Travels in East Moreton, 1859 (#5): Cleveland

(From the Moreton Bay Courier, 26 February 1859)

'WELL, that designation does certainly sound with a more aristocratic twang than the old familiar one of Pumpkin Point. Yet, what a host of recollections occurs to memory when the mind, as if by magic, is brought back at full swing, some 16 or 17 years, when, at a period of our early history, I made one of a small party to proceed by land from Brisbane to Pumpkin Point. What a mighty change has taken place in the aspect of Moreton Bay affairs since that day when, full of wondering curiosity, we made our way by the surveyor’s marked tree line, on foot, to the Bay. The lordly squatter of the present day was then the unpretending Jackaroo, full of pluck and indomitable energy; but sans the snobbish exclusiveness of the present race of drawing-room squattocracy. In fact, the old stock, the pioneer squatters of the Moreton Bay country, were gentlemen; they made no boast of their aristocratic acquaintances in the old country, and drank their tin pot of tea, with a bit of beef and damper, in social familiarity with those hardy bushmen who helped them to open out and secure those runs and stations, or rather principalities, which the Plutocracy of Sydney have, unfortunately for these districts, managed to engulph within their ever craving and capacious maws.

But let us leave the past, and enjoy some portion of the good, within our reach at the present. The embryo town of Cleveland is beautifully situated as regards scenery, upon the southern portion of the Bay, between the embouchures of the rivers Brisbane and Logan. From the former township the distance by land is some l8 or 20 miles; from Ipswich about 30 miles; the country between Cleveland and Brisbane, being of the ordinary description of open forest land, with occasional tracks of poor sandy soil A portion of it about Doughboy Creek, has been purchased; and a few improvements, in the shape of fencing and a house or two, meets the eye of the traveller in that neighborhood. None of the land appears to have been brought under cultivation; the principal occupation of the residents hereabouts being connected with stock and dairy produce. As you approach the vicinity of the Bay, the land assumes a more park-like appearance, the previous broken country giving place to fine open ridges, luxuriantly clothed with vegetation, and other evidences of the productive nature of the soil. I felt convinced in my own mind, as I passed over this interesting portion of the Bay district, that should cotton growing ever find encouragement by our future government placing a bounty upon that valuable textile, the growth of these Northern districts, a large and valuable section of country will be occupied by planters, who will make Cleveland the mart and emporium for their cotton wool.

ln my second sketch, descriptive of the sea-view obtained at Sandgate, I made mention of the varied beautiful views presented to the eye of the gazer from “Cabbage-tree head;” but I must confess, that as the eye glances across the Bay at “Cleveland,” the palm must be conceded to the latter headland for its rich scenes of grandeur and loveliness. I felt sadly disappointed upon reaching “Cassim’s Family Hotel and Boarding House” to find, from the worthy host, that he had not had a single visitor to stop for any length of time at his hostelry for some two months past.

Sketch of Cleveland as viewed from the Brighton (Grand
View) Hotel, 1892. (Queenslander, 31 December 1892)

Sauntering in the direction of the Point, by a very excellent road, one cannot help continually stopping by the way to take another look of the magnificent scenery spread out on either hand. On the southern side of the point, the observer beholds some of those beautiful islands that lie scattered about the south passage in the direction of Point Danger bight, and a longing desire seems to enter one’s soul, to be enabled to follow the curlew’s flight, in their visits to this charming, peaceful, and fairy-like scenery.

In front of the point, lies Peel and Stradbroke Islands; the former of small extent, but of great adaptability for future occupation; the latter of many miles extent, in fact forming with Moreton and Bribie Islands, that apparent coast line lying between Point Danger and their sea fronts, protecting the harbour or Bay within them from the fierce assaults of the waves of the not very Pacific Ocean.

