Now here’s a town like no other.
A little over 100 kilometres inland from Townsville this was cattle country until 1871 when a 12 year old Aboriginal boy named Jupiter Mosman found a nugget of gold when retrieving his prospecting party’s horses after a lightning strike. The unusual name is an amalgamation of the name of the then Gold Commissioner W. Charters and Towers Hill at the foot of which the nugget was found.
Ten gold reefs were eventually mined extracting an estimated 200 tonnes of high grade gold in the 45 years that mining was in operation.
There were about 8,000 people living here when last counted but in its’ heyday there were 30,000 and they were so self sufficient that they called the place ‘The World’ in the belief that anything that one wanted could in fact be obtained here.
The town even had its own Stock Exchange and a grand telegraph office to keep in touch with Brisbane and London. Share trades took place every afternoon at 4:00pm to the entertainment of all.
By 1917 gold prices had made mining uneconomic but Charters Towers didn’t slide into obscurity like so many mining towns. The grand mansions that once belonged to the mine owners were bought by the churches and in their grounds schools were built to provide much needed education for the children of the remote north.
With the outbreak of war in the Pacific the American Army built an airbase here and 15,000 American service personnel were housed in the boarding schools. The children had been moved away from the area for their own safety.
Today Charters Towers is a bustling rural hub that stands on its own even though Townsville city is an easy drive away. The major source of income is once again education.
For the architectural traveller the town has many superb examples of Queensland architecture:
The Court House Hotel a two storey wooden pub was moved from one street to another, without dismantling it. Why, because Gill Street had become the commercial centre of town.
The Stock Exchange has recently been refurbished to its former grandeur.
For aficionados’ of ‘Queenslander’ style homes there are many here representing the lives of the battler to the well heeled.
For history buffs there are town walks, a fascinating museum, the Venus Gold Battery, World War Two relics and much more.
Sources: Charters Towers Information Centre, Wikipedia and a hearty thank you to the residents of Charters Towers in helping me gain an understanding of the life of my Great Great Uncle who was at one time Mine Manager of the largest gold mine in this town.