Land of Coal and Corn (#4): Laidley, Boonah and Dugandan

The following article is extracted from the Brisbane Courier, 26 January 1892:

'Laidley is entitled to first position among the many small townships in the land of coal and corn. It has emerged from its swaddling clothes and is already a great agricultural centre, having a produce trade of its own exceeding that of any other town on the eastern slope of the Main Range. Owing its birth, as its growth, to its position, Laidley has from the first been visited by agriculturists who eagerly secured and settled upon the rich and productive areas of land which extend from the township right up to Mount Mistake at the head of Laidley Creek. No wildcat speculation nor booming operated to bring Laidley into existence, for only those who honestly desired to cultivate the soil and to make themselves a home in this sunny land settled in the district. It is estimated that more than 250 farmers are farming within ten miles of the town, and the chief products are potatoes, maize, lucerne, barley, rye, and a little wheat.

In twelve months 7299 tons of agricultural produce were sent out of the district, for which over £2423 was paid to the Railway Department. To this should be added 1241 tons of produce sent from Forest Hill, an agricultural settlement four miles west of Laidley; while Gatton, ten miles away, despatched 2887 tons, and Grantham 1488 tons. Laidley, which contains a population of nearly 600 people, is thus the active centre of a great agricultural district, and the town naturally possesses distinctive features. It is placed fifty-one miles from Brisbane, on the west of the Little Liverpool Range. After ascending the range and travelling through the long Victoria Tunnel, the Laidley Valley, with its cultivated patches, neat cottages and homesteads, and the hills in the background, forms a pleasant picture, and when the train halts at the railway platform the bustling little township, with its attractive surroundings and homely aspect, appeals to one most favourably.

A visit to the town and social intercourse with its people only tend to intensify the favourable impression usually formed at first sight. The atmosphere is that of an agricultural community, in which good taste and generous friendliness and hospitality prevail; the people are free from all that smacks of ostentation, while, when the age of the community is considered, the interest taken in literature and music is most commendable. The principal thoroughfare is Patrick street, and many of the buildings are substantial and neat in design. There are several hotels, where good accommodation at reasonable prices may be obtained, two banks, a school of arts, post and telegraph offices, public halls, and other evidences of comfort and civilisation. The township is very compact, and the wants of the inhabitants are met in every direction; nearly every religious denomination has its own place of worship, there are two good State schools, debating classes, temperance and benefit organisations, an agricultural society, and an excellent local newspaper, the Lockyer Star, owned by Robinson and Co..

Settlers bark hut, Laidley Creek, c.1880 (John Oxley Library)

The climate is ever agreeable, and Laidley is a particularly healthy and pleasant place in which to live, unless during the wet season. Unfortunately the township is built on a flat, and subject to inundation. The original township was placed on a hill, about half a mile from the present position of the town, but when the railway was constructed it was found necessary for business reasons to come down and settle along-side the line. In flood time the main street usually carries a few feet of water, and this is not agreeable, but after all it is no worse than many parts of the metropolis in similar trying times.

Laidley is rich in beautiful surroundings, and to anyone who desires to spend a pleasant holiday rambling among the Queensland hills it will be found without a peer among the Southern towns. The Laidley valley is dotted with farms, cultivated areas, and glorious patches of green scrub. The range of hills has a beauty all its own; from every gorge and projecting spur each point of view has a charm peculiar to itself, the whole making a never-ending variety of wondrous scenery. No pleasanter day’s outing in all Queensland can be imagined than a ride up Laidley Creek. From the top of the range which divides Laidley Creek from Sandy Creek a magnificent panorama can be obtained - in the foreground the warm scrub lands; in the middle distance the valley dotted with farms and small villages; while the hills of the range in the distance alone shut out a view of Brisbane and the Pacific Ocean. From this point can be seen Mount Zael, Mount Cooper, and Mount Mistake. On the slope of the latter mountain are several very romantic and picturesque waterfalls. Sandy Creek winds round and round these hills, and its banks are alive with birds and wild flowers. Here may be found the rifle and regent birds, the gigantic kingfisher, scrub dove, bittern, curlew, swamp pheasant, landrail, fishtail, the pittern or dragon bird, abundance of snipe, while in the waters may be found the platypus and plenty of fish. The creek in many parts is quite 15ft. deep, affording ample room for a refreshing swim, while the white acacia and the red honeysuckle form pleasant retreats for the tired traveller. In the course of the creeks are scores of delightful picnic spots. The reader may leave Brisbane in the morning and be lost among the running brooks, the peaceful dells, the miniature chasms, and the thousand and one beauties of the Laidley Valley before the setting of the sun. Were the Laidley people wise they would organise a big picnic to one of the beauty spots near the town and invite a score or two of metropolitans. As an advertisement for the district this form could not be surpassed.

