Presented by Brian Hedges
John McKinlay (1819-18720 was born in Scotland and came to New South Wales in 1836. Between 1850 and 1860 he took up a number of stations west of the Darling River. In 1861 he was asked by the South Australian Government to organize a search for Burke and Wills. He had a reputation as an expert bushman and his good judgment told him when to push on and when to be cautious. McKinlay left Adelaide in August 1861 with a party of nine, including Middleton who was second-in-charge and Hodgkinson. The party located the grave of Gray and learned of the fate of the rest of the expedition. Nevertheless they pushed on towards the Gulf. Early in 1862 they followed the Diamantina on its eastern bank up to a point near old Cork Station, about 100 miles southwest of Winton. They then turned north-west, followed Middleton Creek to the site of the present town of Middleton, and finally reached the Gulf in May 1862. McKinlay has been recognized as one of Australia’s most capable explorers. He had a considerable interest in aborigines and his knowledge of their habits was of much use during his expeditions.

Another explorer to pass near Winton was Ernest Favenc (c. 1846 - 1906). In 1878 Favenc was asked to organize a party to report on country between Blackall and Darwin, partly in connection with a proposal to connect the Queensland railways with Darwin. In company with two other white men and an aboriginal he left Blackall in July 1878, crossed the Thompson some miles south of Longreach, and reached Old Cork Station on the Diamantina. From there he continued in a north-easterly direction to the Georgina River and into the Northern Territory. He made later expeditions south of the Gulf.


Qantilda Pioneer Place Museum  Winton Pastoral History Project
Why did pioneer graziers come to Winton?
They followed the tracks of the famous explorers such as Leichhardt, Kennedy, Gregory, Burke and Wills, Landsborough, Walker and McKinlay.
In 1866, William Landsborough and surveyor George Phillips explored the land west of the Thompson River through to the Diamantina. Crossing the grass plains, they found them "admirably adapted for fattening stock". These favourable reports and the prospect of free use of land lured the risk takers. The Rush for Grass was on !
Mostly from Victoria, the early pastoralists such as Wallace, Wilson, Chirnside, Nisbet, Macpherson and Macartney began to establish their holdings. At the start, they did not have formal leases. So they were literally "squatting" on government land.
When the pastoral district of Gregory North was established in 1873, the Queensland Government granted leases for occupied runs including Elderslie, Vindex, Oondooroo, Sesbania, Dagworth, Ayrshire Downs, Bladensburg and Cork. Good seasons and good prices for wool and cattle promised new wealth. A shortage of labour and lack of transport for the wool threatened the new ventures. Just in time, there was an influx of labour and improved transport to the Central West. Failed miners from the declining North Queensland goldfields and the traders and carriers, who had benefited from mining, flooded in.