The road to Townsville's early success: the engendered cultural landscape of Hervey Range and the community 'at its foot'

Clarkson, Marianne (2015) The road to Townsville's early success: the engendered cultural landscape of Hervey Range and the community 'at its foot'. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis focuses on a small, rural hamlet that was established in 1866 'at the foot' of Hervey Range in Far North Queensland. The hamlet was centred on the Range Hotel, but was also known to have had a small blacksmith shop and a cemetery. The hotel was one of five built alongside Hervey Range Road, which linked the newly gazetted port of Townsville to the inland supply town of Dalrymple and the gold, silver and tin mines of the hinterland. The research undertaken to investigate this settlement was constructed around four main questions: can archaeological evidence contribute to our understanding of the cultural landscape of the hamlet; the social role of the Range Hotel within the community; how women experienced and actively contributed to early settler life; and whether social respectability was important to the residents of a hamlet that was centred on the provision of alcohol.

Archival and genealogy research revealed three new families who had resided in the hamlet, identified some of the social interactions and events, or instances of community (Yaeger & Canuto, 2000), that occurred during each of the hamlet's 18 years of occupation and provided evidence for an additional five, previously unknown, internments in the small cemetery. Archaeological surveys and excavations located the remains of the blacksmith shop that was built by John McNeill, a related rubbish dump, a stone floor that is likely part of the Range Hotel's stables and the possible site of the McNeill family home. These discoveries were used to examine the cultural landscape of the hamlet and appear to show that the settlement was probably divided into three separate, but related areas: a camping ground for the carriers and road workers, a business/residential area that included the hotel, stables, blacksmith shop and houses, and small cemetery. These areas were linked to each other and the wider landscape by Hervey Range Road.

The recovered artefacts were used to assess the resident's social aspirations, using Quirk's (2007) six archaeological indictors for middle-class 'gentility' and working-class 'respectability'. Alcohol was often viewed as the 'working man's scourge' and one premise of respectability was the avoidance of this vice. The prominence of alcohol related bottles found across the excavated sites should perhaps have implied that the residents did not desire respectability and yet the recovered evidence did not support this. People in the hamlet appeared to have had comfortable, if simple homes, desired non-essential fashion accessories and used varied decorative ceramics to entertain both family and friends. These findings, therefore, suggest that respectability was achieved, even though alcohol was probably drunk by both the male and female residents.

This layered theoretical approach has produced a fine-grained narrative that highlights the experiences and active roles that individual males and females played within their families and in the wider community. The results add to the understanding of how early Far North Queensland was successfully settled, with the residents' daily lives likely mirroring those of many of the other early settlers. This work also demonstrates how the community was not a 'bounded' entity, but was in fact linked across the wider landscape through the fluid movement of people and the formation of fictive-kin networks (Prangnell and Mate 2011). The discussion on gentility challenges the idea that alcohol was the antithesis of respectability, instead concluding that the type of community, the varieties of alcohol bottles found and even the identification of triggers that may have led someone to start drinking all need to be taken into account when drawing conclusions from the archaeological finds at a particular site.

This thesis provides an important link to research that has already been undertaken in Townsville and on the pastoral stations and gold mines of the hinterland and also suggests further avenues of research. It also demonstrates how a layered theoretical approach can successfully investigate small communities and be used to highlight how ordinary people often led extraordinary lives. Discovering and telling their stories can help to enhance the past and reconnect it to the present.

Item ID: 47734
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: cultural landscapes, early settlers, excavations, Far North Queensland, Hervey Range Road, Hervey Range, historical archaeology, local history, nineteenth-century settlers, Range Hotel, settlements, small communities, Townsville Region
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2017 05:10
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210108 Historical Archaeology (incl Industrial Archaeology) @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 50%
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