Kilburnie was established as a pastoral property in 1883 by John and Elizabeth Campbell, who had emigrated to Queensland, Australia, from Ireland in 1870. They had been working on Dumgree Station, near Gladstone in Central Qld, but were keen to obtain land of their own. The first lease for Kilburnie was for 10,000 acres. The Campbell family had nine children (eight survived into adulthood) and in the early days of Kilburnie all the children were active helpers on the property. The family bred draught horses, and eventually introduced the first Hereford cattle to the area. As the children grew up and got married they moved on to new lives, but one daughter, Ruby (a gifted artist), stayed on at Kilburnie, eventually inheriting the property when her father John passed away in 1943.