The nameless, small settlement that began beside the north road from Brisbane Town was just like any other dot on the map, if it was marked. No one knows when or who built the first hut, cleared and fenced a paddock, planted a crop, dug a well, but whoever it was started a process that for various reasons kept going. Many others did the same things without a settlement developing or even a farm being permanently established and the bush slowly reclaimed its own.
Much of what happened at Chermside also happened at many other places but, some factors were unique, such as the location of the settlement. Of the forces that operated to develop the settlement, some were local and some were from distant places. The former consisted of such factors as the water and timber supply and the demand for blacksmith and shopkeeper services. The latter included the supply of manufactured goods which had to be transported from England by ships which docked in Brisbane Town, or decisions made by the British Parliament, such as to make Brisbane the capital of the new colony of Queensland.
This is the story of the early formative years that traces the effects of some of these factors.
The size of population in the 19th Century hamlet of Downfall Creek is impossible to calculate but the Statistical Area of 15.6 km2 in which the hamlet was located recorded the following statistics :
Naming the Village of Downfall Creek (Chermside)
Much of the area had been surveyed by Edgar Huxtable in 1864 and the only name appearing on the early maps in the area of the present Chermside was Parish of Kedron which indicated the survey area. Land sales followed in 1866 for individual blocks.
In 1867 when Andrew Hamilton was at Gympie he met Thomas Beard, who had a 20 acre Portion, No. 571, at Dead Man’s Gully, which Hamilton bought in 1868 for ₤12 . This name referred to the point where Somerset Creek passed over the then un-named road which became Gympie Road, but just how widely, or for how long, the name was used is unknown, but it was used. The name possibly referred to the difficulty of crossing the creek especially during heavy rain, before it was bridged.
Thomas Hamilton in his writings mentions the name Paddy Green’s Gully but it is not clear if he meant the locality or the street which became Duff Street and later Kuran Street.
When William Murphy purchased his 509 acre block in 1868 it was bisected by a creek which was labelled ‘Waterholes Permanent Water’.
By 1880 the name Downfall Creek was in use as shown by the Cobb & Co Timetable of that year. In 1903 the name was officially changed to Chermside and the Downfall Creek State School, No. 929, was renamed Chermside State School, No. 929, and the change was approved by the Post Office ; See Chapter 4 where James Youatt explains how and why the name change was made.
Downfall Creek was on a local road to the north from Brisbane which was going nowhere in particular just into the bush. It became, in turn the Great Northern Road and Gympie Road.
Once the local area had been surveyed and the land sold, small farms began to be established and they needed the services of a local shop, blacksmith, carpenter, fencing contractor, midwife, carrier et al. It was only a matter of time before some enterprising persons would set up these businesses which would form the nucleus of a small, local service centre.
It was far enough from the next local service centres such as Kedron, Lutwyche or Windsor to be viable for the local area.
There was a good water supply from Downfall Creek, Dead Man’s Gully (Somerset Creek) and other smaller creeks.
There must have been a ford over Downfall Creek which allowed wheeled traffic to cross.
The village of Downfall Creek, like Cabbage Tree Creek (later Aspley), was connected to the Old Northern Road, aka Durundur Road, by the road to Cash’s Crossing, the Chinaman’s Creek Road, but this may not have been until 1874 and after the coaches started to run.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that the paddock where the Chermside State School was built in 1900 was an overnight stopping place for bullock wagons from Brisbane; it was 10 kilometres from Brisbane and the last stop before jumping off to the moving frontier of the north.
Infrastructure for Future Growth
While the village between Dead Man’s Gully and Downfall Creek slowly grew, several events beyond its control were shaping its future; it happened to be in the right place at that time because its only road was going to become very important, very quickly.
The first wooden bridge over Enoggera/Breakfast Creek, on what later became known as the Bowen Bridge Road, was built with convict labour. It was replaced by larger bridges and Downfall Creek and the northern villages benefited with a direct connection to Brisbane Town as a market and a source of manufactured goods.
A wooden road bridge was opened over the South Pine River on 10th May 1865 by Governor Sir George Bowen, making possible a direct route for wheeled vehicles to the north from Downfall Creek; the new bridge opened a direct land connection to the north coast.
On 18 October 1867 the following unadorned note appeared in the Brisbane Courier: “We have learned on reliable authority that the reported gold discovery on Currie station may be accepted as a fact. The discoverer is an old miner named (James) Nash. Three gullies have been tried and all found payable. It is thought that the ground will ultimately support a large population. The distance from Maryborough is between fifty and sixty miles.”
The rush from Brisbane began. The main form of transport was by coastal steamers but many could not afford the fare so they had to travel by pack horse or on foot; when Andrew Hamilton went to the diggings in 1867 the trip took him two weeks on horseback and in some places the track was almost impossible to find. The gold rush triggered the urgent need for a main road and helped to provide the finance to build it.
1868 early – Queensland Government allocated ₤2,700 ($258,800 in 2004 values) for the construction of a road to Gympie and by October the road was completed A very critical letter to the Brisbane Courier argued that a ₤1,000 ($95,800 in 2004 values) in addition to the money already spent was needed to make the road fully usable. A reply was written by Fred. J. Byerly, Engineer of Roads, stating that he had driven a two horse buggy over the road in 28 hours travelling time. He was refuting the “statements which have been made as to the practicability of this road for vehicles.” Some sort of bridge or crossing may have been built over Downfall Creek at this time while the local road to Brisbane would probably have been improved. The building of the very rough Gympie Road in 1868 made it possible for wheeled transport to move large quantities of goods both in and out of Brisbane to the north, complementing the coastal steamers and later, supplementing the railways.
Brisbane Courier 14 November 1868 p.4 reported that on Thursday 12 November the first Cobb & Co coach left Brisbane. It was driven by (J. Barnes) Hiram Barnes and arrived in Gympie on Friday evening 13 November 1868. . The distance was 117 miles (187 km) and the fare was ₤3/10/0 ($335.50 in 2004 values) which was expensive, so few could afford it, but the coach also carried mail and other small items . Thomas Hamilton wrote that he travelled with the luggage on top of the coach paying one pound but he may not have gone the full distance. The mail contract continued until 1879 and it was renewed on 1 January 1880. The mail was handed to a receiving officer in Downfall Creek until the Post Office (Agency) was established in 1886.
With the building of Gympie Road, the village was subject to a much greater volume of passing traffic which would be of benefit to local businesses especially those catering for transport needs such as blacksmithing. It also improved the transport of local produce to the Brisbane markets and made available to the local area products coming from the north; Andrew Hamilton bought cedar logs from the passing wagons on their way to Brisbane. Cattle were driven along the road on their way to the Newmarket saleyards which were located at Saleyards Lane near the corner of Newmarket and Enoggera Roads. Cobb & Co probably had little impact on the local area as they made Bald Hills the first changing station for their horses on the Brisbane-Gympie run.
