Colonial and Settlement History
1770 to 1900
The Townsville region was described by Captain James Cook on his first voyage around Australia.
Cook named coastal features such as Cape Cleveland, Cleveland Bay and Magnetic(al) Island, but did not land.
Alan Cunningham, a botanist and explorer, and Phillip Parker King were the first Europeans to record landing in Cleveland Bay. Cunningham collected botanical specimens to take back to England.
James Morrill was one of 14 crew members shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef on board the barque, the Peruvian. Cast ashore at Cleveland Bay 42 days after the wreck, he was the first European to inhabit the area, living with the Bindal people (a local Aboriginal tribe) for 17 years.
Port Denison (now known as Bowen) was established, becoming the first European settlement in North Queensland.
John Melton Black, 1830 to 1919
Regatta Launch, Ross Creek
Townsville's First Railway Station, 1913
Early Sketch of Victoria Bridge
Alligator Creek Meatworks, 1928
Baths at The Strand, 1890
Day Dawn Mine, Charters Towers
John Melton Black, employed by Robert Towns at Woodstock Station, despatches Andrew Ball, Mark Watt Reid and a small party of Aboriginals to search for a site where a suitable port could be established.
Ball's party reached the mouth of Ross Creek in April 1864, setting up camp below the rocky spur of Melton Hill (near the present Customs House on The Strand). After further exploration of the surrounding area, Ball returned to Woodstock Station and reported the discovery of a favourable site for settlement.
The first party of settlers, led by W.A. Ross, arrived at Cleveland Bay from Woodstock Station on 5 November. Andrew Ball also returned to help establish the settlement that would become Townsville.
The first road to the hinterland was opened. This road provided pastoral properties in the hinterland with direct access to the Port.
The first sale of allotments on Cleveland Bay was held at Bowen on 31 July. James Morrill was permitted to select and purchase an allotment at an upset price.
William Townsville Boyes was the first white child born in the town on 25 August. During his life William was gaoled for horse stealing.
Cleveland Bay was declared a Port of Entry on 23 September.
Robert Towns, entrepreneur and businessman, agreed to provide financial assistance to the new settlement. The settlement was named Townsville in his honour.
Robert Towns visited Townsville for three days. This was his first and last visit.
Townsville was declared a municipality in February, with John Melton Black elected first Mayor.
The first steamship arrived in the port.
Boiling down works were established at Hermit Park, sugar plantations were established at Hyde Park and Hermit Park, and a cotton plantation was established at Railway Estate.
The first newspaper, the Cleveland Bay Herald, was distributed on 3 March.
A severe tropical cyclone struck Townsville. While many residents moved on, the discovery of gold in the hinterland (Cape River) helped stimulate recovery.
Townsville's population was approximately 300 people.
1868 to 1872
The National School opened in North Ward in 1868, with 48 students in attendance.
Townsville's population was 2000 people.
The Charters Towers goldfield was discovered on Christmas Day in 1871.
Trustees were appointed to manage the West End Cemetery in 1872. Established in c.1866, it operated as Townsville's General Cemetery until 1902.
Townsville was the major port and service centre for the Cape River, Gilbert, Ravenswood, Etheridge and Charters Towers goldfields. The pastoral industry extended further to the west, and the sugar industry expanded in coastal towns both north and south of Townsville.
An increase in maritime activities saw an attempt to increase the western side of Ross Creek seawards along the line of the present breakwater. The project failed prompting the Government to improve the existing harbour facilities.
The first mail steamer arrived via Torres Strait.
Burns Philp and Company was founded in Townsville.
The first sailing and rowing races were held. Townsville Rowing Club attended a regatta in Innisfail in midto 1880 and won the 'fours' event.
The Anglican Diocese of North Queensland was founded.
The Census listed the population as consisting of 1148 females and 1527 males.
1877 to 1878
Construction began on Townsville's first prison in 1878. The prison was situated in North Ward and was designed by F.D.G. Stanley, who also designed the Former Magistrates Court (1878), Townsville's first Post Office (1874) and the Hospital (1881). The prison's administration block is now used by the Central State School.
