Chapter 2 – European Take Over - 1824-1864


The industrial revolution began on the coalfields of England in the late 18th Century and started a period of industrial expansion that is still going on around the world today. Being first in the process gave Britain a head start in the endless race to be the dominant power in an expansionist Europe. These countries were busy colonising (aka invading) the lesser powers of Africa and Asia to estab-lish new, or expand, existing empires; British industry supplied the muscle to keep her ahead of the pack.

With the victory of the British fleet under Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805, Britain be-came the unchallenged mistress of the world’s oceans and remained such till World War I in 1914-18. The red-coloured countries on the map marked the British Empire stretching around the world, joined to the Mother Coun-try by the shipping lanes which were patrolled by the British Navy. ‘Britannia Rules the Waves’ was not just a patriotic song, it was a reality and the Pax Britannica was enforced globally.

When Wellington defeated the ‘invin-cible’ Bonaparte at Waterloo, the British gov-ernment was able to continue its long standing policy of controlling the balance of power in Europe. This meant that Britain remained se-cure, separated by the Channel from Europe, but always ready to support the smaller Euro-pean powers against any larger power at-tempting to dominate Europe.

Thus Britain was the superpower of the 19th Century and the British people were proud of their status; they were the Lords of the earth, for the time. Much later, Germany would challenge her and fail, but the USA would succeed in the 20th Century.

The colonists in Australia were proud to be British citizens and flew the Union Jack long after Federation. When they arrived in Moreton Bay they came bringing their tradi-tions and customs but the land slowly, very slowly, changed them but for a long while they thought the history of the land began with their arrival.


About the only thing that can be said about the local population was that it was small with very few, black or white, people living in the local area. It is estimated that by 1860 there were 6,000 people living in Bris-bane Town so it is unlikely that there would have been many in the Downfall Creek area.

Arrival of the Newcomers in the Morton Bay Area

John Oxley discovered the Brisbane River, but only for the Europeans; the Abo-rigines discovered it thousands of years earlier. However, he did explore and map the river in 1823 and the first shipload of convicts arrived on 11 September1824 intending to settle at Redcliffe but soon moved to the pres-ent Brisbane area, then called Moreton Bay, to establish a dump for the worst of the con-victs who were being evicted from the larger dumping ground at Sydney Town; hardly an auspicious start to the proto colony.

In 1827 Alan Cunningham, travelling north from the Hunter River, by the overland route, ‘discovered’ the Darling Downs. The next year, by following the Bremer River, he ‘discovered’ the gap in the ranges that bears his name and so, opened the route from the sea to the inland for the Europeans.

The newcomers could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had simply treated the Aborigines as fully human and asked them the way; they had found these places and tracks thousands of years before – but the newcomers treated the Aboriginal people as backward, a typical action of em-pire builders of the past, and the present.

Free settlers were not encouraged but some were beginning to move north and squat in the Darling Downs area to pasture their imported herds of cattle and sheep. These squatters now looked to the new settlement of Moreton Bay as a centre for supplies and ex-ports but they were banned from coming any closer than 50 miles (80.5km). The first wheeled transport passed through Cunning-ham’s Gap in 1840 which was after the con-vict settlement closed.

Little was known about the Australian environment and climate but the new settlers set about trying to establish European style pastoral and, later, farming methods in the newly acquired coastal lands. They had no idea of the droughts and little of the rainfall pattern. They cleared the forests to let grass grow or to plant crops. In both cases they were trying to grow grass crops in an area which was really sub-tropical forest and not suited to the farming methods of Europe. This was one of the early, understandable, mis-takes they made and it was to cost dearly in the future, as was their importation of new animals and plants, including an amazing variety of pests.

The early growth of Brisbane Town and Limestone Hill (Ipswich) was artificial in that the occupants were convicts and soldiers who, with their supplies, came by sea and de-pended on ship transport for their mainte-nance. The clearing of land for cultivation was secondary while the main aim of the set-tlement was punishment; an open air jail. Any produce was looked on as a reduction of the costs of running the jail rather than as a means towards the end of establishing a permanent, self supporting, settlement. On the other hand, the squatters were seeking their fortunes in the new lands and intended to stay perma-nently while the Aboriginal people were be-ing forcibly moved off their land by one means or another.

