18 Oct Here in History: Gladstone’s First Government Residence
With Betty Laver
Maurice Charles O’Connell, grandson of Captain William Bligh, was appointed Government Resident of the new colony of Port Curtis and he arrived in the Tom Tough in March 1854. At this time Gladstone was to be the capital of the new colony and there were already nine settlers squatting at Auckland Inlet in Gladstone.
With the arrival of the Tom Tough at Barney Point, there was a population explosion, from a mere nine people to over seventy. Captain O’Connell and his wife stayed abroad the vessel and he chose Barney Point to pitch tents for all government employees. The O’Connell’s lived on the ship for over a month before William MacDowell (O’Connell’s carpenter) prepared a temporary government residency for him. This consisted of a large marquee with a wooden floor and it was to be used for entertaining and as an office and courthouse.
In July 1854, O’Connell wrote to the Colonial Secretary advising that he recommended Barney Point as most suitable for the government headquarters. Francis Peter MacCabe, the surveyor of the area, marked out a site for the government residency, situated on the headland of Barney Point. This also consisted of two and half acre allotments for both the resident surgeon and the government clerk, plus ten acres for a town cemetery. O’Connell believed that Auckland Inlet would be the centre of shipping because of it’s deep water frontage and the potential to build wharves on Auckland Creek.
Sic years after O’Connell arrived in Gladstone, his residency had run it’s course and he retired to his station property of Riverstone on the Boyne River, about sixteen miles from Gladstone. He had achieved much for Gladstone in his six years although there had been many ups and downs. By 1865, O’Connell’s former residence at Barney Point was owned by AH Browne of Gin Gin and in 1875 it was burned to the ground. The old regime was finally laid to rest.
Photo from Jimmy Harris: Ruins of Government House