The Toowoomba Region has been home to many remarkable characters over the years, from Steele Rudd, the author of Dad & Dave, to Nellie Robinson, Queensland's first lady mayor.

Explore the historical figures who have helped shaped the Region we know today.

Allan Cunningham was born in Wimbledon, Surrey on 13 July, 1791 and educated at a private school in Putney. He worked for a time in conveyancing, but law was not to his liking and he accepted a position as assistant to the manager of Kew Gardens, W. T. Aiton.

Aiton recommended Cunningham to Sir Joseph Banks and he obtained an appointment as a botanical collector. In 1814 he went to Brazil to collect specimens and remained there for two years. He was then ordered to New South Wales. Almost immediately Cunningham joined Oxley’s expedition to the west of the Blue Mountains.

From 1817 to 1822 he was part of P. P. King’s surveys of the Australian coasts. His notes on the botanical results of the survey were thought important enough to be published in a German translation. In 1822 Cunningham resumed his botanical research in New South Wales.

He also began a series of explorations during which he discovered Pandora's Pass through the Liverpool Range (1823), discovered the Darling Downs (1827) and found a way to them from the shores of Moreton Bay, Cunningham’s Gap (1828).

In 1831 he returned to England where he spent his time arranging his collections of specimens in the herbarium and preparing papers for publication. On the death of Charles Frazer, the Colonial Botanist in 1831, Cunningham was offered the position in New South Wales, but he declined it in favour of his brother Richard.

When Richard died in 1835 Allan Cunningham was once again offered the position which he accepted and returned to New South Wales in 1837. When he found he was actually expected to do a great deal of gardening, including growing vegetables for the governor’s table as part of his appointment, he resigned after a few months.

He then went to New Zealand in 1838 where he botanised for six months, returning to Sydney in October seriously ill. While his health steadily deteriorated he continued collecting and died on 27th June 1839 in Sydney. Cunningham’s achievements as both botanist and explorer are significant.

His discovery of the rich agricultural area of the Darling Downs and the gap leading to them was of such importance in itself as to justify all his journeys. His botanic work has been honoured by the giving of his name to a number of Australian trees.

Sources

Australian Encyclopedia Vol. 3 Sydney: Grolier Society of Australia, 1965
Australian Dictionary of Biography Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1966
Mc Minn, W. G. “Allan Cunningham: botanist and explorer” Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1970
LH files – LH/Cunningham, Allan

William Henry Groom was born on 9 March 1833 in Plymouth, England. In October 1846 he was convicted of stealing and sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia. William arrived in Australia in June 1849 at 16 years of age and was pardoned later that year in October. His association with Toowoomba began when he became an auctioneer and storekeeper in 1856.

Over the next 43 years, he was to become one of the most respected and influential people in Toowoomba and was in fact elected as our first Mayor in 1861. Groom served three terms in succession and then again in 1864, 1867, 1883 and 1884.

During his first term of office, he successfully led his council to petition the colonial government for land for a town hall, a municipal market and the original site for Queens Park. In 1862 he was elected to represent the municipality in the Queensland Colonial Government, with a majority of 21 votes.

W.H. Groom played a major role in the growth of Toowoomba by securing funding for bridges and arterial roads, the establishment of the General Hospital and Willowburn (now Baillie Henderson) Hospital.

He was also instrumental in the provision of a water supply and the drainage of east and west swamps. He was involved in the foundation of the Toowoomba Permanent Building Society, the Grammar School, the racecourse, the School of Arts and many other establishments. For many years he was the proprietor of The Chronicle.

1901 H. Groom was a parliamentary speaker from 1883 to 1888 and was elected as the Darling Downs representative to the first Commonwealth Parliament in 1901. W. H. Groom died of a combination of bronchial catarrh and heart failure on August 8, 1901.

Sources

Local History files – LH/Groom Family
Local History files - Mayors A-L
Waterson, D.B. – “The remarkable career of William Henry Groom” R.A.H.S. Journal Vol. 49 Pt. 1 June 1963
Donges, Jacob – “William Henry Groom” n.d.

Kathleen Hildred Dickson was born on 17 March 1910 in Tenterfield, New South Wales. In 1918, she and her family moved first to Warwick, then Toowoomba.

Kath Dickson graduated from Fairholme College a senior prefect and dux and in 1928, at the age of 18, went to Brisbane to commence teacher training.

Best known for her long-term position as principal of the Toowoomba South Girls School, Kath began her teaching career in the west at places such as Pampas, Nangwee, Charleville and Langlow Crossing.

At the onset of World War II, Miss Dickson, who was then on staff at Toowoomba South Girls’ and Infants’ School, joined the V.A.D.s (later called the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service) and soon gained the rank of captain.

She was transferred to a unit of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Service set up to instruct troops on the opportunities available for training upon their return to civilian life. On returning to her teaching career after the war, Kath Dickson held a position at an infants’ school at Mackay West, then at Rockhampton Central Girls’ School.

She returned to South Girls’ and Infants’ School in Toowoomba as principal in 1960 and remained an integral part of the education of children in the city until her retirement 15 years later.

Kath Dickson was awarded the British Empire medal for her efforts with the Girl Guides and with Darling Downs students and because of the great impact that she has had on education, was in 1970 made Fellow of the Australian College of Education, making her the first non-graduate to be so honoured.

The Kath Dickson Family Centre, which was pioneered by Miss Dickson in her retirement, is Queensland’s largest family day care scheme and today serves more than 1000 children.

Kath Dickson died in November 2003. 

Sources

LH files – LH/Dickson, Kathleen Hildred and Kath Dickson Centre
Bonnin, Roberta Harriet Dazzling prospects: women in the Queensland Teachers Union since 1945. 1988.
Gillespie, Shirley Lips, Laplaps and Love. 1997.

George Essex Evans was born in London on June 18 1863 to Welsh parents. Evans’ father, John, was a Q.C. and a member of the House of Commons and unfortunately died not long after George’s birth. In 1881, at the age of 18, he migrated to Australia with his two sisters and brother.