Boonah and Dugandan

One of the brightest and smartest townships in the West Moreton district is Boonah, a settlement placed almost at the terminus of the Dugandan line, thirty-six miles from Ipswich. Dugandan and Boonah, although only half a mile apart, have divided interests. It is said that Boonah owes its existence to the cupidity of some of the Dugandan landholders who, when the railway was completed, refused to part with their land except at ridiculously high prices. The new comers thereupon removed their tents to a fairly high piece of ground half a mile away, and setting to work with a will soon established a township which has fairly eclipsed the older town. Boonah is only four years old, and yet is one of the most wide-awake progressive townships in Queensland. It is literally embosomed in the scrub, and is wonderfully attractive. It now possesses a neat courthouse, bank, divisional board’s office, State school, school of arts, three churches and an equal number of public-houses, and several remarkably well-appointed stores. A plot of land has also been set apart for a show ground, and the residents are endeavouring to establish a huge bacon factory in close proximity to the town. The railway station is awkwardly placed on the wrong side of the railway line, and is a miserable little shed utterly inadequate to meet the requirements of the place. Many private residences are in course of erection, and ere long Boonah will be a large and prosperous town. One of the finest country hotels in Queensland is to be found in Boonah. Dugandan, or rather the shade of the old place, lies in a plain half a mile distant, and here are two or three stores and two saw-mills, while Teviot Brook meanders peace- fully away on towards Coochin. Dugandan is a great timber centre, receiving supplies from Coochin, Milford, Mount Friend, and Upper Coochin, and also from Mount French and the Sugarloaf, three miles away. One of the sawmills (Cossart’s) was in full working order at the time of my visit, finding employment for many men. Everything around Boonah and Dugandan was in an active and flourishing condition, in sharp contrast to other places, and it was gratifying to find that during all the bad times substantial and gratifying progress had been made.

Bullock team, J. McCourt’s store, Dugandan, ca. 1904 (Boonah Archive)

There is nothing to fear for the district with agriculture as a foundation. The natural beauties of the whole place are manifold. From Dugandan the visitor can easily ride to Coochin and Maroon stations and on past Mount Lindesay into the valley of the Richmond River. There are scores of lovely vistas, and the whole country side is full of delightful rural scenes indicative of peaceful and prosperous husbandry. The railway from Ipswich runs through a magnificent tract of agricultural land, the greater portion of which is cleared and cultivated. Peak Crossing, Mount Flinders, Harrisville, Wilson’s Plains, Radford, Munbilla, and the Dugandan Scrub form a series of views scarcely to be excelled in any part of the colony, and tourists will find abundance of material in the short run of thirty-six miles not only to delight their senses but also to swell their sketch-books and photographic albums.

Land of Coal and Corn (#3): The Progress of Ipswich (Part Two)

The following article is extracted from the Brisbane Courier, 18 November 1891:

'For several years after the turning of the sod which marked the inauguration of railway works in Queensland, Ipswich enjoyed a run of prosperity the like of which has scarcely fallen to any other town in Queensland. It was the meeting place of all the sheep kings in the colony, and the old Club-house was the scene of many a midnight revel; it was the seat of learning, of politics, science, art, literature, and sport - the modern Athens. Ipswich was then spoken of as the headquarters of the elite of Queensland, and Brisbane a deserted outlying hamlet fit only to give a bandicoot the blues! In 1861 the squatters arranged a race meeting, the principal prize being 1000 guineas, the race being superbly won by Zoe in the presence of some 7000 persons. In these old days it was a town with some prestige, inhabited by capable clever men, “fine old English gentlemen,” with the rare courtesies and manners of that race. And how hard they fought to make Ipswich the capital of Queensland! One very effective weapon which they used was the Ipswich Punch, published monthly at the School of Arts by members of the “Punch Club.” The publication was in manuscript, and profusely illustrated with many exceedingly clever and powerful political skits and cartoons. There was quite a host of talented contributors, including Messrs. A. H. Burkitt, J. Atkinson, W. Duesbury, Finucane, Thistlewayte, and C. F. Chubb. Ipswich is thus described in the sixties by one wag:


Oh, Ipswich is a pleasant place,
Which to visit is a treat;
Where calves and geese are mostly found 
A-grazing in the street.
Why should they not? the streets are wide,
I’m sure there’s ample space,
And it gives an air so picturesque 
To this truly rural place.

It was Brisbane, however, which was the butt of all jokes and a popular object for ridicule. Contempt was poured upon the metropolis in every way. We find a schoolmaster eliciting from an Ipswich pupil the following replies to his questions:- “Where is Brisbane, and for what is it noted? The situation of Brisbane has never been clearly ascertained owing to the shifting of the mud, and it is noted for sheep’s heads, lollies, corner allotments, insolvents, stagnant sewers, and the ancient ruins of a bridge. Where is the great city of Ipswich, and for what is it famed? It is situated on the banks of a noble river l6ft. 5in. broad, and deep in proportion. It is a convenient distance from Woogaroo, where the inhabitants take it in turn to reside free of charge. It is noted for loafers, light weights, lawyers, sharp practice, and tight lacing.” 

Then there is a cartoon representing surveyors with theodolites nearly submerged in a swamp endeavouring to take a survey, while underneath is written: - “The Brisbane quidnunes are determined to have a resurvey for their railway, and prove to the Ipswich muffs that 20ft. below flood mark is the correct thing.” The following skit is evidence of the hostility which was shown to the proposed construction of a railway line between Ipswich and Brisbane :- “Tenders will be received immediately for the construction of a new wing to the Woogaroo Asylum for the accommodation of several hundred patients from Brisbane, whose insanity has arisen from the present Ministry opposing the absurd scheme of a railway to Ipswich. Tenders will also be required for strait waistcoats for said patients. Plans and specifications to be sent to the circumlocution office. The largest tender will be accepted. N.B.- No Brisbane contractor need apply. The portraits of some of the individuals may be seen below.” Punch remained a power until 1871, and the volumes are now, as they deserve to be, carefully preserved in the School of Arts. The sixties produced many social and literary societies in Ipswich, all of which, with the honourable exception of the Parliamentary class, have long since faded away. At the beginning of this month the Ipswich Parliamentary class closed its twenty-sixth session.

