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C.B. Fisher

The biggest pastoralist in Australia, and Early owner of Hill River Estate, Clare
'C.B.' - Charles Brown Fisher

Charles Fisher was born 25 September 1818 in London, the second son of James Hurtle Fisher, the first resident commissioner of South Australia.

  • At around age twenty Charles spent two years on an uncle's farm at Little Bowden, Northamptonshire, before migrating to South Australia in 1836 with his siblings and parents in HMS Buffalo.


Left: C.B. Fisher, always clean shaven and well-dressed

(Sir) James Hurtle Fisher
(Sir) James Hurtle Fisher

His father James Hurtle Fisher was a London solicitor active in the colonizing movement.

  • He became a member of the South Australian Building Committee in September 1835 and

  • in July 1836 he was appointed Registrar and Resident Commissioner for the new colony.

  • It was one of the most important positions in the colony.

  • He was charged with selling public land and generating revenue to fund emigration.

"James Fisher was elated at the prospect of settling in a promising part of Australia where a new settlement was about to be formed."

Right: (Father) Sir James Hurtle Fisher

  • Father James Fisher became Adelaide’s first mayor in November 1840 and served twice as Mayor of Adelaide, from 1840-1842, and again from 1852-1854, so his wife Mrs Elizabeth Fisher was then Lady Mayoress of the City of Adelaide.

  • He ultimately became President of the South Australian Legislative Council (1857–65). 

  • Was made Knight Bachelor in 1860.

  • Passionately fond of horse racing, he was one of the first to patronise the sport in the sister colony

  • and was a founding member and president of the early South Australian Jockey Club.

Sir James Hurtle Fisher.jpeg

At the above's funeral, a muffled bell of the Town Hall peal was tolled, as was also the bell of Trinity Church.

The Government and Corp-oration offices were shut at 2 o'clock, and the members of the legal profession also closed their offices in deference to the memory of him who once held a prominent position at the Colonial Bar.


Having a father in such a powerful and influential political role and able to dispense patronage, proved no disadvantage for the sons. 

Charles Fisher served briefly as a clerk to his father.


Left: The biography of Charles Brown Fisher by Geo. C. Morphett, his grand-nephew

  • Then Charles Fisher went into partnership with his brother James Fisher as merchants and carriers, selling large numbers of sheep and cattle to the Victorian goldfields.

  • and with those profits they turned to running pastoral leases.

  • They bought Bundaleer Station near Clare in 1854 (for £31,000) and

  • bought Hill River Station, (one of the great South Australian pastoral properties of the 1800s) near Clare in 1855

  • C.B. Fisher would become one of the biggest pastoralists in Australia with properties in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and later in the Northern Territory.


The first actual settler in Lockleys was C.B. Fisher, the celebrated pastoralist and racing man,

  • who had a farm, which he called Lockleys, on Section 145 in the early 1840s,

  • and who was still listed as a stockholder in the locality as late as 1867.

  • The South Australian Almanac for 1844 (J. Allens), page 206, gives the following short description of the farm:
    - ‘James and Charles Fisher, Lockleys, 190 acres of wheat, 22 of barley, 1 of oats; 170 sheep, 60 cattle, 6 horses, 50 pigs.’

One of the first incidents in his career was taking part in the capture of some cattle stealers in the "Black Forest," situated about three miles out of Adelaide, on the Bay Road, (towards Unley).

  • I went out with the police once or twice after the cattle stealers. There were Stag, Gofton, and another man.

  • They used to kill our cattle. I found them out one night just about dusk when coming into the Black Forest from the south.

  • I caught them with our own cattle hanging up. Stag was hanged afterwards. I remember the first hanging. It was a most gruesome sight.

  • We were all armed with pistols, because there was a rumour that the crowd were going to rush the hangman, who had to bolt away after the execution."


Left: Older brother James Fisher


Little Para run


In 1837 'C.B.' went north with sheep to the Little Para.

  • In 1838 the brothers sought another partner and occupied their first pastoral lease, Little Para, a few miles north of Adelaide.

  • The Little Para run was sold in 1840 but the Fisher brothers soon acquired other pastoral leases from which they supplied Adelaide with sheep and cattle.

  • Early in 1838 his brother James, in partnership with Fred Handcock, bought some sheep and established a squatting station (Fisher and Handcock's Station) near the Little Para River.

  • C.B. Fisher assisted his brother, droving ten of the first lambs bred there on foot to Adelaide for delivery to a Mr. Crispe.

  • In 1840 he abandoned the Little Para station, and sold the sheep.


ALTHOUGH keenly interested In racing, the Fisher brothers were teetotallers, non gamblers and non-smokers.

Charles began dealing in cattle in 1851, which proved to be the most lucrative business he could have chosen, as it was just before the Victorian gold rush.

  • Within 3 years the price of a fat bullock rose from £2 10/ to £15 or £17

  • He purchased drafts of cattle wherever he could buy them up, and drove them across to Victoria, where the diggers bought them up at high prices.

  • He was an excellent horseman, and spent most of his time in the saddle at this period, being obliged to make many long and rapid journeys to keep up the supply of stock.


Such leases were then issued on condition that they were stocked within three months with 16 cattle or 100 sheep to the square mile.

  • In 1844 the Fisher brothers were charged by the commissioner of crown lands with understocking their holdings or moving stock from run to run in order to establish occupancy.

  • The charge was not denied but the Fishers do not appear to have lost their leases.


In the early 1850s they sent large numbers of sheep and cattle to the Victorian goldfields and used the profits to expand their landholdings.

