Consecration of the Church of England Burial Ground (Brisbane, 1862)

The following article about the consecration of the old North Brisbane Burial Ground - at what is now Lang Park - appeared in the The Courier, Brisbane, on Saturday 24 May 1862. Such rituals were one-offs and only possible in religiously 'segregated' cemeteries, where specific portions of land were set aside for the use of different denominations. In non-segregated 'mixed' cemeteries, such as the ones at South Brisbane and Balmoral, consecration was considered to happen at individual grave sites as a result of a religious burial service being performed there.

Looking across the former Paddington Cemetery, ca. 1870. (Qld State Archives)

These rituals were not often covered in the newspapers of the time in this level of detail:

"THE consecration of the ground set apart and granted for burial purposes to the Church of England took place on Thursday, as announced, at eleven o'clock. This land, which is very prettily situated in a valley behind the Green Hills, has been for a long while since dedicated to purposes of burial, but had not been consecrated. The piece of ground is now almost fenced-in, and a small chapel has been erected on it.

At eleven' o'clock the Bishop commenced the service, assisted by the Chancellor of the Diocese, J. Bramston, Esq., B.C.L., of All Souls' College, Oxford, and by the Rev. T. Bliss, Rev. J. Moseley, Rev. J. Tomlinson, Rev. J. R. Moffatt, Rev. Mr. Bailey, Rev. B. E. Shaw, Rev. E.G. Moberley, and the Rev. V. F. Ransome. There were comparatively few persons present at the commencement of the ceremony, but the number subsequently increased, so that the little chapel could scarcely afford sufficient accommodation for those present.
The boundaries of the ground having been traversed by the Right Rev. Prelate, his reverend assistants, and the other persons present, joining in the appointed service, the chapel was entered, and the Chancellor, Mr. Bramston, read the document under the hand and seal of the Bishop defining the ground, and setting forth the purposes for which it had been consecrated, and to which alone, for all time to come, it was to be applied. Prayers were then offered up, and a portion of the Communion Service performed, after which the Bishop, Dr. Tufnell, delivered a brief appropriate, and earnest sermon, taking as his text John xi., 25th verse - "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." The right rev. gentleman dwelt upon the beauty and appropriateness of the opening passages of the service for the burial of the dead, appointed by the Church of England, the verse, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, &c," which seemed, as we heard it at the church door when following the corpse, to embody the expression of hope on tho part of the dead body, whilst the following verse - "We brought nothing into this world, &c," contained, as it were, a consolation for the living and an expression of implicit resignation to the Divine will.

The reverend speaker then drew attention to the fact that, whilst heathen nations had different ways of disposing of their dead, the Christian nations invariably respected the remains of their people and buried them. Tho first instance we found in the Bible of the care observed with regard to burying places, was that of Abraham, who purchased a burying-place from Ephron, and who would not accept one of the sepulchres of the children of Heth for his dead. The right rev. gentleman then enlarged at length upon the points that, both on account of the dead, and' also for the instruction of the living, it was the duty of Christian communities to have burial places consecrated and set apart. He pointed out as one reason why the remains of the dead should be respected, and preserved from indignity, that the members of the Church expressed in the creed their belief in "the resurrection of the body," not the resurrection of the soul, for the soul, although withdrawn, was eternal, and could not die; but the resurrection of the body as it was on earth. This resurrection was, perhaps, he said, a more wonderful instance of the Divine power than even the original creation of the body. The rev. gentleman then pointed out how the setting apart of burial places, consecrated and respected, was of instruction and benefit to the living, as it served to remind them of the transitory nature of their own existence. It was also a pleasant feeling to know that we could visit the last resting-place of those we loved, and that their remains would not be rudely disturbed or suffer indignity. The right rev. prelate concluded his Sermon by alluding to the chapel in which they were assembled, which he hoped would be of some service. Humble as the building was, if it were the means of saving but one soul, it would not have been erected in vain.

At the conclusion of the sermon, a collection was made, after which the Communion was administered to such as remained to partake."

The Brisbane Cycle Co. Advertisement, 1892

The Brisbane Cycle Co., Adelaide Street. Queensland Post Office Directory (Weatherill's), 1892.

Brisbane Milling Co. Advertisement, 1892

From 'Queensland Post Office Directory (Weatherill's), 1892.

Kennedy Brothers Advertisement, 1892

Queensland Post Office Directory (Weatherill's), 1892

KM Smith Undertakers, Fortitude Valley, Advertisement, 1892.

Ad for KM Smith undertakers, Fortitude Valley. Queensland Post Office Directory, 1892.

Scenes by the 1840s Brisbane River

The following vivid description of life by the Brisbane River in the 1840s was written by William Clark in 1917. Clark arrived at Moreton Bay in 1849 with his parents when he was 12 years old.

In his early years he assisted his father in felling pine timber and splitting shingles in the dense scrubland of the Boggo district, from the present Fairfield to Oxley Creek. From the 1860s he was occupied in various industries around Queensland, including sheep, cattle and mining. In his later years he wrote regular articles for the Brisbane Courier and the Queenslander reminiscing about his early life and adventures:


‘Further upstream from the creek, after which Creek-street is named, near the bamboos in the Botanic Gardens, stood a cottage, painted green, with a fine orchard attached. This was the residence of an old-time military officer. Opposite on the south bank stood primitive Kangaroo Point, with a few scattered houses. At the end of the Point was John Rankin's pineapple garden, with John - or, as he was called, Tinker - Campbell's boiling down works, the first in Moreton Bay. In 1848 the Point was the scene of a tragic murder, for which a cook at Sutton's Hotel named Fife was executed. The affair was the outcome of a drunken melee, in which the boiling down butchers were said to have been implicated, as the testimony of a friend of the writer's, who was actually an eye witness of the disposal of part of the body fully corroborates. The upset price of the Kangaroo Point land at the local sale in 1843 was £1 per acre. Just above the present Dry Dock, on the bank of the river, was John Slack's paddock. John Slack afterwards formed a cattle station on Slack's Creek, Logan River. Walmsley Point, on the opposite bank, in the old Domain, was named after John Walmsley, who had a sawpit there.

Early panoramic view of Brisbane, 1862 (John Oxley Library)

Following the river bank upwards, the Commissary buildings (now Colonial Stores) was reached, built in 1829, as the date stone of the building indicates, although Mr. Neimiah Bartley, in his book ‘Agates and Opals,’ gives the date as 1822, in a chapter headed ‘Brisbane in 1822,’ when, in fact, Brisbane was ‘non-et-iventus.’ The old place, with the rubble stone wall nearby, is one of the few remaining relics of penal times. Visitors to the old building may now see in the floors the old-fashioned wrought iron nails of the period. On the opposite bank was primitive South Brisbane. Tom Archer tells us that when he arrived there in 1841 with his wool teams from Durundur, by way of Kilcoy and Cressbrook stations, via Ipswich, not a single house or habitation then existed in the place. The Stanley-street frontage 70 years ago was occupied by Messrs. Orr Bros., butchers - James and William. It is now Baynes Bros., also butchers. Daniel Peterson's wharf and store was next. In the store big Dick Allcock, his father, and George, his brother, printed and published the first issue of the Moreton Bay ‘Free Press,’ that afterwards merged into the ‘Guardian’ newspaper. Adjoining was John M'Cabe's Freemasons' Hotel and wharf, afterwards Christie's. Peter Gablen's residence and wharf followed. Then came the old Hunter River Steam Co.'s premises, with two large receiving stores. One of the old gate posts is still standing in Stanley-street. The managers of the company in succession were William Connoley, George Salt Tucker, and Henry Buckley, our first Auditor-General.

Adjoining the old Russell-street ferry was Sandy MacIntyre's property, on which the company's steamers made fast their head lines to a tree. The company wished to purchase the property, and made an offer, which was not accepted. One morning the head lines were cut. The steamer's head lay down stream. The company then said good-bye to South Brisbane. So we lost the steamers. The earliest of those steamers was known as The William, the fourth colonial built boat. Afterwards came the Eagle, Captain Allen, Sovereign, Captain Cape, and the Tamar, Captain Murphy. The ferry approaches of old Russell- Street were by a cutting through a high grassy bank. For some distance above the ferry, the riverbank was occupied by sawpits. Adjoining the sawpits were two cottage residences, one the early home of the M'Naught family, the other the residence of Mr William Wilkes, editor of the ‘Moreton Bay Courier.’ The land on which they stood now forms the approaches to Victoria Bridge.

