NORTH WAS WON
Navigators - Dalrymple - Kennedy - Covered Wagon Pioneers -
William Hann - James Venture Mulligan - the Palmer Rush.
What lay beyond the ranges no white man knew.
Cook of the little “Endeavour”, sailing northward along our
then unknown eastern coast, passed Magnetic Island and
Hinchinbrook, Cape Grafton and Trinity Bay- named for Trinity
Sunday, June 10th 1770.
quarterdeck, Cook viewed the rugged coastline of this strange
new land with misgiving- the steep, jungle-covered mountains
rising tier on tier from a low mangrove- fringed shore.
beyond those forbidding ranges no white man knew.
The “Endeavour’s” oaken prow was the first in recorded history to cleave these tropic seas, yet others, phantom-like may have come and gone- Chinese, Portuguese, and Spaniard, leaving nothing but vague legend and one or two unexplained relics to mark their passing.
Matthew Flinders in the leaky old “Investigator”, beating
north before the trade winds, passed far out to sea in 1802.
Captain King in the survey ship, “Mermaid”, sailed by in 1818;
he came again in 1821 in the “Bathurst” and sought shelter
from a storm in Trinity Bay. The survey ships “Beagle”, “Fly”,
and “Rattlesnake” sailed by in the eighteen-forties.
Not until the
magic lure of gold on the Palmer River in 1873 drew settlement
northward, was a great deal of interest shown in this savage
coast. Then, at the spot where Cook had beached the
“Endeavour” for repairs, a lonely river mouth to which he gave
the name of his ship, was chosen as a likely port for the
goldfield that lay deep in the Northern wilderness, and an
expedition set out to explore the coastline in detail.
It was the
North-East Coast Expedition in two tiny cutters led by George
Elphinstone Dalrymple, explorer, politician, land
commissioner, and one of the handful of visionaries who formed
the Colony of Queensland out of almost nothing. Coming in
contact with true tropical Queensland for the first time, he
was impressed and delighted. He likened the dense jungle of
the Johnstone River area to that of Ceylon with which he was
October 1873, Dalrymple and Sub-Inspector R. A. Johnstone of
the Native Mounted Police from Cardwell, then the nearest
settlement to the south- sailed up Trinity Bay in a whaleboat
into what they thought was the mouth of a large river.
named Walsh’s Pyramid after a cabinet minister and the nearer
Mt. Whitfield after a merchant in Cardwell. A native well
providing fresh water was found at what was later the
intersection of Abbott and Shields Street in the centre of the
city of Cairns.
disappointed to find Trinity Inlet was not the estuary of a
river with fertile soil on its banks, but he was impressed
with the inlet as a likely seaport for the interior.
Prophetically he wrote: “It may some day serve what may prove
to be a highly auriferous back country.”
The port of
Cairns was founded only three years later, in 1876, but that
year also marked the death of Dalrymple, one of the great men
who made early Queensland but who is little remembered today.
blue-misted ranges behind Trinity Bay where an unknown river,
the Barron, cascaded by falls and gorge to the sea, this vast
north land slept for a century after Cook first sighted it.
Only its dark-skinned children roaming its ranges, rivers, and
bushland, knew its mysteries. They would guard them jealously.
To try and
discover what lay beyond that wall of coastal ranges was the
object of Assistant-Surveyor Edmund B. C. Kennedy- one of
Australia’s most courageous explorers.
lion-hearted Kennedy gave his life when within sight of his
goal, Cape York, and eight of his gallant party died of hunger
and despair. Only the faithful Aboriginal lad, Jacky Galmarra,
reached Cape York and the waiting ship, bearing the story of
north of where Cardwell now stands, on 24th May
1848, Kennedy’s party, with dwindling horses and supplies,
hacked their way through the terrible scrubs of the Coast
Range for three months. Just how ignorant the planners in
Sydney were concerning the type of country to be traversed is
indicated by the fact that Kennedy had carts and a flock of
sheep. After progressing through the dense, sodden jungle, on
slippery mountainsides in almost continuous rain for weeks, at
the rate of two or three miles per day, Kennedy left the carts
behind and packed all the gear on the horses.
creeks were crossed and the roar of waterfalls heard; there
was no grass, and the horses were starving. At last, on 9th
August, the expedition came out of the scrub into grassed,
forest country. Camped in the vicinity of the later site of
Mt. Garnet on 23rd August, one of the men, Goddard,
went out to shoot wallabies and was lost for two days.
his party camped on the headwaters of Emu Creek, in rough
granite ranges south-west of the present site of Irvinebank,
on 25th August. They followed Emu Creek down over
tin-bearing country to the Walsh River - a broad bed of sand
with fine large teatrees and she-oaks. They passed close to
the present site of the township of Petford.
thought the Walsh may lead him to Princess Charlotte Bay far
to the north, so he and his men followed it in its tortuous
course, its bed hundreds of yards wide and full of great
boulders and fallen timber, its steep banks almost gorge-like.
The weakened horses continually fell on the slippery boulders
as they struggled along the river bed. Carron suffered a bad
fall and broke Kennedy’s barometer.
is as wild and rugged now as it was in 1848. Impassable
sandstone ranges tower line upon line to the river bank, and
southward lie more desolate ranges, known to later pioneers as
the “Featherbeds”- because they were the reverse of soft. In
places along the river, boiling springs bubble up from between
lava rocks. Kennedy spent his thirtieth birthday in this
Leichhardt, on his expedition from the Darling Downs to Port
Essington, had followed down the Lynd River and discovered the
Mitchell, which he named, in June 1845. Kennedy gradually
realised the Walsh was a tributary of Leichhardt’s Mitchell
River and it was taking him too far westward. Near where the
present Beef Road from Mungana crosses the Walsh, Kennedy
turned northward and reached the Mitchell on 16th
September. Here he had his first serious clash with the
warlike Aborigines of Cape York Peninsula. Dr. R. L. Jack, in
his reference work, “Northmost Australia”, vol. II. (1922)
believed it was the Palmer River that was reached on this
date. He also thought Kennedy followed down the Hodgkinson,
and not the Walsh, to reach the Mitchell. When Kennedy was
speared by the Aborigines near Cape York, his journal was lost
and only a few damaged notes and maps were recovered. For a
century, until they were deciphered, Kennedy’s route from
Cardwell to Cape York was not definitely known. The names he
gave physical features are still unknown.
rolled on. The frontiers of settlement were pushed further
northward as the pioneers followed in the tracks of the
explorers; sheep and cattle stations were founded, settlements
came into being. The establishment of the new Colony of
Queensland in December 1859 caused a great impetus to
settlement. Exploring parties rode the length and breadth of
Queensland from Brisbane to Cape York, from the Cooper to the
Gulf. Within five years, Queensland was unknown no longer;
Burke and Wills, McKinlay, Landsborough, Walker, McIntyre, and
others had explored the Gulf and the inland plains. The
Jardine Brothers had reached Cape York; the northmost station
had been established six hundred miles northward from the
earlier frontier at Rockhampton. The edge of settlement had
leaped northward from Rockhampton to Cardwell and to Burketown
on the Gulf of Carpentaria; dray tracks had been blazed all
through the back country- a truly wonderful achievement in the
five years from 1859 to 1864. All the more remarkable because
when Queensland began it had only 28,000 settlers and only
50,000 out of its 700,000 square miles was explored, and it
had an empty treasury.
was a pioneer, and men, women, and children were willing to
work. They had a vision of the future, and they built for
future generations. Compared with today, they built with their
bare hands, with flesh and blood, by their sweat, and muscle,
and the sinews of their only helpers, faithful horses and
bullocks. The pick, the shovel, dynamite, the block-dray, and
a wood-fired steam engine or two, their only labour saving
As soon as
news of the vast pastoral empire the explorers had revealed
was made known, land-hungry settler’s as far south as Victoria
packed their belongings on their drays, and with their
families and their flocks and herds, they pushed northward to
the base of Cape York Peninsula. Neither hundreds of miles of
wilderness or hostile Aboriginal tribes could stop them.
As the great
wheels of their creaking bullock drays slowly turned, the vast
untamed land that spread before them lured them on- the same
lure that sent the American pioneers westward.
The Firth and
Atkinson families were in the forefront of the migration of
pioneers northward. James Atkinson joined Ezra Firth and his
family on the northward trail and he and Firth were partners
on Mt. Surprise Station in early times, James Atkinson
established Farnham near Ingham in 1871 and bought Wairuna
about ten years later. He founded a dynasty of pastoralists.
bullocks in the pole drays of Ezra Firth, travelled onward.
Firth, the former stonemason from Yorkshire who was imbued
with a spirit of adventure was bound for the northmost
frontier at the pace sheep can walk. The Moreton Bay district
became the Colony of Queensland, and the outpost of Bowen was
established. For two years the Firths lived by a lonely lagoon
on the headwaters of the Burdekin River, then moved on over
the divide on to Gulf waters and took up Mt. Surprise- so
called because of the sound of the drays bumping over the
basalt boulders startled a tribe of Aborigines who fled into
the scrub on the mountain. It was then 1864.
Ezra Firth and
his wife were wonderful pioneers, but they are almost
forgotten today. Success was theirs only after long hard years
of fighting the blacks, the elements, and the loneliness.
Descendents of Ezra Firth reside in Mareeba and Townsville.
discovered on the Gilbert River in 1869, followed the next
year by a big discovery on the Etheridge; the frontier town of
Georgetown was established. The country north-east of
Georgetown was still quite unknown as the 1870s dawned and the
gold rush-fever increased.
pioneer of Maryvale and Bluff Downs, was the one chosen by the
Government to explore this mysterious region. He was a fine
example of the bearded bushmen of his day- 6 ft. 6 ins. tall
and built in proportion; he was fearless, a born explorer and
leader of men.