In 1871 the hamlet on Downfall Creek was already established. The size of the hamlet is unknown but the Statistical Division of 15.6km2 in which it was located had a population of 103 . There were a few small businesses on the road to Gympie serving the passing traffic as well as the local people.
John Patterson (Born1832 – Ireland – Died 20/2/1890 – Sandgate – Married Janet Donald 29August 1858 – Yass New South Wales) was the first known general storekeeper in the village and was already established before 1869 when Andrew Hamilton arrived, possibly as early as 1866 . In 1866 Patterson bought two 12 acre blocks of land on the south east corner of the intersection of Hamilton and Webster Roads which indicates that he was in the area by that time. Patterson was “a retired police trooper who had ridden as escort on the gold carrying coaches through the Ned Kelly country of Victoria.” Grace Beecher says that he was a Police Magistrate “who came north for a ‘quiet retirement’ in 1866.” Thomas Hamilton mentions the gold escort but nothing about being a police magistrate. Patterson would have bought Portion 575 on the corner of the present Banfield Street (Short, and later Church Street) and Gympie Road as the shop was on that land. It is not clear if he bought Portion 574 on Hamilton Road but George Early, Patterson’s successor, did own that land. His son sold the block for the police station on the corner of Gympie and Hamilton Roads.
Patterson’s shop was located on the site of the present Green Motel (previously the Caravilla or Chermside Motor Inn) . The store was the 19th Century ‘mini’ equivalent of the 20th Century department store but only providing for the bare essentials that a frontier settler needed, not what they would like to have; groceries for the people, feed for the chooks and livestock, hardware, tools, crop seed, probably explosives for blasting stumps, ammunition for the rifles, bush clothing, cloth and much else; it was a one stop drive-in shop, 19th Century style. If he didn’t have the item then he could send to Brisbane Town and if it was not procurable there, then the settler did without. At least that aspect of life was simple.
With only a small local population of 103, Patterson would probably not have been doing ‘a roaring trade’. The squatters from further north most likely would have sent their bullock wagons into Brisbane for supplies every six months or so, rather than make frequent trips to the ‘local corner store’.
Patterson was the Receiver of Mail before the Downfall Creek Post Office Agency was opened in 1884 ; this meant that the mail contractor simply left mail and picked up outgoing mail. The local people would leave and pick up mail when they came to shop. The business and land was taken over by George Early around about 1882 but may have been when Patterson finished as Receiver of Mail in 1884. Patterson went to live at Sandgate where he and his wife died within days of each other in 1890.
The mail would come by contractor from Brisbane and while the earliest records show that Cobb & Co held the contract from 1 January 1880 there is a good chance that they were the carriers from the time they began the Brisbane to Gympie run on 12 November 1868
Andrew Hamilton (Born 5/11/1825 – Ireland – Died 21/8/1897 – Downfall Creek – Married Margaret Hall 24/4/1848 Devonport, England – Born Ireland 9/6/1825 – Died 5/10/1915 Chermside), a carpenter, joiner and wheelwright by trade, who arrived in Brisbane in 1866 and moved to Dead Man’s Gully in 1869 where he had bought a 20 acre block to farm but quickly found that working at his trade, would provide a better living. He began by building a dray and making the wheels himself but soon he was making them for local farmers. Thus began his carriage building works and blacksmith forge which was located on the east side of Gympie Road where the Commonwealth Bank now stands, between Hamilton and Hall streets. When he got time, in about 1873 , he began to build his family home, Burnie Brae, overlooking the village, but being a very busy man the house was still unfinished when he died in 1897 and the attics were never completed.
In 1947 the house and land were resumed by the Public Curator for public housing and the family received compensation of ₤1,350 ($65,900 in 2004 values). Subsequently the house was demolished in 1952 and the approximately 10 acre (4 Ha) block became Annand Park owned by the Brisbane City Council. The name was changed to Burnie Brae Park in 1997.
Because of the chronic shortage of skilled tradesmen in the colony their wages rose above what they would have been paid in England. A skilled carpenter-joiner, working the usual 48 hour week, could earn 6/- a day in Queensland, but when Judge Lutwyche was building his mansion, Andrew Hamilton was earning 14/- a day fitting out the internal woodwork, because he was able to do a very high standard of work. He was a universal type of worker in that he was also a skilled wheelwright, acquired the skills to run a blacksmith business and was appointed Postal Receiving Officer in 1884 and the first Non Official Post Master at Downfall Creek in 1886 . The Post Office was in a room off his forge on Gympie Road and he received ₤12 per annum salary ($1,110 in 2004 values); in 1889 James Hamilton, son-in-law of Andrew, became the Non Official Post Master .
In 1866 Aaron Adsett (1832-1921) purchased two blocks in Chermside fronting Gympie Road, the present site of Wheller Gardens, where he lived with his wife, Mary, and their large family till his death in 1921. They lived in a large two story house which was demolished in about 1980. Adsett owned other town property, as well as large areas in the county for grazing, timber supplies and dairying; he is listed as a grazier in the Queensland Post Office Directory.
Gold Fever and Coal Seams
A modified gold fever came to Downfall Creek in the late 19th Century; the date varies from the 1870s, during the Gympie rush to 1887 when Charters Towers was the dominant gold producer in Queensland. During this period, in a search for gold, some diggers stumbled “on a small seam of coal about 10 inches thick” in Murphy’s Paddock on north side of Banfield Street where Westfield Shoppingtown is located with another find in Ballantine Street . The quality was not very good; hence the shaft was unprofitable and was abandoned. Teague says that Alonzo Sparkes, who had his slaughter yard nearby, reopened the shaft in the early 20th Century, partly in a search for water and Jim Hannah, an old resident, recalls that Sparkes mixed the coal with wood and used it in his boiler for a time.
In December 2007 excavation for the basement of hq Apartments building on the corner of Way and Playfield Streets uncovered several small Lignite (Brown coal) seams at a depth of between six and eight metres. The seams vary in thickness from about 50mm to the lowest visible one which would be at least 400mm but it is interspersed with clay making it very poor quality. These seams are, in all probability, part of the Banfield - Ballantine Street seams and probably extend throughout the Downfall Creek area. (Photos in Playfield file)
Probably the first housing estate subdivision in Downfall Creek was the Fivemiletown Estate on Andrew Hamilton’s land on the east side of Gympie Road near Hamilton Road. He offered 50 blocks of between 22 and 16 perches, on easy terms and interest free for 12 months. He named the estate after Margaret’s native village in Ireland. The date is unknown but it was possibly as early as 1886 which is written on the original poster and, since it names A. Hamilton as the vendor and his office is the Downfall Creek Post Office which he vacated in 1899, then it could have been before that date.
Teague mentions a Polsloe Estate on the west side of Gympie Road probably near the site of Conradi’s Polsloe store but I have no further information on it.
