John Dunmore Lang.

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a Dutch Colony, with the fee-simple granted to them of
all the kmd they might reclaim from the waters ! It will
be a magnificent field, by and bye, for engineering.
And gloomy and cheerless and apparently valueless as
they are at present, even these mangrove forests will,
ere long, form a mine of wealth to enterprising colo-
nists ; for as their ashes form an excellent alkali for the
manufacture of soap, and as tallow will in all likelihood
be very cheap at Moreton Bay for a long time to come,
there is no doubt that soap-boiling establishments, on a
pretty extensive scale, will very soon be formed in that
part of the territory.

Above the region of the mangroves the soil and
scenery on the banks of the Brisbane rapidly improve,
and as we approach the Settlement, twenty-five miles

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from its mouth, there are spots of surpassing beauty on
both sides of the stream, some of which have ah-eady
been secured by settlers of taste and enterprise ; neat
cottages, with gardens abounding in all the produc-
tions of the temperate, as well as in most of those of
the torrid zone, crowning the picturesque heights along
the river, which at one time appears contracted to a
comparatively narrow stream, within steep and rocky
banks, and at another expands into a broad sheet of
glassy water, exhibiting all the romantic beauty of a
HigMand or Swiss lake.

''Brisbane Town, or the Settlement, as it is generally
styled in the district, is admirably situated on an ele-
vated ridge of considerable extent, on the north or
left bank of the river ; and if the Grovemment had
only taken advantage of the locality, as might have
been done with perfect facility, on the settlement being
thrown open for free immigration in the year 1842, a
comparatively large population might have been already
concentrated on that spot, enjoying all the real advan-
tages of a town residence, and affording all the fecilities
which a moderately sized town presents to visitors from
the country. The extensive and expensive buildings sup-
posed to be necessary for the head-quarters of a Penal
Settlement had all been erected in that locality, — a
Convict Barrack, a Barrack for troops, a Gaol, a Fe-
male Factory or Prison, for female convicts, a Lumber
Yard, &c., &c., with quarters for all the officers and
employes of the establishment, — and these formed the
nucleus of a town, around which it was alike the duty*
and the policy of the Government to have concentrate!^
the free population on the discontinuance of the pena>
settlement. But,

1» The Local Government could not guarantee ti'
merchants, store-keepers, mechanics, and others desir-
ous of obtaining town-allotments, and fixing themselves
permanently at the head-quarters and principal place
of business of the northern division of the territory,
that Brisbane Town would either be the seat of Govern-
ment, or the commercial capital of the district, while na

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effort whatever was made to fix upon a proper site for
such a capital elsewhere.

2. The Local Government, contrary to a most judi-
cious recommendation of Lord John Russell's, in regard
to the prices proper to be fixed on building allotments
in inland towns, fixed £100 an acre as the minimum
price of such allotments in the town of Brisbane ; and
in such a state of uncertainty as to the site of the fu-
ture capital of the district, this price was in most cases
out of the question.

3. The Local Grovemment neglected to provide any
means of conveyance across the river to Brisbane Town,
which is situated on the wrong side of the Brisbane for
intercourse with the interior ; and travellers from the
latter had consequently to leave their horses and draught
cattle and drays on the opposite side, and cross over
themselves in a ferry-boat. For as the Brisbane River
is 438 yards, or very nearly a quarter of a mile, in
breadth at Brisbane Town, it was a serious matter — ^in
the infancy of the settlement, when every person was
struggling for himself, and the Grovemment furnished
no meansof conveyance— to get across vnth horses and
draught cattle. Even so late as the month of Decem-
ber, 1845, 1 had to wait from nine o'clock in the morn-
ing to nearly four in the afternoon, till I could get my
horse ferried over from Brisbane Town, in the miserable
apparatus even then available for the purpose. In this
way a local interest was established on the South side
of the river, where the Government was moved to lay
off and sell building-allotments, at a somewhat lower
minimum price— in a perfect swamp, however, liable to
fearful inundations. Now the locating of a population
in a situation so unsafe and so insalubrious, when it
was the obvious interest of the Government to have
concentrated that population on a spot in the immediate
neighbourhood, in the highest degree salubrious and be-
yond the reach of inundations, might have been ob-
viated with the utmost facility by merely placing a punt
with a strong cable across the river on the ferry to
Brisbane Town. That punt could have secured access

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at all times, and at a comparatively trifling expense, to
the Government town; and the Government could have
sold it, perhaps at its prime cost, and derived a consi-
derable annual revenue thereafter fix)m the ferry, in
six or twelve months, leaving no inducement to any
person to settle in the swamp.