Moreton Bay Settlement from South Brisbane,
c.1835, attributed to H Boucher Bowerman (JOL)

At North Quay, on the present ice works, stood M'Cormack the builder's cottage. In a right angle line near the present alignment of George-street was ‘God's acre’ - the convict burial ground; where many of the victims of the relentlessly cruel penal administration slept their last sleep. The spot was not reserved in early surveys. The graves had fallen in below the surface when the writer last visited it. There were no head marks to the graves. Recently, when a building foundation was put in, some human remains were dug up, when I informed the Lands Department of the exact locale of the old cemetery. On the river bank above M'Cormack's was the military burial ground, where an officer was buried in a bricked-in vault, with a solid stone block, oblong in shape on top of the ground, with an inscription. A few steps led down to the entrance door, painted blue. On the south bank the next point of interest was the site of the present municipal baths, known as the Sandy Beach, where boats were beached for repairs. It was a favourite place with the blacks for swimming the river.

Round the point was the residence of Corporal M'Cann, an officer of penal times. Adjoining was the market garden of James Kirkwood, who wheeled his vegetables round South Brisbane in a barrow. Then came, at present site of South Brisbane Cricket Ground, Pendergrast's farm. The place was fenced in, a slab hut and small milking yard erected, and in 1848 abandoned by the owner, who never returned. Both banks of the river were without habitation until Oven's Head was reached, where a convict gang, who was cutting long saplings murdered their ganger, throwing his head into Clark's Creek, close by, and his body into the river. The spot is now enclosed in the South Brisbane Cemetery. The surrounding scrubs were full of pine trees. There the writer, when a lad of thirteen years, began work with his father splitting laths and shingles for old Andrew Petrie.

At Fairfield was the farm of Samuel Scarlet Bailey. The place had previously been fixed on for a sugar plantation by the Brisbane Sugar Company, a proposition that never eventuated, owing to the dictum of a St. Domingo planter, who considered the degree of frost against the growth of sugar in Moreton Bay. This was the first move in sugar growing. Further up towards Canoe or Oxley Creek, was the Government freestone quarry, with a ‘floor’ put in at the river level, whence stone was punted to the settlement. The north bank was still without settlement until Moggil Creek was reached, where the bulk of the Lima's immigrants settled to farm in 1849; and where John - or, as he was commonly called, ‘Butte’ - Williams opened, about 1846, the Moggil coal pits. On the head of the creek was an ancient sheep station, owned by Jack and Darby M'Grath. No more settlement on that bank for a long distance past the confluence of the Bremer.

On the south bank, at Wolston, now Goodna, was the home of Dr. Stephen Simpson, a Crown Lands Commissioner. It was here that the escapee Bracefield, brought in by Petrie in 1842, met his death while felling scrub. Redbank was the site of the Government dairy, where a large stockyard stood on the edge of Redbank Swamp. The river then was without settlement until John Uhr's Wivenhoe station was reached, the Cressbrook frontage, Colinton station following. Then the river bed became a precipitous mountain stream, boulder strewn to its source in the Bunya Mountains at Simon Scott's Toromeo station. With the establishment of steam traffic by the Hunter River Steam Co., the necessity for utilising the waterway of the river for conveyance of wool and stores between Brisbane and Ipswich became urgent. The steamers to Sydney plied monthly. Wool teams often got to town a day or so after the steamer had left. They then camped until she returned. The camping place was at the old Wheat Sheaf Inn, which stood at the edge of a large swamp near the site of Brigg's drapery store, in Melbourne street, South Brisbane. Messrs. James Reid and Thomas Boyland met the difficulty by contracting to build the necessary receiving stores for the steam company. They then built a large punt, and took delivery of wool from Darling Downs and the Upper Brisbane at Ipswich from the teams. The huge Noah's ark was moved down slowly on the tide way by long sweeps to South Brisbane.

Steamers soon began to ply on the up-river waters. The first, the Experiment, was brought from Sydney by James Canning Pearce. She soon came to grief by being short tied at a Brisbane wharf. In the night the tide rose over her. The steward, who was sleeping on board, awoke to find the water pouring down below, and rushed on deck. It was supposed his money was below; he made a fatal rush down the ladder, and was engulfed in the flood waters pouring down the stairway. Messrs. Reid and Boyland bought the old wreck, took her boilers and engines out, and put them into a steamer they built on a slip on Montague-road frontage named the Hawk. I remember when she was towed by a boat to South Brisbane. The men on her called to people on the river bank ‘The Hawk is coming; look out for your chickens.’ Meanwhile Mr. Thomas Coutts had arrived with the steamer Raven from Sydney. She was too large for the trade. The scrub trees overhung the narrow river. The old skipper would come on deck from below and shout to the man at the wheel, ‘Helm a lee! Keep her head out of the bush.’

Steamers on the Brisbane River, 1855 (Conrad Martens)

Sometime afterward a still larger steamer was placed on the river, named the Bredalbane, by Messrs. Robert Towns and Co., in connection with their South Brisbane business. Although a Sydney merchant, be was truly a pioneer of Queensland, being the first chairman of the Hunter River Steam Co. He subsequently embarked in cotton growing at Towns Vale, on the Logan. He was practically the founder of Townsville. He financed the development of the Redbank Collieries, and in conjunction with Mr. John Graham M'Donald, he explored and pioneered Burketown and the Gulf country. Meanwhile Mr. James Reid, the veteran river man, was a squatter at Camboon, on the Lower Dawson, with Towns and Co. as his station agents. Mr. Reid, when visiting Sydney, promised Mr. Towns that he would take the wheel of the Bredalbane on her trial trip. The steamer grounded for the night at the Seventeen-Mile Rocks. From the dense scrubs on the bank the mosquitoes came down on their prey. The party retreated below, when for the first and last time in his life, so it was said, Bobbie Towns sung a song, his subject being ‘That dark girl dressed in blue.’ A journalist on board sought the deck for fresh air, and sat down on a dry cask. The head fell in, and when discovered ‘Theo’ was quite comfortable, his legs hanging over the edge of the cask. The Bredalbane was subsequently returned to Sydney, being too large for the trade. Eventually the Swallow and other steamers were built, drawing less water.

The advent of the railway from Brisbane to Ipswich caused a considerable decrease in river traffic. The pioneers of the Brisbane River and its traffic, or settlement on the banks, were men of firm and steady step, men of indomitable energy, worthy to rank with Fenimore Cooper's ‘Pathfinders,’ whose memory their few remaining compeers still hold in kindly remembrance.’

Tyzack, Sons and Turner Advertisement, 1900

From the 'British ads' section, Queensland Directory (Wise), 1900

Tyzack, Sons and Turner Ad, 1900

F Savage Surgical Instruments, Advertisement, 1892

Queensland Post Office Directory (Weatherills) 1892.

F Savage Surgical Instruments, Advertisement, 1892

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the Condamine

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the CondamineIn 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 20 December 1859

Flagstone Creek

I calculated this point of the journey to be about eighteen or twenty miles from Tooloom. This was the point at which Peter was to leave us and return again to his Mary. The poor fellow must have had terrible hard work to have made his camp before sun-down, as it was nearly three o’clock in the afternoon when he left us. The difficulty of the way at the points where I have mentioned may be judged by the fact that we had been nearly eight hours on the way without any rest, the pace of the blackfellow being, on an average, three and a-half miles an hour. I forgive that rascal Peter for the ability that he displayed in appropriating my knife, which he borrowed to cut a stick and did not remember to return. Let the knife and the handy guide go back to Mary. If any brother of the tribe played falsely while Peter was earning white money, the knife may help to avenge Peter‘s wrongs, and make him famous amongst the gunyahs of Queensland as a desperate avenger of violated honor. If Sterne moralized on a dead ass, and ill-used his wife, as the old literary chronicles tell, surely I have a right to moralize on Peter and his Mary. And thus in my mind, after the approved silence outwardly of the Quaker, but from the inward expression of the soul, bade I Peter farewell.

‘Return oh Peter, child of these wilds, again to thy dwelling on the hill side of Tooloom. There are yet four hours ere the orb of day sinks behind the western horizon. Go Peter - seek thy many, wander still these hills of thy fathers, and have no connection with the white man, for thy skin remits a perfume far less fragrant than roses, and thy taste for human flesh savours too much of the tiger of the jungle. Go Peter – say not the white man is unkind. Think, Peter, think on the glory of the race of thy fathers, and like Merwin of old, hang thy spear and waddie in the sunshine, for great deeds belong to thy race.’ Exalted in fancy, when the imagination had gone thus far, by the cry of ‘bosh.’ Fancy said, ‘you will be charged with imitating Macpherson in his Ossian.’ ‘Never mind,’ I replied, ‘he pretended that he found Ossian in old manuscript. I am therefore only the imitation of a deceiver, but there is no one to say that Ossian is not original; It is so original that an old newspaper hack should write books like it at so much per mile, and get rich into the bargain.

