Settlers in a slab hut on a dairy property
(Photo: State Library of Qld)

So much of what makes Rosewood a place people choose to call home, is the result of the hard work and initiative of those gone before, our Pioneer men and women.

William Pitt Vance, born 1868, came to the Rosewood Gate as an infant with his parents, John and Olivia Vance. In 1923 he wrote to the “Daily Mail” about his boyhood memories of his home town. His words give us a small glimpse into the lives of our pioneers.

A friend in the south sent me a copy of your issue of May 5, containing an account of the progress of Rosewood district, and it has awakened old memories of boyhood day when it was only “Rosewood Gate.” My dearest memories are of two small clearings where the town now stands, and a strip of scrub with a track cut in it (now the main street), and the old home, slabs and shingle roof, and over across the forest, the main road to Toowoomba, a large two two-storied hotel, where the coaches used to stop prior to the railway coming. And what a task it was for the selectors in those days, most of them “new chums” fresh from the old land, and 90 per cent without capitol yet with splendid courage, they took up those selections, and with indomitable pluck held on, financed by business firms, notably Messrs. Cribb and Foote of Ipswich. Living was hard, hours of labour all the daylight possible, recreation nil, but victory came, and the record published is a tribute to our pioneers.

Most of the farms in proximity to Rosewood were held by Britishers, the exception being Pedrazinni, an Italian. For the first five miles or so it was British; then in the Marburg and Minden districts fully 80 per cent were Germans, and let it be said, they were splendid settlers; equal in all respects to the best of our own people, and yet (?) someone has been responsible for turning Minden into Frenchton. There never were any French settlers in the Rosewood district, the only French person the writer remembers being M. Desbois, the first schoolmaster of the local school. The writer started his education on the first day the school was opened, and memory, harking back recalls the school-master, a portly gentleman, a great believer in discipline, as he, with cane tucked under his, arm, clay pipe in his mouth, used to march up and down before the desks; and woe betide the culprit who gave offence And yet, withal, discipline was needed, for some of the “boys” were already guilty of downy growth about their cheeks and little understood or cared for the necessity of learning the three R’s.

J. W. Vance opened the first business in Rosewood, and J. L. Frederick in Marburg and Minden, and after the writers school days were over, he used to run a mail from Rosewood to Marburg, and from Rosewood to Watson’s place at Tarampa, passing through a closely settled district. He saw the scrub disappear an cultivation take its place.

In those days the womenfolk had a rough time and no pen can do justice to their splendid qualities, nor can distinction be made between the various nationals. Trials came to them all, the worst perhaps being the drought of 1884 when great numbers of cattle perished and the settlers in the scrub were hard pushed for water for drinking purposes. The Government used to send train-loads of water and German waggons, carts, drays, and all kinds of vehicles would rattle over the rough roads to secure a portion of the precious liquid, and it was hard luck sometimes for a settler to come in some seven or eight miles only to find the tanks empty. And then, when the good seasons came, the price of corn used to drop as low as 9d per bushel; but every farmer used to make some butter, and sell eggs and poultry, and so eked out a living. Then came a brighter day, and the travelling dairy came along to show the farmers the way to separate and make butter, and dairying took firm hold, and lifted the district to a high place.

The writer remembers the first show of the “Farmers’ Club,” when the school house was utilised for the purpose, and cabbages, etc., replaced the slates on the desks for the time being. Now that the mineral wealth underground is being added to the wealth produced on the surface, the future should be bright for those whose interests lie there….. I send best wishes to the old home town.

Compiled by Jane Schy