Grandchester station, ca. 1879, the oldest railway
station in Queensland 
(John Oxley Library)

Ipswich was the head of navigation and the terminus of the Western Railway for quite ten years. The line to Grandchester, or Bigge’s Camp, was opened in July of 1865, and ten years later the line was opened to Brisbane. This result was only obtained after a severe struggle, the Ipswich Parliamentary “bunch” fighting strenuously to preserve the supremacy of old Limestone. The onward march of events and the marvellous growth of the colony was, however, against them, and looking back into the past it strikes the observer as surprising that the “bunch” were so long successful in their obstructive tactics. However, modern Athens was slowly undergoing a change, long before the link which was to bring Ipswich and Brisbane into touch had been constructed. Shrewd business men recognised that the railway to Brisbane was inevitable, and many leading firms, such as Clark, Hodgson, and Co. and J. and J. Harris and Co., made preparations to transfer their business to the metropolis. The squatters, too, were moving further afield, land was being gradually taken up by agriculturists, and the prospects of the district as an agricultural, in contradistinction to a pastoral, centre were being canvassed. In 1866, I think, the Pastoral, Agricultural, and Horticultural Society was established, such men as B. Cribb, J. C. Foote, F. C. Daveney, J. F. G. Foxton, P. O’Sullivan, H. M. Cockburn, James Foote, Harry Challinor, and others taking part in its formation. Stirring speeches in regard to their agricultural prospects were then made by Mr. W. Vowles and Mr. H. Kilner, and the foundation was laid of a great corn-producing centre.

It was known that coal existed in the Ipswich district many years ago, in fact Allan Cunningham in his historical despatch of 1828 mentions that “a stratum or seam of coal has been observed on the Bremer,” but it was not until 1866 that definite steps were taken to systematically work the seams. In that year Mr. Thomas (the present proprietor of Aberdare) went to Ipswich to open the coal seams at Bundamba on behalf of Mr. Malbon Thompson. That year was certainly a red-letter one for the colony, and Ipswich bade fair to reap many advantages from her coal resources. The abundant carboniferous deposits of the Ipswich basin speedily became known, and new mines were opened as the years rolled on. It was not till the seventies, however, that Ipswich began to export her coal, or the citizens of the town to recognise that their district was eminently adapted - indeed set apart by Nature - as a manufacturing and industrial centre. Indeed, it is only now beginning to be understood that if a manufacturing industry is to be made to pay well in this colony it must be established either in or around Old Limestone, in close proximity to the coal mines. One or two small manufacturing industries were established in the seventies, and in 1879 a few far-seeing men successfully floated the Ipswich Woollen Mills, the ramifications of which now run throughout the length and breadth of the colony. One industry begat another, and Ipswich, which had been at one time almost threatened with extinction, slowly but surely forged ahead. Agriculture and manufacture were married in 1880, and from that year the West Moreton district has made marvellous progress, such progress indeed as now stamps it as the leading producing district of Queensland.

(From the Brisbane Courier, 28 November 1891):

The town of Ipswich, according to the last census returns, contains a population of 10,202 persons, the majority being females. In the districts of Fassifern, Stanley, and West Moreton the population is given at 26,030, and Old Limestone is the centre of this multitude. During the past five years the growth of Ipswich has been very slow. Only 600 persons have been added to the population since 1886, an increase for which the natural birth rate may be held accountable. Much progress has been made, however, in the district, and in the five years the increase has been over 5000 persons representing a bona fide settlement on the land which no other district in the colony can show within the same period. A few years ago Ipswich practically commanded the whole of the trade of the West Moreton district but much of it now comes to Brisbane. The more diffusive Ipswich became the more she suffered. Her merchants helped to bring into existence such nourishing townships as Harrisville, Boonah, Rosewood, Marburg, Laidley, Fernvale, Esk, and other places, and as they grew and prospered and were tapped by railway communication they became independent principalities, were visited by commercial ambassadors from Brisbane, and cultivated relationship with the merchant princes of the metropolis. From a commercial point of view nothing has dragged Ipswich down quicker than the very railways for which she noisily clamoured. From a busy and important commercial entrepot she has dwarfed down to a wayside station, past which the business of her sons and daughters rushes at express haste to the metropolis. Ipswich is never likely to arrest this trade, but she gives promise of raising a fruitful source of industry within her own borders, and thus being independent of the favours of those whom she nursed in their weakness but who in the days of their strength allowed themselves to be charmed by strange voices.

Ipswich is finely situated on both sides of the Bremer River, twenty four miles from Brisbane by rail, or fifty-two miles by water. It covers, altogether, a surface of nearly two and a half miles square. The main street - Brisbane street - runs directly through the principal portion of the town, mid extends in an easterly direction to Brisbane and westward to Toowoomba. The original portion of the town is chiefly built on a fine terrace-like eminence, and from many points an extensive prospect of the surrounding country is obtained. The northern portion of the town lies on the opposite bank of the river, and here are rapidly concentrating the manufacturing establishments of the town. Ipswich may be briefly described as a very pleasant and well-built little town plentifully provided with all sorts of grain, fruits, coal, and “what else is proper for the comfortable use of man,” or can be expected in any other place in the colony. Its manufacturing energies are slowly unfolding and as time goes on will be more and more developed. The principal manufacturing concern is the Woollen Company’s mills, which were opened in 1877, and which are now producing nearly 175,000 yards of tweed annually, and affording direct employment to 300 hands. Endeavours are being made to extend the output of textile fabrics, and to this branch of industry will shortly be added the manufacture of cotton goods and cotton thread, for which purpose a company has been formed. In time to come Ipswich is likely to occupy a prominent position among industrial centres in regard to the production of textile fabrics, but her enterprise is by no means confined to this branch of industry.

