“Having made my measurements and adjusted the boundaries to the satisfaction of the runholders I retraced my tracks as far as Eulo, where I turned off to Cunnamulla, en route to this eastern part of the district, where I had some work. I reached Cunnamulla in November 1874 and found it a lively and pleasantly situated township. Being on the intersection of two main lines of traffic – namely the road along the Warrego into New South Wales and the route from St George to Cunnamulla – a fairly constant stream of traffic was passing through consequent upon the travelling of stock, the cartage of wool and the delivery of station supplies, whilst an increasing occupation of the West involved the moving about of all classes and grades, from rich squatter to the swagman and bookmaker. The principal occupants of the place were the Huxley’s (who kept the Hotel, exceedingly well conducted), Fred Ford, a storekeeper, the local blacksmith and their contemporary, the sergeant of police.

Finding some instructions from the Surveyor-General to extend the survey of Cunnamulla I diversified my feature surveying by the marking out of a few sections of town allotments, which occupied me a week, during which time, putting up at Huxley’s Hotel, I met with many denizens of the West, representative men who had won their spurs as pioneers, and whose preliminary exploits have proved the foundation of the Commonwealth in this part of the continent of Australia.

From Cunnamulla I proceeded further east and affected the survey of Noorama and Widgeegoara Creek where stations had been formed by Mr Edward Brown, the Messrs Howie and Mr John Bignell, the latter in Widgeegoara Creek. He was married to the eldest Miss Williams of Coongoola, one of the first white women who entered the Warrego District and certainly one of the bravest. Some years previous to 1874, when just married and residing on the Upper Bulloo at Tintinchilla station, of which her husband was the manager, upon one occasion a blackfellow stealthily crept into the dwelling and was in the act of tomahawking here when she flew out the opposite door, which fortunately happened to be open, and reached within sight of the stockyard, where Mr Bignell and his men were working. The pursurer, unable to catch her, ran off to roam about until the native police terminated his career.

Upon reaching Mr. Bignell’s station on the Widgeegoara I found Mrs Bignell upholding the traditions of pioneering, for she was living in an improvised shelter of a few sheets of corrugated iron. However, she found means, even in those primitive conditions to extend the traditional hospitality of Coongoola.

The whole of the Widgeegoara and Noorama country was like a luxuriant wheat field, covered with Mitchell grass. The Widgeegoara and Noorama creeks are actually billabongs which run out of the Warrego on to an immense southern plain which runs along the boundary of Queensland and New South Wales, extending from the Condemine waters to Grey’s Range on the west of the Bulloo River. It is only in a very high flood like that of 1874 that the Warrego overflows into the Widgeegoara and Noorama so that until dams were made and wells sunk the waterholes would remain for years unfilled. A few hundred yards of the canal cut out of the Warrego into the head of the Widgeegoara billabong would obviate this serious drawback. In fact the billabongs which break away from the Warrego, Paroo and Bulloo might be utilised by the extension of canals to irrigate the immense Southern plain referred to.

These surveys completed my work for 1874. I had located and classified about 200 runs and in the classification had materially augmented the revenue for many of the runs had been held throughout as half unavailable, which meant the rent was only paid on the available portion.

Source: G. C. Watson Building the Commonwealth

2 thoughts on “Cunnamulla

  1. To whom it may concern,
    As a descendant of John Bignell, we have his wife as being Emily Louise Robinson, daughter of TJ Robinson of Toowoomba. We would be interested to know of other possible ‘sources’ of details relating to John Bignell and his wife.
    Sincerely, Rod Stephenson [son of Beulah Joy Bignell, granddaughter of John Bignell]

  2. Hello Rod Stephenson,
    I read with interest your note on the Bignell family, mentioned in the article above.
    You are correct with your details, John Bignell was married to Emily Louise Robinson. His Father was also
    John Bignell married to Margaret Stubbs Peel. and his Father was John Bignell married to Ann Milner. John Bignell and wife Ann Milner came to Melbourne Australia, in 1841 with their 7 sons. I am descended from
    their 2nd eldest son Samuel Bignell. The Mary Ann Bignell (nee) Williams from Coongoola Station, north of Cunnamulla Qld is the wife of Edmund Bignell, the youngest son of John Bignell and wife Ann Milner.
    I see in the article that Mary Ann Bignell was the eldest daughter of Williams family. I have also read elsewhere that she had 4 brothers, who went on to work Coongoola Station.
    My Samuel Bignell and his brother William Bignell also owned Pastoral Leases in the Cunnamulla area, which they left to Edmund Bignell when they died.
    I have been working on the Bignell family tree for a while now and have accumalated quite a lot on the family from the early days.
    I hope this is of interest to you and I would welcome any other information you may have.
    Sandra Edlington.

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