He and his
party of five men set out from Firth’s outstation,
Fossilbrook, in June 1872 with a team of packhorses carrying
supplies for five months. Hann named the Walsh, Tate, Palmer,
Normanby, Kennedy, Stewart, Hearn (Laura), Bloomfield, and
At the same
time, other white men were out riding the trackless bush. Late
in 1870, a party comprising Tom Leslie, Jack Edwards, Harry
Edwards, William Baird, Charlie Ross, Tom Hackett, and John
Duff, set out from Glendhu Station on the Upper Burdekin, and
were out in the wilds for months. Because their search for
gold was in vain, their expedition has been forgotten.
Hann named the
Tate River after the party’s botanist and the Walsh after the
Minister for Mines. A Walsh tributary was named the Elizabeth,
and with a pastoralist’s eye Hann noted the fine blacksoil
downs-type country in the area. Wrotham Park cattle station
was to be established here.
Hann and two
of his men, Taylor and Tate, rode up the Mitchell River from
their camp, over very rough country. Away to the south amid
blue-hazed hills and peaks they saw a conspicuous flat-topped
mountain which Hann called Mt. Lilley. It was probably Mt.
He named the
Palmer River after the Premier, Sir Arthur Palmer. The
surveyor, Frederick Warner, discovered gold in a gully nearby,
thus winning a reward of half a pound of tobacco that Hann
It was left to
James Venture Mulligan from the Etheridge to report, the
following year- September 3, 1873- of the existence of a new
payable goldfield on the Palmer. It was the greatest alluvial
goldfield in Australia since the Turon and Ballarat. He
received the Government reward of £1000, a reward that could
easily have been Hann’s. Incidentally, Hann and Daintree
discovered the first copper lode in north-east Queensland, on
the Einasleigh River, in 1866.
A few old
timers remain who still remember J. V. Mulligan- the quiet,
kindly Irishman whose name was once a household word in the
North. He did more than any other man to open up the vast
mineral areas of the Peninsula and the hinterland of Cairns.
Mulligan made many other discoveries, his crowning achievement
was the discovery of the Palmer Goldfield, closely followed by
the Hodgkinson. Though he was still searching thirty years
later and less than two years before his death, he could not
find another Palmer as he always hoped. There could never be
another goldfield as fabulous as that. In four years it
yielded forty tons of alluvial. Its discovery galvanized the
whole of Queensland into activity, and soon all Australia was
affected. The news spread to New Zealand, Great Britain, the
United States, and China.
the first party of a hundred diggers with three hundred horses
and bullocks from Georgetown to the new field across 200 miles
of wilderness. Behind the armed mounted men the teams streamed
past the Firths’ once lonely homestead; they followed
Mulligan’s roughly blazed tree-line, the bullocks groaning and
straining under the green-hide whips to haul the heavily-laden
wagons through loose sand, over precipitous ridges, and across
dry rivers with banks of moving silt. Behind them came men on
foot with swags; they would be the first to succumb to
sickness, starvation, and Aboriginal spears.
In May 1954, a
memorial was unveiled on the Kennedy Highway just east of
Mareeba to honour J. V. Mulligan and his explorations. Present
at the ceremony was an old lady who had known the explorer and
who was then the only surviving member of the party he had led
from Georgetown to the Palmer. She was probably the last
survivor of the Palmer Rush. She was Mrs. Mary Ann Finn, who
was then a child with her parents, the Peters.
Mulligan who suggested that a seaport for the Palmer be opened
at the Endeavour River. Dalrymple’s expedition reached there
by sea only one day before the “Leichhardt” steamed in and
landed diggers, Government officials, horses, drays, stores,
and building materials to establish the new port of Cooktown,
soon to be the third busiest seaport in Queensland. At its
zenith there were at least 25,000 white men and Chinese on the
Palmer and probably 10,000 in Cooktown.
went on searching for new goldfields. He and his mates fought
the blacks at the Battle of Round Mountain, and after
recovering from their spear-wounds set out from Maytown,
“capital” of the Palmer, after the wet season of 1874 to
prospect the rivers to the south-eastward.
turned back at the Mitchell, Mulligan pressed on over the
rough ridges and discovered the Hodgkinson River which he
named after William Oswald Hodgkinson, M.L.A., founder of the
“Mackay Mercury” newspaper, crushing mill proprietor on
Charters Towers, and erstwhile despatch rider for Burke and
Wills and McKinlay.
his mates rode up the Hodgkinson, over very rough country, and
the great rugged flat-topped mountain Hann had seen from afar,
came nearer. Mulligan’s companions insisted it be named “Mt.
Mulligan”, much to the chagrin of the man himself who seems to
have shunned publicity of that sort. But in this imposing
rocky rampart, he has a fitting natural monument. On this
expedition, he failed to find the
The Government had noticed Mulligan’s ability as an
explorer, and when he set out from Cooktown on a fifth
expedition on 29th April 1875, he was financed by
the Government. He had an outfit of 23 horses and was
accompanied by Surveyor Frederick Warner, and four of
Mulligan’s old mates- James Dowdell, William Harvey, Peter
Abelsen, Jack Moran, and also a blackboy, Charlie.
followed up the eastern branch of the Hodgkinson, crossed the
Granite Range- that prominent landmark northwest of Mareeba-
and came down on to low country bordering a fine north-
believed it was the Mitchell, for he knew it came from the
south before turning west below the McLeod River which he had
discovered. Actually, he had passed over the source of the
Mitchell without being aware of it. He had now come upon a new
beautiful river- the Barron. Mulligan was near the later site
of Biboohra which is the Aboriginal name for the Barron at
On May 26th
1875, the explorers rode up the Barron’s eastern bank.
Mulligan passed the Junctions of Emerald and Granite Creeks
and the site of Mareeba on the opposite bank, camping near
Rocky Creek. He traversed the present tobacco lands along the
river. The stone cairn on the Kennedy Highway with its
appropriately worded plaque was erected by the Mareeba Shire
Council in 1954 to commemorate Mulligan’s discovery of the
area. He was the first white man to officially see the future
site of Mareeba. The pastoralist, John Fraser, may have been
there the same year.
present site of Tolga, the explorers came face to face with
the dense primeval jungle that then clothed the Atherton
Tableland. Mulligan marvelled at the great cedar trees and
kauri pines; he was forced to skirt the scrub and follow
Aboriginal paths from pocket to pocket. He remarked on the
“villages” of well built thatched huts that he saw. Dr. R. L.
Jack, the historian, believed Mulligan’s camp of June 4th
1875 was between Prior Creek and Scrubby Creek and about two
miles south-west of the present town of Atherton.
horsemen got clear of the scrub they climbed a rough granite
range. Camped on a swift-flowing clear mountain stream that
ran in a general southerly direction and which Mulligan called
the Wild River because of its turbulence, a day was spent
shoeing horses. Mulligan spent the time prospecting. He
brought back “a fine sample of tin ore.”
in his journal: “There may be any quantity of it here, but of
what use is it at present, considering the price of carriage?
Yet it is well for the future of the Colony to know that there
is tin in this locality.”
seaports, Cardwell and Cooktown, were from 150 to 200 miles
away, and inaccessible. But the discovery of tin on the Wild
River was to eventually have more influence on the development
of Far North Queensland than the opening of the Palmer, but
Mulligan was not to benefit personally. It is, however,
another of the debts we owe this great prospector explorer who
has been overlooked by southern-produced history books.
expedition rode over the future site of Herberton about June 7th
1875, and followed the Wild River down to the Herbert River.
They sighted a
blazed tree line “running fifteen degrees west of north.” This
marked a vain attempt by the people of Cardwell to capture
some of the Palmer trade, and an extremely fine piece of
bushmanship on the part of the men who blazed the line- Scott
headed south-west for Firth’s outpost, Mt. Surprise, and
arrived back in Cooktown on September 23 1875. He and his men
had ridden 1100 miles in five months and some of the
previously unknown country hidden by the coast ranges behind
Trinity Bay had been revealed for the first time. Mulligan was
convinced that somewhere in the wild tangle of mountains in
that dry bushland, probably on the Hodgkinson, a new goldfield
GOLD ON THE HODGKINSON
The Hodgkinson Rush - When Life was Wild and Rough- Bill Smith, Douglas, and Doyle - Christie Palmerston - John Fraser - the Port Douglas Road.
weeks Mulligan, Warner, and Abelsen started out again from
Cooktown, without Government assistance, and with the wet
season imminent. They left on 23rd October 1875 and
headed straight for the Hodgkinson. The reward that the
Government was offering for the discovery of a payable
goldfield urged them on,. The reward was £1000, a large sum of
money in those days.
gold on 17th January 1876 at a spot “due east of
Mulligan’s Range (Mt. Mulligan) where a large creek comes in,
having Mt. Megan (McGann) on our north side.” The gold was in
alluvial and in outcropping reefs.
Mulligan, another veteran prospector, William McLeod, with two
mates, Nat Williams (some records say Robert Sefton), and Hugh
Kennedy, were out prospecting the Hodgkinson hills at the same
The first that
Mulligan’s party knew of them was when they heard their
horse-bells. Peter Abelsen approached the newcomers’ camp at
dusk. In those days on the frontier when wild blacks and
lawless whites were abroad, it was customary to shoot first
and enquire afterwards. A bullet whizzed past Abelsen’s ear.
