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William Butler Tooth (1823–1876)

by Noeline V. Hall

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This is a shared entry with Atticus Tooth

William Butler Tooth (1823-1876) and Atticus Tooth (1827-1915), pastoralists, were born at Cranbrook, Kent, England, sons of William Tooth, farmer, and his wife Anne, née Fulcher. They were nephews of John Tooth, founder of the Kent Brewery, Sydney, and cousins of Robert, Edwin and Frederick Tooth. With their mother and two sisters, the brothers reached Sydney in the Lalla Rookh on 26 December 1841.  They probably gained pastoral experience on their uncle's stations. In 1846 they overlanded a herd from the Murrumbidgee to Wide Bay to occupy an abandoned run, then settled on Widgie Widgie using it as a base to acquire further runs in the Wide Bay, Burnett and Darling Downs districts. In 1853 they bought Clifton station near Allora from the Gammie estate for £30,000. They travelled constantly, acquiring more stations from the Murrumbidgee and Darling rivers to the Gulf of Carpentaria. For five years they operated a boiling-down works at Ipswich.

On 15 August 1850 in Sydney William married Lucy Ann, sister of George Harris, and in 1856 the brothers separated. William lived in Sydney, representing the United Pastoral Districts of Moreton, Wide Bay, Burnett, Maranoa, Leichhardt and Port Curtis in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1858-59. A founder of the Union Club, he was a committee-man of the Sydney Club, the Society for the Suppression of Cattle Stealing and the Agricultural Society of New South Wales. He lived in fashionable suburbs and his children attended prominent schools.

William was notoriously litigious and his obvious desire to live like an English squire led to constant disputes with neighbours and workers. From 1857 to 1861 he fought a long, technical action with Joseph Fleming over the stock on Talavera station, Queensland, and threatened a Privy Council appeal. In 1872 his violation of traditional bush hospitality led to the burning of Clifton woolshed by a disgruntled traveller. In July 1874 he lost £500 in damages and costs to a selector who charged him with malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. In February 1876 an employee won £22 unpaid wages in court; Tooth challenged the verdict and secured a rule nisi against the magistrates for exceeding their jurisdiction. He began a long battle in May with a selector who challenged his right to close a road, but after he died of cirrhosis of the liver and dropsy on 5 June the case was dismissed. His widow and nine surviving children were left with a debt of £102,000, owing mainly to the Bank of New South Wales which had held title to Clifton since 1875. A select committee recommended an enabling Act in 1879 authorizing the family to break the will and disperse the estate, but most of it went eventually to a reluctant bank.

Atticus joined G. E. Dalrymple's expedition to Port Curtis in 1859 and settled near Bowen as a station manager. On 22 December 1869 he married Sarah Emmerson, daughter of a grazier; as a manager he rejoined William, who was then settled at Clifton. After William's death, he managed the Brisbane municipal markets but returned to Bowen just before his death on 15 January 1915. Survived by his wife and eleven children he was buried in the Church of England section of the Bowen cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine History of Queensland (Syd, 1888)
  • N. Bartley, Opals and Agates (Brisb, 1892)
  • D. B. Waterson, Squatter, Selector and Storekeeper (Syd, 1968)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1858, 1, 53, 209, 271, 903, 917, 919, 928-30, 932, 2, 880, 882
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1879, 2, 1085-1102
  • ‘Time's changes. Career of Mr. Atticus Tooth …’, Brisbane Courier, 1 Oct 1910
  • J. J. McGinley, cutting book no 2, and J. G. Palethorpe, cutting book no 3 (State Library of Queensland).

Citation details

Noeline V. Hall, 'Tooth, William Butler (1823–1876)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Cranbrook, Kent, England


5 June, 1876 (aged ~ 53)
New South Wales, Australia

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