History of our Region

Brief History

Charters Towers, the town they call ‘The World' was born to the sound of thunder and flashes of lightning.

Hugh Mosman, George Clarke, John Fraser and horseboy Jupiter had been prospecting away to the south of what is now Charters Towers when their horses scattered during a fierce thunderstorm. It was while searching for the horses next morning that the first Towers gold was discovered. The discovery point was just near the modern day intersection of Mosman Street, Rainbow Road and Black Jack Road and was at the end of the year 1871 or the very beginning of 1872.

The party returned to Ravenswood to register their find which they named Charters Towers.

Charters: for W.S.E.M. Charters, the Gold Commissioner - the big man from the Cape (Charters was said to be about 6'6" tall and weighed some 20 stone).

Towers: because of the conical shaped hills in the vicinity of the discovery.

A rush of ‘fortune seeking men' quickly followed and a small settlement named Millchester formed on the water at Gladstone Creek. By the end of 1872 some 3000 souls inhabited the new field. The alluvial men left early on for the Palmer River discoveries but the hard rock miners remained, seeking the gold in the deep veins underground. Charters Towers rather than Millchester soon became the main settlement.

The goldfield did not reach its peak of gold production until 1899. During the period 1872-1899 the place changed from a rough settlement with bark and calico buildings to a thriving City of some 25,000 inhabitants.

The City, by that time, had properly formed streets, some wonderful houses and many grand public buildings lining the two main streets. A plentiful supply of water for domestic and other purposes was pumped to the town from a Weir in the Burdekin River about 9 miles to the north. Underground electricity was also supplied to parts of the main town area.

Literally 100s of shafts were sunk during the lifetime of the field and the ore raised was processed through many large Treatment Batteries. It is estimated that 6,000,000 ounces of gold was won in the first 40 to 50 years of the life of the Towers.

All religions were strongly represented on the field and in 1890 the miners could quench their thirst in no less than 65 hotels registered on the field.

Sports, music and the arts all had fantastic followings. It was said that everything you might desire could be had in the Towers. There was no reason to travel elsewhere for anything. This is why the town became known affectionately as ‘The World'.

The decline of mining following World War I saw the population shrink and the town become the supply centre or hub of the Dalrymple Shire as well as the educational centre for students from all over North Queensland.


Traditional Owners

For tens of thousands of years, the ancestors of the traditional owners the Gudjal people (pronounced Goodjal) lived on country in this Region.  For the Aboriginal community, the land has a spiritual meaning.

Gudjal people lived across the Region, especially along the Burdekin and Broughton Rivers, around the basalt country and its lagoons and west to the magnificent White Mountains National Park.

Whilst Gudjal people have always lived in the Region, many other Aboriginal people have lived in the area and travelled widely within the Region concerned with not only the physical land, but also its spirits throughout history.

Gudjal country shares borders with the Gugu Badhun, Yirandali and Jangga people with whom strong connections still exist.  The country throughout the Charters Towers Region historically supported, through its rich country side and permanent waters, a significant indigenous population prior to European settlement.

The shared connection to the land by the traditional owners and the pastoralists from an environmentally sustainable perspective is critical.  The traditional owners of the Region believe that the preservation of the land is imperative in protecting the natural and cultural values of their homelands.


Detailed History

Before Time

The Europeanisation of North Queensland began officially when the land district of Kennedy, north of Cape Palmerston, was opened for pastoral settlement in January 1861. Thousands of years of occupation by groups of Aborigines preceded this overture (including that by the Kudjala people). Material evidence of that long holding around Charters Towers is scant although their descendants perpetuate this phase as a living history.

First Interests

European knowledge and interest in the lands of the Burdekin stemmed from Ludwig Leichhardt's passage along the Burdekin River while making his way to Port Essington in 1844-5. His and subsequent reports of the land from the likes of the Gregory Brothers and the Allingham family effected further investigation prior to the official opening by the new colonial government of Queensland.


Principal architect of this interest was George Elphinstone Dalrymple who led a privately funded survey and "take over" of the Burdekin Watershed in 1859-60. This and his subsequent work for the government deemed him to be named Father of North Queensland.  Those who stocked their runs with sheep and later cattle, used Bowen as their coastal outlet. This was supplemented by ports at Cleveland Bay (Townsville) and Cardwell, these being opened for northern landholders in 1864. The inland township of Dalrymple on the Burdekin River was established at the same time as a staging point for those on the west bank and beyond.


Rewards and Finds

These settlements together with the run holders soon faced an economic impasse as local markets for products proved too small and grander markets were too far away. In 1865 a group of Townsville businessmen decided the discovery of payable gold would swell their economic hopes through an influx of people. They offered a discoverer's reward and in no time reports were made of gold on the Star River. The Colonial Government too, introduced a reward system for gold discoveries and this too was followed with better discoveries on the Cape River in 1867, the Gilbert River and at Ravenswood both in 1869. Not that reward was the sole driving force. Richard Daintree, some time part owner of Maryvale Station, who went on to become North Queensland's first government geologist, was instrumental in the finds on the Cape and on the Gilbert through his experiences as a geologist.