4. At the opposite extremity of the town of Bris-
bane, the river makes a sharp bend at a place called
Kangaroo Point on the opposite bank, forming a penin-
sula right opposite the township, and separated from
it merely by the river. But the land on that side was
regarded merely as country land, and was disposable at
the Government land sales at a minimum price of not
more than a pound an acre. Such a circumstance was
not likely to escape the notice of one or other of
those long-headed people who find their way occasion-
ally to the colonies ; and consequently a countryman of
mine, of this description, Mr. (now Sir Evan) Macken-
zie, who resided for sometime as a Squatter at Moreton
Bay, purchased the land at Kangaroo Point, at little
more than the minimum price, and subdividing it into
building-allotments for those who wished to have a
fixed place of residence in the neighbourhood, but who
could not afibrd to pay £100 an acre for a building-al-
lotment across the river, formed a third town as a rival
to the two Government towns of North and South

There are thus three insignificant and rival towns,
with all the disadvantages of a scattered population re-
siding far from each other, on the opposite banks of a
hroad river, where the whole of that population might,
with the utmost facility, have been concentrated into
one respectable and flourishing town, directing its unit-
ed means and energies towards the attainment of any
common object alike interesting and important to all.
Such an object is the plentiful supply of water for a
town population; for there are very few localities,
however admirably adapted otherwise for a town, in
which there is a sufficient supply of pure water on the
spot for a large population, and the town of Brisbane

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is no exception to this general rule. Such an object
also is the support of an effective Police, which is ab-
solutely necessary in a country just emerging from the
condition of a Penal Settlement, but which can never
be kept up with the requisite efficiency, for a scatter-
ed population inhabiting a series of insignificant vil*
lages at even a short distance from each other. Such
an object is the education of the people ; for whereas
one or more respectable schools can always be main-
tained with very little support ab extemo in a respect-
able town, it is always a matter of question whether
a school of any kind can be maintained at all in an in-
significant village ; the situation of the school-master
in such localities being generally as low as his intel-
lectual abilities, and the best interests of the youth in
the vicinity being compromised and ruined. Such an
object is the moral and religious instruction of the
people; for the same amount of clerical superintendence,
especially in a semitropical climate like that of More-
ton Bay, will prove equally available for three times
the amount of population in a respectable town, as com-
pared with a population scattered about in small dis-
tant villages. During the two Sabbaths I officiated
twice a-day at Brisbane Town, I had comparatively
large congregations, composed chiefly of families and
individuals of the Presbyterian communion, resident
in all the three towns — ^North Brisbane, South Bris-
bane, and Kangaroo Point. But it was the first time
a Presbyterian minister had ever visited the district,
and consequently an extraordinary occasion. But I
saw plainly, from the mooting of the question, whether
the future church for that section of the population
should not be placed on the South side of the river ra-
ther than on the North, that such a state of things
Vould not be permanent, and that the handful of people
of any one communion in any one of these petty towns
would very soon consider itself equally entitled to a
church and a minister of its own with either of the
others. Now if these churches and ministers are to be
in connexion with the State (which any body of reli-

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gionists may be in New South Wales, where the law
of the land proclaims all religions to be alike, and all
equally deserving of public support) the Government
will eventually be cheated out of the requisite ftinds
for erecting an Episcopal Church, a Presbyterian
Church, a Wesleyan Church, a Eoman Catholic
Church, and a Jewish Synagogue, the five Establish-
ments of the Colony, and fur supporting a minister of
each of these five communions for each of these insig-
nificant towns, when one church and minister for each
communion would have been amply sufficient for all,
had the population been concentrated. On the other
hand, if these ministers, like myself, deem it incum-
bent upon them to protest against the monstrous prin-
ciple I have just mentioned, as being latitudinarian,
antichristian, and infidel in its character, and subversive
in its tendency of all morality and religion, and refuse
to receive State support on any such degrading condi-
tions, how can the mere handful of people he will find
in any one of these insignificant towns be expected to
contribute at all adequately for his support?

