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Archer, Thomas (1823–1905)

from Australian Town and Country Journal

Mr. Thomas Archer, whose death was announced by cable last week, was the son of William Archer, and was born at Glasgow February 27, 1823. At the age of 17 he emigrated to New South Wales, arriving in Sydney on December 31, 1837. He engaged in pastoral pursuits, and, with two of his elder brothers, Messrs. John and David Archer, decided to try his fortunes in Queensland, then the Moreton Bay district of New South Wales.

In August, 1841, the three brothers started from Castlereagh River, New South Wales, with about 5000 sheep, passing near where now stands Goondiwindi, the line which, 16 years later, became the boundary between New South Wales and Queensland. They then crossed the Condamine about a dozen miles below Canning Downs, which had shortly before been discovered and occupied by the Brothers Patrick, Walter, and George Leslie, and where the flourishing town of Warwick was afterwards founded; travelled across Darling Downs, then without road or track, to Eton Vale, which had been lately occupied by Mr. (afterwards Sir Arthur) Hodgson. Continuing on their way, past where now stand Drayton and Toowoomba townships, they crossed the Main Range by Hodgson's Gap, and turned northward through unoccupied country by Wingate's Lagoon and Mount Brisbane, soon after taken up by the brothers Frederick and Francis Biggs. Thence they pushed on to Durandur, on Stanley Creek, the eastern head of the Brisbane, near Glasshouse Mountains, a country that had been explored by David Archer.

Here they remained some four or five years, and were soon joined by their eldest brother, Charles. They afterwards explored and occupied two runs close under the Main Range, called Emu Creek and Cooyar, where they remained about four years.

Hearing that Fitzroy Downs and Mount Abundance had been discovered by Sir Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General of New South Wales, who came upon it from the south, Mr. Archer started in 1848 across the Main Range to Jimbour, then occupied by Sir Joshua Peter Bell. From Jimbour he set off, accompanied by Mr. Arthur Chauvelle and a black boy, to find a way to Fitzroy Downs, and after a fortnight's scrambling through scrubs and over mountains, one of which he named Mount Horrible, they emerged upon Fitzroy Downs, and saw Mount Abundance in the distance, and then returned half-starved to Darling Downs, having for a week existed on black ducks and tea.

Fitzroy Downs being too distant to be taken up by small squatters, Mr. Archer set off on another exploration trip to the Upper Burnett River, where he discovered two runs, which were afterwards named Eidsvold and Coonambula. From here they opened a road to Wetherun Station, then held by Messrs. Humphries and Herbert, and were the first, or among the first, who took a load of wool to Maryborough, and shipped it in that now flourishing port for Sydney in a forty-ton schooner.

After about a year on the Burnett, Mr. Archer set off in 1849 for California, and after three years there returned to England, via Panama. He was absent from the colony about four years, and in 1853, shortly before he returned, his brothers Charles and William explored what was afterwards Gracemere Station, and discovered and named the Fitzroy River.

The portion of the Dee Range, from which they obtained their first view of Gracemere, was not far from the now world-renowned Mount Morgan, but no portion of it ever fell to their lot. Gracemere was occupied and stocked in 1854-5. A sailing boat, the Elida, was built at Maryborough; and in her one of Mr. Archer's younger brothers, Colin, with one man, sailed with a cargo of supplies, via Gladstone and Keppel Bay, up the Fitzroy— then unsurveyed, and to white men unknown— the cargo being landed on a wharf made of slabs and saplings, on the spot where now stands the Government Wharf at Rockhampton. Mr. Archer's brothers also gave Norwegian names—Berserker and Sleipner—to hills on the north side of the Fitzroy, Norway having been their home in their boyhood.

About a year after Gracemere was occupied, Charles Archer, in company with Mr. Wiseman, police magistrate, after much exploration and discussion, fixed upon the site for a township, Mr. Wiseman naming it Rockhampton, that name being adopted on account of the rocky bar above the town, which blocks navigation for large vessels.

Mr. Archer having revisited England, returned to the colony in 1871, remaining until 1878, when he finally took up his residence in England.

He was appointed Acting Agent-General for Queensland in London in July, 1881, and Agent-General in November, 1881. From this post he retired In May, 1884, but was re-appointed on Sir Thomas McIlwraith's return to power in June, 1888, but again resigned on December 10, 1890. Mr. Archer was created C.M.G. in 1884. He was married in 1853, at Perth, N.B., to Grace Lindsay, daughter of James Morrison, of Muirton, Perth. His eldest son, Mr. William Archer, is the well-known author and dramatic critic.

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Citation details

'Archer, Thomas (1823–1905)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/archer-thomas-1469/text25470, accessed 22 November 2017.

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