Upon reaching the “Point,” I found all dull and cheerless. The capacious brick built stores, with the adjoining dwelling houses unoccupied, if I except the wife of one solitary lime-burner, who made themselves “at home” in a comfortable four roomed cottage near the jetty. As I wandered about this deserted village I could not disburthen my mind from the ever recurring thought, “What causes this apathy in the occupation of Cleveland?” The situation is excellent, the soil productive, the immense back country of the Logan and its tributaries close at hand, with its occupiers gradually but surely advancing in the true Australian wealth of sheep and cattle; yet, with all these advantages, “Cleveland,” the property of private individuals, is left almost uninhabited.

As I mused over the fallen expectations of certain speculators, I tried to assign myself a reason for this change in the prospects of “Cleveland;” and the conclusion I arrived at was that the movement made some seven years since by certain influential squatters, to build up Cleveland and open it out as a shipping port, was not undertaken prematurely, but upon too grand and exclusive a scale. They forgot ‘tis the common herd that fills up the channels of the busy stream of human life and industry. They forgot how but a few years previous, they had by a very simple process, concentrated a population at their pet town of Ipswich; and for the benefit of the uninitiated I will explain how that was done. In 1842, the Jackaroo squatters, then but a short time in the occupation of their runs, found their way with their wool teams to the bay, or rather Brisbane. As the shipping port, Limestone of that day, then in the occupation of the Government as a penal establishment, was speedily found by them to possess the advantage of the head of the navigation in that direction, and their wool could be sent down, and their stores be brought up by means of a punt, more expeditiously than by the bush road or track, a blacksmith and wheelwright (poor Tom Moore), alas, now no more, was induced to build a smithy and shanty in the vicinity of the Government Overseer’s residence. Sparks from the anvil, glittered in the distance, like lulling stars, far into the hours of the night; so pressing were the daily demands made upon poor Tom’s physical powers. The requirements of the carpenter were soon found wanting, to erect the dwellings of the shoemaker, the saddler, the shopkeeper, and then as a matter of course, the large house, wherein the occupier is licensed to accommodate and kill any number of her Majesty’s liege subjects he can induce to enter his portals. After these visitations, behold Limestone became Ipswich; and, in a few years, boasts of its North Australian Club House, and other squatting associations.

LWK Wirth, Saltwater lagoon 1911 (Queensland Art Gallery).

A similar result might have reasonably been anticipated, as respected the progress of Cleveland, had the same judicious policy been pursued by its first originators, and at this day, instead of silent forest glades, busy thoroughfares would have marked its whereabouts, and the deserted stores and jetty echoed to the hum of human industry, and perchance to the whirring sound of the fast revolving wheels of the steam saw-mill.

In this latter respect let me for a moment glance at the position of Cleveland for the speculative erection of a saw-mill. The cedar scrubs of the Logan, the Tweed, the Arrowsmith, and their numerous tributaries, lay not exactly in close proximity, but within a reasonable and safe distance of the point. Hardwood, and other timber fit for every description of building purposes, is nigh at hand. The sawyer could, with great facility, raft his timber to Cleveland, without having to encounter the perils of crossing the Bay to get it to Brisbane, there to be cut up for market, and thus materially reducing the first cost of the article. Should the foregoing suggestion convey a wrinkle to some cute old coon in search of a grand idea, I would advise him seriously to give the subject a thought; and when he had fortunately hit the nail on the head, so as to drive it into his prolific brain, thereby securing future pecuniary advantages. All I ask in return is, to make me a present of as much sawn stuff as will make me a comfortable coffin. A grave present, I must confess, but then I don’t like to be too greedy in these matters.

In the neighborhood of the Point, Louis Hope, Esq., one of the fortunate class of Moreton Bay squattocracy, has secured for himself, by purchase, a beautiful block of rich pasture and agricultural land, situated upon the shore at the head of Raby Bay, and bounded by Wogan Creek, to which property the appropriate name of woojanness has, I understand, been given.

