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SIR THOMAS MITCHELL
? o ? Leichhardt's Famous Contemporary
On July 5, 1845, when Dr. Ludwig Lcichhardt was on his memorable expedition, and moving across the continent of Australia from Moreton Bay (Q.) to Port Esting ton (N.T.) he had traversed the base of Cape York Peninsula from east to west, i.e. from the Valley of Lagoons, near the head waters of the Burdekin River (then recently discovered and named by him) to an inlet in the Gulf of Carpentaria near the mouth of the Stanten River (which had been discovered and named by the Dutch navigator, Jan Carstens. in the Pera. in April, 1623). '
After leaving the Lynd River, on June 15, 1845, Leichhardt pitched his next camp on the Highbury Lagoon, west of the junction with the Mitchell River, which he named in honour of Sir Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor-General of New South Wales.
Mitchell, at that time, liar] al ready established hii name as one of the first on the roll of Austra lia's distinguished explorers. It j was destined, however, that with, it | one year of the naming of the Mitchell River they would- be listed by the Press of Sydney as rival explorers, immediately aftet Leichhardt's triumphal return from Port Cssington to Sydney, in March, 1846, nine months after his friends had given him up as irretrievably lost in the \ iry.n bush of North-east Australia. It is aJso of interest to note that on perusal of Leichhaitit'? letters to his relatives in Germany between 1842 twhen he first landed in Sydney), and 1848 (when he perished without trace on hu final attempt to reach the Swan River -W.A.- from Moreton Bay iQ.l, we find that mention Is made in seven letters of Sir Thomas Mitchell und his exploratory expeditions to un known parts of Eastern Australia. With the. aid of modern maps It In a»»y to folluiv Lelcliliardt's foot steps down the Mitchell. It must not, however, he forgotten Hint 100 years ugo, Lelulihardt was tra versing mi iihHQlutely uncharted new land, and hi« were the first contributions to the charting which now delineates the topo graphy of tlw Interior of the Cape. York 1'enlnNUla. For about 25 miles of its lower course, before joining the Mitchell, Hie Lynd begins to leak through numer ous channels into the Staoten. Then the Mitchell, nearly ea far down as the mouth of the Palmer, sends similar leakages to the Staaten. Leichhardt spent two dayp at his Highbury Lagoon Camp, where he killed one of his bullocks and cured the meat. The party's stock of flour had been finished three weeks before this date. As Leichhardt travelled along the left bank of the Mitchell Kiver, on June 19, 1845, lie noticed the tracks of crocodiles. On the 21st John Murphy and Brown, (black boy) bi ought to their leader, Leichhardt, the leaves of the first palm trees the party had seen on the waters of the Gulf. They belonged to the genus coyha. Natives In this locality were also observed collecting the seeds of water lilies for food. Leichhardt's track though the territory wns fol lowtd later by the road connecting Gambuola with Dunbar cattle station. As Leichhardt's men passed the long lagoons during this period, he noticed the superior quality of the grass, now known as Mitchell gracs, which is the most appreciated of all on the sheep country of Western Queensland. Palm trees became nume'.xms, and grew 40 or 50 feet high, with a thick trunk, swelling in the middle and tapering upwards and downwards. On June 25, 1M5, Leichhardt camped near Leich hardt Creek, and anabranch, which connected the Mitchell River and Dun bar creek, also called the Nassau River by the early Dutch explorers. Here Leichhardt determined to leave the Mitchell, which was carrying him too far north, his intention being to round the southern end of the Gulf. On June 27, 1845, the explorers saw I the smoke of natives' fires on the | plains in every direction, and in all probability the fires were gathering signals. After the party had arrived j in camp, Leichhaidt relates that: 'Whilst Cha:ley and Brown (the black boys) were in search of game they observed a native snenkinu un lo our bullocks, evidently with the Inten tion of driving them towards a party of his black companions, who, with poised speara. were waiting to receive them. Upon detecting this manoeuvre Charley and hi.s companion hurried forward to prevent their being driven away, when the natives gave the alaYm, and all look to their heels, with the exception of