They settled on a farm at Allora but George, finding farming disagreeable, sought employment as a teacher, journalist and then a public servant. He became Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at Gympie and later Toowoomba. By that stage, he was writing under the pseudonym “Christophus” and became editor of the Sydney journal, “The Antipodean”.

In 1899, Evans married Mrs Blanche Hopkins of Goodar Station, near Goondiwindi, and built them a home, “Glenbar” on the Tollbar Road on the eastern slope of the range. There was one child born of the marriage, a son, Bowen. Evans, a staunch democrat, was defensive of the rights of the ‘common man’ and so welcomed Federation as a means of attaining social justice.

He was particularly critical of the hypocrisy of bureaucracy at the time and this passion was evident in poems such as his “Ode to the Philistines”. His romanticism and sincere approval of pioneer women was reflected in such poems as “Women of the West”. Evans also excelled as a playwright, producing some works for the Brisbane Theatre: “Robinson Crusoe” a pantomime, and “Musical Whist”.

Being a lover of culture, Evans founded the Austral Society in Toowoomba in 1903, as a means of promoting music, art, literature, science and industry. This was the first association of this kind in Toowoomba and was based in a large hall, reputedly able to hold 8000 people. Each year the society held the immensely popular Austral Festival.

Evans had been a great advocate for the construction of a new range road and upon falling ill in 1909 was the first passenger to be conveyed over it when taken to the General Hospital on an ambulance litter. The men working on the new deviation were so genuinely overcome with sorrow for the poet who had worked hard to bring about the new road that they relieved the ambulance men of their duty and bore the litter up the range themselves.

He passed away soon after from complications from his surgery. He was 46 years of age. The news of his death was first delivered from the stage of the Austral Hall during the largest Austral Festival celebrations ever staged.

The funeral was held on Thursday, November 11, 1909, in St. James Church and he was buried at the Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery. Each year, since 1929 the Toowoomba Ladies’ Literary Society has organized a pilgrimage to the monument erected in his honour in Webb Park, Toowoomba.

Sources

LH files – LH/Evans, George Essex
LH files – LH/Austral Association
Tardent, Henry - “The life and poetry of George Essex Evans: essays written for the Brisbane 1913 Eisteddfod”, 1913.
Kelly, Veronica – “George Essex Evans and the early Australian theatre”, 1985.

John Alexander French was born on July 15, 1914, in Crow’s Nest, north of Toowoomba. His father, Albert French, was a barber originally from Tenterfield and his mother, Lucy, settled in Crows Nest with her family after moving from Charleville.

John attended the Crows Nest State Primary School from 1920 to 1928. In May of 1928, he sat for and successfully passed a demanding State scholarship examination. As a boy, John excelled at sports, and in rugby league he was known as 'The Flying Winger'.

John was renowned for his sense of fair play and protected those who were weaker. One childhood friend, Alf Blinco, remembers a time when he was accused of stealing and unjustly punished, John found the real culprits and brought them to justice thus exonerating his friend.

John enrolled as a State scholarship holder at the Toowoomba State High School and Technical College for his secondary schooling. He was popular and well regarded by his peers and the teachers. After completing his studies in 1929, John returned to Crows Nest and commenced an apprenticeship with his father.

When World War II became a certainty, John was the first in Crow’s Nest to enlist. He was posted to the 2/9th battalion and left home on October 23, 1939. This was the first battalion raised in Queensland in World War II.

On May 5 1940, after a period of intense training, the battalion embarked on the ‘Mauritania’ which carried them to the UK for further training. On January 1 1941 the battalion sailed to Alexandria and successfully captured the Italian fort of Giarabub. The battalion went on to battle at Tobruk before engaging in further training in Syria.

The battalion was eventually permitted to return to Australia for seven days leave followed by a new round of re-training using new methods. The men realised that a new enemy was to be faced to protect their families and their way of life, they must engage the Japanese.

At 4pm on September 4 1942, ‘B’ Company of the 2/9th battalion of which Corporal French was a member, encountered heavy Japanese fire at Milne Bay. After ordering his section to take cover, John bravely wiped out two Japanese gun posts.

As he advanced on the third however, he was hit with a barrage of bullets and fatally wounded but not before killing all of the three Japanese gun crews and successfully concluding the attack. John French was awarded the British Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross.

His was the first Victoria Cross awarded in Australia and the only one on the Downs.

Sources

Toowoomba State High School. Corporal J.A. French, V.C. Research Committee – “Corporal John Alexander French, V.C.”, 1983.
French, M & Waterson, D – “Darling Downs: a pictorial history 1850-1950” p. 219, 1982.

Benjamin Glennie was born in Dulwich, Surrey, England, the 12th son of Dr William Glennie, principal of a private school in Dulwich. Glennie arrived in Sydney on 16 January 1848 and was ordained deacon on 19 March.

On 29 July, 1850 he was appointed by Bishop Tyrell to be incumbent for the Darling Downs, resident at Drayton, the parish being called St. Matthew’s. Official records show that the first service of the Church of England on the Darling Downs was held by the Rev. Benjamin Glennie on 20 August 1848 in the Bull’s Head Inn, Drayton.

Throughout his appointment he travelled thousands of miles ministering to his widely spread flock. Late in 1850 Benjamin Glennie purchased two allotments in Drayton, comprising five acres, in trust for the Church of England. In 1851 the parsonage with its slab walls and shingle roof was completed, two of the rooms being used as a church.

The founding of the four evangelist churches – St. Matthew’s Drayton, St. Mark’s, Warwick, St Luke’s, Toowoomba and St. John’s Dalby, is directly attributable to his efforts. He is also honoured as the founder of the Glennie Memorial School.

In 1860 Glennie left Drayton and moved to Warwick where he remained till about 1872. While there, at the age of 56, he married Mary Broughton Crawshaw. He returned to Drayton about 1872. 1876 saw Glennie return to Brisbane to take charge of the Parish of Toowong from which he resigned the following year.

