North Australian Hotel 1878

Site 6

This hotel was situated on the corner of Corio and Ballard Streets. It was owned by Edward Wilmot Neill Godber who held the publican’s licence from 1878 until 1886. Some years later this block of land was bought by the pioneering Semfel family who resided in Comet for many years.

This building is a Comet hotel however it is unknown if it is the North Australian Hotel.

George Godber was the publican of The Traveller’s Rest hotel at the Sixteen Mile near Springton, on the old coach road between Gainsford (Duaringa) and Clermont. His brother Edward took over running this hotel in 1873. The application for Edward’s hotel licence was advertised in the Capricornian Newspaper on 12th June 1877. “Inns and Outs”, written by Mary Snelling states that the Sixteen Mile was also known as Jones Ridge.

Business was booming in the new town of Cometville, luring the Godber family to take up residence.

When the land sales commenced in the town, Edward purchased a block of land comprising 2 roods and 20 perches (approximately a half acre) costing £7.10.0 ($15.00). The sale took place on the 15th October 1878. The block is bordered on three sides by Shakespeare, Corio and Ballard streets. He built the family home on this block and later it became the North Australian Hotel. The Capricornian Newspaper reports that a publican’s licence was issued to Mr Godber on 23rd August 1878. It would seem that Mr Godber squatted and built his home on this allotment before he officially owned it.

Now a little about the Godber family. Edward Wilmot Neill Godber married Annie Bateman in 1871. Their nine children were:

  • 1871 Mary Anne
  • 1873 Johanna
  • 1875 Joseph Bateman
  • 1876 Edward Wilmot
  • 1877 Annie Florence
  • 1878 Sarah Jane
  • 1881 James Lewis
  • 1882 Robert Neill
  • 1884 Willoughby Cole who died at five days old on the 12th December and is buried in the Comet Cemetery.

Edward Godber was also the elected treasurer of the Cometville Progress Association which did much to make life a little easier for the townspeople. Cometville then had very few of the conveniences that we would expect today.

A report in the Capricornian newspaper dated 13th June 1885 tells us that a banquet was held at the North Australian Hotel for the stationmaster on his departure to Jericho. ‘After supper an adjournment was made to the ballroom where dancing was kept up to the small hours of the morning.’

Unfortunately, his wife Annie died on the 27th March 1886 and is buried in the Rockhampton Cemetery.

Edward died intestate just three months later, on or about the third of June 1886, sadly leaving their children without parents to care for them.

Mr. Chambers, on behalf of /the Curator in Intestacy, applied for leave to pay the sum of £63 7s. 6d, being the amount due for the maintenance of the children in the Government Orphanage, and to pay further sums for the maintenance of the children, along with the placement of daughters, Mary Ann and Julia (Johanna) Godber, with a dressmaker, to learn the business of dressmaking, also, for leave to expend such reasonable sums for the clothing, maintenance, and advancement of such children as may no longer be inmates of the orphanage from time to time, and to apprentice all or any of them and expend money for their apprenticing, and to pay an annual premium of £6 4s. 4d. upon, an endowment insurance policy effected by the deceased with the Colonial Mutual Life Insurance Company. An order was made according to the prayer of the petition, also, that if the income of the estate shall be insufficient for this purpose let the Curator pay from the capital thereof.

Five months later the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin featured this advertisement on Friday 9th September 1887, on page 8.

William Kitchener also owned the Comet Hotel and was certainly very active in the township’s community. So, it was that he was able to keep the North Australian Hotel alive until James Golliker bought the hotel on the 26th September 1887.

It was then bought by William Semfel for £5.0.0 ($10.00) on the 6th July 1892. William’s wife Caroline Semfel purchased the adjoining block for 10/6 ($1.05) on the 6th April 1911. The receipt was made out to Caroline. These parcels of land passed on to William’s son, Ernest Semfel, on the 6th May 1925. Ernest, along with his wife, Elsie, (nee Hobbs), resided in Comet for many years.

The land was sold to the late Jane Edwards on the 26th July 1977, who built a store on the site followed by a caravan park. This property has passed on to other owners over the years with the store now incorporating the Comet Post Office.

Compiled by Rosemary McLeod, 2017.

Acknowledgements: S. McDonald, Department of Environment and Resource Management, Emerald; Mason Eyles.

– Photos: National Library of Australia; State Library of Queensland; Rosemary McLeod collection; Trevor Kemp collection.

– Video: Robyn Morawitz.

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