As a find by chance, the Ravenswood Goldfield sustained the greatest hope. It stretched mining interest across the Burdekin with discoveries on the Broughton River watershed in late 1871. Three outside prospectors, Hugh Mosman, George Clarke and John Fraser in the company of an Aboriginal horseboy, Jupiter Mosman, came into this area in December 1871. But with fortunes fading, they were attracted to a cluster of conical and square topped hills to the north. They soon camped on the other side of the largest of these hills and made a discovery of gold in the outcrop of the North Australian Reef:

"Masses of quartz were strewn about the surface, which we at once saw were very rich, and when afterwards crushed they yielded 3 oz. and upwards to the ton."

Within a few days they found ten other rich reefs. On the 26 January 1872, Mosman applied to Gold Commissioner W.S.E.M. Charters at Ravenswood for a protection area. The discoverers went on to name the place in his honour.

Charters Towers

"Such is the name which Mr Mossman's camp [sic] has been christened. It is situated about 15 miles from the Broughton township and is certainly the most remarkable and promising goldfield ever opened in Queensland. It is the general opinion that the whole country from Jessop's and Dumaresq's camp on the Broughton to 4 miles beyond the main camp on the Fifteen Mile will be auriferous and already some 60 or 70 prospecting areas have been pegged out. Mr Mossman [sic] the prospector of the field has certainly a name of wealth on his claim, and deserves the prospects before him for his perseverance in opening up such a promising field, and by his gentle-manly conduct in giving all information and assistance to miners and parties visiting the place, has gained the good prospect and respect of the whole community. He has three distinct payable reefs running through the ground, with outcrops showing an average width of four feet, but in many places they are much wider, and there must be many hundreds of tons of surface stone that will pay splendidly to put through the mill."  (Ravenswood Miner:17/02/1872)


Mosman Street

The rush to the place was immediate with men from the south of the colony arriving as early as March. By the end of the month, 25 claims were laid off as far north as the St Patrick, south-east to the Washington and west to the North Australian. A business area with better access to a permanent water supply was marked out as well on a low ridge north of Mosman's Camp with its main thoroughfare named Mosman Street. Here the first storekeepers, blacksmiths, butchers and hoteliers went to work.

"For a long time the buildings, business and private, were of a typical new goldfield variety - calico or bark - and leading hotels were constructed of saplings stuck into the ground and lined with calico, the whole being covered with iron."


Water was needed to crush the gold bearing rock as well. So when the first machine areas were pegged beside Gladstone Creek, another township quickly developed. It was soon named Millchester and was centred along a ridge above the confluence of Gladstone and Buchanan's Creek. Buchanan's was the first crushing machine at work there and was quickly followed by Plant and Jackson's mill, the Venus. Superintendent Commissioner Jardine took temporary charge of the goldfield at the end of 1872 when Charters' administration floundered. In the resolution of events Jardine declared Millchester the site of government and directed the goldfield's courthouse and Commissioner's office be erected there as well as the telegraph to terminate there.  It was here that the first Northern Miner was printed and the first banks and assayers did business as well.  It was the site of the goldfield's first school.

Charters Towers

Mining Exchange building

Charter Towers hotel

But within two years Charters Towers held greater favour with the people and it became the dominant township.  Businesses from Millchester re-established there with those who had missed out on a Mosman Street frontage finding themselves on the track to Millchester. The track soon became a street and was named Miner and eventually Gill. Charters Towers weathered the lure of the Palmer Rush in 1873, and it became clear that the Towers was to have a  long life. The first buildings of calico and bark gave way to formed timber constructions.  The trees and boulders, once a part of Mosman and Gill Streets, were cleared. A plethora of committees, clubs and sporting groups were founded to give the goldfield community the beginnings of a vigorous sporting, social and cultural life.


In 1877 there was sufficient self confidence for the residents to petition for self government as a Municipality, on the basis  that: "the town contains fifteen hundred inhabitants and is one square mile in area ...   buildings of a superior description are being erected almost daily." The Municipality of Charters Towers was declared in June 1877 with John McDonald elected as the town's first mayor. 



In 1880 a new Mining Warden, Philip Frederic Sellheim was appointed to oversee the administration of the rapidly developing goldfield. Sellheim had a vision for the way that the field might develop. As the mines went deeper, it was clear that more capital would be needed for machinery.  The demand for capital was beyond the resources of the local residents. Sellheim opened his Annual Report for 1880 with the following words:

"It has been proved now beyond any doubt that the quality of stone does not deteriorate here at the deeper levels ... but to develop the ground efficiently and economically more capital than can be well spared from other local enterprises will be required.  I trust the time will not be far distant when Charters Towers will receive more attention from southern capitalists .... One of the effects of the completion of the Railway will be in all probability, be more frequent visits from speculators."



The Railway reached Charters Towers from Townsville in December 1882 and the immediate result was another step forward in communications, together with a vast improvement in transportation.  The two day trip to Townsville by coach was now a thing of the past. Companies were now being formed in Charters Towers and firms of share brokers established themselves in the Mosman Street - Gill Street area.  Warden Sellheim welcomed these developments and noted that the yields from Towers shares must attract the required capital to the field.  Each year production was rising and in each of those years more capital was invested into mining and milling.

Charters Towers railway

By 1885 the share brokers had formed themselves into a ‘Mining Exchange', providing the residents of Charters Towers with the opportunities to be speculators as well as investors in the share market game. This involvement in the financial affairs of the town by working miners was a prime force in the stability and rapid development of Charters Towers.