a. lame fellow who endeavoured to persuade his friends to stand and right. Charley, however, fired his gun, which had the intended effect of frightening them, for truy deserted the camp, which was 300 yards from ours, in a great hurry, leaving, among other articles, a small net full of yams, which Charley after wards picked up. The gins had pre viously retired, a ptoof that mischief was intended.' Crossing -Dunbar Creek, on June 28, Leichhavdt reports that the party travelled west over a most beautifully varied country of plains of forest' lands and chains of lagoons.' The Jardine Brothers travcr.se of the delta of the Mitchell in 1864. on their jour ney to Somerset (Cope Ynrkt was fur the;- west than Leichhaidt1.--. Keep ing a northerly course, they crossed Dunbar Creek (the Nassau River) and were the first to wander among the channels intersecting the delta in this locality. At Leichhardt's camp on the night of June 28, 1845, the wild blacks sud denly threw showers of spears at the ttnts, and John Gllbeil (Deputy Leader) was killed. In a letter written by Leichhardt to his family in Germany on January 24, 1846, he states: 'Between the Mit chell and the sea, blacks attacked me one night, after I had retired to my tent. God protected me, but one of ipy companions, Mr. Gilbert, who col lected birds, was killed by a spear, which went through hU heart, and lwr- oth'l- compan.onn. Me='rp. Calved and Roper, were dangerously wounded. The blacks fled after the first shot. I burled Mr. Gilbert, and, after two days I continued, my voyage parallel to the east coast of the Gulf or Carpcntada towards the south.' In namins the Mitchell River in honour of Sir Thomas Mitchell (Sur veyor-General of New South Wales) Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt placed his name on the mop of Noitli Queens land amongst thoce of other famous explorers, after whom rlvei-s in Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf country have been named. The Endeavour River (Cooktown) was, named t)y Cnptjiin Jnnics Cook, R.N., after his ship, which hud been beached for re paim there in 1770. The Flinders Rivir was named alter Captain M»t thew Flinders, R.N., who chniled trie western const of Cape York Peninsula during 1802. In the Investigator. The Wentworth Rivpr, on the western shore of the Gulf of Corpentfliia. was named by Lelchhftrdt In honour of W. C: Wenlworth. explorer of the Blue Mountains CN.S.W.). The Gilbert River was named after John Gilbert (Deputy Leader of Leichhardt's 1845 expedition), who had been speared to death by the wild blacks. The Lcich liordt River, flowing into the Gulf, was named by Explorer A. C. Gregory in honour of Dr. Ludwig Leichhaidt. who perished with all hands, and with out trace, in 1848, In his final atlompt to cross the Australian continent from Moreton Bay to the Swan River. The
Kennedy Riv.-r, which flows north Into Princess Charlotte Bay, was - «as named in honour of Explorer ] E. B. C. Kennedy, «ho was speared : to death by the wild blacks at Escape i River in 1K48, after leading an expedi tion from Tain o'Shanter Point, near Tully (N.Q.) The Gregory River, which flows into the Gulf, near Bu.lio lown. was named ofti'r Explorer A. ' C. Gregory, who led an expedition rrom Port Es^innton to Brisbane, via the Buidekln River in 1856. The Jar dine River, near Cape Yo.lt, wn named after the Jardine Brothers, who led an expedition from Rock- 1 hampton to Somerset (Capo York) in i 1864. The Hann River is named after 1 Explorer William Hann, who led ah i expedition fiom Cai-peiitaria Downs I Station to the Palmer River and J ' Princess Charlotte Bay in 1872. The ' Ruper and Calvcrt rivers were named '? after members of Leichhaidt's 1845 I expedition. The Hodgkinson was nannd after a member of Burke anrl Willt's expedition in J881. The Tote 1 River was named aftnr Robert Tate, i botanist with Hann'=, expedition in'] 1872. The Johnstone River at lnni--| fail (N.Q.) was named after Sub-,' Inspector Robert Johnstone. a member | of Explorer G. E. Dalrymple's Ex- j i peditfon in 1873. MITCIIIH.I.'S 1-:XPIX)RATION I In the Mitchell Gallery of the Mil-] chell Library in Sydney there is a I , Dortrait in oils of Sir Thomas Mitchell, i in full regimental uniform of a major I In the 95th Foot Regiment or Rifle ; Brigade. At that period, 1826, this | ivgiment was, and it still is, one of the moit distinguished In the Briti-h| Army. King William IV., addressing i them during tno period that Sir Thomas Mitchell