Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Newell (1849–1932)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

John Newell (1849-1932), miner, businessman and politician, was born on 30 November 1849 at Listooder, County Down, Ireland, son of James Newell, farmer, and his wife Margaret, née McDowall. Educated at a National school, he spent seven years with a grocery firm in Belfast.

In 1872 Newell arrived at Brisbane in the Gauntlet to join an elder brother in mining at Stanthorpe; he left in 1876 for the Hodgkinson gold rush. Unsuccessful as a prospector, he returned to Brisbane, secured employment in a wholesale house and in 1877 was sent north to open a branch of the firm at Smithfield. The firm closed in 1878 and Newell went prospecting on the Palmer without success, then moved to the Tinaroo tin field where he joined forces with William Jack and two others. In 1879, guided by John Atherton, the party prospected in the Herberton area and on 20 May 1880 located the lode which later became the Great Northern mine. Jack soon sold out to John Moffatt and established a store. In 1882 Newell joined him and on 21 January 1885 at Watsonville he married Jack's daughter Janet.

The firm of Jack & Newell expanded rapidly and branches were established throughout north Queensland. Newell became a justice of the peace in 1884, mayor of Herberton in 1888-89, chairman of the shire council and was active in many local societies. In 1896 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Woothakata, holding the seat until his resignation on 11 March 1902. Until 1921 he was a member of the Cairns Harbour Board. Predeceased by his wife, he died at Herberton on 29 July 1932 and was survived by two sons and two married daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • M. J. Fox (ed), The History of Queensland, vol 3 (Brisb, 1923)
  • Queenslander, 4 Aug 1932.

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Newell, John (1849–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


30 November, 1849
Listooder, Down, Ireland


29 July, 1932 (aged 82)
Herberton, 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.