Thomas Hamilton recorded the following entry is his diary which indicated that he carried on the business after Andrew died:
23 March 1898 Wednesday Gave cheque ₤2 to Mr H V Hewett for Mr D F Maclean for writing out descriptions of 50 allotments in the Fivemiletown Estate, got receipt.
It is not known how well the sales in the heart of Downfall Creek went but the area was not expanding rapidly in those days. In 1926 Thomas offered the Chermside Township Estate of 77 blocks on Gympie Road, Hamilton Road, Margaret (later Kingsmill), Hall, Thomas and Charlotte Streets; this probably included some of the blocks of the earlier estate.
In 1928 he again offered the same estate but with only 60 allotments, which indicates that 17 blocks could have been sold in the meantime; Isdale notes that the last block was sold in 1939 indicating that the centre, and possibly the rest, of Chermside was growing steadily.
On 29 September 1868 William Edward Murphy purchased 509 acres (206 hectares) of land, which became known as Murphy’s Paddock . A second survey, dated 15 February 1892, showed Murphy Road and gave the area as 506 acres less 4 acres for roads, giving a total of 502 acres (203 hectares) (The copies of the deeds were donated to the Society by Kath Ballard, the Geebung Historian.)
Why was Murphy’s Paddock so large? The short answer is “I don’t know.” Most of the local paddocks are between 4 and 12 hectares and north of Zillmere Road there are a couple of 40-80 hectare paddocks. North of Telegraph Road there is a Reserve with a Park and Racecourse included which would total about 202 hectares. Perhaps it was intended that Murphy’s Paddock be some sort of future reserve but instead, ended up in Murphy’s hands.
After Murphy died in 1881, the land was passed to his niece who lived in Sydney and she sold it to Michael Ballinger, a local dairy farmer, who divided it into the present two blocks separated by Murphy Road.
He gave the smaller north west block of 101 acres (41 hectares) to his son John Ballinger , who on 16 March1897, sold 1.6 hectares, on the corner of Murphy and Gympie Roads, to August Vellnagel in the name of storekeeper William Hacker. It was used by Vellnagel, to set up his forge and on 3 March 1899 Vellnagel got title . On the 24 August 1899 John Ballinger sold his part to George Marchant, a wealthy soft drink manufacturer, as a spelling paddock for his delivery horses.
The larger south east block, according to Thomas Hamilton in his writings, was sold by Ballinger to a Mr. Cowlishaw. He sold it to John King, a prominent storekeeper of Kedron, who in 1909 sold it to Alonzo Sparkes Ltd. The area then became known as Sparkes’ Paddock and the name, Murphy’s Paddock, was forgotten.
Many of the early settlers were deeply religious and held Sunday services in their houses or, like the Hamiltons, walked each Sunday, about three miles, to the nearest Methodist church at Nundah. Another Methodist church began at Lutwyche in 1871 when a group of local people started to meet in a private home and went on to build a church. This was the first congregation in the district which in 1988 would join other congregations to form the present Chermside Kedron Community Church in Chermside. Other denominations were represented in the area, such as the Presbyterian at Bald Hills which started in 1863 amongst the Scottish settlers, but the United Methodist Free Church was the most prominent one in the area around Downfall Creek. In 1873 they set up a Methodist Sunday school and soon after conducted services in a slab cottage on Aaron Adsett’s property, the current site of Wheller Gardens. Setting up a Sunday school before building a church seemed to be a common technique as the Anglicans did the same thing early in the 20th Century using the Chermside School of Arts as a venue.
In 1877 the Methodist congregation built the first church in Downfall Creek, at the corner of Banfield (possibly then called Short, and later, Church Street) and Gympie Roads, on land donated by James Patterson where the tyre business of Bob James is presently located. Costing ₤100 ($9,800 in 2004 values), it was a small wooden gun barrel structure that was typical of the early churches and halls of the 19th Century, with a small outside porch at the front (western) entrance and the Sanctuary at the eastern end. It would have easily accommodated the small congregation which in 1888 numbered 66 on the roll with average attendance of 50 persons .
Eddowes also notes that the Rev E Turner was the minister and Thomas Hamilton, son of Andrew, was the choir master aided by the only musical instrument they had, Thomas’ tuning fork. Later they presented him with a baton.
In the 19th Century the churches were focal points for the local community as they were important social centres and as such the Methodist church probably formed the first social centre of the village. This was a place where a group of people met primarily for worship but also for socializing. Not only could they enjoy one another’s company but they also discussed local affairs, held concerts, played music, performed plays or tableaus, helped one another, formed political opinions and acted as a pressure group in local politics.
Many of the congregation would have been members of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australia, probably in the Lutwyche Lodge, until a local branch was formed in about 1901. Several of the men were instrumental in forming the Downfall Creek Recreation Club (1898) which housed the first Public Library in the village, the forerunner of the present Chermside Library.
Growth of Business
The village was a very simple frontier settlement even into the 20th Century; for instance, Joan Hamilton’s photos of Gympie Road in about 1908 show a wide unsealed thoroughfare with a healthy growth of tall grass on it and tracks on each side.
The following local business people are listed in the 1889 Post Office Directory but there were others not listed.
There were two blacksmiths and two wheelwrights, all of the Hamilton family, producing carts and vehicles for the whole district well beyond the local area.
Similarly, Mr Kerridge, Henry New, George A Parsons, Robert Potts and Peter Smith, the five brick makers living in the village, must have supplied bricks to a very wide area as most of the buildings at the time, and for the next 70 years, were of timber. There were several brickworks in Kedron and on the 30 November 1892 Major William Clathworthy established the Virginia Brick & Pipe Co which was not far from the Downfall Creek area if horse or bicycle transport was used.
Christoph Murr was the local boot maker who may have made boots to order but probably spent most of his time mending soles and heels, tacking or stitching by hand. He would have been able to turn his hand to most kinds of leather work. David Teague mentions a Christopher Murr operating in the leather trade but gives no date. His son, Carl August Murr, became one of the early blacksmiths in Chermside on the North West corner of Latham and Gympie Roads, where the first service station or garage in Chermside was built in the 1920s, possibly by Murr in conjunction with Bill Auld, a local butcher.
A butcher, Frank Webster, supplied the village needs for meat, probably doing his own slaughtering on the premises or at a nearby paddock, while many in the farming community probably killed some of their own meat.
John Tonkinson was a carpenter who would have been able to turn his hand to virtually any job in the building trade, including bricklaying, plumbing and pit sawing. Albert Punchard was a painter in the days when they had to mix their own paints using red or white lead as a base mixed with linseed oil and tinted according to fancy, provided the tints were available. Lead poisoning was to the 19th Century what asbestos was to become in the 20th Century.
John S Booth operated a ‘saw and bone mill’, the latter being for crushing bones which were then used for blood and bone fertilizer or bone meal, while the former could mean that he might have been operating a steam saw mill.
The storekeepers were well represented with Gottlieb Conradi who operated the Polsloe store on the north west corner of Sparkes and Gympie Roads, now Chermside Gardens, George Early who took over John Patterson’s store near Banfield Street, Edward Chesterfield and H. Hawker, not to be confused with William Hacker.
