Was this the Wheeler?

Springsure – Does this fallen, eroding gravestone honour the man after whom the Capricorn Coast’s controversial Mt Wheeler was named?

Now known as Gai-i, the popular narrative for a long time was that it was named after cruel Native Police inspector Frederick Wheeler, who was allegedly involved in a massacre of local Darumbul people.

It is now broadly accepted that it was named after John George Wheeler, a gold commissioner who worked in the area during the 1860s.

Historic gazettes show that the John George Wheeler who worked as the Peak Downs gold commissioner went on to become a magistrate of that territory.

The  John  Wheeler who lies buried underneath this gravestone at the Springsure cemetery was a journalist who went on to work in government service.

He was a Clerk of the Petty Sessions when he died in 1867, aged 40.

Either way, this John George Wheeler was instrumental in  fundraising for the central Queensland town of Springsure’s first hospital.

Springsure’s hospital circa 1875. Image State LIbrary of Queensland.

Unfortunately, he died on the day the hospital work was completed, so never got to experience its life-saving benefits.

He inspected the new building on September 17, and then attended a funeral.

“On his return he partook of his dinner, after which he went to his room, and laid down upon his bed with his clothes on as if to have a nap,’’ reported the Queenslander.

He was found dead the next morning.

Image Sharyn Moodie

“From the position he was lying in it would appear that he must have breathed his last without a struggle and without the slightest warning, during sleep,’’ The Queenslander.

An inquiry found he died of heart disease.

Earlier in his adult life, Wheeler had been a journalist, having covered the Ballarat riots while working as a special correspondent for a Geelong journal at the time.

He later worked for the Courier and then the North Australian.

Mount Wheeler, Capricorn Coast, Central Queensland. Photo CHRIS ISON.

He then entered government service, and, if he is the same John George Wheeler, perhaps had a mountain named after him.

While it is much nicer to think that is the case, it is also right that it now bears a First Nations name.

Sources: The Queenslander, Saturday,  12 October 1867, p 7

Springsure, Qld, https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/springsure-qld#:~:text=Small%20rural%20town%20which%20is,feature%2C%20looming%20above%20the%20town, accessed 30/07/2022

The Courier Mail (1861-64) Monday, Oct 26, 1863, page 2.

Springsure, Central Queensland.

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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