When the New South Wales Government offered a reward of £2000 for the discovery of a port on the North Queensland coast, Captain Henry Sinclair formed a small party and sailed from Rockhampton in the nine-ton ketch Santa Barbara. On 16 October 1859 they anchored in Port Denison, an inner harbour of Edgecumbe Bay, which they partly surveyed and sketched. Attempts to examine the location in greater detail were thwarted by the hostility of local Aboriginal people and Sinclair’s party returned to Rockhampton three days later.
The separation of Queensland from New South Wales less than two months later resulted in Sinclair being unable to collect any reward, though the new Queensland Government acted on his report by sending the pastoralist-explorer George Augustus Frederick Elphinstone Dalrymple to establish a township at Port Denison and open the port as an outlet for pastoralists in the interior. Named after Governor Bowen, the township was proclaimed on 11 April 1861, with the first land sales taking place the following October. As the first permanent settlement in North Queensland, Bowen was instrumental in the spread of pastoralism into the northern districts, while its geographical location and facilities ensured its continuing prosperity.
Queensland State Archives Item ID 714422, Digital Image ID 2777
Surveyor General’s Department