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The drove to Port Darwin


The enthralling true Australian story of the first horse and cattle drove following Leichhardt’s track in the Northern Territory  battling and surviving brutal months of danger.



The drove to Port Darwin

Since the famed explorer Leichhardt journeyed across the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1844-45, Dillon Cox in 1872 became the first European to again cross those remote, silent, inland scenes of the Northern Territory.

James Cox’s DILLON – the drove to Port Darwin 1872, vividly recreates an important era in Australian history about Cox’s courageous horse and cattle droving expedition, reconstructed and presented in remarkable detail, progressively, month by month of 1872. Derived almost entirely from primary sources, and from old colonial newspapers, several articles were discovered written by Dillon Cox himself and from those of his drovers that had posted or telegraphed individually to the newspaper editor.

Here is the extensively-researched and thrilling story of Australia’s very first horse and cattle drove into the Northern Territory from Queensland, with real colonial stockmen’s accounts, and how these men assisted in some small measure with the building of the Overland Telegraph Line.

About Me

James David Cox

An Author And A Film Writer

My branch of the Cox family in the 20th century is synonymous with the domestic photo-processing industry in Melbourne, where my father, Stan Cox, established Filmpro Photo Service in 1918, first at Malvern, then Armadale. The youngest of three sons, I too have always been involved in the photographic industry throughout my working life. Figuratively speaking, I was probably born as a photo. Photographs are today’s memories, and memories are stories that mature and then fade into the past.

I married Lyn, then designed and built a house at The Patch, Victoria where our two children enjoyed country living and country schooling. There are several stories from a hundred years ago about our branch of the Cox family that needed to be written; fortunately, we had a box of family documents. My research accelerated when the National Library of Australia launched Trove in 2009, when stored physical newspapers back to the year 1803 were being digitised to enable specific keyword searching through the centuries of archived newspaper editions.

This allowed me to research our family member’s lives from newspaper articles written about them, sprinkled throughout the decades. I was able to collate, then attempting to write my first serious historical work, DILLON – the drove to Port Darwin 1872. However, difficulties trying to become a good writer by converting newspaper information into dialogue and narratives, well, I certainly struggled. Suddenly on the third attempt, my story became alive.    Enjoy, DILLON – the drove to Port Darwin 1872.


Overland Telegraph Expedition 1905


Mr Alfred Giles, second in command of the Overland Telegraph Expedition, wrote in his diary about the earliest mobs of short-horn cattle entering the Northern Territory from Queensland.  



“I now furnish you with a few particulars of the first mobs brought into the Territory, and the names of the owners or drovers. These particulars are taken from my diaries, and therefore they are beyond dispute.

The first consignment of live cattle ever introduced overland into the Northern Territory were brought from Queensland via Leichhardt’s Bar at the Roper River by Mr D’Arcy Wentworth Uhr, the property of Mr Dillon Cox, and consisted of four hundred head, mostly breeders. This was in 1872. These cattle were taken to the Peninsula opposite Port Darwin and slaughtered for local consumption, thus providing the few residents of Port Darwin with their first taste of fresh overland beef.”

Mr Alfred Giles

“Bourook Station”, near Pine Creek. PORT DARWIN.

Our Australian Colonial Heritage

- James David Cox

DILLON Australia

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This enthralling story portrays the colonial enterprise of two Australian pioneers – Mathew Dillon Cox and that of his wife Catherine in 1872. Compiled with attention to detail by his great grandson James Cox, set in Rockhampton, Queensland and later in the Northern Territory after Palmerston had been surveyed to become Port Darwin, this most northern Australian town grew alongside a tent camp for the building of the famous Overland Telegraph Line, from Port Darwin to Adelaide, South Australia’s greatest engineering and communications achievement.