Gordon Sandeman (1810 - 1897) and his party set up camp on Belcong Creek after arriving on the Peak Downs in August 1861, following his purchase of the Archer Brother held lands. His party included Oscar de Satge (1836 - 1906) who would manage the property. After securing the leases over approximately 100km by 50 km of the Peak Downs, de Satge set about stocking the property he named Gordon Downs with sheep.
Over the years 1865 - 67, de Satge sold 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 to Messrs. Travers and Gibson; Huntley - near Table Mountain with 10,000 sheep to Mr Brown; Crinum Creek - from the head of that creek to Lilyvale with 16,000 sheep to Messrs Hope and Ramsay; the country on Capella and Retro Creeks (advertised as Capella Downs and Retro Downs) to a Victorian firm and R. Downs & Co, Sydney respectively; and, the head station Gordon Downs consisting of most of the country on Belcong and Gordonstone Creeks with 35,000 sheep and improvements to Mr Samuel Smith Travers (elder brother of Roderick Travers, partner in Malvern Downs).
Mr Travers retained ownership of Gordon Downs until the late 1890s. His Manager was Mr William Kilgour. A Mr Matt Cahill is likely to have been managing the property somewhere around the turn of the century. A newspaper article lists a Mr Connors as owner prior to 1891 when it was then owned by the South Australian Land, Mortgage and Agency Company (SALMAC) and managed by Mr Stewart, ‘an old pioneer and explorer.’ Mr Henry Angus Sutherland was Manager for the SALMAC between 1893 and 1896. Mr George Herbert Stuart (Herbert) became Manager in 1886/97. He was the son Mr J.W. Stuart, Pastoral Inspector of the South Australian Land, Mortgage and Agency Company. Herbert married Lucy Bell in Clermont on 12 May 1898. He left the district in 1912, at which time he also resigned from the Peak Downs Shire Council, and died in 1929. Mr A. Palmer was the Manager in 1913.
Parts of the property closer to the Capella township were thrown open for selection in 1883 (under the Railway Reserves Act) and 1907.
Mr Frank Fletcher was appointed Gordon Downs Manager in November 1915 and was still there in August 1918. Mr G.C. (Dick) Small was Manager in June 1921 and continued until 1926. On his resignation, he moved to Glencoe, his own property in the area. [Glencoe has subsequently been owned by Haylock (Bill) & Corette, Stanley Spackman (13,000 acres, subdividing and selling 4,000) and in 2009, Terry Ray (9,000 acres).]
James Clark (1857 – 1933) and Peter Tait (1873 – 1951) purchased Gordon Downs and the adjacent Blackadder property in February 1923. These comprised 51,95l acres of freehold and 83,680 acres of leasehold, with 42,100 sheep and about 2,000 bullocks, plus all improvements and plant, on a "walk in, walk-out" basis.
On 16 March 1923, Mr. P.W. Shannon gave his reserved judgment in the Land Court that ‘in the matter of the determination of the areas affected by a proposal by the lessees of Gordon Downs holding (South Australian Land, Mortgage and Agency Co., Ltd.) to surrender an area of 33,760 acres of freehold land in the Parish of Berbeth and Gordonstone, together with the improvements thereon, and their interest in Blackadder, and 4,000 acres of Gordon Downs leasehold, with the improvements on those areas, in exchange for the freehold of the balance (64,080 acres) of Gordon Downs holding, the Court determined that the value of the land proposed to be surrendered, and the improvements to be surrendered there-with, were equal to the value of the land granted in exchange.’
A number of 2,560 acre blocks on the surrendered land closer to the Capella township were thrown open to selection for sheep raising in 1924. An area to the west, including the original 5,000 acre Lucknow block was thrown open in 1929.
After the head-station woolshed was destroyed by fire, a 30 stand shed situated on the Old Gordon outstation was moved in as a replacement. Peter Hansen was given this task. He disassembled the building and marked each piece with roman numerals, so that it could be more easily put back together again during 1920. The pieces were stacked onto wagons and moved to the new site by two teamsters for 10 pounds per load.
The station store was built from spotted gum timbers in 1924.
A new homestead was built in 1926 at a cost of 2,400 pounds and Mr Dudleigh (Dud) Easton (1900 - 1991) took over as Manager, remaining until his retirement in 1974. Mr Easton also served on the Peak Downs Shire Council for over thirty years to 1961, being Chairman for the last fifteen.
There were up to 40 men working on Gordon Downs at any one time when Mr Easton was Manager, continually developing the large sheep run. This included a team of well borers who used a Southern Cross percussion boring plant to sink 24 bores. Female employees included Mrs Muriel Groves, who was a cook there for many years.
New 30m x 12m shearers’ quarters were constructed in 1966. It had 15 rooms, a large breezeway down the centre and an ablutions room.
In the late 1970s Apex Oil purchased the Gordon Downs freehold for the underlying coal reserves. In May 1981, the company sold off 40,767 acres at auction, subdivided into seven blocks. Most of these blocks were then turned into either broadacre farming enterprises or mixed farming and beef cattle operations.
The Danish owned United Plantations (Australia) Pty Ltd acquired the 28,982 acres (11,729ha) on which sat the homestead and main buildings. Arne Pedersen was Manager and operated one of the nation’s largest organic grain farms until late 2002 when it was sold to the Kestrel Joint Venture coal mining company. The North Australian Pastoral Company leased the land from Kestrel in 2003 to background beef cattle prior to them entering a feedlot.
[Oscar John de Satgé 1836 – 1906. Born England. Married Beatrice Elizabeth Fletcher 3/8/82. Died Folkestone, Kent]
[Gordon Sandeman 1810 – 1897. Born Edinburgh Scotland. Married twice. First wife Ernestine de Satge. Died London]
[Samuel Smith Travers - born England 26/03/1826; died at Bellerieve, Tasmania 8/03/1888. In 1857 he married Louisa Darbyshire in England,(born 13/07/1834, died England 1911). They had fourteen children.]
[James Clark 1857 – 1933. Born Hunter River. Died Brisbane]
[Peter Tait 1873 – 1951. Born Foritude Valley. Died Bowral]