But here my readers may say, why not talk about Flagstone Creek? Presto! Peter is gone. The creek, then, is bottomed with huge rocks, and in some parts the water has worn circular in which the water remains when the other parts of the creek are dry. The passage of the creek presents a singular appearance - a rocky roadway; the name was aptly given, and he who first bestowed its natural cognoma was a better judge of proper names than many of the Yankees. In the rocky bottom of the creek the action of the water had worn deep round holes, and these in the dryest seasons contain water. The taste of the water thus retained and kept stagnant under the rays of the sun, I cannot describe as pleasant. The day that I passed the creek was not a very warm one, and yet the water in these natural rocky wells was quite warm. I should not wish a finer week’s holiday than tracing and examining Flagstone Creek, since at all the points that I looked upon it, there were indications of the great changes which have taken place by the action of the water and from other causes - sufficient to repay any inquirer who did not measure the knowledge obtained by the gold it might bring. With the settlers for miles round Flagstone Creek is well known, and is spoken of as more than a gully, which information, as Australian fashion goes, will satisfy your readers that I have not spent too much time at the creek, where I was bereft of the services of Peter the black.

Acacia Creek

A few miles from Flagstone Creek is Acacia Creek. For the first three or four miles on the way from one point to the other the country is not very inviting; but no sooner are the hills climbed and something like the level obtained than the traveller is sensible of a change of temperature and soil. Two or three miles of level travelling from where the hills terminate brings the passer to Acacia Creek, near to which is the residence of a Mr. McLean, a relative of he who is known as ‘Jack McLean, of Westbrook.’ As it was quite time that both horse and man rested - and as I did not really wish to go farther that night, I hugged myself with thought that the day’s journey was done, even though I had not up to that time, caught sight of the Condamine. Suffice it to say that I did not remain at Acacia Creek, only long enough to rest myself and horse. I partook of the hospitality that was offered, but the invitation was given in a manner which I interpreted as ‘we shall be much obliged if you don’t.’ I would, at any time, prefer a pot of tea and a camp at the foot of a gum tree, than where travellers are only tolerated because it would be inhumanity to turn them adrift. I am sorry there is a growing opinion that hospitality at the stations is dying out; and that where it is accorded it is with that coldness which makes a sensitive mind wish there was ‘a house of accommodation,’ where charge would be made at every stage. The great change which is likely shortly to take place politically, and the chances are that legislation may decide on the distribution of this magnificent territory, should teach all graziers a little lesson, which I may portray to them parabolically.

Parabolic Teaching for Squatters

Before the commencement of the Russian war, when political feeling ran high, it was believed in political circles that the power would not long be confided alone to the aristocratic circles. Up from the lower and middle classes men had soared into public life and there was a growing feeling against the ‘Upper ten thousand’ as a class. When the tide of war rolled fiercely – when the lists of death came month after month from Scutari, Varna, Alma, Inkermann, and from the trenches before that doomed city which held out so long and obstinately, the names of the sons of the aristocracy, ah, and even of the holders of titles themselves, came amongst the mournful lists. Then the people saw that England’s aristocracy (which is the finest in the world) could fight as well as do the amiable, and once more they helped on the car adorned with flowers; and once more they dozed into apathy and were satisfied that they might change for the worse. My meaning is so plain that the graziers need not quarrel if I leave them to find the moral; and each may then adapt it to himself.

The Condamine

Oh for a pen that would write itself without the trouble of guiding; and oh for a brain more worthy than mine to do justice to the country upon which I am entering. ‘The Condamine, the Condamine,’ shouts my companion with all the ardour of a German coming in sight of his beloved Rhine. And there it is - a silver streak stretching away in the distance, while the country on all sides is beautifully verdant, and the cattle that roam the plains delight themselves in fatness. Since I have resided in the colony this was the first day that I could realize the idea that I was in a country like England. The roads were finer than I had ever previously seen on this side of the old ocean. Talk of Macadamised roads! In many places these mean, rough stones sticking up in dirty ways. Here, in sight and near the Condamine, the roads were as level as a bowling green, and not even her gracious Majesty, in the Home Park, has finer roads to drive on than those which natural soil has favored on the road from Acacia Creek to Warwick: but I halt at ‘ The Elbow,’ - and having mentioned the river I set out in quest of, I should not do justice if I skipped the description of as fine a sixteen miles of country as it was ever my fortune to look upon.

Palmerin Street, Warwick, ca. 1868. (Qld State Library)

The Elbow

Before I further relate the story of my travels I would wish to make mention of the sympathy which is shown on behalf of the repeal of the duty on gold. All the diggers and those in the immediate neighbourhood of the diggings, argue that the diggers are amongst the largest consumers and should not, therefore, pay duty on that article which they obtain from the earth through so much toil. They had prepared a memorial in favour of the abolition of the duty when I was at Tooloom, and the document was in course of signature. Thus much by way of a reminder where I had come from. My story legally and truthfully picks me up at ‘The Elbow,’ at which place I received the greatest hospitality from a gentleman who holds a responsible situation on the station to which that beautiful part of Queensland belongs.

From 'The Elbow’ to Warwick is sixteen miles - a splendid road, the description I gave previously I intend to answer for here. Now the traveller goes through a splendidly flat country, while on his right meanders the Condamine. After rising a very slight elevation there is little for half a dozen miles to admire save the beauty of the way and the thinness of the timber. All at once breakage is made on to a large plain, covering some square miles, and here the land is rich, and ready for the plough as soon as there shall be a liberal land scheme, and speculation shall provide what is needful for the prosperity of small farmers. Here I began to experience the truth of what I had formerly heard and feel by actual observation that Warwick and its adjacent plains should be the granary of the colony. What more can I say than that plain after plain was crossed until we began to run down the fence of Canning Downs paddock. Talk of the advantages of an early residence in a new country? In no case was it more perceptible than by looking on the splendid paddock I have mentioned. It was the prince of paddocks; and when I heard of pre-emptive rights and all such stuff I fancied those who allowed the appropriation of such princely places on such easy terms were not wise in their generation for those that may come after. I make no crossroads to call special attention to any English feelings I may have experienced. To sermonise for a month on the extent of stations, and the great advantages possessed by the lessees would not alter the facts or make the country less beautiful. It did appear, however, to my simple mind rather against the grain to see a large place like the paddock, so close to the town of Warwick locked completely up from the people, more especially as the Condamine, I was given to understand, runs through the well selected and beautifully-adapted spot for any purpose. In writing thus, I may state that I have no animosity against the squatters as men. They have only taken advantage of a fortunate chain of circumstances and done what every sane man would have done similarly situated - made the best of it.

The Day’s Journey Done

If every fifty miles travelled afforded as much food for reflection as those have which I have passed over since I left Tooloom, every traveller would be ‘a reflector’ on a large scale, and would weary if he knew not how to time his paragraphs and round his sentences. All day long had I inquired about Warwick, and the scenes presented had more than far answered the description or my expectation. In the shades of night I pass a number of homesteads and am at last in Warwick. The air feels English like; but here I may remark, that my testimony should be carefully received, as the ride across the open plains, and the healthy appearance of the cattle, the luxuriance of the grass, and the cool breeze had, perhaps, excited me to an undue appreciation of that part of Queensland in which I found myself. I take my leave of the day’s riding and day’s working with an earnest hope for the future of the district of Warwick; and though not gifted with the spirit of prophesy, it requires not the wisdom of a seer to foretell a great increase in population and wealth to this part of Queensland as soon as its capabilities, soil, and climate shall be understood.

The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports,
Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #7: Tooloom to Flagstone Creek

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 17 December 1859:

Report of a Quartz Reef

Along the line of road, from Ipswich to Tooloom, I had heard reports that a quartz reef had been discovered, and the general impression appeared to be that it only needed some such discovery to make ‘our diggings’ as they are commonly, though not legally, called. A little inquiry on the fields at Tooloom satisfied me that the report was a mere canard, which some systematic hoaxer had devised to draw the rush on the Warwick route, near to which place it was said the reef existed. I had heard of the reported discovery when only a few miles from Balbi’s; so you see that news, good or bad, false or true, can find wings to travel with even amongst mountains and gum trees. It was, I believe, first reported by some clever rascal who understood word weaving and who was an adept at constructiveness in sentences so that the truth should appear only from probability, and if falsity should be proved the inventor could turn upon the rendering of his sentence and so escape the character of falsehood. The story had cost some long and weary walks to find what they could not and to see what they could not, all returning with looks as sour and dark as those ominous words on a returned cheque ‘no effects.’

