (20) were also elected.
Edward Nicholls, James Dalton, Benjamin Nelson, Henry Philips and Henry Curran were unsuccessful.
Immediately after the declaration of the poll the press reported that “the councillors re-entered the court house with John Peisley Esq as their first chairman who was received with reiterated plaudits of the assembly”.
“A general explanation of peace-making followed and the party adjourned to Mr Councillor Hanrahan’s Wellington Inn where mutual expressions and happy toasts followed in rapid succession during a merry hour.”
That evening a dinner for the defeated candidates, the returning officer, poll clerk and scrutineers was given at the Royal Hotel in Byng Street, but the defeated candidates did not attend because, according to the press, “they had taken the result of the election too deeply to heart”.
The first business meeting of the newly elected council took place on February 18, 1860 and was held in the Court House. Crown Solicitor George Colquhoun was appointed council clerk and James Dalton and Patrick Kenna were appointed auditors.
The real work of the council began in April 1860 when it was decided to call tenders for clearing Lords Place from Summer Street to Byng Street and making a road 12 yards wide by filling holes with stone and gravel.
By July 1860 a correspondent to the Bathurst Free Press was able to describe how a dray could now pass through the municipality without being stuck in the mud or upset – “that is, if the team is strong”.
John Peisley was succeeded as chairman by George McKay (1861-63) and James Dale (1864).
Patrick Mullholland, who took office in 1865, was also elected Mayor, making him the first Mayor of Orange.
In February 1866 the Supreme Court suspended Orange Council along with other country councils over the legality of its constitution.
During the following year a Municipalities Act was passed and the first election under its provision was held in 1868.
A group in East Orange made a number of attempts to establish its own municipality.
Finally, on March 29, 1888, East Orange was proclaimed a municipality with its own town hall and several public buildings.
Alderman Josiah Parker was appointed the first Mayor and W Lamrock became the first council clerk.
The absurdity of two separate municipal councils administering an area of about 1300 acres became more pronounced as the two developed.
Following a united petition of the two councils and a referendum, a proclamation was issued dissolving the municipalities of Orange and East Orange and creating a new municipality of Orange from December 1, 1912. The first mayor of the new, combined council was E T McNeilly.
Orange was declared a city on July 19, 1946 with council changing from a municipal body to Orange City Council.
Tamworth was also proclaimed on that day.
l Written and complied by Orange City Library with research by Orange and District Historical Society.