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Faces of the Peak Downs

Clermont is one of the oldest and most historic towns of Central Queensland.

Ludwig Leichhardt, a Prussian explorer, is credited as the first European man to traverse the Peak Downs area in 1845. It was soon after this that squatters including the Archer Brothers and Jeremiah Rolfe migrated to the area, establishing sheep runs and working the land. In 1861, four men by the names of Nelson, MacDonald, Cameron and Jack had been employed by Hoods and Manning to build a shepherd hut on the banks of a lagoon. It is recorded that on their travels to find timber for construction, they found gold in a gully that joined with Sandy Creek. Word got out and by 1862 the area had boomed with over 1000 prospectors working the region, many of whom had migrated from the goldfields at Canoona near Rockhampton.

The town grew in leaps and bounds and by 1865 boasted of three public houses, several boarding houses, a bank, a hospital, a courthouse and its very own newspaper. By 1876 the town was even bigger, consisting of three auctioneers, a cordial factory, two blacksmiths, a bootmaker, three butchers, a soap factory, seven hotels, five general stores, five carpenters, a saddler and one watchmaker.

With progress like this, came people and families. The history of Clermont is built on their lives and stories. The families who have lived here for generations, and the pioneers who built our communities.

Faces of the Peak downs is the latest exhibition from the Clermont Historical Centre, on display from March 2nd, 2022. Come and explore our history and discover our stories.

The Clermont Historical Centre is located on the Gregory Highway and is open Wednesdays to Saturdays from 9am to 3pm.

Admission prices are $6 for adults, $4 for pensioners, $3 children under 12 years and $15 per family with two or more children.


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The Rose Harris Collection

Rose Harris and her family moved to Clermont in 1894. William Harris operated a saddlery business, William T Harris Saddlery in a two-storied building on Drummond Street. The bottom story was where William conducted his business, making saddles, halters and other equipment, while the upper floor was home to the Harris family.

As a child, Rose showed interest in her father's saddlery work and William Harris obligingly taught his daughter the trade. Rose became very skilled in saddlery work and won numerous prizes at local shows for her saddlery work and leatherwork. In an article on the 1909 Clermont Show, The Queenslander reported "A beautifully finished set of sulky harness, made by Miss Rose Harris, was shown and was equal to anything turned out by mere man".

When Clermont was rebuilt on higher ground after the 1916 flood, William Harris built new premises for his business and home on Capella Street. Rose continued working alongside her father. William Thomas Harris passed away in 1935 and left his saddlery business to Rose. Rose continued on the business and worked until 1975, she was 80 years of age. She passed away two years later at the age of 82. Rose Harris name was honoured by the citizens in Clermont by Rose Harris Park, which fronts Capella and Daintree Streets.

This collection includes photographs and possessions belonging to Rose Harris, Australia's first female saddler.

This collection is currently on display at the Clermont Historical Centre.



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The Genninges Collection

John Joseph Genninges worked as a carrier in Clermont for many years in the late 1800s to early 1900s, driving heavy wagons pulled by horses or bullocks to deliver goods and cart wool around the district.

John Joseph Genninges spent almost the entirety of his life in Clermont, moving there as a young child with his family in the mid 1860s. Upon the death of his father in 1886, he inherited the carrying business and all his fathers property. In that same year he married Scottish born bride, Jessie McLeish and together they raised a large family of 11 children. All of John Joseph and Jessie's children lived long lives.

Following the devastating 1916 Flood that destroyed Clermont, John Joseph, Jessie and family moved to a new home in Douglas Street and witnessed the town being rebuilt. John Joseph continued working as a carrier and teamster for many more years until retiring. Sons, James Joseph and William Leslie, followed their father's footsteps and worked as carriers around the Clermont and Capella districts. John Joseph Genninges passed away at his Douglas Street home following a long illness on January 25, 1934, only two days before his 77th birthday. He was survived by wife, Jessie and their grown-up family of five sons, six daughters and 16 grandchildren, and two brothers.

This collection includes photographs and possessions belonging to the Genninges Family, one of Clermont's pioneering families.

This collection is currently on display at the Clermont Historical Centre.


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The Faint Collection

John Joseph Faint was born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England on May 21, 1846. His parents were William and Sarah Ann Faint. Little is known John's childhood. John Faint married at the age of 19, exchanging wedding vows with his eighteen-year-old bride, Grace Hunt, on January 22, 1865 in Cheshunt. Following Grace's death, John left England for Australia in the mid-1860s, working his way over on a ship.

John Faint met his future wife, Elizabeth Hanley, in Mackay, Queensland, they were married there on April 24, 1875. John and Elizabeth Faint continued living in the Mackay area until 1878 when they moved to 'Red Rock Valley' to work for the station owner, Jeremiah Rolfe. John, Elizabeth and infant daughter, Louisa, later moved to 'Pioneer'. Four sons of John and Elizabeth Faint were born on 'Pioneer' - Edward Henry (Ted), William John, James William and Frederick John (Fred).In 1892, John Faint and family took up a selection in desert country about 200 miles (about 321 kilometres) north-west of Clermont. The block was named 'Epping Vale'. The Faints remained on 'Epping Vale' until 1905 when John Faint bought 'Monteagle' from the banks. Drought forced many landholders to surrender their leases to the banks. John Faint died from cancer on August 3, 1906 and was buried on 'Monteagle'. After John's death, Elizabeth and the children remained on 'Monteagle' as the sons were old enough to run the property . Elizabeth died on August 14, 1919 and was buried on 'Monteagle'. The Faint family sold 'Monteagle' in 1922.

This collection includes photographs and possessions belonging to the Faint Family, another of Clermont's pioneering families.

This collection is currently on display at the Clermont Historical Centre.