Robert Towns

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Robert Towns (c. 1794 - 11 April 1873) was an Australian businessman, pastoralist, and founder of Townsville, Queensland.

Towns was born at Longhorsley, Northumberland, England, on 10 November 1794. This is the date usually given, and it agrees with his death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 April 1873 which stated that he was then in his seventy-ninth year. The date given by the Australian Encyclopaedia, 1791, appears however, to be more likely, as after being educated at a village school Towns went to sea, was a mate in 1811, and a master in the following year. In 1813 he was captain of a brig in the Mediterranean, and in 1827 he made his first voyage to Australia as captain of The Brothers.

In 1833 he married the sister of W. C. Wentworth, and in 1842 established a mercantile and shipping business (Robert Towns & Co., General Merchants, Ship and Commission Agents) at Sydney. In a letter to William de Salis dated Sydney, 4 January 1853 Towns describes a shipping issue:
'I am afraid our Coolie trade is over, the rascals have been so troublesome, nobody likes to employ them, and our laws are so defective & punishment so trifling for such offences that they laugh at the idea of being put in Gaol - It is possible she may get a Charter elsewhere with Coolies...'
He afterwards bought station properties in Queensland, and about 1860 or a little later began growing cotton, employing South Sea islanders to do the cultivation and picking. Many attempts had been made...
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