Leaving Tooloom

I had calculated upon leaving to return to Koorelah before I could really make a fair start for Warwick. Fortunately I was able to find a mate who also wished to go to Warwick and we debated the prudence of obtaining the service of a black as guide, and starting for Acacia Creek by the nearest route. When I and my mate had made inquiries amongst the darkies there answered a smart looking-fellow who said his name was Peter, and he undertook to convey us so near to the place I have mentioned that there would be no difficulty after his leaving in finding the way. At an early hour in the morning our party, myself, the gentleman who was leaving the diggings, and Peter, started away, bidding the bark huts, calico tents, and shanties of all descriptions, not forgetting the coat of arms suspended outside all places of abode, the frying pans, an affectionate farewell. The site of Tooloom is well chosen for an inland town; but if the diggings should go ahead and prosper, as I hope and trust they will, the site for a town, beautifully situated and well supplied with water, is that spot between the sliprail of Tooloom cattle station fence and the foot of ‘The Falls.’

Tooloom National Park (NSW National Parks Service)

The Near Cut

After clambering the hill I have sketched previously and made all ready for a start we proceeded, headed by Peter, who wore a Turkish red ferz cap on his black and shining hair, and shouldered his tomahawk as if he was on a marauding excursion after some of the young ladies of a neighbouring man. But Peter was a married man - wedded according to the bush fashion; and, therefore, my similie does not hold. And, unlike most married men, Peter was in care about his wife, one of the express stipulations of the contract being that we should allow him to return that night, as he was fearful that in his absence some brother chum would take the liberty of eloping with his Mary. We tried to calm Peter down on this subject, but he would not be comforted, and by the oft repeated ‘baal’ with which he greeted our suggestions on the goodness of his people and our own, it was evident Mr. Peter was a thorough recogniser of the universal depravity doctrine.

For about three or four miles of the way, the way was not difficult, and though there was no track or mark to travel by that we could see, still the black held headway and we followed. After the first four miles the aspect of the country changed. We began to ascend and descend hills, and found it prudent at times to dismount that the horses might with greater safety to the men cross the gullies. Every now and then rounding some corner of a heavily timbered hill, the black’s dog, a long, lean, and ill-favoured brute, but which Peter had honored with the name of ‘Beauty,’ would startle the kangaroos, give tongue, chase for a time and return like Admiral Napier from the Baltic, having made only a slight commotion. A few miles of this kind of way brought us at last to a splendid open flat, and I began congratulating myself that the difficulties were past.

Killing a Black Snake

When just entering the flat a black snake of moderate size was soon making the best of his way to escape. The gliding reptile caught Peters eye - the tomahawk was raised and thrown with a precision and swiftness attainable by long practice. An old root followed the tomahawk quickly - the snake was disabled, eventually made a head shorter, and left as a mark of vengeance against the unwelcome crawlers.

Splendour in Solitude

The flat we had now come to spread away for miles, there was scarcely a tree upon it, and my thoughts were all for the future when a nation shall have grown and stalwart yeomen and patriarchial graziers gladden the glades with their presence, and the merry cheer from the voices of children at play prove that these now forsaken spots have ‘a local habitation and a name in the minds of a rising community.’

Climbing the Mountains

Our toil soon began. Peter led us by a way peculiarly his own. Up the sides of mountains difficult to climb did we pass, and when we had reached the elevations, on looking round there was nothing but mountains on all sides to be seen. Far away in the distance as the eye could reach were mountains, and their brown and shaggy sides, covered with timber, proclaimed the wildness of the land, and the little that the whites had already done to mark their stay. Now we descend until we reach a perfect hollow in which water is found. The horses with difficulty reach the agua puro; having found their way into the curiously-shaped place, they have to leap to gain the opposite bank. Here, in this spot, where grass had grown as high as our breasts, and where no one but a blackfellow would think of going, had a prospecting party tried a dishful. We could see the marks of the ‘fossickers;’ and then I knew that there was something more than mere rumour in the statement that parties were trying every likely place. When we passed from this gully we had a teaser. For about fifty yards I struggled bravely and led my horse; but I could not hold out, as Paddy would say, ‘for every step I took forward I took two backward,’ until I was obliged to hold to the twigs and shout for assistance. The black having taken my horse, I did manage with great difficulty to scramble up - and when I reached, if the view had pleased me from the other points, from this one it was grand and impressive. The length up the mountain must have been fully three-quarters of a mile, and when I reached the summit I was fairly tired, and am not ashamed to own it, more especially as I think there is far too much bounce practised in the talk about colonial travelling. I have before alluded to the ‘nothing’ kind of reckoning, and need not here further explain myself. It is something to me, and why should I care, though all the people had seen something grander, and been worse beset with difficulties in travelling, if I had never before encountered the like, I should tell my story my own way, and leave the issue.

Crossing a Creek

Mile after mile, all guess-work, had been done, when we came at last to a creek that seemed for a time to bid fair to stay our journey. Not that there was any water, but the rocks rose in such queer and fantastical shapes - and there was no beaten way, that I knew not how we were going to manage. The horses slipped and rushed again - then startled, and at last, with a leap, they gained a point of rock which enabled them to have firm foot-hold and so relieved what care I had as to the finish of the dangers. When we had crossed this place it seemed as if we had come upon a new country. Soon we caught sight of a marked tree which had been done by Mr. Fleming‘s party, and we were enabled here and there to trace the white man’s chop until passing the lambing-down station – the farthest out-station from and belonging to Kooreelah. Soon we came to Flagstone Creek.

The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports, 
Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #6: Scenes From Tooloom

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 13 December 1859


SAFELY down from the height, having rested as previously stated at the half-way-house, the owners of which ought to insure all lodgers at so much per head from the dangers of high winds, Saturday night nobblers, and also from all riotous and disorderly conduct on the part of all inmates, for fear of a roll below, I sent myself on an old stump and look about to see what kind of faces the diggers wear; and having made up my mind as to what party I shall first accost, I make my way to the point and draw myself together to be ready to understand what I may be told. At the same time I give imagination a tug, so that I may not fall into the category of the gullibles...

Cousin Jackies

I love a Cornishman, though not one myself; he generally has such deep scheming under his smiling ‘marning;’ and though he may make you welcome to his ‘apple pastie and cream,’ he has an eye for business. And what has made me open this part in Cornish style, may be inferred from the fact that in the claim I next visited there were three Çousin Jackies busily at work. I knew the twang of the dialect in a moment, and was ‘all there’ to find out what I could; so I sat myself down, and opened the conversation according to the best method of which I was the master. For the benefit of the uninitiated, I may say that if you can get a Cornishman to talk about Tregollis, and the ‘Bear Hunt of St. Ann’s,’ and also about ‘shooting the cherrybeam,’ you will at once gain an entrance to his affections, and may succeed in acquiring his confidence. This short sketch may manage to show how soon I was on good terms with Cousin Jackies, and how I learned the story of

The Wonderful Nugget

I mean, of course, that very identical nugget found by a digger, which weighed over eighty ozs., and which was delivered over to some person in connection with the Ipswich Escort for safety, and in relation to which there was a legal injunction to restrain the digger and finder from taking possession of, until he had been able to justify his alleged ownership in the eyes of the law. My newly found friends pointed out the spot where this large nugget was found, and told me something in relation to it which, if I tell as nearly as possible as I heard it, I may escape the libel court. ‘Ah’ said one, ‘that was a d____ shame. That fellow who laid claim to a share of the nugget had no more to do with it than a stranger. He had sold out of the claim the day before, and the finder went early to give the claim a morning trial and found the great nugget.’ I listened with pleasure. ‘Lord bless ye,’ said one, ‘I never seed a feller in such a way in my life; when he did find it he didn’t know what to do with heself; he turned white and was regularly comed over.’

‘It was his’ said another; ‘and if he’d done as he should he would have kept as dark as a chimney sweep.’ If the party in this claim were jurymen to try the case it would not be difficult to venture a bet of a dozen of champagne on the finale of the trial.'

Moreton Bay Courier, 15 December 1859:

'Nature of the Ground

Up to the present time I have been very silent on the geological character of Tooloom. I don’t profess to know much on this point, and should be sorry to set myself up as a judge in the matter. If Lyell, Sedgwick, or Buckland, had been to Tooloom and published books on the geological formations of the place, I might appropriate a few quotations. Nevertheless, in all humility, I append my own geological opinions.

