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Joseph Hodel (1850–1943)

by Jim Manion

This article was published:

Joseph Hodel (1850-1943), businessman, was born on 9 October 1850 at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, son of François Charles Hodel, carpenter, and his wife Anne, née Fauvel. Arriving in Brisbane in March 1863 with their ten children, his parents went to Robert Towns's Townsvale plantation.

At 18, while a labourer at Undallagh, Hodel married Johanna, née Hickey, a widowed 28-year-old Irish servant. Arriving in Townsville in 1870, he opened a bakery, then in 1875 built and ran the North Star hotel. In Brisbane on 26 October 1877 he married his Scottish-born second wife, Alice Mary Coutts. Next year he bought the Newmarket hotel and added livery stables. This led him into pastoral activities at Oaklands, Cluden. One of the original members of the Townsville Pastoral Association, by 1886 he was judging horses at the Townsville show and winning prizes for his own stock. He acquired more land at Clevedon, south of Townsville, in the late 1880s.

In 1888-1916 Hodel served on the Thuringowa Divisional Board and was chairman for eighteen years. He joined the Townsville City Council in 1895 and was mayor in 1910. He played a major role in the construction and operation of the tramway which linked Ayr to the railway at Stuart's Creek and facilitated the marketing of Burdekin district sugar. As a foundation member of the Townsville Harbour Board he was involved in development of the harbour but, although chairman of the board for seven of his twenty-five years service, his re-election depended sometimes on his own casting vote. His concurrent offices as president of the Ayr Tramway Board and chairman of the Thuringowa Divisional Board earned him the reputation of being power hungry. An unsuccessful opponent once accused him of wanting to be 'lord of the land and admiral of the seas'. Selfless and progressive, Hodel demonstrated his independent spirit on the harbour board by frequently being in a dissenting minority. In 1916, as one of those opposing the Mt Elliott Ltd proposal to build a copper refinery at Townsville, he called for a health commission report on the likely effect of the fumes on public health.

Retiring from active business before he was 40, Hodel worked for the hospital and orphanage committees, the Townsville Turf Club, Show Association, Waterworks Board and Chamber of Commerce, and was in regular demand as an adviser on new business ventures. He was a member of the Legislative Council in 1914-22. Although other members of his family were involved with North Queensland newspapers and Joseph had once financed his brothers in management of the Northern Standard, he himself did not enter the newspaper world until 1908 when he bought shares in the Townsville Newspaper Co. Ltd. From 9 March 1914 to his death he was chairman of its successor, the North Queensland Newspaper Co. Ltd.

Hodel died at Townsville on 4 September 1943 and was buried in the local cemetery. His estate, valued for probate at £63,058, was left to his family. He had married Sarah Ann Waldie on 24 March 1891. A son of that marriage survived him together with two sons of his first and a son and daughter of his second marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Donnelly (ed), The Port of Townsville (Townsville, 1959)
  • J. Manion, Paper Power in North Queensland (Townsville, 1982)
  • Townsville Herald, 10 July 1886
  • North Queensland Herald, 18 Mar 1896, 14 Apr 1908
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 3 July 1914, undated cutting Sept 1943
  • North Queensland Register, undated cutting Feb 1916
  • Pugh's Almanac, 1875, 1877, 1878
  • North Queensland Newspaper Co. Ltd, minute books, 1911-43, and annual return of shareholders (Queensland State Archives)
  • correspondence on sale of Ayr tramway (North Queensland Newspaper Co. Ltd Archives, Townsville).

Citation details

Jim Manion, 'Hodel, Joseph (1850–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 October, 1850
St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands


4 September, 1943 (aged 92)
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.