He remained as Archdeacon of Brisbane till 1886 and was then appointed the first honorary Canon of St. John’s Cathedral. From then until his death in 1900 he lived in retirement.

Sources

LH Files – LH/Glennie, Benjamin, Rev.
Brightman, Max – “Benjamin Glennie apostle of the Downs” Toowoomba, M. Brightman, 1983
Watson, Tom – “The Reverend Benjamin Glennie: a lone survivor?” Royal Historical Society of Qld Journal Vol. 14, no. 11, May 1992, Pp 433-448

Jesse Jewhurst Hilder was born on July 23, 1881, in Toowoomba, the eighth child of Henry Hilder, an engine driver from Sussex, and Elizabeth Hilder who was born in India. The family lived in a small weatherboard railway cottage in Mort Street owned by local merchant, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort.

J.J. Hilder attended the Toowoomba North State School until the family moved to Brisbane in 1890. In Brisbane, he continued his education at Fortitude Valley State School and then won a three-year scholarship to Brisbane Grammar School.

In 1898, Hilder commenced work at the Brisbane branch of the Bank of New South Wales. In 1901, he was transferred to Goulburn, NSW, then to Bega a year later and then in 1904 to Waverley. It was during these years that the symptoms of his pulmonary illness first appeared.

While at Waverley he was advised to show his watercolours to Julian Ashton and as a result he began to study at Ashton’s late afternoon classes. His paintings at this time were signed as “Anthony Hood” as he felt the bank may disapprove of his artistic interests.

In March 1906 Hilder moved to Sydney and became very ill with tuberculosis and after some time entered the Queen Victoria Home for Consumptives at Wentworth Falls. His paintings at this point were becoming increasingly popular and he was hailed by Streeton as a genius.

His marriage to Phyllis Meadmore on 28 April, 1909 was a turning point in Hilder’s life. With his wife’s encouragement, he began his new profession of full-time artist first based at Lawson in the Blue Mountains, then Parramatta, where their first son was born.

By the end of 1909 sales from his paintings totalled 200 pounds which was used to purchase a pony and trap to extend the range of his sketching sites. But by 1911, with sales of his works falling off and bills accumulating, Hilder had less than 2 pounds to his name.

It was in this year on 27 March that his second son was born. Between bouts of illness, Hilder continued his work and his paintings gradually increased in value. The family moved to Ryde, where they stayed until July 1912, then finally to “Inglewood”, near Hornsby.

On 10 April 1916, J.J. Hilder died from pulmonary tuberculosis and was buried in the Rookwood cemetery.

Sources

Hilder, J.J. - “The art of J.J. Hilder”, 1918
Hilder, Brett – “The heritage of J.J. Hilder”, 1966
LH files – LH/Hilder, J.J. “Australian Dictionary of Biography” Vol 9, pp 292-293, 1983.

Elizabeth Kenny was born in Warialda, New South Wales, on 20 September 1880. At age nine her family moved to the Clifton district and later to the Nobby district. When she was 18, Ms Kenny began training as a nurse in Sydney, but before completing her training, she returned to the Downs where she opened a small hospital at Clifton.

This was where she treated her first polio victim. While doctors immobilised the paralysed muscle in a cast or splint, Sister Kenny treated the limb with powerful massage and heat packs to keep it mobile. Sister Kenny enlisted in the AIF as a nurse when war broke out and was appointed a sister on 1 November 1917.

She returned to Australia in 1919 after having been wounded, receiving a British War Medal for her services. Back in Australia Sister Kenny became involved in the life of the community, being responsible for the formation of the Nobby CWA and became its first president in 1925.

In 1926 Sister Kenny invented the Sylvia stretcher to be used in the transport of accident cases to reduce shock. It was patented and sold in many countries. In the same year, Sister Kenny adopted Mary Stewart who later became one of her most significant therapists.

Clinics for the treatment of polio victims were opened in Townsville, Brisbane & Toowoomba. Although her unorthodox treatments for polio often brought her into conflict with the medical profession in Australia, Sister Kenny won acclaim in the U.S. where the Kenny Foundation for the treatment of infantile paralysis was set up in Minneapolis & other clinics were opened.

In 1951 Elizabeth Kenny was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and returned to Australia where she lived in Toowoomba until her death on 30 November 1952. She is buried in Nobby cemetery.

Sources

LH files – LH/Kenny, Elizabeth
Wallace, Elizabeth – “A tribute to Sister Elizabeth Kenny”, 1950.

Patrick Leslie was born on 25 September 1815 at Warthill, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the second son of William Leslie, 9th laird of Warthill and 8th of Folla. Patrick left London in December 1834, arriving in Sydney in May 1835.

By 1836 he was managing his uncle’s property at Collaroi in the Cassilis district of New South Wales, then rented Dunheved farm at Penrith for his own use.

When his brothers Walter and George arrived in the colony, Patrick decided to look for new land to the north outside the limits of settlement.

In 1840 he and a large party set out to look at the Clarence River District, but he decided to go on to look at the Darling Downs which had been discovered thirteen years earlier by Allan Cunningham.

Leslie took one convict, Peter Murphy, with him and traversed the southern Downs before deciding on the area that was to become Toolburra and Canning Downs as his first run. Thus in 1840 the Leslie’s became the first settlers on the Darling Downs.

Later in 1840 Patrick Leslie returned to Sydney and married Catherine Macarthur. By 1841, the Leslies had sold their right to Toolburra and moved to Canning Downs, which was managed by Patrick’s brothers George and Walter.

In 1845 Patrick bought 34 acres of land in Brisbane and built Newstead House, where he lived while pasturing his flocks on Canning Downs, now owned by his brothers. In 1847 Leslie sold Newstead House and bought Goomburra Station.

At the first land sale in Warwick 1848, Patrick Leslie bought the first allotment. Leslie actively supported the movement for separation from New South Wales and presided over the first public meeting held at Drayton to press this issue.

