and Reginald Spencer Browne
Published in Cummins and Campbell’s
Monthly Magazine (1952)
What romance there is in stories of the great Palmer Goldfield? After the space of over three quarters of a century, not a fraction of those stories can now be told: the principal characters- those rugged, bearded, diggers of those colourful days- have long since passed away.
A few, before they died, told some exciting memoirs and those which saw print can now only be found in the yellowed files of old newspapers. From cuttings in the possession of my friend, Mr. J. W. Collinson, F.R.G.S.A., of Brisbane, came these reminiscences of Harry Harbord, an old time prospector and explorer, and Reginald Spencer Browne, a journalist on a Cooktown newspaper during the Palmer’s most roaring days.
These articles were published in the “Cairns Post” in 1924, 1925 and 1930.
Those of Spencer Browne were printed in the Brisbane “Courier Mail.”
The following is a condensation of Harbord’s letter:
When Oaky Creek was discovered (early in 1874); Oaky Creek is situated a few miles south of the Palmer River), Callaghan and his mates opened up as butchers with Tom Leslie in charge. It was a sight on a Sunday morning to see the crowds of diggers waiting to get beef.
George Bradbury would be cutting up, and Tom Leslie in an eight by ten tent alongside, with the scales weighing out the gold, that was being paid for the beef- price about 1/- lb due to the formation of Mt. Mulgrave Station by Paddy Callaghan, which was within easy reach of Oaky Creek.
I have often waited four and five hours before I could get near the block to get my week’s beef…five or six bullocks were killed every day, but on Sunday, as many as twenty bullocks were disposed of.
Grog was regarded as a necessity, and there were many brands, mostly of local manufacture; the ingredients were doubtful but guaranteed to produce a kick like a mule…Once I let an old “swiper” have a dozen bottles of painkiller for an ounce of gold. He could get no grog, so liquored up on pain killer.
The township was formed on the side of a steep hill, with a straggling street of tents and bough sheds. At the bottom ran the creek, and where the butcher’s “shop” was, there was a sloping flat.
The late Dr. Kortum had a tent on this side, and patients would be grouped all round it getting treatment from the doctor. Fever and ague were the main illnesses. Across the creek was Dr. Hamilton’s tent. You paid him £9 a week for food (a little rice) and treatment. Each doctor had his own private graveyard, and there are a few hundred buried there between the two of them. I put in seven weeks under Jack Hamilton with fever and “shakes.”
Hamilton was not a qualified doctor but his father had been one and he had picked up a lot. He was clever at treating fever and ague, or dysentery, and whether a man had gold or not, he would treat him just the same. Hamilton was a great man with his fists and fought some good fights. He liked nothing better than a fight. One time one of his patients refused to pay him, although Hamilton knew he had plenty of gold to pay him with. The ex-patient was a big burly New Zealander, and Hamilton was tall and slender but all muscle. On the flat of the creek bank, they peeled off, and in three rounds the medico cut his opponent to pieces, so he had not only had to pay up the five ounces of gold he owed Hamilton, but he again temporarily became Hamilton’s patient.
Hamilton was a splendid rifle shot, and he won the championship of Australia for revolver shooting. For twenty years he represented the Cook district in Parliament. Ebagoolah was named the Hamilton Goldfield after him.
Dr. Kortum was a German who had been through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, after which he came out and commenced practice in Charters Towers. Oaky Creek gave him a good start, and he lived in Cooktown up to the time of his death, which occurred about 1922. Many poor families and diggers had occasion to bless him.
My mate and I in our first six weeks on the Palmer (1874), got 640 ounces, but plenty of men got more than that. I was on the river where the town of Palmerville soon afterwards sprang up, and only a few hundred yards from Mulligan’s Prospecting Award Claim, in February of 1874, and it was the heaviest wet season I have ever experienced in North Queensland.
Bill McLeod opened up McLeod’s Gully and got 193 ounces the first week.
The McAuleys- mother, father, and three sons- got very large quantities from “The Red Streak,” in the same locality, while men pushing out in the gullies and beaches near Palmerville (the first camp) won small fortunes in a small time.
The miners pushed up the river and found what was called the Left hand Branch or North Palmer, which was exceptionally rich in gold, particularly at German Bar and revolver Point.