British Investment

By 1886 the local entrepreneurs were ready for the English investors to make their rush to the field. The quest for capital took place at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 in London.  In the Queensland Exhibition, a Walkers stamper was set up and daily crushings of ore were offered as a demonstration of the good sense of investing in Charters Towers.  The results were instantaneous, making a flood of money available for the future development of Charters Towers. A typical case was the ‘Day Dawn Block and Wyndham' where 442,000 one pound shares were fully subscribed in London with a further 56,500 shares issued fully paid to the vendors making the issued and paid up capital 498,400 pounds. The previous capital for the company had been a mere 24,000 pounds. In the flurry to float companies, there were more dubious deals than good ones.  Warden Sellheim thundered his disapproval at those who would give Charters Towers a doubtful reputation.

Early Charters Towers industry

Local confidence in the mining industry went to an all time high.  The residents could see no end to their prosperity as the town citified and urbanised.  Many of the timber buildings which had replaced the original shanties in the 1870s were demolished to make way for the brick rendered Victorian buildings still in evidence. Most of the public buildings that still grace Gill and Mosman Streets were built in the period 1883 to 1893.

In 1892 cyaniding was introduced to the goldfield superseding other methods such as the use of pyrites. This new process leached more of the gold from the ore, giving in most cases, a further ounce of gold for each ton of ore mined.  The millions of tons of tailings that had been stock piled since the beginning of the field were now available for re-treatment.


By the end of the 19th century, Charters Towers gold mines and mills were producing their maximum yields.  Over a hundred poppet legs rose above the town and the quality of life was unexcelled in Colonial Queensland. All this had happened in a period of twenty-five years.  In 1897 the Editor of the Northern Mining Register wrote:

"Streets of fine shops and residences have sprung up, cold air stores, telephones, electric light, gaslight, electric fans and other adjuncts of an up to date civilisation are employed, and 20,000 souls now sleep nightly within a radius of 4 miles of the spot where the prospectors pitched their first camp a little over 25 years ago.  The three workers of that time have increased to 4,000 with nearly three quarters of a million pounds worth of machinery to aid in the hunt for gold."

Peak and Decline

The peak gold yield was in 1899 which like all apexes whispered the beginnings of the end of mining at Charters Towers. Thirteen years later mining was effectively at an end. In between much of the town continued with blinded belief in its future. It was a period of development and progress which is worthy of discovery.



Year Event

Gold is found at Charters Towers in December by a party of outside prospectors comprising Hugh Mosman, Adam Mosman, George Clarke, John Fraser and an Aboriginal horse boy named Jupiter.

Mosman applies for protection of their claim at Ravenswood on 26 January and names the place in honour of Gold Commissioner W. S. E. M. Charters: Charters Towers.


Three small stores and a butcher's shop form the nucleus of the township of Charters Towers in March. This includes the first building which is put up by Joseph Owens opposite today's Crown Hotel in Mosman Street.

John Smith Reid  establishes The Northern Miner in August and subsequently sells out to Thadeus O'Kane in 1876. The Northern Miner outlasts numerous rivals and continues to be published from Gill Street.

Four crushing mills are at work on the Charters Towers goldfield by the end of September. In order of commencement they are: W. H. ‘Bill' Buchanan's machine which crushed stone for the first time from the Welcome P. C. Mine on 28 June; John Deane's Defiance; E.H.T. Plant and Thomas Jackson's Venus; and George and William Tough's One and All with the Venus being the last surviving mill which ceased crushing in 1972.

Following an investigation into the conduct of  the goldfield in October, Superintendent Gold Commissioner Jardine declares Millchester to be the chief centre of the goldfield. 

While some businesses move back to it in the wake of a court house being erected there in 1873, most return to Charters Towers which had always been the more important township.

The Towers Jockey Club conducts its first Christmas meeting on 26 and 27 December.


St Philip's Church of England is erected by Alexander Fraser at Millchester in October. 

The Catholic faith erect St Columba's at the Just-in-Time township between Millchester and Charters Towers at the beginning of 1874; it is removed to Charters Towers when the first mass on the new site on Church Hill is held on 7 May 1876.


Millchester State School opens on Jardine Street in September with Thomas McNamee, newly arrived from Northern Ireland appointed its first head teacher.  The school is moved to its present location on Phillipson Road in 1947.

Surveyor Johnson is instructed in September to mark out a ten acre cemetery reserve midway between Millchester and Charters Towers.

1875 Returns from the St Patrick Block and the Brian O'Lynn Mines make Frank Stubley the first millionaire miner of the goldfield.  The St Patrick is said to bring Frank something like £250,000, yet he is penniless when he dies on the Normanton to Croydon road in 1886.
1876 Hugh Ross builds the first two storey building on what is now the site of Pepper's BYO: "being neat and well finished with a verandah and balcony with a commanding and airy appearance beside the Oddfellows Hall in Gill Street."

Charters Towers is declared a Municipality on the 23 June 1877 following 155 householders petitioning the Governor in February:

"That the town of Charters Towers contains 1,500 inhabitants or more and is one square mile in area; that buildings of a superior description are being erected almost daily, and that large additions are being made to the already existing mining plants in and around the town, and that there is every indication of the town increasing in population, wealth and stability."


Meetings to bring about the construction of the School of Arts which opens in December in Mosman Street are conducted at John Gard's Clubhouse Hotel beside.

