submitted by George Poulos on 12.10.2004
Muttaburra is a tiny township in central western Queensland which services the large properties which surround it.
Muttaburra is located 84 km north of Aramac and 119 km (mostly by dirt road) from Longreach. It lies in the geographic centre of Queensland; ie., in the centre of the red zone on the map above.
Muttaburra has two claims to fame. It was the site of the discovery of the Muttaburrasaurus, one of Australia's largest dinosaurs, and it was also the scene of one of the most daring acts of cattleduffing ever performed in Australia. In fact the Mount Cornish homestead was built as an outstation to the huge Bowen Downs station to prevent any future cattleduffing.
[I note that neither Andrew Andrew Cassimatis, nor George Cassimatis feature in the Denis Conomos's definitive text on The Greeks in Queensland, which makes Margie Webb's research all the more valuable.
The Greeks in Queensland is available from the Publisher: Copyright Publishing Co Pty Ltd
GPO Box 2927 Brisbane
Queensland Australia 4001
tel: +61 7 3229 6366
fax: +61 7 3229 8782 ]
The Cassimatis Family - Muttaburra.
Margie Webb. Author.
From Aramac Shire Heritage Collection and Trail.. Tourist Publication of the Aramac Shire Council.
Also available - with photo gallery at
[Co-author - Helen Marsh, on this site.]
Thank you to Louise Moloney B.Com. J.P., and the community of Muttaburra for permission to reproduce the ensuring history of Andrew Andrew Cassimatis & family.
The story of Andrew Andrew Cassimatis, (A.A), and his family is typical of that of many Greek families who left their motherland early last century, in search of opportunity. Many eventually established businesses, often in food, throughout a rapidly developing Australia, and many went on to become stalwarts of their newfound Australian communities.
The Cassimatis family came from Livathi on the island of Kythera (which lies between Crete and the mainland of Greece.) The family owned a small store as well as vineyards, and they lived beside their shop. Andrew was a cabinet maker in Livathi, and George, his eldest son (born 20th May, 1896) would occasionally work with his father in the trade.
A.A. and his son George Cassimatis left Livathi for Australia in 1911, leaving his wife Anna and younger children John and Mary behind (both John and Mary died on the same day in Livathi in 1918 of the Bubonic Plague).
On landing in Sydney, A.A. found work building staircases in Anthony Hordens, Sydney, while son George, just 15 years of age, found employment in an Oxford Street cafe, as well as working on the staircases. George also worked for a short time in a family friends restaurant business in Goulburn.
In Sydney, there was talk of plentiful work, and good money, in the canefields in Central Queensland, around Bundaberg. Before long A.A. and son George gathered a group of friends together and moved north to Bundaberg, where they cut cane and loaded the trains. This cane cutting was simply a means to an end for A.A. and his friends, who wanted to make some money quickly so they could move on to establish their own businesses.
A.A. and George moved west for their business opportunity. About this time, a number of Greek families had moved to inland towns, establishing their own businesses, usually cafes or general stores. In the early years it is believed that no two Greek families would establish the same type of enterprise in any one small town. Such was the consideration and respect shown for each other. Most of these Greeks were Kytherians, whose families lived on different parts of the Greek island and were known to one another.
Some of those found in Western Queensland were:-
Cominos: Longreach, Alpha and Charleville
Corones: Charleville and Quilpie:
Nenes: Barcaldine and Aramac
Sourris: Hughendon and Winton
Cassimatis: Muttaburra and Cunnamulla.
[For more exhaustive lists, Peter Tsicalas has posted the 1916 Greek Census of QLD
(Extracted from National Archives
Document A385/1/8), to kythera-family.net.
See History, subsection, Archives/Research, or search under Muttaburra on the internal search engine for the listing for Andrew Cassimatis. ]
And so, in 1914, A.A. and son, having first inspected a business in Isisford, finally arrived in Muttaburra, in search of their opportunity.
They first rented a small cafe owned by Mrs Devlin (Fanny Little) two doors down from the Royal Mail Hotel (now Wyton's Garage). They lived in the back of the premises. After the lease expired , they rented another cafe from a Mr John Ahern. It was further along Bruford Street, next to Bobby Booth's Hairdressing and Billiard Saloon, which inturn, was next to the Australian Hotel. The cafe was eventually destroyed by fire in November 1939. By then Andy and Mrs Findelator had owned it for some time.