He represented Wide Bay, Moreton, Burnett and Maranoa in the first New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1857. After selling Goomburra to Robert Tooth, the Sydney brewer, Leslie settled in New South Wales where he remained until the late 1860s.

He then visited New Zealand, taking up land at Waikato. He sold his holding in New Zealand in 1879 and returned to Sydney where he died on 12 August 1881.

Sources

Australian Encyclopedia Vol. 5 Sydney: Grolier Society of Australia, 1965
Australian Dictionary of biography Vol. 2 Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1966
LH Files – LH/Leslie Family

Mr Jim Logan O.A.M (1933 - 2009) affectionately known as "Mr Clifton", was one of the most courteous, caring and knowledgeable residents. Jim played a significant part in the community throughout his life, and even after failing health restricted his ability to get about, he continued to contribute to the district he loved.

One of Jim's great attributes was his ability to recall the history of the town and district. Anyone wanting to know anything was generally directed to Jim and he didn't disappoint, happy to share his accurate knowledge.

The Clifton Courier, Clifton Shire Council and the community owe Jim a debt of gratitude for the many occasions upon which we called upon Jim's knowledge to help in serving the community.

Source

Information courtesy of The Clifton Courier.

James Marks was born in Yeovil, Somerset, England, the son of Paul Marks. He began working life in 1850 for building contractors, Joseph and Charles Rigby of Westminster as an office boy and storekeeper for the firm’s works at Bristol.

After 1852 he began work as a carpenter for the same firm. Until 1859, Marks worked for this and other building firms on similar jobs but having taught himself construction, joinery and drawing in the meantime, he was eager to upgrade his construction skills.

James Marks’ first appointment upon his arrival in Queensland in 1866 was as a builder and architect in Dalby engaged on “sundry works” until 1868 when he was contracted to carry out extensive building operations on the Darling Downs properties of Davenport and Fisher.

Among these buildings are the impressive farm buildings at Headington Hill. Marks was for a time in 1874 contractor for the Dalby Police Barracks and then moved to Toowoomba where he and his elder son Harry set about becoming a dominant force in architecture for more than half a century.

He became a member of the Toowoomba sawmilling firm of Filshie Broadfoot and Co. thereby maintaining his practical interest in the building trade. Marks showed political interest also, by standing as a candidate for the East Ward in the 1896 municipal elections and was a foundation member of the Pioneer Club.

Among his many achievements, Marks designed several churches, the most notable being St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral for which he won a design competition in 1884. He also won another competition for the design of the Toowoomba Public Baths in 1894.

James Marks’ impact on this city was considerable and can still be seen today in buildings such as:

  • St Matthew’s Church of England Drayton
  • “Weetwood” for William Scholefield, Tor street
  • additions to Toowoomba Grammar School
  • “Redlands” for Edmund Wilcox (later Concordia College)
  • the grandstand at Clifford Park racecourse
  • Beirne’s Chambers, Margaret street
  • Warby’s (later Tattersall’s) horse bazaar, Margaret street
  • St Patrick’s Cathedral
  • St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church
  • As James Marks & Son, nurses quarters at the Toowoomba Hospital
  • “Smithfield” for James Taylor, Panda street
  • additions to St Denis’ Private Hospital (now 4AK building)
  • “Spreydon” for Robert Filshie, cnr Rome and Warra streets
  • “Vacy” for Gilbert Gostwyck Cory, Russell street.

James Marks passed away on 29 October 1915 in Toowoomba; he was predeceased in 1913 by his wife Elizabeth Marsh.

Sources

Watson, Donald “Queensland Architects of the 19th Century” Brisbane: Qld Museum, c1994.

John Francis (Jack) McCafferty was born at Breakfast Creek, Brisbane on March 11, 1914, the son of James McCafferty, a railway engine driver, and Martha.

The family moved to Warwick in 1919 where Jack attended Warwick East State School. They then moved to Toowoomba and Jack was enrolled at Wilson State School. Jack lived at his grandfather’s house in Gowrie Road (later renamed Bridge Street) during this time.

When he was 13, Jack returned to Warwick and began earning money by selling newspapers and magazines on the platform at Warwick Railway Station. He found that he enjoyed merchandising and dealing with the public. He also delivered meat on a bicycle on weekends for extra money.

During the depression, Jack helped his Aunt on her farm and managed to persuade her to allow him to take the horse and cart and try to sell milk in the early mornings.

Competition was fierce and Jack often found himself subject to beatings and dirty tricks. By 1939 Silverwood Dairy, as he called his business, was selling 250 gallons a day and Jack was starting work at 2am each day. Jack married Lorna Schultz of Millmerran in 1939. The couple encountered much opposition to their union as the country readied itself for war because Jack was Catholic and Lorna was Lutheran.

On April 1 1940, Jack began his first bus run. He had purchased a Picnic Point – Rangeville service that had been running for 15 years. Jack established the bus ticket system to counter the profit-ravaging effects of the previous driver’s tendency to let some of the ladies travel for free. During the war years, parts, tyres and fuel were scarce. Coupons had to be obtained for each month’s fuel usage and a special permit from the Superintendent of Traffic was required to buy a new tyre.

Jack began to expand his business in 1944 by buying out two other services and eventually built the business to include long distance coach tours, a travel information centre and a whole fleet of buses and coaches.

In 1955, Jack was elected as an Alderman to the Toowoomba City Council and within three years he was Mayor, an office he held for nine years until his defeat in 1967. During this time he came to be regarded as a dynamic Mayor who put Toowoomba on the map.

Jack McCafferty passed away on January 12 1999 at the age of 84 after a two year battle with cancer. His funeral was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and was attended by more than 1000 people. Some arrived in the lovingly restored 1938 Bedford bus that had been Jack’s second vehicle and had been recently purchased back and repainted by his son Tony. The bus was presented to Jack on his 83rd birthday.

