Thursday, March 14, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

The Beginning Of Local Council With John Compton

John Compton was a pioneer of the Proserpine district - the very first Chairman of the Proserpine Shire Council (1910) and a mover and shaker in the separation of Proserpine from Wangaratta (Bowen Rural Shire).

Born in Herefordshire England March 14 1865, he migrated to Bowen in 1883. Though working in the Bowen district, in October 1884 he purchased 160 acres of land at Mt Julian (called “Fern Hill”).

In 1893, he married Sarah Gray and together they travelled to stations where John, a proficient carpenter, constructed stockyards and homes. In 1895, the Compton family settled on a 50 acre block on Glen Isla estate. At that time, plans were underway for progression in the sugar industry. In the early 1900s, John and his family moved to his farm “Fern Hill” described in his son Alex’s diaries, as being “two square miles and (extending) as far as Palm Creek on one side and Proserpine River on the other.” John Compton started clearing land in time for the first crushing at Proserpine Sugar Mill in 1897. It was wild country in those days.

John also purchased land in Proserpine’s Main Street (portion 193) and also owned a farm named “Auburn” in the area where Proserpine’s Hospital and Fresh Fields Shopping Centre now stand.

A story of many firsts …

In 1896, John Compton was one of the first shareholders in the Proserpine Central Sugar Mill and was one of the first suppliers of cane to the mill when it opened in 1897. In 1908, the “Port Denison Times” described him as one of the largest canegrowers in the district.

John Compton was one of the original members of the Proserpine Progress Association (1897) and an active member of the Hospital Committee in its early years.

As an early Proserpine representative on the Bowen - Proserpine Tramway Board, he made many visits on horseback to meetings in Bowen agitating for a separate shire for Proserpine. His dream became a reality when the first meeting of Proserpine Shire, newly separated from Wangaratta, was held on March 11, 1910 and he was elected its first Chairman. It was a fitting reward that he held this position when the Bowen – Proserpine Railway was opened later that year.  

The first church to open in Proserpine, the Presbyterian Church, was built on land donated by John Compton and the first show was held in that same year (1899) in his shed on his land on the corner of Main Street and Herbert Street. The community picnic held to celebrate King George V’s Coronation was also held on this spot in 1911.

In 1913, the first Council Chambers was established in a building in Main Street that was purchased from John Compton.

The ensuing years of John’s life were characterised by a propensity to shift about. After building a house on his “Auburn” farm in town, he sold his Mt Julian farm (circa 1915). Just prior to this, he purchased 10 acres of farm land from G A Waite to add to the town property. Then in 1920, he sold “Auburn” moving further down to another farm, “Yelvertoft”, in the vicinity of what is known today as Glen Isla turn off.

In 1922, John sold this and moved the family to Warwick however a few months later they returned to Proserpine due to his ill health. Still owning a residence in Herbert Street, the family remained there until John’s pioneering spirit impelled him to take up 150 acres at Banana Pocket (now known as Lethebrook) where he once again built a new home and cleared land to grow cane.

After a life of hard work and service to the Proserpine district community, John Compton died on July 27 1932

Story and photo courtesy Proserine Historical Society.

Caption: John Compton - the very first Chairman of the Proserpine Shire Council (1910)

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