History of Aramac, QLD
"The Past is the Parent of the Present, The Present a parent will be - "
The origin of the name formation of the town of Aramac is quite an interesting one. In 1859 William Landsborough, on his exploring trip which took him through the central west of Queensland, discovered the creek on the northern banks of which this town now stands. He named Aramac Creek after his friend, R.R. Mackenzie, who was known as "R.R.Mac". It is thought that Landsborough carved his own initials "L" or the initials "R.R.Mac" on a tree near the bank of the creek.
Unfortunately this tree, historic from the significance of Aramac is no longer in existence. It is claimed that, shortly after the formation of the town, this tree was washed down by a flood to be subsequently used as firewood by some who camped nearby.
In 1859 Robert Ramsay Mackenzie entered the first Queensland Parliament as member for Burnett, and has the distinction of holding the portfolio of this State's first Treasurer. In 1867-68 he was Premier of Queensland. In 1871 just when the township, subsequently to be named after him, was in its embryo stage, he succeeded his brother to the baronetcy of Coul of Scotland, where he died a few years later.
This town, like many others, came into being in consequence of the pioneering and development of the surrounding land.
The first country to be taken up in this locality was Bowen Downs Station and the Mud Hut, later to be known as Mt. Cornish. In 1859 Nat Buchanan - when bushmen are spoken of he is considered to be "the nobliest Roman of them all" and William Landsborough, after several excursions in search of grazing lands around the Belyando and Fitzroy, decided to penetrate the so called "desert country" to the west of these two rivers. They were accompanied by Andrew Diehm and two blackboys. Andrew Diehm, a native of Germany, was later well known in connection with the early development of Mackay and helped to found Beaufort Station, near Alpha in 1862 for Sir Arthur Palmer.
Landsborough and his party started from Broadsound and intended proceeding north across the Burdekin River, but being overtaken by wet weather in the Bowen Valley, they steered their course westwards. They went through Sultor's Scrub, seventy miles of spinifex country and across the dividing range. After a hard fought trek they discovered these far famed rolling western downs. The trip lasted seventeen weeks and hardships, inseparable from the life of the trackblazers were endured. They were exhausted and ran out of provisions. The greenhide, tied around the provision bags, had to be boiled down for the purpose of making soup, while the hard lumps of dried flour, which adhered to the flour bags were utilised in making Johnnie Cakes. On their return journey to the coast, only the timely arrival of Captain Mackay, the founder of the town which bears his name on the Pioneer River, prevented disaster for the hunger-stricken adventurers.
In 1861 Buchanan and Landsborough secured a lease of 96 sq.miles of this country, taking Cornish into partnership with them. They also took in W.G. Walker, B.D. Morehead and Young of Sydney. They adopted as their stock brand the now well known LC5, which is still used by the Scottish Australian Company, the present owners of the property.
Bowen Downs derived its name from the township of Bowen or Pt. Denison, as it was originally known. In 1862 as Bowen appeared to be the nearest coastal point to Bowen Downs, Nat Buchanan mapped out a road from the station to the township. However, the first supplies for the property were drawn from Mackay in bullock teams. In this same year this property was stocked with 5,000 head of cattle, which were driven from Fort Cooper, near Bowen in charge of Robert Kerr, with Nat Buchanan acting as pilot and some distance ahead regulating the stages according to the water. It is of interest that J.C. Binney, the grandfather of one of the past managers of Bowen Downs, James Conway Langdon, was one of these pioneer drovers.
At the time that Bowen Downs and Mt. Cornish were run as the one property, it was considered to be the largest sheep and cattle property in the world. Mt. Cornish was used to carry the cattle. In its heyday, while under the management of E.R. Edkins, carried over 70,000 head. Bowen Downs was stocked with sheep, and it is said to have shorn over 391,000 sheep, which was during the reign of Syndey P. Fraser. Bowen Downs and Mt. Cornish were run in conjunction till after the disastrous drought of 1901-2, when the owners, the Scottish Australian Company, were forced to sell Mt. Cornish and mortgage all their freehold property throughout Australia to remain solvent.
