Reminiscences of a Queensland Pioneer

by T. S. Beatty (1927)

First printed in the Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld.) December 24, 1927

I was born in Sydney, where we lived in Hunter-street. The sea did not agree with my mother, who was invalid, and we moved into the country, where my father bought a cattle station. He was in very comfortable circumstances when he came to Australia, but, being a sea-faring man, and knowing nothing about stock, soon suffered heavy losses, dry seasons, low prices of cattle, and other drawbacks forcing him to return to Sydney. The station, however, decided my occupation in life.

In 1859 I left Newcastle with a mob of horses in charge of a Mr Robert Michelmore, who had to take them to the Darling Downs. We went via Gloucester, Giro, Armidale, Glen Innes, Tenterfield, and Warwick, where we left some horses at Goomburra station, and continued on to Jondaryan managed at that time by Mr I. C. White. We left all the horses there, with the exception of five head. These we took on to Chinchilla, passing through Myall Creek, now called Dalby. At Chinchilla we were told to take 10,000 sheep to stock country on Yulebah Creek and some blocks just below Wullumbilla. Mr Michelmore wished on with the men and teams to Polba Creek, and I remained at Yulebah till the yards and huts were built on the new country. Mr Caton was stocking his country at the same time, Mr Barlow was at Walken, Mr Pile Gordon at Wallumbilla, and Mr I. Y. Yaldwyn on Yulebah Creek. We got a man and some natives to make a marked tree line from Yulebah to Gordon’s, and moved all the sheep out to Polba Creek. I had my first experience of the blacks here. They stole some things from the men’s camp and at night tried to get into the hut where our stores were kept. The sheep dogs gave the alarm, and we soon dispersed them. They came back in a few weeks in a more determined manner and we had to send for the native police. They had broken into Gordon’s store stolen a lot of things and would have killed all the people but for a black boy, “King Peter,” who belonged to the Hunter River. We heard them at work and fired three or four shots towards them, which woke the men, and the owner, and caused the niggers to make for the scrub. The native police dispersed them a few days later.

At this time explorers were out in all directions looking for new country, and we received word to return to Chinchilla as the country we were making for was sold. We started on the return journey to Chinchilla with the sheep and teams. This was the station where the blacks held up Mrs Goggs, the owner’s wife. The station hands were all away mustering. The blacks knew this and attacked the station, but Mrs. Goggs had a faithful gin, who said, “You fill em up along tucker; me go along bush findem boss.” The blacks got flour, meat and tobacco, and Mrs Goggs told them to cook the meat at the fire, thereby gaining time. Some of the blacks wanted clothes out of the store. She told, them to “sit down, and eat, me go get clothes.” In the meantime as she heard cattle crossing the river, she got into the store, shut the door, and got out the firearms. The blacks, hearing the whips cracking, and horses galloping, fled, but the men were too quick for them. They never came back for their clothes. The station was sold when we reached Chinchilla, to Messrs. Gibson and A. B. Buchanan.

Mr Michelmore left his former employer to join his cousin on the M’Intyre River, and Mr Watty M’Donald was appointed overseer. He was for many years with the North British Co., at Canning Downs, and Deuchan at Glengallan. We had now about 30,000 sheep and 5000 cattle, the overseer being a Mr Watt, who taught me to sort and class wool, and how to manage sheep. Four years after, when “Mac.” left, I was appointed overseer. All the sheep were shepherded at that time, the owners getting men out direct from Scotland and Denmark to do the work. They brought their collie dogs with them, and most of these men stayed with us till we fenced the run. The native dogs, however, played havoc with the lambs and compelled us to shepherd all the ewes. Wool was then only worth from sixpence to tenpence a pound.

The same owners had taken up and bought country at Springsure and on the Barcoo River, and the only stock left to us were cattle. The country was infested with wild cattle and horses, and we had to muster by moonlight. We would take a mob of from 50 to 100 out to the country where the bush cattle fed and watered, and wait till they got well away from the scrub, down to the water. We then started our “coaches” moving getting between the wild cattle, the scrub, and the water. When the cattle were mixed we surrounded them and usually made a good haul. Afterwards we sold 1000 head of these bullocks, branded GOG, to Mr John Atherton, who brought them North to stock some of his country.

