By 1822, aged 60, Molly Morgan had turned around a life which had seen her convicted of several crimes, transported three times (twice from England to NSW and once from Sydney to Newcastle) and married three times (twice bigamously).
Her strong work ethic saw her successful with crops and cattle at Wallis Plains, and her inn on the increasingly busy, well-travelled High St was successful too although she did not always charge her patrons.
She made money by subdividing and letting parts of her land to people who built and set up businesses on it. She became a substantial landowner in Maitland and Greta, and wealthy.
In 1828 she and her third husband, Joe Hunt, were listed in the colonial census as cattle holders and tanners but not as innkeepers because she had been unable to obtain a licence.
They were living on her Wallis Plains property with 20 people in various huts she had built.
She was employing and supporting other people, her normal habit, and thus furthering the colonial government's goals of promoting economic development and taking convicts and former convicts off the government's hands.
She helped sick people, treated ill men in her home (usually with "medicinal" rum) and travelled to Sydney by horse to plead with the governor for the lives of convicts sentenced to death.
Her philanthropy was marked by her granting of £100, a huge sum, for a school in Maitland. It showed both her generosity and the wealth she had accumulated.
But in her later years she lost that wealth and died poor in relative obscurity in Greta in 1835.
Molly Morgan has often been treated as wantonly immoral and she has been the subject of salacious gossip.
This is unfair, reflecting judgements that understate the difficult situations in which women other than the high-born lived in her time and the suffering she endured from men, British justice and (until 1818) colonial administration.
Yes, she was wilful, she stole, and she used her feminine charms to her advantage. She had several male "protectors" during her life. But it was all for survival.
In the words of W Allan Wood in Dawn in the Valley, she was a "forceful personality," and she was resourceful, entrepreneurial and indomitable.
She cared about others and eased their burdens with kindness and charity. She impressed colonial governors and repaid their faith in her.
She was a strong woman who achieved much.
No photographs or paintings of Molly are known to exist and people have tended to imagine her in the manner depicted above by Dudley Lewis in his exhibition 'The Life and Legend of Molly Morgan' at the Newcastle Library's Lovett Gallery in 2014. Such representations tend to be moralistic and judgemental rather than supported by firm evidence.
Maitland has no official memorial to Molly. Rectifying that would boost the efforts of Hunter historians like Jude Conway and the late Harry Boyle to recognise a well-lived Maitland life.
Boyle, in fact, called her "the catalyst of the City of Maitland".