Roper Bar's European History

While Abel Tasman named the Limmen Bight, Cape Maria and Arnhem Land in 1644, Willem Joosten van Colster had already sailed into the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1606.
Ludwig Leichhardt followed the Limmen Bight River upstream in 1845 as he sought a way across it while travelling west.
In 1857 Augustus Gregory passed through the Gulf region on his eastward journey after exploring the Victoria River District.

Pastoralism began in Roper Bar in 1883, but the cattle industry was limited by poor grazing, resistance from Aboriginal people and an embargo on Territory cattle due to Red Water Fever.
Despite this, pastoralism continues today.

A landing and depot site were erected in Roper Bar in 1871 to bring in supplies for the over 300 men of the construction teams on the northern section of the overland telegraph line form Port Darwin to Port Augusta in South Australia.
Floods forced the depot to higher ground, at Telegraph Hill, in early 1872 but work was impossible before the dry season finally came and men and horses were able to cross the boggy country.

D'Arcy W. Uhr and brother Matthew Dillon Cox drove 400 head of cattle to the Roper in 1872.
They were the first of many overlanding parties to use the route pioneered by Leichhardt, the Queensland Road.

With the overlanders came a sly grog shop run by Black Jack Reid, who sailed on the vessel "Good Intent".
Later, the settlement saw the hopefuls streaming across to the Halls Creek goldfields with dreams of wealth that very few achieved.

The overlanders left fellow drovers who died through misadventure behind.
A teamster, C.H. Johnston, was speared by Aboriginals in 1875 and is buried in Roper Bar.
Another, John Urquhart, shot himself, suffering from malaria and 30 O.P.R. (Over Proof Rum).
Jack Sherring also shot himself and Dunbar died of dysentery.

A township on the Roper, Urapungai, was also planned as a major town but failed even before a building was erected.
In 1908 a church mission was established on the northern bank of the river, but the nation wide "flu epidemic" of 1918 saw many of the Aborigines there die.

With war on our doorstep, the North Australia Observer Unit set up a headquarter at Roper Bar in 1942.
They were assisted by the local Aboriginal people who taught them the skills they needed to survive.
From in Roper Bar they carried out patrols throughout the harsh, remote Gulf, and along the old "Queensland Road" until 1943.




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Last updated: Tuesday, 17.02.2009 1:26 PM