Seeing a figure looming up in the half light, Hugh Kennedy had
grabbed his Snider rifle and fired. Soon the two parties of
explorers were shaking hands and joking over Abelsen’s narrow
By February 7th,
Mulligan had found several good quartz reefs and some patchy
alluvial. McLeod’s party prospected many miles to the east and
south. The McLeod Hills were named after this great bushman
and prospector. He died of fever on the MacArthur River in the
Northern Territory in 1885
McLeod was a
typical contemporary of James Venture Mulligan. It was fitting
that when the roaring goldfields capital of Thornborough
sprang up, the two principal streets should be named in their
On March 16th
1876, Mulligan reported a new goldfield on the Hodgkinson to
Warden Coward at Byerstown on the Palmer. Mulligan and McLeod
shared the Government reward. Thus did Mulligan open the door
to the development of one of Australia’s wealthiest districts-
Cairns and its hinterland.
coach service to Maytown was apparently by way of Byerstown.
The Brisbane “Courier” reported in March 1876 that a
service had been started from Cooktown. What a rough journey
it must have been, especially over the mountain spurs running
into the Palmer River between Byerstown and Maytown. Emanuel
Borghero is listed in Pugh’s Directory for 1878 as the “coach
proprietor” in Cooktown “for Cobb & Co”- probably the same
“Manny” Borghero well known around Irvinebank and Herberton
some years later as a packer and handler of horses.
a transient town that existed only while the gold lasted; a
settlement of bark huts, tents, of primitive grog shanties,
stores that were only a few sheets of iron nailed to sapling
frames with canvas walls. They were the supermarkets of their
day, being crammed with crates of “bouilli” beef in
seven-pound tins, bags of flour (“twenty-fives” and “fifties”)
a few tins of jam, bottles of Worcestershire sauce, and tins
of baking powder, all mixed up with prospecting dishes,
miners’ picks, horse-shoes, “American felt” hats, boxes of
flannel shirts, and Blucher boots hanging from the rafters
like strings of sausages. Somewhere there might be found cases
of dynamite and boxes of Snider cartridges, American axes, and
a few bolts of check gingham and turkey twill cloth to excite
All this would
have come from Cooktown by bullock wagon to supply the needs
of the miners at this new rush where the last of the alluvial
on the Palmer’s headwaters was being panned. When all that was
considered payable had been garnered and only enough left to
provide a few Chinese with a pittance, Byerstown would, along
with the thousands of gold seekers, vanish so that today it is
difficult to find where it was.
pickmarks and the cuttings, and washouts that are the eroded
ruts left by iron shod wagon wheels, remain.
a town of yesterday. A town that never had a future; a town
typical of many others which, ghostlike, may still be found on
some maps of North Queensland.
Mulligan, accompanied by Frederick Warner and Peter Abelsen,
ragged and half starved after losing their supplies in a fire
and held up for a week by the flooded Mitchell River, rode
into, Byerstown on jaded horses. They came in from the
mountains to the south and had been out prospecting and
exploring for ten weeks during the wet season.
They were near
exhaustion but they were elated. Back in among those
blue-hazed ranges there was gold- not another Palmer, Mulligan
cautioned, but it was a new goldfield.
of Byerstown was excited. Mulligan was on his way to Cooktown
and did not want the news to break until after he arrived. But
Warden Coward could not keep a secret. While the tired
prospectors slept, he sent a police trooper galloping through
the night covering the seventy miles to Cooktown.
the gold rush to the Hodgkinson was on. Excitement in Cooktown
was intense; Cooktown little knew it was the foretaste of
doom: gold on the Hodgkinson would mean that within a year
Cooktown would have two rival ports- Cairns and Port Douglas.
With a rich hinterland which Hodgkinson gold was to be the key
to its opening, Cairns would completely supersede Cooktown as
the major port north of Townsville.
At first, Cooktown was the nearest port to the new Hodgkinson field. As soon as news of the discovery reached the South, diggers arrived in Cooktown by the shipload.
men and horses gathered at Byerstown until it looked like a
depot for an army of cavalry. Miners threw up good claims on
the Palmer to do as they had done ever since gold was first
found in Australia- and there were some veterans who had been
in every rush since the Turon in 1851- to chase the
will-o’-the-wisp of fortune at the end of the rainbow.
March, Mulligan rode out of Cooktown at the head of a motley
throng. At Byerstown, the crowd doubled in size. About four
hundred men on horseback, on foot, and some pushing
wheelbarrows, followed Mulligan southward. There were about
thirty women also, many walking beside their men.
They cut a
swathe through bog and slush as the last of the wet season
rain, thunderstorms poured down after hours of steaming heat.
On one of the creek banks scores of human bones and skulls
with gaping holes made by Snider bullets, were found years
later. Thus the primitive owners left mute testimony of their
hopeless struggle. As a miner of the day is said to have
cracked: “It takes more than a few niggers to stop a gold
gold-crazed horde plunged into the flooded Mitchell River and
scrambled on over the rough ranges to what they believed was
another golden river where Mulligan had made his strike.
beginning, Mulligan warned everyone that the Hodgkinson was
not a rich alluvial field and that most of the gold would be
found in the reefs. But most people refused to listen and when
he was proved right, they were bitterly disappointed. At one
stage, Mulligan narrowly escaped being lynched.
Life was rough
and hard for those staunch men and women, and children, too,
who flocked to the Hodgkinson in its early months. The blacks
were hostile and tragedies occurred, but few records have
survived. Mt. Mulligan, known to them as Woothakata, was the
stronghold of the Wahoora tribe with the Muluridji further
Not only were
the Aborigines wild, but so were some of the white men. There
were robberies, murders, drinking sprees, brawls outside the
shanties, and fist-fights without number. As on all the old
mining fields, drink was a terrible curse on the Hodgkinson
also, and many crimes and most of the rowdyism was committed
under the influence of liquor. When the real thing ran out,
some shanty keepers made and sold their own vile concoctions.
There was no
law at first except one or two Justices of the Peace. One of
these was Dr. Jack Hamilton, a particularly colorful character
who was not only a doctor but a good boxer, horseman, swimmer,
foot runner, swordsman, and revolver shot qualities that stood
him in good stead in the Wild North of a century ago. In his
shack hospital on the Palmer, he saved many lives.
Alexander Douglas with a Native Mounted Police detachment
arrived in July 1876 and formed a camp about four miles down
the river from Thornborough, “capital” of the Hodgkinson
field. In 1877 he moved the camp to a beautiful spot on a
hilltop overlooking a lagoon, and called Baan Bero. It was
about four miles north-west from the later site of Biboohra.
It could command the track to the coast opened at that time.
opened a store and hotel, built of bush timber and bark at
first, on the corner of Mulligan and McLeod Streets in
Thornborough, named after the Premier of Queensland. Soon the
place had twenty hotels and shanties and at least a dozen
stores of all kinds. There may have been 10,000 people on the
Hodgkinson at its peak, but as with Cooktown and the Palmer,
the number has probably been exaggerated. The Government
erected handsome brick buildings in Thornborough.
eastward, tucked away amongst precipitous hills, on the slope
of a spur around which curled Caledonia Creek, the town of
Kingsborough boomed and faded and like Thornborough,
eventually died. In their day, a century ago, they were the
two largest and most important towns inland from Cairns.
prospectors found the barren gullies and creeks scanty in
alluvial, very rich reefs were discovered, and in the late
1870s and early 1880s the hills echoed to the thud of pounding
stampers. Spain’s mill at Glen Mowbray was the first to crush,
followed by Martin’s mill at Thornborough. These and other
early plants were dismantled on the Palmer and transported
over an incredibly rough track by bullock teams.
Of the 4,415
known lines of reef that were discovered, the most famous were
the Tyrconnell, the Kingsborough (which briefly yielded 17
ounces to the ton), General Grant, Hero, Columbia, Waverley,
Tichborne, Caledonia, Bismarck, Great Britain, Mark Twain,
Black Ball, Homeward Bound, Monarch, and the Flying Pig on top
of Pig Hill overlookng Thornborough; it returned 748 ounces
from 84 tons of stone, and there were other rich crushings in
1877. The Explorer, one of Mulligan’s claims, returned six and
a half ounces to the ton for a brief period.
Up to early
this century when the field had faded into insignificance, its
yield was 300,000 ounces- small compared with the mighty
Palmer’s yield of three and a half million ounces, but
nevertheless the Hodgkinson was one of the North’s richest
reefing fields after Charters Towers. The gold-bearing stone
was easy to get at first. The eyes were picked out and when
water level was reached the shafts were abandoned. In this
way, the old timers said, the riches of the old Hodgkinson
were plundered. In its first year the yield was 33,887 ozs.
mushroomed around the principal reefs. Few people now remember
or have heard of the townships of Wellesley, Waterford,
Watsonville (not the town near Herberton), Stewart Town, Union
Town, Beaconsfield, New Northcote and Old Northcote which once
flourished and died as the gold ran out.
Back in those
days of horse transport, the Hodgkinson, hemmed in by high
rough mountains, with impenetrable jungle between it and the
coast, was very isolated. Thornborough received its first
overland mail from Cooktown. In the early days of the rush,
the Government engaged a Chinese to ride with the mail, at a
cost of ninepence per pound for letters and parcels. What a
long arduous ride every week from Cooktown to Thornborough!
But Chinese as well as Europeans, played their part in opening
this Pioneers’ Country.
telegraph office was at Maytown, seventy miles away. The only
way official and other urgent messages could be got to the
outside world was for a horseman to ride to Maytown. In the
wet season when the Mitchell was in flood, even this was not
possible. A telegraph line was opened to Thornborough on
November 10th 1877; it was constructed over the
mountains from the Tate River on the line to Cooktown. It was
extended eastward to Cairns in 1878, and opened on August 30th.
A branch line was erected in 1882 from Northcote to Herberton.
A meeting was
held in Thornborough on Saturday afternoon, July 8th
1876, outside J. V. Mulligan’s store. The warden and Police
Magistrate, Howard St. George (a popular official) presided.
The object was to form an expedition to find a wagon road to a
convenient point on the coast. Five hundred miners rolled up.
