BUCHANAN, Nathaniel (1826-1901)


BUCHANAN, Nathaniel (1826-1901)
pioneer pastoralist and explorer
son of Lieutenant C. H. Buchanan, was born near Dublin in 1826. He arrived in New South Wales with his father in 1832, and as a young man was part owner with two brothers of Bald Blair station. In 1850 the brothers went to the Californian gold rush, but returned to Australia after a short stay to find that their station had been mismanaged and lost in their absence. During the next few years Buchanan had much experience of overlanding. In 1859, with William Landsborough (q.v.), he explored new country, principally on the tributaries of the Fitzroy, Queensland, when both suffered many privations and were found just in time by a rescue party. Buchanan then joined Landsborough and others as owners of Bowen Downs station near Longreach, which for a time prospered. However, a time came when cattle were almost unsaleable, and the price of wool dropped so low that the station had to be given up and Buchanan was practically penniless. After much experience in droving and mining Buchanan, in October 1877, with a companion, S. Croker, began to investigate the country from the known regions round the Rankine to the overland telegraph line, some 500 miles away. They discovered much good new land, which forms part of the Barkly Tableland, and has since carried some of the largest herds in Australia. Throughout the seventies and eighties Buchanan did a large amount of pioneering, working principally in northern, Queensland and the Northern Territory. He had another property, Wave Hill, for a period, but he lost this in 1894 on account of a great fall in cattle prices and the difficulty in getting markets. His son, Gordon Buchanan, had taken up land at Flora valley in 1887 and Buchanan now made this his headquarters. About two years later, with another man and a black boy, he started with camels and equipment provided by the South Australian government to find a stock route from northern Queensland. He went from Oodnadatta up the line to Tennant's Creek, and then westward to Sturt's Creek. About 40 miles mi from Hooker's Creek he sighted the hills now named Buchanan Hills, and next day came to a branch of Hooker's Creek. From there he went to Hale's Creek and the Sturt, and then to Flora valley. Attempts were made to find a practicable stock route to the west without success. Returning to Flora Creek he prepared a report for the South Australian government which added much to the knowledge of the country, though Buchanan had failed in his main object. In 1899 Buchanan, now 73 years of age, bought a farm on Dungowan Creek, 22 miles from Tamworth, and he died there in 1901 still working. He married in 1863 Catherine Gordon who survived him with a son.
Buchanan was a great bushman, and though he never led an important expedition, a fine explorer. Probably no other man knew the country from northern Queensland round an arc to Western Australia so well as he did. He seldom made much money for himself though he was a pioneer on Bowen Downs, on the Barkly Tableland, on the Roper River, and on the Victoria River, and pioneered the trail from the Kimberleys towards Perth. But he made possibilities for other men who in many cases reaped where he had sown.
Gordon Buchanan, Packhorse and Waterhole; E. Favenc, The History of Australian Exploration, p. 432.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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