was acting as Sur veyor-General of New South' Wales, said: 'And what niore can be said of you, Riflemen, than that wherever there has been fighting there you have been, and wherever you have been you have distinguished yourselves.' Sir Thomas Mitchell, whose name, liotli us explorer and »ur vejor-General, looms large In our hiKtury, was liorn at Craig-end, Stirlingshire (Scotland), in 1792. Ur uus the son of John Mitchell, of Grangemouth, and Ills mother wuk a daughter of Alexander Milne, or Carron Works. When he was but 16, young Mitchell ' joined the British Army in the Pen insula War as a volunteer. Three years later he received a commission in the 95th Foot Regiment or Rifle Brigade. He was employed on the Quarter-master General's staff, at mili tary sketching. He was serving in the field nt the battles of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, The Pyrenees I and St. Sebastian. After the close of | the war he went to Spain and Portu gal to survey the battlefields. He was promoted to captain in 1822, and to major in 1&26. His appointment as SurveyorGen eral of New South Wales, as successor to John Oxley, took place In 1627, when he at once asiumed office and started energetically to lay out and construct roads, then the urgent need of the new colony. His strong person ality and the energy and thoroughness he displayed in all his undertakings, combined with his many gifts as I draughtsman, surveyor, and organiser, proved to be of peculiar service to the colony at that period of Its existence. There was a vast unknown country | surrounding the settled parts, awaiting both discovery and development, and Mitchell's inclinations anfl talenU be ing strongly directed towards Geo graphical discoveiy, the office of Sur veyor-General that he held for so long was the -moit appropriate and advantageous that could have been given him in the interests of the I colony. His exploratory expeditions may be briefly summed up as fallows'. On November 21, 1831, he led an ex- j peditlon from Liverpool Plains to the | Upper Darling. He reached the Namol on December 16, 1831, and followed Explorer Cunningham's Gwydlr River for 80 miles. Two of Mitchell's team sters bringing up supplies to this ex pedition were killed by the wild blacks. Mitchell discovered that the river he was following was the upper flow of Sturt's Darling, and the know ledge of the Darling was consider ably extended by this expedition. Early In March, 1833, he led an tx I pedition by easy stages to the head of jthe Began River. It was during this 'expedition that Richard Cunningham (botanist), brother of Explorer Alan Cunningham, waa killed by the wild black?, after he had been lost in the bush whilst pursuing some scientific quest. Mitchell, after searching 14 d»ys for Cunningham, resumed his journey down the Bogan, and crossed the Darling. He established Fort Bourke, where the present town of Bouvkc (N.B.W.) now stands. He then traced the Darling River for 300 miles towards its junction with the I Munay. Mitchell reported that the blacks in the area traversed were bar- 1 barously and Implacably hostile, and ! thamclessly dishonest. On comple tion of his task, Mitchell returned to Fort Bourke, and then to Bathurst. Fort Hou'ke -v»i n'n-'d after '.lout General Sir Richard Bourke. K.C.B. ? Governor of N.S.W., 1831-37). His statue stands on the west side of the Mitchell Library entrance, within a short distance of the statue of Cap tain Matthew Flinders. R.N.. facing Macqunrie Street. In March, 1836, the Government of New South Wales Instructed Surveyor Geneinl Mitchell to lead an expedition from his east camp on the Darling River to its junction with the Murray, thence along thin southern bank, and across the river to Yass Plains, with the object of verifying previous dis coveries. On March 17. 1830, Mitchell was camped on the Lach'.an Rlvtr, near the point where Oxley finally left the river. Thence he travelled to the Murmmhidgee and along the Murray to Its junction with the Darling, and teresiing problems in Australian ex ploration. He also mapped the junc tion of the Murrumbidgee and the Mun-ay. Mitchell continued hi? Journey oouth, ana on June 30. 1836. lie had j rrnched Swun Hill. As the country exceeded Ills expectations in every way. he pushed on until lie discovered the river* Lot! don on July 8, 1838, and the Avoca on the 10th. He then struck nff south-west, anil, drawn by the beauty and the pastoral advantages of this new territory, he decided to examine it In detail and trace its de velopment southwards. He named the new territory Australia Felix— 'The Garden of Australia.' Mitchell pushed on to the Wlmmero River, and on July 31, 1830 he dis covered the beautiful GlenelB River I and launched his boats on its waters. On August 20, 1836, he had reached the southern coaet of Australia, at Capo Northumberland. He than recommenced his journey tinmcwanjs, I by way of Portland Bay (where the