Sources

LH files – LH/McCafferty, Jack Talbot, Don – “McCafferty, King of the road”, 1995.

James Mowen was considered the 'Father of Clifton' and established the first business in Clifton. A memorial cairn is located in Clark Street, Clifton, across from the former Bank of New South Wales.

James, who died in 1897, left a considerable sum of money for the erection of a monument over his grave. It was deemed by the trustees of his will that a church would be "a suitable and substantial monument" and so James Mowen's remains were removed from the Clifton Cemetery and placed in such a position that the new Catholic Church would be built over his grave.

Ellen O’Brien was born Ellen Fitzgerald in Bantry, County Cork, Ireland in 1858.  Ellen was orphaned while still a child and so her uncle took care of her until, at 21, she emigrated to Australia. At that time, she had another uncle, Edward, living near Clifton, Queensland. 

Once in Toowoomba, Ellen went to work for Dr and Mrs Roberts at their home “Finchley” in Mort Street as a housemaid. 

Margaret O’Brien, who was on the same ship as Ellen, also worked at “Finchley” and had a stepbrother named Patrick, with whom Ellen soon became acquainted. 

The couple married in 1884 at St Patrick’s Church and shortly after established themselves as storekeepers in a grocery produce shop in Russell Street, Toowoomba. Patrick and Ellen soon became aware of the local farmers dissatisfaction with the only mill in town, the Dominion Mill, and in 1899 the O’Brien’s and their partner, George Crisp, opened their mill ‘in defiance’ of the Dominion Mill. 

Mr Crisp had been the manager at the Dominion Mill but was dissatisfied with his lack of power there and felt that his talents were wasted.  The Defiance Mill originally stood where Rowes is now, on the corner of Russell and Victoria Streets. Defiance Mill proved a very successful venture and by 1901 larger premises were needed. Cock’s Mill, known as the Toowoomba Steel Roller Flour Mill in Ruthven Street was purchased. 

In 1903, the Defiance Milling Company acquired a mill in South Brisbane where Patrick took up the position of manager while residing in Sandgate each week with his two elder daughters.

At the age of 63, on October 28, 1906, Patrick O’Brien passed away, leaving Ellen at 48 with 10 children between the ages of four and 22, a thriving milling business to run and the grocery shop.  Added to this, probate had to be paid to the Government by the beneficiaries of Patrick’s will.  This was especially damaging to those who were asset rich and cash poor as the O’Briens then were.

In 1911 Ellen built a bigger more modern flourmill, which was devastated by fire on March 9 1913 causing losses valued at ₤13000. Fortunately the mill was well insured. In 1914 new premises for the grocery shop and a new grain store were built and in this same year Mr. Crisp sold his share of the mill to Ellen.

Ellen lost two sons in the First World War: William was killed in action in France and Tony, who returned from war safely, but his health deteriorated and he died a few years later.

At the end of 1918, Mr Crisp retired as manager of the mill.  This position was taken up by Ellen’s second son, Thomas Patrick, known as ‘TP’.  Thomas was at that time 26 years of age and already an accomplished flour miller, having worked in mills in Homebush, Sydney and Young in New South Wales.  Ellen remained Chairman of Directors and Anthony, Ellen’s eldest son, was a Director from the time of his return from war until his untimely death shortly after.

In 1923 Ellen was diagnosed with cancer that failed to respond to treatment.  At the time of her death on July 17, 1924, Ellen O’Brien had greatly increased the value of the family’s enterprises, established herself as a great benefactress to many good causes and paid the largest amount of rates of any landowner in town.

Sources

Lindsay, N.J. – “Stars under the Southern Cross : the untold stories of Queensland’s family business” 2000? Pp 197-200
Hinchliffe, B. (ed.) – “They meant business  : an illustrated history of eight Toowoomba enterprises” 1984. Pp 25-47
Rafferty, M. – “The O’Brien family and the Defiance Milling Co.”, 1980
Badgery, M. – “80 years in Defiance : a history of the Defiance Milling Company 1899 – 1979”, 1979

William James Peak was born at Penzance, Cornwall on December 3, 1831. He gathered many farming skills there until, at 26, he and his wife Jane (nee Ladner), migrated to Queensland on the 'Ascendant'. They arrived in Brisbane on June 24, 1858. 

Their journey from Brisbane to Drayton was by river steamer from Brisbane to Ipswich and then a mail cart from Ipswich to Drayton.

Mr and Mrs William Peak were hired by William Handcock, a Drayton storekeeper, and paid ₤50 per annum. Afterwards, Peak began a career in the New South Wales Police Force (Queensland was part of NSW at that time). 

Following separation from NSW, he worked in the Queensland Police Force. In this capacity, he served as escort to Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen and later, Judge Lutwyche when he arrived to open the Supreme Court in Drayton.

He next took on work as a builder’s assistant with contractor Alexander McPherson. Peak also accepted work sinking wells by hand and fencing on station properties. In 1859, Peak purchased a farmlet of seven acres in Drayton and added to it over time. 

He excelled at agriculture and his first crop of wheat sold well. In keeping with his agricultural interests, Peak was one of the founders of the Drayton and Toowoomba Agricultural and Horticultural Society, as well as a life member. 

In 1897, Peak’s maize and barley were exhibited at the Colonial Institute in London. Drayton was constituted a municipality in 1862 and Peak was one of the six elected candidates. Later when Drayton Shire Council was established, he was elected its first chairman. He served on Council for 52 years before retiring in 1914.

His chief interests lay in the construction of the Drayton railway deviation, which was opened in 1915. This railway benefited travellers by shortening the journey south by 10 miles.

Peak also took a keen interest in the Drayton State School, serving on its committee for many years, and also the Drayton Cricket Club of which he was President. His political allegiance was in the Liberal interest and as such he consistently supported the Hon. W.H. Groom, and later Sir Littleton Groom.

Peak was an active member of the Methodist Church in Drayton from its inception.