In 1900 the School of Arts commences the Charters Towers Technical College inside the old Clubhouse Hotel. 

1879 The railway-road bridge across the Burdekin River opens.

The Manchester Unity Hall opens with a banquet and a ball at the rear of Gill Street in September.  It is designed by John Longden and is the first brick building built on the goldfield and which still stands.

The Queensland National Bank opens new premises in Mosman Street in July.  It is moved sideways to become the Union Bank in 1891 where further shifts and changes see it transformed into the Visitor Information Centre in 2002.

1881 The Day Dawn P. C. Mine is the first of the new no liability mining companies to be floated following its registration in October with the unprecedented capital of £24,000.  So successful is this venture that the company pays its first dividend within two weeks with the principal partner, Frederick Pfeiffer building his residence opposite around 1882-1883

The railway to Charters Towers from Townsville opens in December and is celebrated with a picnic at the Burdekin River in the afternoon and a ball in the evening.

The Sisters of Mercy arrive in town to open St Mary's Convent and conduct the Convent High School and Catholic School. 


The Crown Hotel in Mosman Street is the first hotel built in brick for owner John Clark who, with his wife Annie enliven the place with a high reputation for hospitality; the top floor is lost to fire in 1982.

St Paul's Church of England is erected by local builder Ben Toll and opens on 30 December.  The 400 seat church is designed by local architect W. G. Smith in a primitive gothic style and is the oldest intact timber building in the city.

A temporary reserve for public recreation comprising 18 acres, 3 roods, 34 perches is proclaimed on 15 May. In 1888 the reserve is named Lissner Park after Isidor Lissner, a prominent Charters Towers businessman and politician.


A bridge together with stone pitched water channels is completed at the intersection of Gill and Deane Streets in September.

Stone kerbing and guttering within the city are the most expansive of its type in Queensland and are state heritage listed.


A mining exchange started in the billiard room of the Crown Hotel in August is the first attempt at securing outside investment on the goldfield through local hands. 

Average annual earnings of miners employed on the goldfield during 1885 are £336 12s 6d which is the highest average attained on any reefing field in Australia.


Ore and gold samples from Charters Towers and other Queensland mining centres are exhibited alongside a working quartz crushing mill at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. 

The immediate outcome is the sale of some of the most productive mines in Charters Towers to English syndicates which includes the Day Dawn Block and Wyndham for £460,000. 

The Lutheran Church in Anne Street opens in March. 


The Excelsior Hotel is built by local builder Ben Toll for mining magnate William Gough and opens in July:  "The situation is extremely healthy, the house being built on a hard granite ridge far and away from the smells of any kind; it affords a quiet retreat for country visitors, who will doubtless patronise it largely; whilst to people of a religious turn of mind, it possesses numerous advantages..."

The court house is completed in February to a design by A. B. Brady with the Warden's Court added by Ben Toll in 1890.  The court room remains substantially unchanged and retains the major components of its original furniture, which is now rare.

The dedication of the Masonic Hall in Ryan Street by members of the English and Scotch Constitution of Freemasons takes place in September with its second storey added in 1897.


The Charters Towers Gas, Coke, Coal and Light Co Ltd with facilities near the Defiance Mill in Boundary Street, turns on the gas for the first time in June. 

The Royal Hotel in Mosman Street is erected for former miner William Romberg and opens in June.

A meeting at the Exchange Hotel in Mosman Street in June forms a Rugby Football Club.  Charters Towers becomes the powerhouse of rugby in the north under H. C. Speakman who imparts a lot of his genius to local players and raises the game to very high standard; ‘Rusty' Richards is the city's most outstanding player, acknowledged later as the finest forward in the game.


The Brilliant Reef is discovered by Richard Craven, when in the face of the 765 vertical level, a reef is exposed "measuring fully four feet, consisting of a beautifully mellow quartz heavily charged with pyritous ores and showing free gold".

Richard Craven had commenced the shaft at the eastern end of Aland Street in November 1886 at a cost in excess of £11,000 to find the connect for the Day Dawn, Mexican and Queen lines of reef in barren country, discovering instead the Brilliant Reef by chance.


The Charters Towers Stock Exchange is re-formed by the town's sharebrokers in May to include a noon call for members followed by an evening call in the Royal Arcade in Mosman Street for the general public.  This is along the lines of what sharebroker J. F. Hinsch had developed in the arcade a year earlier and is a great success that makes Charters Towers the centre for Queensland mining investment.

Thadeus John O'Kane, proprietor and editor of the town's most influential newspaper, The Northern Miner dies in Ipswich on 17 May.  O'Kane is later described as a grim and truculent little pressman.

When Thornburgh House is completed for its owner E. H. T. Plant to over look the Bonnie Dundee Mill and dam, it is described as the largest, handsomest and most complete villa residence of the north. 

1891 The Queensland National Bank as designed by Queensland's foremost architect F. D. G. Stanley is erected in Mosman Street in December at a cost of £9,000.  The former QNB building is put to use as City Hall in 1949. 

Bishop Cani opens the new convent for the Sisters of Mercy in High Street in December at a cost around £4000.

Local solicitor Luke W. Marsland has "The Charters Towers Gold Mines" published in London in May to encourage investment and further development of the goldfield.  According to Marsland there are 25 lines of reef being mined that involve 163 mining holdings, 36 with some prominence.