J. Edwards formed a camp on the main river, and started butchering, and soon storekeepers, shanties etc., sprang up. The place was known as Edward’s Town, but was afterwards altered by Warden Sellheim to Maytown.
In 1878 it boasted thirteen hotels, two chemists, hospital etc., whilst on the Queen of the North side of the reef, there were three more hotels, boarding houses etc. The Queen was three miles from Maytown, and at the Ida a mile away there were three more hotels.
At the Louisa mine there were two more, at the German Bar there was one and three at Revolver Point (Echotown).
For many years the field continued to expand, and yielded large quantities of gold above water level. Reefing was also carried out, and various mines were exceptionally rich, but here again the lack of good pumps, and the heavy water, prevented development.
The Anglo Saxon Mine (discovered by Henry Harbord in 1887 and about which more later), gave its English shareholders a very large return, and A. J. Madden, a storekeeper of Cooktown, alone reaped £31000 profit for backing the discoverer.
Digressing from the late Harry Harbord’s writings for a moment, a person calling himself “Ajax” wrote as follows about the Maytown area in the “Cairns Post” in the early 1920s:
“During 1874 and 1875 flour was 3/6 a lb, blucher boots 50/-, tobacco 20/-, and everything to match, except beef. The butchering firm of Edwards, Leslie, Callaghan, and Duff, killed from 15 to 20 bullocks a day and sold it on the block at 1/- lb weighed out in gold.
It was this firm which brought the first crushing mill to Maytown. They charged 50/- per ton for crushing at first, and carting was also 50/- within a radius of three miles. The screens were coarse, they had no concentrators, and of course, much gold was lost, yet those who owned the leading mines made money rapidly. They had previously lived by dollying gold from the rich stone on the outcrop of the Ida, Louisa, Queen of the North, and other mines. This latter reef crushed 10 ozs per ton for the first 100 tons, and the Ida crushed 6000 tons for an average of 2 ozs to the ton.
There were three banks in Maytown- the Queensland National, Joint Stock and New South Wales. They paid £3/15/- per ounce of gold, which was worth over £4. Mr. J. S. Denny was assayer and gold smelter, and his bars of bullion on exhibit each week alongside dishfuls of nuggets and gold dust, made a fine display.
The leading storekeepers at Maytown were McKenzie, Jones, Nolan and McLean. The hard conditions of camp life, and the sudden access to fortune, all combined to produce a spirit of hilarity, recklessness and good fellowship or both.
A man in that frame of mind didn’t care whether he “shouted” for you, or went out in the street and had a few rounds with bare knuckles. Consequently in the good days of the Palmer, while everyone had money, the pubs flourished exceedingly. There were around Maytown, the Ida, Louisa and Queen, no less than 35 hotels. The leading ones in Maytown were Prince of Wales, Ahler’s, Clifford’s, Mrs Bardsley’s, Bill Nunn’s, and John Davis. All these did a roaring trade. In 1879, after the “Chinese Invasion,” there were between 38,000 and 40,000 Chinese and about 20,000 white people on the Palmer. There were about 10,000 whites and Chinese in Maytown.
The reefs worked during the first three years were Mountain Maid, Hit or Miss, Caledonian, Just in Time, King of the North, Viking Nos 1 and 2, North Queen, and 1 and 2 South Queen, four numbers on the Caledonian North and South, Smithfield, Cornet, Louisa, Ida, British Lion, General Sarsfield, St. Patrick’s, The Chance, Cosmopolitan and Wild Irish Girl.
This is how Revolver Point got its name. Murdoch Cameron, later of Townsville, came upon a rocky bar in the river late one evening, but not too late to see the nuggets of gold sticking in the crevices in the rocks. He pegged the ground…but next morning he was dismayed to find two men gouging out the nuggets with sheath knives. Cameron challenged them, telling them they were on his claim and they disputed this…revolvers were drawn…and it came to Cameron and one of the other men facing each other with loaded six chambered revolvers, and each looking down the barrel of his opponent’s revolver, kept up a lively argument. Then a compromise was suggested, shooting irons were lowered, and a bargain was made that the two intruders should peg immediately below the bar, while Cameron took the bar and the claim above.
When news reached Maytown of the rich find at Oaky Creek (May 1874), many who had decent claims rushed away and left them in search of something still better.