The country in the neighbourhood of Tooloom is evidently volcanic, traces of the convulsions of nature being more distinable at the points near to the creek than elsewhere. The various layers are easily discernible in ascending or descending the point of the steep hill near Joe’s Gully; but as far as I could judge from actual observation, there seems to be no rule for the discovery of gold from any particular layer. One party finds the precious metal in gravel - another finds it in soil as rich as garden mould - and another is fortunate in clayey looking soil. The last named appears to show the colour of the metal sought better than any other; the gold obtainable from this kind of layer being smaller than that washed from the gravel. The top layer of the land near to the favourite resort of the diggers is very strong, the edges of the projecting stones being in many places sharp - in others, rising in boulders. One fact I state for the consideration of those more versed in peculiarities connected with soil and climate than I am. The grass growing in the naturally formed paddock I have previously mentioned, is remarkably nutritious for horses, and it is rarely that grass appears to thrive so well for feeding purposes as the tufts which sprout from the rocky and stony intersectices of this wild and broken country.

The appearance of the bed of Joe’s Gully has been entirely altered by the diggers. The bed of the gully is not very wide, but stupendous banks protect it on each side near to the bed of the creek, where the busiest operations were being carried on; and if the place has not been formed by volcanic eruptions, and is only one of the rough and stupendous water-courses of this great country, there is food for supposition that ages have rolled by in accomplishing the appearance presented in 1859 to the visitors...

General Character of Tub Diggings

It is time I gave the diggings a character. I must here endeavour to be very particular. I talked with the storekeepers, diggers, and workers who live by other means than searching for gold. I had an opportunity of talking with many returns on the way up; many more than I have mentioned, and I have endeavoured to form an independent judgment. That Tooloom is a gold country no man who has visited it will deny. The gold brought down by the escort is proof that there is gold. The objection urged by many that the gold which is brought by the Ipswich escort is obtained mostly from the Table Land will not hold good. The Grafton people will be sure, on that side of the country, to keep a sharp look-out ; and I may state that there is a trifle of jealousy relative to the gold coming down to Ipswich which ought not to exist; and the sooner it is allayed the better will it be for all concerned. The Table Land is thirty miles from Tooloom, and it is not likely that much of the gold from the Grafton side passes by way of Ipswich. I should be inclined to believe from what I saw that if the matter were stated vice versa, - that some of the Tooloom gold went by way of Grafton, the truth would be nearer told.

Estimation and Calculation

I should estimate the number of persons at Tooloom, ‘Eight-mile Rush’ and ‘Twenty-mile Rush‘ at about eight hundred. I allow three hundred as the population of women, children and those engaged in stores, public houses, trades, et cetera. This gives a bona fide digging population of five hundred.

The Ipswich Escort brought down last trip nearly six hundred ounces - which gives more than an ounce per man for about three weeks. Now when it is considered that many on the fields scarcely obtain their rations, and others not even enough gold to purchase supplies, while others have good claims, it is not difficult to find a solution that Tooloom diggings, like all others, are a lottery. I believe there are plenty of men doing well; but the general prosperity would, at the time when I visited, have been much heightened by a better supply of water. In this particular there was a general scarcity. Joe’s Gulley was rendered almost useless as a gold producing spot. The two rushes were as badly off as Joe’s Gulley. The country has every appearance of proving gold producing in large quantities. At present circumstances have not been favourable to the full development of its capabilities. I have faith that something good will turn up in that quarter yet; but I should be sorry to say anything which would induce men who have employment, to leave a certainty for, what must be, an uncertainty, until water and time shall make us wiser respecting Tooloom. The impetus which has been given to the Tooloom fields by our friends in Ipswich has certainly done good. Under present circumstances the difficulty is to find now claims; and this I found to be the cause for so many returning. Above all things, a digger who goes to Tooloom should be provided with some ‘tin,’ so that he may hold out. I consider I have given the Tooloom goldfields a good character. They are not, at present, the places for very poor men. Those who have means to work on, strong faith, and dogged determination will, in the end, succeed, unless the face of nature lies, and the experience of the past gold indices are in this instance a blank.

I might run on to an undue length by repeating the gist of the inquiries I made, and the answers thereto. I might tell of claims unworked, and claims registered waiting for water; but, I could not add to the general information contained in my short summary, which may be told in a few words. Tooloom is a goldfield only wanting time and favorable circumstances to develop its capabilities.

I had many conversations on Saturday night with the diggers, and what I gleaned then helped me to summarize as above. If the reader will picture his own feeling when, the week’s toil is done and there is a chance for an hour’s enjoyment and patient forgetfulness, he can spare my pen the trouble of a description. Tooloom deserves a good character...

A Fight with the Knives

Those black, ugly, devils are making faces near the doorway of the hotel, and they laugh with a hideousity that makes a sensitive nature wish a score of miles was between their carcases and the fancied abode of the white lords’ security. Some of the backs of these dark gentry are cut with ghastly wounds. A few nights previously they had indulged in an aboriginal fashionable duel, and the sinners who presented themselves for the orgies of Saturday night were of those who had shown their prowess for a lady love by deeds of bloody war. Some of these black scoundrels had been half civilized on stations, and the little English they had learned had not made first class specimens to be produced at a missionary meeting. I did hear, on the Saturday night, that the aboriginals, when they fight with knives, have certain rules and regulations, a departure from which subjects the defaulter to a punishment peculiarly in accordance with the savage race to which they belong. And here I must tell a story. Two of the blacks had gone to the fight - one had departed from the honorable mode of striking, in so far that he had dragged his knife too lowly on his enemy’s body. For the benefit of those who know not the law which governs them in this particular, I may say that where the abdomen joins the upper portion of the body is considered the rubicon which the knife must not cross. When they fight with knives they do not stab deeply, but having forced the blade into the flesh the process is that of dragging; and the longer the wound the more successful is considered the inflictor.

Two blacks had fought and one had drawn his knife across the other’s abdomen, the consequence being that the intestines protruded and for three or four hours the black was in a state indescribable by your humble servant... The black who was thus served in his corporate body found at last a white man who took pity upon his unfortunate condition; and he lighted, by a tallow dip at the camp, and armed with a rusty needle and a bit of thread, commenced the job of sewing the blackfellow up as if he had been a dead marine. On the blackfellow’s wrist there was a wound, which was said to have been enough to kill a white fellow; but of this no notice was taken. The breach bodily was of more consequence than gash armitistically. The blackfellow lived, and appeared to suffer as little inconvenience from the mending he had received from an inexperienced body darner... I will not so far forget myself to hold the tinkerer of the black so publicly forth that he may become known. His act was one of pure charity - he took no fees - nor did he ask who was to pay him before he started to the camp on his mission of needle and thread mercy. I vouch for the accuracy of the tale as told by the performer himself, whose good deed shall now live in memory when his bad fortune as a digger at Tooloom shall have perished from memory.

Gold and the Blacks

The aboriginals seem perfectly to understand where to find the metal which makes wise men fools and gives an antipodean value to that grand army to which a wag once said he had no ambition to belong. The aboriginals, knowing the value of the metal for the purchase of grog and ‘bacca,’ nevertheless will not take the trouble to dig. For a trifle - for a glass of grog, they will do menial offices for the whites, wander a score of miles away, into the mountains with a party of diggers - to spots where the print of whitefellow’s foot has never previously been, and there point out spots favourable for prospecting. If the aboriginals were not so lazy, or if they had a tithe of the cupidity of the whites, they could soon become rich. Wise legislation might do something for them if contamination had not already struck its death roots into the race. Why need I moralise - it appears that they must perish before the advance of white civilisation, and I should like to find the man prepared with a specific definite nostrum to show that there would be any real service rendered to the world by the incorporation of the aboriginals of North Australia with any other existing race. Tastes differ, or else white women would not mate with John Chinamen as we see they do; but, then, woman is a bundle of incongruities, and cannot be reckoned by the rule of three and vulgar fractions. I hold that the thesis for incorporation, whereby and wherefrom a better race than the jibbering savage with animal instincts might rise, is not practicable so far as the Malay, Japanese, or Chinese are concerned. Nature, elevated, abhors descending. The aspirations are upward in nationality, and onward in civilisation, until the world shall be linked by rapid means of transit and great thoughts, aided by science, demonstrating that man was made for other purposes than toil and money-getting.

