History of Aramac, QLD
Aramac or Marathon as it was then known, was a wild bush town for the first few years of its existence, but with the coming of the law in 1872 it became a little more civilized.
The first Police to patrol the district were the Black Police under a white sub inspector - a force formed for the protection of white settlers - while the general police patrolled to the northern part of the district from Clermont and to the southern end from Blackall. The first police camp was situated at Stainburn under Sub-inspector James McKay Dunne. Two of the first Police Constables stationed here were Peter O'Malley and John Cockle. It is known that Constable Peter O'Malley was patrolling the district in 1869.
Legend has it that a white trooper and a native tracker, returning off patrol to Clermont from Mt. Cornish, were caught up by the blacks and murdered during the night by the shores of Lake Dunn, near where Ballyneety Selection now is.
When the Aramac Police Division was first formed it was a very large one within what was called the Mitchell district - apparently named after the explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell - with headquarters at Blackall. The district officer was then Sub-inspector John Ahearn, a very capable bushman and successful stock thief catcher, which earned the knick-name of "Jacky Jacky". After the arrival of the railway line at Longreach, police headquarters were transferred there in the early 1890's. The Aramac Police Division was a very large one, extending from Speculation in the east to Boulia in the west, and from Barcaldine in the south to Torrens Creek in the north.
It is of interest that one of the first police officers in charge of the Aramac Station, was Robert S. Allen. In 1876 he left the police force, and was granted a license through the court at Aramac on 15/11/76 for the Western Hotel, situated at Pelican Waterholes on the Western River. No doubt he had selected the site as a suitable place to open business when patrolling through that country. About twelve months Iater he was forced, as the result of a flood, to move to higher ground further along the river. In conjunction with the hotel, he also conducted a store and performed the duties of postmaster. In his capacity as Postmaster, he was asked to suggest a name for the place instead of the more cumbersome title of Pelican Waterholes. At his suggestion, the name of Winton, after the suburb of Bournemouth in England where he was born, was adopted. Allen's store and hotel were on the site where the Q.N. Bank in Winton now stands.
The first business of the Aramac Court on 9th March, 1872 when John Rule, J.P. granted William Marley, a hawker's license,
The next case was on 14/4/72 before W.T.B. Allen, J.P. when John Rule, describing himself by the now defunct title of squatter, proceeded against John Gunnegausen, one of his employees, for insolence and refusing to obey orders. Alex Gordon, his overseer gave supporting evidence. The verdict was that the defendant was to forfeit £10.6.0 sterling and his agreement was to be cancelled.
Jack Kingston, the elder, did not confine his activities soley to hotel keeping. At one time he owned Barcoorah Station (an aboriginal name for "Little White Flower") which he later sold for the sum of £50. Today the same tract of country, with the stock depasturing thereon, would be worth far more than that figure in thousands. He also had another property out in the desert country, near where Dunrobbin Selection now is. When his manager was illegally branding stock, for which a fine of £100 was inflicted, Jack then sold up the stock, kicked the manager off the place and vacated it.
Aramac was not long with one hotel, for in 1874 George Porter arrived from Clermont and built the Royal Hotel, for which he was granted a license in 21/4/75. On 6/4/84 he sold a lease of this hotel to Simon Lockhart, and moved out to Boongoondoo Station, which he had taken up, using the brand 1GP. It was later from this property that the firm of Clark Brothers and Tait made the first of their very successful ventures into the pastoral industry. After an absence of nearly seven years, George Porter re-entered the Royal Hotel on 10/2/94. This hotel is now demolished.
William Browne-Steele built the next hotel, the Albion, for which he was granted a license on 10/1/77. Browne-Steele remained in this hotel until 12/5/80, when he sold to John Farrell. Farrell was previously a storekeeper here.
The Aramac is the only one of the four hotels, originally licensed for this town which is still operating. The Albion and Aramac Hotels were situated side by side, and in 1955 both were owned by Leslie Ronald Sholl. On 12/4/55 Sholl surrendered the license for the Albion Hotel. He was granted permission by the Licensing Commission to incorporate the premises of the old Albion hotel with those of the Aramac Hotel.
In 1879 John William Kingston built his second hotel, which he called the Marathon and for which a license was granted on 16/12/79. He put his brother William Frederick Kingston in it. This hotel was destroyed by fire on 26/3/68.
Some of the timber, used in the construction of the original hotels here, came from what was known as the Sawpit Paddock of Aramac Station, now known as Dudley Park, with the balance from the sawmills at Greentrees, which is north of Jericho.
The township of Aramac wasn't the only part of the district to have hotels. In those days - it was the era when Cobb and Co. was King - it seemed to be the practice to build a hotel, where there was a coach change.
The first country hotel was built at Speculation by William Springer. He obtained a license for this hotel on 10/6/73 and conducted it for over thirty years.
Gray Rock also boasted a hotel, known as the Gray Rock Hotel. Thomas Byrnes built this hotel and obtained a license for it on 10/7/77. He held the license until 8/3/81 when he sold to Archibald Casey. Casey sold out on 10/2/82 to James Ferguson, who closed the hotel on 22/12/85 and had the license transferred to Red Rock on the Jericho-Clermont road. Grey Rock is situated about twenty five miles from Aramac on the road to Clermont. It is on a spur of the Aramac Range and derived its name from a large brown rock with a grey sandstone base. It is now an attraction for the many names, some of which date back into the last century carved into this grey base.
