Early SettlementPioneers


From the QUEENSLAND TIMES SAT July 24th 1926





(No.1) Those of the makers of the Rosewood district who remain, a few pioneers in their late seventies, and eighties, are justly proud of the results of their labour. They have made from a wilderness of scrub and forest hundreds of fertile farms that now support, easily a population of 8000 to 9000. The old men’s dreams have been realised, and warranted by the districts’s agricultural and industrial potentialities. Within the memories of many of its residents the Rosewood district has been transformed from dense scrub to a closely settled agricultural area with prosperous trading centres and a population of several thousands. There are a dozen or more persons in Rosewood town to-day who remember bridle tracks through the bush as its only thoroughfares, and bullock wagons practically its only vehicles.

At the Rosewood Agricultural and Horticultural Association’s show to-day there will probably be a crowd of 2000 or more, and scores of motor cars. Thls is but one of three big agricultural shows which annually display the district’s wonderful fertility and the amazing variety of its products. The population of the Rosewood Shire, which only covers a portion of the district, is 6500, and the town which, 60 years ago, was only a gatehouse on the main line, has 2500 inhabitants. Most of the district was heavy scrub country before its settlement, and the remainder was fairly open timber. There were more blacks than whites in the area, and most of the land was included in a few big pastoral runs. Big areas were afterwards taken up for timber purposed, and about the same time many parts of the district were thrown open for selection for small area farming.

A remarkable feature of this early settlement was the formation of almost purely national communities. Scots started the Fernvale district settlement, in the dairying community of Wivenhoe pocket; Germans opened up Kirkheim (Haigslea), Glamorgan Vale, and most of the Marburg locality; Englishmen formed the first Rosewood community: and Irish settlers were the pioneers of Mount Walker and Rosevale. Danes following soon afterwards in all of these districts the children and grandchlldren of the first settlers are the farmers now. In most cases the original selections are still held by the same families.

INCREDIBLE CHANGES – To one standing above any of the rich valleys of the district, on a hill side overlooking an almost English scene of small farms and hamlets, the stories of the few surviving pioneers seem almost incredible. The old folk tell of the laborious days and nights of the clearing day, the difficulty of making a way through the scrub to their selections, and life in their first farm homes, merely slab and bark humpies. They recall the wanton destruction of millions of feet of beautiful timber, of piling the logs in heaps and burning them. They scratched the first seed into the ground; with the rude implements which were all they could afford, and spent many weary nights in watching, keeping the wallabies off the growing crops. These grand old men tell, too, of fighting against more cruel forces than the scrub, wallabies, bush fires, or droughts. When they had fought and had beaten all of these, they still had to face the markets-sometimes seven pence or eight pence for maize, with 1/6 as a good price, and for butter as little as 1½d. a pound. Though prices were low, the seasons generally were good, and the marvellously fertile land aided them in their fighting. Big yields from the maize crops and abundance of rich milk from the cows gave the pioneers their ultimate success. Houses with boarded floors and glass windows gradually supplanted the humpies, and the scrub was all destroyed and the wallabies went.

BIRTH OF THE TOWNSHIP: The settlers needed provisions, clothing, farm implements, and harness. Here and there throughout the district stores were started to serve them. On the main roads where the timber teams travelled, inns were opened, and did brisk trade. Stores sprang up beside them, and hotels beside the stores in other places. The first railway of the state, from Ipswich to Grandchester (then Bigges Camp), was almost all in the Rosewood district Townships, including Rosewood itself, were started here and there along the line. The line was soon extended to Toowoomba, and in the other direction to Brisbane, with each extension exercising a greater influence on the development of Rosewood. The Lowood line, extending some years later to Esk, was built, and Lowood, the dead end of a railway thrown into the scrub, came into being. Fernvale, on the old Esk-road, and practically the oldest township of the district, was prosperous and busy years before the line was built at all. The Marburg district sawmills and sugar mill, run by the late Mr Charles Smith and his son, Mr T. L. Smith, were largely responsible for the rapid development ofother portions of the district.

For 45 years the residents of the Bremer valley, on the other side of the main line, have been agitating for a railway, but so far they have had no success. Motor transport, however, is now putting them in much closer communication with the rail towns, and with other parts of the district, unserved by a line, they are endeavouring to get better roads to make possible the quick and cheap transport which the immense fertility of their district demands.

HISTORY OF THE TOWN. Practically the whole district is tilled with small farms. There are also many larger dairying and beef cattle holdings. Little more than one-third of the population of the district lives in the towns. Rosewood, the chief centre, is intensely progressive, and its residents prophesy enormous developments in the next 25 years. As well as being a big commercial and agricultural centre its coal mines give it potentialities as a secondary industrial centre. The mines in the vicinity employ nearly 200 men a big proportion of whom live in Rosewood. It is still an important sawmilling town and a big receiving centre for dairy products. The actual pioneers of Rosewood itself were Messrs John Farrell, John Vance and William Matthews. When the railway line from Ipswich to Big Camp was opened, on February 15, 1864, Rosewood was all scrub. As the Toowoomba-road crossed the line a gatehouse was built there soon afterwards, and Mr Matthews and Mr Vance were the first two gatekeepers.

Afterwards they and Mr Farrell took up scrub selections in the present township. Still later Mrs Farrell was appointed to the gate, and kept it , until the first station-master, Mr Black, started duty, and acted as gatekeeper as well as station master. A few years passed before the Rosewood gatehouse became a stopping place for the trains. Soon afterwards the first station was built, from timber cut out of the scrub, and dressed at Smith’s mills at Marburg. There had been inns at the Seven-Mile and on the Toowoomba-road at Rosewood itself practically from the time of the construction of the road, several years before the railway. “The Rising Sun,” opened by a man named O’Brien, was the one at Rosewood. This was later used as a residence, and afterwards for school classes, and was ultimately destroyed by fire. Sloane’s hotel, which was second built in the town, over 50 years ago, still carries the name of “The Rising Sun.”

Mr Vance owned most of the land on one side of what is now the main street, and Mr Matthews the other. Mrs J. H. Jacobs, formerly Caroline Dutney, was born in the district, and remembers school picnics in a clearing in the scrub, and having to pull the scrub vines aside to walk along a bush track crossing what is now the main street. Mrs Evans, daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Vance, has simlar memories. The first store was opened by Mr Vance, who also conducted the first post office. The railway station was built soon after the first show association, the Farmers’ Club, was started, in 1877. Huge quantities of farm-produce pored in to the station, and the township grew quickly. The starting of coal mines in the locality further assisted the town’s progress. To-day it is a thriving commercial, industrial, and agricultural centre, with many stores, public offices, schools and churches.



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