Charles Archer b

Charles Archer

The Archer brothers paved the way for many settlers in Queensland.

In 1848, they were the first to cross the Burnett River at the spot where the township of Gayndah subsequently grew.

That journey lead them to the country they were to settle for some time.  They selected and secured a run, calling it ‘Eidsvold’, some 80 km west of Gayndah – after which the town is now named.

They discovered the Fitzroy valley in 1853.

” . . . Before 1853, the Archer family were squatting on the Burnett River, and in that year Charles and William Archer went northward on an exploring trip during which they discovered and named the Fitzroy River, and rode over the spot where now stands the city of Rockhampton, with all its wealth, civilisation, and promise of prosperity.  They started from Eidsvold, on the Burnett, simply with pack horses and two men, passed from Dalgangal to Rawbelle, and at the foot of Mount Rannes found the establishment of the brothers Leith Hay, then the farthest out station.

They had some very troublesome country to penetrate.  Besides hilly mountainous ranges, brigalow and vine scrubs surrounded the base of Mount Spencer, whose thousand feet of height they climbed, and gave to it its name.  They crossed the Dee, and passed close to the site of the famous Mount Morgan gold mine.  And so on they journeyed to the top of a range, where the most astounding view lay beneath them.

Through a large and apparently open valley, bounded by table-topped, pyramidal and dominant mountains, with here and there fantastically-shaped sandstone peaks, a large river wound its way towards the sea.

They supposed the river to be a confluence of the Dawson and McKenzie, and the sea before them to be Keppel Bay.  They explored the valley of the Fitzroy, which they named after Sir Charles Fitzroy, they being the first to discover it, and then went on to Gracemere Lake, a magnificent sheet of fresh water, about two miles long and three quarters of a mile wide.  They rode on till they came to tidal water in the Fitzroy, and found it a fine navigable stream, with the tide running strongly up it.  Near here they came upon a large lagoon covered over with beautiful pink water-lily (nymphoea), which they called the Pink Lily Lagoon.  In the account of their journey, they described the cycas palm growing with clusters of round smooth nuts encircling the top as a crown, under the leaves . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – ‘Early Days in North Queensland’ – by Edward Palmer – published 1902 -pp 64-65


It was on Gracemere Lake that they secured the ‘Gracemere’ Run – after which a township just south of Rockhampton is now named:

” . . . Charles wrote home from Eidsvold:  “The country which Willie and I found on the Fitzroy is so fine and is in such an advantageous position that we must not by unnecessary delay risk losing it.  Farris (Gracemere), the place pitched on for the head station would be a beautiful place in any country, but here where fine scenery hardly exists, it appears a perfect paradise to my partial eyes.  The lake is a fine sheet of water about 1½ miles long, and at a guess, 1000 yards wide, with find bold ground running down to it in places.  It is almost covered with waterfowl.  There is a beautiful site for a house . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – Rockhampton ‘Morning Bulletin’ – Article ‘Perfect Paradise’ – published 7th May 1953 

Archer Part of Original Gracemere Homestead b

A Part of the Original ‘Gracemere’ Homestead


” . . . Travelling towards that river they came to what is now know as the Gracemere Lagoon, about six miles out of Rockhampton.

That beautiful lake was considered by them to be an ideal spot for a camp or a site for a homestead on some future occasion, and then they went on until they reached the river of which they were the first discoverers – the Fitzroy.  Having decided to apply for that country as a station, the Archers returned to the Burnett and to “Rannes,” then held by the Messrs. Leith-Hay – the most northerly settlement at that time.  There was evidently some hitch about the return, as they did not start back to the Fitzroy until June, 1855.

Charles Archer was the leader of the party, H. W. Risien, second in command ; C. Beeman, storekeeper ; fourteen Europeans, four Burnett River blacks, and four native police with their aboriginal wives.  Murders of whites by the blacks were then painfully common on the Burnett and Mary Rivers, and the Archers were wisely not assuming that the Fitzroy blacks were any more reliable, and so carefully took a strong party in case of trouble.  They took several thousand sheep, horses, and bullock teams, and a complete equipment.  There were no tracks or roads in those days, and travelling with such an outfit was a serious business, the journey to Gracemere Lagoon taking six weeks.  it was a dry year and water was scarce elsewhere, so there the Archers established their head station, and their descendants are still in occupation . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – ‘The History of Queensland:  Its People & Industries’ – by Matthew J Fox – published c 1923 – pp 190


” . . . The last letter in the record is from Charles dated November 11, 1855, when he wrote: “A practicable road was more easily discovered than I expected, and the stock, drays, etc., reached Gracemere without loss or accident worth mentioning.  As our ways and means were in a more flourishing state on this than on any of our previous moves, a less stringent economy was practised in fitting out the expedition, so that I travelled in comfort not usual on such occasions.

“We have now been located upon the run for about three months during which time I have gained an accurate knowledge of its extent and quality and I am happy to say that by previous estimate of its excellence has been quite confirmed by further acquaintance.

“It is the only part of New South Wales (Sydney excepted), where I have ever seen anything that could be called fine scenery, and the climate, though very hot, has not the arid heat of the Burnett, which withers vegetation and parches a man’s face into the semblance of a dried apple.

“While on the Burnett we had flood after flood to such an extent as to greatly retard shearing operations.  The weather here has been almost as bad in the other extreme.  It can hardly be said to have rained since we pitched out tents at Gracemere.” . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – Rockhampton ‘Morning Bulletin’ – Article ‘Perfect Paradise’ – published 7th May 1953 

William Archer b

William Archer

The following articles were published in the Rockhampton ‘Morning Bulletin’ on Thursday 7th May 1953, to mark the centenary of the discovery of the Fitzroy valley by Charles and William Archer.  The article describes the many remarkable achievements of the family during those pioneering years of the young Australia – in terms of the arrival of Europeans . . .

It would be credible to suggest that the story begins when the eldest of eight children (at the time), Charles Archer, was left behind with his grandmother in Perth, as his parents and siblings sailed off to Norway in 1825.

The articles were prepared by Mr Alister Archer for the Rockhampton Historical Society and make for fascinating reading.  Why not grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy a step back in time . . . :


The Fitzroy Valley: Centenary of Archers’ Discovery


” . . . Concluding his paper, Mr Archer said:

“In these notes, all of the nine brothers, except one, has been mentioned.  This is my own father, James.  He was the baby of the family and only arrived at Coonambula in 1855, at the age of 18.  He came on to Gracemere with the second lot of stock in  1856.”

Here the story ends, and I hope the length of it has not wearied members.  It should be remembered that the journey from Wallerowang to Gracemere took 15 years and was really a series of explorations undertaken by a large number of brothers, eight in all . . . “


View other important events in Queensland’s History . . .

View other important information on Discovering Terra Australis . . .

View other important information on Founding Pioneers, Governors of Aus . . .

Author: POI-Australia!