See also James and Alexander (Sandy) Porter newpaper clippings  
Three Porter brothers married three Davidson sisters. Some of their details, and their children, are listed in the following doc:  

Porter-Davidson marriages (PDF)

Below: Marriage certificate of James Porter and Margaret Marshall Davidson  
Washpool photos courtesy Loraine Porter  
James Porter (1835-1912) Brother of Alexander Elgin Porter
Life Story
I promised you some time since that I would jot down my early experiences: I now begin the job but goodness knows if I may ever finish it, as handling the pen is not in my line; but, seeing that, one by one, the old identities are every week making the acquaintance of Old Charon, my turn may come shortly. I therefore only intend to give you in this rough sketch of my life for the last 57 years, the details I may fill in afterwards, but this is problematical.

My parents arrived in Brisbane in July, 1849, bringing out a family of four sons and one daughter, I being the eldest, 14 years of age.
My father and younger brother (Sandy) at once entered the employment of Mr. Andrew Petrie, grandfather of the present member for Toombul, the former at the magnificent wage of 24/- per week, and the latter as cow-boy at 2/6 per week. I myself, with the consent of my father, went as a cuddy boy on board the steamer “ Eagle” trading between Sydney and Brisbane.
I remained at this for about four months, when I left and entered Mr. Petrie’s employment to learn the joinery trade, also receiving half a crown a week and my board, while father had to keep me in clothes and find my tools. As I had been working since nine years of age, you may depend my education was not much, but Mr.Petrie had a tutor attending the younger members of his family at night, and I participated in what instruction was going. Afterwards I paid 1/6 per week for evening school. Mr. Petrie, being blind, when I had any time to spare, got me reading for him, and varied this, by instructing the rudiments of geometry.
Thus I spent my time working from 10 to 12 hours a day- no eight hours then- and in the evening acquiring what little education I ever received, until September 1851.
In may ’51 news came to Brisbane that gold had been found at Summerhill, near Bathurst New South Wales and steamer after steamer bought word of the big find………..