He reared a family of three sons and three daughters and was widowed at the age of 67.  Peak passed away on his 90th birthday on December 3, 1921.

Sources

Donges, J. – “Early Drayton History and William James Peak, J.P.”
LH/files – LH/Peak family

Dr Thomas Arthur Price was born 10 October 1871 in Brisbane and received his education at the Brisbane Grammar School. He later travelled to Edinburgh where he matriculated in 1893. He then qualified in medicine in 1899 and later went to London to study ophthalmology. On his return to Australia, he took up a position in Queensland at the Willowburn Mental Hospital and then in 1903 he set up private practice as an ear, eye, nose and throat specialist in Toowoomba.

Dr Price married Hester Constance Borton in 1905 and had five children, three sons and two daughters. Two of his sons died, one in childhood and the other, an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force, was killed during the second World War, in 1943. Mrs Price died the following year.

Dr and Mrs Price lived on the range overlooking Table Top in a house called “Geeumbi” at the eastern end of South street. Near this house, on the slopes of the range in Redwood Park, Dr Price set up the 'Eagle’s Nest Swagmen’s Camp' during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

This camp was to be a “self-help rest camp” for the unemployed to stay for a week or two, gain good food, a clean bed and fresh hope. The camp is believed to have operated from about 1932 to 1937. Another of Dr Price’s greatest claims to fame is his mosquito eradication program which he put into implementation after he was elected to the city council.

He also served one term as Mayor of Toowoomba. On 4 February 1956 the 'Dr Price Memorial Centre' officially opened. It was named to honour the great works that Dr Price had done for the city, his love for his fellow man and his enthusiasm in the cause of the underprivileged.

Dr Price attended this official opening but it was his last visit to Toowoomba. A year later, on 1 May 1957, Dr Price died in Darwin at the age of 86.

Sources

LH Files – LH/Price, Dr Thomas
Cook, Beryl – “Dr Thomas Price and public health” D.D.I.A.E. assignment, 1981

Miss Nellie E Robinson  was born in Toowoomba and educated at North State School, Glennie Memorial School and St. Hilda’s at Southport. After completing a tour of Britain in the late 1930s, Miss Robinson began a three year course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

She returned to Toowoomba before completing the course when her mother become ill, at the outbreak of World War II. Miss Robinson taught briefly at Fairholme, then became a driver with the Women’s Voluntary Auxiliary for the remainder of the War.

Next she joined radio station 4GR for a short time before moving to 2LM Lismore where she established her own women’s session on air.

Her father then persuaded her to join him in his flourishing grocery business which she carried on after his death in 1949. The business was sold in 1967 after she became very busy as mayor.

Miss Robinson was elected as alderman in 1961 and was elected Queensland’s first woman mayor in 1967. The Queen’s New Year Honours list in 1979 made her an officer of the Order of the British Empire for “distinguished service to local government”.

She was President of the committee which raised funds to build the Senior Citizens clubrooms in Victoria Street and was dedicated to the development of East Creek Park. A park on the southern side of Toowoomba is named in her honour.

Miss Robinson had a particular interest in dramatic art and cultural activities and was a trustee of the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and was actively involved in the Toowoomba Repertory Company. Nell Robinson retired in 1981 because of ill-health.

She passed away on 19 September 1992 and is buried at the Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery. The Robinson Collection within the Toowoomba City Library is so named because of a generous twenty thousand dollar bequest from Miss Robinson.

Sources

LH Files – LH/Robinson, Nellie Elizabeth

Charles Rowbotham was born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England in December 1858. In his early years he worked at the Marshal boot and shoe factory with his brother William.

William left for Australia in 1876 and on his arrival in Toowoomba set up a shoe factory in an old shed on the property where the ambulance station now stands.  He wrote to Charles to urge him to come to Australia to help him with the business. Charles and his new wife travelled to Australia in 1884 on a ‘honeymoon’ trip.

Soon after his arrival, Charles, with his brother William, purchased land in Herries Street for a factory. Their boot manufacturing business flourished and two retail business were opened, one in Pittsworth and the other in Clifton.  These stores were both successful.

In about 1886, Charles purchased two properties in South Street on either side of High Street.  He built a house on the property west of High Street.  In the early 1900s, the brothers dissolved their partnership after a dispute and Charles eventually offered the original site to the Ambulance Committee, of which he was a member, for purchase.

After disposing of the wholesale business, Charles established a retail business in Ruthven Street, thought to have been where Macdonald & Rosbrook stands today. He then finally moved to a building at the corner of Ruthven and Bell Streets which he first had demolished and rebuilt.

Charles was elected Alderman of South Ward in 1897 and Mayor in 1902 and 1903. He successfully campaigned to have the sanitary depot removed to a more suitable location. 

He is also known for having improved Toowoomba’s roads, most notably he had Kitchener Street extended from James Street to Perth Street for the convenience of the residents of the south-east part of town.
The Rowbotham family then took a 12 month holiday in England. 

Charles sold his property in South Street at this time and gave the property on the eastern side of High Street to the Education Department to build a school. This site now accommodates Rangeville State School. 

Upon his return from England, Charles purchased the Nundora Estate from the Reverend Canon Pugh, Rector of St. Luke’s Anglican Church, and had it surveyed into allotments, which sold rapidly. 

He also purchased the remainder of the Grange Estate, extending from Grange Street back to the properties fronting Margaret Street, and built a residence on the corner of Grange and Clifford Streets.

After some time, Charles sold all his Toowoomba property and moved to Sydney. He passed away there at the age of 92, leaving a large sum of ₤23,000 to Dr Barnados Homes in England.

Sources

LH/files – LH/Mayors, Toowoomba
Gant, W.C. – “History of William John and Charley Rowbotham”

Steele Rudd (Arthur Hoey Davis) was born on 14 November 1868 to Mary and Tom Davis of Drayton. When Arthur was about four years old, the large family of fifteen moved to Emu Creek near Stanthorpe.