I was now manager of Chinchilla, and three years later when the property was sold to a company I left. I took cattle from Springsure to stock Greendale, on the Barcoo, and was requested by the North British Co. to go out and buy country. This took me south again, for I went to Charleville, then to Cunnamulla and eventually bought Nooradia from Howie Bros., with 20,000 sheep. I was appointed manager of this property, and had plenty to do, for we had to shepherd all the sheep. A bad drought occurred at this time and all the waterholes and wells went dry, forcing me to take the sheep over to the Paroo River, where relief country was obtained from Mr Williams, and the lambing took place. We got 40 per cent increase from lambs, and this made up for losses caused by the dry weather. When the rain came I moved all the sheep back by easy stages. While at Nooradia, the woolshed was burnt down during shearing operations. It took us all we could do to let the sheep out, and save the wool press, but all hands were busy next morning, pulling down the burnt portions, and in less than a week we had built a temporary shed and in due time got all the wool away, to Bourke (N.S.W.), where it was shipped to Adelaide.

Selector’s camp at Warra (near Chinchilla) in central Queensland c. 1906

Mr C. B. Fisher had sold his interest in Bundaleer Plains and Thurlgoona to Morphett Bros., and they offered me the management of Bundaleer Plains, which I accepted. After two years the property was sold, for £50,000 to the Squatting Investment Co., and I was appointed manager of the two stations. We had 300,000 sheep on the two properties, and all the wool had to go to Bourke, to be shipped, to Adelaide. The difficulties of holding country at the time and getting wool away, were enormous. We had to provide water, erect fencing, secure carters and transport for stores, wire, and wool. We often had to cart water 20 miles to the fencers and tank and well sinkers. I told the company to send me oil boring drills and machinery to enable me to procure artesian water. This they did, and we struck water as deep as 3000ft. — in some places it was much less. I had previously sent the cores of the bore and some earth to Mr. Augustus Gregory, from a well 400ft. deep, and he informed me to get a diamond drill and keep on boring as I would get artesian water. I told him that 12 miles away we had Tagoe Springs, where the water flowed over the top, but it was much impregnated with sodiums. His reply was “Bore,” and we did.

About this time my brother and I purchased country on the Claia and Wilson Rivers, and stocked it with 500 heifers from Inneskillen, on the Barcoo. My family required a change of climate, and we moved down to Orange, the railway line to Bourke having just been completed. I was shortly afterwards asked to go North and inspect stations tor the Q N. Bank and the Queensland Insurance Co., so we broke up our home in N.S. Wales and came to Townsville: I went to Waterview station to inspect various properties, on which advances had been made by the Queensland Investment and Land Mortgage Co., and was then instructed to go to Normanton, and report on certain Gulf stations. This was in 1886, when the Croydon goldfield was attracting a good deal of attention. I stayed with Mr Ross, manager of Croydon cattle station, and visited several stations in the Gulf. One night Croydon homestead store was broken into by the niggers, who removed a quantity of rations and other supplies. They left a spear in a tarpaulin I was sleeping under. A punitive expedition was soon organised, so the tribe had a short feast for their trouble, and the native police came through on the Mitchell River, and dispersed them.

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My next trip was out to Farlight station, on the Flinders, to buy bulls for coast stations. I was then instructed to improve the country known as Stoneleigh, on the Herbert, which it was intended to more closely stock. A homestead, yards, boundary fences and other improvements followed. There was a good local market at the sugar mills for fats, and I also remember crocodiles were numerous in the rivers and many an exciting incident was recorded. Mr William White, the surveyor, who was on the Herbert River, shot a great number of these reptiles while he was camped on the creeks. I had a trip to Cardwell about this time, and there met an old friend in Mr Scougall, who had abandoned cattle for a large orchard and dairy farm. They were then marking the road over the Range to “Valley of the Lagoons.” The track for stock traversed the Seaview Range to M’Dowell’s station, and Atherton, and tin miners were busy packing tin over the Range from Ewen, then called Allingham’s, to Ingham and Halifax.

My private affairs requiring my personal attention, I resigned and moved down to Collaroy Station, on the Connors River, then the property of my brother-in-law, Mr J. G. H. Wilson, in 1890. While there that dreadful scourge, the cattle tick, spread along the coast and quickly wiped out 30 per cent of the cattle. Fats were selling at a very low figure, about £4 a bead, and squatter’s were having a bad time. To make matters worse, a quarantine was made, and cattle north of Waverley, on the coast, to a point west of Clermont, were confined to this area. Only the local market was available. A meeting of the distressed cattle owners was held in the St. Lawrence district to discuss what should be done. It was decided to erect a boiling-down works, as the only means of earning revenue to pay station expenses and rent. This was a very trying time for stock owners, whose market was too low to be profitable and the quarantine regulations shut them in completely. The quarantine line was removed after, some years and we had two good markets open — Lake’s Creek arid Gladstone meat works having been established at the latter places in the interval. While at Collaroy the South African war broke out, which gave Australia its first big chance of sending troops overseas. My three sons enlisted with many others from this district, and they went right through the war till peace was declared at Pretoria. They had offers to continue in the army by joining the Imperial forces, but they liked their native country better and returned to Queensland.