Little Para run
C.B. Fisher, The Story of a Great-hearte
James Fisher Bundaleer.jpg
Bundaleer station 1870.jpeg

Above: Bundaleer homestead in 1870

In 1854 the brothers Fisher bought the lease of Bundaleer Run from John Maslin for £31,000 and

  • in 1855 they bought the lease of Hill River, near Clare, from Mr William Robinson (who then left for NZ) for £42,000; (established in 1844, comprising over 100 square miles)

  • and afterwards they bought other grazing runs in South Australia, some ten or twelve passing through his hands,

  • including Wirrabara, Mount Schanck, Moorak, and Buckland Park at Port Gawler.

  • they then claimed 800 square miles (2072 km²) under pastoral leases and were again accused of moving stock between their runs to establish occupation.

  • Charles also bought freehold land including the Levels, (Dry Creek, about eight miles from Adelaide) where he started a merino stud (later passed to manager E.W. Pitts, who bequeathed it back to Charles).

  • In 1856 he wrote to James in England estimating that they would shear 115,000 sheep that year:

'Such a state of things, I venture to say is unexampled even by gold-diggers'.


Good horsemanship was a necessary qualification for the Australian pioneer, and in that respect- the late C. B. Fisher was fully equipped for tho role.


No two brothers have made a more significant contribution to the Australian Turf than Hurtle and Charles (C.B.) Fisher. 

- Kings of the Turf

  • Fisher was an excellent horseman, and spent most of his time in the saddle in the 1840's, being obliged to make many long and rapid journeys to keep up the supply of stock to the Victorian Goldfields.

  • Fisher had ridden at the first race meeting in Adelaide in 1838: he scored his initial win at Thebarton, with a horse named Highflyer, whom Fisher rode in a match against Emerald.

  • Fisher helped to organize the first steeplechase over four miles (6.4 km) of stiff country.

  • He purchased Highflyer after winning a steeplechase match at Homebush, but. strange to say, after the aforementioned match, the horse would never face an obstacle, again: he became too near-sighted to be certain at his jumps. 

  • Mr. C. B. Fisher was again a winner in 1860, when he won both Derby and St.Leger with Midnight.

Mr Fisher's Stud at Buckland Park SA.jpg

In the 1850s C.B. imported several thoroughbreds and after he moved to Melbourne in 1865 he bought most of his brother Hurtle's Maribyrnong stud in April 1866 as a hobby, and carried on there the first stud farm in Australia.

  • When Mr. Hurtle Fisher held his first sale "C.B." was the principal buyer, and he gave 3,600 guineas for the two-year-old Fishhook, whose battles with The Barb (the Sydney champion) caused such intense excitement in 1866 and 1867.

  • He made his début racing under his own colours at the spring meeting of the Victoria Racing Club.

  • On the turf his livery — white and blue spots — was regarded as the emblem of straight going, and it was carried to victory in a number of important races.


During this time he became a leading member of the Victoria Racing Club, and his name, with those of (Police) Captain Standish and Mr. R.C. Bagot, were household words throughout Australia.

  • He was the most prominent owner in this part of Australia, and

  • his name has been kept before the racing public through the medium of one of the weight-for-age events run annually at the V.R.C. Spring Meeting - the C.B. Fisher Plate.

  • He retired from the turf as an owner and sold his stud for a sensational total of £64,376 but continued to import blood sires.

  • He was well known at Flemington for his courtly manner and English dress, and he was vice-president of the V.R.C.

  • When Captain Standish died in 1883 Mr. Fisher was elected chairman of the V.R.C.

  • He vacated the chairman's seat in March, 1895, to make way for Mr. S. Miller, and so severed his connection with the turf for good and all.


Fisher began dealing in cattle in 1851, which proved to be the most lucrative business he could have chosen, as it was just before the Victorian gold rush and within 3 years the price of a fat bullock rose from £2 10/ to £15 or £17).[4]

Fisher was a great lover of Shorthorn cattle, of which he was a splendid judge, and

  • imported some grand animals,

  • breeding a magnificent herd,

  • the disposal of which realised very high prices at Maribyrnong.

  • He would only buy of the best, either of stock or country.


The Hill River flock was formed by Mr. C.B. Fisher, in 1854 or 1865 with selections from the Hill River and Bundaleer flocks.

  • The originals of: these flocks were imported from New South Wales at an early period in the history of South Australia.

  • They were from the first large-framed eheep, with heavy fleeces of useful combing wool.

  • Previous to the sheep mentioned coming into the possession of Mr. C. B. Fisher rams from the flock of Mr. J. Murray, Mount Crawford, had been freely used.

  • Some of the original sheep in the Bundaleer flock were brought from New South Wales by Mr. E. J. Eyre (afterwards Governor of Jamaica).


Mr. Fisher was a staunch advocate of breeding stock for strength of constitution, and owing to his system of selecting the breeders, the sheep at Hill River became so robust of trame and fleece that a report was circulated that they had an infusion bf Leicester blood.

  • Fisher specialised in Merino sheep of the large-framed, plain-bodied, heavily covered type for many years known in Australia as the Fisher Merino.

  • Quantity, rather than fineness, was his ideal, and price per sheep against price per lb. of wool.

  • He also imported many Longwool sheep, and attained prominence as a breeder of Lincolns, to which he gave preference, though for fattening he held that the English Leicester was superior.

    • By judicious imports, he did much to improve Australian livestock.
      - Read more

Hill River Estate
Charles Brown Fisher (1818- 1908).jpg
Hill River Estate

  -- Farming on Large Scale

In 1855 Charles Fisher married his wife Agnes Louisa, and also in 1855 Charles Fisher purchased the the leasehold station or run known as Hill River, South Australia for £42,000,

  • with about 40,000 sheep and 80 acres of freehold, and

  • during the currency of the lease he purchased the freehold,

  • comprising 60,900 acres, at a cost of about £90,000,

  • and fenced in the run and sub-divisions at a cost of £30,000.


