Theodore, a rural town of 450 people, is on the Dawson River, 84 km from Biloela, 220 km west of Bundaberg and 559 km from Brisbane. It is named after Edward 'Red Ted' Theodore, Premier of Queensland 1919-25, although it was originally named Castle Creek, after one of the two streams running through it.
Created as the urban centre of the Dawson Valley/Nathan Gorge irrigation scheme (a State government plan to create some 5000 irrigated farms generating produce for the world), Theodore was planned on 'the most modern lines'. Promotional literature on Theodore portrayed it as 'a solution to the problem of the cityward drift of the younger rural generation'. It began with a large settlers' and visitors' accommodation centre, a public hall with cinema, an Irrigation Commission office, shops, a sawmill and an electricity generation plant. A railway line from Baralaba to the Theodore terminus opened in 1926. The first release of farms in 1926 comprised 264 irrigated lots of 10 to 24 acres and 109 dry-farm lots of 80-500 acres. Weirs were built on the Dawson River and tributaries for a gravitational channel system, and further irrigation planned by way of the proposed construction of the Nathan Dam, the centrepiece of the Nathan Gorge scheme and which has never been built. The town was administered by the Irrigation Commission until 1958, when it was incorporated into Banana Shire.
In the absence of the dam, Theodore's growth depended on the eradication of the light prickly-pear infestation in the early 1930s and the postwar clearing of brigalow and softwood scrub between Banana and Theodore. A cheese factory operated from 1942-52. The town's population peaked at over 700 in 1961.
Theodore's 'garden city' plan is exemplified by its wide palm-tree lined streets. There is a hospital (1961), a State primary school (1924), a local history museum and information centre, racecourse (three meetings a year), golf and bowling clubs, Anglican, Lutheran, Uniting and Catholic churches and local shops. The Theodore Hotel, a co-operative owned by the community, continues to contribute trading profits to several community groups.
The Nathan Dam proposal, named after former governor Sir Matthew Nathan, was again revived but delayed in 2005 by an appeal on environmental grounds relating to agricultural run-off. Anglo-American Coal was preparing to commence coal-mining at Theodore, but requires Nathan's water for processing. Aside from mining, Theodore has a sawmill (a significant local employer) and cotton, grain and beef production.
On 27 December 2010 there were heavy rains over the Dawson River catchment, and within a day the township was encircled by water that left only a tiny area of the main street unflooded. It was an extreme repeat of a flood in March 2010. The town was evacuated as the river peaked at over 14 metres around New Year’s day. Much of the cotton crop was lost. Rainy conditions continued into February 2011, with further flooding of houses and businesses. The bakery kept going by storing flour on high pallets.
Theodore's census populations have been:
Annual report of the Commissioner/Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, Queensland Government Printer, 1923
The Dawson Valley Irrigation Scheme and what it offers to settlers, Brisbane, Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, 1926
R.S. Medew, Dawsonia: a story of the Dawson Valley Irrigation Scheme, Yeppoon, 1965
Betty Perry, Two valleys - one destiny: a history of Banana, 'shire of opportunity', Biloela, Banana Shire Council, 2005
'Water conservation in Queensland', Queensland Agricultural Journal, December 1923, p. 461