Springbank at Cawarral the property of Alexander & Christina McFadyen

Alexander McFadyen and his wife Christina (nee Brown) who were immigrants from Scotland on the infamous voyage of the Ship Utopia from Portsmouth to Keppel Bay in 1862 are my Great Great Grandparents, following my maternal line all the way.

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Alexander & Christina are one of those ancestral line with quite a story to tell.

This blog is to document my research on their property Springbank at Ironpot in the Parish of Cawarral. There seems not to have been a great deal of information about their property in family histories published to date.

It was known that their property was Springbank, and that they lived on the Yeppoon Road for many years.

I recently visited the Queensland State Archives and have been able to uncover enough clues to lead me to identifying the property.

Clue # 1 – A Survey Plan for Portion 355

One of the truly delightful gems uncovered at the Queensland State Archives was this Survey Map:

Item 1098790; F5/6 1872; 29/06/1872; Series 17667 Survey Plans; McFadyen Alexander, Selection 355; Parish of Cawarral


The map is a thing of great beauty, and shows that Alexander’s 640 Acres spans, what at that time was, a proposed road from Cawarral to Rockhampton, and lies on Cabbage Tree Creek. The Road it turns out is Cabbage Tree Creek Road.

Clue # 2 – Insane Asylum Files for Alexander McFadyen

The second set of clues as to the lands making up Springbank lay in the files from the Goodna Asylum for the Insane, to which Alexander was admitted on the 23rd Feb 1891 at age 54.

This record set is :
Item 444710; CUR/Q76; SRS334/2/966; Dept no:982; Series 334 Protective Management Files – Brisbane; McFadyen, Alexander

It’s a file of a good couple of hundred pages of correspondence around the management of the affairs of Alexanders Estate, including correspondence between the court, the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, and with Alexander’s wife Christina.

Christina and the children had it seemed moved out about four or five years before Alexander’s admission to the Asylum.

The property name ‘Springbank’ was referenced in the letter from the Parish Priest and Christina upon Alexander’s admission to Goodna at the top of the second page.

Admission Letter Goodna.jpg

The correspondence references two land selections, Portion 355 which we have already identified, and which had been mortgaged to the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, and one that Alexander still owned outright, Portion 1350 (520 Acres).

Portion 355 (640 Acres) was sold by the bank to Mary Cadwallader in April 1892 with payment to be made in four instalments totalling just over £399.

Portion 355 Sale.jpg

Portion 1350 (520 acres) was sold in March of 1898 six years after the first lot, and was again sold to Mary Cadwallader for a very modest £195.

Portion 1350.jpg

Clue # 3 – The Map of the County of Livingstone

Armed with the Portion Numbers for the two parcels that together constituted Springbank, on the Queensland Government’s Website for Historical Land Administration I found a link to Parish Maps for every County in Queensland, and this historic map of the County of Livingston, showing every Parish, and depicting every numbered Portion in very high resolution and able to be zoomed.

This is the District Map for Livingstone, unzoomed:

County of Livingstone.jpg

When I zoomed in to the two selections forming ‘Springbank’ stood out beautifully with Portion 1350 just to the left of Portion 355, and abutting the Yeppoon Road, just as legend had it.

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Clue 4 – Google Maps

The final step in placing ‘Springbank’ was to place it on Google Maps in the context of today’s environment. Comparing the historic map on Screen Right to Google Maps on Screen Left, and zoomed in and in Map View rather than Satellite view, the lines of the Portions and Lots are visible and while they have been subdivided many times in the 121 years since Portion 1350 was sold, the lines from the original portions can still be worked out.

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Finally, what does it look like on the Satellite Map? What is it like today?

Well, here is the answer to that:

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Cabbage Tree Creek Road obviously became a road and a short cut to the town of Cawarral from the Yeppoon Road, splitting both blocks in two, and Portion 1350 has been subdivided to allow a dozen or so properties to be formed.

Finally I wanted to get some context for the scale of ‘Springbank’. How big was the McFadyen’s 1,160 acres? Using Google’s My Maps facility I mapped it out and have recorded Springbank on Google Maps for posterity, just follow the link to play with it.

But here’s a screen shot to give you a sense of the scale of Springbank relative to the Rockhampton and Yeppoon Region. It’s the yellow patch right to the north of the Mount Archer National Park.

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There’s Gold in Them Hills

Family legend tells that Alexander was a Gold Miner at heart.

The McFadyens arrived in Rockhampton in 1862, immediately following the Canoona Gold Rush of 1858 and just before discoveries at Cawarral in 1863 and Gympie in 1867.

If you scroll back up to the zoomed in map of Cawarral Parish you can see emblazened across the area where ‘Springbank’ was selected ‘Cawarral Gold and Mineral Field’.

I believe there was no accident that our Alexander selected land on a creek and with ridges in this area.

As one reads about the early history of Queensland there were many of the early settlers drawn to the Gold Fields to find their riches. It is said that the fledgling towns of Maryborough and Brisbane near on emptied when the Gympie Gold Rush began. For those in Brisbane who wonder why our main road north was named Gympie Road, and not after another town to our North, it’s because it was built to enable Coaches to access the Gympie Goldfields by Road. Another of my Ancestors John Thomas Brigg would use that road as a part of the Gympie Gold Escort.