The purchase terms have been unearthed by historian Gerald Lally [4] from the Adelaide Old Systems Museum:

  • A deposit of £10,500 on 18 February 1856

  • further payment of £1.700 in four quarterly payments of £425

  • Another payment of £17,000 due 1 January, 1857,

  • These payments guaranteed by elder brother James Fisher (who is regularly involved in C.B.'s purchases, of Messrs.' Fisher)

  • A final payment of £12,000 due on 1 January 1863, earning Robinson 10% interest, paid quarterly.

C. B. Fisher's Hill River run is situated in the County of Stanley, two miles eastward of Clare, the furthest agricultural township to the north previous to the opening of the new areas.

  • The total distance of Hill River from Adelaide is 88 miles, and

  • railway communication is obtained by taking the Burra line at Farrell's Flat, 13 miles to the east.

  • The property is 60,000 acres in extent, lying north and south in a valley between two tiers of hills—

  • the eastern tier being, like the country in that direction— treeless;

  • but the western one, together with some of the undulating land in the valley approaching its base, is lightly timbered with shea-oak and gum.

  • The valley is on an average about seven miles broad, and the estate extends about 25 miles in length ;

  • the Hill River, a permanent creek, which takes its rise to the south, running along the centre.

  • The valley is composed of a rich deep chocolate soil washed from the surrounding high land,


Hill River to Camel Hump Dry Stone Wall


Charles Fisher always fenced his properties, and in this case he built a stone wall all the way from Clare to Camels' Hump.

Author of Those Drystone Walls, Bruce Munday, said landholders paid for the wallers to come to Australia during the 1850s and 1860s.

"They were craftsmen. A lot of those stations would have their own blacksmith, their own cobbler, their own saddler and they would have their own waller," he said.

Mr Munday said "Camel Hump is the longest continuous dry stone wall in Australia and is impressive just by virtue of its sheer size," he said.

The Stone Wall stretches approximately 65 kilometres from Farrell Flat to Booborowie in South Australia's mid-north.

He said it was built from the local sandstone by many wallers over a number of years and, while some has fallen into disrepair, much of it remains upright.

Hill River Station

Lands Department records show that the estate was established on June 15, 1842, when 1,360 acres, comprised in 17 sections, was granted to Mr. Arthur Young.

  • The balance, aggregating somewhere about 55,000 acres, in the Hundreds of Andrews, Milne, and Clare,

  • was allotted to Henry Ayers, Charles Brown Fisher, and William Robinson in separate names and in various grants, principally in 1866


When the Messrs. Fisher bought the station, including the freehold, from Robinson, they shortly thereafter were obliged to buy large blocks, at £1 per acre, very much against the grain, while they were renting the remainder at 10s. for the square mile.

  • As agriculture progressed and the colony grew more prosperous, the land increased in value, and for some near the little vfllage of Hill Town, just above the woolshed, as much as from £6 to £8 per acre had to be given.

The property, which was under the superintendence of Mr. E. W. Pitts (formerly of Victoria, prize-winning wool breeder), who was general manager for the whole of Mr. Fisher's property in South Australia,

  • and Mr. J. Emery, who was resident manager,

  • Hill River station worked as a sheep breeding establishment and wheat-growing farm on a large scale,

  • the latter being carried on with the ultimate end in view of preparing the soil for the sowing down of lucerne and prairie grass.

Hill River Dry Stone Wall
Hill River Station
Camel's Hump Dry Stone Wall.jpg
The homestead and farm buildings of Hill

The station is divided into four different establishments, viz.,

  1. the wool-shed and drafting-yards, seven miles down the valley to the north;

  2. a new series of farm buildings, two miles to the east, being prepared for harvest;

  3. another large farming establishment nearer home; and

  4. the homestead, a stone residence and stabling, surrounded by well kept grounds, orangery, and orchard, comprising in all twelve acres.


In the kitchen-garden of four acres every description of vegetable is produced in abundance, and this portion of the establishment is found to be very valuable, where so many hands are employed.

  • The drafting-yards at the wool-shed are of a complete kind for handy working of sheep, and are flagged in race and crash pens with slate obtained on the property.

  • The buildings for the shearers are of stone, divided into dining, sleeping, and cooking departments, the latter fitted with the latest appointments, and a separate stone cottage is provided for the overseer.

  • The number of sheep shorn is 50,000—the shearing floor accommodating 40 shearers.


  • During the period that Fisher held the lease (from 1855 to 1876) he converted 60,000 acres into freehold at a cost of $180,000 and in addition spent $60,000 on improvements such as subdivisions, fencing and general land cleared for wheat production.

  • In 1875, 50,000 sheep were shorn, while 4,250 acres were sown to wheat annually in addition to 1,800 acres of new land turned up for fallow - one wheat field was three miles long.
     - Read more

"Killing" this Squatter

Charles Fisher became one of the biggest pastoralists in Australia.


The Governments of SA and Victoria moved to break up these large runs to use these "waste-lands" for farming land, wheat being more valuable to the colonies than wool.

However when Fisher moved to Melbourne in 1865, this meant that Fisher was no longer a South Australian resident.

"(The) SA law for killing squatters, i.e,, destroying the pastoral interest, a great scheme of Honest Tom's, ... confined to South Australia proper; ...resuming useless lands by the millions of acres ... counts (as a way) of killing the pastoral interest,


In Victoria, The Grant Land Act of 1865 focused on controlled settlement in designated Agricultural Areas.

