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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wienholt, Edward (1833–1904)

by D. B. Waterson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

This is a shared entry with Arnold Wienholt

Arnold Wienholt (1826-1895) and Edward Wienholt (1833-1904), pastoralists and politicians, were sons of John Birkett Wienholt (1775-1852), merchant, and his second wife Sarah, née Hill. Arnold was born on 22 January 1826 and Edward on 28 March 1833 at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Wales, the setting for Dylan Thomas's poem Under Milk Wood. Two other brothers, Daniel (1822-1865) and Arthur (1835-1892), were also prominent Queensland pioneers. The family, originally Winholdt, originated at Wiemsdorf, Oldenburg, Germany, in the sixteenth century.

Educated privately, Arnold arrived at Sydney about 1847. He purchased Maryvale in 1849 and Gladfield in 1852, both on the Darling Downs, Queensland; they became two of the finest Clydesdale studs in Australia. In 1860 he failed to win Warwick in the Legislative Assembly, but held the seat in 1863-67; he ran for Maranoa in 1871 but lost. His assembly career was unspectacular and characteristically silent. Politics for him was an onerous obligation to his fellow 'Pure Merinos', neither a pleasure nor a pursuit of intrinsic satisfaction; his importance lies in his practical abilities as a stock-breeder and pastoralist and his partnership in the family pastoral empire. At the end of the 1870s he retired to Locarno, Switzerland, where he died unmarried in the Grand Hotel on 16 January 1895.

His more complex and influential brother Edward, an Anglican, arrived in Queensland in 1853. With William Kent he acquired Fassifern, Jondaryan and Goomburra stations in the 1870s in the south-east and several large runs in the interior. His 'dash and self-reliance … tempered by a native shrewdness which caused him seldom to make a mistake' was combined with an advantageous marriage on 14 December 1874 to Ellen (1856-1898), daughter of Daniel Williams, railway contractor and entrepreneur. They had three sons and three daughters, including Arnold (1877-1940).

Wienholt and his partners rapidly built up one of Australia's largest and initially most profitable pastoral empires. In 1888 they held 289,966 acres (117,346 ha) of freehold land in the Moreton and Darling Downs districts; next year the Wienholt Pastoral Estates Co. was formed. Believing that 'it was necessary for those who had a stake in the country to take part in its Government [to] protect themselves from great and unnecessary liabilities', Wienholt was M.L.A. for Western Downs in 1870-73 and Darling Downs in 1873-75. A strong adherent of Sir Arthur Palmer, he favoured drastic retrenchment, complete free trade in imports and lands, restricted education for the masses and the continuation of the threatened pastoral hegemony. In 1875 the Privy Council in Regina v. Edward Wienholt reversed a Supreme Court decision and found for him in a ruling that gave freehold titles to all selectors, genuine or otherwise, whose rents had previously been collected by the Crown—this was a valuable victory. In May 1890 Brisbane waterside workers refused to load non-union-shorn wool from Jondaryan. This incident, an important event in the struggle between the new mass unions and the pastoralists, hastened the end of the old traditional Queensland pastoral ascendancy.

Wienholt retired to Rocklands, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England, in 1880. He died in Melbourne on 14 January 1904 on one of his frequent trips to Australia. He was regarded as 'a fine specimen of colonial Toryism', who never concealed his fundamental views. His social and political positions were eventually eroded, but his convictions, courteous deportment and correct if frigid public manners, together with his territorial acquisitions, place him above his more pedestrian fellows. A Petty Sessions district at Murgon and a parish near Dalby are named after him. His estate was valued for probate at £9144 in New South Wales and at £57,000 in Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • M. J. Fox (ed), The History of Queensland, vol 2 (Brisb, 1921)
  • D. B. Waterson, Squatter, Selector and Storekeeper (Syd, 1968)
  • Toowoomba Chronicle, 20 Aug 1870, 13 Mar 1875
  • Brisbane Courier, 8 July 1871, 16 Jan 1894
  • 18 Jan 1895
  • Queenslander, 13, 27 Feb 1904
  • private information.

Citation details

D. B. Waterson, 'Wienholt, Edward (1833–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 19 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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