THE Warren Point homestead at Mitchell started out as somewhat of a jigsaw puzzle.
When the Lethbridge family purchased the 32 hectare house block from an Irishman in 1902, the property’s homestead was made up of three separate pieces.
Where current owner and third-generation occupant, Rob Lethbridge, sits during the Queensland Country Life’s visit was once an open timber floor verandah where neighbouring plants had escaped their wooden trellis and hung from the roof.
The office was located in the end of one of the small buildings while a set of stairs led underneath to where the sulkies and cars were parked, across from the river.
Eventually the home was joined together, making it a six-bedroom, two-bathroom home, complete with drinks room, sleepout, kitchen, gaming and dining rooms.
The remnants of its once separate life are forever retained in the family fact that one section was not positioned square.
Still today, the home is furnished with old dressing tables in matching bright colours to the walls.
Only recently the original pressed metal ceiling in the lounge room had to be replaced while dinner is still eaten at the same family dining table.
The pantry features a large flip top box that was once used to store bread and flour in bulk while the hallway beside the kitchen is the original outside wall of one of the pieces which still features a circle of pin head holes from where the dart board once sat.
The house even offers waterfront views occasionally, but just like the first occupants always said, it has never been destroyed or moved by floods.
“When we had the big floods here (a few years ago), in our bedroom we had six foot (182cm) of water underneath it,” Rob Lethbridge said.
It was a largely different backdrop to that experienced 110 years earlier.
“They picked up a lot of country from blokes that came here and couldn’t handle it because you had the worst drought in 1902 and 1903,” Mr Lethbridge said.
“They went in with 13,000 head of cattle on the place and when they got through the drought they wound up with about 600 bullocks left.
“The sad thing is the bullock can walk six or eight miles to get feed and they had to walk back to get a drink because all they had was the river. All the cows and calves, they died.”
THE WHIP TRADITION
AS if having a family home passed down through the generations wasn’t tradition enough, tucked away in a safe spot is the Lethbridge family’s whip. The small token has been passed down to the eldest Lethbridge son since it was purchased about 150 years ago.
It was in 1869 when the Lethbridge family, who had been living in southern parts of Australia, visited the Maranoa looking for land.
They purchased the first property they came to, Forestvale at Mitchell.
About a year later they set sail with all of their horses and belongings, travelling to the Brisbane River and eventually stopping at Ipswich.
Among the group was Rob Lethbridge’s great grandfather and his heavily pregnant mother and his father, who was driving the horses.
“Because he was the eldest boy and he had to bring the spare horses along...and they used to camp every night, he was given this very tiny whip,” Rob Lethbridge said.
BORN INTO FARMING ROYALTY
ENTER the office building of any rural property and you are bound to come across historical cattle records and business documents, but at Warren Point, a deeper ancestral filing cabinet is hidden away.
Five generations of Lethbridge men have set foot in the Warren Point homestead; Jack, Bob, Rob (current owner), Chris and Rio.
While it was a desire for wide open spaces and large areas that saw the family buy in the Mitchell area in 1869, their connection to agriculture dates back to the third Governor of New South Wales, Captain Philip Gidley King.
In his role as Governor, King made many developments including establishing livestock farming in his area.
He was connected to the Lethbridge family when his only legitimate son married Harriet Lethbridge while one of his daughters, Mary, married her brother-in-law, Robert Lethbridge.
A picture of Governor King and his original trunk sit proudly in the office at Warren Point.
An oval shaped frame of the first Lethbridge man on Warren Point and Rob’s grandfather, Jack Lethbridge, hangs proudly on the opposite wall.
Rob tells the story of how Jack managed to purchase the property from an Irish man in 1902 who had become sick of being blocked off from town while living on the eastern side of the river.
“The Lethbridges went to Forestvale (first) in 1870...and they have been on the river ever since,” Rob Lethbridge said.
While it was just 32 hectares when Rob’s grandfather, Jack, acquired Warren Point, it has since grown to 8000 hectares.
The two wool sheds, once run under Beth’s wool classer father, aren’t used for sheep anymore with the property now focused on breeding Poll Herefords, which are clearly visible in pictures around the office. On leaving there one last piece of history awaits you.
Sitting on a small table inside where the phone has always been is a guest book. It too can tell some stories with its first signature in 1952.