  • Despite the fact that the best land in Victoria had been licensed by this time,

  • the maximum holding-size was reduced to 320 acres.

  • Each (Victorian) Act brought with it conditions that made it more difficult for squatting interests to select land.


However through manipulating the legislation of the Acts, (by using agents and dummy contracts with his managers and supervisors)

  • by 1869 squatters such as Fisher had in actuality consolidated their holdings.

As exemplified by the actions of Gannawarra run licensee C.B.Fisher,

  • although the 1869 Land Act was designed specifically to break the hold of the pastoralists who continued to monopolize the best lands,

  • (land ownership) dummying continued.

Dummies’ were nominal selectors acting on behalf of someone else to apply for land or in fulfilling the residency conditions. After paying off their leases under the Land Act, they transferred title to the squatter.


In September 1879 The hon. the (Victorian) Minister of Lands delivered the long-pending judgment in the case of Mr C. B. Fisher, charged with aiding and abetting dummyism at Gannana, Pine Hills, or Loddon runs.

  • Mr Longmore said, addressing Mr Klingender, Mr Fisher's solicitor ;

  • "After a careful Inquiry, we do not find that Mr Fisher has been able to show sufficient cause why the runs in question should not be forfeited.

  • There are a great many proofs to show that Mr Fisher's money was used in procuring these selections, and as he had taken no steps to punish those persons so using it, it must be concluded that he was aware of the whole of the transactions, and sanctioned them.

  • The runs are therefore forfeited."

CB Fisher_c_246x550.gif
"Killing" this Squatter
Sale of the Hill River Estate
Sale of the Hill River Estate

Wed 26 Apr 1876

When trying to persuade Mr. Fisher not to sell Hill River, Mr. Angas assured him he that would buy Hill River, if it were sold, and Angas kept his word. Hill River was finally sold to the son of John Howard Angus.

  • His great-grandson still farms 4,000 acres of Hill River today.

The sale of this very large landed estate of Mr. C. B. Fisher, on the Hill River, took three days, and was proceeded with in the Town Hall, and excited great interest.

  • The room is nearly filled with intending purchasers from the country, city capitalists, agents, and the general public.

  • Undoubtedly such a gathering has never assembled at any previous public sale.

"At the platform end of the room are exhibited four large and handsome show cases, containing

  • photographs of the prize horses, cattle, and sheep,

  • samples of wool from prize sheep exhibited at the numerous Shows in connection with the Royal Agricultural and Horticnltural Society;

  • also sample of prize wheat, in addition to 'which there is a stand of 23 varieties of wheat in sheaf, tastefully arranged and having at the foot of each a sample of the corn in small white satin bags.

  • besides which there are exposed to view a large number of framed photographs of various parts of the estate.

  • A number of beautiful Angora goat fleeces, surmounted by an elegant stand, upon which are set a few of the many gold and silver cups taken as honors by Mr. C. B. Fisher from produce off the estate forms a background".

Mr. J, H. PAKE, in introducing the sale, remarked that

"it was his pleasure to present to the public certainly without exception one of the finest estates not only in South Australia but in New Holland, and

  • When be told them that the property .had been stocked for over forty years,

  • having been previously in the occupation of Mr. Robinson and subsequently of Mr. Fisher,

  • such land being top-dressed as it had been, must grow splendid crops.

  • It was no speculation to purchase each property, for it had proved a success as. sheep country, as horse and cattle country, and also as agricultural country."

  • Then there were the advantages of easy transit, for they had not to look to tbe future for roads, and a railway leading to the property were already provided.

  • Water was absolutely on the estate in almost every subdivision, and so situated that it was always accessible.

  • The whole was splendidly fenced, and inasmuch as the clearing was required the agriculturist could without the slightest difficulty squat on the land he might purchase, and at once commence operations."

Up to the time of closing the sale 14,298 acres were sold, at prlces ranging from £2 15s. to £5 7s. 6d. per acre; but only the northern portion of the estate was submitted, as the prices were considered to be below the value of the land.

  • We understand that the auctioneers are prepared to deal privately for the unsold portion of the property.

  • Altogether the Hill River Station was sold in 1876 for about £220,000.

Hill River Sale SA Advertiser 17 May 187
Sale of Hill River Estate Southern Argus
Massive Purchases

Massive Purchases

  • By 1877 Fisher had sixteen runs but lost two of them when the Supreme Court ruled that his claim to qualify as a resident was fraudulent.

  • In South Australia he sold most of his land including Bundaleer and Hill River where he had 50,000 sheep and some 4000 acres (1619 ha) under wheat.

  • He sold the Bundaleer station, with sheep and cattle, in 1875, and the freehold lands for about £230,000.


In Victoria he bought Cumberland, near Melbourne. Richard Colclough owned it for only about five years before selling it to Charles Brown Fisher for £15,648 on 13 December 1873. It was a mansion on 950 acres.

  • Two days earlier Fisher had also acquired the neighbouring property, Woodlands, acquiring the adjacent Maribyrnong stud at the same time.

    Below left: Woodlands Homestead from the South, and
    Below right: Woodlands Homestead exterior – south west corner

  • C.B. also bought Pirron Yallock, near Colac, for breeding from imported Lincoln sheep and stud Shorthorns: one bull cost him £4000.


In 1865 he went to Melbourne, and the ownership of some fine properties attests to his continued belief in and liking for pastoral affairs.

  • Among other properties might be mentioned Yanga Station, Balranald, and Ned's Corner, in Victoria's Mallee, west of Mildura (now the largest freehold property in Victoria and also the biggest private conservation reserve in the state).

Below: Yanga Station Homestead

Yanga Homestead Balranald.jpeg
1870 - 1879

Headington Hill Estate

Headington Hill comprises an extent of over 36,000 acres, and by this time is fairly well known to all observing travellers who have visited the Darling Downs.