There were three or four aboriginals on the ground on the Saturday night in question who were above the average in point of intelligence; but, even those seemed to be short of a shingle in making the best of their knowledge as to the likely spots where gold was to be obtained. They would drink grog, beg for sixpences, journey all day long for a trifle, but the value of the metal for which the whites searched so eagerly they knew not. They had never known the possession of yellow money; prechance if they were taught the value of gold to ‘buy ‘em bacca and grog,’ they might touch the first step of civilisation. Wherever I have seen the aboriginals, so far as property is concerned, they are communists, and despise those petty distinctions which first led to the settlement of this colony...

Themes of Discussion

If a traveller spends a night at a station he will find that the fashionable subject of conversation, especially if a neighbour is visiting who is pecuniarily interested, is cattle, sheep, horses, wool, horns, hides, and tallow. Since Separation, local politics come in at the station boards as ‘Worcestershire Sauce;’ and the mixture is at times as strange as Paddy O’Rourke’s dream. Those matters which are nearest the breast pocket I suppose men will talk about, and ladies also. At Tooloom they talked of sinkings, washings, beds of gravel, boulders, beds of pipeclay, and the general opinion seemed that deep sinking would in a few weeks be the order of the diggings at Tooloom. When the news shall reach us that ‘the windows of heaven’ have been kept open for a few days in that locality, there will be such an improvement that we shall be disposed to wonder why we believed not sooner.

Modes for Inducing Sleep

The diggers crowd the bagatelle board, the balls roll with measured sound, and every now and then there is a gusto of exclamations, perfectly original in their construction and novel fin their sounds. I want to sleep and still the whir keeps on; at last I catch the indication of drowsiness, but there is a spell in the original manner of talk... There are many ways to woo Morpheus. Mesmerize yourself by imagining you are converted into a chimney and the smoke is coming from your mouth as from a funnel. Look straight at some object And if all fails make a planetary system by tightly closing the eyes and seeing sun, moon, and stars of all colours and sizes. If all these means fail don’t get into a passion - if you do you may bid farewell to sleep that night. Smoke a bit, read a page or two, think on those matters only which are pleasant, and you may get off even while a score of fellows are interesting themselves in making a noise that would wake all the blessed babies in creation. I say not how I managed, or if I found it expedient to put on a nightcap. I am off, good night. To-morrow,
Give me my horse and a bottle of wine,
And you shall all hear of the Condamine.'
The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports, 
Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #5: Tooloom

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be (rightly) considered racially offensive today.

Moreton Bay Courier, 8 December 1859


LEAVING behind me the dead bucolic fragrance of which I wrote in my last, and journeying gently up a slight elevation, I came at last in sight of the township of Tooloom, which stands on the side of a gentle slope, the termination being a part of that creek, which has many miles of windings and turnings from the point of grandeur to that near the township.

The Darkies

The vanguard of Tooloom, as it is approached from the Kooreelah Range, is a camp of darkies; and these sable children of the forest, miserable specimens of humanity, do not appear to have been much improved by their mixture with the white diggers. ‘Fire water,’ as the Indians of North America called the rum, appears to be doing the work of annihilation, and so far as the mere consideration of what is best for the nation is concerned, more particularly in softening manners and elevating the mind, the sooner the aboriginals have perished from the diggings the better. If the wild bushman forgets in a measure the civilization of the old land, and descends in his habits and tastes, the aboriginal loves to copy many acts which the whites perform; and taking rum is a favourite failing up the country with the darkies, as they say it makes them feel ‘like white fellow.’ Even as the vulture and other birds of prey hang upon the trail of blood and death, so do the darkies at the diggings hang upon the trail of civilization, that they may gather the excitement and the vices. Enough for the present of these animals. Before I finish my sketch of the diggings I shall have a little to add on their behalf.

Tooloom Described

We are then in Tooloom; a rough and ready city of bark huts, canvass tents, and calico-roofed shanties. A few banners are streaming in the wind, and the residents are lounging and gossiping-the day of my arrival not being sacred lo business or pleasure, but of that class, coming near the shank end of the week, when there was a growing hope that Saturday’s trading might be ‘all alive, oh.’ Board and lodging and accommodation were signified at various places, and here and there as I entered the classic shade of Tooloom, I caught side of John Chinamen who had risen to the dignity of lodging-house keepers, and were impressed to all appearance with the importance of their vocation. That pig-eyed vacunty, and long tails pendant from the top of the nob, are not very national like on a soil fast yielding to British sway; nevertheless, it is not a time to moralize, as nuggets may be in the distance, and the cap of Fortunatus only wants the finding.

As a man travels, he should keep his eyes open; so pardon me for a few moments if I linger to describe Tooloom. In the distance I see the aristocracy of the place. The Gold Commissioner, Mr. Master, is sunning himself in front of his office-parlour and all, and holding a morning confab with the Sergeant of the Gold Police, who as he nods approvingly to what the King of Tooloom says, shakes the veil with which he has garlanded his hat, and beats his long boots with a switch. By the side of the representatives of the law and gospel of Tooloom, stands the oldest storekeeper, Mr. Miller, and the trio are evidently discussing the probabilities of the new arrival at such a strange hour, and in such a questionable shape. I catch sight of familiar faces and forms - feel satisfied I shall be able to make myself at home, and then make up to the select knot of loungers I have mentioned.

At the risk of my neck, which is more valuable to myself than to Queensland, I clamber a steep hill on the other side of the creek, to put my Rosinante away safely, until I shall again want to tempt the fortune of the road. The beast safely hobbled, and I back again in the city of Tooloom, there is nothing left for it but an Englishman’s feed - dinner; and then a leisure survey of the wonders of the place.

Whatever the townships of other diggings may have been when in their infancy, Tooloom reminded me of a village fair. The wares of the storekeepers were exposed to view in tempting forms, and there was an attempt to imitate the shop-keeping, or more properly the stall-keeping, of a gala day in a village. The flies were busy with the remaining stock-in-trade of the butcher, whose shop-block looked as if it was ‘first chop’ for the purpose for which it was intended. The chimney of the baker’s oven, constructed of corrugated iron, roared its head in pride above the calico roofing, and all inside the establishment looked clean and neat as a penny twist. An introduction to the butcher and the baker in a small town, when a man means to settle, is of no mean importance, especially if the party so favoured has a number of mouths beside his own to feed, either from his industry or his wits. Even on the diggings I found that ‘tick’ was fashionable, and that many who are there cannot, or will not, depart from the remembrance of town life, as a gentle reminder from a small bill enables a debtor to remember that his existence on terra firma is of some consequence to those to whom he may owe money.
Quartz crushing machine, Ballarat, S.T. Gill 1855. 
(National Library of Australia

Stores and Shanties

I counted a number of stores. First, I must mention the oldest, a courtesy which will occasion no jealousy, as its priority is honorable by reason of its age. I refer to the store of Mr. Miller, from which place a banner was flying on which was written words to guide those who needed information where to purchase goods.- ‘Tooloom stores’ in large letters kept the friends of the storekeeper from going astray. Outside the store of which I am making honourable mention I saw a notice relative to the North Australian, and I candidly confess that I did not feel any of those sensations which are said to emanate from ‘That green-eyed monster that doth mock our bliss.’

It would not be exactly proper to descend to minute particulars, so I shall hurriedly take in the batch of speculators, thus forming an index for Tooloomers, and saving the expense of a directory. Mr. Betts figures as a general storekeeper, and a little way above is Mr. Gordon’s, also a general store, whilst opposite is a large calico building, (about to be supplanted by a slab one), which is said to belong to Mr. Fleming; and Messrs. Black & Co. keep a store near to the creek. The ring of the blacksmith‘s anvil sounds close at hand, and from between the sheets of bark come sparks of fire, not sufficiently powerful to indulge the fancy that Vulcan is forging thunderbolts, but sharp and swift enough to jog your memory that there are diggers who take the edge from their picks in the battle for gold. The abode of the Vulcan of Tooloom belonged to an Ipswich man a few days before my arrival, but he had sold out to Mynheer Something, who was laboring away when I passed with all the ardour of a new tradesman.

A Rose in the Wilderness

And hereabouts, midst shades of bush and mobs of cattle, came forth from a shanty, dignified by the title of a lodging-house, a good-looking woman, who, with her husband, seemed disposed for a yarn; and we all chatted on the life that diggers lead. The lady, thinking I was a new chum, expressed her sorrow that I should have come to share the profits and the losses - the hardships and the queer lodgings, that were fashionable thereabouts. In her gentle expostulations she neglected not to remind me that she had known other comforts than the diggings, and in token thereof she drew off her bonnet and displayed a head of hair that would do honor to Lady Bowen’s first fancy ball. I trust, if this small tribute to female vanity and beauty should be seen by those who will recognize the sketch as applicable, I shall not be considered acting improperly in paying a graceful compliment to beauty at Tooloom.

