Gateway to a golden land: Townsville to 1884

Gibson-Wilde, Dorothy Mary (1982) Gateway to a golden land: Townsville to 1884. Honours thesis, James Cook University of North Queensland.

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This thesis is a study of the development of the townscape of Townsville during the first twenty years of settlement, necessary to appreciate how the area appeared before settlement in order to understand the changes brought about by European intrusion, it commences with the descriptions from the journals of early explorers, from Captain Cook onwards, and ends in 1884 with the township beginning to develop into the city we know today.

Normally, the author of such a study can rely on one or more histories of the city with which he is concerned for background data. In the case of Townsville, no properly documented history existed and all popular histories were found to contain inaccuracies or to be mainly repetitions of earlier works. The most reliable source was found to be the Christmas Supplement published with the Townsville Herald of 24 December 1887. It was therefore necessary to work from original documents to obtain accurate background history, so that this work includes more discussion of such material than might otherwise have been the case. It is divided into two parts. Part One deals with exploration, foundation, and survival, and Part Two with consolidation and expansion.

Part One contains descriptions of Cleveland Bay before settlement. It was discovered that the explorer and botanist, Allan Cunningham, was the first European to land in Cleveland Bay when official Botanist with Phillip Parker King's expedition in the Mermaid in 1819. Cunningham's Journals provided excellent descriptions of the area, while his collecting lists, located in the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, provided a record of many of the plants then growing in the region. The reasons for Townsville's foundation and why it was not founded earlier are then examined. This includes a brief discussion of the shortcomings of Bowen, Wickham and Cardwell, in order to account for Townsville's comparatively rapid growth. It was discovered that the township was founded by Black and Company, with partners John Melton Black and Robert Towns, not by Towns and Company with Black as local Manager, as previously believed for over a century. The activities of John Melton Black and his relationship with Robert Towns are examined, extensive use being made of the surviving correspondence of both Black and Towns. The problems involved in founding the town and the difficulties Black and Towns experienced in persuading the Government to provide assistance are described. It was discovered that Black had presented the Government with fairly detailed maps of the proposed townsite and that Captain Heath from the Harbours and Rivers Department had made a survey of the bay before settlement. Black's maps are reproduced in the endnotes and Heath's report examined in the text of this work. The early settlement, development of a town plan, extension of amenities and facilities and first buildings are described with some account of life in the township in 1866 derived from the diary of J.T. Walker, the first Manager of the Bank of New South Wales, which the author located in the Mitchell Library. Other reminiscences of early settlers and visitors, such as C.S. Rowe, R.B. Howard, Andrew Carroll, Lucy Gray, Catherine Robinson, James Gordon jnr and members of the Hodel family, are also quoted. The township's slow growth until the discovery of gold in 1867, and its remarkable survival of the pastoral crisis of the 1860s, the cyclone of 1867 and the departure of Black, is next detailed. Part One ends with a discussion of the effects of the discovery in subsequent years of several major goldfields in the hinterland and their effect on Townsville until 1870.

Part Two deals with the effects on Townsville of the discovery of further goldfields, the expansion of settlement in the north and in particular the growth of Cooktown. and other northern ports and discusses why Townsville continued to grow during the 1870s, emerging clearly by 1884 as the dominant town in north Queensland, and possible capital of a new northern state. The growth of industries, both in the town and surrounding districts, is discussed together with the expansion of facilities and amenities in the town. This includes brief histories of the Great Northern Railway, harbour improvements, schools, churches, newspapers, hospital and other facilities and amenities. Changes in the townscape axe described, in particular the slow change from corrugated-iron and timber buildings to brick structures, the extension of roads and the evolution of suburbs. Many of Townsville's early buildings are described with accompanying illustrations, and it has been possible to identify for the first time most of their architects and builders. The thesis concludes with a description of Townsville in 1884 and looks sadly at the irreparable damage to the surrounding scenery wrought by the settlers' apparently insatiable need for wood, and their lack of appreciation of the natural flora.

Item ID: 73706
Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Keywords: Townsville, History, Cleveland Bay, Cape Cleveland, Ross River, Kennedy district, Pastoral industry, Gold industry, Architecture, Public amenities, Bowen, Pioneers, Robert Towns, John Melton Black
Copyright Information: Copyright © 1982 Dorothy Mary Gibson-Wilde.
Additional Information:

Later revised and published as a book:

Gibson-Wilde, D. (1984) Gateway to a golden land: Townsville to 1884. Townsville, Queensland: History Department, James Cook University of North Queensland.

Date Deposited: 05 May 2022 02:37
FoR Codes: 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430302 Australian history @ 100%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1307 Understanding past societies > 130703 Understanding Australia’s past @ 100%
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