The Story of Chubby
NOTE, THE GRAVE IS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY
The old Camooweal Road, known as Smith’s Highway winds from Cloncurry through
the Argylla Ranges towards
Mount Isa. Beside the road, just before it crosses a small creek, a tributary
of the East Leichhardt River, on a small rise beneath a big bloodwood tree, lies
a tiny grave.
“Sacred to the memory of Elsie Grace Campbell,
Who Departed This Life 5 May 1914.”
Nearby in the creek is a lovely clear spring.The grave at this place Charley Creek has always been
a source of interest and inquiry to ‘passers-by’ who wonder what happened there, all those years ago.
As in many other tragic
tales about the bush, the simple facts remembered show the wonderful strength of
friendship binding together bush people. Help and sympathy was so freely given,
for everybody knew only too well that tragedy always lurked close around the
In May 1914 the eldest
child, Jack, was eight years old, Ethel 6, Colin 5, and Hobart (Margaret) then a
toddler. Chubby, the then baby was 16 months old.
Arthur Campbell packed his family into their buggy and set off homewards. His route followed the old wagon road connecting Cloncurry and Camooweal, which had overnight and change stops at Wonga, Marrabah and Trafalgar Springs where there was a hotel, through Argylla and the West Leichhardt and on towards Camooweal. The route passed within about seven miles of the Glencoe homestead. The family stopped overnight at Marrabah, at the old hotel run by the Webb family. The baby seemed unwell.
The next night they stayed at Trafalgar Springs where the two children again became ill. Mrs Campbell was there, helped by Mrs Jones whose family ran that hotel. The two women stayed up all night caring for the children, and they seemed improved by morning. The family then set off for the last thirty miles of the long homeward journey to Glencoe.
The baby’s condition worsened during the day, and on arrival at Glencoe, Arthur rushed to get the fire lit and water heated to treat Chubby, but all efforts were to no avail. The little one died in her mother’s arms as she sat nursing her in the doorway of their home. She died of whooping cough, with complications of pneumonia, on the day of 5 May 1914.
Arthur Campbell got fresh horses, and rode next day to West Leichhardt Telegraph Station, seventeen miles to the north west. He was unable to get through on the line and next day rode across again, and made the connection to Cloncurry to get permission to bury the baby. This was obtained, and the little grave was dug beneath the big shady bloodwood on the banks of the creek.
Meanwhile a blacksmith named Charlie Leonard who worked the “King Solomon” mine about three miles away, had fashioned a small coffin from dynamite boxes and lined it carefully with tin. Dave O’Grady helped. He walked across the three miles carrying it, and he and another miner named Clay, helped Arthur Campbell who carried his little one in the tiny coffin on his shoulder up the rise to lay her to rest. The mother kept the little group of children some distance back. It was a very sad day indeed.
It is thought to be Mrs Clay who later planted the ivy vine on the grave. This plant has never died in over eighty years. A kurrajong was also planted at the foot of the grave and gave shade for many years.
The next day, the children now all being ill, Arthur took his wife and children across by buggy to meet the Camooweal coach which was returning from Camooweal about 130 miles to the west. They met the coach at Argylla and the camp that night was at Wonga where they slept in swags. A family named Honan's had the mail change at Argylla. When the coach reached the Federal Mine the next day there was a motor vehicle waiting for Lizzie and her children. Arthur had returned to West Leichhardt Telegraph Station and contacted a man named McGilvray who also owned a motor vehicle. He drove out from Cloncurry along the rough buggy tracks 25 miles to meet the coach, and bring the family in to town.
When they arrived in Cloncurry the hospital was full, as there was by then an epidemic in the town, so the family stayed at the Strovers Hotel where they were nursed back to health by the kindness and assistance of Sophia Elliott.
Later the headstone and fence for the baby’s grave were ordered from Townsville. They came by train and then by wagon to the Wee McGregor Mine and were then brought over from the Wee McGregor Mine on camels by an old Afghan camel man named Muldoon. The headstone was packed flat in a box and the railings tied in bundles on each side of a camel, and Muldoon laid his camels down just beside the grave to take them carefully off.
Over the years four more children were born and life continued at Old Glencoe until 1925 when Arthur and Lizzie moved their family of eight children over closer to the newly begun mining township of Mount Isa, closer to medical help and schooling for the children
Today family members still return to the old home site and tend the grave of their little sister.
This webpage was prepared by Doug Tilley so our heritage and history is not forgotten