Travels in East Moreton, 1859 (#2): Sandgate & North Pine

A wonderful description of a gentleman’s horseback journey though Queensland’s Moreton Bay region in 1859. Part Two visits Sandgate and North Pine. (From the Moreton Bay Courier, 29 January 1859)

'HAVING in my previous letter conveyed your readers to the German’s Blunder, with the depth and breadth of which no doubt those who have travelled beyond that soft spot have become deeply acquainted, I will now, with your permission, take them over that Slough of Despond, and lead them with me, in fancy, wandering to the future Brighton of this province. I verily believe, that could the Brisbanites be made fully sensible of the value Sandgate would be to them, were it once established in public opinion, as a health restoring site for the invalids of other lands, they would take measures to make the road and approaches thereto safe, pleasant, and easy. The drive to “Sandgate” would then be considered by the fashionable world as a necessary recreation; and the families of our up country graziers and stockholders make it a point of spending the season at the Baths.

Even as it is, the track is equal to most colonial roads, and generally passable even in wet weather; but the creek wants bridging, and sundry soft spots (a la blunders) made firm. The country, after passing the Cabbage Tree Creek, opens out into beautiful forest scenery, thinly timbered, presenting to the eye of the traveller beautiful vistas of parklike scenery. As you pass through the forest glades, the nimble kangaroo is seen leisurely to hop away, proving how little his haunts have as yet been disturbed by the sporting men of Moreton Bay. At the crossing-place at the creek, a bush track leads you to the Bald Hills, and the South Pine, of which more anon. At present, let us canter along this very beautiful road, level as a bowling green, and full of ever varying beauties; magnificent building timber standing in every direction ready to fall at the demands of man. A ride of some four miles, after crossing “Cabbage Tree,” brings the traveller to the shores of the “Pine River bight,” the land gradually sloping away, upon the left, or as the sailor says, the port hand. The drive to the “Head” sweeps away more southerly, and at every few hundred yards presenting to the enraptured gaze of the casual visitor that beautiful view of sea and land, which not to see is folly, and to see and not appreciate, stamps the man or woman as belonging to the far from extinct race of Goths. Upon one of the suburban allotments at “Sandgate,” overlooking allotments at the Pine bight and Redcliff Point, has been erected, within the last few months, a modest building, composed of wood, and containing some half dozen rooms, the occupier of which professes to entertain visitors at his (the Belvidere Hotel). Three other mansions of very limited dimensions, in close proximity, compose all the present edifices at the village of Sandgate. Let me correct myself, and say rather in the environs of “Sandgate.” The allotments in the village itself, sold some five years since, cannot yet boast of possessing a bark gunyah. Why it does not may to the casual visitor seem strange, but to those who have been initiated into the system of land jobbing, so rife down here a few years since, the mystery is at once explained; the lots were bought up on speculation; and the holders thereof fondly hope to reap a goodly profit some day for their investment. In the meantime its Eagle Terrace, its Signal Row, and other beautiful sites for buildings, is left reproachfully in a state of nature. As I sat upon the headland, overlooking that noble expanse of water forming this magnificent bay, fancy conjured up the future busy and romantic town that must one day spring out of this lovely spot; and many now who occasionally view this scene of quiet grandeur, will perhaps from the self same spot look with loving eyes upon some noble vessel weighing her anchor, ere she commences her voyage, conveying some dear friend home, and freighted with the rich and varied productions of this genial clime; whilst at the anchorage, abreast of the town, will be seen numbers of vessels of various rig and tonnage, waiting for the flood to run up the rivers Brisbane and Pine; or else waiting sailing orders to proceed to sea. Aid who knows, but upon the next anniversary the regatta, which has taken place in the river so lately, may be carried out upon a grander scale in the waters of the bay, and in close proximity to this pleasant spot. Yes, gentlemen stewards, I warn yon, if you wish to give the ladies a real aquatic treat, you must shift your ground of operations.

Shame that this noble sheet of water should be passed by for this national sport, and the muddy Brisbane preferred instead. Readers! think well of my suggestion; and if you and I are spared until this time next year, may we be enabled to take our families to see the Moreton Bay Regatta at pretty Sandgate; giving our steam-boat companies, and cab proprietors a chance to make a few pounds extra.