Two teachers, Patrick O’Shaughnessy and Andrew Sargent (sic), along with two publicans, Michael Goodwin and William Wallin are listed but there was no school or hotel in Downfall Creek at the time so they might have taught at Aspley State School and poured at the Edinburgh Castle Hotel.
The final name on the list was Charles Willis who was the long time Clerk of the Nundah Divisional Board and the succeeding Kedron Shire Council, both of which were headquartered at Downfall Creek.
There were no tanners or slaughtermen mentioned on the list but an M J Gallagher, Farmer, is listed and this is probably Michael Gallagher, the tanner, who was based on the site of the present Top Taste cake factory.
Additional occupations listed in the 1900 section of the Downfall Creek School Register were currier or leather worker, milk man, cemetery man (Sexton), wood carter, hawker, tinsmith, drayman and contractor.
In this early phase of Downfall Creek village the buildings were spartan. They had earth floors, often with unpainted slab walls, maybe plastered with newspapers on the inside. The bark roofs were being replaced with shingles and, later corrugated iron. The streets were unlit, unsealed, dusty in the dry and muddy in the wet with ditches for drainage. The water supply was from rainwater tanks, wells or the creeks. There was no refrigeration, electricity, telephones, telegraph and very little public transport apart from some horse buses. People who didn’t have a horse or a bicycle had to walk.
Slaughter Yards of Chermside and District
The earliest slaughter yards were probably in the open air until the government passed regulations to control them trying to safeguard public health. Such establishments were known in England as a ‘shambles’, a term which passed into the language as a derogatory way of describing poorly built or temporary structures. They were found on the edges of settlement away from the public gaze because in the 19th and 20th centuries people did not want to know what went on in such places. As settlement expanded the slaughter yards moved further out.
Chermside was ideally suited to such an industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it was on the outer urban fringe of Brisbane, with the livestock on one side and the market on the other, and as such provided much employment for many local people who couldn’t afford to be squeamish. The slaughter yards flourished in the local area with as many as 10 or 12 operating until the end which came suddenly, not by expansion of the city, but by government decision in 1931to take over meat production and centralise it at Cannon Hill.
The cost of setting up a yard was minimal, with the cost of land being the largest item unless the operator leased a paddock. There were few, if any, health regulations in the early days and as long as the meat was edible and cheap then the customers bought it. If the meat was diseased then it could be boiled and fed to the pigs, but sometimes diseased meat was sold for human consumption. This was shown in subsequent inquiries and as a consequence the government instituted many health regulations. A major problem was tuberculosis in pigs which were fed milk from infected cows.
Butchers sold meat that was hung in the open as shown on some of the early photographs and apparently people bought it.
The Queensland Post Office Directory mentions butchers and slaughtermen living in Downfall Creek; 1893 – T & J Cocks slaughter yards which included a pilot meat cannery on Rode Road (Cocks Road), William Brooks slaughterman, W & H Felsman slaughter yards, John Higgins slaughter yards, William Rainke slaughterman; more names appear in other issues of the Directory. 1892 – Daw & Slack butchers on Gympie Road near Sparkes Street, followed by George Conradi and later George and Jack Lemke
1888 James Caruthers Hutton opened a ham and bacon curing factory beside the railway line at Zillmere and employed a large labour force from the surrounding area, including Downfall Creek. The factory transported a large proportion of its livestock by train and it also provided a market for local farmers to sell their pigs. The firm closed in 1962 and transferred to Oxley. In 1895 Heinrich Gerns, after working at Huttons, started his own slaughter yard at Geebung where he cured hams and bacon selling the products through his retail outlet in the city, and later, in Fortitude Valley. Much smaller than Huttons, the Gerns small goods factory remained a family owned enterprise and is still operating in 2008. This means that it could be the oldest functioning business in the district and it is still on the original site.
Tanners of Chermside and District
Tanneries, using traditional methods of the trade, were foul smelling places because of some of the ingredients used, such as human urine to loosen the hairs on the hides, and dog faeces; just what the latter was supposed to do is not clear. In addition the hides would still have particles of muscle and fat attached which would smell anyway and when cleaned off the hide they could be left lying around. All in all, tanneries were relegated to the fringes of the towns and generally avoided. However, some tanners claim that the tanneries of London were free of the Black Death, the catastrophic Bubonic Plague. Maybe even the rats avoided the locality.
It is very unlikely that the local tanneries used ingredients such as these but they were smelly and Downfall Creek was a good place to locate them until the building boom of the post World War II period pushed them out. Additionally, the source of hide supply was also located there among the slaughter yards which were also marginalised. Downfall Creek, it seems was becoming a minor noxious industrial area for a time and the results showed up in the local creeks which were initially used as sewers. Complaints were often made to the local Kedron Shire Council.
The tanneries were located on creeks because they used a lot of water. The author was able to locate the old tannery sites by following the local creeks many of which have long disappeared under later developments. The tanners often built weirs on the creeks to dam up a supply of water and it was not unusual for the weirs to break causing problems for the people downstream.
The firm of J & W Gibson, Tanners (Scotia Tannery) is listed at Stafford-on-Kedron, on the present site of the Stafford City Shopping Centre. It is thought that the firm started in 1886 and closed before 1984, when the shopping centre opened, but more likely in the 1970s
In 1887 Michael Joseph Gallagher set up the Kedron Tannery on the site of the present Top Taste cake factory on Gympie Road Kedron. The tannery closed in 1960 and the Webster Biscuit Company built there in 1966.
In 1893 Thomas Wylie is listed in the Queensland Post Office Directory as a tanner at Downfall Creek, also John & James Maunsell are listed as Tanners & Fellmongers at Stafford-on-Kedron.
1891 Joseph Packer started his tannery career at Cox’s Paddock, Stafford. In 1898 he and David Knox started production as Fellmonger, Wool Scour and Tanner at Downfall Creek at the intersection of Hamilton and Webster Roads. In 1924 the Knox family were bought out and Packers continued till closure in 1971. In 1972, reconstituted as Packer Leather, the firm opened at Narangba where it still operates.
Paul Maggs’ first tannery “Avondale’, started in 1889 near the end of Nundah Road, Kedron, till it was sold, or leased, to Mr. Cunningham. In 1894 Maggs built the Edinburgh Tannery on the creek between Leckie Road and Ramsay Street and in 1904 sold it to A E Cornell. The same year he built the Bristol Tannery at the eastern end of Kedron Street. It was sold in 1966 to Johnson & Sons who had a tannery at Kelvin Grove and a wholesale leather warehouse in Queen Street, City. They continued to operate the tannery till 1973 when production ceased and the site was bulldozed in 1975 to make way for housing.
