OONTOO History and the Town

The township is not on the banks of the Cooper but a kilometer or so to the north next to a non permanent waterhole and closer to the  Merninie Creek with its permanent waterhole.When this creek is not flowing because of local rain the backup of flood waters from the Cooper will fill the waterhole.

The first customs officer was Mr Ivory who was transferred from Bundaberg with his wife, they lived in a tent before the Customs house was built in 1887. Behind the Customs House building there is an ancient midden. The town became the depot for the rabbit netting fence and those doing the construction lived in the town. The painting depicting the camel train delivering the rolls of netting shows the regular life in the town.

Oontoo customs House
The SA border is the left side of map. The OONTOO Waterhole is is Coopers Ck on the bottom. The non permanent town waterhole is seen with water in the top if the picture in the right corner. The town is to the south of this waterhole and the ruins of the hotel can be seen as it was made stone.

In 1886 a square mile was resumed from the Nappa Merrie station for the town to be known as OONTOO, the name came from the permanent waterhole in Coopers Creek known as the Oontoo waterhole which was right on the boundry  of South Australia and Queensland. This water hole was the regular stopping place for the Afghan camel drivers when bringing stores or taking wool away for the Conrick family who ran Nappa Merrie. They preferred that the Afghans and their camels stay at the Oontoo Waterhole  as the camels caused havic with the horses when they camped at the homestead. The name Oontoo was chosen by the Afghans as OONTOO in Persian means “in that” or “inside of that” and in Sudanese “thirsty”. It is a small waterhole but very deep due to the swirling water when the Cooper is running.

The town plan had been drawn in 1875 and included around 40 blocks. These went to auction and a number were purchased, the first sold for the ridiculous amount of some thousands of pounds. Leahy from Thargomindah was active in purchasing real estate as the towns in western Queensland were opened up. Leahy sold three blocks in Oontoo to White from Thargomindah. White had a mineral water factory and though he owned these blocks in Oontoo he could be seen as a dealer in land and never lived in Oontoo, as when he died in 1932 his estate owned the three blocks in Oontoo, three blocks in a town which never eventuated south of Thargomindah, one block in Adavale and a block in Eromanga.

White also owned a larger block in Crows Nest north of Toowoomba when he died and this was left to his estate. In 1932 the blocks in the west were seen as no value and forgotten. His will named as executers Kenneth White of Clayfield, Brisbane and Raymond White of Grove St Toowong. It was from this block in Crows Nest that Ray White started his Real Estate business. The White family Brian and Paul may never have known about the Oontoo blocks and they remained that way until about 1997 when enquiries to the Bulloo Shire were made to purchase land in Oontoo.

It seemed that at that time the Bulloo Shire did not want to have another town to service in the Shire and the owners of Nappa Merrie did not want people travelling over their land as Oontoo town was part of the original selection of Nappa Merrie. The Shire investigated what their options were as there were blocks there that had title and legally any one with title could build a house .It seems that the landholders had never been sent rate notices so the Council started to issue notices. To whom they were sent is not known.

Legally after 5 years of no payment of rates the council can resume the land and that is what the council did. So in about 2000 the town was no more. You may wonder how hard they tried to deliver the rate notices. Did they try to contact Paul or Brian White – who operate the largest real estate business in Australia.

A shanty public house followed soon afterward with a more substantial stone hotel built by Thomas Costello in 1888. The hotel had eight rooms, kitchen, stables and a store.[2] Several race meetings were held in the town starting in 1888.[4]

Severe flooding occurred in 1891 with Coopers Creek breaking its banks after 4.5 inches (114 mm) of rain fell in the area in January.[5]

By 1897 the population had shrunk to 14.[1]


Customs post was closed in 1902.[6]

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