This year Townsville celebrates 150 years – 1866 to 2016 – since it became a Municipality under the Queensland Municipals Institute Act of 1864. To commemorate this milestone the current Townsville City Council has planned a year-long festival of events.
Under the banner T150 the Council has selected some community-based activities to support financially. The National Trust of Australia (Qld) Townsville Branch received funding for four bus tours, the first of them being Townsville’s ‘Hidden’ War Memorials.
That’s what happening in 2016. The remainder of this post takes place at the beginning of the period, back to 1866 (and even earlier), to Townsville’s foundations. Just who were the movers and shakers of 150 years ago, the men who pushed the Queensland Colonial Government to give Townsville formal recognition?
One name stands above the rest – John Melton Black.
George Saunders and family were the first Europeans to take up land at Saunders Beach in the early 1880s. Was he also one of Townsville’s early citizens, a mover and shaker?
The short answer is: We don’t know.
George Saunders does not appear in the major histories of this time:
- Brumby, M 2014, Black to Gold, From Gateway to Golden Lands. Charters Towers Archives, Charters Towers.
- Gibson-Wilde, DM 1984, Gateway to a Golden Land: Townsville to 1884, Studies in North Queensland History No. 7, History Department, James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville.
- Griffin, H 2014, Frontier Town, A History of Early Townsville and Hinterland 1864-1884, North Queensland History Preservation Society, Townsville, Queensland.
His family in England can be tracked using the British Census information. Collected every ten years the Census gives details of entire households. George was the son of William and Hannah, born at the end of 1837 in Whitwell, Hertfordshire and he’s present in 1841 as a three year old and in 1851. Up until now no further trace of him has been discovered.
Another avenue tested was immigration records. Unfortunately no immigration record can be found for George Saunders (with the details in the paragraph above). This most probably means that he paid his passage to Australia himself. Colonial Governments of the day generally recorded only the names of those people it helped to immigrate to Australia with a free or subsidised passage, land grants etc.
From his obituary printed in The North Queensland Herald we learn he was in Rockhampton in 1859. No verification of this has been found yet.
But, finally: In November 1868 he purchased Allotments 14 and 17 of Section 37, Eyre Street, Townsville and this is the first time he appears in official records.
So, George Saunders could have been around to experience the birth of a town. But then again, he mightn’t have been.
TOWNSVILLE IN 1865
THE PROCEDURE FOR ‘MUNICIPAL PRIVILEGES’
The Colony of Queensland required citizens of a locality who were desirous of having that locality brought under the Municipal Institutions Act of 1864 to raise a petition of not less than 100 signatures.
The citizens of Townsville gathered 195 signatures.
John Melton Black presented it to Governor Bowen at a gathering in Townsville on Monday 9 October 1865. (Queensland Government Gazette – GG – 1865 page 1123). He made a speech, some of which has been transcribed here:
We beg respectfully to draw the attention of your Excellency to the geographical position of our port, and the advantages we possess in the extensive back county appertaining to the same, and embracing no less than fifty squattages.
…We would respectfully inform your Excellency that a petition has been signed by the inhabitants of the town for presentation to your Excellency, praying that our township may be brought under the Municipalities Act, and we feel satisfied when the same shall be incorporated that, with the endowment from the Government, and the public spirit of the inhabitants, our town will soon assume a degree on considerable importance to the interests of this district and Colony.
The list of signatories below was taken from the Queensland Government Gazette of 1865 page 1133. The details and links are not exhaustive, just what has been encountered so far. A note about the names: The correct spelling relied upon the Brisbane transcribing clerk’s diligence and the accuracy of type-setter at the Government Gazette printers. Numerous discrepancies have been found, requiring further research.
APLIN W http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/aplin-william-2893
BAILEY Arthur Cole
BLACK JM See Image 1. Townsville’s first Mayor
BODE Frederick R
BRODIE Thomas A.
CARLINGTON George (B.A.)
CARTER Thomas R
CHAMPION “Captain, A.S.N”
CLIFTON William – See Image 2. Partner with William Aplin in a store.
CUMMINS Albert E
de ZOET H – 24 Apr 1866 Boarding House keeper GG 1866 p410
DIKEN Charles S
FITT George P
FRYER FA – See Image 2. Store keeper.
GRAHAM William J.
GRIMALDI WB – Townsville Town Clerk
HELMES Dennis – Householder Townsville GG 1866 p410
HESLOP George W – Engineer Townsville GG 1866 p410
“HOLDSHIP, BENSON, and Co.”
HOOKE Francis Charles
HUME Joseph – Wheelwright Townsville GG 1866 p410
HUNTER Thomas H
KEITH William – Merchant Bowen GG 1866 p410
KELLER Herbert Francis – Publican’s Licence, Bohle Hotel GG 1866 p187
McDOUGALL R Maybe first Town Clerk – See first Bye Laws GG 1866 p904
McEWAN Thomas F
MEAD James – Publican’s Licence Range Hotel GG 1866 p 187
MORRIS Francis – Blacksmith Townsville GG 1866 p410
RAYNER Frederick T.
REGAN John Joseph
REID Mark W – 24 Apr 1866 Overseer, Victoria Downs, Cape River GG 1866 p410
RHEUBEN Maurice – see CityLibraries Facebook page, 2 Sep 16 Licensee of Derwent Hotel
ROSS WA – see Facebook CityLibraries 7 Sep 16 (Criterion Hotel)
ROWDEN Thomas C – 24 Apr 1866 Chemist Townsville GG 1866 p410
ROWE CS – Publican’s Licence GG 1866 p187; CityLibraries Facebook page 26 Aug 16
SCANTLEBURY John Licd Timber-getter GG1866 p162
SEAWARD John L
SEAWARD “William, senr.”
SHORES Francis C – 24 Apr 1866 Carrier Townsville GG 1866 p410
SMITH Walter S
SPONG Henry W.
SWEENEY John J
TOFFT John Peter
WALKER SF – see Facebook CityLibraries 14 Aug 16; 24 Apr 1866 Householder Townsville GG 1866 p410
WILKS Henry – 24 Apr 1866 Superintendent Boiling Establishment GG 1866 p410
The Governor responded graciously, saying in part:
It is very interesting to observe the rapidity with which this settlement, entirely the growth of the last six months, has sprung into existence, on a spot where little more than a year ago no white man has ever set foot.
…Your wishes and requirements, as now laid before me, will receive the careful and earnest attention of the Colonial Government.
The petition meet with success – Townsville was proclaimed a municipality on 15 February 1866. (Even if the Queensland Government’s proclamation sited Townsville in Rockingham Bay instead of Cleveland Bay.) As expected John Melton Black was the first Mayor.
British Census – Ancestry.com. http://home.ancestry.com.au/
Centre for the Government of Queensland, Government Gazettes (GG), editions as specified in the links and text above. http://www.textqueensland.com.au/
- Obituary The North Queensland Herald 22 August 1903 page 50. Viewed at JCU on microfilm.
- Land dealings – Townsville City Council Library Local History Collection, Mathew Index to Townsville History, https://www.townsville.qld.gov.au/facilities-and-recreation/libraries/local-history
Governor Bowen’s visit to Townsville: National Library of Australia, Telegraphic, Rockhampton October 17, Brisbane Courier 18 October 1865. Viewed 4 September 2014. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1280508
Image 2 – National Library of Australia, Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser 16 September 1865 page 2. Viewed 4 September 2016. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/51564653
Townsville City Council Picture Townsville, John Melton Black, First Mayor of Townsville 1866-1867, viewed 4 September 2016. https://townsville.spydus.com/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/FULL/PIC/BIBENQ/28634370/6774563,30