The 1830s saw the growth and decline of the convict establishment, the gradual clearing of land around the Brisbane River and the growing idea of free European settle-ment in the surrounding area. In 1834 Gover-nor Burke issued Squatters’ Licences for grazing rights on Crown Land at ₤10 PA and the arrival of Andrew Petrie in 1837 as a Superintendent of Works meant that the gov-ernment was preparing to build something more substantial than a jail. Possibly about that time, the first bridge over Breakfast Creek, on the site of the present Bowen Bridge, was built by the convicts using logs from the local forest . Military engineers would have supervised the construction, and it would probably have been built before about 1839 when the convict settlement was closed but could have been as late as 1842 when the last convicts were withdrawn and the area was opened to free settlement.

First Free Settlers

In 1838 the first free Europeans to ar-rive in the Nundah area, which they called Zion Hill, was a group of Lutheran mission-aries who came to minister to the Aboriginal people. They had outstations at a couple of places and when the mission finally closed, several of the families, joined by later immi-grants, settled on Downfall Creek near the present Herrmann Place roundabout at the intersection of Hamilton (previously Herrmann) and Webster Roads; the area be-came known as the German Quarter.

First Land Sales

The first land sales for Moreton Bay were held in Sydney in July 1842 and an av-erage price per acre of ₤343/10/0 ($33,540 in 2004 values) was realised. This must have been due to some wild speculation on the part of the buyers, none of whom had probably ever been near the settlement. These prices may have been realistic had they applied to some established city, rather than to a frontier settlement.

In 1867 Andrew Hamilton paid ₤12 for a 20 acre block in the same area which amounted to 12 shillings per acre, which means that the 1842 buyers paid 572 times per acre more than Hamilton paid in 1867, 25 years later.

A skilled carpenter/joiner/wheelwright like Hamilton was able to buy land because he was earning good wages, although the hours were long. Tom Petrie recalls that in about 1850 the hours of work in the family building firm were 8am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm, a nine hour day, probably for six days a week, making a 54 hour week. The wage varied between 6 to 8 shillings per hour which would have been about ₤2/2/0 ($205 in 2004 values) per week.

Early Squatters on the Northside

Squatters were European settlers who settled on large tracts of Aboriginal land which they considered undeveloped and therefore available for their use, without any permission from, or compensation to, the na-tive owners.

Although the squatters had no legal title to the land they often gained it by the fact that they had occupied the land and later agreed to pay ‘rent’ to the government. The term squattocracy was applied to them be-cause some accumulated great wealth, built grand homes and acted as an aristocracy with some building town houses in Brisbane. The well established squatters on the Darling Downs regarded themselves as ‘Pure Me-rinos’ but the small farmers probably had other names for them and nobody recorded what the Aboriginal people thought of them.

The squatters, for their part, strongly resisted any attempts by the government to subdivide ‘their’ land for closer settlement for small selectors who were seen as an enemy encroaching on ‘their’ land. They resorted to activities such as ‘dummying’ to retain large sections of the property by getting family members or friends to ‘select’ choice parts of the original property on their behalf.

Durundur Station and the Archer Brothers

Much of the information on the Archer Brothers comes from Thomas Archer: Recollections of a Rambling Life. John Oxley 994.3 arc

The Archer brothers David, Thomas and John arrived in the area and settled on 200 miles², (518 km² or 51,800 ha), of land which became Durundur Station in 1841; the present township of Woodford grew up on the station land.

As with these remote stations, Durun-dur had to produce much of its own food in the form of wheat, pumpkins, corn, sweet po-tatoes, cabbages and watermelons as well as livestock. They found that the road to Bris-bane through Kilcoy was too long so they blazed their own track.

In 1848 Durundur was sold to David and John McConnell of Cressbrook who owned Bulimba House which they used as their Brisbane residence or Town House.

After selling Durundur the Archer bro-thers, Tom, John, Charles, William and Colin kept Cooyar and Waroonundi stations and, in 1855 they took up Gracemere, a sta-tion of 2,300 km² or 230,000 ha near Rock-hampton .

The primitive lifestyle of these early settlers is illustrated by John Archer’s letters quoted by Johnston:

I find my brothers fast approaching a state of barbarism……They mess (eat) with the aborigines (sic) and live off the land …….cut down an o’possom out of a tree, singe the hair off, throw it on the fire and eat it.

John Archer goes on to describe their dwelling:

…. a hut, over which is built a bark roof projecting several feet in front, so as to form a sort of verandah (sic) which is our sitting room, the hut be-ing made of slabs split from the tree and fixed upon posts sunk in the ground, three three-legged stools of the same material and one shelf… When there are Fremmede (visitors) here we make forks of wooden skew-ers; when by ourselves this is con-sidered an un-necessary refinement.

Johnston lists the main problems of the squatters as:

-Aboriginal people began to fight for their land.
-Shortage of labour, they valued the convict system for ticket of leave men.
-The primitive living conditions.

