Tuesday, September 27, 2011


John Douglas purchased the property of Tooloombah in the Marlborough district of Central Queensland in 1860. This extract from my PhD thesis on Douglas provides the details as well as the background.

Queensland achieved separation from the colony of New South Wales on 10 December 1859, when the inaugural governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, was sworn in.[1]  The new colony included the Darling Downs district, which Douglas had represented in the New South Wales parliament.  However Douglas did not initially seek office in Queensland, content to forge a political career in New South Wales while residing in Sydney.  The first sitting of the new bicameral parliament in Brisbane took place on 22 May 1860, comprising 26 members from 16 electoral districts in the legislative assembly and 15 members in the legislative council.[2]  Bowen’s private secretary, Robert George Wyndham Herbert, then aged just 28 and fresh from England, was the colony’s first premier and colonial secretary.[3]
Queensland, in the early years of the colony following separation from New South Wales, was a remote and sparsely populated territory. [4]  Much of it was unexplored and there were few urban centres outside of Ipswich, Brisbane and the Darling Downs in the southeast corner.  There were no railways, no industry of note, and its vast mineral wealth[5] had yet to be discovered.  Land was the one commodity Queensland had in abundance, and pastoralism, chiefly on the Darling Downs, was the only activity that was established and generating revenue.[6] 
At the time of separation, the pastoral industry provided 71 per cent of the new colony’s revenue and 94 per cent of its export earnings.  From 1860-67, following separation, the pastoral industry further expanded.  The colony’s progress was due to this ongoing development, coupled with an initial economic boom based on rail and construction activity.[7]
Politics in Queensland were conducted on similar lines to that of colonial parliaments elsewhere in Australia, based on the principles and ideals of British liberalism.[8]  Because the squatters were the dominant group in the new colony, its parliament tended to be largely composed of property owners of different kinds, and “behind most of the major conflicts were issues concerning the dominance of special kinds of property.”[9]  Politics were parochial, with Governor Bowen remarking, “ministries are upset in Australia not so much on great principles of policy, but rather on the wrangles about the distribution of the general revenue among public works.”[10]  The inhabitants of Queensland, along with those in the other British colonies, believed they were duty bound to develop their country and environment in order to achieve economic progress, and this could best be expedited through large-scale immigration and railway-building directed towards more intensive land settlement.[11] 
This opportunity drew Douglas to the new pastoral frontier in Queensland.[12]  The Darling Downs had been on the geographical periphery of New South Wales, but following its inclusion in Queensland it was now at the heart of the new colony.  Douglas sensed that there were future riches to be made in the colony’s northern districts and moved quickly, “hoping to push his fortune in the north.”[13]
In July 1860, while still living in Sydney, he purchased the property Tooloombah, north of Marlborough, in the Rockhampton district, as well as two adjacent runs, Dundee and Montrose.[14]  To pay for them he was obliged to enter into a mortgage agreement with the Sydney firm, Gilchrist, Watt & Co., for £5,000.[15]
A. H. Campbell, one of Douglas’s station hands at Talgai, supervised the droving of some 1,500 head of cattle from Talgai to Tooloombah in 1860.[16]  While Douglas was living in Sydney and contesting the election for the seat of Camden, a cousin and close friend, David Armstrong and his wife Isabella, who was Mary Douglas’s sister, managed the property.  They ran the property until May 1868, Douglas considering Armstrong to be a steady, safe fellow, who was also “a fine man, full of fun.”[17] 
After resigning the seat of Camden in July 1861, the Douglas family moved to Tooloombah, arriving in the district a month later.[18]  A reflective Douglas later conceded that:

If he had stayed on the Downs it would have been far more in his private interest, but he went up north, thinking he could do better.[19]

Never a hands-on squatter, he continued to leave the running of the property to Armstrong, and became involved in the social and political life of the burgeoning district.[20]  Rockhampton, the centre of the region, had been proclaimed a municipality only one year earlier.  Governor Bowen, then on a tour of the colony, wrote of it as, “a small hamlet of wooden huts with scarcely five hundred inhabitants, who had recently settled down in the primeval wilderness.”[21]  Despite its small size and recent origin, Rockhampton was by 1861, “a stirring and lively township,” and one that “presented a busy scene, as many expeditions ... were daily starting north and west [from there] in search of country.”[22]  The district had boomed with the discovery of gold at Canoona in 1858, but although this field had been a duffer, a steady stream of pastoral speculators traversing the central and northern districts ensured Rockhampton’s continued growth and viability.[23]
Douglas continued to purchase land, paying £30 for a block at the inaugural land sale in the new township of Bowen.[24]  It is likely that this purchase was for speculation or investment purposes only, as he never subsequently lived or spent any time in Bowen.
Douglas did not live at Tooloombah for long.  The property was some 98 miles (159 kilometres) north of Rockhampton and travel to and from it was arduous and time-consuming.  It was isolated as well, with only a fortnightly coach service from Rockhampton to the property in 1862 and a round trip of 56 miles (92 kilometres) to collect the mail at Marlborough, then the “outside post-office to the north.”
[25]  His new wife Mary, who had spent all of her life in London and Sydney, may well have found the isolation and privations intolerable, despite having her sister Isabella for company.  Coote, writing in 1882 about the Darling Downs in the period up to separation, has provided us with a vivid picture of what life was like for the few settlers.  Tooloombah in 1861 would have been even worse.

