Richard Daintree (of Daintree Rainforest fame) and William Hahn discovered a copper deposit in 1866 and abandoned it due to the logistical difficultly of the remote field. When gold was discovered in the same year it was a different matter. The area was known as the Etheridge Fields and within three years 3000 men had landed on the Georgetown area. Originally called Etheridge the town sits on the site of the original diggings and the name was changed to Georgetown in 1871 to honour, not an English monarch, but Howard St George the gold commissioner.
The boom was short lived and a town that had once boasted a newspaper, ten hotels and a similar number of billiard halls, a courthouse, telegraph office, hospital and a bank began the decline common to many gold towns of the 1900's.
Prospectors were a fickle lot, quick to relocate and follow rumours about 'the next big find'. Many of their dwellings were simple shanty style huts thrown together with tree branches and pieces of hessian. Much of the early architecture of places like Georgetown was simply carted to the next goldfield as building materials were scarce in remote north Queensland. The Old Shire Hall and Savannah House, the Courthouse Residence and the Masonic Temple and Catholic Church are all interesting examples of North Queensland architecture. A heritage listed house built in 1889 of red bricks made from ant beds still stands on South Street.
Outside of town are a couple of old mines that have attracted a Heritage listing while the Cumberland chimney is all that remains of the original ore crusher.
Georgetown is still an attractive destination for gold prospecting and gem fossicking which helps boost what is a relatively small economy.
Beef has been the mainstay of Georgetown's fortunes since the early 1900's and the savannah woodlands and undulating hills makes for some prime grazing country. Georgetown was involved with the crossbreeding of British cattle with the more robust breeds of Zebu and Brahman. The breeders created a new line of cattle - the Droughtmaster which has proven to have better tick resistance and a higher heat tolerance than the European animals that arrived with the colonists.
Georgetown hosts an annual rodeo, Bushman'a and Debutante's Ball and maintains a visitor centre with an admirable mineral collection and a swimming pool and 9 hole golf course.
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