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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jardine, John (1807–1874)

by Clem Lack

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

John Jardine (1807-1874), pastoralist and magistrate, was born on 5 March 1807 at Spedlins Tower, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, the fourth son of Sir Alexander Jardine and his wife Jane, née Maule. He joined the 1st Regiment of Dragoons in 1835, married Elizabeth, daughter of Captain W. H. Craig, R.N., sold his commission as captain on 10 May 1839 and sailed with his wife for Sydney. They arrived in the Dryade on 3 January 1840 and settled on the Coralgie run near Wellington. In financial difficulties by 1848 he was appointed commissioner for crown lands in the Bligh district. Ten years later government retrenchment left him with ten dependants and no occupation. He moved to Queensland and in 1861 was appointed police magistrate and gold commissioner at Rockhampton. When the new settlement of Somerset was established at Cape York in 1863, he became police magistrate and with his third son, John, erected the first buildings. He served as magistrate until December 1865 when he returned to his old office at Rockhampton. He died there on 27 February 1874, survived by his wife, five sons and two daughters.

His eldest son, Francis Lascelles, was born on 28 August 1841 at Orange and educated at The King's School. When his father was posted to Somerset, Frank and his brother Alexander overlanded the stock. Accompanied by four Europeans and four Aboriginals they left Rockhampton on 14 May 1864 with 42 horses and 250 cattle. On the ten months' trek of 1200 miles (1931 km) they were constantly harassed by Aboriginals, forced their way through jungles, scrub and swamps and crossed at least six large rivers. At the Mitchell River on 13 December they withstood a major Aboriginal attack. Clad in tatters, wearing hats of emu skin and living on turkey eggs, they reached Somerset on 2 March 1865 with 12 horses and 50 cattle. Both brothers were elected fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and received the Murchison grant. In 1866 Frank settled on a station near Somerset and was appointed police magistrate in 1868. Confusion between his government and personal activities led to frequent complaints and in 1875 he was superseded by Henry Chester.

On 10 October 1873 at Somerset Jardine married the seventeen-year-old Sana Solia, niece of the King of Samoa; they had two sons and two daughters. In 1884-86 he was in charge of transport for the construction of the Cape York telegraph line and in 1890 was prominent in searching for survivors from the wreck of the steamer Quetta. After the government station was moved to Thursday Island in 1877, Jardine's home at Somerset was the centre of civilization on Cape York. Elaborate dinners for visiting dignitaries were served on silver plate made from Spanish dollars found by Jardine on a reef in 1890. He died of leprosy at Somerset on 18 March 1919 and was buried near the beach at Somerset. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.

A brother, Alexander William, was born on 9 October 1843 near Sydney, shared in the Cape York expedition, served on many government works in Queensland, became chief engineer for harbours and rivers and died in London on 20 March 1920.

Select Bibliography

  • F. J. Byerley (ed), Narrative of the Overland Expedition of the Messrs. Jardine (Brisb, 1867)
  • A. J. Richardson, Private Journal of the Surveyor Attached to Messrs. Frank and Alexander Jardine's Overland Expedition to Cape York (Brisb, 1867)
  • R. L. Jack, Northmost Australia, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1921)
  • J. Farnfield, Frontiersman (Melb, 1968)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1867 (2nd session), 2, 1187, 1868, 519, 1868-69, 673
  • Palmer papers (State Library of Queensland)
  • Colonial Secretary's land letters (State Records New South Wales)
  • Colonial Secretary's letters (Queensland State Archives)
  • manuscript catalogue under John Jardine (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Clem Lack, 'Jardine, John (1807–1874)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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