IN 1918, A.A. and George, having relinquished the lease of the cafe, decided to build their own general store. The land and mud hut were purchased from the Eddie Beach family and Jack Reisene constructed the building. It still stands today. As they had done previously, A.A. and George again lived on the premises - in the back room. A.A. continued to live there until his death in 1942. His wife, Anna, had predeceased him in Greece in 1927.
The business initially traded groceries, drapery, hardware, mercury and motor spirits. The Cassimatis's became one of the oldest agents in Australia for Mobil Oil , Australia, previously known as the Vacuum Oil Company of Australia. They bottled their own methylated spirits and kerosene, using their own label. As a sidelne they also hired out a vehicle, and in the early 1920's, George drove Hudson Fysh around on some of his forays for QANTAS.
In 1925, A.A. and George drew a block off "Milgarra" near Normanton. They travelled up in their T-Model Ford to inspect it, but decided not to take it up as they felt it was a bit too wild for them.
In 1930, in Sydney, George married Stavroola John Capsanis, whose father, John, had a prawning vessel in Sydney. Her mother, Fiore, had also remained behind in Kythera (Potamos). George had met Stavroola on a visit to Sydney, where he was staying with relatives of the Aramac Nenes family. After they were married, George and Stavroola established their first home, just on the western side of the shop. Stavroola tells the story of how, having arrived in Muttaburra as a new bride, she would often sit on the back steps of this house, "crying her eyes out". Not from an unhappy marriage, but because of the isolation and distance from her family. She only spoke Greek and though she learnt some English whilst working in the shop, she never really mastered it fully, and Greek remained her main language. In 1931, their first child Anna was born, and in 1932, Florrie, 1934, Andrew, 1935, Johnnie, and 1939, Mary.
In 1934, George bought the house on the eastern side of the shop from the three Ford brothers, who were drovers. This continued to be the family home until George moved to Brisbane in 1982, to live with Anna, and the home was finally sold to the Shire Council in 1998, for preservation.
After 1934, Mrs Gibson and her family occupied the Cassimatis' original home for a number of years; Mrs Gibson sometimes looking after the Cassimatis children. The house was eventually pulled down in the 1990's, when Johnnie Cassimatis owned it.
In the early years, iceworks were incorporated into the business, which included the making of the necessary charcoal. The ice was made, sawed into block, and then delivered to the hospital, other businesses, and other townspeople who had ice chests. George's eldest daughter, Anna, can remember going with her father, when she was very young (4 or 5 years old) in their T-Model Ford, to deliver the ice. An ice chest (believed to be made by A.A. and now in display in the shop) sat on the back of the Ford. When refrigeration came of age, during the SEcond World War, the iceworks were closed down, and later sold to a buyer from Mitchell. First came the kerosene refrigerator - The Might Electrolux, and George became a sub-agent for this company. After the iceworks were sold, the interior of the shop was reorganised, and the structure changed slightly.
The Lakes family ran a soft drinks factory on the corner of Edkins and Sword Streets, opposite the Post Office. A.A. and George bought the factory. They then demolished the building and transferred the soft drinks business to their own shop. The equipment was later sold to Mr Ellio, the licensee of the Royal Mail Hotel. In 1948, George closed down the soft drink factory and from then on he bought his soft drinks from Rossberg in Longreach and Flynn of Hughenden.
In 1935, A.A. and George bought the beautiful old Klugh and Samuels Emporium from Jim Roberts. This building stood beside the BAkers Shop, and had existed in Muttaburra since 1881. Mr C. R. Klugh had been a majot player in the evry early development of Muttaburra, but had moved on to LOngreach around the turn of the century, where he again established a similar business, and contributed to the development of yet another inland town.
Anna, who loved visiting the store, remembers it as a very well laid out shop, with beautiful fittings, and glass panelled doors that opened into a separate office. "The shop had counters all around, and shelving behind. It sold verything, beautiful crockery, produce, groceries, haberdashery, motor spirit and oils, and alchohol (wine, spirits and beer) which was kept in a back shed." Some items, including the ornate cash register and axe stand are on display in Cassimatis' shop today.
