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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Morgan, Frederick Augustus (1837–1894)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Frederick Augustus Morgan (1837-1894), publican and mining investor, was born on 20 June 1837 in Sydney, eldest of four sons of Frederick Augustus Morgan, tailor, and his wife Emma Martha, née Woodward. He spent his early years round Bathurst where he always claimed to have found gold before Hargraves. On 11 October 1864 he married Mary Jane Wheatley at Tenterfield. In 1866 they moved to Warwick, Queensland, where he engaged in mining, kept a hotel, butcher's shop and racing stables. In December 1879 he took over the Criterion Hotel at Rockhampton and was soon joined by his brothers Thomas, Edwin and Alex. His wife did most of the hotel management while Morgan and his brothers prospected and developed small mines.

In the 1860s William Mackinlay, a stockman on Calliungal run, found rich gold on a hill then known as Ironstone Mountain and worked it secretly for years. His daughter married Sandy, one of the two sons of John Gordon who held a 640-acre (259 ha) selection on the northern boundary of Calliungal. She revealed the secret to her husband and Sandy and his brother Donald made ineffective attempts to investigate the deposit in 1881. Donald moved to the Peak Downs district as a station overseer and Sandy settled in Rockhampton as a paid mine-worker.

Early in 1882 Sandy went to work for the Morgan brothers at the Galawa mine and agreed to show them the mineral deposits on Gordon's selection. In July 1882 he took Thomas and Edwin Morgan to the spot where after three days of prospecting they realized that the mine was very rich. Despite an ambiguous agreement to share with Gordon, the Morgan brothers pegged out claims in their own names and a few days later sold a half share to William Knox D'Arcy, a Rockhampton solicitor, Thomas Skarrett Hall, branch manager of the Queensland National Bank, and William Pattison, a local butcher. As the syndicate proceeded to develop the mine its phenomenal riches became apparent. Aware of an old Australian tradition of mines deteriorating with depth, the Morgan brothers became nervous. Edwin sold his share to Frederick Augustus, who then sold out to Hall, D'Arcy and Pattison for £62,000, and in October 1883 the last brother, Thomas, sold his share for £31,000.

Although aware that he had lost the chance of an enormous fortune, F. A. Morgan retired to live in comparative affluence at Rockhampton. He invested in local business ventures, held Canal Creek and Targinie runs and built a boiling-down works and jetty but remained at heart a miner. After an abortive attempt to enter the Queensland parliament in support of Samuel Griffith he confined himself to local politics and in 1891-93 was mayor of Rockhampton. He died there on 8 November 1894, survived by his wife and one son. His brother Edwin died in Brisbane on 18 September 1916.

Select Bibliography

  • W. G. C., Some Account of the Mount Morgan Gold Mine (Rockhampton, 1885)
  • F. W. Sykes, The Mount Morgan Gold Mine (Syd, 1893)
  • W. H. Dick, A Mountain of Gold (Brisb, 1889)
  • J. G. Pattison, ‘Battler's’ Tales of Early Rockhampton (Melb, 1939)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1886, 3, 115
  • B. G. Patterson, ‘The story of the discovery of Mount Morgan retold’, JRHSQ, 4 (1948), and ‘The story of the Mount Morgan mine’, Queensland Government Mining Journal, 20 June 1950
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland), 9 Nov 1894
  • B. G. Patterson, The Mount Morgan Mine, MS446 (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Morgan, Frederick Augustus (1837–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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