Travels in East Moreton, 1859 (#1): Kedron Brook & Nundah

(From the Moreton Bay Courier, 19 January 1859)

To the Editor of the Moreton Bay Courier.
Sir; Many of the readers of your widely circulated journal are, in all probability, but little acquainted with those scenes of rural loveliness, that abound in the district in which all dwell. Having, in a recent tour on duty, poked my nose into many strange fantastic nooks, where men do congregate, I cannot resist the desire to make their various beauties known to the enquiring mind of enterprising men, although I am perfectly sensible, any attempt of mine, to depict those scenes of wild luxuriance that nature throws around the mountains and vales of this prolific land, must fall far short of giving a correct idea of their value. Yet, convinced of this fact, I still venture to hope in committing to print in the columns of the Courier some of these ‘rough sketches,’ I may not only convey some pleasing information to the Moreton Bay public, but at the same time draw to this beautiful land the attention of the philanthropist and men of capital as to its capabilities to support an industrial population, and a wide and profitable field for speculative investments. I must candidly admit, that I passed through the scenes described, at a very favourable season, when after fertilizing rains the country was clothed with its gayest garment of green-yet, when upon similar duties, I have previously passed over the mountains, and travelled through the glens, at a season of drought, and when travelling was divested of all those pleasing associations.

Cultivated vines at Nicholson’s farm, Kedron Brook, ca.1865.
The farm was known as Grovely, which later became the
name of the suburb. (John Oxley Library)

Nevertheless I still retain the opinion, and here record it, that this, and the neighboring district, are, and will be for many years, the fitting home of thousands of the over wrought sons and daughters of our Fatherland. And should these “sketches” of scenes in actual existence, meet the eye of some farmer lad in the old country, who fears to settle down and marry the girl of his choice, because of after consequences, let me, an old man, who would try to benefit his fellow-man in a way that God designs his creatures to be blessed, in healthy abundance, procured by the sweats of their brows, let me, I repeat, urge him to buckle too, without fear or trembling, and make a bold push for this northern portion of Her Majesty’s Australian dominions, where children are no incumbrance but, in a well regulated family, the richest blessing God can bestow upon an industrious man. As the limits of your paper will not permit me to condense into one article, the observations and remarks I have to make in the course of my “Random Sketches,” I will, with your permission, divide my notes under various headings commencing in the first instance with Kedron Brook and Neighborhood.

This pretty little stream of the purest element, in its passages from the eastern slopes of Taylor’s Range, waters a country of diversified hill and-dale, and affords numerous admirable sites for homesteads – the banks on each side of its course being of a rich loamey formation. A number of small farms have been purchased from the Crown, and are at present occupied and under cultivation by its proprietors, particularly in the neighborhood of the German’s Station, where the brook falls into the low lying land bordering upon the Eagle Farm flats. The evident signs of comfort and abundance, witnessed by me in my visit amongst them, would convince the most sceptical of the truth of my previous observation, namely, that Moreton Bay is every way adapted to supply the wants of an industrious man. I certainly, in a few instances, heard a little grumbling about the difficulty of getting a price for their farm produce; but on further enquiring found the market rates for butter, eggs, and potatoes, ruled at something like the following prices: Butter, two shillings per lb.; eggs, two shillings per dozen; potatoes, £8 to £12 per ton. Now, considering that many of our small farmers landed only a few years since upon the shores of this Bay, with a capital consisting of two sturdy arms, and the appetite of an ox, I could not sympathise with them about the tightness of the money market, and the high rate of farm labor, when I recollected they had gathered around their homes, (a snug farm of from 30 to 50 acres), a due proportion of milking cows, with the addition, perhaps, of a plough horse or two, and may be a nag to put their saddle on for a ride into Brisbane, when business or inclination called them in that direction. As a statement of these facts may give rise to the question how these things have been arrived at in so short a space of time, I may here observe, that the ordinary rate of wages to farm servants if single, is from £35 to £45 per annum, with rations; If married, and the wife assist in the farm, from £50 to £60 per annum, with a double ration; thus, a few simple calculations will prove how few years need pass over if economy is practised, to enable the servant to attain the position of master, and owner of his own freehold. Before I leave the Brook, to enter upon my sketch of the German Station, permit me to make one observation, that applies equally to every nook and corner I visited. The married women, in this sunny land, seem determined to be fruitful and multiply; for such troops of merry, healthful children meet the gaze in every clearing about the place, that one is led to hope much in the future for young Australia.

Where the Kedron Brook opens out from the forest land into the broad flats bordering upon the waters of the Bay, the German’s settlement is presented to the view of the passing traveller. This well known clearing was first opened out by a band of German enthusiasts who, somewhere about the year 1833, immigrated to the then penal colony of Moreton Bay from their fatherland, for the purpose of evangelizing the blacks then, as now, a numerous race of dark, untutored savages. A low long range of buildings in the wattle and dab style of primitive architecture, still meets the eye, as you pass over “the German’s blunder,” (of which more anon), and evidences the modest pretensions of these well-meaning people. That they failed in making any religious impression upon the dark minds of their black protegés, is patent to the community; but if they found and left all barren within the breast of the wild man, they stand exonerated in that respect as regards their location. They have well understood the advantages placed in their possession by the Governments of the olden time, and have managed to reap a profitable recompense for past privations and dangers, in the goodly heritages they now lay claim to. In making these remarks I would wish it to be distinctly understood, that I do so without the slightest wish to deprive them of their well-earned reputation as a moral, pains-taking, and industrious community; on the contrary, would bear testimony to their moral worth, and of the great good they have done by virtuous examples to the neighborhood around. Some of the old stock, feeling their individual responsibilities to the cause of God, have within the last few years gone forth into the vineyard of the Lord, with the laudable view of saving precious souls, in which praiseworthy undertaking all right-thinking people would wish them God speed. But the majority of the Germans, feeling the growing wants of their large families, have, perhaps in a more worldly-wise point of view, taken to the more lucrative business of farmers, stockholders, and dairymen, coupling with the saving of souls, that of bacon, butter, and other farm yard produce. That the change has been for the best, taking a pound, shilling, and pence view of the matter, is self-evident; for the wattle and dab dwellings of other days have been exchanged for mansions of more respectable proportions, enclosed within a freehold fence, containing a very satisfactory quantity of acres of arable agricultural, and grass lands. But let me add, with all their thrifty, plodding, and profitable system of trade and barter, they made, in my humble opinion at least, one blunder. They have kept possession, for upwards of twenty years, of a pretty bit of country, grown, and sold, some thousands of pine apples, tons of grapes and butter, thousands of eggs, cabbages, potatoes, and so forth, but never built a bridge over that quiet little brook that borders the station. The public gave them the free use of the land. The public for years supplied them partly with rations, and thus they have blundered sadly, in not benefitting the same beneficent public with a roadway over the bog, that I trust will ever bear the name of the German’s Blunder, until the friends repent of their short comings, and be friends indeed to the passing traveller.

Sketch of the German Station, 1846, by Carl Gerler (JOL)