Henty family, from Tasmania, hud established their settlement two years p:«viously), and thence to Mount btacedon, wheie Mitchell ascend, u and identified Port Phillip. On his return to Sydney Mitchell submitted to the Government u glowing; report of tint splendid country he had dlwoviTiti, und which he recommended for Im mediate occupation by gnuilert und farmers. His report greatly stlmulatiMl M-Hlenifnt, and IiIh exploration was of Immediate bpneflt to the community. When Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt ar rived In Sydney on February 14. 1842, he was then 28 years of age, and his sole ambition was to qualify for the task of leading an expedition from the east coast of the continent at More ton Bay (Q.) to the we^t coast ni 3wan River (W.A.), und through vi jln country. At this time Sir Thomas Mitchell was Surveyor-General, and was recognised as the lending ex plorer, on account of his reliable and thorough work, which had greatly ex panded land settlement in the north west, west and south-west of the colony of New South Wales. In Leichhardt's first letter from Syd ney to his family in Germany, dated March 23, 1842, lie state/ : .... 'I had a letter of introduction to Sir Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor General (Chief of the Survey Dep'arl nunt) of New South Wales. He int.u duced me lo Dr. Nicholson, who is, however, not connected with our Wil liam. They are both influential men, and gradually I trust to gain ground.' Again, in a letter written by Ldcli hardt from Archer's station, to his family, on Februaiy 22, 1844, he writes: 'There was the intention to stnd an expedition from Sydney lo Hie noith-west part of New Holland (to Port Essingtonl to explore the interior of the counti-y. I would have accom panied this expedition, but the Gov ernment, or, ^.o be cor:*ect, the pro:'- cnt Governor, vetoed it, on account of lack of funds. The opposition to the project is ascribed to personal motives, because the prospective leader, Sir Thomas Mitchell, is no friend of the Governor, Sir Georee Gipps.'.' After Leichhardt had success fully completed his remarkable journey from Jimohur Station, on thr Darling Downs (Q.), to the Burdekin River (N.Q.), the Gulf of Carpentaria and. J'ort. Ksiungton (N.T.), between October 1, 1844. and December 17, 184S, lie em barked on the Heroine, an English ship, for Sydney, with the mem bers of his party. In a letter to his family dated Janu ary 24, 1846, he wrote .... 'It Lo be lieved In Sydney that I have been murdered long ago, or that I starved to death, and people have ko little trust in the happy success of my un dertakings that they are on the point of sending another expedition afield, under Sir Thomas Mitchell, which will cost at least £7000. whereas my own cost barely £900. 'What will the people sny when I appear suddenly resurrected from the grave, with a heap of mountainous ranges, rivers and creeks In my poc kets?' When Leichhardt returned to Syd ney from Port EsEington he received an extraordinary welcome. 'Notlrinfr.' Leichhandt assured his family in his next letter, 'could have been received with greater Joy or more affection. 'I thought the whole town would go mad with joy,' he says, in another comment. 'Even the family of Sir Thomas Mitchell aie treating me with justice.' During the month of December 1845, when Leichhardt was approach ing Port Essington, after his 3000-mile journey from Jimbour Station, Sur veyor-General Mitchell had already started out on an expedition which would lead him to the Maranoa, the Warrego, the Bclyando and the Bav eoo rivers, in South-west and Centiil Queensland. On December 15, 1845. Mitchell started from Buree (N.S.W.) with a large party, including E. B. C. Ken nedy (later speared to death at Escape River, near Cape York, In 1848), as second in command. He struck the Darling much above Foi-t Bourke thence continued to the Narran River, to the Balonne, and to the Cul goa. On April 12, 1846, he came to a natural bridge of rocks on the main blanch of the