& Newell is most enduringly associated with the Atherton Tablelands
town of Herberton,
some 100km over the Great Dividing Range from Cairns.
It was here in 1880 that Willie Jack and John Newell’s prospecting
party found the tin that would lay the foundation for their retail success.
discovery led to a rush of miners, and within months the town boasted
its first hotel, butchers shop and three stores – one of which was
store became the headquarters of the Jack & Newell retail empire.
After quickly establishing their transportation networks between Herberton
Jack & Newell simply followed the miners, as they fanned our across
the district seeking – and finding – new mineral deposits.
1880 and the turn of the century, Jack & Newell established 20 general
stores, some of which came and went as deposits were mined out, and some
of which operated for the best part of a century.
Herberton store operated through until 1977, and is now registered on
the Qld Cultural Heritage Register.
building dates back to 1882 and with its pit sawn chamferboard cladding
and intact timber interior, it remains the best surviving illustration
of the genteel, local retail service that Jack & Newell came to exemplify
throughout the Far North.
1880's shopping list
of the remarkable things about Jack & Newell was its longevity as
an old fashioned, family owned business.
one of the great things about a family owned business is their reluctance
to throw away business/family records!
In the case of Jack & Newell at Herberton, the firm kept its original
ledger books right back to 1880, and has since donated them to James Cook
University in Townsville.
provide an incredible snapshot of the early mining days of the district.
for instance the 1880 account from Herberton under the name “Morris”:
tea, jam, flour, rice
flour, acid, soda, salt, p killers
tobacco, matches, currants, flour, acid, soda
rice, salt, tea
syrup, wood pipe
bags, sugar, painkillers, box matches, tea, boots
salt, vinegar, pan handle, sugar
syrup, tobacco, matches
killers, flour, syrup
pepper, sugar, tea
pot, H Handle, hammer
handle, fuse caps, detonators, drills, steel fracteur, explosives,
soap, matches, potatoes, tea, butter, cabbage.
£4 - 6
Credit 5.1.25 ore -30/-
Owing: £8 4-3
Credit: 4-3-2 tin ore
Owing: £ 6-8-10
Other interesting items on the 1880s shopping lists include:
• Note paper
• Pick handle
• Tin lobsters
• Oil cloth
& Newell at Herberton was the branch most intimately connected with
this is partly due to the long association of John Newell with the Great
Northern Tin Mine, it is also because small claims miners continued to
operate around Herberton long after most of the small mining towns had
the outset of its operations, Jack & Newell allowed miners to pay
for their goods in tin.
These were know as “ore accounts’ and had their own status
in the ledgers.
Brown remembers …
the miner would come in, well he would get an advance of say 90% of
what was the going price for tin, he’d get the balance later on
after it was all finalised … but whatever he owed was taken out.
He would have an account there … might have 1000 quid or pound
in those days and they would just take it out of his cheque and give
him the balance … it was called an ore account .. it was a separate
account in the ledger … the bulk of it was done through Herberton.”
Unfortunately for one miner, Jack Crimmins from Mossman was a man out
of his depth when it came to tin buying …
to Jack Crimmins --- or simply read the text below
I knew was sugar and we didn’t have anything to do with the price
of sugar, but a chap in Mt Molloy went on holidays and they put me up
there for a week to go and relieve him .. that was OK I could do the
bookwork and stuff, but then one bloke came in with a bag full of tin
and he said I want some money for this and I said I can’t tell
you . I wouldn’t know how much tin is, I wouldn’t have a
clue .. it looks like a heap of gibbers to me! So I had to send him
away, I couldn’t help him .. but they used to trade in tin, and
he had his bag of tin and wanted me to .. wanted some money for it ..
and I couldn’t help him! I didn’t know if it was worth one
dollar or a hundred dollars! "
Newell remembers the hazards of Jack & Newell storing tin at Mt Garnet…
to Rod Newell --- or simply read the text below
know in Mt Garnet years ago they used to stack the tin .. and the building
was high off the ground and they came along with an auger and went up
through the floor and into the tin in … because once you break
the tin it runs and they didn’t find it until they pulled the
stack down .. they’d probably bought it back again!”
was the only North Queensland town where Jack & Newell went head to
main rivals – Armstrong, Ledlie and
& S was established in Herberton by a couple of former Jack &
Newell managers, and like
Jack & Newell, they also extended credit and delivered to all their
the height of their trade, AL & S had outlets in a number of Far Northern
towns, including a
large retail business in Cairns, but the firm never reached the size of
Jack & Newell.
while Jack & Newell and AL & S may have seen themselves as competition,
the locals had other ideas!
Day explains how locals shopped in 20s and 30s.
to Dorrie Day --- or simply read the text below
was Jack & Newell’s and Armstrong Ledlie and Stillman was
exactly the same as what Jack & Newell’s was, and Billie Gane
had a grocery shop and Mrs Gane used to be our dressmaker. That was
all in the main street .. I did month about with the whole three of
them as my family grew up, my mother did that too .. well we used to
go and give them our order for once a month and they’d book it
up for your for the month, so then when they were finished you’d
go to the next one, just so they’d all get a living. Well they
were helping, as you say Jack & Newell were helping, well Ledlie’s
did the same. They kept the miners alive by giving them credit for the
month and a lot of people did that.”
A measure of the influence of the two businesses in the town is the fact
that the local Herberton School named its two “houses” Ledlie
Herberton was not only the headquarters of Jack
& Newell, it was also the home of three
generations of the Newell family.
with John Moffat, John Newell is probably the most significant figure
of the tin mining era in the Far North.
well as founding the Great Northern Mine and Jack & Newell and working
as Managing Director of both for 50 years, he was also a member of the
Shire Council, the Mayor of Herberton, the MLA for the District from 1896-1902,
a member of the Cairns Harbour Board, and vice-president of the Cairns
a mine owner and manager in regional Queensland at a time when the Labor
movement was recruiting miners and cane cutters, and the Qld Labor Government
was buying into mines at Mungana, near Chillagoe in extremely dubious
circumstances, it is safe to say that the Union movement and John Newell
would not always have seen eye to eye.
poem found amongst John Newell’s papers at Herberton, gives some
clue as to John Newell’s thoughts.
Read the poem
“Rambling Thoughts by a Man in the Street.”
his sons William and John (Bunny) went into the family business, but according
to grandson Rod, there would have been little consideration in the early
1900s to the idea of John Newell’s two daughters Elizabeth and Margaret
going into the firm.
of the family appears to have inherited his love of politics, although
his son Bunny did serve some time on the Herberton Shire Council.
information about Herberton