Major Thomas Mitchell, the renowned explorer, was the first white man through the Isisford area in 1846. Edmund Kennedy followed him 12 months later and then in 1856 Augustus Gregory passed through searching for Ludwig Leichhardt. It was a drought year and Kennedy's report was less than favourable.
Nearly thirty years later two Rockhampton merchants broke an axle crossing the Barcoo River. William Whitman and James Whitman almost single-handedly developed the town of Isisford - building a hotel, blacksmith, saddlery, general store and butchers shop. James died in 1897 and is buried in the Isisford cemetery.
Isisford was surveyed in 1878 with a post and telegraph office operating within three years. Isisford is part of the Longreach Shire Council who promote the town as - 'An Outback Town of the Outer Barcoo.'
Isisford and the surrounding district is reliant on the sheep and wool industries and has always been plagued by the vagaries of mother nature. The landscape is prone to cycles of drought followed by flooding. The Morning Bulletin of 1891 reported that 'The Barcoo is now in big flood, over a mile wide, and as high as last year. The telegraph wires have been under water for three days, and there has been no communication. Mr. Doolan, with Sergeant Byrnes, were rescued with a boat nearly two miles away. They signalled for assistance by constantly firing guns. Two families named Raymond and Tobin, eighteen in all, were all on the road last night in a terrific rain. The children were nearly perished. The families have lost everything. The same day Mr. Grackhurst rescued eleven men with his boat. The men were making stages up in the trees. Over 10in. of rain fell in two days.' Some time later with the rivers subsiding the Cobb & Co mail coach ran fifteen hours late with 'the horses completely knocked up. Great dissatisfaction is felt in the town at the occurrence'.
Banjo Paterson spent much time at Isisford and the environment provided inspiration for some of his work including Clancy of the Overflow and A Bush Christening. Banjo waxed of the outer Barcoo - ' a road never cross'd 'cept by folk that are lost'.
The two storey hotel in Isisford's main street is called Clancy's Overflow Hotel in honour of Banjo's famous poem. It's a majestic old pub built in 1898 and originally called Power's Club Hotel before being purchased by Glen Clancy in 1965, who made the name change to reflect the association with Paterson. The real Clancy was a drover who Banjo Paterson sent a letter of demand in the 1890's. Paterson was working as a lawyer and addressed the letter to 'The Overflow' - a N.S.W. sheep station. The reply is the famous line from the poem - 'Clancy's gone to Queensland droving and we don't know where he are'.
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