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Joseph Fleming (1811–1891)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

Joseph Fleming (1811-1891), pastoralist, businessman and politician, was born on 6 January 1811 near Windsor, New South Wales, son of Henry Fleming, a native-born contractor, and his wife Elizabeth, née Hall. He was educated in Sydney and farmed with his father on the MacDonald River even after his marriage on 29 April 1831 to Phoebe McGinniss of Wilberforce. Although his brother John had been involved in the Myall Creek massacre Joseph was appointed chief constable of Wollombi in 1842 and in 1844 inspector of distilleries, holding both positions until 1846.

About 1836 Fleming with his uncles had taken up Mundowie run on the Liverpool Plains. In 1846 he also acquired Orrabar in New England where he had organized and led the capture of the Gentleman Dick gang of bushrangers in July 1839 and was employed on the collection of the 1841 census. In 1848 he turned to Queensland and by September 1850 at Ipswich had bought town lots on which he established a boiling-down works, sawmill and flour-mill. He was also a partner in the steamer Bremer trading to Brisbane, and by February 1851 held eight Maranoa runs covering 128,000 acres (51,800 ha). In September 1859 he took advantage of a food shortage at the Tooloom goldrush in northern New South Wales, freighted in supplies and financed a store run by John Drysdale and Gordon Cameron.

Fleming soon became involved in the political life of Ipswich. He joined the faction led by Arthur Macalister and shared in the complicated manoeuvres at the election of the first Queensland parliament, but fell foul of William Tooth with whom he fought a legal action in 1857-61 over the sale of Talavera station. When Fleming won, Tooth planned an appeal to the Privy Council; whether the case ever went to London is doubtful but Tooth somehow secured all Fleming's Maranoa stations. In July 1860 Fleming was appointed a justice of the peace and elected for West Moreton to the Legislative Assembly but never said a word in parliament. The lawsuit, flood damage and falling wheat prices left him in financial difficulties. Desperate to retrieve his position, he took up 400 square miles (1036 km²) of new country on the Warrego in August 1861. He could not pay the licence fees and in November 1862 was declared bankrupt for £29,132 on the petition of the Bank of Australasia and had to resign his seat in the assembly and his commission as a justice.

Fleming's wife died in the 1850s survived by five daughters of their nine children. His housekeeper, Mrs Dollmann, soon acquired an active interest in his affairs; his attempts to salvage the Warrego runs by transferring them to her led to a ludicrous incident in which she contrived the arrest of a bailiff employed by the Bank of Australasia. For this and other deviations Fleming failed to acquire a certificate of discharge. When his friend and patron, Macalister, became premier in August 1866, he won West Moreton again in September but was defeated after another session of silence; his parliamentary ventures and some of his business activities were probably designed to serve Macalister's interests. After his political defeat Fleming abandoned public life and confined himself to store-keeping in Ipswich and Roma. An undischarged bankrupt he died at Ipswich on 23 September 1891.

Select Bibliography

  • L. E. Slaughter, Ipswich Municipal Centenary (Brisb, 1960)
  • D. G. Bowd, Macquarie Country: A History of the Hawkesbury (Melb, 1969)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1858, 1, 919, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1863, 1, 95
  • ‘Reminiscences of Mrs. Susan Bundarra Young (Formerly Mrs. James Buchanan of Bundarra)’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 8, supplement, 1923, pp 394-407
  • equity file 6, SCT/U2 (Queensland State Archives)
  • insolvency file, 147/1864 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Registrar's notebook, SCT/DJ1 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Colonial Secretary's in letters (State Records New South Wales)
  • manuscript catalogue and newspaper indexes under Joseph Fleming (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Fleming, Joseph (1811–1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 15 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


6 January, 1811
Windsor, New South Wales, Australia


23 September, 1891 (aged 80)
Ipswich, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

prostate disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.