Alexander & Christina McFadyen

There is no record of Alexander McFadyen making it big in terms of Gold Prospecting. He and Christina owned ‘Springbank’ for about 20 years before he was admitted to the Asylum. He was reported as angry, violent, and destructive. His 1,160 acres, his 50 head of cattle, and his horses it seems were not his dream.

I suspect ‘Gold’ and the dream of making it big had been, and that is not the cards he was dealt.

‘Springbank’ though seems to be a source of pride to the descendants of the McFadyens, and it would have been the childhood home for Alexander and Christina’s four sons and six daughters, for whom it was the family homestead for 15 years till they left due to Alexander’s explosiveness.

Alexander was committed to the Asylum on 23rd February 1891, and died there 18 years later on the 14th June 1909.

Christina led a challenging life after Alexander was committed, raising 10 children, working as a nurse whose legacy as such is well documented.

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She lived in East Street, Rockhampton at the time that Alexander was admitted to Goodna, and had been living apart from him for around four to five years.

In December 1898 Christina advised the ‘Curator for the Insane’ that the address for forwarding her monthly allowance from the proceeds of the sale of their family home of £3 could be sent to a new address at 342 Campbell Street, Rockhampton.

342 Campbell Street.jpg342.jpg

Christina again wrote to the Curator for the Insane on March 23rd 1900 advising she would be leaving Rockhampton for a time.


It is documented in the book ‘The 1862 voyage of the ship, Utopia to Queensland’ by Sylvia A. Conaghan and Nola Tom, that she had returned to Scotland and was reported in the Capricornian Newspaper of 23rd August 1902 as being on her way back from her trip to the old country. There is a photograph published in the book of Christina at the 1912 Fifty Year Reunion of those who immigrated to Rockhampton on board the Utopia. She has been identified by other descendants as the lady in the hat seated on the right hand end.

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One of my passions is finding the places that our ancestors lived. It brings me great joy to have learned a little more about ‘Springbank’ and the place it had in the lives of Alexander and Christina McFadyen.

The Darumbal People of the Capricornian Coast

No discussion of the early European Settlements in Australia would be complete without acknowledging the flaws in the attitudes and choices made by the Europeans who came to these lands. To their eyes these lands had not been settled, but in fact they were a home to the original people of this land, who had an entirely different relationship with the land than the Europeans.

The indigenous people of what the Europeans called the Capricorn Coast were the Darumbal Nation.

I have no knowledge of Alexander and Christina’s relationships with the indigenous people, though the following excerpts from the research at the link above tell the story of those times and the attitides that prevailed fairly clearly.

“European settlement was understandably resisted by the Darumbals who were often recorded by explorers and settlers as a violent warring tribe, and as recently as 1904 in the Early History of Rockhampton, JTS Bird described indigenous tribes of Central Queensland as perpetrators of ‘murder and outrage’.

While these words come from a different time, they nonetheless portray a landscape of European attitudes towards the blacks as being a sub-class of human without the right to defend their lands from invasion.

In modern times, we would call the Darumbal attacks a resistance movement, no different from the East Timor uprisings in the 1990s, or the Kanaka revolts on New Caledonia, or indeed the French Resistance against the Germans in World War II. Equally, we would label the retaliatory massacres perpetrated against them as ethnic cleansing.”

It should be a great regret by every descendant of the Pioneers of this land, that the attitudes prevailing among our ancestors at that time towards the original inhabitants of the lands they came to were horrific, inhumane, lacking empathy, and do not reflect at all well on the so called civilised society of that time.

I offer gratitude for those who have helped transform those attitudes, and I know that the souls of our ancestors would stand with us now wishing our pioneering past might have been handled differently.


Ura P Auckland
Writer, Entrepreneur, Family Historian

Image Attributions:

  1. Family Tree of Ura P Auckland, a screen shot from my work on Ancestry.com under Creative Commons license
  2. Survey Plan of Portion 355 of the Parish of Cawarral, under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Queensland State Archives, Item 1098790; F5/6 1872; 29/06/1872; Series 17667 Survey Plans; McFadyen Alexander, Selection 355; Parish of Cawarral
  3. Correspondence from files of Curator for the Insane, under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Queensland State Archives, Item 444710; CUR/Q76; SRS334/2/966; Dept no:982; Series 334 Protective Management Files – Brisbane; McFadyen, Alexander
  4. Historic Map of County of Livingstone, and excerpt thereof under Creative Commons Attributions license 4.0, courtesy of Queensland Government’s Website for Historical Land Administration.
  5. Google Maps Screen Captures, under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Google Maps
  6. Family of Alexander and Christina McFadyen, a screen shot from my work summarising publicly available records on Ancestry.com under Creative Commons license
  7. Photo of 342 Campbell Street, Rockhampton under Creative Commons license, courtesy of onthehouse.com
  8. Photo of those present at the 1912 Utopia Reunion, under Creative Commons license, courtesy of the book ‘The 1862 voyage of the ship, Utopia to Queensland’ by Sylvia A. Conaghan and Nola Tom,


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