pioneer days of Tewantin | Noosa today

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In this edited excerpt from his book Place Of Shadows, PHIL JARRATT recalls the birth of the first true city of Noosa 150 years ago.

By early 1870, the McGhie Timber Partnership, Luya and Co had built a large sawmill at Mill Point on the shores of Cootharaba Lake with a rapidly growing settlement around it, but as the timber was sawn and towed over pontoons downstream where he was transferred to paddle steamers for the treacherous journey through the bar, then to Brisbane or Maryborough, the first true township of what would become Noosa Shire began to take shape.

On the last deep-water stretch of the Laguna Estuary, a new port town was starting to develop around the docks built for the timber-hauling ships Gneering, Culgoa and others to follow soon. As the timber haulers took control of the river, the local Kabi Kabi called the emerging timber town Dauwadhun, meaning ‘place of dead trunks’, which in phonetics from the white man became Tewantin, but for years , it was simply known as The Shortcut.

In 1868, in response to demand for transportation to the gold fields, Cobb and Co began a twice weekly coach run from Brisbane to Gympie along the newly completed Gympie Road, roughly following the Bruce Line. Highway today. But it was a torturous 10-step journey, and many voices in Brisbane business circles, Gympie and Maryborough spoke out in favor of developing a bus route between Gympie and the Noosa River, with passengers and freight connecting there with a steamboat to Brisbane, a much faster and more comfortable journey, provided you survive crossing the Noosa bar.

The loudest of those voices belonged to Walter Hay, who had already made a path from Gympie to Lake Cootharaba, and who believed that creating a drivable route to the steamboat dock would not be a huge undertaking. These voices became even louder in 1869 when the Noosa Estuary was first surveyed by Commander GP Heath, Queensland Harbor Master, and his depth charts made navigation much safer.

While Queensland Lieutenant Surveyor Clarendon Stuart was in charge of planning the site for the town of Tewantin, Walter Hay was appointed supervisor of the construction of a carriage road between Gympie and the new town. Always a shrewd operator, Hay made sure that before going into the bush to build a road, he had chosen prime land for conditional purchase around the proposed township, the survey of which was not yet complete. . In this he was not alone. Another in an attempt to grab a slice of the pie was a certain Grainger Ward, who had considerable interests in the timber and cattle around Gympie. He and Walter Hay would develop a fierce rivalry in the battle to become the first baron of the Tewantin lands.

Walter Hay was building the Gympie-Tewantin “shortcut” in June 1870 when his twins were born and his wife Mary Ann died hours later. No communication reached his bush camp, the tragic news was almost a week old when he received it, and Mary Ann had already been buried. There are no reports of whether he took time off to mourn or just got lost in the difficult and backbreaking work of clearing, but the project was completed on time. However, when he finally returned to Gympie’s land office in October, he was not a happy man.

New widowed father with eight dependent children under the age of 14, Walter Hay probably had every reason to be mad at the way life was going, but his specific problem when he called the land office was qu ‘in his absence, the Tewantin township investigation by Clarendon Stuart had been completed and had taken over much of his and Grainger Ward’s selections. To add insult to injury, of what was left, Ward’s selection now seemed to overlap Hay’s.

After considerable argy-bargy, Ward and Hay were allowed to make further selections, with Hay also being awarded “rents and survey fees.” Ward chose land facing the river north of the town site (Ward’s estate, on which he built Tewantin’s first real house), while Hay chose 350 acres of frontage on the Noosa River from the on the other side of Doonella Lake, accessible by crossing a narrow ford at low tide.

Directly across the river in Colloy, over 150 loggers had a sprawling campsite, but all the supplies that arrived at Noosa’s bar in steamboats went straight to the Tewantin Lumber Dock, to be there. distributed around the town’s businesses, and by 1873 there were several.

The “shortened” coach service between Gympie and Tewantin began in 1871, taking about eight to 10 hours, and scheduled so that arrivals and departures at Tewantin match the movements of the paddle steamer Culgoa’s Brisbane. Postal service began in early 1873, around the same time the telegraph office opened, and a temporary police station was built after “libertine and drunken behavior” during the Noel-New period. An. Tewantin saw quite a bit of this sort of behavior in its early days, and while there was only one licensed establishment – a bar with a few guest rooms in the back – there were several joints. of sneaky grog, gambling dens and brothels spread out along the town’s two shopping streets, starting at right angles to the massive fig tree above the bend in the river.

Queensland Governor Normanby passed in May 1873, taking the shortcut to Brisbane from Gympie, and inspected the Elanda Sawmill and McGhie Loading Facility, Luya in Colloy, after spending the night at Postmaster Rob’s Tewantin pub. Richardson. Two months after Governor Normanby’s visit, a boiler exploded at the Elanda factory, killing five men in horrific circumstances. An eyewitness reported seeing “Phillip Molloy limping with his feet torn off, his brother Patrick dreadfully scalded” while “Charles Long was picked up dead, Joseph White’s leg was blown away and Patrick Tierney was so scalded that he could not live ”.

The tragedy further heightened the sense of apprehension around Tewantin, even as the men of the wood held drunken vigils for their companions in the streets. In some ways it was a sad and sordid place, but it was also a border town that exuded hope for the future, even in the dark depths of the present, and a growing number of travelers were giving it great reviews. . One of them was Gympie’s businessman and politician, James Kidgell, who passed by in August 1875 and wrote the following for the “Newsa Notes” column of the Gympie Times:

“Having some free time in Tewantin, I am sending you some notes on the progress of this burgeoning city, as it can be called without exaggeration. The road from Gympie to this point can now be declared in good travel condition, and a well-ridden buggy can be driven easily in six or seven hours. There are certainly a couple of bad spots to go through, but with ordinary care there is no danger and no fear of getting bogged down… I have seen great improvement in all respects since my last visit here. The main artery begins to present a street aspect …

“As proof of the good opinion received regarding the future of this place, I could mention that every subdivision in the surveyed township has been purchased, and there are many requests from people wishing to make similar investments. The scrub is quickly cleared from the point, which not only has the effect of driving away these annoying companions, flies and mosquitoes to a great extent, but also gives additional beauty to the landscape by providing an excellent view of the lake on the part. south of the town.

“Lack of accommodation has so far been the general complaint of visitors to Tewantin. It is satisfying to know that this deficiency no longer exists, and the traveler …

And so it remains today. Happy birthday, Tewantin!

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