Arthur left Emu Creek school at twelve and went on to work as a tarboy on Pilton Station. At seventeen, Arthur went droving but, with the encouragement of his mother, soon after attained the position of Curator of Intestate Estate in Brisbane.

It was while in Brisbane that Arthur joined a rowing club and became a great rower and he began writing sketches about people involved in rowing under the name of “Steele Rudder”. Arthur began to write the “Selection” stories to combat his homesickness for the farm and the bush.

When the Bulletin received his first articles they declared that they would take all that he wrote. “On our selection” was published by locally born literary critic, A.G. Stevens who was oblivious to Steele Rudd’s true identity until he published the second “selection” book.

In 1903, Davis was retrenched from the civil service and began the Steele Rudd Magazine, illustrated by Ashton Murphy the famous black and white artist. In 1907, Steele Rudd moved to Sydney to be closer to the literary scene.

This move badly affected his wife, whose health deteriorated, which resulted in the termination of the magazine. The family returned to Greenmount where Davis continued to write successfully but usually failed to secure financial rights to his work.

Once the farm was running well, Davis formed the Darling Downs Polo Association. He became chairman of the Cambooya Shire and chairman of the District Recruiting Committee when war broke out. After the war, Davis continued to write but had to give up the farm and so the family moved to Brisbane.

In 1921, Davis was instrumental in forming the group named Queensland Authors and Artists Association, which is today known as the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Arthur Hoey Davis died on October 11, 1935 and is buried at Toowong Cemetery.

Sources

LH Files – LH/RUD Davis, Eric Drayton – “The life & times of Steele Rudd”, 1976
Fotheringham, Richard – “In search of Steele Rudd”, 1995

Henry Stuart Russell was born March 1818 at Halliford, Middlesex, England, the son of an East India Company Officer. At the age of 22 he migrated to Australia and stayed with his cousin Arthur Hodgson on his New England station.

After Hodgson and Gilbert Elliott established Eton Vale on the Darling Downs in 1840, Russell became their guest. He and his brother Sydenham took up Cecil Plains Station on the Darling Downs the next year and occupied it till 1849.

Cecil Plains Station stretched for about 30 miles on either side of the Condamine River, the property having been named after their mother. Henry Stuart Russell took part in a couple of exploring expeditions looking for another property.

His party discovered and named the Boyne River which was later proved to be the head of the Burnett River.

Russell then took up Burrandowan Station which he later sold in 1847. During 1843 the brothers built a comfortable cottage at Cecil Plains & were visited there by Ludwig Leichhardt in 1844. Leichhardt also went that way again on his last ill-fated expedition.

H. S. Russell entered into a partnership with James Taylor who occupied Cecil Plains, & it was not long after this that Russell left Cecil Plains and settled in Brisbane. He undertook a trip to England to visit his family, returning in 1851.

In 1853 he was elected to the Legislative Council of New South Wales. He resigned in 1855 and again travelled to England when he supported moves to separate the Moreton Bay District from New South Wales. In 1859 Russell’s interest in Cecil Plains Station was sold to James Taylor, & he returned to Sydney where eventually he suffered serious financial reverses.

In 1888 he again sailed for England, where he died on 5 March, 1889. Russell was twice married and had a family of five sons and one daughter. Russell is best remembered for his “The Genesis of Queensland” published in 1888.

Although sometimes inaccurate in details, it is a valuable and lively record of the early settlement of Queensland and the growth of the pastoral industry.

Sources

LH Files – LH/Russell, Henry Stuart
Bedwell Kempton – “Gaining Knowledge”, 1968
Wales, Murdoch – “Russell of Cecil plains” n.d.
Fletcher, Enid – “Three pioneers of the black soil plains of the Darling Downs” n.d.

Henry Spiro was born to Jewish parents in Posen, Prussia in October 1839. He travelled to Queensland in 1861 at the age of 22 and arrived in Toowoomba in 1863. Once settled, he took up a partnership with a Mr Benjamin and opened a store in Stuart Street (now known as Geddes Street).   

In 1865, Spiro and Benjamin built a modern two-story brick building on the southeast corner of Ruthven and Margaret Streets. The partnership became known for its generosity and honesty particularly during the 1860s depression.  After 1868, when the partnership had dissolved and Benjamin moved to Dalby, Spiro continued on with the business alone.

Jewish weddings were reported to have been performed at the store frequently. The very first Jewish wedding performed in Toowoomba was held at Benjamin’s house in Stuart Street on March 3, 1873. Spiro was elected as an alderman in the Municipal Council in 1869 making him only the second German to serve on Council after Henry Flori. 

In 1870 he was elected Mayor and held that position until 1872. Spiro is also reported to have held a position as a Magistrate. An active supporter of the Hebrew faith, Spiro was largely responsible for the erection of Queensland’s first synagogue known as Beth Ysrael Synagogue in Neil Street. 

The site is presently occupied by the Redeemer Lutheran Church. At the same time that Benjamin and Spiro purchased the land in Neil Street for the synagogue, they bought a section of the Drayton cemetery for Jewish burials.

Spiro’s health deteriorated and on 10 December 1876, at the age of 36, Spiro died from ‘Cirrhosis, Dropsy’. At the time of his death, Spiro’s business had bad debts accumulating to ₤10 000, many of which were more than 10 years old. The state of the business and Spiro’s declining health are believed to be results of his great generosity to his customers during the 1866 economic crisis, by allowing credit purchases when everybody else wanted cash.

In his will, Spiro ensured that his large family would be taken care of and that ₤25 was to be paid to the building of a new synagogue in Elizabeth Street, Sydney and ₤15 was to be donated to the building of a synagogue in Brisbane.

After Spiro’s early demise, the Jewish community eventually dispersed and the building and land was sold to the Lutheran Church in 1929.
Spiro’s business was purchased by his old partner, Mr Benjamin, but his debts were too large and in May 1880, the property was sold to the Australian Joint Stock Bank for ₤4500.