James Slaney, who worked for Gibson at Stafford, set up his own tannery in Boothby Street, Kedron. It was sold to Stephen Pill in 1945
Stephen Pill and Sons started the Cornwall Tannery in about 1892 in Childers Street Kedron. It was burnt out in the 1940s, rebuilt, sold to Johnson & Sons in the early 1960s and finally closed in 1973.
Alexander Sayer Dewar manufactured industrial leather belts behind the Edinburgh Castle Hotel using leather from the local tanneries. The business was sold in 1969 to Olympic General Industries and moved to Geebung.
In the 19th Century every small and large town had at least one ‘smithy’ and Downfall Creek had several. They were the mechanics of the time. They performed wonders with iron and today old people still tell of the thrill of watching the smithy working at the forge. Muriel Scott (nee Hamilton) writes:
Many were the times I watched the horses being shod and Mr. Carr wielding the hammer after taking the iron from the forge to expertly fashion a horse shoe or other. Quite fascinating! It was great to see, after Dad had repaired the spokes of a cart wheel, the iron surround (tyre) would be well fired up in a bark fire and when hot enough lifted on with tongs to the wooden wheel, then lowered into the well nearby to cool quickly and the noise of the “frizzle” still rings in my ears at times. It was soon lifted out and when dry, ready for the paint: so many years ago!
Blacksmiths work with "black" metals, iron and steel. The black colour comes from a layer of oxides, called fire scale, that form on the surface of the metal during heating. The term "smith" originates from the word "smite", to hit. Thus, a blacksmith is a person who smites the black metal.
Blacksmiths work by heating pieces of wrought iron or steel in a forge (fire) until the metal becomes soft enough to be shaped with tools such as a hammer. Colour is important for indicating the temperature and workability of the metal; as iron is heated to increasing temperatures, it first glows red, then orange, yellow and finally white. The ideal heat for most forging is the yellow-orange colour appropriately known as a "forging heat." Because they must be able to see the glowing colour of the metal, many blacksmiths work in dim, low-light conditions.
The smithy forged or shaped the iron as if it was plasticine or play dough; it was child’s play in his hands. He welded pieces of iron by heating and hammering till they formed one piece. He tempered or hardened the metal so that its sharp edge was preserved. Shoeing horses, mending ploughs, making gate hinges, producing wrought iron for the veranda, sharpening tools, shaping leaf springs for carts, making pins, making anything with iron was his trade.
The 1889 Queensland Post Office Directory (QPOD) lists Andrew Hamilton as wheelwright and blacksmith and William Hamilton as blacksmith at Downfall Creek. While Andrew was not a blacksmith, he did employ one to put the iron rims or tyres on cart wheels that Andrew made for the vehicles he was building. Thus Andrew probably had the first blacksmith’s forge, the Fivemiletown Forge, in Downfall Creek, sometime in the very early 1870s. In about 1885 his nephew, William Hamilton, arrived from Ireland and worked for Andrew as a blacksmith.
Subsequent QPODs list about ten smiths in the district including Charles (Carl) Murr (1892/3), Charles and Fred Murr (1905) in Downfall Creek.
August Vellnagel started his forge in 1897, got title to the land in 1899 and the firm remained working until the third generation of Vellnagels sold the site in 2004 and moved their blacksmith business to Brendale. For the first time in 129 years, since Hamilton set up his forge, Chermside was without a smith and most people didn’t even notice.
The surrounding area was a mixture of bush and small farms producing vegetables, fruit, milk, pigs, calves, fowls, eggs, home made butter, timber for building and firewood. Some were near the creeks and subject to flooding but had access to water and better soils; the soils on the ridges were often stony with thin topsoil “that wouldn’t feed a bandicoot”.
The settlers had relatively small holdings of fewer than 40 hectares with most, between 4 and 12 hectares. There were a few large holdings such as William John Ward who held five adjoining blocks, totalling 283 hectares, between Zillmere and Rogan Roads, and the 204 hectares of William Murphy but most of the other blocks shown in the Parish of Kedron area were less than 40 hectares. Many persons had two or more adjoining blocks but the total of any one person was usually less than 40 hectares. It is unknown how many blocks were bought by speculators and how many by settlers; David Teague lists the selectors and their date of purchase between 1866 and 1883.
The Post Office Directory of 1889 lists 52 names of which 21 were men working on the land as farmers, dairymen, gardeners and fruit growers. Their means of transport was horse and cart, they ploughed behind draft horses, hand milked the cows, built their own fences, dug their own wells and, maybe dams, harvested grass crops with scythes, worked from daylight to dark and expected all their children to help.
Since the whole family worked on the selection, there was little schooling, just enough to be able to read, write and do arithmetic; school, even when one was available, did not teach the manual skills a farmer needed. The earliest local school was at Zillmere and it did not open till 1877, so until it opened they had to make do as best they could. The author’s Australian grandmother learned to read by spelling out the words in the newspapers when she was in service at a hotel in Coonabarabran New South Wales in the middle 1870s.
Many of the settlers were labourers from Europe who hoped to be able to set up their own farm in the new country. Often they had little training but they were generally willing to learn and at that time, since most work was manual, they could do most things simply from seeing a tradesman perform the same task; they learned on the job, by doing.
The settlers built their own houses or huts from the timber they were clearing off their own properties. The work was all done manually, so as long as the settler was strong, healthy and had the appropriate tools he could build his own dwelling. Patterson would be able to supply axes, wedges for splitting the logs into slabs for the walls, saws, wire that could be used to tie them together and tie the rafters onto the roof. Bark, especially stringy bark, stripped off the trees provided the roof sheeting which was held on with saplings laid on top and lashed down or, with a little bit of skill and the right tools, a man could split shingles from blocks of wood, again off his own selection.
The doors and window flaps would be held on with leather hinges cut from hides, the beds made from four posts in the ground and a few horizontal ones, the floor of cow dung and sand was rough but effective. Cooking was done in a camp oven over an open fire place which was detached from the house as a fire precaution. A nearby creek supplied water, for people and beasts, as the creeks flowed well in those days except in a severe drought.
There were few, if any, machines so if a pit had to be dug then it was done with pick and shovel and if it was a deep pit then men would stand at different levels and shovel the material passed from the man below; for deep wells a hand driven windlass would be used to raise the spoil to the surface. Land clearance was equally heavy work; the trees could be ring barked which consisted of cutting a ring of bark from the lower trunk and letting the tree die which would allow the sun to reach the ground and encourage the growth of grass for grazing. The alternative would be to chop or saw the tree down and clear the land for a crop. This was heart breaking, and often dangerous, work with many of the settlers ‘burning out’ and, helped along with the diseases of the time, facing early deaths. Even by 1890 the average life expectancy for Australian men was only 48 years and 51years for women.
The early settlers not only had a hard life in the colony but they had a hard time getting to Queensland from the other side of the world “in ships of wood sailed by men of iron”. These ships, while being probably the most beautiful machines ever devised, were the most complicated of all machines to operate because so much depended on the skill and experience of the captain and crew.