  • It is situated on the eastern side of the Southern Railway line, forming a portion of the undulating treeless country which runs almost imperceptibly into a valley at either end, a distance of over seven miles.

  • This rich alluvial basin is almost encompassed by small hills, which form a kind of natural boundary to the Headington Hill and Clifton Estates,

  • extending east and west respectively of the Southern Railway line, the eastern confines of the former property just touching the mountain spurs of the Dividing Range, while the lands of Clifton run out amidst some beautifully wooded and hilly country to the westward.

  • During its occupation by Messrs Fisher and Davenport, a large portion of the estate was subjected to a course of cultivation,

  • and in the late seventies "the farm" at Headington Hill was one of the most interesting featured in connection with the early agricultural history of Queensland."

- The Brisbane Courier, 26 January, 1898

ln the year 1870 Fisher bought, for £40,000, the station known as Gannawarra, in the River Murray district of Victoria, with 45,000 sheep and 640 acres of freehold.

  • In 1875 he purchased, for £135,000, the leasehold station of Yanga, in the Murrumbidgee district of New South Wales, with 23,000 sheep, 11,000 cattle, and 3,000 acres of freehold.

  • In 1879 he purchased, for £11,000 the leasehold station of Boyong, in the Murrumbidgee district, with 500 head of cattle, and 1,850 acres of free-hold, and during the currency of the leases he purchased the freehold of 154,000 acres at a cost of about £185,000, and fenced and otherwise improved it at a cost of about £25,000.

  • By 1877 he had sixteen runs Including the Headington Hills, Condamine Plains, Ellangowan, O.K. (Billa Billa, Qld), and Hayfield Stations, with 88,984 sheep and 25 cattle.


The first owner of Ellangowan were the Fisher Brothers. It was one of the oldest properties on the Darling Downs.

The later redistribution of the squatters’ vast properties led to a denser pattern of settlement and a radical transformation of the district.

The open grasslands have undergone the most dramatic upheaval, with ninety-nine per cent of the original area now cultivated for crops. Grazing is now less common on the Darling Downs – the fertility of the rich clay soil and the sub-tropical climate allow two crops a year: wheat or barley in the winter and cotton or sorghum in the summer.

Below: Homestead at Headington Hills, Darling Downs Qld

Homestead at Headington Hill Station Que

Below: Headington Hill Estate breaking up new ground.

and: Headington Hill Station 1897

Headington Hill Estate breaking up new g
"Makes" Queensland
1868 - 1877
Fisher "makes" Queensland

Charles Fisher was interested largely in Queensland. "In fact," said one of his oldest friends, "he made Queensland."


"It is well known that Mr. Davenport and his partners, the Messrs. Fisher, have not only expended several hundreds of thousands of pounds on their selections,

but have expended that great sum to tho best possible advantage of the colony— namely, by the introduction of skilled labour and of the best agricultural implements;

In fact they have developed the productive powers of their district to an extent far beyond any other settlers in Queensland, and have by their example,

and by the instruction which their farmers have afforded to their neighbours,

effected a revolution in the practice of Toowoomba selectors."

In 1868 Fisher began to take up leases in Queensland;

Between 1868 and 1877 Fisher acquired, partly by selection and partly by purchase,

  • the Headington Hills station or run,

  • the Condamine Plains station or run,

  • the Ellaugowan, the O.K., and the Hayfield stations or runs, all in the Darling Downs district, Queensland, and he fenced and otherwise improved them at a cost of about £100,000.

Fisher and Davenport who formed Headington Hill were able to hold that area of 36,000 acres from settlement for almost 30 years resumed from Clifton Station.

A report of conditions on Headington Hill dated 1874 stated that there were more than 200 persons making a good living on the property.

  • Afterwards Fisher purchased the freehold of the Crown lands on these five stations, comprising about 147,000 acres, at a cost of about £110,000.


In 1881 he purchased jointly with Joseph Clarke (deceased) and Robert Power for £216,500, Noondoo, Yeramban, and Dariel stations in the Warragul district of New South Wales, and the Maranoa district in Queensland,

  • with about 100,000 sheep, and 20,000 head of cattle, and fenced in the same, and purchased further sheep at a cost of upwards of £80,000.

    • The Maranoa is a vast area of first-class grazing land watered by the Moonie, Balonne, Narran and Culgoa rivers,

    • and was gazetted a pastoral district in 1848, following Sir Thomas Mitchell's exploration of the area in 1845-46.

    • A grab for land ensued and by 1862, the whole of the Maranoa had been taken up as pastoral runs.[1]

  • In 1881 he bought for £23,000 Gnooma station or run, in the Maranoa district, with 6,000 cattle, and improved it at a cost of £5,000.

C.B. Fisher financed Clare pioneer James Hill, (the second owner of Inchiquin at Clare), who worked for Fisher,

  • first as manager of Bundaleer,

  • then in Queensland where he bought into properties with CB Fisher’s brother Hurtle: 

Headington Hills, Condamine Plains, Ellangowan, O.K. (Billa Billa, Qld), and Hayfield Stations, with 88,984 sheep and 25 cattle.

  • These properties ended up being the biggest aggregation of land in the southern Queensland area. 

  • It included the now infamous Cubbie Station, and was on the Moonie River.


C.B. Fisher wanted freehold title to these estates, which the Government of Queensland would not give, preferring to grant title to smaller farmers.

"In the year 1868 Mr. C. B. Fisher—by his agent, Mr. G. H. Davenport—acquired considerable tracts of land ; under the provisions of the Land Act of 1866.