IN buyin Klugh and SAmuels (they retained the name) A.A. and George were able to secure the towns wholesale 2 gallon wine and spirit merchant licence. However, the building was in an advanced state of disrepair, and they soon closed its doors. It remained closed for some years, and eventually, by the late 40's George had sold it to Eric Humphries (Dotswood) and Vere Seaton (North Cruscoe), who then pulled the old building down, retaining any sound materials for recycling. Some floorboards were used for the Cassimatis' new kitchen.
Another business enterprise of the Cassimatis father and son partnership was the "Four Mile Gardens" an orchard and market garden near the banks of the Landsborough River. These were situated four miles south of the town, hence the name. They built a windmill and operated a punp engine to irrigate the crops. Oranges, lemons, mandarins, grapes and mulberries proved fruitful, as were melons and a variety of vegetables, including asparagus. An attempt to cultivate olives was frustrating, as the trees grew well, but did not bear fruit. A small crop of cotton was also successful. Eddie Childerley, who worked at the gardens for many years, used to sell the produce around town, from a horse drawn cart. Of the other employees at the gardens, a number were Chinese, including Louie Sung, known as Jacky Lock.
The first bank at Muttaburra in the late 1800's was the NAtional in Cornish Street, then followed the Bank of New South Wales on the corner of Bruford and Edkins Streets (where the Primary Health Centre now stands. However, by the Second World War, this bank had also closed. Large sums of money would have been brought in prior to major events, e.g. the four race meetings held during the year. Everyone from the town and district would go to Cassimatis' and other businesses to cash their cheques in readiness for a "big weekend". In the late 50's Cassimatis became a Bank of New South Wales Saving Agency. The Post Office still continues to be a Commonwealth Bank Agency.
After A.A. dies in 1942, Stavroola took over the management of the store's merchandise. George continued to look after "the books", but his interests were more mechanical. As well as the iceworks and soft drinks, he dealt with the "outside" parts of the business. He managed the engine and lighting for the RSL Memorial Hall, the Hospital batteries, and would check the Muttaburra airstrip before any commercial planes landed. He was a jack of all trades, and very handy at making things. If there was a crisis at the Hospital, and Dr. Arratta didnt have a necessary instrument on hand to deal with a medical problem, he would call on George to improvise. In the early years George would often escort Dr. Arratta on his out of town emergency calls, as Dr. Arratta and machinery didn't always see eye to eye.
The town's first tennis courts (antbed) were behind the Royal Mail Hotel. As these fell into disrepair and the towns topography changed, George along with Neil Hall and others worked very hard to develop new colas (bitumen) courts, next to the old BAnk of New South Wales, and opposite the Cassimatis shop. George's two son-in-laws, Reg Manning and Johnnie Walters, both tank sinkers, contributed greatly to the construction of these courts, with the use of Reg's plant and equipment. George was a great supporter of the Tennis Club and was its President for some years.
During the Second World War, following the bombing scare, many children from the coast were evacuated and billeted away. Some of them came to Muttaburra. At the same time, in case the war should escalate in Central Queensland, three air raid shelters were built in the school grounds. George with the help of others dug these shelters which were cut into alphabetical shapes, with his Allis Chalmers tractor.
George Cassimatis was a J.P. and Councillor representing Muttaburra on the Aramac Shire Council. He sat on various committees and played a significant role in the developmental history of Muttaburra..
The shop finally closed its doors in 1978. Stavroola having passed away in her own home on 3rd October, 1977, from a heart attack. George went to live with his eldest daughter Anna, abd then, in 1982, moved to Brisbane with her, where he celebrated his 100th birthday on 20th May, 1996. He dies soon after, after September that year.
Anna, Andrew, Johnnie and Mary have all moved away from Muttaburra and settled with their families elsewhere. Florrie (Mrs Johnnie Walters), the second eldest child, still resides in Muttaburra with her family, living not far from her parents old home, and their original business. The Dr. Arratta Museum Association is now restoring both the Cassimatis Store, and their home.
I wonder whether we could entice some of the descendants of Andrew Andrew Cassimatis and George (Andrew?) Cassimatis to post some of their subsequent family history to the website?
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