The Voyage of the Johann Cesar
The following summary of a report that appeared in the Brisbane Courier Wednesday 27 April 1864, gives some idea of the conditions in the ships that carried so many settlers to Queensland in the mid 19th Century.
On the 7 November 1863 the German barque “Johann Cesar”, 414 ton register, sailed from Hamburg, under the command of Captain J H Falck, with 231 German immigrants
Because of the violent gales along the coast of Britain and in the North Sea, Captain Falck took shelter in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. There he obtained provisions while he waited for favourable winds, leaving on the 18 December. After that the voyage proceeded relatively peacefully. He had the usual storms that could last for days and the
passengers were confined below decks in the fetid air. He reached Moreton Bay on the 25 April 1864.
Note: I use the single male pronoun to emphasise the position of the Captain which equalled God on these voyages. Everything depended on his ability to judge the wind, the currents, the crew, the navigation, the passengers and just about anything else; his word was law, commanding instant obedience. The ship was completely on its own; no radio, no satellite navigation, no outside help unless another ship was nearby and able to help. The motive power was wind and current, the use of which depended on the knowledge and skill of the captain and the crew.
The 231 passengers, all of whom were German, included 67 single men, 20 single women while the remainder were married couples and their families. With the crew of about 25 men makes a total of 256 souls, all in a barquentine 38m long with an 8m beam and a hold depth of 5m. They were in a space as long as two cricket pitches and about three times as wide for five and a half months.
There was very little sickness and only two of the very young children died and four were born. The report is quite matter of fact and makes no comment on the deaths of the children or of the voyage lasting for about five and a half months as these features were normal on such voyages. The stop over at Cowes waiting for storms to abate and get a favourable wind was common in the days when the ships were wind driven. There is no comment about the crowded state of so many people in a small ship for so long as that was normal and these conditions were much the same for all immigrants of the time.
There could have been about 60 children of all ages without anywhere to play. How did the parents manage to keep them cooped up for so long? In stormy weather they would not have been allowed on deck at all. These people worked hard and were used to what we would regard as abominable living conditions.
In 1866 Mr W Purdie, Immigration Officer at Brisbane, commented after an inspection of the Johan Caesar on a later voyage:
…most of the immigrants were composed of large families of young children whose parents were old or appearing so from want and hard work. Some of the men were very badly clothed, one in perfect rags.
People who immigrated were mostly what we today would call ‘economic migrants’; they were looking for a better life and were prepared to put up with great discomfort in order to achieve it. For them, there were no ‘good old days’; they were hoping for good days in the future. Life was hard in Queensland but, one hopes, it was better than the life they left behind.
Many German families migrated to Queensland in the 19th Century and enough came to Downfall Creek, settling in the area around the intersection of Webster and Herman (now Hamilton) Roads, to have the place name of the German Quarter. In 1999 the Chermside and Districts Historical Society and the Brisbane City Council had the large roundabout island named Herrmann Place and erected a sign outlining the history of the Herrmann, later anglicized to Herman, family.
David Teague in his History of Chermside p.16-18 examines, in detail, the contribution of the German settlers to the development of Downfall Creek/Chermside over the years.
In one year, 1865, one shipping company, the Johann Cesar Godeffroy Line, sailing from Hamburg brought 2,435 German immigrants to Queensland in eight vessels.
Common diseases of the 19th Century such as diphtheria, scarlet fever, scarlatina, poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis, tetanus or lockjaw, typhoid, tuberculosis both pulmonary and non pulmonary, dysentery and smallpox have actually or virtually disappeared from today’s Australia.
Added to these mostly killer diseases, are most of the diseases we have today but for which there was no immunisation or antibiotics and some of the ‘medicine’ they used was either useless or of doubtful value.
On the other hand, they left behind some of the problems of the big European cities such as crowded housing, open sewers, polluted water, rotting rubbish, lack of sunlight, malnutrition, rickets and intensely cold winters.
Surgery was probably more advanced but was limited by the lack of anaesthesia and the danger of infection in deep cutting. Both ether and chloroform were known in Europe and the USA by the middle of the century but their use in Brisbane was very limited. Tyrer notes that while the first use of chloroform at the hospital was in 1851 , he also records that in 1859 a 39 year old woman had her left arm smashed by a bullock dray “near three mile scrub” later known as Enoggera Crossing. She managed to walk to the hospital where the arm was finally amputated without chloroform; hopefully she survived.
The Queensland Post Office Directory 1894/5 listed a John Ellison, Surgeon, in Downfall Creek but nothing is known about him. Apart from Ellison, it seems that there were no local doctors so it was often a case of ‘do it yourself’ but when the new Brisbane Hospital opened near Bowen Bridge in 1867 it was easier to transport patients from Downfall Creek there than to the old hospital at North Quay.
As late as 1901 Thomas Hamilton records in his diary the action of people going directly to the hospital for accident and sickness treatment.
May 8 Tuesday – I got a note from Mr S Lang stating that William was laid up with a cold & he thought he would not be fit to work this week.
Thursday 10 – I went to town, met Mr & Mrs Lang they told me they had just left William at the Hospital
Monday 21 – A Wallin did not turn up to work, but went to the Hospital to get his ankle attended to, which was sprained some time since.
In the remote areas the Aboriginal women could be called in to help birthing, or if the settler could afford it, the mother was sent to Brisbane for the birth. However there were problems with this latter course because in 1850 the Brisbane Hospital on North Quay stopped accepting women for the purpose of childbirth. “For women being confined, hospitals were dangerous places in the pre-antisepsis, pre-asepsis era. The Brisbane Hospital was no exception.” In other words, they were not clean and Childbirth or Puerperal Fever was a major cause of female deaths in the 19th Century. The solution was for the doctors to wash their hands before the delivery, but it took till almost the end of the 19th Century to convince them. In the meantime births must have taken place at home or in private hospitals run by nurses and/or doctors.
To overcome this problem a Lying-in Hospital was established in Spring Hill in 1864 and in 1867 a completely new one was built in Ann Street enabling mother and child to be separated from the sick patients and the diseases being treated in the General Hospital.
There were probably small local home hospitals in the 19th Century but no records of them survive. However they did operate in the 20th Century in the local area as the following examples show:
Peg Powell (nee Radcliffe) recalls in her memoirs she and her family walked to Matron Phipps house in the Norman Drive/Kidson Terrace area to see her new born sister Doreen in 1930. Other local private hospitals were located throughout the region such as Nurse England’s home near Wooloowin School where Joan Hamilton was born in 1924 while her sister, Jessie, was born at home in Chermside with Nurse Noble as midwife in 1922; Nundah Private Hospital (now Cadogan House) on Sandgate Road opened in 1933 and Virginia Private Hospital in Prince Street in the 1930s.
When a woman was due to deliver a child the local midwife was called and the birth would take place at home; later when doctors were more common both could attend . This was still occurring in the 1920s.
Social Structure (See also Methodist Church as a social centre.)