Bill Smith, a packer and miner, and a former bêche-de-mer
fisherman who knew the coast, described the advantages of
Trinity Bay as a likely seaport for the Hodgkinson. Quickly
£200 was subscribed as a reward to be offered for the
discovery of a road.
John Doyle, an
expert bushman and horseman who had been in the Palmer Rush,
accompanied Smith and a man named Cardnow to try to penetrate
the ranges to the coast. When Doyle came upon the majestic
spectacle of the Barron Falls tumbling into a jungle-filled
gorge amid clouds of spray, he was amazed. The Aboriginals’
name for the falls was Dinden.
Doyle was the
first white man to gaze on the scenic grandeur they then
presented. In Thornborough later, Doyle’s report was scarcely
believed. One influential person is supposed to have said that
if such a river as the Barron existed it must run uphill.
then returned to Cooktown and attacked the range from the
seaward side with two mates, Stewart and Lipton.
in Thornborough on September 17 1876, having covered seventy
miles on foot.
20th 1876, Mr. Jenkin, the Thornborough
correspondent for the “Townsville Herald”, took up his quill
and in neat copperplate wrote a despatch containing these
words: “Bill Smith and his mates have been the ‘lions’ of the
place for awhile, and the consumption of ‘James Hennessy’ has
notably increased in the two cities of Thornborough and
Kingsborough, and along the Caledonia.”
mail, this news was carried by the packhorse mailman over the
dry dusty track over the ranges to Cooktown and sent south by
the regular mail steamer. It was published in the “Townsville
Herald” on October 10th.
It was now
believed that a good road had been found to the coast, but the
Hodgkinson people were to be disappointed.
sub-inspectors, Johnstone and Townsend, with nine Aboriginal
troopers, sailed north from Cardwell in the police whaleboat,
powered by oars and sail, and landing at Trinity Bay, met
Sub-Inspector Douglas, Fred and Charles Warner (surveyors who
had also been exploring the ranges), and a detachment of
Native Police. This was on September 23rd.
immediately began cutting a track through the scrub, over
Saltwater and Freshwater Creeks and on to the foot of the
range where the Barron River emerges from its magnificent
gorge. Douglas named the river after T. H. Barron, chief clerk
of police in Brisbane, who probably never saw it. Tracks of
Bill Smith’s hobnailed boots were sighted. A path was cut
through the scrub up the incredibly steep range between
Glacier Rock and Red Bluff. In the scrub, the wild blacks were
like flitting shadows dogging every movement of these
intruders. A trooper had to guard the scrub-cutters and be
Bill Smith had started back from Thornborough leading 160 men
on foot, carrying swags and mining tools. Their hobnail boots
cut a broad path through the dry speargrass in the forest
country and churned up the banks of Leadingham and other
creeks as they slogged eastward. They waded the swift flowing
Barron River near the later site of Biboohra. They thought the
Barron was the Mitchell.
Mowbray’s mounted party which left Thornborough a day later,
caught up with the footmen. With Mowbray were J. V. Mulligan,
Johnny Byers, E. M. Geary, Williams, Sharpe, and a dozen
others including the intrepid “Townsville Herald”
He noted the
mineralised country in the area that was to become the
short-lived Clohesy Goldfield in 1893. Jenkin, his mind
attuned to the surest means of transport of his day, believed
that if a gold discovery was made here it would cause a rush
“to Trinity Bay from which swagmen can easily reach the
locality in two days.”
newly cut tunnel-like path through the jungle in single file,
the correspondent came to a pinch that winded both the men and
the horses but they were “gratified by the sight of the sea
and a large river at the base of the spur on which we were
standing,” Jenkin wrote.
“From this we
descended sheer down about half a mile and after considerable
swearing, slipping, and blowing, we emerged suddenly on a
splendid flowing stream [the Barron where it receives Stoney
Creek] with both sides covered in mountain scrub… We came to
the conclusion that if this was the dray track of Douglas’ and
Bill Smith’s was no better, Trinity Bay would remain in the
possession of its dusky inhabitants for all time.
correspondent caught sight of a fine tidal reach in the new
river and prophesized that a town would be built there. It was
to be the site chosen for Smithfield- unwisely, as the flood
marks were ignored.
party reached Douglas’ camp on the future site of Cairns on 30th
September. The correspondent added:
“I am of
opinion the Government would not be justified in spending
money on either of the present tracks… A party headed by John
Doyle are about to start out for the ranges again, hoping to
find a better road…”
John Doyle led
a party comprising Edward M. Geary, Harry Evans and William
McCord from Trinity Bay on 6th October. After
searching fruitlessly for “leading spurs” up the range from
the Mulgrave River to the Barron River, they finally found a
route up a spur on the northern side of the Barron. They
crossed the river above the falls at what became known as
Middle Crossing (later Kuranda) and linked up, with Douglas’
track at Grove Creek which would lead to Thornborough. This
time a passable wagon road had been found.
who kept a diary, definitely states that John Doyle was the
discoverer of the famous Barron Falls, whether this expedition
or earlier, is not very clear.
Warner and Sub-Inspector Douglas traversed the route Doyle had
discovered and reported favourably to A. C. Macmillan,
Engineer for Roads, and work was immediately begun by the
Government with overseer McDonald in charge.
almost £10,000 was eventually spent on it, the road proved too
steep for loaded teams; they managed to struggle up by
double-banking all the way to the top. Part of the route is
now followed by the power line from the Barron Falls where
hydro-electric power has been generated since 1935. That year
the poles for the line were placed in position by Rod Veivers’
bullock team- the last time bullocks trod the “Smithfield
Palmerston found a better road to Port Douglas in 1877 it was
abandoned by teamsters; packers still used it for a while.
Early in 1877
the first gold escort from the Hodgkinson came down to Trinity
Bay by this road. On its first trip it was bailed up by a
at Kamerunga roistered in nearby Smithfield and used Douglas’
Track at first, but soon it, too, was abandoned in favour of
the road to Port Douglas.
possibly within a stone’s throw of where the hold-up took
place, is a nine-foot memorial cairn, now a landmark on the
Kennedy Highway. At the suggestion of the writer (Glenville
Pike) it was erected by the Mulgrave Shire Council, and the
plaque, unveiled on June 9th 1958, by Mrs. Daisy
Hine, a daughter of John Doyle, states that the monument is in
memory of “The Men Who Blazed the Track -1876- Those
Pathfinders who, between June and October 1876, discovered the
Barron River, the Falls, and a route to Trinity Bay as an
outlet for the Hodgkinson Goldfield.” It carries the names of
William Smith, John Doyle, Sub-Inspector Alexander Douglas,
Frederick Horatio Warner, Edwin Crossland, “and the other
pioneers of Smithfield.”
The old bridge
over the Barron River at Mareeba was fittingly named the Doyle
Bridge, but the new bridge has been named the Edmund Kennedy
Bridge and the Cairns-Tablelands road is the Kennedy Highway.
Yet the explorer Kennedy was never in this locality. The name
of the real discoverer, John Doyle, should be transferred to
the new bridge. A street in Mareeba is named after him. This
fine old pioneer died in Mareeba in 1932 when ninety years of
founded in October 1876, soon had its Hodgkinson trade
strangled first by Smithfield then by Port Douglas, and with a
seemingly impassable mountain barrier at its back, it withered
and almost died. Only John Robson’s pack track to Herberton in
1882 and construction of the railway over the range from 1886,
was to save it from extinction by Port Douglas.
When the wet
season set in in January 1877, the Hodgkinson
monsoon rain, teams could not negotiate the Smithfield (or
Doyle’s) Track and only packhorses could struggle up and down
the sheer mountainside on Douglas’ Track, and it too became
impassable. For long periods the flooded Barron River and
Freshwater Creek inundated the flats.
As for Cairns,
it was a row of huts and wooden buildings on a low sandridge
surrounded by fetid mangroves, all but under water at high
tide or in flood rains; a foot of rain overnight was not
unusual in the January to April period. Only clearing,
drainage, and filling over many years was to raise Cairns out
of the swamps to make it the beautiful tropical city it is
today, a Mecca for a quarter of a million tourists a year
seeking the winter sun. Few cities in Australia had such an
unpromising start. It speaks volumes for the tenacity, hard
work, and stubborn faith of the pioneers.
On March 8th
1878, a cyclone threatened to wipe off its tenuous grip on the
map, but somehow the place survived. Smithfield, already
practically deserted, suffered severe flooding in 1878 and
1879. That was the end of what had started as a roaring
goldfields port, notorious for its sinfulness according to
some writers, but it was probably no worse than other similar
The story has
been told several times in print how Bill Smith, the
pathfinder, had his horse shod with shoes of Hodgkinson gold
by Edwin Crossland, the blacksmith from the Palmer; and of
how, as his fortune waned, he shot the storekeeper Craig and
then turned the gun on himself. This has become part of the
folklore of Cairns and as such it has become difficult to
separate fact from fiction. It provided heady stuff for the
background to the Cairns Centenary of 1976.
on the mountains and on the coast waylaid the pack teams as
they threaded their way up to the Hodgkinson.
A packer known
as George the Greek was attacked in the scrub near Middle
Crossing (Kuranda). He arrived at Groves’ shanty seven miles
away with three broken-off spears in his legs. He lost all his
packhorses with their loads of stores needed in Thornborough.