Horseshoe nails were very scarce and the demand was great. Storekeepers were able to get weight for weight- gold against horseshoe nails.
Reverting again to Henry Harbord’s letters in the Cairns Post we find the following, which, for the purpose of this article, is not a copy verbatim.
“Jim Watters, a mining expert, and I were old friends. He came from New South Wales, and had been a soldier. He worked in the Comet and I was working at the same time in the Ida (the late 1880s). We had lively times working together in those days. Isaac Brown, who lived in Mareeba when he retired, was his great chum. Brown was then engine driver at the Comet, and a Mr George Thompson was manager. When they closed down the mine, Thompson and waters strongly advised me to buy it, which I did, for £1200, including the machinery. I got my money back from treating the mullock heap alone, and several hundreds in addition. I then lent Thompson the battery and he put through the rest of the tip; he made £370 clear of wages out of it.
There was a good deal of public crushing at the time and I was also working the Caledonia Reef. I had taken up the Just in Time, the Albion, and Caledonia. The latter was being worked by Smith and Jones. I gave them £500 for their claim and took up the whole line of reef. It is necessary to remind readers that at this time, after 15 years of working the Palmer, was definitely on the down grade. At this time (1888 or 1890), I was manager of the Anglo-Saxon Gold Mining Company of London, and could not give all the attention I would have liked to the Maytown reefs.
The last work done on the Queen of the North at Maytown was George Chapman and myself in the 1890s. We took it over from the Queensland national Bank on tribute and had 16 men working for us. We did very well out of the tribute, but did not work the Queen reef proper but another reef behind it carrying good gold. The boiler we had was an old one, and one day it burst. We borrowed one from the Bank, but the pump was too small and the water too heavy; we had to drain the surrounding country as well as the Queen reef. One day Chapman told me that there was a little block of ground up in the stope, but the men were frightened to take it out as the ground was bad; I thought there was four or five ounces of gold in 5 cwt of quartz by the look of it. Sergeant Whelan of the Native Police, wanted to go down with me, but I would not let him as he would have got his good uniform ruined. I started down the old underlay, when a ladder suddenly broke and I fell 57 feet. I struck two props in my fall and broke my leg in two places. It took 16 men four days to carry me to Laura, a distance of 67 mils, as all the creeks were in flood. I spent 15 weeks in Cooktown hospital. Upon my return to Maytown, we abandoned the Queen. Financially we had done well out of it.
We had taken over the Queen after a syndicate had failed to sell it. The syndicate comprised Sir Rupert Clarke, Kyle Bellew (the actor), Mrs Brown Potter (the actress), and Frank Gardiner, a mining man in London. They took up 300 acres, including the Comet, Louisa, and Caledonian. I was appointed manager for the syndicate. They then decided to sell, but owing to the Chillagoe debacle, the shares were valueless. Thus the Queensland National Bank came into possession.
I then joined J. V. Mulligan in searching for a “lost reef” upon the Coleman River. Mulligan had been fitted out by the Government in 1875 to explore the Peninsula for minerals. Warner, the surveyor, J. Dowdell, and Christy Palmerston were with him on this occasion. Palmerston and Warner found good gold in a ravine 20 miles distant from their camp on the Coleman, but there was no water anywhere. No one has ever found that ravine again. Mulligan and I went out and spent three months looking for it, and then I took my blackboy and two packhorse loads of tucker and spent many months in the search- without success.
I returned to Maytown my home, and heard that the Government had put a beautiful plant on the Louisa mine, with a manager from the south. I found my old mate, Chapman, there, also Jim Sloane, of Herberton, who was my mate. When we used to take contracts in the Ida in the early days. I had seen the plant before at Wolfram Camp, where a French Company had erected it. It was a lovely plant, all lit up with electric light. Mr Snowdon, the manager, was a coal mining man, however, and knew nothing about quartz mining. He got me to stay with him and write my fortnightly reports, and do other clerical work.
In pumping water from the Louisa, we were draining reefs up Louisa Creek a quarter of a mile away, and also the Comet shaft and the King of the Ranges. We got down to about 86 feet in the Louisa, and in 6 feet more would have bottomed. Then the word came to close down. Why, we never did find out, and weren’t the men wild! I offered to take the mine over on tribute, but it was not accepted and I don’t know why. After going to all that expenses putting up a good plant, and doing all that work, with good gold in sight. It was cruel. However, that was the end of the old Louisa, about the year 1903. (End of Mr. Harbord’s letter).