The early society that was developing in Queensland was very much that of a frontier, one of independence or survival of the fittest where a family or individual was expected to stand on their own and face whatever trials came their way. It was constantly moving outwards to new and hopefully, better land and minerals. The gold rushes were, possibly, the extreme example as the miners were ever ready to pack up and move on to better prospects.
When immigrants landed some would stay in government hostels while they found work and lodging. This system continued into the 20th Century especially after the Second World War in the late 1940s. Other immigrants were sponsored by local people who would help them to settle in or even have jobs for them when they arrived. The skilled immigrants did not have much trouble finding jobs as there was always a shortage of skilled workers. This is still the case today in the 21st Century.
When squatters moved out into frontier areas they were cut off from any contact with the settled areas until they returned, maybe years later, or until some other wandering settler happened on their camp. If accidents happened they had to deal with the injuries on the spot. If they ran out of food, then they went hungry until they found some or killed some.
There was no insurance for the small holder, no pensions for age, widows or orphans, no workers compensation for those injured at work, no ambulance to transport the sick and injured; in other words no safety net for the unfortunate or the sick who were unable to work. They were dependant on the support of their family, if they had one, or the charity of the churches or the neighbours or a Friendly Society if they belonged to one.
It was a time of little government regulation in such things as food purity, drug control, workplace safety, woman and child protection, health care, Aboriginal rights, female rights and many other forms of control that are common today. Law enforcement was a particular problem in newly settled areas as there was often no police presence. There was a police presence of one Constable at ‘German station’, or Nundah, from 1844 and there probably would have been one at Lutwyche.
The local society had a strong work ethic; they not only knew they had to work for a living but they revered the idea so much that it became a moral imperative and it stood them in good stead. However, for some who just could not survive they turned to crime and, while there does not seem to be much bushranging in the area, Andrew Hamilton had his horse stolen when he was on his way to the Gympie goldfield in 1868.
Entertainment was largely local with outdoor activities such as cricket, football and cycling being conducted by amateurs. Picnics, and swimming in the creeks were popular or a day trip to the seaside or Cash’s Crossing. Children played at skipping, hop scotch, hide and seek, treasure hunts, I spy and made up their own games on the spot. Families went visiting relatives or friends on Sunday afternoons.
Target shooting was carried on if a rifle range was available or just shooting in the bush which resulted in the making of fur rugs, bunny rugs or native bear rugs – imagine shooting Koalas today!
Indoor or home entertainment was often made around the piano, accordion, concertina or violin with visitors and family singing the popular songs of the day. Parlour games such as cards and board games, as well as story telling and guessing games were common; it was a time of make your own entertainment or do without.
The local Alliance Hall became a popular meeting place in the 1890s for dances, concerts, magic lantern shows, visiting speakers or entertainers as well as meetings for all sorts of groups.
Friendly Societies did operate as a working man’s insurance against unemployment, sickness and provision of funeral benefits. A man who joined a society would pay regular amounts and in the event of any of the above receive payments for the time he was incapacitated and his medical expenses would also be partly covered. Some doctors would also operate a ‘club’ where members would pay a regular sum and that would cover the doctor’s services for that period of time.
Friendly Societies such as the Manchester Unity, Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia, Masonic Lodge, Hibernian Society and many others co-ordinated the activities of many local lodges (branches) and pooled their resources. Perseverance Lodge No 54, the Chermside branch of the Protestant Friendly Alliance, was founded on 16 October 1901. Thomas Hamilton joined the new branch in 1901and was the treasurer for 11 years .
In 1846 the editor of the Moreton Bay Courier seemed to have mixed feelings regarding local government. On the one hand he opined:
District Councils (the frozen vipers, over whose monstrous birth their anxious author watched, only to see them trodden under foot by those in whose bosoms he sought to thrust them, or, if received, with fangs extracted, powerless to wound, and objects of derisive pity) are unknown amongst us.
But on the other hand he felt:
The growing importance, however of our chief town, and the district contiguous, renders us in common with the colonist at large, anxious to witness either their modification or their total repeal.
This attitude seemed to still linger when in 1879 the Colonial Government in Brisbane passed the Divisional Boards Act to begin what we refer to as Local Government by dividing the colony into sections called Divisional Boards. These were setup by the government and local representatives were to be elected to run them. However, some boards went short of the required number of representatives and the government had to appoint them; it took time for the idea of local control to take hold.
The process in the North Brisbane District is outlined briefly by the Queensland Parliamentary Library.
The council of the Municipality of Brisbane was inaugurated in 1859, the year Queensland became a separate colony from New South Wales.
The Colonial government passed the Divisional Boards Act 1879 which allowed for the creation of Divisional Boards in 1880 under the responsibility of the Colonial Secretary.
1880 - Nundah Divisional Board encompassed 111 km² from Breakfast Creek to South Pine Rivers. David Teague adds: The area, divided into three subdivisions, with a population of 4,270 had nine elected representatives; three from each subdivision.
May 1880 Cole adds: Sandgate Subdivision separated from Nundah
1883 - Nundah Divisional Board subdivided into:
Toombul Divisional Board, Nudgee to Nundah, offices at Nundah
Nundah Divisional Board, 96 km², offices established at Downfall Creek 1884. (The offices were on Gympie Road opposite Murphy Road where Dixon Homes is now located and were relocated into Marchant Park in 1921. See Vellnagel section in Ch 4)
1886 the Nundah Division was re-subdivided into three wards with 3 members each.
1901 – Nundah Divisional Board renamed Kedron Divisional Board
1902 – Kedron Divisional Board replaced by Kedron Shire Council with passage of Local Authorities Act 1902
1903 – The name Downfall Creek changed to Chermside
1925 – Kedron Shire Council area incorporated in Greater Brisbane 1 October 1925 after passage of the City of Brisbane Act 1924
Because of the growth of the village the Nundah Divisional Board (Local Council) had to institute better sanitary arrangements such as night soil carting which commenced in the 1890s and replaced the night soil pits that were found near all the houses. With this arrangement a pan or drum was provided for each house and emptied, probably weekly, by the nightsoil cart and taken out of the village to be dumped in trenches and buried.
Heavy transport was by bullock wagon with a yoke of up to 16 or more oxen with the driver, “bullocky”, walking beside the beasts talking to them. He knew each one by name and they all knew their place in the team, so when they were being harnessed or yoked up each morning they would all stand in place. The biggest and strongest beasts would be the leaders and show the way as A B Patterson told it “what the toiling leaders gain the body bullocks hold”. Away they went with steady plod, slow and strong, “the steady bullock pull that breaks the horse’s heart.” They were cheap to maintain, eating grass as they went, but slow.
The horse was faster and could pull heavy loads but they were more expensive as they needed chaff and oats as well as grass. However as the roads improved they were used ever more widely. About a quarter of crops grown in the 19th Century were used for animal fodder. In the towns and cities the horse was the engine that drove the transport network of small sulkies, larger buggies, horse buses, and wagons. Maybe they did not pollute the atmosphere as much as the modern automobile but they did mess up the streets, so the street cleaner, equipped with broom, shovel and wheelie bin cleaned the streets. Small boys earned pocket money by selling manure for gardens.