Most of the packers rode heavily armed and were able to beat
off the natives. Pat Downey was another packer who was wounded
in an attack at Middle Crossing; in another attack he lost
nearly all his horses.
wild white men as well. A man wanted for horse stealing on the
Hodgkinson murdered a packer on the road known as Frank the
Atkinson’s nephew, John Fraser, came north in 1874 to seek
pastoral land. Equipped by his uncle, Fraser and a companion
named Arthur Temple Clark, set out from Farnham on the Lower
Herbert, for the North. They avoided the jungle on the western
edge of the Atherton Tableland and followed down Granite Creek
to the Barron. They could have been twelve months ahead of
Mulligan, but the latter’s journey was official and Fraser’s
was not. On the headwaters of the Mitchell, Fraser decided to
take up several hundred square miles of country. It was well
grassed and watered. It was probably late in 1875 when he
returned with 400 head of Lower Burdekin cattle to stock it.
his run Mitchellvale. In the 1880s it was divided to form part
of Brooklyn, Font Hill, and Southedge. The Mary River where
the Maryfarms tobacco community is now situated, was named by
Fraser after his sister, the mother of the later Harry and
Eric Baker. The former resided most of his life in the
historic old homestead near Mt. Molloy, recently demolished by
a new owner. Eric died in Mareeba in June 1979, aged 91. Born
at Font Hill in 1888, his life was spent among cattle and
horses, on stations and on long droving trips. He was one of
the North’s fine old pioneers.
Kokokulunggur tribesmen speared Fraser’s cattle
This was the mysterious Christie Palmerston.
Fraser was in
his mustering, camp one day when a bearded fierce-eyed man in
red shirt, moleskin trousers, and worn top boots, suddenly
appeared out of the scrub. He carried a Snider rifle, a Colt
revolver, and a Bowie knife. He said he was Christie
Palmerston, was wanted on the Palmer for the murder of a
Chinaman of which he was innocent, and vowed he would never be
taken alive. He told Fraser he had found a route over the
mountains to Island Point (Port Douglas) and that his mate was
now at Thornborough to claim the reward that was offered for
finding such a track.
John Fraser wrote: “He eventually got a reward and a pardon
but he still remained in the bush. He was a brave man who
would face anything.” Today, Christie Palmerston- the son of
Madame Carandini, a famed opera singer of the times- is an
almost legendary figure, but all accounts agree on his superb
bushmanship in the dense rain forests of the country behind
timers have said, however, he was utterly ruthless with the
Aborigines. On one occasion he had a horse speared at Mt.
Pompo (near Mt. Molloy of later years) and a dozen black men,
women, and children were shot in consequence. In those days a
horse was considered of greater value.
friends on the Hodgkinson were evidently working on his
behalf, for on 11th June 1877, an official report
on the new route was issued, giving Christie Palmerston full
credit for the discovery.
“Hodgkinson Mining News” of Thornborough reported on 16th June that at a
hastily summoned meeting in front of the Royal Hotel, Mr.
Byers proposed that a subscription be opened to pay a reward
to “Christie Palmerston and his mate, Leighton.” Later, the
newspaper referred to the latter as Lakeland. He has also been
variously called Layton and Little.
Whoever he was, this mystery man reported at the open air
meeting that after weeks in the jungle in the wet season, he
and Palmerston had found a route for a road down a main spur
of the Coast Range onto the coast plain near Island Point.
They had carved their initials, CP/WL on a tree on the bank of
the Mowbray River, first sighted by John Doyle in 1876. This
historic marked tree stood until modern times.
abortive attempt at establishing a settlement called, of all
things, New Jerusalem, at the mouth of the Mowbray, the inlet
sheltered by Island Point was decided upon. Captain Daniel
Owen of the coastal steamer, Corea, recommended it as
a proper site for a new port.
Walsh, a leading Cooktown merchant, chartered the Corea,
loaded her with building materials and stores and arrived at
the new harbour on 30th June, 1877. They found Mr.
Jenkin and two friends, Pintcke and Ohlran, already in
residence, having come up from the Mowbray, and that they had
christened the new port, Port Salisbury “after the great
statesman who lately represented England at the congress of
the Great Powers at Constantinople.”
Mr. Jenkin had
neither quill, ink, nor paper, but he stiff sent his despatch
to his paper, this time the “Hodgkinson Mining News”. He wrote
in pencil on a sheet of bark to describe the birth of the new
Thornborough, a committee of five were elected- Mulligan,
Martin, Cosgrove, Swan, Cooper, and Booth- to draw up a
petition to the Government to open the road and make it
trafficable. The sum of £143/3/6 was quickly collected. The
“Palmerston Reward Fund” reached £201/12/-.
At a public
meeting in Port Salisbury on July 26th, six hundred
people rolled up, indicating the rapid growth of a goldfields
Jenkin reported that the area near the jetties was piled high
with iron bedsteads, sewing machines, handsome cedar tables,
billiard tables, feather mattresses, kerosene lamps, thousands
of feet of timber, “an acre or two” of corrugated iron,
tarpaulins, and canvas for “instant hotels and stores”, and
also smiths’ anvils, bellows, carpenters’ and miners’ tools,
and mountainous stacks of barrels containing beer and spirits.
Most of these goods were intended for the Hodgkinson.
meeting was held to raise money for a party to go out and
clear the scrub to allow wagons to get up the range. Axe men
from the settlement had already cleared about four miles of
road and were half way to the foot of the range. Later swampy
sections were corduroyed with logs cut and placed by hand.
horse and bullock teams were waiting impatiently at the top of
the range for the scrub to be cleared and cuttings made to
ease the grade on the terribly steep “Bump” section.
September 1877, a convoy of thirty teams came down the road
and camped at Craiglie, the best grass and water nearest to
six-horse dray was the first to ascend the range, loaded with
stores for John Fraser’s Mitchellvale Station. Mackie settled
near the headwaters of Leadingham and Cattle Creeks.
A week or two
later, thirteen wagons left Port Douglas for the Hodgkinson,
carrying over a hundred tons of stores. Eighteen days later,
the leading teams crawled over the last rough ridge and the
ponderous wagons, high swaying loads under dusty tarpaulins,
wheels turning ever so slowly, pulled by tired bullocks,
plodded down McLeod Street, Thornborough.
The street was
crowded on both sides with timber and iron buildings, the
sidewalks thronged with cheering people, mostly men in the
rough garb of working miners who called greetings to the
sun-browned flannel-shirted drivers trudging in the dust
beside their teams, long greenhide whips trailing over their
shouts and handclaps, excited barking of dogs, frightened
horses pulling away from crowded hitching rails, and
round-eyed children clinging to their mother’s skirts, awed by
this momentous happening- the arrival of thirteen bullock
teams all at once, and from a new port on the coast, at that.
An occasion as unusual and as important to these folk as would
be the arrival of some giant new plane ushering in a new era
in transport in this modern age.
It was an
occasion for celebration. Thornborough’s twenty hotels roared
late into the night as round after round of drinks passed
between several thousand men, some singing, some laughing,
some arguing, congregated in the dim light of swaying kerosene
lanterns and smoking slush lamps to celebrate and to fight.
from Mulligan’s store to the brow of the hill where a school
and a church were to be built, and from the corner up Mulligan
Street to Wooster’s Hotel was a seething mass of humanity.
Over the babble of voices and the blare of music from squeaky
concertinas and overworked pianos coming from the hotels and
saloons as the proprietors made the most of this unusually
exciting Saturday night with the huge crowd in festive mood,
there came a call over a loud hailer: “Roll up! Roll up, to a
monster meeting at Jim Mulligan’s!”
The crowd that
had been wavering back and forth uncertain of direction, now
converged to hear what was happening at popular J. V.
Mulligan’s hotel and store in the centre of town.
A man of
medium height, brown bearded, Mulligan addressed the crowd in
his soft Irish brogue. It was a vastly different crowd now, he
no doubt reflected, to the hostile miners he had confronted,
rifle in hand on horseback, at Glen Mowbray only a little over
a year before. They had been carrying ropes ready to lynch him
because they believed he had led them to duffer goldfield.
But all that
was past. The Hodgkinson’s rich reefs had fully vindicated his
reports. The rumble of stampers that was a constant background
noise was music to his ears for it meant continued prosperity
for the field.
passed at the meeting included that of Mr. McPherson: “That
the meeting regards the arrival of the first teams from
Salisbury with the greatest satisfaction.” Jem Cosgrove
proposed “that this meeting regards the arrival of the teams
from Salisbury within eighteen days as sure proof of the
practicability of the road and is of the opinion that the
Government should be called upon to expend £1000 in forming it
for dray traffic during the ensuing wet season.” Johnny Byers
seconded it and it was carried unanimously.
A few days
later the newspaper reported that another nineteen teams were
coming up the range on their way to the Hodgkinson. A bridge
had just been built over Rifle Creek but the “Bump” section
was so steep it took 36 horses to pull a wagon loaded with
four tons up the incline.
direct road that was blazed over the Granite Range from the
present vicinity of Mt. Molloy township, westward to Dora
Creek, the Eastern Hodgkinson, and so to Kingsborough, was
unusable in the dry season owing to absence of grass and
water. The longer route was necessary- southward to the Big
Mitchell, then the Mud Springs, Flat Rock, and westward along
the earlier road to Cairns through Northcote and so to
Thornborough. It was twenty miles longer but with plenty of
feed and water for the teams and no very steep grades.
The road was
what the Hodgkinson had been waiting for, but it was a
terrible track by modern standards. One can imagine, how the
iron-shod wagon wheels churned out a deeply rutted track
across granite hills and gullies of knife-edged slate, sandy
creek crossings, up rock-strewn hillsides, and across teatree
flats where the wagons sank to their axle-beds in the wet
Yet to the
Hodgkinson pioneers it was a highway. In places it is still
plainly visible, but it looks more like a creek-bed than a
road. The Government spent about £2000 on it, mainly on
cuttings in the “Bump” section and on Granite Range just west
of Mareeba. Between Sorensen’s Mud Springs and Flat Rock the
pickmarks of the road makers can be seen today.
At a meeting
in Thornborough, reported in the “Hodgkinson Mining News”, on
12th January 1878, Stenhouse and Martin asked that
Engineer MacMillan be requested to make the road directly over
the Granite Range fit for wheel traffic as it was 25 miles
shorter. Owing to its roughness and lack of grass and water,
this short cut remained useful only as a pack track. Most
horsemen travelled down to Port Douglas that way. These were
the first roads in the Mareeba Shire.