Sources

LH files – LH/Jews – Toowoomba and Darling Downs
LH files – LH/Mayors, Toowoomba
Ochert, Morris S. – “Darling Downs Jewry and the Toowoomba Hebrew Congregation”, 1996

Job Eagles Stone was born in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England on 5 November 1860. He emigrated to Australia with his parents when he was 13 years old.

Stone’s first job in Toowoomba was as a newspaper boy. He then commenced work as an apprentice to G and J Blacks, master printers.  He remained with the firm for 15 years including a five-year placement in the company’s Brisbane branch.

Stone entered into a partnership in the printing and bookselling business with Mr George Black and Mr John McDonald in 1893.

The business thrived and in 1923 new premises were required. This new shop was two storeys and cost in the vicinity of ₤2000. By this time, Stone had three sons in the profession, Jerry, Ralph and Vernon who worked in the business while Stone retained the position of governing director.

Stone had many other interests in Toowoomba apart from his profession. Most notable was his lengthy service on Toowoomba’s Council. He was elected as an alderman for the then East Ward in 1907, 1908, 1910, 1911, 1923, 1924 and from 1930 until 1933. He served as mayor of Toowoomba in 1909.

Stone was one of the founders of the Harlaxton State School and held the position of secretary on the school committee for many years.  He was also director of the Darling Downs Building Society from its inception in 1897, as well as a director of Security Trust Co. 

The Darling Downs Building Society merged with the Toowoomba Permanent Building Society in 1981 to become Heritage Building Society. In 1906, Stone began his political career on the Highfields Shire Council as councillor.

Stone was greatly interested in amateur dramatics and became president of the Austral Association for a year in 1907.

At 28 years of age, Stone married Maria Beer on 6 December 1888. She bore him four sons and two daughters; Ralph, Patti, Jeffrey, Elsie, Vernon and Nelson. Maria died at the age of 41 on 15 March 1906 while giving birth to her sixth child Nelson, who also died the following month. 

In January 1908, Job married Maria’s younger sister Elsie, who gave him four further children; Leigh, Sheila, Eula and Lemnos. Elsie died at the age of 43 on August 24, 1918.

Job Stone died at the age of 74 on September 14, 1935. He is buried with his family in the Old Methodist section of the Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery.

Sources

LH/files – LH/Mayors, Toowoomba

James Taylor was born in Clifford, Yorkshire, England in 1820 (exact date unknown). He migrated to Australia in 1840, probably on the “James Pattison”.

Taylor worked in pastoral industries before arriving on the Darling Downs in 1848, where he became the sole proprietor of the property in 1859. He married Sarah Boulton in 1850 in the first marriage ceremony performed on the Darling Downs (the wedding was held at Drayton).

They had five sons and four daughters. In 1860, Taylor became the member for the Western Downs in the first Queensland Legislative Assembly.

He set up office in Toowoomba and held the seat until 1870 when he resigned after a dubious land deal in which large areas of the Cecil Plains district were withheld from selection, only to be sold to James Taylor in 1870.

Taylor lost the subsequent election against W.H Groom in the seat of Toowoomba. In 1871, he was offered a seat on the Queensland Legislative Council which he held until 1893, resigning due to ill health. Taylor was the first president of the Toowoomba School of Arts and the Royal Agricultural Society.

He was also involved in the Queensland Turf Club, Queensland Club and the Toowoomba Grammar School. Taylor was a generous donor to the local Anglican parishes. He is also remembered for importing the first steam-driven sawmills to Toowoomba and was a significant land holder in the town, including the Royal Hotel.

He was a member of the Union Club which commissioned the building of Clifford House in Russell Street in 1860. Taylor and his family took up residence in the building in 1870. In 1890, Taylor was elected mayor of Toowoomba. Taylor died on October 19th 1895 at Clifford House.

Sources

Fletcher, Enid – “Three pioneers of the black soil plains of the Darling Downs” n.d.
Anderson, Faye – “Hon. James Taylor”, 1974
LH files – LH/Taylor, James & Sarah

Helen Tolmie was born in 1866 in Invergordon, Scotland and came to Australia in the late 1860s while still very young . Her father, Roderick Tolmie, once in Australia, became manager of Wallan Station in the Dulacca district.

The committee of the Toowoomba General Hospital decided in 1889, to commence training their own nurses and Miss Tolmie was the first probationer engaged. Once her training was complete she remained at the General Hospital in the position of Sister until 1896.

During this time, Sister Tolmie led the movement which instigated the Hospital Help Society, was proactive in the establishment of the Victoria Wing of the General Hospital and, with the aid of Dr Freshney and others, established the Mothers Hospital.

Nurse Tolmie is also credited with assisting the first appendectomy in Toowoomba. In 1896 Nurse Tolmie undertook a course in midwifery at the Lady Brown Hospital in Brisbane, but soon returned to the Toowoomba General Hospital as the unanimously appointed Matron in 1897.

Matron Tolmie resigned in 1917 in order to take up a position at the Military Hospital at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane. Although working tirelessly with the wounded soldiers, her greatest regret was not having had the opportunity to serve overseas.

She had been urged to stay in Australia as many wounded soldiers were returning and many young nurses needed to be trained. Matron Tolmie and the other nurses at the Kangaroo Point Military Hospital were sent to the Kyogle district of New South Wales to help during the pneumonic influenza epidemic.

She then acquired St Andrew’s Private Hospital on the corner of Clifford and Herries Street, Toowoomba, where she served the community until her retirement in 1942.

Matron Tolmie is most remembered for her friendly and caring nature, her devotion to the sick and her tireless charitable works and was often likened to Florence Nightingale. She died on January 27, 1945 and is buried in the Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery.

Sources

LH files – LH/Hospitals, Toowoomba and Darling Downs
LH files – LH/Tolmie, Helen (Ella)
McDowell, Vikki – “The History of Toowoomba General Hospital, 1983
McInnes, Duncan – “Toowoomba General Hospital”, 1952