Letter from the Surveyor General to the Secretary for Lands and Works submitting Robert Towns’s application to lease 1280 acres of land under the Sugar and Coffee Regulation, dated 22 March 1865

Townsville owes its establishment to Robert Towns, a pioneer cotton and sugar-cane grower. Towns provided the finance for pastoralist John Melton Black to search for a suitable location in North Queensland where a boiling-down works could be established to cater for pastoral runs in the interior and along the coast. It appears that Black was also concerned with finding a suitable port closer to his own runs which would reduce cartage costs. Whatever the exact reason, Black formed a settlement on the shores of Cleveland Bay in 1864. The following year Towns successfully applied for 1280 acres of land to grow sugar and coffee, and with Black as his partner he also erected a woolstore, boiling-down works and a wharf. The government responded by gazetting a township named in honour of Robert Towns later the same year. As a pioneer employer of Melanesian indentured labour in the south of the colony, it was not surprising that the township he co-founded soon became an important entry point for indentured labour required on sugar-cane plantations established along the coast.   Townsville’s growth quickly surpassed that of its rivals, Cardwell and Bowen, and in 1872 its future prosperity was assured after gold was discovered at Charters Towers in the hinterland.


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