In 1879 it was
reported that the road at the Port Douglas end was in a
deplorable state “since the rains”. The gold escort could not
proceed on that occasion, past Rifle Creek and packhorses had
to be used. The Coast Range section was always a bugbear.
escort was diverted from Smithfield to Port Douglas in 1878. A
former coach driver on the Palmer, Johnny Hogsflisch, took the
first mail by packhorse from Port Douglas to Thornborough on
from Cooktown to Thornborough had been £100 per ton, but it
was much less from Port Douglas. A carrier named Bill Clark is
said to have taken the first wagon load of machinery up “The
Bump”- a six ton boiler for the Hodgkinson. In his first
attempt the wagon capsized and most of the bullocks were
killed. It is recorded that the first load of machinery
reached the Monarch Mine at Beaconsfield late in October 1877.
Ted Troughton took a record load over this range some time in 1878. It was a boiler weighing nine tons eighteen hundredweight for Jackson and Plant’s mill at Kingsborough. He used two teams of bullocks yoked four abreast and the journey took two weeks.
died in Mareeba at the age of 103. He was born in Parramatta,
N.S.W., in 1839 and arrived in what was later to become
Queensland in 1857. He was a resident of Mareeba, from the
late 1890s, and spent most of his active life on the roads
The old Port
Douglas Road was a lifeline to the pioneers. As they pushed
further out, the road followed. The slowly turning wheels of
the heavy bullock wagons, and later the swifter wheels of the
Cobb and Co. coaches, overcame the mountains and linked the
Coral Sea with the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The Tyrconnell and General Grant Mines - Relics of the Golden Days - Kingsborough, Thornborough, Beaconsfield, Northcote, and other Ghosts of Gold.
mineral field in the North has had its famous mine. Charters
Towers, of course, had the Day Dawn and others; Herberton had
the Great Northern; Irvinebank had the Vulcan; the Palmer had
the Anglo-Saxon, and the Hodgkinson had the Tyrconnell.
worked on and off for sixty years. Its poppet-head and chimney
stand sentinel on a lonely rocky hill overlooking Glen Mowbray
and the deserted Hodgkinson field. There have been moves afoot
to preserve it for posterity through the National Trust.
Like the other
great mines abovementioned, romance also surrounds the
discovery of the Tyrconnell, according to the popular story.
In the rush of 1876, Redmond pegged out this likely looking
outcrop of gold-bearing quartz and named it after an Irish
patriot of long ago. Not far away he pegged another reef which
he called the Lizzie Redmond.
A couple of
miles from the Tyrconnell, a miner from the Palmer named Isaac
Fretwell, who became one of the pioneers of Cairns, found a
fine-looking reef that he called the Great Britain. When
Redmond saw it he offered Fretwell both the Tyrconnell and
Lizzie Redmond in exchange for the Great Britain. Fretwell
refused the offer, and it was well for Redmond that he did so.
first crushing yielded four ounces to the ton and he erected a
battery. Throughout the years, crushing from the Tyrconnell
were regular and very rich. On the other hand, Fretwell’s
Great Britain was only a surface show.
and his partner, McGhie, were employing one hundred men, and
Thornborough was kept alive for years on Tyrconnell gold.
Redmond became one of the leading men on the Hodgkinson. Every
month, heavily armed, he rode with his gold to Port Douglas,
taking the packers’ track through the mountains. On one trip,
the packhorse carrying the gold bolted in the rough country,
but was recovered. Redmond sold the Tyrconnell to a Charters
Towers company in the 1890s, but its richest days were then
over. Records show that in 1878 the Tyrconnell produced 5023
ozs from 1898 tons of stone. Lack of capital hampered
development, as it did most Hodgkinson mines. After closing
for a few years it was reopened in 1914 with Oliver Reece as
manager. At the end of World War I, a southern company worked
it and Thomas Harley was manager. Mrs. E. Volkman remembers
Harley coming into Thornborough regularly with a little bar of
smelted gold and depositing it in the Bank of New South Wales.
Nearly 2000 ounces were produced between July 1918 and April
1919. Up to 1934, the Tyrconnell’s production was 52,753
ounces of gold.
and boilers at the Tyrconnell were all hauled there by horse
teams- a tremendous feat in mountainous terrain- the last by
Jack Hay’s team in 1915. It was a 131 ton Cornish boiler and
it was brought to Thornborough siding on the Mt. Mulligan line
(then not long opened) by train. Hay had his old mate, Abe
Rolls, with him and between them they had 28 horses, two box
wagons and a timber wagon hired from Ward and Petersen of
The wet season
was on and the empty wagons went down to their axle beds and
the horses to their bellies in the boggy country between
Dimbulah and Thornborough, but with the aid of a 300 ft. rope
they snigged the wagons through. On the road to the mine the
wagon was in danger of capsizing several times, but the load
was balanced by twenty men from the mine hanging onto ropes as
the 28 horses hauled it around the sidelings in the rocky
closed in 1937 and reopened in 1939 with Amos Jones as
manager. But for World War II, the Queensland Gold Development
Syndicate would have continued working, but the mine closed
for the last time in 1942. Amos Jones lived at the mine as
caretaker until just before his death about twenty-five years
ago, riding into Mareeba on horseback in the old time fashion.
Some of the buildings are still in good repair. There is a
magnificent view- Mt. Mulligan on the north-west horizon and a
maze of tumbled peaks and rounded rocky bush covered hills in
every other direction. A ribbon-like wheel track can be seen
winding upward through a saddle to Kingsborough. From the
Tyrconnell it dips steeply to a crossing of Explorer Creek and
the little valley of Glen Mowbray where the miners gathered in
June 1876 outside Byers’ butcher’s shop threatening to lynch
Grant was a mine once as well known as the Tyrconnell. It was
the deepest on the field- 725 ft- and dates from 1876. Early
yields do not seem to be available, but in 1896 the Cecil
Syndicate was formed in London with English capital to
rehabilitate and develop the old mine, with Charters Towers
mining men, Miles and Millican, directors, and a very
competent manager, William J. W. Richards, recognised as one
of the most experienced miners in Australia.
three-chambered main shaft was sunk and cut the reef at 300
ft. A level was put in, followed by two more at 500 ft. and
700 ft., each following the reef for about 750 ft. The
Kingsborough Battery owned by Knudstrop, treated 18,000 tons
of stone, but the yield of just over an ounce of gold to the
ton was regarded as poor. Additional gold was obtained from a
cyanide plant, however. The company’s London shareholders
thought they would benefit if they had their own mill, and the
Reconstruction battery was built, costing £11,000. A dam on
Caledonia Creek held twenty million gallons of water. This was
built in 1901, but the wet season of 1902 did not eventuate
and it did not fill until 1904, hampering milling operations.
Grant reef improved and yielded three ounces to the ton, then
decreased so that the rising costs of the twentieth century
made working unprofitable. About 20,700 ounces had then been
won by the Cecil Syndicate.
across Caledonia Creek, the chimney and buildings of the
General Grant stand out clearly on the opposite mountainside.
They are reached by a very steep track from the long ridge
upon which the town of Kingsborough was situated. There are
mullock heaps and a series of gaping shafts along the slope of
the mountain with more workings and remains of buildings in
the gorge below. Buildings and a tramline are teetering on the
edge, in danger of falling 200 or 300 feet into Caledonia
winding gear, boilers, chimney, and some machinery remain, and
again one wonders how, as with the Tyrconnell, it was placed
there by horse power alone. It has remained silent and
deserted since 1924. A faded Mining Regulations notice is
still tacked up in one building, dated 10th January
the Cecil Syndicate caused a short lived revival in
Kingsborough when its roaring days were well past. The
Syndicate bought Patsy Rowan’s Reconstruction mine lower down
the ridge from the General Grant as the reef seemed to be
dipping that way. Rowan was the father of Mrs. E. A. Volkman,
Thornborough’s last original inhabitant. She also owns the
deserted Kingsborough battery that was built by the Danish
engineer Knudstrop; it has not worked since 1916.
building with rusting chimney and stout framework of still
sound cypress pine tree trunks, is a landmark on the bank of
Caledonia Creek, surrounded by gum trees and brown
grass-covered hills gashed by rocky gullies rising vertically
Here at the
end of a long ridge encircled on three sides by Caledonia
Creek, is the edge of the once large town of Kingsborough-
first called Kingston- with its ten hotels. The main street,
Jackson Street, ran up the ridge for about a mile with the
Roman Catholic church and Dr. Koch’s private hospital on
reasonably flat ground at the top. There is a magnificent view
of blue rugged ranges on the north, east, and south, with the
General Grant hill to the north-west. A healthy site for a
town. One can see splashes of color from magenta flowered
bougainvilleas marking the homes of pioneers down on the
meagre flats of Caledonia Creek- which they probably named
because of the hills so “stern and wild.” Possibly they
reminded William McLeod of his native land.
follows the big bend of the creek and crossing, it is vaguely
discernible running eastward into the ranges- it was once the
main road to the coast at Port Douglas. The brumbies have
their pads across it today.
The whole of
the deserted, deathly quiet, Hodgkinson country is redolent of
the pioneers and their handiwork.
is only four miles east of Kingsborough, but the road is such
that it can take an hour in a Toyota. This was once the main
road to the coast and would have carried much traffic between
the two “twin cities” as they were known. There is evidence of
much work having been done on it- massive cuttings, sidelings
along Caledonia Creek, and stone pitching. A wall of boulders
on a ridge above the road marks the site of an hotel and store
that once had a fine terraced garden, now a jungle of rubber
vines with several enormous poincianas still blooming, every
year as they have done for probably ten decades.
