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Settlement in the Country

Port Mackay grew quickly as cattle and sheep stations were established along the river and in the hinterland.  The first of these was 'Balnagowan', across the river from Mackay's 'Greenmount'.  It was first settled by John Cook and his brother-in-law, Louis Gerald Ross, in October 1862.  It was Cook's son, Albert, who eventually bought the 'Greenmount' property in 1913 and built the present homestead in 1915.  It is now an historical museum.

Over the range, Dick Spencer had established the run called the 'Retreat' (later to be known as Mount Spencer) before Mackay had left the district.  James Ready, who came to work on Mount Spencer in 1862, also has descendants living in the Mackay district.

John Cook's neighbours to the north were John and William Macartney and Robert Graham, who between them, settled the four runs known as St. Helens in 1863.  Hamilton, west of Balnagowan was taken up by Robert Martin in 1864 and Hopetown across the river, by his brother James in 1866.  They ran it as one station.  'Abington', also south of the river, was first applied for by John McCrossin of the Mackay expedition but was never taken up by him.  It was eventually acquired by the Rawson brothers, Charles and Edmund.  'Abington' was also known as 'The Hollow'.

The Homebush and Cape Palmerston areas, south of the river on the eastern side, were originally in John Mackay's application for land, but soon passed out of his hands.

John Walker, after whom Walkerston was named, leased the Homebush part which was eventually bought by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR).  Further south, the Plane Creek area was taken up in the 1860's by Henry Bell and Edmund Atherton.

All these properties from St. Helens in the north, to Plane Creek in the south, and to the foot of the ranges in the west, were taken up for cattle and horses.

Within thirty years of the discovery of the Pioneer River, all of them were to change from cattle to sugar.


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Mackay Historical Society



Mackay Historical Society and Museum Incorporated 2001-2006.
created 12 August 2004.
last updated 09 August, 2006 .
Site maintained by Glen Hall