Chillagoe and Mt Garnet
Jack & Newell’s stores at Mt Garnet and Chillagoe date back
to the early minerals rush of the
Once tin was discovered at Herberton in 1880, thousands of miners made
their way to the
region, looking for other payable mineral deposits. Silver,
copper and zinc were found at Mt Garnet and copper, lead, silver, mica
and some gold were all claimed at Chillagoe Station.
the turn of the century, both Mt Garnet and Chillagoe were thriving townships,
aided by rail lines financed by John Moffat – William
Jack and John Newell’s old friend from Stanthorpe.
mining boom proved short lived – especially for Mt Garnet. John
Moffat’s copper and silver mining company collapsed in 1901. Chillagoe
fared a little better. Its mines and smelters made it through until the
1940s, largely because of State ownership, but they never once returned
more nimble Jack & Newell survived the boom and bust cycles of the
mining industry in both towns by focusing their business on the region’s
through to the 70s, the poor state of the Far North’s road network
meant that station owners or workers rarely came to town to shop. Instead,
they ordered bulk supplies of food and equipment through Jack & Newell.
& Newell’s Mt Garnet store was sold in the early 70s to the
MacDonald brothers, who still run a general store from the Jack &
Chillagoe store was closed in the early 80s, after the firms assets were
sold to Primac. It was the last Jack & Newell store to close.
William Jack and John Newell met John Moffat on the Stanthorpe tin mining
fields in the
early 1870s, it was a fortuitous connection for all three men.
In 1880, Jack and Newell brought Moffat into their Great Northern Tin
Mine at Herberton, which proved to be the beginning of a mining empire.
went on to own and operate a network of mines, batteries and smelters
at Herberton, Irvinebank, Mt Garnet and Chillagoe (and a few smaller places
in between). He also financed
the construction of private rail lines to service his operations at both
Mt Garnet, Mt Molloy and Chillagoe.
all this mining and building activity, one would expect to find Jack &
Newell stores in John Moffat’s towns, servicing John Moffat’s
mines and workforce.
is surprising is the scale of the materials Jack & Newell sourced
and supplied for their good friend’s business enterprises.
Headrick worked at Jack & Newell in Cairns around the turn of the
century, and later wrote …
I was managing Jack & Newell, we brought in all the railway material
to build the line right to Mungana. We handled all the material to build
the Chillagoe Smelters and the OK smelters. And we also handled all
their slabs of copper. We handled all the material to build the line
from Lappa to Mt Garnet At that time Mt Garnet had three or 4 hotels
and a couple of banks. Later we handled all the material to build the
line to Stannary Hills for John Darling and later again all the material
for the line from Biboohra to Mt Molloy, and for the smelters there".
- Cairns Historical Society Bulletin #26, Feb 1961
the mining industry came and went (and came again) throughout the 20th
Century in the
Far North, Jack & Newell developed a firm clientele of cattle station
owners and workers.
Jack & Newell understood, beyond the fertile volcanic soils of the
Tablelands, the only permanent business in the Far North was beef cattle
production. Cattle stations stretched from the edges of the Atherton Tablelands
to the Qld border and up to the tip of Cape York.
poor quality of the Far North’s road network meant stations were
reluctant to risk their
trucks on regular trips to town, while the wet season made even the best
roads impassable for months at a time.
relied on bulk supplies from Jack & Newell, delivered by a mixture
of rail and specialist carters.
Todd's husband Bobby worked for Jack & Newell at Chillagoe from 1953,
before taking over the management of the store in the mid 1960's, and
she says that most of their customers were station people.
the stations from Chillagoe to Dunbar got groceries, whatever, and drapery,
from Jack and Newell’s in Chillagoe … the people that ordered
had to pay carters so much to bring their stuff out to the stations
… you name it they had it. Anything that they had to have to keep
them alive, all that they have to eat….you always had big orders
in September because in September they had to have their orders out
there by the 1st of October, otherwise they wouldn’t get them
because the rains would come by then and the roads would be impassable.
The wet weather order, which is what we use to call it, was always a
very, very big order. They ordered everything from horseshoes, to horseshoe
nails, to salt, sugar all by the bag, and tin fruit, all by the cases
and things like that. In case…everything in tin stuff was by the
case. So, that was their orders.”
provided this original wet season order from Highbury Station, which at
the time was an outstation of Wrotham Park Station, just outside Chillagoe.
• Look at an order from
the Far North, Aboriginal people were a part of Jack & Newell’s
Around Herberton, Aboriginal people were some of many locals who mined
tin in small quantities and sold it through the local Jack & Newell
store. Across the regions, Aboriginal men also worked as timber cutters
and in the saw mills; picking tobacco; on the railways; on the tin mining
dredges around Mt Garnet; and most particularly, in the cattle industry.
Kevin Marsh managed Jack & Newell’s Mt Garnet store from 1965.
was a fair few Aboriginals working in the area, a fair few working on
the stations and a fair few working on the tin dredges too at that time,
because one tin dredge used to employ about 80 men and another one employed
about 50 men.”
Dyer worked at Jack & Newell’s Mareeba store from 1963
also had a lot of Aboriginals that used to come in and they would …
I can remember Mr. Hood would cash their cheques and then he’d
hold some money for them … it was mainly people on the stations
that use to do that because they’d come to town and say they’d
have a bit of a party, so then they’d have their money and they’d
just blow the whole lot … so he used to keep a hold of it for
a while and they’d come and get dribs and drabs until there was
none left … he was very honest. We use to record it all, you know,
and he’d come and say how much has Dick Dumdruff got? and how
much'd be left, you know. We recorded it all … it really was a
good company like that, because you know, because when you’re
in a small town you have to help one another”.