At the back of
this once lovely garden, among black basalt boulders high
above Butcher’s Creek, is the grave of its owner, Carl Alex
Egerstrom, “Born in Sweden, 1829. Died in Thornborough, 1900.”
He is said to have dug his own grave out of the rock and
carved his own tombstone from a natural slab. His friend,
Knudstrup, made the brass plaque with its inscription, when he
This place is
known to the old timers as Baker Burns’. Apparently, Jim Burns
was the last owner and ran a bakery here to supply both
Thornborough and Kingsborough in the latter days of the
Hodgkinson field. Gordon Hay remembers he and his father
resting their team in the shade of these poinciana trees over
sixty years ago.
leaving here the road crosses Caledonia Creek for the third
time. It is a wide crossing among the giant teatrees and gums
with one of the few waterholes nearby. Here is some impressive
evidence of the work of the pioneers. The crossing originally
had a causeway, not of concrete, but of huge flat basalt
boulders, some as large as dining room tables, extending all
the way across, individually placed with great care and
stupendous effort in the very early days of the road- probably
late in 1877 when improvements were made to the Port Douglas-
From here, the
road ascends the Rob Roy Hill by very steep cuttings and
sidelings for about a quarter of a mile, deep ruts and loose
boulders testing the climbing powers of even a Toyota. Up
grades like this the carriers hauled thirteen-ton boilers with
teams of up to thirty-four horses.
Gordon Hay believes that Knudstrup’s battery, now ruins, at Kingsborough, was built by him in the early 1890s. Mr. Hay has recorded: “In the early times most of the gold was caught in an ordinary blanket spread over a table at the outlet of the stamper boxes. The blanket was taken off and washed in a tub and the gold collected. Later, a copper plate dressed with quicksilver and cyanide was used with a well at the bottom of the table with quicksilver in it. This was put into a retort pot on the fire and smelted, the quicksilver going out of the retort in a vapour into a tin of water and thus saved for further use”.
One of the
bank managers in Thornborough long ago, lost the keys to his
safe. It was Knudstrup who saved the situation. On his second
attempt he made a key that would fit, much to the relief of
the banker. Knudstrup was working on an invention when he
died. He was building a three-head battery at the Monarch mine
that was to be driven by a windmill with 12 ft. blades.
is a fine site for a town, and judging by the signs that still
remain, it was obviously a large one- possibly with two
thousand population. The road in from Kingsborough becomes
McLeod Street and runs down a long ridge to a flat near the
river with the main street, Mulligan Street, crossing it. It
was fitting that the two principal streets in this town, once
capital of the Hodgkinson Goldfield, should have been named
after the two discoverers. The site of J. V. Mulligan’s store
and hotel, marked by remains of a cellar, stood on the
right-hand corner with the river flat in front- the place
where 500 miners gathered at the open air meeting on July 8th
1876 to discuss the need for a wagon road to the coast.
building left from the pioneer days is Mrs. Volkman’s house,
once the Canton Hotel and part of a much larger building. Wah
Lee’s big store adjoined on the corner of Little Street (named
for Billy Little, later M.L.A.), with a few bricks marking the
site opposite in McLeod Street, of Horn and Petersen’s
jeweller’s shop. It was a two storey building and in the
town’s latter period was a cordial factory. Next was Geilis’
A fine view of
Mt. Mulligan and a panorama of other ranges is obtained from
the hilltop where the Catholic Church once stood, and from the
site of the school on a lower level facing McLeod Street. The
stone foundations, 40 ft. by 20 ft. remain.
At the top of
Mulligan Street was Freeman’s Hotel on the corner of Muirson
Street, Wooster’s Hotel opposite, and lower down was Frank
Grainer’s store and butchery. At the top of the street was the
police station, Court House, Post Office, and the telegraph
repeater station; all except Wooster’s and Grainer’s were
built of brick and were functioning up to the early 1920s.
buildings, including the school, were bought for a total of
£100 by the Eureka Farming Syndicate (H. H. Collins,
secretary) of Dimbulah in 1932. They were pulled down and the
bricks used to build tobacco curing barns at Leafgold. Many of
the bricks at Thornborough were made by a builder named
Bowcher. He built the school, opened in August 1878 with fifty
pupils, for £1050. Badly damaged in a cyclone in 1920, it was
repaired, but closed for good on 28th March 1924,
for lack of pupils. The first teacher, in 1878- 1882, was
Patrick Houston, an Irishman.
surrounding hills, brooding and silent now, where thousands
once worked over a century ago to wrest gold from their
unyielding rocks, bear but a few faint scars of man’s unrest.
Dominating the town site on the north is the Pig Hill, so
called from a rich mine, the Flying Pig.
stories are recalled. One has it that on top of this hill an
Aboriginal woman found a nugget of gold as big as, and the
same size as, a woman’s shoe. She showed it to Fred Geilis,
the publican, who generously gave her two shillings for it…
James Rolls and Harry Purcell took out a crushing of twenty
ounces to the ton from the Pig Hill.
about the time Bill Clark brought his bullock team straight
down the face of the Pig Hill with the wheels locked with tie
chains so they tore up the ground; the tracks were visible for
many years afterwards. It is so steep that a bulldozer could
not climb it without a winch rope. Bill Clark and Con Quill
ran the two last hotels to function in Kingsborough, in 1913.
The school teacher was Ellie Rowan who became the Mrs. Volkman
rubber vines have almost completely covered the site of
Thornborough; they are at Kingsborough too, and all along
Caledonia Creek and the Hodgkinson, Leadingham Creek, and
Pinnacle Creek. They are a curse in these areas and seem to
particularly flourish on nearly all the old mining fields.
Back in 1878,
before Herberton drew away their population, the Hodgkinson
towns were flourishing. Pugh’s Almanac listed the
towns of Thornborough, Kingsborough, Stewart Town, and
Beaconsfield as the principal towns on the goldfield, with
Northcote on its eastern edge. That year the field produced
60,000 ounces of gold.
in Thornborough were then J. V. Mulligan, Clifton and Aplin (a
large merchant firm with branches all over the North), J.
Loldman, O’Donohue and Greenwood, and G. Schott. There were
ten hotels in the town itself, five in Kingsborough, three in
Beaconsfield, two in Stewart Town, three in Northcote, and
probably a dozen others in mining camps and along the carrying
roads. In those days the number of hotels in a mining town or
on a field were indicators of the importance
In Thornborough in 1878 there was the Albion (D. McPherson); All Nations (German Charlie); Commercial (J. Little); Crown (W. Freeman); Lindsay’s; London (C. Crisp); Queen’s (G. O’Loughlan); Royal (J. Byers); Thornborough (J. Dowdell- one of Mulligan’s old mates); and Thornborough Arms (J. Middlemiss). Martin Bros’ Hercules crushing mill of sixteen stampers was at work on the river bank on the edge of town. W. J. Cosgrove was a mining agent and auctioneer, G. H. Boughtman an engineer, and Parker and Vautin, assayers.
The weekly newspaper was the “Hodgkinson Mining News”, published by John S. Reid. As we have seen, it published reports, now historically valuable, of the opening of the roads to the coast. Only a few tattered copies survive in Brisbane archives.
John Reid sold the “Hodgkinson Mining News” plant to William Douglas Reid and William I. Booth in August 1877. Reid became sole owner soon afterwards, and in May 1879 he sold out to J. R. Boyett. The paper ceased publication in July 1880 following a bitter libel case. There was actual physical violence and some of the paper’s type was thrown in the Hodgkinson River during a fight.
As a result, Kingsborough briefly had its own newspaper. A Mr. Pilbrow bought the “Hodgkinson Mining News” plant for 152 pounds and proposed to issue the “Hodgkinson Independent” at Kingsborough. It lasted until September 1881 when the boom town of Herberton looked more inviting. The plant was loaded on a bullock wagon and transported thereto, with M. C. Greene as editor.
Meanwhile, the Thornborough people were not to be outdone by their rival, Kingsborough. They subscribed 200 pounds and purchased a new plant to produce a new paper, “The Hodgkinson Miner”. It lasted until October 1881.
The two banks were the Bank of New South Wales and the Queensland National. Later there was a branch of the Bank of North Queensland also. The town supported two solicitors, F. A. Cooper and P. F. O’Reilly, and two chemists, J. Hopkinson and W. R. Irwin. The doctor was then Dr. E. Mohs. In 1880, Dr. J. E. Fonsworth of the Hodgkinson District Hospital was killed when thrown from his horse on the road to Kingsborough.
In those days of the horse, the blacksmith and saddler were important people: D. McPherson and B. Smith were blacksmiths and G. Badkin was a saddler. The lucky miners who wanted to dress for special occasions could get handmade suits from Mr. Halkier the tailor for three guineas. The ladies were catered for by Mary Smith, widow of the pathfinder, Bill Smith. On March 1st 1880, she married again- a miner named Robert M. Shaw. Thornborough people were also readers, for there were two bookshops- T. Willmett & Co. (a branch of a Townsville firm that still exists), and D. Roberts. Bakers were G. Wason and C. Crisp, and Johnny Byers and Little Bros. were butchers.
The official name for Kingsborough was “Kingston” but popular usage of the former eventually prevailed. It honored Mr. H. E. King, Minister of Works. (From 1874 to 1876 there was a town of the same name on the Palmer Goldfield).
The hotels in 1878 were Bindon’s; Royal (kept by R. McKelvey); McManus’ Hotel; Golden Cannon (Miss Muldoon); Reynolds’; King Christian (Petersen); and the Welcome (W. B. Stenhouse). The three stores were kept by Kiley, Henry and Templeton. G. Frankfort was a blacksmith, and A. McNutt and Carlton Bros. were butchers. Plant and Jackson who were early on the field from the Palmer, had the Vulcan Mill of sixteen stampers. Out along the Port Douglas Road was Rolls’ roadside hotel and farm where, like the Jacksons and other early day settlers, they bred fine draught horses for the carriers.