The Louisa machinery stood lonely and deserted until about three years ago (circa 1949?) when a private enterprise bought it and removed it to Ravenswood, where it has now been re-erected. With its removal, the last inhabitant of old Maytown left- the caretaker who had been looking after the Louisa mine for so long. The last of the buildings in Maytown have now also been removed for the sake of their iron. Where thousands once lived. not a stick now remains.
Cummins and Campbell’s
Last month we quoted a condensation of the late Harry Harbord’s letter which appeared in the Cairns Post in the 1930s; he was then over 80 years of age. He was one of the veteran prospectors of the North; a contemporary of the great J. V. Mulligan, a discoverer of the Palmer, and Hodgkinson. In 1887 Harbord discovered the fabulous Anglo-Saxon Mine. From his writings and from those of the late Spencer Browne, an old time journalist, the old days of the Palmer are retold.
We continue with an abridged account of Harbord’s experiences.
The late Mr. Patrick Grogan was backing me prospecting when I found the Anglo Saxon. The mate I had was a native of Saxony, hence the name Anglo Saxon. Before the mine was flooded, he sold his interest to Mr H. Ahlers, of Maytown. His backers were Jim Tully, a packer, and Louis D’Avis, a storekeeper at the Ida.
The Anglo-Saxon is on the Palmer- Mitchell divide, and is six miles north of the Mitchell and 40 miles south of Maytown. I was managing director of the No 1 West Anglo-Saxon. W. Johnstone was manager, and a good man too, sent by captain Paul from Charters Towers. The last time I saw him was in 1895. He was then keeping an hotel in Kingsborough. My wife and I stayed with him.
The late Pat Grogan was taking us overland from Mareeba to Limestone (the Anglo Saxon township). I had been down south, and was sent to report on the Queen Constance Mine for Brisbane people.
One night we camped on the Mitchell River in company with Mr. Jas. O’Neill, now a cane farmer at Gordonvale, but who at that time had a prosperous business in Groganville (at the Anglo Saxon). He had a pub and a store, and so had Jim Tully; Grogan and Grainer had a store and butcher’s shop.
Other places of business were a saddler’s shop, kept by Peter Cameron; Tom Kelly’s pub over on the Good Hope side of the hill, and three hotels at Harbordville, the Anglo Saxon battery site, kept by Mrs. Huddy, Harry Von Bremen, and Mr. Nolan. They have all crossed the divide in company with many more of my old friends of the Limestone and Palmer days. What a goodly company they were- all white men, every one; and what a good time they’ll have when they get together in the place they’re gone to. Tom Kelly did well at Groganville, and after leaving there, opened a shoe store in cairns which has grew into R. H. Kelly’s emporium.
Among other businesses in Groganville was a chemist’s shop and which supplied very good Four XXXX brandy, and various brands of whisky and port wine. Often when the packers did not arrive in time, the crowd had nothing to drink but “Warner’s Safe Cure.” There were a lot of shanties, and on one occasion the late P. Grogan and myself had ten women before us selling liquor without a licence. We were both JPs, and dispensed law and justice on our own ideas. If they did coincide with the Justices Act, or Wilkinson’s, well, then, the Act was wrong, certainly not us. We fined nine of the women £10 each and costs of court, and one woman who would not keep quiet, we fined £20 and costs, and didn’t she “buck.”
After finding the Anglo-Saxon, I laid on two old mates, Frank Monaghan and Long Jim Verge, to take up No 1 West; and other old mates to take up No 1 East. My old friend Jim Watters, was in Maytown, but when he heard of the richness of the ore he came out, six months after the Anglo-Saxon was found (late 1887). Monaghan and Long Jim were sinking and my mate and I were driving a tunnel on the reef. Monaghan and Long Jim were “dollying” rich pieces of ore, and I smelted 90 ozs of gold for them that they got in one week. I also dollied a lot of gold out for my shareholders and eventually went to London and had it floated into a company of 51,000 £1 shares, and had 103,000 shares applied for. The first crushing I put through for the company was 503 tons, which yielded 4444 ozs of smelted gold.