It was while I was a member of the Broadsound Divisional Board that the then Premier, the late Mr J. T. Byrne, visited St. Lawrence. The importance of extending the coast railway to Mackay was ‘brought under his notice, and later Mr Cook, surveyor, was sent to survey a trial line for a railway from Mackay to Rockhampton. This is the line that was opened only a few years ago and it made available a large stretch of country to close settlement. Along its route we now have valuable coal mines, sugar mills, a distillery that employ hundreds of people, and there are hundreds of comfortable homes occupied by settlers, who are always increasing in numbers.

Bullock teams working along the railway line at Chinchilla, Queensland, ca. 1895

During my active life, I have seen most of N.S. Wales and Queensland. I was in Chinchilla when Governor Bowen came to Brisbane and saw him in Dalby. I also had the pleasure of going part of the way with the Marquess of Normanby, another Queensland Governor, to Roma. While I was at Chinchilla the country was reported on by Augustus Gregory, Inspector Uhr, of the Native Police, and many others, and much of it was taken up and stocked. Mantuan Downs, Wellshot, and Tambo were stocked by M’Intyre and Kennedy, while other early settlers were Roche, Ford (of Rockdale), Mayne Brothers, and Gregsons (of Springsure), who opened the way to the vast areas in the North and North-West.

BLAZING THE TRACK

A book could be written on the settlement of the pastoral areas of Queensland about this time. The Mayne Brothers, sons of Captain Mayne, opened up Birkhead Creek on the Barcoo, and Birkleman and Lambert, the country on Elizabeth Creek, west of Welford Downs, and down the Ward. The Ellis Brothers obtained possession of Welford when the property was sold after the murder of the owner by blacks. When down the Barcoo looking for country in 1864, I met the younger Ellis, who had just returned with a party from the South Australian border, and had opened a stock route to Adelaide, via Birdsville. I also met the officer-in-charge of native police, who had just returned from Barkly Tableland, Cloncurry, and the Georgina River. , These men should never be forgotten in the history of Queensland. Their description of the country has been fully verified since, but much still remains to be done to make it available, and let me digress to say the only way to do it is to get the Federal Government to connect the present lines, Bourke to Cunriamulla. They should also finish the line from South Australia to Darwin, Charleville to Blackall, Quilpie to Boulia, and out to Cloncurry, Port Darwin to Forsayth, to Normanton, and Mackay to Winton, the latter line to connect with Boulia. We could then have 100,000,000 sheep, and ten times as many cattle, because they could be got away in drought times. To induce investors of the right, sort to settle in this country large areas and long leases at low rentals are necessary. With this country occupied and the railway lines connected with the coast, we could feed millions of sheep and cattle in emergency periods, or we could get them into West Australia at very little cost. It will take enormous capital to improve and stock this vast area of grazing country, and we will never induce our young pastoralists to undertake the job unless the rent is low, and security of tenure for long periods guaranteed. They want no Land Board to fix rent, the Act should do that. Thousands of pounds are required by those who have to bore for water, fence the country into medium-sized paddocks, and make other necessary improvements before they can put any stock on the country. It is land taxation that deters .young men from going on it. In its virgin state it is not worth anything, as it yields no return until occupied. The present land laws are out of date, when it comes to settling the large pastoral areas of the interior.

(We might add to the above, in conclusion, that Mr T. S. Beatty abandoned pastoralist pursuits many years ago to enter upon a commercial life in Mackay. He is now one of the best known of our stock, station, and real property salesmen, and none is better able to give information about any portion of the State. Though well advanced in years, Mr Beatty is able to move about as actively as men many years his junior, and when in a hurry he still “hops on his bike” and gets over the ground on wheels. A sturdy pioneer, truly!— Ed. ‘D.M.)

Sources:

  1. Reminiscences of a Pioneer (1927, December 24). Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), p. 6. 
  2. Selector’s camp at Warra (near Chinchilla) in central Queensland; c.1906; John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
  3. Bullock teams working along the railway line at Chinchilla, Queensland, ca. 1895; John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

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