Not long since a few of her citizens bravely undertook the construction of railway locomotives, and although this new path was hedged about with difficulties, still they were surmounted, and Old Limestone has demonstrated that it is not necessary to go abroad for our railway engines. The authorities have reported that the engines turned out from the private foundry at North Ipswich are equal in every respect to the imported ones. At the extreme end of North Ipswich are the railway workshops, substantial brick buildings where our rolling stock is kept in repair. There have been repeated political attempts to shift these workshops to Brisbane, but common sense has invariably triumphed and the workshops are still in a most suitable place, where there is ample room and abundance of good coal within easy reach. While Ipswich grows corn and produces coal, manufactures tweeds and builds locomotives, she by no means despises the day of small things. At North Ipswich there is a first class pottery, where bricks, filters, drain pipes, fruit jars, teapots, &c., are turned out daily, and where quite recently the manufacture of ink bottles has been undertaken At Bundamba and Dinmore several brick works and potteries are in full swing, all contributing their quota to the prosperity of the district. At Churchill, southwards, are several tanneries, a soap factory, and a little further out the celebrated Warilla wine gardens. In close proximity to the town are several sawmills and many minor industrial establishments.



Ipswich Railway Workshops, c.1887 (John Oxley Library)

In general architectural appearance the town of Ipswich presents few features calling for particular attention. The streets are for the most part fairly wide if somewhat uneven. As usual in colonial towns, its principal edifices suffer in effect from the contiguity of less imposing structures. The principal feature in Brisbane-street is the pile set apart for the School of Arts and Municipal Chambers, and also the Post and Telegraph Offices which adjoin; yet they are ineffective specimens of design. The Lands Office in East-street is a fairly imposing structure, while further along is the dingy court house which should either be razed to the ground or devoted to some other purpose than that for which it is at present used. The local hospital commands a fine position, and the buildings without being pretentious are compact and comfortable, and with the trees and foliage which surround them give the place a very cosy and attractive appearance.


Brisbane Street. (Historical Sketch of Queensland, 1886)

The Boys’ Grammar School, erected at a cost of £11,000 twenty eight years ago, stands on the crest of a hill and commands an extensive and pleasant prospect. The Girls’ Grammar School at the opposite end of the town and also set on a hill, is a naked unattractive building. When the newly planted trees grow, however, the effect will be richer. Strange to say Ipswich does not possess one really good State school. The Girls’ Central is a cold dirty looking structure, formerly used as a wool store while Scott’s school – as it is familiarly known is a weather beaten brick building without any external or internal beauties. The North Ipswich School is spacious enough, but not such a building that an amateur photographer would care to waste any negatives over. There are many handsome private business establishments in Ipswich. Around the town are scores of really charming residences, where taste and luxury abound. Homes they are in the true sense as evidenced by the choice gardens, the lawns, fernhouses, and neat stables which rarely find a place on rented properties. A short distance out is the Sandy Gallop Asylum, at present inhabited by about 120 demented ones. The institution stands on a fine hill, and is thoroughly fitted up and equipped. Scrupulous care is extended to the patients, who are just as comfortable as it is possible to make them. A little further on is the spacious and lovely ‘city of the dead’ placed on a plain. It is intersected with gravelled walks, neatly trimmed and adorned with a profusion of shrubs and flowering plants, while a considerable number of cypress pines lend additional beauty and solemnity to the grounds.

The public gardens of Ipswich are most charming, and from the crest of the hill - ‘the Lovers Walk,’ as it is sentimentally termed - one can command a very lovely, varied, and comprehensive landscape. Looking to the westward a beautiful tract of country is seen terminating in the mountains of the Main Range, the Enoggera Ranges run away in the south, while the outskirts of Brisbane can be seen on a clear day. Lying at the foot of the hill is Ipswich, and the windings of the Bremer River can be traced for miles. The gardens are a most pleasant retreat, but to my mind the Ipswich people do not sufficiently appreciate the privilege which they possess in this respect, that is if I may be allowed to judge by the few frequenters who are to be met there. – Queenslander'


Land of Coal and Corn (#2): The Progress of Ipswich (Part One)

The following is extracted from the Brisbane Courier, 2 November 1891:

'Ipswich was declared a municipality on the 3rd of March, 1860, a few months after the separation of Queensland from New South Wales had been granted. It was a day of patriotic rejoicing on the Limestone Hills. The honour and responsibility of local self-government was, however, not gained without a struggle. Fighting is even now a characteristic of the Ipswich people. It was so in the forties and the sixties, and has not disappeared in the nineties. In the “Government Gazette” of the 19th of January, 1860, a petition appeared signed by eighty-one householders praying that Ipswich might be formed into a municipality, and a few weeks afterwards a counter petition was published signed by over ninety persons. The latter were of opinion that the expense of a municipality was not warranted, and that it would prove a burden grievous to be borne.

At this time Ipswich contained a population of over 3000 persons, and was without doubt the most prosperous town in the new colony. Young, vigorous, and insolent was the new municipal bantling, and no opportunity did it lose of defiantly crowing over the fence at the Brisbane rooster. The first aldermanic election took place on the 19th of April, 1860, when the following gentlemen were declared duly elected: - John Murphy, 191 votes; John Johnstone, 170; Charles Watkins, 157; Donald Bethune, 147; Christopher Gorry, 140; J. M. Thompson, 98; John Pettigrew, 80; Francis North, 79; and T. Stanley, 70. Mr. Murphy was elected mayor, and occupied that position for several years.