Manumbar Station

Manumbar Run near Gympie was first taken up in 1848 by John Mortimer and covered an area of 64,000 acres (25,900 hec-tares or 25.9 km²) in four blocks. In 1875, fol-lowing the Land Act of 1868, resumption of leasehold land for further settlement com-menced. A letter dated 8th July 1887 states: “Your uncle (J. Mortimer) has sold out of Manumbar …to Messrs Sparkes and McKin-non, Brisbane butchers.” Alonzo Sparkes had extensive butchering interests in Brisbane and a large slaughteryard at Chermside. He used Manumbar to raise cattle for the Brisbane market, overlanding them to his holding pad-dock at Sparkes’ Paddock, now 7th Brigade Park.

Cash’s Crossing (Albany Creek)

James Cash , was born in Birming-ham, came to Queensland in about 1840 and worked on a cattle property at Ipswich, and in about 1849 moved on to the Albany Creek, (Chinaman’s Creek) South Pine River area where he grazed cattle on Crown Land.

On 27 September 1859 he bought Portion 1 of Bunya Parish which fronted on the river and where the Old Northern Road forded the river, hence the name Cash’s Crossing. He bought several more blocks and his son, James Jr, held Portion 213.

David Teague recounts that when James Cash died, his wife, Mary, remarried a local man, Edmund Cain, and the local com-ment was “she married Cain for want of cash.”

Other Squatters

In the biography of her father, Thomas (Tom) Petrie, Constance Campbell Petrie mentions several squatters on the northside of Brisbane.

In about 1849, Mrs Griffin of White-side Station, gave Tom 102 miles (26² Kilo-metres) of the property in an area on the lower Pine River where they were unable to control the Aborigines who were too numerous and aggressive. Petrie already had the local Abo-riginals working with him and his experience of the local people was “if you treated them kindly they would do anything for you.”

Tom Petrie, son of Andrew, was brought up with the Aborigines, could speak their language and understood their culture; he trusted them and they never let him down; his property became the modern northern suburb of Petrie.

Constance Petrie also mentions Mount Brisbane Station, Wivenhoe Station and Sir Evan Mackenzie of Kilcoy Station, where the Aboriginal people were given poisoned flour and many died . Tom Petrie would have been acquainted with many of the squatters of the period because some of them used his father’s residence as a town house since there was little or no hotel accommodation available in Brisbane at the time.

Aboriginal People

The 1846 census showed that Brisbane had 829 people while the ‘outlying areas’ had 770, but there would have been few in the, as then unnamed, Downfall Creek area.

Those in the ‘outlying areas’ were pasturing their animals on native land and in the process were engaged in clearing the land of native occupants. Consequently, an undec-lared war was being waged as the Aboriginal people fought a hard, but slowly losing battle, to retain their land. The struggle was to last well into the 20th Century with the last known massacre of 31 Aborigines taking place in 1928 on Coniston Station in the Northern Ter-ritory near Alice Springs. An inquiry was held but no one was charged but what if 31 whites had been massacred by blacks?

Waterholes were poisoned, flour laced with strychnine and arsenic was left for the Aborigines; others were shot and left to die. The natives responded with spears and am-bush but not surprisingly they lost. Perhaps more effective than poison was alcohol; the whites were long accustomed to it but the Aborigines did not know how to drink it, ex-cept to oblivion. The resulting chaos and fighting in the camps could not be imagined; it was a very effective drug in breaking down Aboriginal society.

Probably the most effective of the forms of extermination were the diseases, brought by the whites. The indigenous people had no resistance to the new diseases such as smallpox, measles, influenza, tuberculosis, whooping cough, typhoid, typhus, syphilis and they died in great numbers.

How did the Aboriginal people feel about the loss of their land? Unfortunately they left no written material and, as in any war, it was up to the victors to chronicle the struggles so the story is largely written from that perspective. Until recently Australian children were taught about the struggles the early, white, settlers had, while ignoring the Aboriginal occupants of the land. However enough material has survived from early times, written by whites, some of whom were profoundly shocked by the struggle, to give some idea of the black Calvary. Perhaps a comparison may be drawn between the fear felt by the indigenous people towards the whites, with the fear all Australians felt when threatened by a possible Japanese invasion in 1941; we had the USA to help us but the Abo-riginals had no one.

As in most frontier settlements men outnumbered the women almost 3 to 1. This led to many white men living with Aboriginal women and producing the derogatively named ‘half-cast’ offspring. These children of two cultures were rejected by the whites but often accepted by the Aboriginies. Ironically, this became a way of survival for the Aboriginal people; a desperate one, but they survived.