In my previous visits to this locality I thought I had formed a pretty correct opinion of the growing capabilities of the land in the direction of Cleveland; but I must confess after a look round the recently formed cultivation paddock of Mr. Hope, it went far beyond my previous conceptions. The growth of every foreign shrub and tree therein planted was indeed most luxuriant; and the careful attention of a very few years will, no doubt, add a thousand charms to the many present beauties of woojanness.

A walk round the paddocks amidst grass reaching above the knee, made me fancy myself in some old English park. The stately trees sparely scattered about - a few quiet milkers contentedly chewing their cud beneath the shade of their wide spreading boughs, brought the almost lost remembrance of Home back to recollection.

The proprietor of woojanness is preparing a beautiful site, overlooking the waters of our magnificent bay, whereupon to erect his Country seat; and from Mr. Hope’s known taste in these matters, we cannot doubt but the building will not only be an ornament to the grounds, but a bountiful feature in our Bay scenery. Messrs. T. B. Stephens and T. L. M. Prior have also large landed properties purchased in this neighborhood. The former gentleman has, for some time past, upon a portion of his purchases formed a fell mongering establishment.

Although every unprejudiced person must commend the foresight of these and other gentlemen, who have secured to themselves these compact freeholds, which at no distant day must become desirable holdings, yet, I confess, I for one do wish that this pretty bit of country had fallen into the hands of a few practical “farmers” with their families; knowing how necessary it is this community should, in the course of a little time, be enabled to grow sufficient cereals for home consumption. However there is plenty more of the right sort to tempt the hardy husbandmen to settle down here in contented happiness, and gather round his roof tree the substantial comforts of Home.

I must not omit to mention that amongst other improvements going on in the vicinity of Cleveland, the salt works in the course of construction at Wooganness, by Mr. Hope, that gentleman having already two capacious reservoirs excavated and puddled. Brine tank, and evaporating pans are the works already in the progress of completion, covering an acre of land. As an article of colonial production we hope to see the salt from these works extensively used, should the article manufactured be of an average quality.

The superintendent of the works and improvements upon this property (a Mr. Fryar) although, I believe, not practically acquainted with these matters, evidently understands how things should be done; and doubts not that all will be brought to a successful completion.

Ormiston House, home of Louis Hope, Cleveland, circa 1871.
(John Oxley Library)

Since the total destruction by fire of the fine brig Courier in January, 1854, whilst loading with wool, &c, for London, off the point, Cleveland, as a township, has been retrogressing, until it has become a town almost destitute of inhabitants, and after absorbing a large amount of cash, brings no present returns into the pockets of its proprietors and speculators; yet, I believe a little energy, combined with a little speculative pluck, on the part of the extensive proprietary, would start this very pretty sea side locality ahead, and in the right direction. Could a little of the Yankee character be diffused amongst our Moreton Bay community, more generally, I feel positive, that Cleveland would not escape the progressive impulse of some wide-awake customer, who would see at a glance what might be made out of the raw material lying ready to hand, to be turned into the all-mighty dollar. Perhaps the coming advent of Separation may bring amongst its many other supposed advantages, the introduction of, and to be amalgamated with this easy going people, some of that restless, ever-devising go-ahead spirit of brother Jonathan. Then we may hope to see the wind blowing over, and the water flowing through these lands, made available for many purposes, now totally unattainable through the scarcity or rather high rate of out-door labor.