The course of life was monotonous, unless a flood or a drought, or an election disturbed it.  Public amusements there were none … there must have been a good deal of self-contained life in those days.  In truth there could have been little room for anything else.  Travelling was slow, sometimes difficult, mostly expensive, and in wet weather well nigh impossible.[26]

Nevertheless, Douglas certainly enjoyed it, as he wistfully told his son Edward some 45 years later:
I knew the district when the Archers first took up Gracemere.  They were very interesting times and I was among the first out on Peak Downs.  There was no payment of members then, and no railways, and no fenced in country.  We rejoiced in our youth.  It was a beautiful time, never to come back again.[27]

While Douglas may well have enjoyed the solitude, Mary probably found it insufferable.
It was no surprise, then, that by the end of 1861 Mary and John Douglas had left the district, taking up residence in Brisbane.[28]  While Brisbane was very small compared to Sydney, having only 7,000 inhabitants in 1861, it was considerably larger than Rockhampton, which had a mere 800.[29]  By 1863, Douglas was known as “a retired squatter” despite being only 35[30] and still owning Tooloombah.  Nevertheless, he continued to take a keen interest in the district and nominated to contest the parliamentary election for the seat of Port Curtis when it fell vacant in April 1863.
Douglas experienced ongoing financial difficulties with Tooloombah, for the interest rate on the £5,000 of borrowed money was 12.5 per cent.
[31]  He was forced to rapidly stock the property to help pay for its purchase, with his herd of cattle increasing from 1,991 head in 1860 to over 6,000 in 1867.[32]  However, the financial recession of 1866 was to be his undoing.  He was not alone in his predicament, for the effect of the 1866 crash on most Queensland pastoralists was profound.  As a squatter at the time noted:

The panic of 1866, the influence of which was felt in Queensland for several years after, played the mischief with all pastoralists who were either largely in debt or whose credit was not good.  Many good men and true went down then, and many a good property was bought for little by rising men who took their good fortune on the hop, several of these bargains leading to considerable fortunes.  Large sacrifices continued to be made by sellers in the dull time between 1866 and 1872, notably in outside stations.[33]

Douglas had the misfortune to be one of those “largely” in debt and holding an “outside station.”[34]  In 1867, he was forced to transfer the Tooloombah property to Gilchrist Watt & Co,[35] who financed the purchase of the property by Fred and Owen Beardmore the following year.[36]   However, the sale of the property did not fully clear Douglas’s debt, resulting in his insolvency in 1872.[37]  As Douglas ruefully noted at the time, “he had made a little money in the country and he was sorry to say he had lost a good deal in it.”[38]  Nevertheless, he could console himself with the knowledge that although he and his fellow squatters:
were all speculators, more or less, but in every instance their souls were not bound up in their breeches pockets.  There were some persons who had higher ideas than that of merely making money - who desired at the same time to benefit the country in which they lived.[39]