Besides, public opinion, even in New South Wales,
is much more powerful for good in a town of mode-
rate size than in an insignificant village. During my
last journey overland from Sydney to Port Phillip, in
the month of January 1846, I ascertained that in the
petty village of Albury, on the Hume River, the an-
nual races for the district (for in New South Wales
every district must have its races) had been held, very
shortly before I passed through it ; that the principal
day of the races had been the Lord's day, or the Chris-
tian Sabbath, and that on that day, that conservator of
public morals, the publican of the place, had been com-
pelled, notwithstanding his own strong remonstrances
(for he would have been in danger of losing his license if
he had done it of his own accord) to supply the racers
with rum from a bucket on the race-ground. I ascer-
tained also, when at Brisbane, Moreton Bay, that the
gentlemen Squatters in that part of the territory are
occasionally, when they visit th^ town, very dissipated

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in their habits, very extravagant in every sense of the
word, and very uproarious. For instance, on a com-
paratively recent occasion, when some of them were
sitting drinking and roistering in a public-house in one
of the three litUe towns I have enumerated, one of them
betted that he would leap his horse over the table
around which they were then sitting, and accordingly,
his bet being accepted, he entered the apartment very
shortly thereafter, mounted, booted, and spurred in due
form. But the ceiling not having been calculated for
such flights, either of fancy or of horsemanship, the man
and horse came down, like Phaeton, right upon the
table. Now such discreditable scenes as either of these
could not have occurred either in Sydney, or in any
town of half its size in the Colony : public opinion
would have prevented such enormities.

From the neglect of the Government in not estab-
lishing a commercial port and capital in the Bay at
the proper time^ interests have sprung up at Brisbane
Town in opposition to that measure altogether. There
are only about seven feet of water on the bar and the
flats at the mouth of the Brisbane River ; and yet it is
now alleged that a dredging machine would open the
channel, and keep it clear for all time coming, and
that Brisbane Town ought therefore to be continued as
the capital of the District. But even although the bar
and flats should be made available for the navigation
of large vessels, it would be most unreasonable to com-
pel people who had come down perhaps from the head
of the Clarence or the Richmond River, first to thread
the long and tortuous channel of the Bay from its north-
em entrance, and afterwards to ascend another river
before they reached the capital of the district. In
short, although the procedure of the Local Govern-
ment in regard to Brisbane Town has been most im-
politic and unjustifiable all along, and likely to be pro-
ductive of much inconvenience and loss to the inhabi-
tants generally, it would be still more unjustifiable and
impolitic to make that locality the capital of the ter-

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The Government buildings for the Penal Establish*
ment at Brisbane Town are fast falling into ruin ; and
it is difficult to conceive, either there or any where else
in the District, what the convicts could have been em-
ployed in, besides the erection of these useless build-
ings, for nearly twenty years together. There were at
one time not fewer than eleven hundred convicts at
Moreton Bay ; and yet, with the exception of a plea-
sure-drive for the officers of about three or four miles
along the banks of the river, there has never been a
mile of road made in any direction in the District ! It
could not be pretended, in excuse for this neglect, that
the future lines of communication, when the District
should be thrown open to free immigration, could not
be foreseen ; for as soon as the Darling Downs had been
discovered by Mr. Cunningham in 1827, and especially
as soon as a practicable passage across the mountains
had also been discovered by that gentleman in 1828, it
might have been foreseen by the merest ignoramus,
that population and commerce would infallibly take
that direction. But so very obvious an idea appears
never to have struck either the authorities at Moreton
Bay, or those at Head Quarters, and consequently no
attempt was ever made to form a road in that direction —
nothing in short was ever done during the whole pe-
riod of the existence of the place as a Penal Settle-
ment, that has either proved, or was ever likely to
prove, of the slightest benefit to the Colonists on its be-
coming free. The Government farm, in the clearing
and cultivation of which thousands and tens of thou-
sands of British money were expended, had been so
injudiciously selected, in point of soil, that it scarcely
brought more when finally disposed of, than the mini-
mum price of waste land. Parties of convicts had
been employed in cutting and rafting down cedar for
sale in Sydney, from the rivers at the southern extre-
mity of the Bay, but large quantities of that cedar were
piled up and left to rot on the beach at Dunwich. Even
the Government Garden, on which the officers of the
Settiement had, for their own sakes, bestowed great at?

