Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Robert Stubbs Archer (1858–1926)

by Lorna L. McDonald

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Edward Walker Archer

Robert Stubbs Archer (1858-1926), pastoralist and company director, born on 21 May 1858 at Croydon, Surrey, England, and Edward Walker Archer (1871-1940), pastoralist, businessman and politician, born on 12 December 1871 at Croydon, were sons of David Archer and his wife Susan, née Stubbs. They were educated at Whitgift Grammar School, and Edward also attended King's College School, London.

Robert worked first for his father's firm of commission merchants in London, but in 1880 arrived at Gracemere near Rockhampton, Queensland, with his brother John, as book-keeper. Within a year he succeeded his uncle Thomas as manager of Archer & Co. He continued to improve the Shorthorn and Hereford studs, established in 1856 and 1862 respectively, by importing high quality bulls. He was recognized as an authority on cattle-breeding from 1891 when he was awarded second prize by the National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland for his treatise on aspects of managing the two breeds. He was also respected as a cattle-judge at Brisbane and Sydney shows.

Archer pioneered cattle-dipping in central Queensland and in 1898 the Queensland government appointed him to the Tick Commission to study methods of combating the scourge. In 1890 he introduced a share dairy-farming system with 600 cows bred from the Gracemere Ayrshire stud which supplied Rockhampton and Mount Morgan with milk, cheese and butter. He also experimented with pasture-improvement, irrigation and ensilage, long before such practices were common; his 1882 silo was said to be the first in Queensland. When the dairying project was abandoned in 1914 he established a Red Poll stud. He improved his firm's herd by crossing Red Polls with Shorthorns, and his bulls raised the standards of northern Australian herds generally; he himself believed this to be his most valuable contribution to the cattle industry.

Archer was a director of Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. Ltd (1896-1926), chairman of directors (1904-11), and managing director and acting general manager (1912). In Rockhampton he was president of the Agricultural Society (1895-1903, 1905-26), a trustee of the Grammar School (1899-1907), and chairman of the Harbour Board (1907-09, 1910-13, 1915-24). In the controversy between Port Alma and Broadmount, he favoured Port Alma because it required no dredging.

A deeply compassionate man who seldom rejected a plea for help, Robert Archer was generous to local charities, and during World War I was prominent in forming the Stockowners' Red Cross Fund and the Returned Men's Cattle Committee. In 1889 he had married Alice Manon, daughter of Ernest Marwedel and his wife Marie, née Geh, of Toowoomba. Their two sons and daughter were all associated with the pastoral industry. He died of cardiac failure at Rockhampton on 29 December 1926 and, as he had requested, was carried to the family burial ground in a farm wagon 'symbolical of the conveyance used by the Archers' when they settled at Gracemere. His estate was valued for probate at £12,621.

After completing his education Edward worked with the British India Steam Navigation Co. of London in 1891-94, and then migrated to Canada to learn prairie farming. In 1897 he arrived at Gracemere as book-keeper and became a partner in R. S. & J. Archer. From 1900 he was manager of Targinnie station and of the small goldmine within its boundaries in which he had invested. He was chairman of the Port Curtis Co-operative Dairy Co. in 1904-07 and he also served several terms on the Calliope and Fitzroy shire councils.

Edward represented Capricornia in 1906-10 in the Commonwealth parliament, sitting with the Free Trade party. He then set up a stock and station agency in Brisbane and also managed the Auto Screw Dropper Co. In March 1914 he won Normanby in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. His outgoing and attractive personality and his education and varied experience were eminently suited to parliament but he was again defeated in May 1915 because of the rising strength of the Labor Party in central Queensland.

Archer then managed Coolibah station briefly before moving to Fifteen Mile cattle station, which he managed until his retirement to near-by Rockhampton in 1931. He served there as an executive member of the United Graziers' Association of Queensland, and was president of the agricultural society in 1927-40, and chairman of the Harbour Board in 1933-39. In Sydney on 18 May 1901 he had married Ada Jessie Rhoades by whom he had two daughters and a son. He died in Rockhampton of renal disease on 1 July 1940, leaving an estate valued for probate at £4507. Like his brother Robert, he was buried with Anglican rites in the Gracemere private burial ground, not far from the homestead built by their uncles in 1858.

Select Bibliography

  • National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland, Journal, 1891
  • A. Archer, ‘Fitzroy Waters—from sheep to cattle and coal’, JRHSQ, 9 (1971-72)
  • Graziers' Review, 11 Jan 1927
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Jan 1927, 16 July 1940
  • Archer papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • R. S. Archer letter-books, 1899-1926 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Lorna L. McDonald, 'Archer, Robert Stubbs (1858–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


21 May, 1858
Croydon, Surrey, England


29 December, 1926 (aged 68)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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