Challenges faced in the settlement of Central Qld
(manually translated from original scan 01 January 2012, Andrew Thompson)
In this historic article from The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 July 1857, the writer discusses the conditions during the early years of settlement at Port Curtis, which would later become more defined as the towns of Rockhampton and Gladstone.
The writer describes the settlers’ displeasure that a popular native police officer was overlooked for promotion, then discusses the effects of the long-flooded Fitzroy River. Thomas Mitchell is presently exploring the area upstream.
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Andrew Thompson, editor | historian
Sydney Morning Herald, 21 July 1857
From our correspondent
THE weather has at last cleared up, and there is now a chance of letters reaching their destination. The settlers and other inhabitants here are all vexed to find that the officers of the native police, who are best known, from long and efficient service, and who have been foremost in protecting the lives and property on the outstations in this and the Leichhardt district, have not received promotion.
They are also annoyed to hear it reported that the name of the officer who is stationed furthest to the northward, and who has the good word of every one for his diligence in the discharge of his duty, has not been seen in the new list of officers of that force. With respect to the senior Lieutenant, John Murray, commanding the first division of native policed it may be mentioned that the settlers are handing about an address to him for signature; it is somewhat to the following effect, viz:
“We the undersigned, settlers and inhabitants of Port Curtis and the surrounding districts, beg to intimate to you our extreme regret to find that upon the appointment of a commandant of the native police (without any disrespect being intended to the present commandant), that your claims appear to us to have been over-looked in the appointment of a Junior officer to that post. We trust, however, that you will still continue in that branch of the public service, and we take the present opportunity of tendering to you our sincere thanks, for the protection which the division of police force under your command, has afforded to Port Curtis and the surrounding districts, and as a token of our gratitude, we beg your acceptance of the accompanying testimonial.”
For the purchase of this testimonial every resident settler in the Port Curtis district, with one or two exceptions, has subscribed liberally, the parties alluded to not having had an opportunity.
Port Curtis, in spite of the cold water which has been thrown upon it as a settlement, like a vigorous plant is getting on well; the inhabitants are building good houses, and labour is in great demand. But this season has been so unusually wet that there has been a great loss of sheep on establishments to the south-eastward, even on those runs, which for many years have been considered most valuable and first-rate wool-growing stations; on the other hand, to the north-westward, the character of the country has risen, for there on the whole, for such a season, the sheep have done well, and on the oldest formed station, which is within ten miles of the sea, the decrease has not been any more than what is considered small during a good season in first class sheep countries. Several settlers intended forming stations on the fine country near Broad Sound this season, but it has been so unfavourable that “Canoona” continues to be the only station on the northern side of the river, and it has been separated by a flooded barrier from the rest of the world for many months.
The stream is still wide and broad, so much so that even horses are with difficulty swam across, and those who swim it should bear in mind that crocodiles also swim in those waters, and these creatures are said to be dangerous playmates: their character is such that if a dog goes amissing it is said that these voracious creatures have devoured it, and the shepherds go the length of blaming them for the deficiencies in the number of their flocks.
The river of late has been falling very slowly. I am afraid, however, it will be a long time ere it is fordable for stock. A river which is fed by the whole of the Leichhardt district, a valley about 300 miles long and the same in breadth, cannot be expected to fall at once.
The section of police has been short handed until lately, but yet the blacks on the Fitzroy River have been on the whole behaving tolerably well; they not having committed any serious outrage for a long time. Mr. Powell, the officer in command there, has now a body of recruits which he has drilled into fine order, but one section is far too few for the stations which he has had to visit on the lower Dawson and both banks of the Fitzroy River.
In my opinion another section should, in the mean-time, be stationed on the north side of the river, and as soon as stock stations are formed on Broad Sound, it should be shifted there. This season the water is fresh for two miles below Rock-hamton (edit: Rockhampton) which is the head of the navigation of the Fitzroy River. In a dry season the inhabitants will have to supply themselves from the wells or from large lagoons about a mile back from there.
At the head of the river; about Lake Salvator, Sir Thomas Mitchell noticed that the thermometer was in Winter repeatedly as low as 16 degrees, and that during the day it did not rise so high as 60 degrees. It is not so cold at Rock-hamton, the climate during the day is most agreeable, but the nights at this time are too cold to be pleasant.
During the last twelve months the inhabitants have been putting up buildings, and there is now a store erected which is well supplied, and which will be most convenient for settlers fetching out stock and for parties in search of runs.
Onlanne River, 24th June, 1857