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tendon — expending upon it the labour of upwards of
twenty convicts, and which might have proved of real
utility to the free colonists in supplying them with trees,
and shrubs, and plants of all kinds, if the slightest at-
tention had been paid to it, in keeping it up— was al*
lowed to revert to its original condition of a mere wil-
derness, when the Penal Establishment was discon-
tinued, and had long been overrun with couch-grass,
and transformed into a grazing paddock when I visited
the Settlement.

The view from the summit of the "Windmill Hill,
near Brisbane Town, is one of the finest I have seen
in the colony. Jjofty mountain ranges in the distance
shut in the scene to the northward, and westward, and
southward, while detached hills of various elevaticms
are scattered over the intervening country in all direc-
tions. The noble river, which winds almost under foot,
and appears and disappears and appears again as it
pursues its tortuous course through tiie dark forest to
the Bay, or is traced upwards towards its sources, pre-
sents ever and anon points of view surpassingly beau-
tifril ; the thick brushes on its banks, with the majestic
Moreton Bay Pine overtopping all the other giants of
the forest, merely indicating the spots of extraordinary
fertility where the hand of man vnll ere long transform
the wilderness into smiling farms and fruitful fields.
For, as yet, man can scarcely be said to have invaded
the vast wilderness of this part of the territory, and his
works appear diminutive in the extreme when thus con-
trasted with the grandeur and sublimity of nature —
with the dark green mantle of her loneliness wrapped
around her.

There is much land of very inferior quality near
Brisbane Town, on both sides of the river, but par-
ticularly on the South side ; the tract from Brisbane to
Ipswich or the Limestone Hills — situated at the head
of the navigation of the Bremer, a distance of twenty-
five miles by land and fifty by the two rivers — ^being
absolutely sterile, with the exception of a small plain
of a few thousand acres in extent, called Cowper's^

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Plains, about ten miles from Brisbane. On approach-'
ing the river, however, at Red Bank — ^the residence of
Dr. Simpson, Commissioner of Crown Lands for the
Moreton Bay District — the country improves, and the
alluvial land, on the banks of the river, which, however,
is not of great extent and very thickly timbered, is of
the richest description. Dr. Simpson is a gentleman
of cultivated mind and manners, who has travelled
much and read more ; but, I am happy to add, there
are many gentlemen of this description in the district
of Moreton Bay. Dr. Simpson's residence is in the
usual bush style — a rustic cottage formed of rough slabs,
roofed either with bark or shingles, but more frequently
with the former, with a verandah in front and out*
buildings to match. The site, which has been selected
with great taste, is on a ridge overlooking a beautifril
bend of the river, and Dr. Simpson has spared neither
pains nor expense in forming a most picturesque garden
in a natural hollow, where the soil consists of the
richest alluvial land, intervening between the house and
the river ; leaving the more ornamental bush trees of
the natural forest to give interest and variety to the
scene, and to contrast with European potherbs and the
other exotic vegetation of the garden. With the natural
history and appearance of one of these relicts of the
ancient forest, the Moreton Bay fig-tree, which I then
saw for the first time, I was remarkably struck. This
tree bears a species of fig, which I was told (for it was
not in season at the time) is by no means unpalatable,
and of which it seems both the black natives and the
bronze-winged pigeons of the Australian forest are
equally fond. The latter frequently deposit the seeds
with their dung in the forks or natural hollows of forest
trees, where the seeds take root and very soon throw
down a number of slender twigs or tendrils all round
the tree, from a height perhaps of twenty or thirty feet,
to the ground — being apparently a harmless parasite,
which it would be unfeeling to disturb. As soon, how-
ever, as these tendrils reach the earth, they all succes-
sively strike root into the soil, and anon present the