  • The Government held that a great part of these Lands were acquired and held in contravention of the provisions of the Act.

Expecting the alleged failure to comply with certain requirements, they were early fully advised by their own officers.

  • But, after being in possession of such information, they continued to receive rent, but at a still later period refused to issue title for the land to Mr. Fisher, who brought an action to compel issue of deeds.

  • This plea was, after elaborate argument and careful hearing, disallowed by the Judges of the Supreme Court of Queensland, the judges appearing to allow groat weight to the principal oontention of the Attorney-General—Mr. Griffith—namely, that the Government had not power by any act of theirs to vitiate or remit the conditions imposed by an Act of Parliament.

An appeal to the Privy Council was thereupon lodged. which Fisher (years later) won in December 1887.

Victoria River Downs Station homestead.j

Above: Victoria River Downs Homestead in 1891, and modern aerial view


Northern Territory Expansion

With Maurice Lyons as partner he took the first lease of Victoria River Downs, the world's largest pastoral property, with an area of 41,000 square kilometres (15,830 sq mi), and other leases:

  • Marrakai (Humpty Doo, 76 kilometres (47 mi) east of Darwin),

  • Glencoe Station, (the first cattle station in the Territory, established 1878, Now called Delamere Station)

  • and Daly River Station (returned to Aboriginal groups in 2011)

  • stocking them with some 30,000 cattle which were overlanded from south Queensland by Nat Buchanan, as described in the book:

In the Tracks of Old Bluey: The Life Story of Nat Buchanan
By Bobbie Buchanan

Below: Glencoe Station Homestead, 1883

Northern Territory Expansion
Glencoe Cattle Station homestead NT.jpg
In The Tracks of Old Bluey, Bobbie Bucha

In 1863, the struggling colony of South Australia acquired, until 1911, that vast tract of ‘wasteland’ called the Northern Territory.


When pastoralists were about to settle the Victoria River region in the upper part of the Northern Territory,

  • the Duke of Newcastle, in charge of the British Colonial Office, decided to give in to South Australian pressure to extend SA North to Darwin,

  • but only for two or three years until a separate colony facing Asia could be established.

  • This separate colony, which probably would have included parts of Queensland and Western Australia, never eventuated.

South Australians wanted access to what was commonly known as the Unlimited Asian Market.


Their constructions of geography were different in the 1860s:

  • Northern Australia was seen as being on the southern perimeter of the Indies Archipelago, as depicted in words such as ‘Australasia’ and ‘Australind’.

  • The climate of the upper territory was mistakenly believed to be similar to Java.

  • In the 1870s and 1880s ambitious schemes were laid to turn it into a food bowl, with sugar, coffee, peanuts, and so on.
    - SA History Hub

Big Speulation - C B FIsher in Qld.jpg
The old Gulf Track - 1.jpg
The old Gulf Track - 2.jpg

In the Northern Territory the partners attempted to cultivate coffee and rubber near Darwin but without success.

  • In 1884 Fisher & Lyon sent a trial shipment of cattle to south-east Asia with little profit and in 1890 Goldsborough Mort took over some of their leases.

  • Their partnership was dissolved in May 1886, and by 1887 Fisher held in the territory about 34,000 square miles (88,060 km²) much of which they stocked and extensively improved.

Hard Times

A company was floated in London, under the style of the North Australian Territory Company, to acquire and work certain properties belonging to Mr C. B. Fisher in the Northern Territory.

  • These properties were held as security by Messrs Goldsbrough, Mort, and Co for advances made to Mr C. B. Fisher.

  • After some time the North Australian Territory Company was liquidated

Victoria River Downs Station

The Victoria River Downs station was originally established in 1883 on Bilingara and Karranga native lands by Charles Fisher and Maurice Lyons, who also owned nearby Glencoe Station.

Hard Times

In the 1880's Fisher suffered considerable set-backs.

Fisher's finances steadily worsened and although insolvent, he continued trading until with debts of nearly £1.5 million he was forced to declare himself bankrupt.[8]

  • Fisher's Queensland property, at Bullamon, was on the Moonie River and when the drought broke, 60,000 of 120,000 sheep on the place were drowned,

  • Manager James Hill got out with enough capital to buy Inchiquin (at Clare) and live happily there ever after.


"C.B." attributes his failure

  • to the guarantees he had to give (and fulfil) on behalf of Sir John Morphett, Mr. E. De Mestre, (brother Hurtle) Fisher and (James) Hill, the Rochford Brothers, &c.

  • When he gave the guarantees he was worth half a million sterling.

  • The Queensland properties have since fallen greatly in value.
    In 1885 they were worth £835,000, and in 1895 (just) £551,520.

  • He became a customer of the E.S. and A. Bank in 1865, and

  • since 1882 has paid it £591,855 in interest and discounts.


Judge Molesworth, in the Insolvency Court in September 1895 in Melbourne on Friday afternoon,

  • refused to grant a certificate of discharge to C.B. Fisher, late chairman of the Victoria Racing Club,

  • whose schedule showed debts amounting to £1,447,000, and assets £691,655.

His Honour said the depreciation in value of property did not justify an insolvency of such magnitude.

A discharge could proceed only if debts were paid off with at least 7d in the £1.


Mr Fisher, the judge said,

  • had been insolvent for years, and should have had pity on his unsecured creditors,

  • instead of carrying on until his assets were gone.

  • Fisher's estate was compulsorily sequestrated (forced legal possession of his assets until his debts have been paid)

  • aka Bankrupted on the 12th of February1895.


According to the schedule filed in February 1895,

  • the liabilities of the estate amounted to £1,477,915 6s. 4d.,

  • and the assets to £786,260

  • leaving a deficiency of £691,655 6s. 4d.