The declaration required by the Municipal Act was duly taken before Colonel Gray, P.M., and one of the rooms attached to the court-house set apart for the use of the corporation. At one of the first meetings of the council, Mr. E. B. Cullen (the present Under Colonial Treasurer) was appointed town clerk, at a salary of £200 per annum. The first resolution moved on 1st May, 1860, was to the effect that the council should make application to the Government to place a sum of money on the Estimates for 1860 for the purpose of repairing that part of the main road from Brisbane to Drayton and the interior known as Brisbane-street; while the second resolution was to the effect that the mayor and aldermen accept Sir George Bowen’s invitation to be present at a ball in Brisbane on the 24th of May. Thus do extremes meet.

Some good names appear in the council’s records during three or four years following Separation, but many of them have long since crossed the dark river. Mention may be made of Mr. M. O’Malley (now a civil service commissioner), who served as an alderman in 1802, Mr. Arthur Macalister, Mr. Ben. Cribb, and Mr. George Thorn being brother aldermen, while Mr. Wm. Hendren and Mr. Francis North joined the council the following year. Excellent work was performed in these early days, and it is impossible to look back upon the efforts then made without some admiration for those who paved the way for us. That much narrowness of mind, class hostility, and local jealousy existed may be taken for granted, but co-existent with these was a desire for progress, and a combination of practical skill, patience, and grit which worked wonders. The Ipswich people were of necessity compelled to fight hard; they were the first to demand the obliteration of the convict brand from the colony, and they successfully resisted the squatters when they, in their desire for cheap labour, demanded a resumption of transportation. 

When in December of 1859 a proclamation was issued constituting electoral districts in Queensland, it was seen that the framer of the plan had purposely designed to give the pastoral interest an overwhelming preponderance in Parliament, and Ipswich, although a squatting town and one which had been granted no fewer than three members, was one of the first places to point out the inequality. The North Australian, which had been started in Ipswich in 1855, so fiercely assailed the pastoral industry, and so consistently attempted to thwart the squatters’ schemes, that Mr. Macalister and others promoted the Ipswich Herald (now the Queensland Times) in 1859, and it proved a victorious rival, practically running the North Australian out of the field. 

Amid all the dust raised by disputes and bickerings on political questions, efforts at social advancement were not lost sight of, and the years 1859-1860 were really the beginning of prosperous times for Ipswich, and marked the foundation of many public institutions. A desire sprang up for closer social intercourse, and for privileges of a more refined and educative character than had hitherto obtained. The School of Arts was established on a firm basis, and replaced an institution of a somewhat feeble kind which was in existence, and here met all the choice spirits of the day - the leading squatters, solicitors, civil servants, tradesmen, and others. A new court-house was built at Ipswich, and a circuit court proclaimed, while St. Paul’s Church was finished and opened; an application for a botanic garden and recreation reserve was successful, and the small number of newspapers then published in the colony was swelled by the publication of the Ipswich Herald. In the same year the Volunteer movement was initiated, and the banks, of which there were three, erected comfortable buildings. These being larger than those in Brisbane afforded the Ipswichians a magnificent opportunity, which was not lost, of making scornful comparisons. On the 13th of April, 1861, Ipswich was connected with Brisbane by telegraph wire, and it may be of interest to give a copy of the first message transmitted:-
13th April, 1861.
Message for C. J. Gray, Esq., P.M.
The Governor-in-Council congratulates the people of Ipswich on the establishment of telegraphic communication between the two chief towns of Queensland.
To which congratulatory message the police magistrate replied as follows;
The people of Ipswich feel much obliged by the communication from his Excellency the Governor-in-Council, and are assured that this mode of communication will be an additional means of cementing the good feeling existing between the inhabitants of the two principal towns of Queensland.
Ipswich Grammar School (Historical Sketch of Queensland, 1886)

The first Grammar School in Queensland was opened in Ipswich on the 25th of September, 1863, by Governor Bowen. This result was not attained without strenuous exertions and the calling out of the spirit of party struggle. The Municipal Council took an interest in the education of deserving young men, and on the 5th of October of the same year it was moved in the council by Alderman Pettigrew that the council give two scholarships to the Ipswich Grammar School for the period of five years. At a subsequent meeting, from which Alderman Pettigrew was absent, Alderman Chubb moved that the council give the sum of £125 for the creation of a scholarship in the Ipswich Grammar School to be invested by the trustees and the interest available every three years for that purpose. This was carried, but subsequently on the motion of Alderman O’Malley, seconded by Alderman Shenton, was rescinded. Alderman Chubb then modestly asked for the sum of £12 to be set aside as a gift from the ratepayers, but this also was refused.

Thursday, 25th February, 1864, was a red letter day for Ipswich, for the event which was then celebrated marked the inauguration of works in connection with the first railway built in Queensland. The ceremony was performed on “the more elevated portion of that park-like land at North Ipswich immediately fronting the southern portion of the town at Ellenborough.” Governor and Lady Bowen were present, having “arrived in Ipswich to assist at the ceremonial, in the steamer Ipswich, on Wednesday.” We learn from a report in the Guardian that “the Brisbane Rifle Corps appeared in plumes which had been recently given to them by the Government. The Ipswich corps were to have been similarly furnished, but the promise has not been kept, and the Ipswich Volunteers think that in this as in other matters the Brisbane body is unduly favoured by the Government.”