A Claim Jumped!

Just at this particular time, came by a digger who had made himself a name by discovering that our old friend O’Donnell and his party, consisting of the brothers Aitken, (one of whom was a short time resident in Brisbane), had more ground than they were entitled to by the laws which regulate claims on the gold-fields. The party to whom I have alluded had sent away the greater number of mates to fetch their better halves to share the glory of Tooloom. What the digger laid claim to he obtained - fair measurement had settled the job, and I found that the man’s tact and boldness was generally commended. The claim of O’Donnell and his party had a good name in the township, but the people generally considered that he had blown rather too hard in that letter which appeared in the Brisbane papers. I was told that O’Donnell had denied the authorship; that the letter may not have been intended for publication by the writer, is another matter - Mr. Rosetta, of the Freemason’s Hotel, Brisbane, would be a capital witness to decide if the letter was written by the person whose signature it bore.

Public Houses

Mr. Brooks has rigged a place called ‘The Prospector’s Arms,’ and painting has been called to aid the caligraphic art, for there shines the pick and shovel on the signboard, emblems of the digging trade, under the shade of which the workers may take their grog and discourse on the precious metal, and the chances of finding it. Mr. Black has preserved the aboriginal dialect, his house rejoicing under the appellation of ‘The Tubra Inn.’ This last place formed the head quarters of your correspondent, who, a kind of cosmopolitan in his little way, wished all parties well, - bundles of fun and piles of gold. I must not say how many private grog shops were on the digging’s, but I have no doubt that every accommodation house, with a sheet of bark for a bedstead, and blankets for sheets, counterpanes, and all, could muster their little kegs and drops of various kinds of creature comforts which help to keep up the spirits, and are oftentimes productive of little scenes not fit for modest eyes, or to be heard by ears polite. I may not indulge in rhapsody, or allow my imagination to have free scope. The better part of valour, they say, is discretion, and I close the brief sketch of the hotels by hoping, that all at Tooloom may find it to be other than a land of promise.


The little stars looked peacefully down, as if taking pity on poor wretches having to find their way across gullies, and peeking to escape broken bones by avoiding holes, stumps, and dogs. The lights shine through the roofs - the calico shanties look as if showmen were giving a night performance. There is a sound of merriment, and the Tooloomers appear to have glad hearts. Oppressed with forebodings, I confess to disappointment, for there is the appearance of rough plenty, and sadder souls are in the genteel rooms of showy poverty than are allowed elbow room at the diggings. I heard Mr. Fleming praised for the prompt and liberal supply of flour which he sent. ‘We are nearly starved,’ said a digger to me, ‘I had nearly a month on beef and peas, and if I had been required to have held out much longer it would have cooked my goose.’

So ho! My companion at the hotel is a grazier. He had brought about 1000 sheep, so that the diggers might be supplied with mutton. Evidently he looked on me with distrust, which a political yarn did not lesson. The squatter could not convince me, and I could not convert him, so off we go to bed in the same room, though on different shake downs, he believing in my rascality, and I in his cool impudence - two dear delightful companions to be closeted together for a night. I admired many notions that he entertained, and liked what squatterdom had done for him; it had made him dare to assert his belief. Flocks and herds are powerful incentives to make a man independent in his feelings. A good night to you all, and may my friend understand me better in the morning.

The Diggings

I almost feel like a criminal for having kept you so long waiting for my report of the veritable diggings. It has not been done purposely - pray pardon me. The way was long, and the stories new, but now I am off for JOE’S GULLY. It will be better, however, for me to sketch the journey. A short distance from the ‘Tubra Inn’ brings the traveller to the banks of the creek where John Chinamen amuse themselves. There are a number of Celestials engaged in the interesting process of digging and washing. Patiently they appear to labour and the water they have for their work is scanty in quantity. Still they labour on, proof against the rough witticisms of the diggers from Europe, who, one and all, despise the comers from the land of where the claims land of Confucius, where the emperor claims to be lord of the sun and the moon. Probably the reason why these queer specimens of men take matters in such hum-drum style is, because they do not understand much of the languages in which they are constantly addressed. John Chinaman resorts to a sensible method for carrying the dirt. He who is appointed dirtman for the gang swings two buckets from a yoke, such as the London milkmen use, and all day long, before returning to Hong Kong (the name by which their quarters are known at Tooloom), do they continue to labour and toil, so that they may be a trifle richer before partaking of their curry and rice.

Passing over the creek by a primitive bridge, a fallen tree, the traveller has to clamber for it to the summit of the portion of Tooloom known as the Horse Paddock, in consequence of its being the place where the diggers turn their horse; and, protected as it is by the creek on all sides save one, it is rarely that the horses stray. A hard beaten footpath, looking as if trodden by a regiment of infantry in single file, is the way to another bend of the creek, which has also to be crossed. On the opposite side the traveller has to ascend, and after a fatiguing march of a mile, the way being adorned by tents and shanties, the bed of the creek is seen, and also the entrance to Joe’s Gully. If the traveller is unused to the rough ways of life he will not be able to descend readily; and a party of Melbournites, perceiving the difficulty of the way, were in the act of erecting an accommodation house about half way down the hill, for the convenience of diggers and the public in general, - heaven bless the speculators! If one of their lodgers should partake too freely of grog at Tooloom, and begin to descend and lose his balance, the house of accommodation would not form a house of refuge, for there is nothing but a sheet of unbleached calico between the traveller and the chasm below.

As it was hard to get to Joe’s Gully, and as I have brought the reader in sight, he must have mercy and wait until I got to the bottom. I will, however, for the benefit of inquirers after gold, say that my opinions of the gold-fields at Tooloom have taken a more favorable turn, and in the next part I may talk of all the acts pertaining to searching for the precious metal. For the present I rest in sight of the spot which has hitherto been the talismanic dream and promise. In my next I shall have stories to tell of wonderful nuggets, and dust, not of Ophir and Havillah, but of the diggings where the sympathies of the workers go with Queensland.'
The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports, 
Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #4: Fassifern to Koorelah Range

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series:
Moreton Bay Courier, 6 December 1859


MY last left you advised of my arrival at Balbi’s, and of my intention to fetch up with some intending Tooloomers, who were leaving the ‘Bush Inn,’ Fassifern, when I arrived.

On Wednesday morning, I made an early start, and, with Mr. Macdonald as a guide, I passed down the marked tree line, of which so much has been said as saving a distance of five miles, and soon after I was on the track for the noted scrub through which passengers have to pass. Under the shade of mountains, beautiful in appearance and majestic in height and boldness, the track winds circuitously until a creek is reached, at which point, skirting the water, the way is made into the scrub, which is about one mile and a-half through. To describe the roadway for horses and foot travellers here would not increase the desire that might animate the settlers in towns to try their fortune at the diggings. The reader may picture a stone staircase, very irregularly laid, by the hands of dame Nature, and ornamented with overhanging trees, from which the traveller on horseback must be extremely careful to protect his cranium. A horse also requires to be sure footed and well bottomed; and, if possessing both these qualifications, the journey may be made with an occasional slip, which, to a nervous temperament, is not the most agreeable shock though it may help eventually to induce a cure. At the top of the hill and end of the scrub, a slip rail has to be passed into Messrs. Hardy and Wienholt’s Paddock, which, by the way, is of considerable size, as large as a comfortable estate ; and after descending from no mean elevation the way is good to Moograh.

I might have been disposed to have said something of- the extent of what is called a paddock in the bush, had not my previous ride given me some faint notion of the runs, and have led me to expect that such princely estates would have also enclosures corresponding with the vastness of the country.

Moograh, an out station belonging to Fassifern, is delightfully situated on the top of a gently-rising knoll-has a small lagoon in its front, and is sheltered by mountains on all sides, save the road on which I was to travel. It gave me a clear insight into the wisdom and shrewdness of those who had made the selection. This place is delightfully situated for a village, and there is land enough, and fertile enough, adjacent to it to give all the requisites for a thriving agricultural community.

If the road I had passed through the scrub was the only approach to Moograh it would, for the purpose my fancy has indicated, be useless. Near to this point, however, the dray road joins the foot path; and having reached the point where I might with safety pursue my way alone, my guide returned, having received my thanks for his kindness. I am not prepared to discuss the prudence of the way. I was told five miles were saved by pursuing it. If I cannot praise the road I must praise the guide, Mr. Macdonald. It is difficult to become accustomed to some ways. My guide had seen the path often enough to say, using the colonial phrase respecting it, ‘Oh man! it’s nothing.’