……… and Brisbane was like a deserted village.
My father being without the means to leave by steamer, determined to travel overland, and while doing so, earn enough to keep mother and the family in his absence. As the shearing was commencing on the Downs this was an opportune time to do so; so, on the 2nd September, he left Brisbane with a mate. Two days later after I left without giving notice to anyone except mother, and pulled father up at Peak Mountains, 15 miles beyond Ipswich. We crossed the range by the new road……
………… .to Warwick, and got work at Maryvale, then owned by Arnold Weinholt. We were employed at the washpool, and after finishing there, went on to Glengallan washpool, where we were again employed at the same work. Glengallan was then managed for Colin Campbell’s creditors, by Mr. Marshall, who afterwards, with Mr. John Deuchar, acquired the station. After finishing this job it was rumoured that gold
had been found at Lord John’s Swamp, some eight or ten miles from Warwick. We went there and found about 20 men camped, but they had failed to find the precious metal. After a few days, we again took the road to Maryland, but they were full-handed, so continued on and camped at the Maryland washpool, near the crossing place of Quart Pot Creek, the present site of Stanthorpe: from thence we continued to Tenterfield, then owned by Stuart Alexander Donaldson, and then managed by Dr. Fraill. Hearing they wanted washers at Black Snake Creek 12 miles on the Grafton road, we went there and were again employed. This being off the track we wished to follow, when we finished, we retraced our steps to Tenterfield; leaving that place we passed Bolivia and Deepwater, and on to Rangers Valley, then owned by Bloxom and managed by John Mc Master- not he of the Valley. It being then the last week in December and the wheat crop ripe………
……… we went on harvesting at 12/6 per acre. This work was then all done with the reaping hook, and we had to bind and stook for the 12/6. We finished the harvest there about the last week in January , 1852, then on to another station Furracabad, where we again harvested, but this time as men were scarce, we got 15/-per acre. One feature of those times that would make the present day labourer’s hair stand on end, was the way we got our rations of flour served out to us in the wheat country. On Saturday afternoon we had 12 lbs or wheat weighed out for us, and we had to grind it with a steel mill before being able to make a damper. There were five messes of men on the station, and only two mills, so those who came last would have to wait until 9 o’clock at night before having enough flour to begin baking. From Furracabad we made what we thought would be a bee-line for the Turon diggings, but when we got to Armidale we heard that gold had been found ………
……… at the Hanging Rock. We deviated from our course, and went there, but only stayed a few days. Although there was gold, no one seemed to know how to get it. We then made our way towards Mudgee, crossed a portion of Liverpool plains and the range at the Moon Rock Gap, where we lost our way for 24 hours, and at last passed through Cassilis, and got on the mail road from Maitland. From Mudgee we went on to the Leroo(?) Diggings, ran that creek up until we reached a tributary called the Devil’s Hole Creek, where we at last settled down to work, and did very well, but made no pile.
Previous to Christmas’52, father left me working with a mate, and started home to Moreton Bay to see how mother and the family were getting on – this time by coach and steamer. Up till this time we had been carrying our swag. He returned in January, bringing my brother Sandy with him. Meantime I was constantly hearing of the big finds in Victoria, and although I had been making about 9 pounds a week, and we had reserved ground good for father when he returned, I got so infatuated with this Victorian fever that I declared that if he (father) did not come with me I would go by myself. So eventually we threw up the ground and started on the road again but this time with two horses to carry our impedimenta.
We passed through Sofala, the centre of the Turon digging, Summerhill, where gold was first discovered, Bathurst, Cowra Rocks on the Lachlan and reached Gundagai on the Murrumbidgee. There we heard of the Adelong diggings, about 25 miles out which had just started; We stayed there for three months, when we did fairly well, and had we stayed longer might have done better as richer ground was opened up after we left, but I was discontented, and wished to get to Victoria, so left there crossed………
……… ..the Murray at Albury, and so on to The Ovens, and camped near the present site of Beechworth. At that time there was not even a public house, and the police were camped under canvas. We had no intention of staying there as nothing short of Ballarat or Bendigo would satisfy me, but the first night we lost our horses, and waited so long looking for them that we went into a claim that yielded us good wages in hopes that the horses would turn up, but we were there over six months and the only thing we heard of them was that one of them had been sold in Melbourne for 20 pounds. Father was taken bad with rheumatism here, so we made up our minds to return home. For this purpose we bought another horse for father to ride and started back on our tracks for Sydney; we got as far as within five miles of Gunning, a little township between Gundagai and Goulburn when we lost this horse, but Father was too anxious to get home to lose much time looking for it, so he being much better, we started on the road again, and eventually reached Sydney, having taken the coach from Liverpool. On reaching Sydney we found the “Eagle” had left Moreton Bay the day before, but that a schooner the “Zone” would leave in a day or two, so we took our passages on board her, but before……..
………… we reached Brisbane we found the “Eagle” had been to Brisbane, back to Sydney, and in Brisbane again before we got there. We were 21 days doing the passage, and the latter part of the time were compelled to live on oranges and walnuts, part of the cargo, and landed in Brisbane in December, 1853, after an absence of two years and three months, during which time I had walked from Brisbane to within 180 miles of Melbourne, besides the discursions from and to different diggings and humped a bluey most of the way.