His debts owing

  • to secured creditors amount to £1,055,973 03. 3d.,

  • and those to unsecured creditors to £421,942 6s. Id.

  • The value at present of insolvent's real property is estimated at £551,640; of his personal property held as security at £234.560;

  • and of his personal property not held as security at £60.

"Serious depreciation in the value of squatting properties due to the fall in the price of wool, heavy interest and discounts, and losses by drought and floods were the main causes of his ruin."

Prior to 1888 Fisher and his co-owners lost £60,000 on the Noondoo, Yerambah, and Dariel stations.

  • Gannawarra Station was gradually taken up for selection, and Fisher had to sell the stock at a considerable sacrifice.

  • Yanga and Boyong stations, with 100,853 sheep and 234 cattle, also formed part of his estate at the time of sequestration.

  • In 1888 the Noondoo, Yerambah, and Dariel stations were sold to a company, who paid partly in cash and partly in shares.

At the sequestration of Fisher's estate the Darling Downs stations, known as Headington Hills, Condamine Plains, Ellangowan, O.K, and Hayfield

  • were mortgaged to the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank, and

  • the Headington Hills was also mortgaged to the British and Australasian Trust and Loan Co.


Sir John Morphett in debt

On 15 May 1838, John Morphett bought 134 acres of land near the present Morphettville race course. which was  named "Cummins Estate".

  • On 15 August 1838 he married Elizabeth Hurtle Fisher, the eldest daughter of James Hurtle Fisher (later Sir James). They were married at Trinity Church, South Australia's first Anglican Church.

  • A horse lover, he also kept a stud and was involved in racing.

  • He was one of the original directors of the Morphettville Racing Club, founded in 1847.

  • Morphett's home was called Cummins House, at Novar Gardens: home to five generations of the Morphett family.


Left: C.B.'s Brother-in-law (Sir) John Morphett. pastoralist and politician;

In the year 1881 Fisher guaranteed the English, Scottish and Australian Chartered Bank the repayment by Sir John Morphett, his brother-in-law (and who died in 1892), of £29,182, in which he was indebted to the bank.

  • The bank held security on his freehold properties in South Australia, and Fisher was liable for such guarantees.


ln 1881 Fisher guaranteed to the same bank payment by Ettie de Mestre of £21,000, which he owed the bank, and on sequestration of Fisher's estate was liable for that guarantee.

  • In the year 1885 Fisher sustained a loss of £34,454 through the insolvency of Alex. Cormack & Co, of Gannawarra, graziers, who owed Fisher that amount.

  • ln 1888 Fisher sold Gnoolooma for a sum sufficient to pay the mortgage.


Brother Hurtle Fisher's firm fails

In the year 1881 Fisher guaranteed the banking account of the firm of Fisher & (James) Hill, sheep farmers and graziers, of which Fisher's brother, (James) Hurtle Fisher, was a partner, and Fisher was subsequently called upon to pay £224,000 on such guarantee, and had never been repaid, so losing a fortune.


Left: Charles and James Fisher

  • In 1884 Fisher guaranteed for Rochford Bros., nephews of Benjamin Rochford, an old friend of his, their banking account with the Queensland National Bank, and was liable on such guarantee.

  • In 1885 Fisher became security for Rochford Bros, to the Investment, Landand Mortgage Co. of Brisbane for a further sum of £10,000, and was liable for that at sequestration,

  • At the sequestration of Fisher's estate Fisher was also liable for £11,765 owed to Fisher's solicitor and advisor for 45 years, Edward Klingender, of Melbourne.

When Fisher gave these guarantees Fisher was worth property to the amount of £500,000 and upwards over and above that which would pay all his debts.

  • The Darling Downs and Yanga stations decreased in value between 1885 and the sequestration of Fisher's estate by at least £1,278,480, owing to the fall in the price of wool and depreciation in the value of freehold lands and squatting properties generally.

  • In 1885 they were worth £835,000, and at sequestration only £551,520.

  • Of the amount owing by Fisher at sequestration about £590,000 was due for interest.

  • Since 1886 Fisher had incurred no debts of any kind.


Overcapitalization, falling prices and six bad seasons forced Fisher into bankruptcy in 1895.


In the early nineties he fell on evil times, in company with so many other pastoralists, but his latter years were spent in comfort if not in riches, and he remained to the end a typical colonist, genial, kindly, large hearted, courageous, and full of hope.

  • As a breeder his name is identified with a type of Merinos which aimed at the maximum price per sheep, and he also imported many Lincoln sheep and draught horses and Shorthorn cattle,

  • besides the racehorses which made the name of Maribyrnong a household word.

Destitute, he retired to Melbourne where in November 1896 friends took up a subscription which Franc Falkiner headed with £500.

  • In 1905 he visited Adelaide to bury his sister, Lady Elizabeth Morphett, who reached 90 years. 


Mr. Pitts, who had managed Hill River for Mr. Fisher in South Australia, was a prophet,

and when he died he left the Levels, a nice little property, to C.B., his former employer, and tied it up. so that, the income should alwaye be available in case of need;

Mr. Pitts felt that Mr. Fisher would want the money some day, and (in that) he was a true prophet indeed. - Obituary 30 Dec 1886

Charles returned to Adelaide, a few months before his death intending to end his days at the Levels,

  • but his relatives persuaded him to come and live with them at Cummins, Morphetville, the house of his brother-in-law, the late Sir John Morphett.
  • Later Fisher died at at his residence, Seafield Towers, Albert Terrace, Glenelg on 6 May 1908.

  • Predeceased by his wife Agnes Louisa, whom he had married in 1855, and survived by their only son, (also) C.B. he left an estate valued at £1600.