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appearance of a number of props or stays around an
old ricketty building, or rather of a rising favourite at
court gradually supplanting his predecessor and bene-
factor, who has brought him into notice, in the good
graces of his sovereign, and finally accomplishing hia
ruin. The fate of the parent-tree that has nourished
these step-children is either speedy or protracted ac-»
cording to its nature ; but nothing in the Australian
forest can lung resist the fatal embrace of the native
fig-tree, and the tree around which it has thus sprung
into parasitical life is doomed eventually to die. The
tendrils, which have then perhaps attained the thick-
ness of a man's limb, or it may be of his body, inter-
twine their branches, and gradually filling up by their
lateral expansion the hollow left by the wasting away
of the parent-tree, exhibit at length a gigantic specimen
of Australian vegetation. I afterwards met with one
of these trees in the rich alluvial land on Breakfast
Creek, a few miles from Brisbane, on the north side of
the river. I could not ascertain its height, but it
measured 42 feet in circumference at five feet from the
ground. At that height, spurs were thrown out from
it at an angle of 45 degrees all round. The specimen
in Dr. Simpson's garden had fortunately attached itself
to an iron-tree — the hardest and heaviest species of
timber in the district. The parent-tree, which was still
in life and in vigorous vegetation, may have been 18
inches in diameter, and the tendrils which clasped it
round so affectionately were each only about the thick-
ness of a man's leg ; but the iron-tree was evidently
doomed to die under the resistless grasp of this un-
grateful parasite, and it required no stretch of fancy to
imagine the agony it was suffering, or to liken it to a
goat or deer dying under the horrible embrace of a
boa constrictor or polar bear.

Ipswich or Limestone is a well-chosen site for an
inland town, being situated at the head of the naviga^
tion of the Bremer River, and on the direct route to the
Darling Downs, by Cunningham's Gap. From Ipswich
the Bremer pursues a tortuous course, between steep

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banks, for about twelve miles, to the Brisbane River,
and a small steamer has very recently been placed on
the coui*se between Brisbane Town and Ipswich. The
Bremer is subject to floods, and has been known to rise
53 feet above its ordinary level ; b^t the Brisbane
being much wider, the water, in times of inundation,
escapes much more freely, and the floods on that river
are consequently not nearly so high. Limestone Plains,
in the immediate vicinity of Ipswich, are a tract of
land almost destitute of timber, of the richest deep
black mould, and of uncommon fertility. The distance
to the foot of the mountains is only thirty-eight miles,
and quite level throughout ; and at eighteen miles from
Ipswich there are other Plains, similar to those at
Limestone, called Normanby Plains, containing an
area of 40,000 to 50,000 acres. The advantages of
such a locality for an agricultural settlement, close to
a navigable river and on the great highway to the
western interior, must be self-evident.

Like all other towns either founded or projected by
Sir George Gipps, within the vast territory of New
South Wales, Ipswich is entirely destitute of that most
interesting, useful, and important feature of all Spanish
and Portuguese towns in the New World — ^a square or
open area in the centre of the town. I was told, in-
deed, that the Surveyor who planned the town of
Ipswich had laid off a square in the original plan which
was submitted to the Governor ; but His Excellency
disapproved of it I There was no need of such a thing,
His Excellency thought. It was too large an extent
of Crown Land to sacrifice, merely for the comfort and
convenience of the people, in a territory only 2000
miles square ! Or, perhaps, it might hereafter tempt
the inhabitants to hold "monster meetings" in the
open air, to pass votes of censure on indifferent Gover-
nors, or to learn " the manual exercise." At all events,
neither Ipswich, nor any other town in the territory
vrith the making of which Sir George Gipps had any-

Online LibraryJohn Dunmore LangCooksland in north-eastern Australia: the future cottonfield of Great ... → online text (page 11 of 47)