Port Curtis, better known as Gladstone Harbour, was charted and named by Commander Matthew Flinders on his Investigator voyage in 1802, when he circumnavigated Australia. Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Curtis had been the commandant of the Cape of Good Hope naval station when Flinders called there en route from England.
Port Curtis was the harbour extending from the mouths of the Boyne and Calliope Rivers, between the mainland and Facing Island (also named by Flinders). Curtis Island lies further north, and was named after the port.
Surveyor John Oxley explored Port Curtis in 1823, and the place was chosen as the seat of government for the colony of North Australia, a proposed convict colony separate from New South Wales, in 1847. Superintendent George Barney was put in charge. The town created on the shores of Port Curtis in 1853 was named Gladstone: the Colony of North Australia had been created under a policy of the British Colonial Secretary, William Gladstone. The district name, however prevailed over the town name for several decades.
In 1856 gold was discovered at Canoona, on the Fitzroy River, west of Rockhampton. Speculators and prospective miners in Sydney and Melbourne spoke of the Port Curtis gold rush. In 1868 the Port Curtis pastoral district was created for regulating settlement and Crown land leases. The district had an area of about 14,500 sq miles (37.600 sq km), extending north from about Biloela to St Lawrence. Inland it went nearly as far as Banana and Duringa.
The principal towns were Gladstone, Rockhampton, Yaamba and Mt Morgan (after the minerals discovery in 1882). There were also gold discoveries at Calliope and Cania, both south-west of Gladstone. St Lawrence, Rockhampton and Gladstone were ports of entry with customs houses, until federation.
The Port Curtis name was spread widely by the Port Curtis Dairy Cooperative (1906) which amalgamated with other dairy factories to form branches in Bundaberg, Wowan, Mackay and Monto in 1928-30. Port Curtis Dairy opened more factories in Biloela, Bracewell and Theodore (1937-42) and achieved peak production during and immediately after World War II. There were also localised uses of the name: Port Curtis Jockey Club (c1868), Port Curtis Stockowners Association, Port Curtis Cricket Association and the Port Curtis Development League. The League was active in seeking postwar transport and meat-processing facilities around Gladstone.
When Gladstone's industrialisation took place in the 1960s-70s, 'Gladstone Harbour' overtook Port Curtis as a place name, but it continues as the name of an education centre, an hotel and an historical society at Calliope.
The history of local government in the Port Curtis district has been:
|Original Division/Shire/Town||Amalgamated Councils
|Broadsound (1879, part)||Isaac Regional Council|
|Livingstone (1879, part)1
Mt Morgan (1890)
|Rockhampton Regional Council|
|Banana (1879, part)||Banana Shire|
Miriam Vale (1902)3
|Gladstone Regional Council|
1 Originally Gogango Division
2 Excised from Gogango Division
3 Excised from Calliope Division
In common with its neighbour, Depot Hill, Port Curtis was flooded by the Fitzroy River in early January 2011. The only place not under water was a fragment of land south of Baxter Street.
Calliope, Gladstone, Miriam Vale, Mount Morgan and Rockhampton entries
Banana Shire, Broadsound Shire, Calliope Shire, Fitzroy Shire, Livingstone Shire, Miriam Vale Shire and Mount Morgan Shire entries
Gladstone Regional Council, Isaac Regional Council and Rockhampton Regional Council entries