A project of Capricorn Coast Historical Society and Livingstone Shire Council
Queensland Eucalyptus Oil Company
The Historical Marker's location is located off Coorooman Creek Road.
This company was founded by Rockhampton pharmacist Thomas Ingham who built a eucalyptus oil extraction plant and
factory in the Coowonga area in June 1891.
The Early Years
This company was founded by Rockhampton pharmacist Thomas Ingham who, in June 1891, built a eucalyptus oil extraction plant and factory in the Coowonga area on a section of Ross Creek (now Coorooman Creek) known as “Cairns Wharf” (later Inghamstown).
Importance to the Community
The complex consisted of a large receiving shed, store and engine house equipped with a 10hp boiler capable of processing up to three tons of eucalyptus leaves every 24 hours. It was managed by Mr E H O’Brien (later by Mr C B Kerr) and in addition to the leaf gatherers, employed six men in the extraction of oil mainly from the local species Corymbia citriodora (lemon scented gum). They also manufactured Ingham’s own range of eucalyptus products including ointment, decongestant and soap. At the time, people had faith in the skill of the town pharmacist to create a diverse range of his own products to treat almost every ailment.
Within a year demand from Europe and America for the eucalyptus products was so great that Ingham erected more extensive works at Wallaroo, 130 kms west of Rockhampton. He also moved his Coowonga factory to Clyde Creek near Gladstone for a while but returned in 1909 when the leaves there were found to be inferior. By 1900 he also had businesses at Rockhampton which produced carbolic acid and bisulphate of lime (used for food preservation).
Thomas Ingham was a colourful and adventurous character. After migrating from England he spent time on the Victorian goldfields, then, on his way to the Fly River Goldfields of New Guinea, he survived a shipwreck off the North Queensland coast. On reaching shore he was speared four times by aborigines but recovered. He spent two years on the Palmer River Goldfield near Cooktown before settling in Rockhampton in 1874 and opening a pharmacy, firstly in North Rockhampton and then in bustling East Street.
Ingham had such a passion for his eucalyptus oil and products that he was determined to show them at the 1893 Chicago World Fair. He persuaded the Queensland Government to sponsor the freighting of his display to the United States. Ingham won a gold medal for his exhibit which included a display of native Australian animals, and a fountain that gave off “the scents of the eucalyptus essence”.
The Later Years
Ingham retired to Brisbane in 1897 where he set up an outlet for his products. The extraction plant continued to produce his eucalyptus oil and he exhibited at the Sydney Royal Agricultural Show in 1905. Inevitably the supply of suitable leaves around Coowonga was exhausted and the plant closed about 1915. Very few traces of the enterprise remain.
Thomas Ingham died in Brisbane in January 1917.
1. Display at the 1893 Chicago World Fair. (QLD State Archives Item ID861885)
2. Ingham's display at the 1905 Royal Agricultural Show Sydney. (Aust Town & Country Journal, 26 April 1905 p.35)