I retorted and smelted it all myself and had to take it into the bank in Maytown, 40 miles away, and we paid a 10/- dividend. I was manager for 12 years and paid £178,000 in dividends.
Watters, who was an old friend of Monaghan and verge, told them he could sell their mine for them, and they said he (Watters) would have a third share if he did.
They wanted 1500 for the ground (300 feet along the line of reef). Watters went to Charters Towers and sold it to E. H. and T. Plant and Captain Paul of the Mexican Reef. Monaghan and Long Jim Verge got £5000 each out of it and that is where Jim Watters got his rise; it enabled him to build the Federal Hotel in Cairns. He was a splendid businessman, and had a wonderful memory. I knew his wife well; she was a Miss Jones, and her father had Koolburra up the Peninsula and was murdered by a blackboy named Joker (end of Harbord’s letter).
In 1874 and 1875 approximately 40,000 Chinese landed at points nearby, and made their way to the Palmer. As everyone knows, that was the downfall of the field, and the quantity of gold they sent back to China will never be known, but as the white miners produced about 1¼ million ounces, the Chinese certainly obtained an equal amount. The white miners rebelled against this Chinese “invasion,” and on one occasion 1000 newly landed Chinese were rounded up in Cooktown, shorn of their pigtails and stoned out of the place. They fled pell-mell but reached the Palmer just the same. There they joined others of their countrymen, filling up the creeks and gullies like a plague of grasshoppers. An Inspector of Police in Cooktown, ordered his black troopers to fire on the rioting white population, but they refused. This order so enraged the whites that they are said to have thrown the Inspector, without undue ceremony, into the harbour.
Queensland records read: “1st April, 1875, Cooktown. R.M.S. Singapore landed 395 Chinese. P & O Company’s Adria landed 400 Chinese. 12th April 1875: Namoi and Egeria landed 1272 Chinese at Cooktown in one day,” and so on.
Reginald Spencer Browne, a journalist on the staff of the now long defunct Cooktown “Courier” wrote of his reminiscences in the Brisbane “Courier”, in February 1924. The following is an abridged account:
Forty miles below Palmerville, and on the Palmer River, the rush to Lukinville took place in about the middle of 1878. It was a good, old-fashioned rush; and Cooktown sat up and smiled, the hope being that the long –deferred renaissance had arrived. For a good many months, the outturn of gold was considerable, and probably not less than 10,000 men, the greater portion being Chinese were pulling along.
Supplies were drawn from Cooktown by means of bullock wagons and packers, and stores were unreasonably dear. Beef at times was down to 1d per lb, there being a good deal of cut-throat competition. This arose through butchers not paying fair prices for cattle travelled to the field. The cattle owners, rather than take any old price, put up yards and tents, and cut up their own beef. The butchers then began to undersell, and there was a reply from the stockowners. The diggers got the benefit.
The Chinese at Lukinville ate meat, though not in big quantities. They roasted it, cut into little cubes about the size of dice, and with a little sauce, made it quite palatable.
They also had dried fish of various sorts, and generally were able to make up something better than the damper and beef diet of the European diggers.
The Lukinville area was like the rest of the Palmer, all shallow alluvial, but there was not so much bar gold won. It may be well to explain bar gold. The Palmer had in places quite a rocky bed, and across the stony spreads were little breaks or “ripples”, and against these the water carried the gold. In some places large quantities of clean gold were taken out, and did not even require a washing over. It was like picking up wheat – good shotty gold with all the Palmer virtues, and far and away better than the poor stuff on the Coen.
Some 8000 Chinese had found their way to Lukinville, and had not been there long before faction riots began. Mr. P. F. Sellheim, in his report (1878) said: “I regret to have to refer to some serious riots that took place amongst the Chinese at the beginning of the rush, during which four men were shot dead, and many others were more or less seriously wounded.”
As a matter of act, at least 200 were casualties, most of them shockingly wounded, and many died and were secretly buried. It was a fierce quarrel between the Cantonese and the Macao men. The “clash of the different tribes”, as the warden put it, was a fierce quarrel between the Cantonese and the Macao men. The last mentioned came from the island of Macao at the mouth of the Canton River, and were Portuguese subjects, just as the Chinese of Hongkong were British. Macao belonged to the Portuguese. The Islanders and the Cantonese were very bitter enemies.