In the 1850s the sacred Bora Rings in the Zillman Waterholes area had been aban-doned by the Aboriginal people and by 1860 two groups of Aboriginal people num-bering between 250 and 300 persons in the North Brisbane-Enoggera area were on the verge of extinction.

Tom Petrie mentions that as a young boy, which would have been in about 1841, he guided a couple of clergymen (W. Ridley and Mr. Hausmann) to an Aboriginal camp at Buyuba or Three Mile Scrub, but in 1904 known as Enoggera Crossing. He mentions that the gathering numbered some 200 indi-viduals and they were living in their tradi-tional way.

Some time later in about 1851, Petrie mentions two corroborees and fights taking place, one between the Roma Street station site and the Normanby Hotel site and the other in York’s Hollow on the Exhibition Ground site, involving 700 and 800 men and women. While the participants came from other areas they give some idea of the num-bers of Aboriginal people still living in their traditional way in the Brisbane area.

The Hamilton family arrived in Bris-bane 26 December 1866, some 15 years after the above incidents, and Thomas Hamilton in his memoirs “Some Things I Remember”, re-cords on page 2:

It was here that we first saw the abo-riginals. They were very poor, hungry looking people with very little cloth-ing who used to come around begging in the daytime, returning to their camps before nightfall. The gins car-ried their piccaninnies in a dillybag on their back; the men usually answered to the name of “Jackie”. When we were in need of honey we gave them a billycan and they would go away into the bush and rob the bees of their honey and exchange it for goods or money. Fish could also be obtained under the same conditions.

This was the situation in Brisbane in 1866; by the time the Hamiltons arrived the damage had been done; the native people did not stand a chance.

Abused and used by whites, they be-came dependant on whites and suffered still more deterioration as they lost their self re-spect. The whites regarded them as inferior and, gradually the Aboriginal people accepted that status. It was not till the mid 20th Century that they started to reclaim their self respect.

The Old Northern Road

The main route north from Brisbane was via the Old Northern Road which fol-lowed an inland route to cross the South and North Pine Rivers. At the time it was not pos-sible to build bridges capable of carrying heavy bullock wagons over large bodies of water; either the technology was not available in the area or the usage did not justify the cost, so finding suitable fords was the only way to cross the waterways.

This road connected with various streets southward to reach back into Spring Hill and northwards to cross the South Pine River at Cash’s Crossing, near present Albany Creek, and the North Pine River at Young’s Crossing, between the present suburbs of Joy-ner and Petrie. It seems that the old road fol-lowed the Aboriginal pathway that Tom Pet-rie walked along with the Aboriginal people on their way to the great triennial intertribal Bunya feast in the Bon-Yi Mountains (Black-all Range) in 1845 ; he later helped survey the route to build the road.

Naming of Downfall Creek

In about 1843 the creek forming part of the northern boundary of Chermside was called Downfall Creek. There are several stories about the reason for the name and all are as-sociated with a bullock wagon transport breaking down or being bogged in the creek. An explanation proposed by the Department of Natural Resources, in a Place Names De-tails Report, is that the creek was named by Carl Friedrich Gerler (1817-1894), missionary and farmer when a bullock dray broke down in the creek while on route to a mission out-station at Caboolture.

Survey and Subdivision of Urban Fringe Land

In 1857 James Warner surveyed the land around Kedron Brook and Chinese mar-ket gardeners leased creek flats to grow vege-tables for the Brisbane market while further surveys extended to Everton Park

In 1864 Edgar Huxtable surveyed the site of the future Chermside area. These surveys marked the final takeover from the Aboriginal owners by establishing legal title to the land. From then on, specific sections of land with specific boundaries belonged to specific persons who bought them from the Colonial government, replacing the Aborigi-nal system through which the clan or tribe had a right of occupancy of a section of land. The Aboriginal belonged to the land but, under the European system, the land belonged to the new owners and they had a document to prove it.

The bush was cleared, small farms be-gan to appear with the new settlers living in slab huts with bark roofs and surrounded by bush timber fences. The village of Downfall Creek, or Dead Man’s Gully, grew along the north road, which became Gympie Road, giv-ing access south to the Brisbane market, north to the frontier land and, after 1867, to the Gympie gold field.

Not all the land was bought by set-tlers, as speculators also bought land as an investment to be resold at a profit as the area developed.

Gympie Road

While the Old Northern Road to Cash’s Crossing (Albany Creek) was the main road north, then the road through the future village of Downfall Creek was only of local importance, but once bridges were built at Breakfast Creek and Bald Hills the road through Downfall Creek became the main road to the north. About that time the road was also known as the Great Northern Road since that name appears on a poster for the Richmond Hill Estate. This estate was on the west side of the road, between Lutwyche cemetery to the north and the brickyards to the south. It was being advertised between 1868 and 1890.