The Charters Towers Post Office which opens in January, is the fourth extension of post office facilities in Charters Towers in a little over seventeen years with the clock tower added in 1898.

The Charters Towers Exchange is reported to be the largest and busiest of the regional exchanges. 


The hall for the No. 9 branch of the Australian Natives' Association in Deane Street, which was the first branch of the Natives to form outside Victoria, is completed in January.  

The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) takes over use of the hall from some time after 1950 to 2010.


The cemetery between Millchester and Charters Towers is almost filled to capacity and closes on the 31 August; a larger one on the northern outskirts of the town opens the next day.

The first is known as the Pioneer Cemetery while the latter is known as the Lynd Highway Cemetery.


An experimental telephone line using existing telegraph wires, which opens between Charters Towers and Townsville on 12 June is the first telephone trunk line established in Queensland. 

Electric light is switched on in January.

David Lyall's jewellery shop, with its elaborate front, featuring striking semicircular display windows made of curved plate glass, is rebuilt in Mosman Street and opens in December.

When the magazine for the Mills United Mine blows up a few days after the opening, Lyall's is one of the very few buildings in town whose windows are not blown out, possibly due to its curved construction. 


The Day Dawn P. C. Mine is the first mine in Queensland to return £1,000,000 worth of gold.

The bell tower at St Columba's Church is designed by Charles William Smith and erected in conjunction with the now demolished church. 


Gold production peaks in 1899 at 319,572 oz which makes Charters Towers the second most important city in Queensland and centre of an internationally noted goldfield.

The School of Mines is established by the Charters Towers Mining Institute; but after attendance quickly falls away, the government agrees to take it over with classes in mining and metallurgy re-commencing in March 1901 under director William McLeod.  This is Queensland's only school of mines which in 1914 has more students than any other school of mines except Kalgoorlie's.

Anderson Dawson, MLA for Charters Towers, is Premier of the first Labor Government anywhere in the world in December that lasts seven days.

The Charters Towers Golf Club with premises in upper King Street opens in August.  This is the oldest surviving golf course in Queensland. 

William Lees writes: "the climate is healthy, and as the town is at an altitude of 1,000 feet above sea level, in the winter time the air is very bracing; in summer, even when the thermometer is 95 or 100 degrees, the heat is not oppressive owing to the dry atmosphere, and the residents pursue their avocations with but little discomfort". 

1900 On the evening of Thursday 24 May a smoke concert is conducted at which about 50 people are present to celebrate the opening of the Londoners' Club new premises in Ryan Street.  It changes its name to the Charters Towers Civic Club as a ‘men's only' in September 1905. 

Graham Haygarth is shot dead by David Brown, the manager of the Charters Towers Pyrites works while attending a meeting of directors at Bright's Mining Exchange (today's Henry's Restaurant) on 10 July.

Brown had received a letter from the company the day before notifying him that his salary was to be reduced from £8 to £6 per week. Brown fails to take his own life immediately after killing Haygarth and is found guilty and hanged in Brisbane.

The year's census shows the population within a 12 mile radius from the post office to be 22,259, which is an increase of 8,500 in 10 years.

There are 20 ore reduction plants or mills operating on the goldfield along with an aggregate of 70 cyaniding plants.


The Queen Cross Reef Mine makes the last of the great discoveries on the field when a crosscut at a depth of 876 ft intersects the ‘new' Queen Cross Reef.  The mine dominates the field for the next four years when it is ‘gutted' out to return £614,166 for its shareholders within three years and shows a profit equal to £686 for every working day of 1903. 

Flood waters pour over the newly constructed Burdekin Weir for the first time in December and so break the effects of the three year long Federation drought.  Construction had commenced on 30 July and finished four months later on 22 November 1902. 

There are 38 hotels or licensed premises operating in Charters Towers principally in Mosman and Gill Streets. Local district licensing records attest to at least another 78 hotels in operation beyond the town at some stage from 1864-1911.

1903 The Ambulance Building in Gill Street opens in June under the control of T. W. Tracey who had arrived on the goldfield in December 1900.
1904 Carbon monoxide poisoning kills six miners in adjoining mines and one rescuer following a fire in the Brilliant P.C. Mine in October.

Professional runner Arthur Postle, the ‘Crimson Flash' who wins most encounters over 100 yards and set world records, participates in many of the Gaslight Carnivals at Charters Towers; however he famously loses to Bob Anderson, an Aboriginal stockman from the Richmond area at the Eighth Towers Hundred.

As mining all but ceases, the town's decline manifests itself in various shades of significance: when town clerk since 1883, Henry Bleasdale Walker resigns for health reasons, John McDonald, the town's first mayor dies in London, P. J. Allen local agent for Tom Buckland, the goldfield's richest man, moves south, and Kate King, the first child born at Charters Towers dies in December.


Charters Towers is proclaimed a city in April.

Daking Smith opens his department store in Gill Street employing 140 assistants.

1910 The Boer War Memorial Kiosk opens in Lissner Park in October.

The Charters Towers Police occupy their new Police Barracks in Gill Street on Tuesday 31 January.

On 13 May 1988 it is substantially damaged by fire but after strong lobbying from the Queensland National Trust and the signing of a petition by 2000 of the town's 8000 residents, the State Government provide funds for the repair of the building.