At Maytown and Palmerville, and indeed all through the Palmer workings, the tribes or sections had tacit arrangements for what the diplomats term spheres of influence, and those arrangements were strictly adhered to, but the Lukinville rush upset all this. Without any organisation whatever, a battle began between 6000 Cantonese and 2000 Macao men. Many were armed mainly with Snider rifles and old carbines, but others had to get to close quarters with sticks, picks, axes, and shovels. Some of the Chinese were very plucky, and went into battle with determination; others were shifty and nervous. It was not unusual for a Chinese to look out from behind a tree, and spot an enemy, say a quarter of a mile away, then dodge back and stick the Snider out, pull her off, and then to bob out from cover to note the effect of the shot.
Generally, my impression was that at a distance the Chinese were nervous, but at close quarters they were fierce fighters.
Warden Sellheim and the police would stop the fighting one day, but it would be revived on the next, and this went on for some time. At length it was suggested that certain leaders should be arrested, and an armistice arranged. By this time the “gambling vagabonds” had done fairly well, and the time was ripe for a modus vivendi. About 30 men were arrested, and in a little while agreed to go to their respective factions, and recommend the adoption of different spheres of work. The decent Chinese were glad of the chance of getting down to steady work, and an amateur delimitation commission was appointed. In three or four days the respective areas were defined, and that saw the end of the fighting.
In my opinion there were between 20 and 30 killed in the little war of Lukinville. At times it was a hot shop, and one never knew where the Snider bullets would lodge.
Lukinville was named after Mr. George Lukin, Under-Secretary for Mines, father of Mr. Justice Lukin, and a brother of Mr. Gresley Lukin, a one-time managing editor of the “Courier”.
The Chinese, as usual, took the river in a face, and worked on syndicate lines, and the Europeans stuck to an area recognised as their own. The place in time was worked out, and deserted.
Spencer Browne described a visit he made to the Palmer when its hectic golden days were passing. The date is not given but it was probably 1888, and it fits in with Henry Harbord’s story. Browne writes in part:
‘My first trip to the Palmer was with Mr. C. H. Macdonald, referred to earlier – officer in charge of road works, pastoralist, and really the explorer of the McIvor River country.
We went out to Byerstown, which was named after Johnny Byers, who was formerly head of Byers and Little Bros., hotel and storekeepers, butchers, gold buyers, bankers, and all sorts of things.
The Little brothers included “Billy Little” who was an identity on the Palmer, the Etheridge, and the Hodgkinson, and was a member of the Legislative Assembly.
From him, we have a remark which has become common. He was discussing the Cairns Railway project, and referring to part of the route, said – “Why Mr. Speaker, a crow could not fly down it without a breeching.”
Johnny Hogsflesh, who ran the mails to Maytown, was with us, and took us some short cuts, which were very risky.
From Byerstown on, the country was very rough. Maytown was very dull, but outside there were places I am glad to have seen before their complete desertion.
We were out at what at what was known as the Queen Reef District where the Huddys kept the hotel, and saw the almost abandoned works of the Ida and other mines, which the late Dr. Robert Logan Jack always held would be worth reviving.
The heavy hand of depression was on the whole area, and “failure” was “writ large upon it.”
Away some miles from Maytown, and nestling in a watered gap of rugged spurs, was one of the monuments of failure – the building and machinery of the Lone Star Mine.
Like the Queen Line, the Lone Star promised well. The reef was small, but very rich. Money was easily forthcoming, and at great expense a plant was erected. Then at a depth came the rush of water, and more refractory ore, and the place was abandoned.
We stood on the hills, looking down on a very lonely Lone Star, where so many hopes were buried.
In those days, there were still some thousands of Chinese on the Palmer, taking sections of river bed and drift, in a face; but over the whole place was written “Ichabod” for the glory had departed.
It would be absurd even at this period to say that Charles Nolan or Mr. Nolan, “Charley Nolan”, was one of the conspicuous figures left on the Palmer. He had a store near Revolver Point, which had been one of the very rich spots of the field.
The river flowed along, but every yard of “dirt” had been tumbled over and over again until there would not have been enough gold left to cause an uneasiness if dropped into one’s eye.
Charley Nolan was a little over middle height, spare, erect, blue eyed, and with a long, fair, beard. He was a cultured man, a delightful companion, a generous and staunch friend to hundreds who sought his help when the Palmer waned.
