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Thomas Ellem (1843–1906)

The death took place at the Port Douglas (Q.) Hospital on Nov. 3rd of Mr. Thomas Ellem, of Mowbray, one of the best known pioneers of North Queensland, and a man widely connected in the Clarence district. The deceased, who was born on the Hawkesbury River in 1841, went to Queensland many years ago, and led an adventurous life as a prospector and (gold) miner. In 1864 he went to Hughenden to assist in forming a sheep station, but tiring of that work started in company with three others from Nulla Nulla, on an extended prospecting tour in practically unknown country. At the end of 1867 the party opened the once famous Cape gold mine—which has produced gold ever since—and secured the Government reward of £1000. Mr. Ellem remained on the field for some time, and then started prospecting again, eventually joining forces with Daintree, another well known northern pioneer. As the result of the combined effort the Gilbert country was opened in 1869, and proved another payable goldfield. Mr. Ellem, remained there several years working with success. In 1872 he followed Milligan and party to the Palmer River, and was among the first to get gold there. Three years later he again resumed prospecting, and discovered what is now known as the Hodgkinson goldfield, where he worked with varying success for some time. In 1881 Mr. Ellem entered into a new venture by purchasing two bullock teams and commencing a carrying business between Port Douglas and the Hodgkinson. The distance was 70 miles, but the rates ranged between £50 and £60 a ton. Later on he extended to Herberton, where he traded for a number of years. Eventually trade fell off, rates were not so good, and the tick outbreak having reduced his teams, he sold the remnant in 1894, and engaged in prospecting near the heads of the M'Leod and Palmer Rivers, but without success. During the intervals he worked tin, but gold always had the greatest attraction for him. His death was due to rheumatism and cancer. Mr. Ellem married Miss T. Fitzgerald, of Rifle Creek, in 1885. His wife and child died three years later. North Queensland papers, in referring to the late Mr. Ellem, speak of him in the highest terms. He was one of a band of courageous men who helped to make North Queensland, and faced the greatest hardships and dangers in their prospecting trips. At the time Mr. Ellem went north blacks were fierce and numerous, vast tracts of country unknown, and white settlement sparse. Still they cared little or nothing for these difficulties. The regrettable feature of it is that so few of the pioneers were adequately rewarded. Mr. Ellem was a brother of Mr. R. Ellem, sen., Southgate; William and George Ellem, Strone Park; James Ellem, Southampton; John Ellem, South Grafton; F. Ellem, Calliope; and Mrs. Parry, of Coramba.

Original publication

Citation details

'Ellem, Thomas (1843–1906)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 August, 1843
Gosford, New South Wales, Australia


3 November, 1906 (aged 63)
Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (neck)

Cultural Heritage

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Religious Influence

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