The doubtful honour of being the first white woman to have lived in this district goes to Mrs. Nat Buchanan. In 1863 Nat Buchanan married Katherine Gordon of Ban Ban Station in the Burnett District. The newlyweds travelled to Bowen by boat, where they disembarked. Their arrival at Bowen Downs in the same year, thus ended their honeymoon - truly an appropriate one for such pioneers to say the least - after having travelled three hundred miles overland with no definite tracks, where the going was often rough and scrubby and the aborigines treacherous.
Mrs. Buchanan spent the first two years of her married life at Bowen Downs. Had she not returned to Ban Ban Station to await the arrival of her first child, this son, Gordon Buchanan, would have achieved the distinction by almost a decade of being the first white child born in this locality.
Unfortunately, Landsborough, Cornish and Buchanan were forced to relinquish their memberships in Bowen Downs and Mt. Cornish in 1867, through the old story of lack of demand for their products. Thus these three great pioneers did not reap a just reward for their grand effort. It is of interest to note that Bowen Downs is still owned by the Scottish Australian Co. Ltd. (then known as the Scottish Investment Co.Ltd.), into whose possession it then passed.
In 1863 John Rule and Dyson Lacy arrived on Aramac Creek and took up the country surrounding this town. They named their property, Aramac Station, after the creek running through it. They used the stock brand of RL2, which was no longer retained when this station was cut up into selections in the year 1931 and the name of Aramac Station became defunct.
Rule and Lacy retained Aramac Station till 1874, when they sold the northern Portion, which retained the name of Aramac Station, to Travers and Gibson. The southern portion was sold to Milson and De Satge, who named it Coreena (an aboriginal name for Big Waterhole). Milson was the eldest son of James Milson, the founder of Milson's Point Sydney. Aramac Station in its heyday shore over 100,000 sheep, employing 40 shearers; while Coreena shore 140,000 sheep and also employed 40 shearers.
At the same time as the arrival of Rule and Lacy at Aramac Station, Joseph William Raven arrived in the district with a mob of sheep and took up Stainbturn Downs. He also later stocked some of the desert country, out where Politic Station now is.
Corinda Station, now the largest property in this district, was taken up by James Tolson and Cameron, with the ownership eventually passing to Tolson. It was formed from the southern portion of Uanda Station. At the peak of his success, James Tolson owned Uanda Station, near Hughenden, and Corinda, Fleetwood and Aramac Stations in this district.
Eastmere Station, on the eastern shores of Lake Galilee, was taken up by Charles Bowley, who, at one time, had as his head stockman that capable bushman, Tom Coolan. Coolan was later to discover the mining town, which now bears his name, Mt. Coolan. A tombstone, over a grave near the Eastmere homestead, now bears mute testimony to a tragedy when two of the Bowley children were killed in a freak explosion while playing with gun powder.
Ralph Erskine McDonald took up the country on the western side of Lake Galilee, and called it Fleetwood Station after his great friend, William Fleetwood Wyley, an Englishman, who was a storekeeper at Bowen Downs station. McDonald, with the object of going into retirement, later sold the property to his next door neighbour, James Tolson. He had handed over the property and ready to take his departure, when he succumbed to a fatal heart attack, fate having destined that he was to spend his retirement in the life Elysium. Ralph Erskine McDonald's nephew of the same name was the first white boy born in Muttaburra. He died in Aramac aged 86 years in 1964.
Aramac commenced its existence under the name of Marathon, which title it retained till 1st January, 1875, when the name was changed to Aramac. The name of Marathon is still perpetuated as the name of the parish, with the county of Rodney, in which this town if situated.
