Early Days with Ray Humphrys
It was Spring of 1844 when visitors arrived at Jimbour Station. Most arrivals on the station were connected to the property.
The leader of this party was not just another local but a personality who would become a household word not only here but over the whole country.
He was the adventurer and explorer Ludwig Leichhardt just beginning his first and impressive expedition.
Earlier the German had come to the Darling Downs and had visited Henry Stuart Russell at Cecil Plains.
Leichhardt had ridden in with Fairholme and stayed a whole week. He revealed, at that time, that he wanted to take an expedition to Port Essington at the top north-west corner of Australia.
He invited Russell and some of his men to go with him.
This startled the pioneer selector as he didn’t consider Leichhardt to be a very good leader. When he related this to his friend William Orten he was told he wouldn’t last a week with the explorer.
Ludwig Leichhardt had spent a lot of his time travelling through the bush of the closer settled areas and had found the Aboriginal people friendly but he seemed to have no idea how fierce some of the northern tribes could be.
However he was still determined to make an expedition across Australia to the north so he returned to Sydney. There, he seemed to find a more responsive audience.
He selected five men to accompany him.
They were: James Calvin, John Roper, John Murphy who was only 16, years old, William Phillips (a prisoner of the Crown) and Harry Brown an Aboriginal of the Newcastle tribe.
By August they took their gear and 13 horses aboard the “Sovereign” and sailed to Moreton Bay.
They though the passage would only take three days but owing to the rough weather it took a week and they ran out of food and water for the horses.
Once at Moreton Bay, the squatters came to the explorer’s assistance.
As well they gave Leichhardt some sound advice which he accepted though he had to refuse some of the more bulky items that were donated.
He had planned to actually walk travelling up the coast on foot east of the ranges.
The bush men convinced him to travel west of the ranges on horseback.
Before leaving Moreton Bay the enthusiastic German added four more men to his party seemingly against his better judgment.
The new members were: Pemberton Hodgson from the Darling Downs, John Gilbert, a talented Zoologist, Caleb, an American Negro and Charley from the Bathurst tribe.
It was very wet when they set off to the Darling Downs Leichhardt had bought a spring cart to travel on but the boggy roads made the going slow.
Several days later the horses bolted and smashed the pole on the cart. Leichhardt found it better to put the gear on horses and by riding make better progress.
They made another stop at John Campbell’s station and some of the bullocks were broken in to carry the packs More bullocks were given to them and they set off again with seventeen horses, sixteen bullocks, firearms and ammunition, flour, sugar, tea and spare clothes and shoes.
The ten men crossed over the Downs to the last out post of civilisation, Jimbour.
Ahead was a mammoth trek through unknown country for Leichhardt and his men.
It was a feat that would make the explorer famous throughout the country.
However that success spurred him to make similar explorations which proved not as successful and even fatal.