Hurtle Fisher's firm fails
Charles and James Fisher.jpeg
Sir John Morphett
The Levels Stud Sale SA Register 29 Aug
The Fisher Family

The Fisher family when they arrived at Holdfast Bay, Adelaide, on 28 December 1836, consisting of Father James and Mrs Elizabeth (nee Johnson) Fisher, Elizabeth, James, Charles. Fanny, George, Marianne, William, and Hurtle.

Son Edward died as a child prior to the departure of the family from England.

Father James Hurtle Fisher died in Adelaide on 28 January 1875, survived by four sons and four daughters.

  • Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher was the step-mother of the elder sons, but the mother of William and Henry, and one or two of the daughters.

  • Mr. James Fisher, the oldest son, died in England at the advanced age of 97

  • Charles was the second son, born on, 25 September 1818 in London, died at Glenelg aged 91.

  • Mr. George Fisher looked after the agricultural part of the business at Lockleys -  he came to an untimely end, being drowned in the disaster of the Admella, which was wrecked near Portland in 1859. Hurtle Fisher and Mr Rochford were among the 8 survivors.

  1. Elizabeth "Bessey" Fisher (15 April 1815 – 1905) married John Morphett on 15 August 1838, later Lady Elizabeth

  2. James (Hurtle?) Fisher (1816–1913), Charles' business partner and pastoralist. Returned to England before 1875, where he was the oldest Etonian when he died at 97.

  3. Charles Brown Fisher (25 September 1817 – 6 May 1908), a prominent pastoralist. Married Agnes Louisa in 1855, and survived by their only son, Beaudesert Qld. Alderman C B Fisher, pastoralist and farmer, who had two sons, Clive and Frank.

  4. Frances Lucy "Fanny" Fisher (1823–1909) was to have married the widowed solicitor G. F. Shipster, but the wedding had to be cancelled due to his illness; he died the following day.  J. H. Fisher brought up and educated his young son. She later married John Vidal James (1820–1897), pioneer settler at Inman Valley and Willunga, later Colonial Storekeeper. They returned to England in 1855.

  5. George Willam Taylor Fisher (1825 – 6 August 1859) lost in the wrecking of SS Admella

  6. Marianne Fisher (1827–1927) outlived all other emigrants on the Buffalo. Obituary Sat 25 Jun 1927 Page 57

  7. William Dundas Fisher (1829 – 2 December 1886) married Sarah Melville on 27 July 1859, died at South Yarra.

  8. Hurtle Eyles Fisher (c. 1831 – 30 June 1905) survived the wrecking of SS Admella to become a prominent Victorian horse breeder who brought Fisherman to Australia, and whose Lantern won the 1864 Melbourne Cup.

  9. Emily Ann Fisher (1837– ) married Joseph Palmer on 10 November 1855. They later made their home at Cummins, SA.


-- Source: James Hurtle Fisher From Wikipedia

The Fisher Family
Miss Fisher Entertains Advertiser 7 Feb
Miss Fisher 99 - Sat Journal SA 6 Feb 19
Miss Marianne Fisher
Victoria River Downs Station
Miss Fisher Our Grand Old Lady - SA Obse
Miss Fisher Our Grand Old Lady - SA Obse
Miss Fisher Our Grand Old Lady - SA Obse
Miss Fisher Our Grand Old Lady - SA Obse
Miss Fisher Birthday Honours - SA Regist
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C B Fisher Interview - 1.jpg
C B Fisher Interview -2.jpg
C B Fisher Interview -3.jpg
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Marrianne Fisher at 97  - 1.jpg
Obituary C B Fisher
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Obituary of C.B. Fisher

Mr. Charles Brown Fisher's career has been detailed at such length in the daily and weekly press that no long article is needed.

  • He was ninety-one years of age at the time of his death at Glenelg, near Adelaide, on 5th May,

  • and was born in London in 1817, the second son of Sir James Hurtle Fisher.

  • With his brother James he squatted on the Little Para in 1838,

  • then farmed at Lockleys and the Reedbeds near Adelaide,

  • supplying sheep and cattle to the Adelaide market.


In 1854 he purchased Bundaleer, and in 1855 Hill River Station, and afterwards other places in South Australia, some ten or twelve passing through his hands, including Wirrabara, Mount Schanck, Moorak, and Port Gawler.


In 1865 he went to Melbourne, and the ownership of some fine properties attests to his continued belief in and liking for pastoral affairs.

  • Among other properties might be mentioned Yanga and Ned's Corner, in New South Wales,

  • and in Queensland the Darling Downs properties Thurulgoona (now owned by the Squatting Investment Company), the group now owned by the Australian Pastoral Company in the south,

  • Fort Constantino and Warrnambool Downs in the north, and

  • many smaller properties,

  • as well as places in the Western District of Victoria, and Victoria Downs and other large areas in the Northern Territory, to which he sent up 30,000 cattle in the early eighties.

Fisher had a very good reputation as a businessman and employer, and his men stayed with him for years. 

He was also a very good stockman and travelled sheep and cattle all over the country, often going along himself. 

He was a very good horseman. 

His latter years were spent in comfort if not in riches, and he remained to the end a typical colonist,

  • genial, kindly, large hearted, courageous, and full of hope.

  • As a breeder his name is identified with a type of Merinos which aimed at the maximum price per sheep, and

  • he also imported many Lincoln sheep

  • and draught horses and Shorthorn cattle,

  • besides the racehorses which made the name of Maribyrnong a household word.

  • At Hill River he embarked in extensive farming operations.

Both Charles and Hurtle said in later life that the best properties in Australia were Hill River and Bundaleer and they wished they had never sold them.

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