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Somerset

After Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859 it was decided a few years latter to establish a settlement at Cape York 2400km north of the capital Brisbane. the colony's main purpose was commercially based. The first Governor of the state Sir George Ferguson Bowen promoted the idea he saw it as the Singapore of the south, it was to be a port between Australia and Indonesia.

The name for settlement was Somerset and was to be located just south of the Tip of Cape York on the eastern coast looking over Albany Passage to Albany Island. The town of Somerset was founded in 1863. in 1864 HMS Salamander arrived at he chosen site with a party to sent to establish the town. The group included a navel surgeon, Royal Marines a sergeant and a group of privates, Captain John Jardine former Police Magistrate at Rockhampton, and his son Johnny, Clerk of Petty Sessions / Customs Officer / District Registrar and Postmaster quite a few hats for one person. A town planer to lay out the town , if fully developed it would have been a large town with many streets and blocks of land.

Once the town had been planned,there were land sales where over 100 allotment of land at Somerset were sold. The People who bought this land did not build on it, only Government building were ever built.

Captain John Jardine's house the first to be built, was located on top of the cliff overlooking the harbour. Near this building was the beginning of the town, marine barracks, hospital, quarters for the sergeant and surgeon, cottages, guard room and cells, boat house, court and customs house. In the tropical climate and without constant maintenance, the buildings deteriorated quickly.

A few years after their arrival, the marines were replaced by police. John Jardine left Somerset after a couple of years to return south. After him, seven men were in charge of the settlement at different times. His son Frank was in charge during three separate periods. In 1887, Frank Jardine ventured into the pearling industry in Torres Strait. The settlement on Thursday Island was formed in that year as a base for the pearling fleets. The Government Station was transferred from Somerset to Thursday Island in 1877 for reasons such as the harbour being too small and the tidal mudflats making it difficult to moor boats.

Somerset was the home of Frank Jardine, Sana Solia his wife, a Solomon Prince's niece and their family for many years except for a few years spent pearling. Frank Jardine died in 1919 and his wife in the 1920's. Their graves are down by Somerset beach.

 

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