This road was essential to the growth of the future Chermside. As the urban area of Brisbane Town expanded the demand for agricultural goods grew. The local small far-mers provided a wide variety of food stuffs and crops, the squatters further out provided herds of cattle, the bush sawyers provided an endless supply of timber logs for the steam sawmills and builders in the town. The counter movement of manufactured goods provided the teamsters and draymen with back loading and so reduced costs of trans-port.

Bullock teams, of up to 18 beasts, hauling four wheeled drays or box wagons loaded with between 6-8 tons moved at their stately pace of about 3 miles (5km) per hour, but only on the flat, good patches of road while the going was slower on the hills and when crossing the numerous creeks. They were the ‘big rigs’ of the 19th Century and travelled long distances, taking ‘lots of time’ in the land of ‘wait a while’.

More common were the manoeuvrable two wheel drays, hauled by, at most, 8 beasts and carrying 1-2 tons. They could easily be steered around obstacles on the road or in the bush and could be turned around completely when necessary.

The first major improvement was the building of a series of bridges over Breakfast or Enoggera Creek. Originally known as Breakfast Creek Bridge, the name Bowen was given to both the bridge and the road some time after the appointment of Governor Bowen in 1859.

Sometime before 1842 the first bridge was built of logs using convict labour. Thomas Archer mentions a bridge over Breakfast Creek “near the mouth of the creek, where Newstead (House) was afterwards built by Captain Wickham ……” This was prob-ably somewhere near the present bridge at the Breakfast Creek Road – Kingsford-Smith Road intersection.

As white settlement expanded north-ward and Brisbane Town grew, the traffic in-creased so much that a new, larger and stronger bridge, was needed. In June 1850 work began on a two span steel arch bridge costing ₤150 ($14,650 in 2004 values) half of which was paid for by public subscription .

At least three amounts, totalling ₤2,216/13/5 ($147,000 in 2004 values), were spent on bridges over Breakfast Creek in the 1850s but without any mention of where the bridges were located.

Settlement at Downfall Creek

The small settlement that eventually developed between Dead Man’s Gully (Somerset Creek) and Downfall Creek would not have amounted to much until the survey was carried out in 1864, as people would not have had title to any of the land. John Patter-son, who is credited as being the first shop-keeper, did not buy land till 1866. With se-curity of title people had an incentive to begin building on their blocks and to develop small farms and that meant trades people would fol-low and set up their workshops; other things equal. The survey laid the foundation of the future village.

The 1888 Surveyor General’s map of the area shows the smallest block was about 3.2 hectares which possibly indicates that the government was aiming at developing a community of small farms. While the east-west roads of Ellison, Hamilton and Rode and the north south-roads of Webster, Newman, Pfingst and Maundrell were marked without the smaller connecting streets. There is no sign of a village site consisting of quarter acre house blocks around the main road (Gympie Road). These all developed later when the early owners began to subdivide their blocks into smaller house blocks.

Community Groups

These groups form wherever humans congregate and they probably formed around interest groups such as: squatters, the Bris-bane Town business community, Religious or Church people such as Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Ethnic groups such as the later ‘Chummy Town’ and ‘German Quar-ter’ in Chermside, political parties such as Free Traders, Protectionists and Pastoralists.

Social Changes

The biggest social change was the ex-pulsion of the Aboriginal people and their re-placement by the Europeans who were intent on farming and grazing using exotic crops and animals. Fenced paddocks replaced the Bora grounds and sacred sites, while huts and houses replaced the temporary shelters used by the Indigenous people.

Wheel tracks were being cut through the bush to selections where clearing was tak-ing place. Gradually, roads of a sort devel-oped between the settlement outposts and Brisbane Town and hamlets developed at in-tervals along them. Some of these incipient roads followed the foot path tracks which the Indigenous people had used for long spans of time.

For the European settlers, male fran-chise was instituted with responsible govern-ment in 1859, but the females had to wait till the next century and only males had the right to be elected, or selected by the Governor, to parliament.

The newly arrived immigrants sought, and found independence from the old class systems of Europe enabling them to move up the colonial social scale which was not as en-trenched as the one they had left behind.

The British monarchical system con-tinued in the colony of Queensland with Queen Victoria being recognised as Queen of Queensland and the colonists being British citizens. The Aboriginal people were largely ignored as far as rights were concerned, but they were expected to obey the law.