1912 Charters Towers State High School opens on 5 February with J. G. Bayley as its first head teacher.  It is one of six high schools to open in Queensland in locations where no state grammar schools existed.
1914 The Kennedy Regiment is activated for war service in August, when along with members of the Towers Rifle Club they are sent to garrison on Thursday Island to become Australia's first troops mobilised in the Great War.

Charters Towers soldiers take part in the landings at Gallipoli in Turkey in April that include former town clerk Samuel Harry and accountant Hugh Quinn who are both killed within one month of the attack.

Before 25 April 1915, 172 men are sworn in at the town hall in Gill Street by Mayor Fred Johnson. At war's end the region's 18 honour boards memorialise over 2000 men and women who served during the war.


Gold returns from the Charters Towers Goldfield from 1877 to 1916 total 6,591,482 oz with a value of £27,998,617.

The Brilliant Deeps Mine in Park Street sinks the deepest shaft on the goldfield to a depth of 2,552 feet.

1917 The removal of houses and other buildings from the city peaks at 252 for the year.  At least 1131 houses are dismantled and removed to other centres, principally Townsville, between 1908 and 1918.

Thornburgh College opens on 16 June when eleven boys attend their first class at E. H. T. Plant's former residence.

The Church of England opens All Souls' in 1920 and St Gabriel's in 1921, the same year Blackheath, the sister school to Thornburgh opens in Yelvertoft in nearby Stubley Street.

1920 Tom Ah Hoy finds the district's biggest nugget west of Mount Leyshon which is named the Prince of Wales.  Weighing 143 oz and valued at £575, it is made the prize in an art union conducted by the Charters Towers District Hospital in 1922.
1929 Eventide Home for aged people receives its first admissions in October.  The home is built to accommodate 150 men and women from around North Queensland who require aged care. 
1935 The Civic Club opens a bowling green on the corner of Mary and Church Streets in June. 
1936 The Towers Brewery on Alabama Hill closes.

Following the construction of an aerodrome at Corinda in February, the USAAF 3rd Bomb Group arrive in March to conduct bombing missions over Papua and New Guinea.  This is part of the first wave of defence of Australia from Japanese attack in which Charters Towers plays a significant part.

The American military take over St Gabriel's School as a hospital, the 116 Australian General Hospital acquire Mount Carmel College and later All Souls School while the 51 m chimney atop Towers Hill is destroyed at the request of the USAAF.

Other buildings are also taken over during the war with air raid shelters constructed in Gill Street.

1945  Jupiter Mosman, the finder of the gold at Charters Towers in 1872, dies at Eventide on 5 December.
1946 A major flood in the Burdekin River takes it waters to the unprecedented and yet unbroken height of 71 ft 6 in (21.79m).
1947 Charters Towers Rotary forms in 1947 with an Apex Club commencing in 1958 and the first of four Lions clubs in 1963.

A former military workshop building at Wellington is used to remodel the middle section of the Regent Theatre in Gill Street after it had been burnt out in an electrical fire during the war years.

13 people are killed while returning from work at the RAAF Base Macrossan in September when their air-force semi-trailer veers off the Burdekin River road bridge.

1949 The Goldfield Ashes Cricket Carnival is conducted for the first time over Australia Day with eight teams competing.  In 2012, 148 teams play on 67 fields with the carnival regarded as the largest of its kind in the world. 
1950 The Sydney and Brisbane branches of the Charters Towers Reunion organise a return of hundreds of former residents by train to the city in July.
1951 The Royal Flying Doctor Base commences operations on Tuesday 18 December when a seriously patient is taken from Clermont to Rockhampton for further medical treatment.  It ceases operations in October 1973 following the final broadcast from the Charters Towers School of the Air. 

Mosman Hall opens on 1 July at a cost of £240,000.  

"Charters Towers with its general hospital, Eventide Home, mental hospital and schools is to be known as a centre of health and culture."

A monument to Jupiter Mosman is unveiled in the front yard of Syd Williams's residence in Gill Street in February.  Jupiter is the horse boy to the party of outside prospectors who made the actual discovery of gold at Charters Towers in January 1872.

1955 The War Memorial, built almost entirely by public donations opposite the hospital in Gill Street is dedicated by Rev. C. D. Alcorn and accepted by the Mayor Paul Wherry on behalf of the citizens of Charters Towers in November.
1957 A Seismograph Station is built inside a mining adit in Towers Hill for the University of Queensland.  It is rebuilt, re-equipped and shifted to the nearby former RAAF Ordinance Depot in 1962 as part of an ambitious United States program to install ultra-sensitive instruments in foreign stations. 
1962 The Towers Players is formed in September and presents Trial by Jury as its first public performance at the Theatre Royal in 1963.  The group purchases the former St Paul's Church of England in Mosman Street as a playhouse for $400 in 1969.
1967 The new fire station opens on the corner of Gill and Boundary Streets in October.
1969 Charters Towers Kindergarten as funded by Apex opens in Bridge Street in August.   

Charters Towers Centenary celebrations include the opening of the Kennedy Regiment Memorial Pool in February.

Noel Jesberg opens the Whitehorse as Queensland's first tavern in May.

1975 The restoration of the Stock Exchange Arcade is completed by the Queensland National Trust in September under the supervision of architect Don Roderick.
1977 The city is readily converted into a movie set for the making of The Irishman which involves local people performing minor roles in the film.