Satire on the Ipswich Volunteers: 'The Ipswich Volunteers, not
having been ‘Reviewed’ for a long time, ‘Colonel Punch’ wishes
now to ‘Review’ them himself.' (Ipswich Punch
, 15 August 1866)

His Excellency appears to have been enthusiastically received, and was presented by the Railway Committee and the corporation with addresses. After his Excellency had replied, the Minister for Lands and Works then invited Lady Bowen to honour the event by turning the first sod, at the same time presenting a silver shovel with a suitable inscription. Lady Bowen, amid loud cheers, proceeded to turn the first sod of the first Queensland railway and to deposit the turf in the barrow. Mr. Wilcox (representative of Peto, Brassey, and Betts) then wheeled the barrow up the plank to the ‘tip’ in true workmanlike style. This concluded the ceremony, and the viceregal party left the ground amid the cheers of the spectators and another salute from the ‘big guns.’ Thus ended a ceremony which marked the opening of a new era of prosperity for Queensland.

Letter to the Editor, Brisbane Courier, 5 November 1891.

'LIMESTONE AGAIN
Sir,- Your correspondent’s second letter evokes further memories in me. When Ipswich and Darling Downs influence combined had beaten Brisbane on the railway question in 1863, they had a night of it in Limestone; even Ben. Cribb smoked a friendly cigar that evening with the graziers of the Downs, and I do not think tobacco was ever much in his line. Good Old Ipswich! It was a “live” place from ‘54 to ‘61; but it is peopled with ghosts now when one recalls these who were there and “are not.” John Gammie, John Panton, Geo. Thorn, John Crowder, Wm. Dorsey, Blyth of Blythdale, Jimmy Laidley, Frank Lucas, “Gig-lamps” Hamilton, John Murphy, Wattie Gray, and the “Colonel,” of that ilk; but why continue the list? Who remembers them? Why, the very list of aldermen brings a whiff of the old times. Charley Watkins, the auctioneer, with his huge earrings! And the other Charley W. - namely, Wheeler. Well, at the risk of being prolix, I must tell you two “yarns,” indicative of the times that were, but are no longer. When the Moreton Bay people clamoured for separation, “Old Mother Sydney” told us that the public creditor would not stand having part of his security taken away, and we must not ask for our liberty, when uprose Charley Wheeler, of Ipswich, a commission and forwarding agent in a small way, but of the usual gigantic Ipswich intellect, and thus he delivered himself: “What an absurd objection to separation! the public creditor! indeed! see here! we should be quite satisfied to take up the New South Wales ‘account’ ourselves (as if it were some small sheep station). Give us full security over New South Wales and her assets, and we will be responsible for her little debts, so that need not stand in the way any more.” There is a sublimity and grasp about this 1858 speech that neither modern Brisbane nor modern Ipswich could emulate. The men of ‘58 are extinct. The “Social Villagers” (as they called themselves), of Ipswich, F. A. Forbes, Jock Pettigrew, Billy Handcock, of Drayton, and Rossiter, of Sydney (sometimes called Grossiter by “Wag” Nicol, on account of his stoutness), once played a joke on a young American merchant, named Fisher, who made a fortune in the subsequent “Secesh” war, but who could not make a living in Moreton Bay, which, he said, was the “last place ever made.” Godfrey O’Rourke, of Limestone, at that time drew the best glass of English ale north of Port Jackson, and the “Villagers” all knew it well. Fisher wanted to get back to Sydney by the monthly steamer leaving Brisbane next day, so the “Villagers” plotted to make him lose his passage by the river boat which alone could catch the ocean steamers, and they succeeded, with the aid of O’Rourke. There were no coaches or railways then. But Fisher resolved not to be baulked, so he, eluding his persecutors, started to walk to Brisbane at 7 p.m. He reached the inn at Woogaroo at midnight, refreshed, and emerged from another door and marched onwards, and at daybreak he breasted a hill, and it struck him all at once that Brisbane when approached from the south-west looked most remarkably like Ipswich when approached from the north-east quarter, and in another moment the full horror of his position dawned upon him. He had taken the wrong outlet at midnight at Woogaroo Hotel and had been steadily tramping back to Ipswich the rest of the night. He was dead beat from fatigue; he had hopelessly lost the Sydney boat for a month; the raillery of the pitiless “Villagers” at this fresh episode was neither to be faced nor thought of even; so he kept it dark and laid low in Brisbane for a month longer. Poor clever Fisher! He died early in the 70’s and will never trouble the Bremer again. He was here just thirty years too soon. There were no unemployed, no “labour party,” no relief works, no British loans in these happy days. The few mechanics in the towns had plenty to do, and the men in the bush had their maize, pumpkins, and pigs and fowls, and these things - such as tea, sugar, and clothes - which they could not grow themselves they got the money for by fencing, splitting, shearing, and bullock-driving, &c., for a few months in every year. They did not go to the Government with their troubles, for the times had been too fresh in their memory when “John Government” (not the paternal article of the present day, fed on votes) used to apply the cat-o’-nine-tails to all grumblers.
- I am, sir, &c., N. BARTLEY.'

Land of Coal and Corn (#1): The Foundation of Ipswich

(This article is reproduced from the Brisbane Courier, 20 October 1891.)