Possibly the first horse buses appeared in Chermside in about 1886 when David Goodwin of the Edinburgh Castle Hotel began a service to the city and, in 1891, to Aspley. The 1894/5 Postal Directory notes that the bus fare for the 8 miles from Chermside to the city was 8 pence which would be about $4.14 in 2004 values while the 2007 cost is $1.60.
The 1March 1888 marks one of the greatest advances in transport for the north with the opening of the North Coast Railway to Zillmere. This was the cutting edge technology of the time; fast, efficient, regular, reliable, comparatively comfortable and large scale; modern 19th Century transportation had arrived in the district. It is hard for us who live in the 21st Century to grasp the significance of the change. One way is to consider that the steam train had the same effect on transport in the 19th Century as did air transport in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Once the Railway Station was the largest building in town but now it is the Airport.
When the railway line was constructed to Enoggera in 1899 it was close by the Newmarket Sale Yards and this eventually eliminated the mobs of cattle that were driven down Gympie Road through Downfall Creek to those yards. There would have been a smaller number being driven from the sale yards to the slaughter yards at Chermside but that would diminish as motor transport was able to ferry them.
Thomas Hamilton in his diary notes that when he was travelling north to the family property near Gympie he would have one of the boys drive him to Zillmere station in the sulky and meet him there when he returned. If travelling into the city he would drive the sulky himself, but if he was going on holidays to Southport he would be driven in the sulky to Wooloowin station, and be met there on return; other people used bicycles.
The 19th Century saw a great change in education as schools, mainly primary, were being established throughout the Australian colonies and although Queensland, with a much larger area and a smaller population, lagged behind the older colony of New South Wales, it made steady progress.
In the local area the sequence of the establishment of primary schools was Nundah 2 October 1865 – Zillmere 22 January1877 – Stafford (Happy Valley) 25 May1886 – Aspley (Cabbage Tree Creek) 6 August1890 – Chermside (Downfall Creek) 9 July 1900 – Kedron 1 October 1926.
One major factor influencing the location of a new school was the size of the local population so that, other things equal, the place with the highest concentration of children would get the first school. On this basis Chermside must have been slower to grow to the critical mass needed to fill a one room school which, in the case of Chermside, was 90 children at the end of 1900.
At the time there were two types of schools in operation, one being the Provisional school in which the school was built or provided by the parents and the Department of Public Instruction paid the teacher. These were in places where the community was not permanently established such as mining camps. They were often very primitive even by 1900 standards. Sometimes the building was a bark roofed hut with a dirt floor and, in one instance, the hut was occupied by a working man who used to come into the one room structure and cook his mid-day meal while the lessons went on.
The second type was a Permanent school and that was what the Chermside community had in mind; properly built by a local builder with teachers supplied by and paid for by the Department. They were prepared to pay their share of 20% of the cost of land and buildings, which was the custom of the time; the school was to be state of the art with trained teachers and the local community worked hard to see it established.
In 1898 a committee of local businessmen, with William Sammells as secretary, wrote to the Under Secretary for Public Instruction in June asking for a school. The following month a formal application was made accompanied by a list of prospective pupils, where they lived, how far they were from the proposed school, the schools they currently attended and the fund raising that was to be undertaken.
By November the five acre site for the school was chosen as half of Portion 535 on the corner of Rode and Gympie Roads at a cost of ₤125 of which the local committee had to pay ₤25. The school building was probably a standard one of the time consisting of a timber structure with one large room and wide verandas on the east and west sides topped with a corrugated iron roof.
The builder, William Reid, was awarded the ₤795 contract for the school and the Head Teacher’s residence in December 1899 . The committee had to pay 20% - ₤159 which they raised by January 1900 as most of it had probably been pledged earlier; they wanted the school as soon as possible because they understood the need for formal education in the modern world of the new 20th Century.
The total cost of the land and buildings was ₤920 ($110,750 in 2004 values) of which the committee had to raise 20% - ₤184 ($22,150 in 2004 values); education didn’t come any cheaper in those days than it does now.
The first Head Teacher was an Englishman, James Youatt, who trained in England and migrated to Queensland in 1883 where he taught in several schools before coming to Downfall Creek. Assisting him was Florence Hack and a pupil teacher, Herbert Youatt, son of James. These three teachers started State School No. 929 on the opening day, Tuesday 9 July 1900, with 54 pupils, which by the end of the year, rose to about 90.
At the end of the following year the number of pupils had risen to some 135 and they were having classes on the verandas, with letters going to the Department asking for extra forms so the pupils would have somewhere to sit; Downfall Creek State School was growing.
One of the hallmarks of a mature settlement is the presence of local, mostly non- government, organisations operating in the area. These usually grow spontaneously from activities of local community minded leaders who see a local need or problem and respond by gathering other local people to supply the need or solve the problem. Frequently these organisations cover an area which includes that of an adjacent suburb or suburbs as in the case of a school, a hospital or a church.
Possibly the oldest group is the Churches of which the Chermside Methodist started in an empty hut in 1873 and still operates as the large Chermside Kedron Uniting Church. The Churches formed the earliest social centres of the district. They provided a place where people could gather to worship, to socialise and to educate their children in Sunday Schools. The annual picnics of Church and Sunday school provided some of the most important social events of the year while marriages, christenings and funerals all centred on the local church.
The degradation of the Indigenous people continued as they were forced off their land and their culture was destroyed; they adopted the worst of the white man’s ways and the white society had no place for them. The Petries were under no illusions as to why the disaster had taken place. In 1904 Constance Campbell Petrie wrote on p. 178:
Most people speak and think of the Aborigines as a dirty, useless, unreliable lot. But, as I have tried to show it is unfair to pass judgment upon them because of what they appear to be now. They were not always so, and the white man is accountable for their deterioration. He taught them to drink and to smoke, and to feel that it was not worth calling up sufficient energy to make a canoe, a vessel for water, or even a hut to sleep in. ………………. It is useless to think that we can ever blot out the injury we have done by mission schools and unnatural teaching.
On p. 182 – 185 she records a talk that her father, Tom, had with his life long friend and mentor, Dalaipi an elder of his tribe, about Aboriginal and white law. Dalaipi says on p.182:
Before the whitefella came we wore no dress, but knew no shame, and were all free and happy; there was plenty to eat, and it was a pleasure to hunt for food. Then when the white man came among us, we were hunted from our ground, shot, poisoned, and had our daughters, sisters, and wives taken from us. Could you blame us if we killed the white man? If we had done likewise to them, would they not have murdered us?
This last comment was reinforced by a notorious thief, Millbong Jemmy, who could not see anything wrong with stealing from the whites “as the white men had taken away his country, he thought they should give something for it.”