View over the Moogerah Dam, 2012. (image here).

For two or three miles after leaving Moograh the road is level and easy to travel. I soon caught the foot passengers previously mentioned, and, as Hopeful said to Faithful, hoped to have some pleasant and profitable discourse. They were Parramatta men, who had been induced to try their luck from the representations made, but they were not in the best trim for yarning - they began to show symptoms of fatigue, and when a foot traveller is in that condition he does not want to be bothered by questions.

After descending a sharp hill I came up with a bullock-dray laden with goods belonging to Mr. Fleming, who also happened at that time to come up on his road from Tooloom. He acquainted me with the fact that the escort was ‘close up,’ and that some six hundred ounces of gold wore in their possession. I learned afterwards that two men, who were in Mr. Fleming’s company, had some three hundred ozs. in their possession, of which they were the bona fide owners and finders.

The road from this point to the ‘Fourteen Mile Station,’ belonging to Fassifern, is a series of gentle slopes, but at the time I travelled over there was a scarcity of water. From the ‘Fourteen Mile Station’ to ‘The Accommodation House’ at the foot of Kooreelah Range is about eight miles. The way is not first-class, but the road is so well beaten that a stranger cannot miss it.

Wednesday night brought me then, to the foot of Kooreelah Range, and not being disposed to try the journey further that night, I made up my mind to camp with Pat Carney, who has erected a large shanty, where he dispenses board and lodging, and gives information of the grounds of Beulah to the tired and footsore wayfarers.

I ought to have mentioned that several parties passed me during the day bound for Ipswich, and as I wanted information, I was not above asking questions. It is no easy matter to worm into a digger’s confidence. His vocation has taught him secrecy; and this, added to a trifling predominancy of acquisitiveness, which has no small degree to do with inducing the digger to leave home and friends, makes him not the most communicative subject in the world. From the various parties I learned that Tooloom was not the El Dorado it had been represented but they agreed that there was gold in payable quantities, providing a man’s desires were moderated to a fair day’s wages. One of the party, whom I will not mention, gave the average at a penny-weight a day – blowed the Ipswich Herald to Jericho for its blowing; but he sadly wandered from the path of consistent speaking when he confessed to having been on the diggings nearly five months, and was intending to return again.

Thus much for the road yarns. The Parramatta men and others also passed the parties alluded to, and when they reached the ‘Accommodation House’ were quite down in the mouth at the doleful news which they said they had heard. Mr. Carney heard their story - asked who was their informant, and when he was told he altered the tune by tolling the intending diggers that that fellow had, to his certain knowledge, taken down his ‘pile.’

A night at Carney’s, peeping between sheets of bark at the stars, though fairly lodged beside - a talk with a model bushman who took pot luck at the foot of the range - a lesson in damper making in the morning, after wandering four or five miles to find my yarraman, a stomachic foundation for the ranges, and then once more under weigh. But as a story of such a trip is better told day by day and in equitable divisions I halt and take breath before going up hill.

Koorelah Range

Up! up! up! for three or four miles, until ‘Vinegar Hill’ is neared. At this ‘pinch,’ what with loose stones and the steepness of the ascent, the place had better been named ‘The Mount of Difficulty.’ Up and down - now slipping, another time scrambling, all the while careful to make headway, with perspiration oozing from every pore, and the horse groaning and rushing until the top is climbed. Then there is a sight worth looking on. Mountain seems piled upon mountain. In the distance beneath lies range after range - the line of mountains near to Balbi’s looks small, and Switzerland cannot boast of finer mountain scenery; though in that land of poverty and independence the tops of their hills may be snow and ice-capped, the mountains of Koorelah are storm and cloud capped and there cannot be a finer sight or sketching place for a painter than the spot I have mentioned. Parrots of the most beautiful plumage chattered in the trees, seeming to exult in the grandeur, and far away as the eye could reach were ‘bush’-covered mountains, and under the eye deep glens with precipitate sides, not at all inviting to descend.

From the heights, by a circuitous course of some four miles, the traveller descends to the flats, at which point it will be found time to liquor. This, for a biped, is not very difficult, as there are a succession of deep, clear, and beautiful wells. The traveller can slake his thirst, but there is no drinking place for cattle without going half a mile down the flats, which, as I was then not acquainted with the fact, compelled my Rosinante to go thirsty a few miles further; an arrangement not at all agreeable.

All travellers over the first Koorelah Range from the ‘Accommodation House’ will be told that for the first nine miles of the way there is no water, and if they are wise they will provide themselves with some - as the difficulty of carriage will be amply repaid by the pleasure of a drink.

Along the flats the traveller passes until he reaches a solitary gunyah, which some bushman has erected, and which now serves the Escort for a halting and refreshment place. The country is good until other hills are reached. Water is to be found every three or four miles, and grass is abundant. This day I caught sight of a few cattle, the only ones I had seen for forty miles – and yet I have often heard it said that the country is taken up and stocked. All I passed up to this point may be taken up but that it is stocked as it ought to be, if the country is to remain entirely pastoral, is more than my faith will permit me to believe.

This day (Thursday), I made about thirty miles to the foot of Tooloom Range, at which place I camped under a bullock dray-heard the yarning of six return diggers, and in the morning at an early hour made haste to Tooloom.

Ascending and descending hills for a few miles brought me to a fine level country like a succession of beautiful lawns, until the slip-rail of Tooloom cattle station or paddock was reached, and an easy distance from this brought me to a splendid water fall called

Tooloom Falls

Fortunately for myself, I found a bullock dray and its attendants camped at the falls, and was, through this circumstance, enabled to devote some little attention to this natural wonder. The reader must picture some fifty or sixty feet of rock roadway, on one side of which is deep water level with the rocks, and on the other side a depth of thirty feet, that part nearest the falls being in the shape of an arc. The passage over the rocks is extremely dangerous. The action of the water has worn deep chasms and holes in the roadway, not at all favourable to the wheels of bullock drays or the legs of horses and man. That part of the rock road-way nearest to Tooloom is not more than fifteen or sixteen feet in width, and requires all the care of the drivers to make a sure passage. The usual mode of transit is to fasten on a double team of bullocks, so that those in front may keep the line straight, and thus drag over the drays. When the water rushes over the falls with great rapidity, which is always the case after heavy rains, passing would be an utter impossibility. Foot passengers have resorted to a log of timber when the water has been rushing over to secure themselves while passing the most dangerous part; but, judging from the appearance of the place in dry weather, and the not very pleasant passage afforded at such a time, when only a small quantity of water is running, I cannot say that I should feel any great inclination to risk my neck on so perilous a passage as it must be in the wet season, even though Tooloom nuggets were plentiful on the opposite shore.

The passage of the rocks I have only just barely noticed is over the Tooloom Creek, being a portion of that creek which is now so well known to many hundreds of diggers. The water on the side where the water falls must be a great depth. I saw several small turtles amusing themselves below, and I feel certain that if Albert Smith or Gordon Cumming, had seen so grand a place in their travels, the one would not have forgotten to have had it represented in transparent picture, and the other might, with poetic fancy, have pictured a lion lapping the water on the side nearest him in clear moonlight. Gold induces us all to do strange things - and gold is the guiding star over ‘Tooloom Falls.’ It is certain that many who travel in that quarter know only duty, and such I may certainly denominate the bullock drivers; since to make the passage of the falls with a laden bullock dray is not a trifling affair, or one that can be passed over without a few words of comment.

Sugar Loaf Mountain

A level road of two or three miles brings the traveller alongside the Sugar Loaf Mountain, so called in consequence of its appearance resembling a sugar loaf of gigantic magnitude. Round the base of this mountain, and for an easy distance up its sides, have prospecting parties visited. In all parts between the Falls and Tooloom proper have prospectors tried their luck, but it is difficult to report with what success, as many preserve almost a sullen silence, and labor on in hopes of meeting a rich reward.

From ‘The Falls‘ to Tooloom is called twelve miles - a long and weary twelve miles it is - but what of that, when the diggings are so near! A continuation of ups and downs and gullies, now and then a glimpse of ‘The Creek’ and at last the slaughterhouse is reached, about half-a-mile from the township, where the smell of the refuse of slaughtered bullocks is wafted to the olfactory sense in any thing but a sweet resemblance of those gales which are said to come from Araby the blest.

And now, in one half mile, we make the township of Tooloom, which, as I have run on to a great length in bringing the reader to the point, must be left for another letter.

The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports, Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)