The Aboriginal horseboy who discovered the Charters Towers goldfield in Queensland
Jupiter Mosman, whose tribal name is unknown, was born in north-western Queensland and, as a small boy, ‘came in’ to Kynuna Station. There he was ‘acquired’ as George Clarke later wrote, by Hugh Mosman who gave him his non-indigenous name. Soon afterwards the Mosman brothers and John Frazer sold Tarbrax to the McIntyres of Dalgonally and set off for the Cape River diggings. They visited Ravenswood where they became friendly with the prospector George Clarke and decided to look for gold around the Seventy Mile Pinnacle (Mount Leyshon).
Clarke described Jupiter riding behind Mosman, strapped to him and never allowed out of his sight. The party rode through the gap on the western side of what is now called Towers Hill and camped on a creek where, in December 1871, Jupiter discovered the gold-bearing quartz of the North Australian reef: the first mine of the Charters Towers goldfield, the field that ensured the survival of north Queensland as a European settlement.
Mosman, Clarke and Fraser became very rich on Charters Towers, but only Mosman remained on the field. He sent Jupiter to school at Newtown and later at Lyndhurst College, Sydney, where he was baptised as a Roman Catholic and given the names John Joseph. During vacations he rejoined Mosman in Charters Towers, playing football and cricket in local teams. He was described as ‘a sound medium to fast bowler, a good field and quite a sound bat’. Under Mosman’s enthusiastic tutelage he became an excellent horseman. He accompanied Mosman on his visits to Sydney but, when he accepted nomination to the Queensland Legislative Council in June 1891, they finally parted.
Jupiter then became a drover for one of Mosman’s nephews; his first cattle drive was from Beaudesert Station, near Kynuna to Wodonga in Victoria, a journey of six months and five days. He then worked on a number of northern cattle stations, including Lolworth on Dotswood, Wombiana and Mirtna. He continued to prospect and for some time worked with Soilleux and Roberts on Stockyard Creek. He is said to have prospected, sometimes successfully, over all of the Cape York Peninsula fields. Hugh Mosman never married and, when he died in 1909, his considerable fortune was divided between his nephews and nieces, four of whom were Aboriginal. Jupiter is not mentioned in the will.
Jupiter eventually retired and was allocated a house at the Eventide Home for the Aged in Charters Towers. At this stage he was described as ‘tall, long-limbed and sensible’, well-mannered and an avid reader. When he was 76 years old E.G.Barrymore, editor of the Northern Miner, reported that,”his eyes still have snap and humour, and his laughter is ready and happy. Jupiter speaks English well, far better than many white men, and at the Charters Towers Annual race meeting, I was amused at the easy courtesy and tolerance with which he listened to a white man talking pidgin English to him, betraying neither amusement not intolerance by even the quiver of an eyelid.”
Jupiter died at Eventide on 5 December 1945. Four city councillors followed his hearse, along with a number of townspeople and Eventide residents. He was buried in the Roman Catholic portion of the Charters Towers cemetery. A park in Charters Towers has been dedicated to his memory.
Northern Miner, 6 and 7 December 1945 and 24 December 1971; David Green, Mining History of Charters Towers:1872 to 1897 (Northern Miner, Charters Towers, 1897); Report of the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service (Qld) on the Hugh Mossman (sic) Estate (npd).
For more profiles of the men and women who made Australia a global mining powerhouse, go to: http://www.mininghall.com/Home.php