[1]Ross Fitzgerald (1982), A History of Queensland:  From the Dreaming to 1915.  Brisbane, University of Queensland Press, p. 112
[2] Fitzgerald, p. 112; Our First Half-Century: A Review of Queensland Progress Based upon Official Information, p. 164.
[3] Fitzgerald, p. 113; Our First Half-Century: A Review of Queensland Progress Based upon Official Information, p. 164
[4] In 1861, the European population of Queensland was only 30,059 people, comprising 27,133 in the south, 2,840 in the centre, and 86 in the north.  (Glen Lewis.  A History of the Ports of Queensland:  A Study in Economic Nationalism.  Brisbane, University of Queensland Press, 1973, p. 282)
[5] There had been a gold strike at Canoona, north of Rockhampton, in 1858, but it soon petered out.  (Lorna McDonald.  “The Rockhampton Delusion: a Brief History of the Canoona Rush.”  Queensland Heritage vol 3 no 10, May 1970, pp. 28-35)
[6] Agriculture was insignificant, with only 3,353 acres under cultivation in 1860.  (Fitzgerald, p. 126; Our First Half-Century:  A Review of Queensland Progress Based Upon Official Information, p. 16)
[7] Noel Loos.  Frontier Conflict in the Bowen District, 1861-1874.  MA thesis. James Cook University of North Queensland, 1970, p. 69; Lewis, pp. 25 & 28
[8] Ibid., p. 30.  Queensland was the only Australian colony to begin with two houses of parliament.  (Fitzgerald, p. 113)
[9] A. A. Morrison.  “Colonial Society 1860-1890.”  Queensland Heritage no 1, 1966, p. 21, quoted in Lewis, p. 30
[10] Lewis, p. 31
[11] Ibid.
[12] As early as May 1859 Douglas had expressed interest in leasing property in the Leichardt district, situated in present day north Queensland.  However, he does not appear to have actually leased any runs in this district.  (Letter from John Douglas, 17 May 1859.  W. H. Wiseman Letterbook, Queensland State Archives, PRV/7208, Microfilm Z 316 )
[13]“Darling Downs Elections.”  Warwick Examiner and Times, 6 March 1875, p. 2
[14] Mason, p. 48; Lorna McDonald.  A History of the Beef Cattle Industry in the Fitzroy Region of Central Queensland, 1850s-1970s.  Brisbane, University of Queensland, 1985, pp. 156-57; “Runs Held by Members of Both Houses of Parliament.”  Journals of the Queensland Legislative Council, Session 2 of 1867-68, vol 11, p. 1046; Queensland Government Gazette, no 64, 20 October 1860, p. 367.  Tooloombah was also known as Langdale.  John Peter Campbell, an early speculator in pastoral runs, had taken up a number of leasehold blocks in the area in 1855 and applied for the land known as Tooloombah in July 1855.  This property originally consisted of four separate pastoral runs, Panuco, Tivola, Borenia and Tooloombah.  The licence was granted on 21 September 1859 and each run was twenty-five square miles (6,475.2 hectares) in area, a total of 100 square miles or 259 square kilometres. Tooloombah was transferred early in 1860 to J. A. Newman, who transferred it to A. P. Raymond and J. Cameron later that year. Dundee and Montrose had their licences granted on 17 October 1859.  Douglas paid a combined rent of £60 per annum and an annual assessment fee of £20 for each run, £180 in total.  (Runs Held by Members of Both Houses of Parliament.”  Journals of the Queensland Legislative Council, Session 2 of 1867-68, vol 2, p. 1046)
[15] Mortgages no 78.  Book 1, Queensland State Archives, SCT/CD I.  The mortgage was secured over 1,900 head of cattle and fifteen stock horses
[16] Bird, pp. 176-77.  Campbell spent six months working for Douglas at Tooloombah before working for the Archer Brothers.  There appear to be inconsistencies in Bird’s account.  He states that Campbell, who later became the North Rockhampton Town Clerk, left Tooloombah after Douglas sold the property to O. C. J. Beardmore in late 1860.  However, although Douglas sold the property to Charles and Frederick Beardmore, the final transaction took place in May 1868.  (Mortgages, Book VII, no 176.  Queensland State Archives SCT/CD I.)  Bird also states that Campbell delivered the cattle to Tooloombah in late May 1860 whereas Douglas only purchased the property in July of that year.
[17] Mason, p. 45; John Douglas to Edward Douglas, 27 July 1898.  Andrew and Lorraine Douglas Papers; McDonald (1985), p. 157.  Douglas was related, for Armstrong’s father was Douglas’s mother’s uncle.  Before managing the property in 1860, Armstrong and his wife Isabella, who were married in Wollongong in 1856 (New South Wales Marriage Certificate no 2183/1856) were living on a dairy farm in the Illawarra and prior to that were living on the Murrumbidgee, both in New South Wales.  Isabella Armstrong (nee Simpson) was Mary Douglas’s younger sister.  After working for Douglas at Tooloombah, the family settled in Maryborough where Armstrong managed a sugar estate before being appointed to inspector of distilleries and later returned to his native Scotland before returning to Brisbane where he died in 1884.  (John Douglas to Edward Douglas, 27 July 1898, Andrew and Lorraine Douglas Papers.)  