Later on, he went to the Johnstone River, and established a successful business, and there his name is continued in Nolans Ltd. He was a typical pioneer.
It went without saying that we should pay our respects to the Warden and Police Magistrate, Mr. P. F. Sellheim, the father of Major General Sellheim.
Later, Sellheim was well known at Charters Towers and Gympie as Warden and Police Magistrate., and then as Under Secretary for Mines in Brisbane.
Before entering the public service, he had done a good deal of pioneering pastoral work.
We went out and dined with him at his home overlooking the river, a few miles out from Maytown.
Sellheim was born in Austria, was of a noble family, and had a very keen objection to being considered in any sense a German.
He married a daughter of Colonel Morissett, a British officer serving in Australia.
The Warden told us some amusing stories about Maytown in the days of its glory. After a good clean up, the miners would get a washtub and fill it with champagne and carry it round the town, ladling out liberal helpings with a quart pot. Any one who refused to drink had his head dipped in the bubbling wine – at least that was the alternative laid down; but Sellheim, in his quaint way, put it: “It is not on record that any Palmer man was ever dipped.”
The Warden was a splendid type, and knew well how to handle a rough crowd of diggers. Those who met him in Brisbane later will remember how courteous he was, how capable an officer, and how relentlessly he put down all humbug.
I did not know many of the bank men, just a few, including young Lotze, of the Bank of New South Wales; Egerton Chester-Master (son of Chester-Master, the Usher of the Black Rod in our Legislative Council), of the old A.J.S. Bank, and earlier there were Kent, of the Q.N. Bank; F. W. Burstall, Parnell, and Cecil Beck, of the A.J.S.
“Jack” Edwards, the king of the Palmer, and the head of some of the biggest trading, pastoral, and butchering affairs, was a man of great ability. He was a wonderful organiser and money maker, but his money belonged to any one and every one who sought help. The Edwards River commemorates the name of one of the sturdiest and truest of the pioneers.
John Duff and Tom Leslie were Palmer men who were associated with Edwards, and afterward had pastoral holdings in partnership with O’Callaghan. The last named was a splendid type of man, about 6’ 2” and 14 st in weight, with a dark beard. I did not see much of him, but he was always spoken of as a very able business man, of simple and temperate habits.
“Jack” Duff and “Tom” Leslie came down to Cooktown in my time, and opened a butchering business, and Fred Pogson was their bookkeeper and financial man. Two more popular men than Duff and Leslie could not be found in the North. They were generous to a fault. Leslie should have made his mark in politics, but he would not touch “the game”. He was remarkably well informed, and a keen judge of affairs.
“Jack” Duff married a pretty Miss Reynolds, of the Reynolds’ Hotel family, and a sister of Owen Reynolds, who was a well known carrier to the Palmer and an owner of teams. I don’t think that any man in the North impressed me more than Leslie, but Duff, from his great charm of manner, was the more popular. Duff and his brother Dave were handsome, fair bearded and blue eyed men, straight and stalwart as Vikings of old. Both Duffs and Leslie came of good Scots blood.
The Palmer and Cooktown, and especially Palmerville, had no better known man than Maurice Fox. He had a brother Pat., who was not so prominent, but was also a splendid bushman. Maurice Fox was a daring explorer, and there was abundant evidence that he was the discoverer of Lukinville, but he did not convince the Mines Department, and failed in his application for the reward.
Maurice fitted out many prospecting parties. He was a fine looking fellow, and it was a treat to see him ride into Cooktown with his wife, who was tall and graceful, and a consummate horsewoman.
A fine man and a fine type was “Jim” Earle, station owner and carrier, with a wife and family well representing a good old stock from the Old Land. Some of his family are, I am told, now in the Cairns district. They ought to be good types of Queenslanders, but the older of them were only kiddies in my time.
Then there were the Wallace brothers, Sandy and Charlie Wallace. Probably they were Hunter River natives, also of good Scots stock. They had station property, and were carriers, and no dance, no cricket match, or race meeting or sports gathering would have been complete without them.
There was also William Webb, of Oakey, who had drifted into possession of the hotel, and was concerned in the early settlement of the McIvor country. He married a sister of Willie Till, who was a compositor on the Cooktown “Herald” in the days when C. J. James and I ran it.