A major fire destroyed a number of commercial premises between Stokes and Denham Street in 1877. A second fire in 1878 damaged the Town Council offices, with a large number of Council records lost.
The first England versus Australia cricket test match was held in Melbourne, sparking enthusiasm for the game in Townsville. Three cricket clubs to Townsville, Mercantile and Aplin Brown to were established by 1884.
The North Queensland Pastoral and Agricultural Association was formed on 19 December. As a consequence, the first Townsville Show was held in 1881 on land along Ingham Road.
The Thuringowa Divisional Board was created, embracing an area of approximately 3219 square kilometres. The area included Ross Island, Hermit Park, Crystal Creek to the north; Burdekin to the south; and to the top of the range near Mingela.
A boiling down works opened at Alligator Creek.
The first bridge from Flinders Street to Ross Island (now South Townsville) was completed. Constructed as an operating drawbridge, it was supposed to allow the passage of shipping up the creek. However, trials conducted prior to its opening discovered major flaws in the mechanisms of the drawbridge winches. The bridge was dismantled in December.
A railway was constructed to the Reid River. Townsville's first Railway Station was constructed on the corner of Jones and Flinders Streets.
A fire damaged 11 properties in Denham Street.
The railway was extended to Charters Towers to service the booming goldfield.
The first stage of the North Ward Townsville Hospital was completed. The two storey brick building accommodated 70 patients.
The Townsville Turf Club moved to Cluden.
Townsville's population was 4000 people.
The first Land Office was built.
The first secondary school, The Grammar School, opened in temporary premises in Flinders Street. In 1885, the school traded 25 acres of land at Kissing Point for 10 acres of Council owned land at the northern end of the gardens and recreation reserve. Construction commenced on a new school which opened in 1887.
The North Queensland Brewery opened in Flinders Street West.
The Alligator Creek boiling down works was closed.
The railway was extended to Ravenswood.
The coastline of Magnetic Island was surveyed by J.G. O'Connell.
Work commenced on the Victoria Bridge, built to link Flinders Street with Ross Island. The bridge was a swing bridge designed to allow shipping to sail upstream. The swing span revolved on 16 rollers bearing on the main castto iron cylinder pier. A smaller cylinder, about two metres in diameter, served as a pivot. Two hydraulic rams under the footway provided the opening and closing movement. A six horsepower gas engine drove the pumps for the hydraulic system.
Queen Victoria's Jubilee year. A dedication service was held on the site of the proposed St James Cathedral on 21 June.
Townsville's water supply came from Willmett's Well, opposite Mundingburra school, and Hubert Well, three to four miles from the town. The pumps were capable of lifting 864,000 gallons of water in 24 hours.
The Victoria Bridge opened to traffic.
The Alligator Creek Meatworks commenced operation. The meatworks produced hides, fertislisers and glue basics. A meat preservation company also commenced operation.
The Council Baths were built on The Strand. Gender restrictions were the rule, with women were only admitted on Tuesdays and Fridays. Baths were later built on Queens Road in 1930, at Rowes Bay in 1931 and at Kissing Point in 1933.
A freezing works was established on the Ross. This was the first freezing works to be established in Queensland, allowing for the export meat trade from Townsville to the United Kingdom to commence.
The population of Townsville was 13,000 people.
1892 to 1894
In 1893, the State Minister for Lands declared that all land within 10 chains of the high water mark was to become the property of the future Harbour Board. No compensation was paid to owners of the resumed land.
Andrew Ball, a prominent Townsville pioneer, died in 1894.
Cyclone Sigma struck the town on 26 November. The cyclone caused 600,000 pounds of damage to Townsville and several lives were lost.
The Townsville Harbour Board was formed following the development of port and shipping in the city.
A horse verses bicycle race was held around Castle Hill. Although the horse was given a 15 minute head start, the bicycle won.
This was the peak of the Charters Towers gold production. The bulk of the gold was shipped through Townsville.
Hayles Magnetic Island Ferry Service began operation between Townsville and Magnetic Island.