Land of Coal and Corn (#4): Laidley, Boonah and Dugandan

The following article is extracted from the Brisbane Courier, 26 January 1892:

'Laidley is entitled to first position among the many small townships in the land of coal and corn. It has emerged from its swaddling clothes and is already a great agricultural centre, having a produce trade of its own exceeding that of any other town on the eastern slope of the Main Range. Owing its birth, as its growth, to its position, Laidley has from the first been visited by agriculturists who eagerly secured and settled upon the rich and productive areas of land which extend from the township right up to Mount Mistake at the head of Laidley Creek. No wildcat speculation nor booming operated to bring Laidley into existence, for only those who honestly desired to cultivate the soil and to make themselves a home in this sunny land settled in the district. It is estimated that more than 250 farmers are farming within ten miles of the town, and the chief products are potatoes, maize, lucerne, barley, rye, and a little wheat.

In twelve months 7299 tons of agricultural produce were sent out of the district, for which over £2423 was paid to the Railway Department. To this should be added 1241 tons of produce sent from Forest Hill, an agricultural settlement four miles west of Laidley; while Gatton, ten miles away, despatched 2887 tons, and Grantham 1488 tons. Laidley, which contains a population of nearly 600 people, is thus the active centre of a great agricultural district, and the town naturally possesses distinctive features. It is placed fifty-one miles from Brisbane, on the west of the Little Liverpool Range. After ascending the range and travelling through the long Victoria Tunnel, the Laidley Valley, with its cultivated patches, neat cottages and homesteads, and the hills in the background, forms a pleasant picture, and when the train halts at the railway platform the bustling little township, with its attractive surroundings and homely aspect, appeals to one most favourably.

A visit to the town and social intercourse with its people only tend to intensify the favourable impression usually formed at first sight. The atmosphere is that of an agricultural community, in which good taste and generous friendliness and hospitality prevail; the people are free from all that smacks of ostentation, while, when the age of the community is considered, the interest taken in literature and music is most commendable. The principal thoroughfare is Patrick street, and many of the buildings are substantial and neat in design. There are several hotels, where good accommodation at reasonable prices may be obtained, two banks, a school of arts, post and telegraph offices, public halls, and other evidences of comfort and civilisation. The township is very compact, and the wants of the inhabitants are met in every direction; nearly every religious denomination has its own place of worship, there are two good State schools, debating classes, temperance and benefit organisations, an agricultural society, and an excellent local newspaper, the Lockyer Star, owned by Robinson and Co..

Settlers bark hut, Laidley Creek, c.1880 (John Oxley Library)

The climate is ever agreeable, and Laidley is a particularly healthy and pleasant place in which to live, unless during the wet season. Unfortunately the township is built on a flat, and subject to inundation. The original township was placed on a hill, about half a mile from the present position of the town, but when the railway was constructed it was found necessary for business reasons to come down and settle along-side the line. In flood time the main street usually carries a few feet of water, and this is not agreeable, but after all it is no worse than many parts of the metropolis in similar trying times.

Laidley is rich in beautiful surroundings, and to anyone who desires to spend a pleasant holiday rambling among the Queensland hills it will be found without a peer among the Southern towns. The Laidley valley is dotted with farms, cultivated areas, and glorious patches of green scrub. The range of hills has a beauty all its own; from every gorge and projecting spur each point of view has a charm peculiar to itself, the whole making a never-ending variety of wondrous scenery. No pleasanter day’s outing in all Queensland can be imagined than a ride up Laidley Creek. From the top of the range which divides Laidley Creek from Sandy Creek a magnificent panorama can be obtained - in the foreground the warm scrub lands; in the middle distance the valley dotted with farms and small villages; while the hills of the range in the distance alone shut out a view of Brisbane and the Pacific Ocean. From this point can be seen Mount Zael, Mount Cooper, and Mount Mistake. On the slope of the latter mountain are several very romantic and picturesque waterfalls. Sandy Creek winds round and round these hills, and its banks are alive with birds and wild flowers. Here may be found the rifle and regent birds, the gigantic kingfisher, scrub dove, bittern, curlew, swamp pheasant, landrail, fishtail, the pittern or dragon bird, abundance of snipe, while in the waters may be found the platypus and plenty of fish. The creek in many parts is quite 15ft. deep, affording ample room for a refreshing swim, while the white acacia and the red honeysuckle form pleasant retreats for the tired traveller. In the course of the creeks are scores of delightful picnic spots. The reader may leave Brisbane in the morning and be lost among the running brooks, the peaceful dells, the miniature chasms, and the thousand and one beauties of the Laidley Valley before the setting of the sun. Were the Laidley people wise they would organise a big picnic to one of the beauty spots near the town and invite a score or two of metropolitans. As an advertisement for the district this form could not be surpassed.

Boonah and Dugandan

One of the brightest and smartest townships in the West Moreton district is Boonah, a settlement placed almost at the terminus of the Dugandan line, thirty-six miles from Ipswich. Dugandan and Boonah, although only half a mile apart, have divided interests. It is said that Boonah owes its existence to the cupidity of some of the Dugandan landholders who, when the railway was completed, refused to part with their land except at ridiculously high prices. The new comers thereupon removed their tents to a fairly high piece of ground half a mile away, and setting to work with a will soon established a township which has fairly eclipsed the older town. Boonah is only four years old, and yet is one of the most wide-awake progressive townships in Queensland. It is literally embosomed in the scrub, and is wonderfully attractive. It now possesses a neat courthouse, bank, divisional board’s office, State school, school of arts, three churches and an equal number of public-houses, and several remarkably well-appointed stores. A plot of land has also been set apart for a show ground, and the residents are endeavouring to establish a huge bacon factory in close proximity to the town. The railway station is awkwardly placed on the wrong side of the railway line, and is a miserable little shed utterly inadequate to meet the requirements of the place. Many private residences are in course of erection, and ere long Boonah will be a large and prosperous town. One of the finest country hotels in Queensland is to be found in Boonah. Dugandan, or rather the shade of the old place, lies in a plain half a mile distant, and here are two or three stores and two saw-mills, while Teviot Brook meanders peace- fully away on towards Coochin. Dugandan is a great timber centre, receiving supplies from Coochin, Milford, Mount Friend, and Upper Coochin, and also from Mount French and the Sugarloaf, three miles away. One of the sawmills (Cossart’s) was in full working order at the time of my visit, finding employment for many men. Everything around Boonah and Dugandan was in an active and flourishing condition, in sharp contrast to other places, and it was gratifying to find that during all the bad times substantial and gratifying progress had been made.

Bullock team, J. McCourt’s store, Dugandan, ca. 1904 (Boonah Archive)

There is nothing to fear for the district with agriculture as a foundation. The natural beauties of the whole place are manifold. From Dugandan the visitor can easily ride to Coochin and Maroon stations and on past Mount Lindesay into the valley of the Richmond River. There are scores of lovely vistas, and the whole country side is full of delightful rural scenes indicative of peaceful and prosperous husbandry. The railway from Ipswich runs through a magnificent tract of agricultural land, the greater portion of which is cleared and cultivated. Peak Crossing, Mount Flinders, Harrisville, Wilson’s Plains, Radford, Munbilla, and the Dugandan Scrub form a series of views scarcely to be excelled in any part of the colony, and tourists will find abundance of material in the short run of thirty-six miles not only to delight their senses but also to swell their sketch-books and photographic albums.