Some ten miles east of Kingsborough, on the headwaters of the Hodgkinson, was the town of Beaconsfield. Practically nothing remains there now, yet a century ago this town, named after the celebrated British Prime Minister, Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, had two stores, three hotels, and a good dam in the river, now long sanded up.
The hotels were the Monarch, kept by J. Weitzel who also had a store; the Exchange, (Norman James), and the Beaconsfield, run by D. N. Rice who was evidently a leading citizen for he had a store and a butchery as well. It was the Monarch mine and its mill of ten stampers that provided most of the employment, and there were other good mines nearby, such as the Just-in-Time which worked off and on until the 1930s.
W. M. Thompson discovered the Monarch in 1876. He and his mates raised enough rich stone to warrant the erection of a crushing mill and this was done with the assistance of J. Weitzel and H. C. W. Buls. The latter became a leading mining man on the Hodgkinson. His tombstone in the Thornborough cemetery is dated September 27th 1894. His widow, Fannie Maria, married J. V. Mulligan in 1905. A rocky hill near the Monarch mine was named Bul’s Pinnacle after him, though on modern maps it is misspelled as “Bull’s”.
Henry Buls led a party of diggers to the Palmer rush from the Etheridge and fought off attacks by Aborigines along the way. When the Hodgkinson broke out, he brought mining machinery from the Etheridge, cutting his own track across very rough country so that his bullock wagons could get through. This may have been the plant used for the battery at the Monarch mine. He bought out Thompson’s interest in 1878. Thompson, who later became a railway contractor, is credited with making the first sluice box and wheelbarrow on the Palmer Goldfield, thus being able to work more ground than with the old tin dish and cradle.
Northcote existed for no more than ten years- 1877- 1887. It
was prettily situated in a big bend of Leadingham Creek where
the Port Douglas Road crossed it. Several rich reefs were
found in this area and two crushing batteries were at work in
1880. The Princess of Wales of twenty stampers was at
Northcote itself and the other was on Slatey Creek.
The town was a
coach change and had a telegraph station, and at its peak
boasted three hotels- the Northcote, run by Thomas Nathaniel
Cartwright who died in 1883 and whose ornate tombstone,
recently collapsed, is in the little graveyard that marks the
site of the town today- the Overlander, kept by R. Gummow, and
the Dominion, run by McLean.
tombstone marks the grave of Margaret Mary Johnston whose
husband William had an hotel in New Northcote in 1897. By that
year, most of the town’s population had moved to the antimony
mines at the new town higher up Leadingham Creek. Mrs.
Johnston was burned to death on November 30 1897 when her
clothes caught alight when cooking Christmas puddings,
probably over an open fire. Her coffin was carried at night,
by the light of hurricane lanterns over the rough track to the
graveyard at Old Northcote.
family had an hotel near the battery on the opposite side of
Leadingham Creek to Old Northcote. When they heard of the new
rush to Herberton, they hurriedly dismantled the timber and
iron building, packed it on a bullock wagon, and set out. The
route they followed down Leadingham Creek and across the Walsh
River would have brought them on to a blazed tree line which
ran from Cardwell to the Palmer. This was never more than a
pack track and had been a vain attempt by the Cardwell
pioneers to capture some of the trade from the Palmer
Goldfield. It was a stupendous feat of path finding. Both
Fraser and Atherton probably brought their cattle this way.
With the rush
to Herberton, it was to provide a link with the Hodgkinson
towns. Following this old road on horseback, I found it barely
discernible now, but there are a few cuttings and piles of
rock on the “pinches” where some attempt at road making was
made. From 1880 to 1893 it probably carried a good deal of
traffic. A telegraph line was erected along it to give
Herberton telegraphic communication in 1882, the line joining
the Cairns-Thornborough wire at Northcote.
natural gap between enormous granite boulders as big as
two-storey houses on this road was known to the pioneers as
“Little Hell’s Gates”, doubtlessly so named after a notorious
mountain pass on one of the tracks from Cooktown to the
Palmer, where the Aborigines lay in ambush and killed scores
of white men and Chinese.
of New Northcote, three miles up Leadingham Creek from Old
Northcote, was reached by rough tracks from either the latter
or Beaconsfield through gaps in the Northcote Hills.
worked at New Northcote in the early 1880s and a smelter was
erected, managed by John Mundey. The brick chimney, sixty feet
high, was a landmark until 1942 when someone dynamited it for
the sake of the bricks, but most of them still lie there in a
had four hotels and a school at the beginning of this century.
The Winfield family were some of its citizens. The Irvinebank
Mining Company owned the antimony smelters at that time, but
because of low prices and the wind up of the company in 1919,
operations ceased and the town disappeared. Just after World
War II, when antimony was ninety pounds per ton, Dan Molloy
had a profitable mine and battery there. Up to 1941, Northcote
had produced 1500 tons of antimony; the mines included the
Emily, Ethel, and Black Bess.
Northcote, Harry Thompson of Mareeba had a large gold mine and
a battery in the early years of World War II. It was called
the Great Australian.
Moxham gold mine is further up Leadingham and was opened in
1912, having been missed by the early Hodgkinson miners.
Connected with it were Charlie Jenkinson, Fred Baines, Tom
Kelly, F. Gregory, and Bob Muhldorff of Mareeba. This mine
worked off and on until the beginning of World War II.
The gold reefs
extended for many miles down the Hodgkinson River below
Thornborough. Opposite the northern end of the great bulk of
Mt. Mulligan, was the township of Stewart Town. There were
three hotels and two stores here in 1878, and the principal
reefs in the area were the Union, Geraldine, and Result. Blair
and Co. had the Loadstone Battery of ten stamps. The
storekeepers were Barry Bros., Brophy Bros, and G. Miall. W.
Moore and J. Crowley were butchers. Another flourishing
township was Woodville, first called Watsonville, at the
hundred years ago the Union was a rich mine. The machinery for
the mill was brought by Crowley’s bullock team over the
fearful track from the Palmer and erected by a man known as
“Darky” Green. Members of this mining syndicate were shadowy
men of the past- Lyons, Grogan Murphy, Hohenhouse, Johnson,
Hughes, McManus, and Rank. Some of their descendents are still
with us. From the Hodgkinson came many of North Queensland’s
citizens who helped mould other towns and districts to
There were men
like George Jonathan Evenden from Rochester, England, who
made, bricks and built some of the brick buildings in
carrying his swag up the packers’ track from Port Douglas, but
the bricklayer’s trowel he possessed was to prove more useful,
and lucrative, than his miner’s pick and shovel. He stayed for
thirty years until his death in August 1907. He and J. V.
Mulligan were firm friends, and they both died within days of
distinguished as being the first chairman of the Woothakata
Divisional Board at Thornborough in November 1879. He was
chairman for many terms, totalling 22 years out of the 27 he
served the Local Authority. He was appointed a Justice of the
Peace in 1883 and in the 1890s, when a magistrate, he caused
the bush Aborigines to be brought close to town to prevent
them from being shot down like kangaroos.
brought his family up from Brisbane in 1878. They rode on
William Louden’s bullock wagon from Port Douglas. Their home
in Thornborough was noted for its beautiful garden. Mrs.
Evenden died on 16 July 1888. Grandchildren lived in Mareeba
Divisional Board comprised most of the present Mareeba Shire
and the name is reputed to be an Aboriginal word meaning
“mountain of strange shape” referring to Mt. Mulligan. This
early day shire covered 27,380 square miles. In 1885 the
population was 1,800; there were 360 rateable properties and
the revenue was a mere £643 per annum! The first members, in
1879, were Hodgkinson pioneers - W. A. Martin, battery owner;
W. B. Stenhouse, publican of Kingsborough; W. C. Little,
butcher; T. Jackson, battery owner; B. Smith, W. B. Redmond,
W. Blackmore, and R. Jones, miners.
In 1885, with
G. J. Evenden still chairman, the members were H. C. W. Buls,
Thomas Templeton, J. J. Denny, R. C. Eagle, G. M. Towner, and
W. Blisner. Secretary was Arthur Arnold Mayou. The board
(shire council) met in its hall in McLeod Street,
Thornborough, on the first Tuesday of each month. In 1919,
with Thornborough a ghost town and Mareeba in the ascendant,
the headquarters were moved to Mareeba. John Rank the shire
clerk, moved with it. The building was also shifted to Mareeba
where it served for years until the present concrete premises
were erected in Walsh Street. Additions have been added in
more recent times. Incidentally, G. J. Evenden was John Rank’s
father-in-law and his nephew is J. Arthur Rank, the film
last burst of activity was probably in 1914 when the railway
from Dimbulah to Mt. Mulligan was under construction and a
sale of the first town lots at the latter place was held at
the Court House, Thornborough, on August 15th. W.
Williams was then the official in charge and the last warden
at Thornborough. The Cummings family who lived in what had
been Wooster’s Hotel, were among the last inhabitants.
recalls that Chinese New Year was celebrated in Thornborough
right up 1923 for Wah Lee’s store was possibly the last
business place to close. He also remembers that in 1913 he saw
squads of Chinese disinterring the bones of their countrymen,
buried thirty or forty years before and despite the absence of
any markers they apparently knew just where to dig. The
remains, which after such a lapse of time, had to be recovered
by sifting the ground, were to be taken back to China. Gordon
says the Chinese must have been buried with their boots on as
the sieving brought up hobnails and steel heel and toe plates,
eyelets, etc. Before the graves were filled in again, strips
of white paper were thrown in “to pay the devil.” There was
still a Chinese joss house in Thornborough at that time.
Glenville Pike's "Pioneers Country" Published 1976 for Cairns