The Queensland National Trust use Zara Clark's bequest to purchase the former Bartlams building and convert it into a folk museum.  Zara Clark, a daughter of the former miner and grazing pioneer of Mirtna Station William Clark, died in 1975 leaving $245,290 to fifteen charitable organisations which included the Charters Towers and Dalrymple Historical Society, the precursor to the local branch of the Queensland National Trust.

The Charters Towers Country Music Festival as organised by the Apex Club takes place at the Showgrounds for the first time over the Labour Day weekend.

1986 Pan Australian commences gold mining operations at Mount Leyshon to the south of  Charters Towers in October 1986 with the first gold poured in February 1987.
1988 The Dalrymple Villa opens in Fraser Street in April at a cost of $2.3 million.  It is initiated by Dot Birgan and the Charters Towers Retirement Village Society to provide self-contained units, hostel type residential and a small nursing home.
1992 The PCYC opens in purpose built facilities on Enterprise Road in August with 600 members involved in activities ranging from an over 50s club, kick boxing, self-defence, gymnastics, aerobics, basketball, skating, indoor bowls and bingo.  The club had commenced in May 1978 with an activities night at the Buffalo Hall before taking out a lease on the School of Mines building in 1979.
1996 The World Theatre opens in September
2001 The Centenary of Federation fountain in Lissner Park is re-commissioned by the Charters Towers City Council. 
2003 The Charters Towers Excelsior Library, using the design and part of the structure of the former Excelsior Hotel opens in October. 
2009 The Charters Towers Neighbourhood Centre moves into new premises in Powell Lane in March at a cost of $2.1 million.


Charters Towers Archives

All history extracts are generously supplied by the:

Charters Towers Archives
PO Box 1232
Charters Towers  QLD  4820

Email: archives@charterstowers.qld.gov.au

Telephone: C/- Charters Towers Excelsior Library 07 4761 5580

For a full listing of publications available for purchase contact Charters Towers Archives.


Key People of Charters Towers

David Brown (1846-1901) - miller - developed and managed the Charters Towers Pyrites Works on the eastern end of Towers Hill. When faced with the works' high costs becoming evident following the introduction of the cheaper cyaniding process to treat tailings, Brown murdered Graham Haygarth at a meeting of the Work's directors in Bright's Mining Exchange - today's Henry's Restaurant, Mosman Street.

Sir Thomas Buckland (1847-1947) - entrepreneur - goldfield who quickly branched into butchering, gold milling, pastoral and mining investments that made him the richest man from the Goldfield with an estate valued at £589,958.

William Skelton Ewbank (Melbourne) Charters (1833-1885) - public official - was Gold Commissioner at the nearby Cape River when his duties were extended here in 1872: "The place was named, so I was told, by the prospectors ‘Charters Towers' in honour of the big man from the Cape".

Richard Craven (1845-1899) - miner - discovered the Brilliant Reef in 1889 which affirmed the continuing promise of the field at greater depth.

Alfred Daking Smith (1866-1943) - draper - arrived on the goldfield in 1891; he erected a substantial department store in Gill Street in 1909 that employed 140 assistants; Daking Smiths closed in 1925 but the building was re-opened in a similar format by businessman Stan Pollard (1896-1987) in 1934; Stan's keenest rival was Aridas, which was first owned by Lebanese brothers Joseph (1863?-1924) and Richard Arida (1872?- 1944).

Anderson Dawson (1863-1910) - miner and politician - Labor member for Charters Towers from 1893-1900 who led the world's first parliamentary socialist government in 1899 that lasted seven days.

Annie ‘Annie Bags' Ferdinand (1851-1910) - wanderer - North Queensland's queerest and quaintest figure who solaced with animals and lived rough around Charters Towers: "Her hair was matted and she must have never combed it. Her face was all brown and her skin dried out from the sun. Her dress was made out of bags, the reason for her name." Yet she was known to be gifted musically and well educated.

George Foy (1883-1952) - railway worker - The elderly sick and the bereaved in the whole community all knew George Foy in the 1930s and 1940s; his quiet kindly actions over a number of years earned him the name in some quarters of ‘St. Vincent de Paul'.

George Frederick Emanuel Hall (1891-1972) - engineer - born in Charters Towers to a West Indian father and an English mother, Hall won a bursary to the Charters Towers School of Mines but instead became North Queensland's first Rhodes scholar in 1910, studying engineering at Oxford University.

Samuel Henry Hall (1848-1930) - musician - head of Charters Towers' most prominent musical family that included sons Charles, Herbert, Ernest and Richard; the Halls were involved in the city's leading choirs and orchestras either as players or conductors for over 50 years: Samuel a noted teacher and Richard prominent in the formation of the North Queensland Eisteddfod.

Thomas "Barney" Hoy (1877-1964) - prospector - gained worldwide fame as the finder of the Prince of Wales nugget south west of Charters Towers in 1920; this was the largest nugget found on the Goldfield that weighed 143 oz and valued at £575.

Ludwig Leichhardt (1813-1848) - naturalist and explorer - opened the door to pastoral interests in 1861 following his journey up the Burdekin River in 1845; the country over which he travelled near Charters Towers "was some of the finest we had seen.  It was very open, with some plains, slightly undulating or rising into ridges, beautifully grassed and with sound ground."