We had intended to start away almost at once for the Rocky River diggings that had just broken out in New England, but being so near Christmas determined to stay until after the New Year. Meanwhile I had gone to work for Mr. Petrie again, this time for one pound a week and my board, and resumed my old place in the favour of old Mr. Petrie, to whom I am indebted for doing everything in his power to forward me intellectually, but from one cause or another we gave up the idea of again going to the diggings just then. I worked my trade until May 1855, when Tommy Petrie and I made up our minds to go to Victoria, but before this I had been recommended by old Mr. Petrie to a Mr. Grundy, a surveyor, who had come up from Sydney at the instance of Sir William Denison, Governor of New South Wales…..
………… to survey the Brisbane River bar with a view to its removal, the wages were 3 pounds a week. I arranged with Tommy Petrie that he should go at once and I would follow as soon as the party in the bay was broken up. Before this occurred I was left in charge of the party to do all the necessary boring and wind up the party while Mr. Grundy went to look to his professional duties in Sydney. This suited me well as I had to go to Sydney to conclude the business, which I did and then started for The Ovens where my mate Tommy was, via Melbourne, walking from thence 180miles via Wangaratta to the Woolshed Creek. I got there just on the eve of the election of the first mining member for the district (Mr.Daniel Cameron) and at once dropped into a job working in Messrs. Mortimer and Cameron’s claim at 7 pounds a week. My mate and I stuck to this for nearly a year, when we brought into an eighth share lower down the creek, and arranged that he was to work the share while I would work for wages, and if the claim did not pay at first my earnings would keep us going. By this time I had done a good deal of work among pumping machinery, and besides my wages of 7 pounds I would make as much as from 10 to20 pounds a week overtime at other claims. This was mostly night work or on Sundays, but as the money was coming in and I was young and strong I did not care. This went on until the early part of ’57 when my mate took ill and after trying doctors for some time and getting no better, I advised him to start for home, which he did, and I was left to work the share and was appointed the managing shareholder, thus I had to depend….
……… .on those who occupied our claim, and I could earn but very little by outside work.The claim failed to pay until I had spent all my savings, about 120 pounds, and gone as much in debt when I sold out for enough to pay for my indebtedness. The others requested me to remain to manage as before at 9 pounds a week, which I did, and six weeks after I had sold they had the first dividend of 60 pounds a share, and after that until the ground was worked out, never less and sometimes as much as 200 pounds a week! Hard luck, wasn’t it?
Meanwhile I had been putting all my spare cash into other ventures with the same hard luck, until the beginning of October’57 when I started for home via Melbourne, with just enough cash, with economy, to take me back to Moreton Bay. I got to Melbourne to see Veno and Alice Hawthorne run their celebrated match, and eventually arrived in Brisbane much poorer than when I left two years before. I found Father and Sandy fell mongering on the Bremer River working for T.B.Stephens and joined them there. When that job was finished we started up the Brisbane River……..
………… getting cedar near Wivenhoe and brought down the first raft from the upper Brisbane. This we got into the tide water on New Year’s Day’58 but father caught a cold from being constantly on the water for three months and died in the following March. After this Sandy and I began cutting up the cedar and delivering it in Ipswich, but as we could not get paid we gave it bust. At that time a rush set in from Ipswich to a diggings
on Tooloom the upper waters of the Clarence, and having nothing better to do we started away, humping bluey again.
After being there for six weeks and finding nothing but starvation (we had been living on split peas instead of flour for nearly a month), and the shearing beginning on the Downs we made for Warwick. We followed on the tracks of Patrick Leslie most of the way and passed through the most beautiful farmland I have ever encounted in this country. Sandy and I promised ourselves that if ever we “struck it rich” this was where we would make our homes and settle down, (This promise was fulfilled eleven years later, when Sandy, Bob and myself filed our first selection of 320 acres at North Branch under the 1868 Act.) There was no………
……… ..track but we made our way by compass, and the first place we struck was Acacia Creek, then managed by Mr. William Beit – Afterwards of Westbrook who was managing for the Hon.J.D.Mclean. From there we had no difficulty in finding our way across the range to Killarney. Passing through Warwick we heard that sheep washers were wanted at Goomburra then owned by Mr. Green. Arriving at that place we found they wanted only two men, and as the two mates were married men we advised them to go while we started again, passed Pilton owned by Mr. H.B.Fitz, then on to Eton Vale where I first met Mr. John Watts, managing partner with Mr,(afterwards Sir Arthur) Hodgson. Mr.Watts had just come from the washpool and informed us they were shorthanded. Started at the washpool and found Mr. J.W.Grimes, afterwards of Toowoomba, in charge and was put on next morning. At that time the water for spout washing was lifted by horse power and chain pump, a most primitive, I thought, arrangement. I, who had only a short time before, been working among steam engines and improved pumps, expressed this opinion to Mr. Watts, who said he was not in a position to go to the expense, as he was working out a dead horse in paying off Mr. Hodgson his share of the station, but said “if ever I am and can get an engine and you are anywhere about, I will get you to put me up a steam washpool” After the washing was finished we took a contract to get timber at Cobble Cobble, now Macalister, then recently purchased by Mr Fitz of Pilton. After completing that job we heard that tenders were called for by Messers. Broadbent, Beit and McLean at Rawbelle on the Burnett so we……
……… ..started for that place - on horse back this time - to see for ourselves what sort of timber there was before tendering, but were delayed on the road assisting an unfortunate drover who was taking out 2000 head of cattle to stock a station on Broadsound. When we reached Rawbelle, Mr. Broadbent informed us the contract had been let to a Mr. James Farquharson, of Toowoomba, but that he could give us work that would pay us better, so we took a contract to make 2000 hurdles at 5 pounds per 100, and thus very comfortably put in the winter of 1859. The shearing coming on Mr. Broadbent allowed us to learn, and thus I added the skill of grading to those I had


