Ludwig Leichhardt reported favourably on the downs of the Peak Range following his first expedition during 1944-45. He was known to the Archer brothers (of whom there were seven), who acted on his advices in 1854. Charles (42) and Colin (22) Archer ventured north - west from the Burnett and secured leases over most of the country on the southern side of the Peak Range, under the then New South Wales land laws called ‘Orders in Council‘.
The lease over the upper reaches of Capella Creek was later sold to a Victorian firm, who named it ‘Peak Downs Station’. In 1860 or 61 the remaining leases were sold to Gordon Sandeman, who also held runs on the Burnett and Dawson Rivers.
Queensland gained separation from New South Wales in 1859, with Sir George Bowen as its first Governor. The first parliament sat in May 1860.
In early 1861 Gordon Sandeman offered Oscar de Satge the role of managing the stocking and development of the Peak Downs runs, on the promise of a partnership - which was duly effected. Mr Sandeman was at that time engaged to Ernestine de Satge.
En route to the Peak Downs, Henri de Satge joined the party at Rockhampton and Mr Sandeman purchased the adjoining ‘Wolfang Downs’ lease from Arthur Macartney.
Arriving on the Peak Downs in August 1861, de Satge and Sandeman set up camp on Belcong Creek. Upon checking the Archer’s A + B marks cut into trees over an area approximately 100km by 50 km, they found that not all the land had been included in the Archer tenders so they surveyed and made lease applications for these lands via the Rockhampton branch of the Land Office.
Sandeman and de Satge departed the Peak Downs in October 1861, leaving Henri with two young aboriginals and some bushmen at the site Oscar had selected for his head station and called ‘Gordon Downs’ after Gordon Sandeman. They were to build huts and bough sheep yards in readiness for Oscar’s return with men, stock and equipment.
After returning to the Burnett, Sandeman went to England and Oscar de Satge went on to the Darling Downs, returning to the Peak Downs in March 1862. With him he had eight shepherds, three bullock drivers, a horse driver, general knockabout man, a cook and 15,000 good Darling Downs breeding ewes plus 1,000 wethers for rations from the Burnett. There were also three bullock teams, one horse team and a supply of riding horses.
A better supply route to Rockhampton was established, along with huts, yards, a head station and store and internal road system. This work was made a little easier as labour and transport had become more readily available following the discovery of gold near Clermont around that same time.
1862 also saw the arrival of District Surveyor, Charles Gregory, to draw up three town reserves at Lilyvale Waterhole (Lilyvale), Capella Creek (Capella) and Hoods Lagoon (Clermont); and, to chart the Peak Downs.
Mr de Satge formed outstations at Crinum Creek, Malvern, Capella Creek and Retro. He also sent sheep to the separate property ‘Wolfang’, 50 miles from the ‘Gordon Downs’ headquarters. Over the years 1865 - 67, he was able to sell as separate runs on Mr Sandeman’s behalf: Malvern Downs - over the head of Belcong Creek around Scotts and Ropers Peaks with 17,500 sheep; Huntley - near Table Mountain with 10,000 sheep; Crinum Creek - from the head of that creek to Lilyvale with 16,000 sheep; Gordon Downs - most of the country on Belcong and Gordonstone Creeks with 35,000 sheep and improvements; and, the country on Capella and Retro Creeks sold as Capella Downs and Retro Downs.
From 1867 to 1875 in partnership with his brother Henri and others, Oscar de Satge lived on and helped develop ‘Wolfang Station’. He was also elected MLA for Clermont in April 1869.
Following the Pastoral Leases Act of 1869, which allowed 21 year lease terms, Victorian capitalists took more interest in Queensland. Amongst the first of these was the Fairbairn family who purchased ‘Peak Downs Station’ and set about building a fine homestead in 1869.
Fencing of runs began around 1870 on ‘Gordon Downs’, then managed by Roderick Travers.
These saw the end of shepherds staying with their flocks, being daily visited by nominated station personnel.
Information courtesy of the Capella Pioneer Village.