'Writing to Governor Darling on the l6th December 1828, Allan Cunningham, the explorer, made use of the following words – ‘It is therefore highly probable that upon the site of those limestone hills a town will one day be raised’. Some two months before the penning of the despatch which contained this sentence, Cunningham had rested for awhile on the calcareous hummocks called the Limestone Hills, on the right bank of the Bremer River, and almost on the very spot where the Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School now stands What was the sight which then presented itself to him?

Down at his feet he could trace the river Bremer flashing in and out, turning and winding with ever-varying curve, and at every bend presenting a new scene of loveliness. Its banks were fresh with spring growth, and richly tangled with vegetation, while the grass trees reared their heads from the open flats - queer apparitions in a singularly beautiful land. Stretching from the riverbanks in many parts were open flats which lost themselves in the low hills beyond, and those, too, finally merged in the great mountains in the background to which Cunningham’s eyes were directed, and on the other side of which he discovered a land of promise. The country was of a fine undulating nature, open apple tree flats, low hills and forest grounds, well-watered, and every thing looked fair and promising.

Allan Cunningham (John Oxley Library)
Allan Cunningham (John Oxley Library)

There was the blemish of sin upon it, however. On yon hill a party of convicts were at work, guarded by British soldiers armed with the old Brown Bess, and their work consisted of lime burning. From a great kiln built on the slope of a hill the fumes of lime arose in a white, transparent cloud, and near its mouth the broad-arrow branded coat of the convict was in close juxtaposition to the scarlet coat of the soldier of the 20th or 40th Regiment. Away down on the river lay two boats which were manned by convicts and guarded by soldiers, and were being loaded with baskets of lime to be conveyed to Brisbane Town, there to be used to build that old convict barrack which for so long a time disfigured Queen street.

On the flats and undulating grounds lying to the north east a small flock of Government sheep were grazing, and half a mile from the lime kiln was a small patch of country of ‘black colour,’ which, if one might judge from the luxuriant growth of vegetables cultivated in a small patch of golden ground belonging to the soldiers, was of rich quality. Around the lime-burning station the aboriginals were frequently observed prowling through the woods, indeed they had the presumption to threaten the lives of his Majesty’s soldiers guarding his Majesty’s convicts who were burning the aboriginals’ lime, and a corporal and three privates were on guard ready to shoot to the death the first aboriginal who dared to object.

The scene was an interesting one then, it is a particularly interesting one to look back upon now. Cunningham’s keen eyes observed the possibilities of the land he was studying. He noticed chalk among the hills, and coal in the Bremer River and in the steep banks of dry creeks dipping to Brisbane. He also noticed the black soil country, the land clothed with grasses, the navigable nature of the Bremer, and he thereupon draws deductions and writes to his chief, ‘It is therefore highly probable that upon the site of these limestone hills a town will one day be raised’. His prophetic vision has long been realised, and Ipswich is today a flourishing town placed on the limestone hills, in the heart of a vast coal and corn producing district.

One little extract from Cunningham’s despatch is, in the light of recent events, worth quoting. He wrote thus sixty-three years ago: - ‘Bremer’s River, which at its mouth is about forty yards wide, preserves a uniformity of breadth of thirty and thirty-five yards throughout its tortuous course of ten miles to the Limestone Station, which point may be considered the head of navigation, for almost immediately beyond ledges of rock occupy the bed of the river, which at length rises and separates the fresh water from the salt. To this station (up to which the tide flows) the Bremer is of sufficient depth to be navigable for boats or craft of thirty or forty tons, and as it expands and forms a natural basin a short distance below the station of upwards of one hundred yards in width and with a depth of water sufficient to float a large ship, the importance of building a wharf on the right hand bank of this basin, to which the produce of the interior might be conveyed to be embarked, will at some future day be seen. The circumstance, moreover, of this river being thus far navigable for craft of a certain class, and the consequent saving to the farmer of that expense which is necessarily attendant on the wear and tear of a long land carriage of internal produce to the coast, cannot possibly fail when this country becomes settled on to be duly considered.’

Ipswich landing place, Nov 24, 1851 1851, Conrad Martens (Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)
Ipswich landing place, Nov 24, 1851 1851, Conrad Martens
(
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)

The earliest glimpse of Ipswich is a scene where a few criminals are expiating their offences against the laws of the mother land, and in so doing are turning to account the natural products of a new country, and in a rough rude way laying the foundations of a great manufacturing town. It is evident that for some years Limestone remained in the possession of the Government and was used as a convict station, but the lime kilns, which may be seen even at the present day, were apparently not used for any great length of time. The flats were cultivated by the soldiers, and vegetables and corn were sent down to the garrison at Brisbane Town, to be used in conjunction with Limestone-bred beef and mutton. When, in consequence of Cunningham’s discovery of the pastoral lands of the Darling Downs, this colony (then part of New South Wales) was declared freed from the convict bond, and the New South Wales squatters began to turn their attention to the rich lands lying out from Brisbane, Limestone at once rose to a place of importance. For one thing it was the head of navigation, and it was from the apple-tree flats on the banks of the Bremer that teams were loaded with rations for the newly laid out stations on the Downs. Nearly all the passengers who came from Sydney in the steamer Sovereign in March of 1843 - the first trading steamer, I believe, which ever came to Brisbane - went to Limestone. Many of them were under engagement to the squatters, and were bound for the Condamine, Cecil Plains, Jimbour, or the big plains beyond Dalby. A blazed track showed the way to these important stations, and the means of climbing the Main Range were as may be supposed, both primitive and dangerous, while the blacks were numerous but shy. Limestone was at this time the depot of the squatters, their meeting place, and in fact the hub of the northern parts of New South Wales. Brisbane with its gaol, its ‘female factory,’ and other undesirable concomitants was looked down upon and despised by the Ipswich people as indeed it was for many a year even after separation had taken place.