Queensland, as in much of Australia, right through until the 1960s many
Aboriginal people did not have direct access to their own wages. Government
policy dictated that Aboriginal workers on cattle stations and Aboriginal
missions received only a proportion of their wages directly.
rest of their money was paid into a Queensland Government controlled ‘Trust
Account’ and Aboriginal workers had to ask permission to access
their funds, even for money to shop at Jack & Newell.
the Far North, it was local police who acted as agents for the Department
of Native – and later – Aboriginal Affairs, as Kevin and Fay
Marsh from Jack & Newell’s Mt Garnet store remember …
to Listen to Kevin and Fay Marsh - or simply read the comments below
the Aboriginal would go to the police station and they’d write
them out I don’t know what kind of form .. the policeman used
to bring it down, like jodhpurs and riding boots and all that sort of
stuff and it was booked to the Protector of Aboriginal and Islander
Affairs or something. The police controlled the accounts through the
Department of Aboriginal and Islander affairs or something. And tobacco,
they used to put that on it too.”
Cassie Todd from Jack & Newell at Chillagoe also remembers …
was fairly big then, Chillagoe, and we had a lot of the Aboriginals,
they shopped at the Jack and Newell's store and they had their payday
every.…well a pension, a part of them, because they had their
payday every fortnight, they always shopped at Jack and Newell's. Then
when they came in from their stations, well, years ago, they use to
have to go to the police station get their drapery order and their grocery
order and then they’d come down from the police station and get
their orders and the shop used to be crowded then, when they first came
in from the stations, to get their food and their drapery.”
out for the cattle!
When Cassie Todd and her husband Bob arrived at Chillagoe in the early
1950s, they discovered
a town infested by rubber vine and where the cattle had the run of the
only had to go up one step to go into Jack and Newell’s in Chillagoe.
You step into it. The drapery side on one side and the other side was
groceries. When you finished work in the day time at night, before you
went home from work you had to put rails up, around the shop, otherwise
you’d have a big mess to clean up from the cattle, because they’d
camp in there if they could get in there. As it was they camped all
along the road here, at night time, so therefore that’s why the
barriers were up there and that was to stop them from breaking your
windows as well as having to clean up a big mess the next morning …
then when the new Jack and Newell’s got built, well the cattle
weren’t as bad then, when the new one went up, but they had to
put iron screens on the windows, because some cattle could wander in
there and would kick and break all the windows …”
this seemingly forlorn description, Jack & Newell’s Chillagoe
operation was one of their most profitable stores, mainly on the back
of its service to the region's substantial pastoral operations.
Chillagoe’s roaming cattle felt they had right to relax under Jack
& Newell’s generous awnings!
arrival of the bitumen
the 1950s, Chillagoe and Mt Garnet were still isolated operations, without
dependant on the rail for supplies and mail.
Todd’s trip from Herberton to Mareeba in 1953 took ten hours, and
sounds like travel
from another world.
to Listen to Cassie Todd - or simply read the text below
we left Herberton at half past eight on a rail motor, which went to
Mareeba and then you had to get off that rail motor at Mareeba and get
onto a train that went up to Chillagoe. Then when it got going well
it went as far as Dimbulah, it stayed at Dimbulah and filled up with
water then you went as far as another place – just a siding –
but that’s where you had to fill up with water again and then
we went on to Petford and you had to fill up with water again at Petford
then you went on to Almaden and you had to fill up with water again
at Almaden … all the times you had to stop to fill up was why
it took so long … nearly half past six that was the time they
got in .. it was a big trip.”
the advent of sealed roads, the retail landscape changed dramatically
in the Far North.
used to take a day's travel could now be completed safely in an hour or
two. People in small towns or on stations were no longer dependant on
the nearest store for weekly shopping or monthly orders.
transport also opened the Far North to larger retail chains that offered
cheaper prices, longer trading hours and a greater variety of stock.
changes sounded the death knell for many small town retailers, as Dorrie
Day at Herberton recalled …
could have been a speech night, and Willie Wallis got on stage and said
‘well you people in business in Herberton might want to get on
hands and knees and hope you never get the bitumen to Atherton, because
that will be the end of you .. and it was.”
and Fay Marsh were managing Jack and Newell at Mt Garnet in 1970, when
they decided to get out of the business.
and Woollies were getting bigger and bigger and more and more of them.
It hadn’t hit then but you could see it coming. I’d hate
to have a little shop now. In those days they were only doing the same
as we were 5 ½ days a week, but now they’re 7 days a week.”
Chillagoe, Cassie Todd also witnessed the impact of sealed roads.
to Listen to Cassie Todd - or simply read the text below
lot of the stations never went further than Chillagoe to get their supplies
because to go on further their lorries wouldn’t last long, to
go on to Mareeba. But now .. that’s why Jack & Newell sort
of went backwards. Once the bitumen roads came into it, because people
would take their own lorries, station people would take their own lorries
and go down to Mareeba and get their stuff, which they’re mostly
doing now. They just bypass the general store now.”
information about Chillagoe and Mount Garnet
you are in the area, a visit to the Chillagoe Heritage Museum is a good
out the Chillagoe
Hub for more information on tours and accommodation.