Einasleigh, a small rural town in Etheridge shire, is 220 km south-west of Innisfail. It was named after the Einasleigh River, named by Francis and Alexander Jardine on their Rockhampton to Cape York expedition in 1864.
The town is on the Copperfield River, just before the river's junction with the Einasleigh, which runs west to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The name Copperfield was an obvious reference to the ore bodies discovered there by the geologist, Richard Daintree, in 1866. Owing to their isolation the ore bodies' precise location was lost until the demand for copper at the Chillagoe smelters led to a re-exploration of the Copperfield district in about 1900. Development was swift. When the mining warden was laying out the Einasleigh township in 1900 he found hotels and stores in the course of erection. By about 1910 there were also a hospital, a public hall and numerous business premises. The town's prosperity was aided by The Oaks goldfield (south-east) and a railway line (1908) to Chillagoe.
Copper mining ended in 1914 because of the closure of the Chillagoe smelters, and the beef industry entered a long period of depression in the 1920s. It revived with increased demand during World War II. The reopening of Chillagoe's smelters in 1919 was only moderately helpful, as copper prices fell. Pugh's Queensland Directory recorded three hotels, three store keepers, a butcher and a baker at Einasleigh in 1924, probably too many for a few hundred people. By 1933 the census recorded fewer than 100.
The railway line was bought by the Government and kept running. Without a primary school since the 1930s, Einasleigh has displayed persistence in the face of adversity. The railway line brings the Savannahland tourist train twice weekly, and there are farm-stay holidays at two working cattle stations. The Einasleigh Hotel also provides accommodation. Einasleigh has three sites listed on the Queensland heritage register: the copper mine and smelter (1860s-1920s); the former station master's residence (1909); and the two-storey Queenslander Einasleigh Hotel (1909). Swimming is in the Copperfield River gorge. Einasleigh's census populations have been:
Einasleigh was also the name of the first local-government division (1879) and the subsequent shire until 1919, when the name was changed to Etheridge.
Jan Wegner, The Etheridge, Townsville, James Cook University, Department of History and Politics, 1990