Isidore Lissner (1842-1902) - storekeeper and politician - was one of the leading merchants and financial backers in the first decade of the goldfield and was well respected; he was the member for Kennedy from 1883-1893: "they called him into all their councils, they called him into all their feasts; they called their public park after him."

William Alexander MacLeod - educator - appointed the first director of the Charters Towers School of Mines from 1901-1904; with lectures repeated in the evening for working miners to attend, this was considered a ‘novel' scheme and is believed to have been unique in Australia.

John McDonald (1847?-1905) - storekeeper and speculator - the first mayor of Charters Towers who returned to England to successfully float the Bonnie Dundee and later the Day Dawn Block and Wyndham Gold Mining Companies.

Edward David Miles (1845-1922) - mining secretary - arrived on the goldfield in 1875; his integrity and foresight built up the largest mining business in Australasia that employed 23 staff. Miles, who was in partnership with Joe Millican (1855-1934) was either a manager or a director of 38 mining companies, which in 1891 paid £3 million in dividends.

Thomas Mills (1843-1926) - miller and miner - "had a remarkable tenacity of purpose and a grim single mindedness that carried him far"; he acquired an interest in the Day Dawn Block and Wyndham Mine and developed his Mills' Day Dawn United Mine, retiring to England a millionaire.

Harry ‘Breaker' Morant (1864-1902) - horseman, poet and soldier - married Daisy O'Dwyer, later Bates, in Charters Towers in 1884; they separated soon after; he subsequently fought in the Boer War, was found guilty of shooting prisoners of war and sentenced to death; Daisy Bates went on to work with aborigines, principally in Western Australia.

Hugh Mosman (1843-1909) - miner and speculator - discovered the goldfield in 1872 in the company of George Clarke, John Fraser and Jupiter Mosman and worked the North Australian Mine; Hugh was "a thick set man, a good horseman who seldom opened a gate"; that is until he lost his lower arm while fishing with dynamite in the Burdekin in 1882.

Jupiter Mosman (1861?-1945) - miner - the aboriginal horseboy who made the actual discovery of gold in 1872: "We went on to a gap in the hills and camped. I had been out and found a nice piece of stone and went back to inform Hugh Mosman and he brought a pick and we dug it out and I can assure you that is what started the North Australian Mine.

Thadeus O'Kane (1820-1890) - journalist - "a grim and truculent little pressman" who owned and edited The Northern Miner; he was was one of the most colourful, influential and hard-hitting figures in early Queensland journalism who lost count of the libel actions he faced.

Alan Oshyer (1939-2002) - weightlifter - born in Charters Towers; represented Australia at the Rome Olympics in 1960 and Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962.

Frederick Pfeiffer (1834-1902) - miner and speculator - swagged into Charters Towers in 1874 aged 40 to take up the Dawn P. C. Mine, which was for many years a ‘stringer'. That is until 1878: "when all at once the stone came in 4 ft thick of 3 oz stuff. The reef widened as far as 20 ft and occasionally went to 5 oz to the ton"; Fred received a cheque for considerably over £100,000 when the mine was sold to an English company nine years later.

Edmund Harris Thornburgh Plant (1944-1926) - miller and speculator - built the Venus Mill with Thomas Jackson in 1872; Plant made his fortune treating tailings and through mining investments, Thornburgh House is testament to his wealth, influence and commitment to the city.

Hugh Quinn (1888-1915) - soldier and accountant - born at Charters Towers; was killed with hundreds of others at a high point that was key to defending the main supply route from Anzac Cove, which was named for him: "Of all positions held by Australian troops in all wars, Quinn's Post was probably the most dangerous."

Dr Leonard Redmond (1854-1935) - doctor - experience in tropical medicine helped him identify the first case of dengue fever in Australia soon after arriving in Charters Towers in 1885.

Tom ‘Rusty' Richards (1882-1935) - miner, footballer and soldier - grew up in Charters Towers to become one of Australia's greatest Rugby players and the only test player to play for the Wallabies and the British Lions; he was a member of the Australian side that won the gold medal at the 1908 London Olympics; Richards was one of the original Anzacs who went on to win the Military Cross on the Western Front.

Philip Frederic Sellheim (1832-1899) - public official - "a rather gentlemanly German" according to Rachel Henning, who as mining warden for the Charters Towers Goldfield from 1880 onwards, oversaw the rise of capital and mining at depth.

Sisters of Mercy (1882-1900) - educators - provided the first secondary schooling at Charters Towers and did much to enhance social and educational opportunities.

Frank Stubley (1844-1886) - miner - owned the first sensational mine, the St Patrick Block which is said to have brought him £250,000 but "like many a man raised from a humble position to sudden wealth, poor Frank lost his head and launched out into all kinds of foolish speculations..." He died penniless on the Normanton to Croydon road.

E. V. Timms (1895-1960) - author - born at Charters Towers; he wrote 22 novels including his 12 volume sequence of historical novels known as the ‘Australian' saga.

Ben Toll (1849-1925) - builder - commenced here in 1878 with two men; ten years later he had 200 under him and was erecting buildings at the rate of £11,000 to £12,000 per month; his legacy includes the Excelsior, Royal and Park Hotels, E. D. Miles Mining Exchange, and key portions of the court house, the former School of Mines and Richmond Hill School.