Like most early towns in Queensland, Aramac started with a pub and a store. The official history of the town dates back to 1872 but it was in 1869 that John William Kingston, better known as Jack Kingston, built the first hotel - an unlicensed structure which was later to receive the blessing of the government. In the same year, James Thompson Tilbury provided the other "parent" of the town, when he built a slab and bark hut, and hung out a sign that read "Grocer and Draper." This place was turned into a residence shortly afterwards, although J.T. Tilbury remained in business for many years later. When Tilbury eventually went out of business at Aramac, he moved to Rockhampton, where he was for many years Chairman of the Rockhampton Grammar School Trust.
Jack Kingston was born in Oxford, England, and in company with Dick Strutton, migrated to Queensland, in 1861. In 1863 Kingston and Strutton came to the central west of Queensland, where they secured employment on Aramac Station.
In those days the aborigines were not to be trusted. The first Aramac Station homestead, a calico and bough effort, was situated on Aramac Creek, about seventeen miles from where this town now is. One of the few, if not the only murder of white men by the blacks in this district, took place near the site of the homestead. Dyson Lacy's younger brother returned to the camp to prepare the evening meal and was in the act of making a damper, when he was speared. The custom in those days - prior to the arrival of the law - when the blacks committed such offences or interfered with the property of the whites, was to follow up the culprits and inflict a fitting retribution. The colourful character, Alexander Gordon or Long Gordon as he was better known, was then overseer of Aramac Station. Gordon organised a party, which included Kingston and Strutton, and tracked the niggers back to a cave in Mailman's Gorge in the Aramac Range, where he avenged Lacy's death by shooting quite a number.
Kingston and Strutton were shepherds near where the town now stands - then a back portion of the run - and as they considered the blacks weren't to be trusted, they never took any chances. Even when they went to the creek for water, one carried the buckets and the other a rifle.
It is said that, prior to the formation of the town, the blacks camped on the high portion of ground, where the Shire Hall was situated. With the formation of the town, the blacks were forced to vacate this camp. They moved up the Creek about half a mile to what was referred to as "Combo Corner".
Jack Kingston was quite a thrifty man. After a few years on Aramac Station, about the year 1869, he built the hotel already referred to, on the ground where the Aramac Hotel now stands. In 1873 he sent home to England for his fiancee, Miss Matilda Strutton, her brother William Frederick, and his own brother William Frederick. His other brother, C.J. Kingston, did not follow until a few years later. This party arrived in Rockhampton and in the same year Jack Kingston and Matilda Strutton were married in Clermont. On 9th January, 1876 John William Joseph Kingston saw the light of day and it is claimed thus made history of being the first white boy born in the actual town of Aramac. Jack Kingston, the younger, passed away on 2/1/60.
It is recorded that two white boys were born in the district before Jack Kingston, Jnr. On 31st October, 1871, William Broadbent was born to James Broadbent, a labourer, and his wife, Eliza nee Bourne. Henry Edward Farrell was born on 29th August, 1875, to John Farrell, a storekeeper, and his wife, Sarah nee McAnanley.
The first white girl born in the district was Ellen (Nellie) McIntyre on 24th November, 1872 to Joseph McIntyre, a labourer and his wife Margaret, nee Johnston. Legend has it that this child was born while her parents were camped on the banks of Aramac Creek and that Granny Hallam was the mid-wife. Nellie McIntyre died in 1937 as Mrs. Jackson.
The next girl was Ada Gertrude Harper on 3rd October, 1874, to Douglas Harper, a sheep overseer on Bowen Downs Station.
On 15th October, 1874, a daughter Mabel Constance, was born to George Porter of the Royal Hotel and his wife, Mary Anne nee Sargent. Mabel Porter later married Robert Gibson Miller, at one time manager of the Q.N. Bank and then to be Shire Clerk here from 1901 to 1933.
However, it is on record that the honour, which would have been tinged with sadness, of being the parents of the first white child born in the district goes to John Rule, sheepfarmer of Aramac Station, and his wife, Elizabeth nee Macalister. An unnamed child, who lived only twelve hours, was born to the Rules on 9th February, 1869.