The town was named after the niece of Donald McIntyre, the first white settler in the area. McIntyre originally built a property about 70 km north of the present site of the town in 1862, only a year after the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition passed through the area. The small town that built up around the property began to grow about 1908 when the first railway was built in the region, connecting the town to the cities on the coast.
A one-room school was established in 1911 with nine students, and was expanded in 1932 and again in 1934. A separate high school was constructed in 1963. A sixteen-bed hospital was established in 1972. The town did not receive an electricity supply until 1952.
The town's main industries are farming, (especially the beef and wool industries), and mining, which is mainly centred around the BHP Billiton mine at nearby Cannington. The town is a major centre for cattle sales and stock trucking, with a large saleyard and associated facilities. Prior to the expansion of the railway to the larger towns of Cloncurry and Mount Isa, the town was also a major transport hub for freight and passengers.