Scarrbury named after Frank S. Scarr, the surveyor, who surveyed it and Aramac, and which is situated atout thirty-five miles down Aramac Creek, was once catered for by two hotels. On 10/7/77 John Clifton obtained a license for the Scarrbury Hotel. A few months later William Alexander Mills secured a license for the Budgerygah Hotel, which took its name from the nearby outstation of Mt. Cornish. Mills acquired the license of the two hotels on 1/8/78 and moved into the hotel formerly conducted by Clifton. He cancelled once license and called the hotel the Budgerygah Hotel. On 4/10/79 Mills disposed of the hotel to John Fraser, who sold on 30/11/80 to that well known old pioneer, John Kennedy, who at that time was conducting a store and a butcher shop there. When Kennedy took up
Sunny Hills Selection, near Winton a few years later this hotel closed down.
On 8/7/84 Henry Dyer obtained a license for the Hen and Chicken Hotel at Bullock Creek, just past Stainburn Downs Station on the Aramac-Muttaburra Road.
Sardine Creek, situated atout thirty-two miles from Aramac on the Aramac-Muttaburra road was the site of the Union Hotel.
Then on the road to Barcaldine, there was a hotel at the Twenty Mile.
All these wayside country hotels have long since disappeared. Only their names on the map remain as evidence of their existence.
On 23rd March, 1875 Frank S. Scarr, licensed Surveyor of Blackall, completed the first survey of the town of Aramac, when he laid out sections I to Vl. The following names appear on this original lithograph:- George Porter of the Royal Hotel; William Mills a butcher; Edward Schneider, a cordial manufacturer; John Kingston, the Aramac Hotel and a stock yard; John Farrell and Alfred Burt had general stores; James Field, who was a barman at the Aramac Hotel, had a private house; and John Coleman had a blacksmith's shop; while there was also the Court House and Police Quarters.
Aramac can claim the honour of having held the first show in the West. It was held at the Six Mile on Aramac Station in 1870. It was an effort by the surrounding graziers, and although fairly successful was not continued in the following year.
In 1877 the Marathon District Pastoral and Agricultural Society was formed and the first show under its auspices was held on 5th June of the same year. The agricultural display consisted of one bushel of maize, grown by the late William Springer at Speculation on the so called "desert country".
The Society had only been in existence for about five months when their first show was held and had a membership of seventy. Some of the first officials were household words throughout the central west. B.D. Morehead of Bowen Downs and later to become Premier of this State was President; William Forsyth, manager of Aramac Station was the Vice-President. The Committee of management consisted of E.R. Edkins of Mt. Cornish; W.H.L. Thornton of Tower Hill, E. Bloomfield, J.H. Wilson, Thomas McWhannell of Rodney Downs, A. Thompsom, storekeeper of Aramac and J.T. Tilbury was the secretary.
After the first show or so, it was decided to alternate the show between Aramac and Muttaburra, an arrangement which was continued till the last show of the Society which was held in Aramac in 1890.
A few years later with the forming of Longreach, the Society was revived there and shows were held under the old title. However, at the beginning of the century as the title was felt to be a misnomer, the name was changed to the Longreach Pastoral and Agricultural Society.
Although Justices of the Peace were the first to sit on the Bench here, the first Police Magistrate to preside over an Aramac Court was Maxwell Armstrong, who visited here from Blackall. When Richard Welford was murdered by the blacks at Welford Downs now known as Jedburgh Station, Maxwell Armstrong was the white officer who led the black police out to investigate the matter. Prior to taking up Welford Downs, Richard Welford and his friend, E.H. Harries, had worked. on Aramac Station as jackeroos.
It is of interest to note that when the court was first formed at Aramac that matters arising in Boulia, Winton, Muttaburra, Forrest Grove (now Arrilalah) and Torrens Creek were dealt with by the court here. The first hotel licenses, slaughtering and other licenses were issued out of this court.
Aramac was also the venue for the holding of district courts. It is also mentioned that prisoners from here, as well as being committed to serve sentences at the Rockhampton goal, were also ordered to be imprisoned at the stockade at Blackall.
Two of the oldest buildings in Aramac are the Court House and the residence, occupied by the Sergeant. These two buildings were erected in 1882 and 1883. The Court House replaced an old dilapidated little humpy, consisting of four rooms of small dimensions, in one of which justice was administered, while another was a lock-up and the other two were used as police barricks. It is said that the walls were of boree slabs.
Aramac lays claim to being one of the pioneers of grassfed racing in Western Queensland. The first race club to be formed was the Mitchell District Grassfed Racing Club in the year 1877 with Sydney Sharwood as Secretary. About 1885 the name of the Club was changed to the Aramac Jockey Club, which was later merged with the Aramac Amateur Racing Club. Since Sydney Sharwood some of the Secretaries have been J.W. Booker, E.W. Bowyer. R.G. Miller, R.A. Stobo, C.T. Keegan, H. Green, V.W. Johnson, A.B. Starky, L.K.Teasdale and W.A. Walmsley.
A very interesting story is associated with the first race meeting, which resulted in the naming of the course and the adjacent creek. A party of young English Jackeroos, or Colonial Experience Men as they were then known, with visions of Ascot and other high hatted affairs of their home land, arrived arranged in the best English fashions of the times - belltopper hats, morning coats and all the trimmings that go with them. From then on it was known as Belltopper Racecourse and Belltopper Creek.
Besides the pioneering of grassfed racing in the west, Aramac had another claim to fame in connection with "The King of Sports". It has the distinction of having raced for the most valuable cup in Australia - The Foy Cup - presented by H.V. Foy of Auteuil Selection. Foy, as can be presumed, was a keen follower of racing and called his property Auteuil after the well known racecourse of the same name in France. The Foy Cup is no longer in existence, having been won the requisite number of times by the Cudmore Family, then of Tara Station, Barcaldine.
The present racecourse was laid out in 1908. Prior to that the racecourse was out along the Muttaburra road near the first hospital with the cemetery just across the road. The jest of the time was that if one got hurt at the races, he could be put across the fence into the hospital - when dead across the road into the cemetery.