In 1843 Governor Gipps visited Moreton Bay, and in company with Surveyor Warner, Surveyor Wade, Andrew Petrie, George Thorn, and others proceeded to Limestone in an open boat examining and surveying the river Bremer. When the open basin on the Bremer was reached it was suggested by the surveyors to land and lay out the town on that portion of the land now known as North Ipswich. However, the Governor suggested that they should proceed further up the river, which was accordingly done, and the party stepped ashore at the point now known as the old wharves. Limestone was then an apple-tree flat with a pleasant appearance, probably rendered more so by the fact that a flock of sheep and a few cattle were grazing on the land. There were then only one or two houses on the flat, a Government hut, and a stockyard and some cultivated land near what is now known as Bundamba Creek. The Governor was struck with the place, a new township was speedily laid out, and duly and officially christened as Ipswich. The first section of the town was at once marked out, including East-street and Bell-street, the former being the first street laid out and named in Ipswich. It is questionable if Governor Gipps did well in changing the name of the place. Limestone is not an unmusical name, and it was at least suggestive of the formation of the surrounding country, while Ipswich has neither grace nor association nor anything else to recommend it. It may be truly said that the evil which men do lives after them. A portion of the land surveyed was sold the same year, and people steadily flocked into the new township, or pitched their camp on the rich flats reaching out from the banks of the Bremer.

In 1844 much land was taken up on the Brisbane River by the M’Connels, Biggs, and others, and a great many selections were stocked. From 1844 until separation the town and district steadily moved forward. All goods for the squatters in the south-west and western districts went to Ipswich, and trade became so brisk that the squatters combined and sent to Sydney for a steamer, Mr. Pearce, of Helidon, undertaking the delicate commission. This great event occurred either in ‘48 or ‘49. The little steamer purchased was called The Experiment, and for two years it plied between Ipswich and Brisbane. It was afterwards joined by The Hawk, Breadalbane, The Settler, and, if I mistake not, The Bremer. Trade was brisk in those good old days, and Ipswich was in the very plenitude of its prosperity when separation came in 1859.'

The steamer 'Breadalbane'. (John Oxley Library)
The steamer 'Breadalbane'. (John Oxley Library)

Letter to the Editor
(Brisbane Courier, 22 October 1891)

'Sir,-I should like to supplement your travelling reporter’s remarks about Ipswich. It is true, as he says, that Ipswich used to despise Brisbane before ‘separation,’ but not for the reason he assigns; for the convict tarbrush stained both places alike. It was because ‘Limestone’ was rich and Brisbane poor; for in those days the wool teams came no further down than Ipswich, which was the head of punt and steamer navigation, and all the teamsters’ cheques, and shepherds and stockmen’s cheques and cash from Darling Downs and West Moreton were spent in Ipswich. Brisbane never saw a halfpenny of them, and only the Kilcoy and Durundur and Nanango bushmen, with a contingent from the Logan and Albert, supported Brisbane. All the money circulated in Ipswich, and it once, it is said, had thirty flourishing hotels, and it certainly exceeded Brisbane on the electoral roll of voters of the joint Stanley boroughs. But Brisbane generally carried the elections by ‘bundling’ its candidates; while Ipswich candidates, hot headed and energetic (like the people) opposed each other and split the votes. Ipswich, in New South Wales, like Tamworth and other pastoral townships of that colony, revelled in abundance of money in old times, and there was always more life, energy, and enterprise all round in Ipswich than in Brisbane, so much nearer to the enervating sea air.

Still, poor Brisbane held up its head and assumed metropolitan airs. The Government Resident lived there. The Hon. Thomas Holt gave it a £30,000 gaol in 1859, and at the first sales of town lands, Brisbane was put up at the rate of £100 an acre upset for ‘town lots,’ while Ipswich upset was £8 an acre as ‘village lots.’ This showed, at all events, what ‘our stepmother Sydney’ thought of her two Moreton Bay bantlings in the ‘early forties.’ To the names of the steamers mentioned by your correspondent should be added the Swallow, Captain Bousfield. The A.S.N. Company found their cargoes (freight paid from Sydney to Ipswich) blocked for want of river steamers in Brisbane, so they sent up the Brisbane, Captain Patullo, the Samson and the Ipswich, which formed part of our river fleet from 1855 to 1860, and till the railway killed them. Severe jokes were bandied in those days. The sheriff of the period, hearing that Ipswich was jealous of Brisbane getting the gaol, offered to make Ipswich the official residence of the hangman, on the principle, as he said, of ‘bringing justice home to every man’s door,’ and there is a venerable legend of a little foreign storekeeper, who brought up a schooner full of ‘notions’ from Sydney, intending to open business in Brisbane; it is alleged that he climbed the old windmill and counted seven public-houses and nine chapels, and muttered, ‘Dis vill not do; dese peeples vill know too much for me,’ and he sold his cargo by auction; and returned to Port Jackson. Had he gone on to Limestone where the public-houses then far outnumbered the chapels, the district might not have lost him. The Platypus, an ocean steamer of 350 tons, went to Ipswich once. It was regarded as a great feat in navigation but the experiment was not repeated.

I am, sir, &c., N. BARTLEY.'