Balonne, which he called St. George Bridge, and which is the present site of the town of St George (Southern Queensland). Kennedy was left in charge of the main body here, and was Instructed to follow on slowly, while Mitchell pmhed ahead with a few men. Mit chell followed the Balonne to tho Maranoa, and thence to the Cogoon now called Muckadilla Creek, near Roma). This rivulet led him on into a magniflcont pastoral district, in the midst of which stood a solitary hill that he named Mount Abundance. It Is in his description of this region in hie journal that we mat had an al lusion to the bottle tree. He then crossed a low watershed to the Maru noa, and awaited Kennedy's nrrivnl. Kennedy overlook him on June 3, 1846, bringing despatches which had reached the party after the leader's departure from St. George's Bridge. Amongst other Items of news in the despatches was the repoit of Leich hardt's return from Port Eaetngton, after his successful journey from tho Darling Downs to the Burdekin River, the Gulf of Carpentaria and North Australia in 1844-45, and of the hearty reception that he had been ac corded in Sydney. One piece of In formation — a mire Boating newspaper surmise, but enough lo arouse Mit chell's suspicious temper — annoyed him greatly: 'We understand,' it ran, 'the intrepid Dr. Leichhardt la about to Btart another expedition to the Gulf, keeping to the westward, of the coast ranges.' A* this scorned lo indicate an in tention of trespassing on Mitchell's present field of operations, he naturally felt resentful, not likely fa he allayed by such a paragraph as the following: .... 'Australia Felix and the dis coveries of Sir Thomns Mitchell now dwindle Into comparative inslgnill Again leaving Kennedy, he sM out on an extensive excursion. Mitchell traversed the country at Hie head (if the Maranoa, and he also discovered the Warrego River. Keeping north over the watershed, he traversed the Claude and Nogoa rivers, and reached the Bclyando River, which he found was a tributary of the Biirdekln River, discovered by Dr. Leichhardt on his expedition to Port Essington, on April 2, 1845. Intensely mortified to find that he was on a tributary of the Burdekin River, and approaching the ground already trodden by Lelcn hardt, he returned to the head of the Nogoa, and struck west again, after dividing his party and forming a sta tionary camp. He then continued wcsteily, and discovered the Baicoo
River. It was on the Barcoo River thai Mitchell Hist noticed the now famous grass that bears his name. On his homewnrd journey he followed down the Maranoa River to St. George.. During his absence f.-om this locality intending pastoralisU had already followed in his tracks from the Darling Downs to St. George's Bridge, anxious to occupy new pas toral areas. In 1851 Mitchell was commis-loned by the Government of New South Wales to report on the Bathui'st gold I Held. He was the author of many educational works. Although a strict martinet in his official duties, and subject to a choleric temper, he was strenuous in his devotion to the advancement of Australia, among who-e workers he must always occupy a proud position. He died at his home at Darling Point, Sydnev, on October 5, 1865. Besides the Mitchell River, In Cupc York Peninsula, we also have the town of Mitchell on the Maranou River (discovered by this explore!' I, and the adjoining Mitchell Downs Station. The Queensland graziers appreciate the wdll-known .Mitchell B The Pyrenees Mountains, in Vic toria, discoveiwd by Mitchell, were named after one of the battles In the Penin.-ula War (in which Mitchell served), and Nivc Downs Station, ncR.:' Chnilcville, probably marks the route of Mitchell's expedition to the War rego and Bnrcoo rivers, and com memo'.-aUs the Battle of Nive, or the battle honours of his old regiment, the Rifle Biignde. Leichhardt had perished, at the age of 35 yeniB, in 1848, in the interior of the continent of Australia, In hit- final attempt to cross from Moreton Buy to the Swan River. Like the la«t resting places of Gilbert nnd Kennedy, fn Nuith Queensland, Leichhardt's place of denth has never been located. He disappeared in the never-never of No Man's Land, nnd probably hnd the Bimic wish as a well-known Australian poet Lot me dumber In the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave, With never stono oi pall to fence my bed: Should the fturdy station children pull the bush flowers on mv grave, 1 mtiy chance to hoar them romp ing overhead.