………. already acquired. Shearing finished, we started away to be home for Christmas which we reached late on Christmas Eve, and found Mother and all the family well. This was the year of Separation. In February we again started off to go back to the Burnett district and came to Toowoomba for that purpose but went out to Eton Vale to see an old friend who had a contract there. This was the turning point of my career. Mr. Watts heard we were on the station and sent for us offering us work, at good prices, so we at once closed with him for several sheep yards, and went on to the range near where Gabbinbar now is to get the timber. We worked at this during the winter and shore there that season, 1860……….

In 1861, we commenced and nearly completed a stockyard, when Mr.Watts in August made up his mind to have a steam washpool erected. He gave me an unlimited number of men and I had the first sheep turned out on the 15th October, raising water for spouting by the first engine that was brought over the range, after that steam washpools became all the rage. While I was constantly on Eton Vale my brother (Sandy) erected a washpool at Gowrie and another at Western Creek. Under Mr. Watts and my esteemed friend the late Sir Hugh Nelson, we had always as many contracts as we could carry out, and for which we got invariably the price we asked. One year our gross earnings amounted to over 1300 pounds. I remained in Eton Vale until twelve months after the advent of Mr. Ramsey and left the employment the beginning of 1869. Then we took large contracts from Sir Joshua P. Bell, of Jimbour , and at the end of 1869 finding we had some spare cash took up our first…….
selection under the 1868 Act of 2000 acres near Tummaville. In 1872, finding we had not enough elbow room and the North Branch Homestead area being then thrown open, we each selected 320 acres which in a short time were able to increase to 640 acres under the T.B.Stephens’ extended Homestead act, and this we later on increased by purchase to 4000 acres, where we have made our homes, and where we will probably die and be buried. Later Sandy and I took up 10,000 acres on the Burnett at Elgin Vale and Scrub Paddock where we milled timber and grazed cattle. A short-cut across the main range near Bell, was pioneered by my sons Alec and John, and today Porter’s Gap is becoming a main thoroughfare between Dalby and Nanango .
Mother died in 1900 and is laid at rest in the North Branch cemetery, which is situated nearly in the middle of our property. She had for some years previous to her death resided with me, with the exception of annual visits to my brothers of a few weeks. Except our parents, the whole of the Porter family who came to the colony in 1849 are alive, and I am pleased to say prosperous, and all have had large families. I have had eight sons and two daughters born to me; they are all alive. Four of the sons and one daughter are married and have families - altogether seven grandchildren, with a likelihood of many more. I was married on 31st July 1865 the day the first ………

……….official train ran in Queensland from Ipswich to Bigge’s Camp, or Grandchester.
In the foregoing pages I have only given a rough outline of my life since my arrival in the Colony of Queensland, fifty –seven years ago, but were I to give my impressions, personal experiences and incidents that come under my notice, both tragic and comic, they would fill a good sized volume. Of one thing I am proud, that is, that I have assisted in, however small a way, to make Queensland the grandest country under God’s sun for the man who is willing to work, and is not that particular what kind of work he turns his hand to. More particularly, I am proud that my brothers and I were amongst the first working men to……..


…………select on the Downs, thus showing an example to the thousands who are now settled there, and carrying out the prediction of Dr Leichardt who, writing in 1849 - I think, said, “The more I see of the Darling Downs the more convinced I feel that it is most ominently fitted for small settlers”
In 1867, when the late Mr.John Watts of Eton Vale was finally leaving that station, in a conversation at the Eton Vale washpool, he said, spreading out his hands to embrace all the splendid plain country around us “You and I may not live to see it, but as sure as we stand here, within the next fifty years every acre we now see will be under cultivation as by that time it won’t pay to grow indigenous grasses”. That was spoken thirty –nine years ago and that identical land to which he referred is a portion of the Harrow estate and is now being eagerly taken up at prices from 4-7 pound per acre.

James Porter  


The mournful intelligence of the death of Mr. James Porter of “ Roseneath”, North Branch, will be read with keen regret throughout the whole of the Darling Downs, where the grand old pioneer was so well known and so highly esteemed. The deceased gentleman, who had been ailing for some weeks past, came to reside in Toowoomba, and was about until a few days ago. An affection of the heart, however began to assert itself, and yesterday morning he began to sink and the end came slowly but with a dread certainty. Rallying for some minutes, he recovered consciousness, but at about 3am. sank to that rest that knows no further toil or sorrow. Surrounded by members of his sorrowing kin – one of his sons having ridden from Nanango – another leader among the men who had blazed the track, passed beyond the boundary line to the Great Infinity.
The body of the deceased gentleman was taken to the Pittsworth train in the afternoon of yesterday, to find its last resting the quiet little cemetery at North Branch, where the brave spirit while present battled so well to furnish an object lesson in subduing the primeval wastes to those who lived to read and learn, for wherever the list of Downs pioneers is published the name of James Porter will find a foremost place, and not only on the Downs but throughout the entire State.
A wide circle of friends and admirers will mourn with us the “one clear Call” that has summoned to the Beyond a gentleman whose courage, intelligence and endurance have left their marks on the storm-laden history of our early colonization and extend with us, to his mourning relatives and friends that heartfelt and soulful sympathy which the kindly friendship of a lifetime ever commanded.
The funeral will take place from the Masonic Hall Pittsworth at 10am today, and interment will take place at North Branch in the family Cemetery
About six years ago at the request of the proprietary of this paper, Mr. Porter kindly furnished us with a history of his early life in Queensland, which is subjoined below.
The following pages were supplied by Christine Allan (Porter).  
The originals were donated by her mother to the John Oxley Library in Brisbane