Louisa Forbes, 1871 watercolour of the small seaside resort of Sandgate
Louisa Forbes, 1871 watercolour Sandgate. (State Library Qld)

One suggestion more ere I have done with Sandgate. Its easy distance from this metropolis marks it as a pretty site for a fishing company. Fish could be taken to town every morning, as the bay abounds with every variety of the finny tribe, from the luscious turtle to the prolific bream. Oysters of delicious flavor (although small) abound about the points, but those of a finer growth are easily attainable at the creeks rivers towards the harbour’s mouth, so that a constant supply might be in the market daily. Stone, of a durable quality, brick earth, and the lighter description of timber for building purposes, are still procurable in the scrub bordering the north and south Pine rivers. Thus, I give your readers a rough sketch of Sandgate, confidently hoping, and believing, that in doing so, it may be the means of drawing attention more pointedly than hitherto to the varied beauties and excellencies of this gem in the diadem that circles the frontlet of the salt sea wave, that falls so peacefully and softly upon its silver sands.

Reluctantly does the eye of the charmed one withdraw its gaze from this glorious scene, and memory stamps upon its tablet the sunny hours passed in the quiet contemplation of this picture, wrought by the Master hand Divine. And though years may pass away in other scenes, and the mind become engrossed with the cares and perplexities of life, still a word lightly spoken, or some passing remark of a particular shell, will recall with vivid distinctness the days passed at “Sandgate.”

Now then for the route, the forest road, the glades and thickets, the hill and dale, the joyful breathing of the health-infusing breeze, the mad gallop for a brief space after that timid kangaroo; to luxuriate in such revelry as this, makes one (makes me at all events), at times wise, plot some fortunate discovery, some lucky hit, or providential death of a rich old aunt that had given me possession of the means to wander where fancy wills. But out upon such maudlin stuff! I possess what thousands of the rich and-great would barter all their wealth to possess - health and a cheerful heart. And though my wardrobe consists of few habiliments, and those the worse for wear, I envy no Commissioner, or lucky squatter, the swag they carry at their saddle bows.

Now, reader, come down this sunny ridge with me, and let us jog on socially together and take a drink in occasionally of this Australian scene, whilst we run up the country about the “South Pine.” That deep green fringe you see there to the right, is the scrub bordering the branches of the Pine. A large quantity of cedar and pine has been got out of those scrubs, and brought to market, still there is some to be cut yet, - when the demand is sufficient to make it pay. The land lying between Sandgate, or rather Cabbage tree Creek and the South and North Pine, is almost everywhere suitable for agricultural purposes. A gentleman of the Southern States would consider, I have no doubt, a section of this country, with a dozen niggers, a very valuable cotton plantation. A small portion of the land in the neighborhood of the “Pine” has only yet been to put up to public competition. In the neighborhood of the Bald Hills we come upon a clearing, occupied by some three or four families who, although but a short time upon their several locations, have gone to work in earnest-securing their allotments from intrusion of stray cattle with substantial fences, erecting humble but comfortable homes, and turning the-wilderness into a fruitful field. I know but little of these people, therefore do not hold them up to view as model farmers; but I feel constrained to remark, that were their examples followed by many of our pseudo farmers, in their mode of acting upon the useful principle, “self reliance,” we should find scattered about these fertile lands more men of that thrift, far seeing, self-depending class of small farmers, than we at present do in these colonies. The fact is, we in Australia, want to get rich and independent too soon; we cannot wait with the necessary patience to insure ultimate success; and are apt to buy from the shop and stores many articles we could as well do without, or as is most probable could raise ourselves. The situation selected by these people, as I imagine for their future homes, possesses in common with many other places on the Pine, the advantage of fresh water in abundance, the river bounding nearly three sides of the clearings. I did hope to have spent a night at one of the farms, and thereby acquired a wrinkle in farm management, but the usual bush invite, not being forthcoming, “stay and have a pot of tea,” (although by the bye it was just sundown) your humble servant had to go further a field for his evening meal, and leave the Bald Hills’ farmers to enjoy the repast, unshared by the presence of a stranger.

