The Port of Mackay
Before leaving the district, John Mackay chartered the vessel 'Presto' which landed stores for him on the river bank about a kilometre upstream from the present Hospital Bridge. A survey was made of the river by Mackay and the chart sent to Rockhampton. Port Mackay was then officially declared a port of entry.
John Mackay the man for whom the Port of Mackay was named after.
Once this was done, settlers began arriving, and had done so even before Mackay left the district. One of the first was Andrew Henderson who set up a store in Sydney Street. It was built of iron with a dirt floor. Some of his descendents still live in the Mackay district.
In September 1862, the S.S. 'Murray' with Captain Till in charge, anchored in the river and passengers alighted over a plank laid to the shore. Among them was a Mrs. Bolger, the first woman to land at the settlement.
By November, there were four stores, one of them, Burns, Bassett & Co., having a contract to handle the mail by ship between Rockhampton, Mackay and Port Denison (Bowen).
In 1862 Rockhampton and Clermont were well established towns and communication overland from Mackay was by the track used by John Mackay and his predecessors, through Nebo by this time a developing township.
In 1863 a government survey for a proper road was made for the teamsters and travellers, and thus the Peak Downs Highway had its origin, named after the Peak Range where gold and copper had been found not long before.
Thomas Henry Fitzgerald was sent to Mackay in 1863 to make a survey of the town and prepare the first town plan for his chosen name of 'Alexandra' for the township that was chosen to be called 'Mackay'. The survey said "The town site is on nearly level plain, is generally dry, the land being of very good quality and with the exception of a few patches of scrub, being lightly timbered with gum and tea-tree, ad covered with grass six to seven feet in height at the time of the survey."
Communication by ship was also important to the embryo town of Mackay. The little sailing ships of the day were able to sail up the river at high tide and wharves were constructed along its banks. Daniel Shepherd, who later opened a store in Mackay, made a one day stopover in 1864 and had a walk around while the ship was unloading. He Wrote:- "There being nothing in sight but three slab humpies, I went ashore to see the town, and picking up a faint track, followed it along about where River Street is now....crossed a bridge across a gutter running into the river. The 'bridge' was made of three small logs...." That was probably the first of all Mackay's public works.
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© Mackay Historical Society and Museum
created 12 August 2004.
last updated 09 August, 2006 .
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