Crown Lands Commissioners In Moreton Bay (1842-1859)
Dr Margaret Shield, Visiting Fellow 2017/2018

CROWN LANDS COMMISSIONERS APPOINTED 1842 TO 1859

A Commissioner of Crown Lands was appointed to each pastoral district to ensure the legal and orderly settlement of the land and to maintain law and order among the population. Commissioners reported to the Colonial Secretary until George Barney was appointed Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands on 1 January 1849. A list of those who held these positions is given below. When Queen Victoria signed the Letters Patent proclaiming Queensland a separate colony on 6 June 1859, control of land administration passed to the Queensland Government and a Crown Lands Office was established under Augustus Charles Gregory who was appointed as Surveyor-General on 23 December 1859 and as Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands on 19 January 1860. As pastoral activity declined and more government administrators were appointed throughout the colony, Commissioners of Crown Lands were no longer required and the position was phased out in the late 1870s.[1]

Crown Lands Commissioners in pre-Separation Queensland[2]

PASTORAL DISTRICT COMMISSIONER DATE APPOINTED
Moreton  

Stephen Simpson

Arthur Wilcox Manning

 

1842

1856

 

Darling Downs  

Christopher Rolleston

Arthur Wilcox Manning

Edwards Lewis Burrowes

Henry Haege

 

 

1843

1856

1858

1859

Wide Bay  

John Bidwill

Arthur Edward Halloran

 

 

1848

1854

Burnett

 

 

Maurice O’Connell

 

1848

Maranoa  

John Durbin

Roderick Mitchell

Henry Whitty

Henry Boyle

 

1848

1849

1851

1855

Port Curtis  

Maurice O’Connell

John Jardine

 

 

1854

1858

Leichhardt  

Henry Master

Henry Gardiner

William Henry Wiseman

 

 

1854

1854

1854

 

Biographies of John Bidwill, Maurice O’Connell, Christopher Rolleston, Stephen Simpson and William Wiseman are accessible on this website.

 

THE ROLE OF CROWN LANDS COMMISSIONERS

Commissioners of Crown Lands were representatives of the New South Wales government with magisterial power in their respective pastoral districts. They were charged with enforcing the provisions of the Acts relating to Crown Lands and with instituting any legal measures that they sought fit to prevent “intrusion, encroachment, and trespass” on those lands. (An Act for Protecting the Crown Lands of this Colony from Encroachment, Intrusion and Trespass (Act 4 Will. IV no. 10)

Governor Richard Bourke who appointed the first Commissioners, deemed it imperative that only specially chosen officials who were trustworthy, competent and physically fit, should take on this demanding role. They were to be “the eyes and ears of the government at Sydney on practically every aspect of life in their far-flung districts”.[3]

Their duties were wide ranging and at times onerous. They had responsibility for ensuring that law and order was maintained, halting frontier violence, controlling the Border Police Force placed under their command, issuing passports for convict travel and transfer, reserving sites for public purposes, granting licences to traders, undertaking surveys to mark pastoral district boundaries, exploring the district to discover further pastoral land and compiling a large number of detailed reports for the Colonial Secretary. These reports included[4]:

  • Census of local population
  • Observations on the condition of the Indigenous people
  • Stock numbers
  • Agricultural returns
  • Conduct of Border Police officers
  • Returns of hawkers’ licences
  • Defaults on licence payments
  • Reports relating to disputes between landholders
  • Register of public buildings
  • Register of runs

Commissioners were generally made Justices of the Peace to ensure that those accused of criminal activity received justice in a timely manner rather than waiting to appear before a Magistrate hundreds of miles from home. They were authorised to co-opt others such as Police or Justices of the Peace, to assist them when undertaking surveys or expeditions. For their services, Commissioners received £365 ($650) per annum while the Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands, George Barney, received £1600 ($2800) per annum.[5]

Each Commissioner was allocated a small number of troopers (usually between five and ten) to assist them in keeping the peace. These members of the Border Police Force were generally convicts, mostly ex-soldiers who had been transported for breaches of the military code. They were supplied with horses, equipment, rations and clothing but were expected to build their own barracks. Mounted troopers initially received 2s 6d (25cents) per day but this figure was increased to 3s 6d (35 cents) per day in 1851.[6]

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Queensland State Archives, Guide to the Records of the Crown Lands Offices 1842-1875, and the Crown Lands Commissioners’ Offices 1842-ca 1900, Queensland State Archives, Brisbane, 1993, pp. 4 and 5)

[2] New South Wales Government Gazette Issue 146, 1848 to Issue 47, 1859.

[3] McMartin, A. Public Servants and Patronage: The Foundations and Rise of the New South Wales Public Service, 1786-1859, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1983, pp. 204 and 205.

[4] New South Wales Government Gazette, 11 September 1833, no. 80, p. 356.

[5] Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November, 1851, p. 2.

[6] McMartin, A., Public Servants and Patronage: the Foundation and Rise of the New South Wales Public Service, 1786-1859, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1983, pp. 205-207.