George JOHNSON
1910-1912

Born:         7 February 1868 (Stillington, County Durham, England) 
Died:            2 May 1952 (Mackay, Queensland, Australia) aged 85 years.
Buried:        3 May 1952 (Mackay Cemetery, Presbyterian Section).
Parents: 
    Thomas and Isabelle JOHNSON.
Marriage:    23 July 1906 (Queensland) to Elizabeth DUMMA
Religion:      Presbyterian

George Johnson was born at Stillington in County Durham, England on 7th February 1868.  He was the fifth child of Thomas and Isabelle Johnson. George's father died in 1871 and his mother died  in 1882 when George was aged 14.  The younger members of the family went to live with an Uncle George. He attended Houghton-le-Spring High School.

After leaving school he gained employment as a clerk in a Solicitor's office. However the lure of the outdoors meant he was going to undertake sheep farming upon emigrating to Australia.

George and his younger brother Chris came to Australia in 1889 and landed in Rockhampton. His dream of becoming a sheep farmer were dented as the Central and Western areas of Queensland were in the middle of a drought. At the time, Charters Towers was a booming Gold town so the two brothers decided to try and make a fortune there. The both gained employment as miners but fortunes were slow in coming so they decided to move to Mackay and work in the Sugar industry.  

They were employed in various jobs  and were successful in gaining  a large fencing contract at St. Helens and Bloomsbury Stations. They were later employed on Ashburton and Homebush sugar plantation during the cane planting and harvesting season. In the slack they worked for a Mr. Smith of Mirani West and Mr. James Head of Cattle Creek grubbing trees, clearing land and fencing. Following advise from Mr. Smith the two brothers took up 160 acres of land each on the western side of the Pioneer River at Mia Mia.

The Mia Mia properties were not successful so they purchased another property on Cattle Creek at Gargett. They were at the forefront of trying to establish a sugar Mill at Gargett which ultimately did not go ahead. Life for the early cane farmers in the area west of Mirani was hard due to the distance they had to haul their cane to be transported to the North Eton Mill. Eventually George and Chris dissolved their partnership and Chris retained the Gargett property and George retained the Mia Mia Property.

In 1906 George married Elizabeth Dumma. After their marriage the original Mia Mia farmhouse was replaced by a two storey house when their first child, Fred, was born in 1907.

After his marriage and the end of the partnership with his brother, George, decided to expand his farm interests and purchased properties adjoining his farm.  He also exchanged a portion of his property to help move the provisional school to a more central location to serve the expanding population of the Mia Mia area.

George was always a great advocate in the interests of fellow farmers and during his lifetime was a member of many public bodies and canegrower and miller organisations. He was a great believer in the old adage "Unity is Strength" and used his persuasive powers in  organising farmers to look after their own interests.  The Pioneer River Farmers and Graziers Association (P.R.F. & G.A.) was formed and George was appointed as President in 1906-07 and again in 1911 to 1914.  This body was later incorporated into the Mackay District Show Association and he was appointed President of this Association as well.

He was a councillor on the Pioneer Shire Council from 1907 to 1914 and was Chairman from 1910 to 1912. Hw was one of the instigators of the splitting of Pioneer Shire and creating the new Mirani Shire in 1916 to give the people of the area better local government representation. George was proclaimed the first Chairman of the Shire. He was again elected and retained the Chairman's role from 1921 to 1939 when he retired from active office.

Prior to the inauguration of the Mirani Shire Council, George  was prompted by friends and primary producers to run for State Parliament nominating for the seat of Mackay against the Labor candidate William Forgan Smith. History shows that Forgan Smith won and went on to become Premier of Queensland. Despite their political differences both men became firm friends during their lifetimes. After the election loss George decided politics were not his vocation and instead concentrated his efforts into sugar and shire affairs.

He was very active in local canegrower bodies and canvassed the district for support in sugar organisations and was successful in helping establish the United Cane Growers Association (U.C.G.A.) which was formed in 1913.  He was Chairman of the Association until 1917. As the local Association was a success he travelled through cane growing areas  and contacting other sugar bodies with the aim of forming  a State wide organisation. In 1926 the Queensland Cane Growers Association was formed and George Johnson was its first President. This was a position he was to hold until 1946 when he retired due to ill health.

He was a member of the Mackay Canegrowers Executive for many years as the North Eton representative. The original North Eton Sugar Mill was taken over by the Queensland Government however he maintained the growers should own the mill. With his help the North Eton Co-operative Sugar Miling Association was formed in 1927 and took over running of the mill. George was appointed Chairman of the Association a position he was to hold till 1945 when he retired from cane growing.

During his years as President of the Q.C.G.A. the first international Sugar Agreement was drawn up. He was also in office when production was decided by farm peaks to help prevent over production of sugar to better control world prices.

George retired from Public Life in 1946 to his home in Nebo Road in Mackay but retained an active interest in Sugar Affairs till his death on 2nd May 1952 following an operation. 

George Johnson can be credited to furthering the cause of small cane growers in Queensland and achieved a lot for the industry.

Sources: 

Johnson, C.R. (Bob), The Johnson Story, unpublished, 1981, printed by R. J. McTaggart & Co., Pialba, QLD.

Kerr, John. (1980).  Pioneer Pageant. Mackay, QLD: Pioneer Shire Council.

Mackay Cemetery Burial Register, Mackay Family History Society.

Queensland Federation Index 1890-1914.


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