Taking again to the track, we run the South Pine up some five or six miles to Cash’s Cattle Station, the margin of the river being densely packed with scrub; but the ridges and bottom along most of the route, well worth the attention of future purchasers of Government land. On reaching the stockyard at Cash’s, I found the household busy cutting and branding a lot of young stock recently run into the yard, and was much amused at an incident that occurred during the short time I was watching those important operations. A green hand, first undergoing the process of breaking-in to bush mysteries, was busily employed with the proprietor of the station and the other men, roping and securing a frolicsome calf. Not being one of those fast young men that are supposed to be up to a thing or two, whether in a stock yard or a cigar divan, he failed to get out of the way at the moment of casting loose. The consequence was, the two (calves I was going to say) made a surge ahead together, the young sucker taken to the side of its sorely perplexed and wondering mother, whilst the new chum took to the bosom of his mother earth, and from whose maternal embraces he was at once assisted by his laughing mates who, for a few minutes, thought from the pallor of his chubby cheeks, he had received some hurt: this mistake, however, was soon corrected, and many, not very flattering compliments was passed during the evening upon the young fellow’s fear of a bull calf. Cash’s shanty stands alongside the road leading to the Upper Brisbane and the North or Burnett country, and is consequently much troubled with the visits of the passing tramps; but I must do Cash the justice to say, that though his means and accommodation are far from ample, I never heard of a man passing his door without getting a feed or a pot of tea, if he required one. Rough bush hospitality may be sure of being secured by the foot-sore or weary traveller at Cash’s.

A night’s rest, and my nag well cared for during the interval between the rising and setting of the sun, enabled me to wend my way the following morning towards the Cabulture Creek, a considerable stream of water, draining the country lying to the northward of the “Pine.” That portion of the route running between the South and North Pine is very uninteresting and exceedingly monotonous, the traveler having to pass over a succession of barren hills, only reaching the bottom of one to find he has to mount to the top of another, so very similar, that one is apt to think, occasionally, the ridge he had just left behind him, had in some unaccountable manner jumped up before him to plague him again to mount the same dull rise. However the dullest road has a termination and this one, upon closing up with the river, opens out upon some very passable country, long rich flats stretching away upon either hand, upon which mobs of cattle are occasionally to be seen chewing the cud, “not of sweet and bitter fancy,” but their last meal of grass.

Shortly after crossing “the Pine” a road diverges to the Westward, leading to Samson’s Vale, in which are situated the stations of Mrs. Captain Griffin and her son’s, Mr. John Griffin. Upon the range dividing the “Pine” from the Cabulture, a very pretty view of the Glass House Mountains is obtained, and a fine view of the country stretching away towards the river’s mouth. Between the Pine and Cabulture rivers the country appears to he well grassed, although I believe its fattening qualities for stock does not rank very high in the estimation of our graziers. The North Pine is navigable for some distance from its entrance in the Bay; for vessels drawing from 10 to 12 feet of water, having loaded with timber in the river. This very important fact renders it very probable that as the land gets occupied and cultivated along the banks of the Pine Rivers, a coasting trade will spring up from thence, adding another valuable feature to the advantages possessed by Sandgate, and should the Land Company, inaugurated by Dr. Lang some years since, get speedily into operation, I have no hesitation in saying, that the directors will look well at the country about this neighborhood, for settling down a cotton growing and agricultural population.

Mount Samson, Queensland.
Mount Samson, Queensland.

A few miles from Mount Samson (a conspicuous object at the pine ranges), is the station of Messrs. Jordan, Zillman, & Co., occupied as a cattle run. This station is noted in the annals of crime, as the scene of two barbarous murders, namely, that of Mr. Gregor and his servant woman, Mary Shannon; both of whom some ten years since were cruelly and wontonly massacred by the aborigines camping in the vicinity of the station. Up to the present the “dark skins” about the Cabulture and coast country are not to be trusted. A short time since a poor fellow was killed by them whilst passing through the bush looking for timber, his mate also being left for dead. Lately the Native Police have come to close quarters with them, and I believe taught them a lesson they wont speedily forget; and as the country gets occupied these outrages will become of less frequent occurence.

My route not extending beyond the Cabulture, I was necessarily compelled at this period of my journeying to make back tracks, and have therefore little further to add to this sketch of the Pine River country, beyond remarking that the land only requires those two requisites, capital and labor, to make it very productive. I intend in my next letter to furnish you with some particulars of Moggil and its neighborhood.'