Well, having taken your readers to and round about Cleveland, and gossiped a bit relative to the past, present, and future prospects of that town and silent streets, let us, in making our back tracks to Brisbane, take another route; and instead of again trespassing upon the hospitality of Mr. Alfred Slaughter on the Doughboy Creek, take the marked tree line, in the direction of Cooper’s Plains. Emerging from our bush track we come out upon the Logan road, and running that down a short distance come to a pretty commodious cottage lately erected by Mr. Pratten, of the Moreton Bay Surveying Staff, but now in the occupation of his father, Mr. Job Pratten, one of those genuine samples of English farming men, hardworking, pains-taking, never stand still sort of men, that appears to exercise an almost magic influence wherever they set their hands to work. A farm of seventy acres that Pratten has lately quitted on the other side of the plain, amply testifies what one pair of hands, with a strong fixedness of purpose, may accomplish in these beautiful sunny lands. At this new farm so lately occupied, and consisting, I believe, of some 100 acres of thinly timbered forest land, the eye already runs over long lines of strong substantial three-railed fences, whilst kitchen, stables, and various other out-buildings erected by the farmer himself, assisted by an occasional helping hand; gives the observant traveller a pretty fair idea what the future yeomanry of Australia should consist of to rightly develop and bring forth to the world the productions of this fertile soil and climate. And I would have it remembered, and borne in the mind of our present farmers, that some two years ago Mr. Pratten afforded unmistakeable evidence of the possibility of growing wheat below the Main Range; for I myself, and many others saw, at that time, a field of 20 acres under a wheat crop, ripe, and ready for the sickle in the month of November; the seed having been only put in the earth the previous June and July thus giving, in a period of about four months, a return of from 25 to 30 bushels to the acre. The season being dry at the spring, but worse towards the summer, not much dissimilar to the past year. I may further mention the natural grasses which thickly clothe the sward upon the plains is very nutritious for feeding stock. The cows running on these pastures give more than the usual quantity of oleaginous fluid than the generality of the bush milking stock. This fact, to an intelligent mind, should convey this conviction: that cattle running upon the commonage right of this locality, being assisted by artificial feeding in the shape of sweet potatoes, or sorghum, would yield a rich reward to that person, who should be first in that neighborhood to establish a dairy farm. For it does seem strange, nay passing strange, that many of our small agriculturalists, who cry out for want of a market whereat to dispose of their surplus corn and potatoes, should not have long since found out the advantage of more frequently feeding their cattle with the super-abundant food at their disposal; and by so doing save the young stock from dwindling into wretched objects, totally unfit as they increase in years, either for the butcher, yoke, or milking yard. And I may further remark that at none of the places visited by me in my rambles through East Moreton, have I observed more favorable advantages for the creation of dairy farms than Cooper’s Plains and Cleveland. It is a pretty well understood fact, that butter, cheese, pork, bacon, and other dairy produce will find a ready market, when perhaps, potatoes, maize, and garden produce, cannot find a purchaser.

Several very excellent properties are being cultivated upon the Oxley Creek side of the Plains. That of the Messrs. Bakers, formerly Prattens, standing prominent for its economical and thrifty mode of culture. The whole farm of 70 acres is wholly cleared, stumped, fenced in and under crop.

Adjoining this farm a section of land (640 acres) has been purchased, and the whole fenced in at a very large outlay, by Mr. Thomas Grenier, formerly an innkeeper at Brisbane. Marked improvements are rapidly being carried into effect by Mr. G., and no doubt we shall shortly find this proprietor, (who has a considerable quantity of stock) entering into the dairy business, much to his own advantage and profit, and benefit to this community.

Cooper’s Plains was, in the olden times, a stock station belonging to the penal colony of Moreton Bay; and the only drawback to its profitable occupation by small settlers, is the want of permanent water on the Plains. But there is every reason to believe that good and permanent water could be obtained by sinking wells, or constructing reservoirs for the retention of those showers which at times fall so copiously in that neighborhood. In concluding my sketch of Cleveland and Cooper’s Plains, I perhaps may not be out of place in remarking that, whenever in this age of railway travelling, an iron road be laid down from the interior, connecting the upper portion of these districts with the port, (whether that port be at Brisbane, or further down the river) this latter locality must become greatly enhanced in value to those who at the time may be the fortunate possessors of a freehold upon Cooper’s Plains.

My rambles in the furtherance of the object I was directed to carry out, having taken me up the river amongst the Boggo and Yerongpilly farmers, nursery gardeners and others, I will endeavor in my next Sketch to convey to the minds of your readers some of those scenes of rural felicity, and homely independence I witnessed in those quarters, perhaps extending my gossiping and desultory remarks to Woogaroo, and that part of the district.'