Tooloombah was not the only property Douglas purchased in central Queensland for he is recorded as transferring his leases for the Mount Pleasant, Llandilo, Llangollen, Killaney and The Lagoons runs in the Leichhardt district to Hood and Manning in 1860.  (Transfer of Runs.  Queensland Government Gazette, vol 2, no 28, 20 April 1861, p. 224.)  These holdings and the speed and manner in which they were transferred were most unusual.  Douglas and Hood purchased them from Charles James Clarke of Gayndah after 1 July 1860.  Before the year was out they had then been transferred to Douglas who shortly afterwards transferred them to Hood and Manning.  (See Queensland State Archives CLO/N1-3, Register of Runs-Leichardt District, 24340, in particular nos. 60/1168, 60/1566 and 60/3004.)  Why these complicated arrangements and transfers took place is unknown, as the then prevailing New South Wales Land Act placed no restriction on the acquiring of properties outside of the settled districts of the Colony.  Neither did the first Queensland land legislation, the Unoccupied Crown Lands Occupation Act, which replaced the New South Wales legislative land arrangements and was assented to on 18 September 1860.  (Bernays, p. 308.)  Douglas also purchased 45 acres in the parish of Allora, between Toowoomba and Warwick, for £45 on 5 March 1860.  (Queensland State Archives, 47/1, vol 1.  Deed of Grant 595 of 1860; Queensland Government Gazette, no 79, 29 December 1860, p. 539)
[18] Mason, p. 46
[19] “Mr. Douglas at Drayton.”  Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 26 September 1883
[20] Douglas was on the inaugural committee of the Rockhampton School of Arts.  (Bird, p. 34;  School of Arts.”  Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, 27 July 1861; “Inauguration of the School of Arts.”  Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, 25 February 1865)
[21] Stanley Lane-Poole, ed.  Thirty Years of Colonial Government:  A Selection from the Despatches and Letters of the Right Honourable Sir George Ferguson Bowen, K.C.M.G.  London, Longmans Green.  1889.  Vol 1, p. 240
[22] De Satge, p. 138
[23] Mason, p. 46
[24]Port Denison Land Sale.”  Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, 26 October 1861, p. 3
[25] Pugh, Theophilus P.  Pugh’s Queensland Almanac.  Brisbane, 1863, p. 197.  The post-office was first established at Marlborough Station in 1861.  (Pugh’s Almanac, 1862, p. 126)
[26] William Coote.  History of the Colony of Queensland from 1770 to the Close of the Year 1881.  Brisbane, William Thorne, 1882, pp. 234-35.  For a good account of the isolation and hardships encountered by these early settlers, see Henry Ling Roth.  The Discovery and Settlement of Port Mackay, Queensland:  With Numerous Illustrations, Charts and Maps, and Some Notes on the Natural History of the District.  Halifax, England, F. King & Sons, 1908, pp. 62-65 and John Kerr.  “Rediscovered Route of the Mackay Expedition, 1860.”  Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal vol 11 no 1, 1979-80, pp. 70-88
[27] John Douglas to Edward Douglas, 28 September 1897.  Douglas Papers.  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OM 89-3/B/2(a)/15
[28] Eve Douglas, p. 7; Queensland Post Office Directory, 1868 &1874.  Their house was on the corner of Wickham Terrace and
Lilley Street
and about 1875 became the Brisbane Girls Grammar School’s inaugural premises when Douglas leased it to them.  The family remained in Brisbane, moving to Bartley’s Hill, now the site of St Margaret’s School.  The Douglas’s home on Wickham Terrace no longer exists.
[29] Frederick A. Algar.  A Handbook to Queensland.  London, 1861, p. 13
[30] “Preliminary Meeting of the Port Curtis Electorate.”  Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, 19 April 1863
[31] Eve Douglas, p. 7
[32] Mortgages no 78, Book I, Queensland State Archives, SCT/CD I.  According to the Tooloombah Cattle Books, the number of cattle on the property at the end of each year was; 1860, 1,702; 1861, 2,407; 1862, 3,996; 1863, 3,539; 1864, 4,461; 1865, 5,147; 1866, 6,242; 1867, 6,238. 
[33] De Satge, p. 203
[34] He was not alone, with James Taylor, a squatter of thirty years experience and the member for Western Downs, informing parliament in early 1868, “Ninety-nine out of every hundred squatters in Queensland were insolvent.”  (Mr. Taylor.  “Pastoral Tenancy Bill.”  Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 6, 1868, p. 1018
[35] Queensland Government Gazette vol 8, no 81, 5 October 1867, p. 900
[36] McDonald (1985), p. 157.  The final payment to Douglas took place in May 1868.  (Mortgages.  Book 7, no 176.  Queensland State Archives)
[37] Estate of Hon. John Douglas no 818.  Queensland State Archives.  Despite selling the property, he still owed money on it.
[38] “Mr. Douglas at the Town Hall.”  Brisbane Courier, 23 September 1868, p. 2
[39] Mr Douglas.  “Claim of the Hon. Louis Hope.“  Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 2, 1865, p. 596