I acknowledge the Traditional Owners on whose land I walk, I work and I live. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Planters, farmers and Premiers

When Jonathan Pavetto went to personally petition government regarding the proposed bypass it was an easy trip by plane. In the days before farmers could travel to the southern capitals to petition Premiers or Prime Ministers the latter would travel by steamer to the north and farmers were invited on board to present their petitions. And just as today, candidates would come north to canvass for votes.
Samual Griffith (later Premier) came to the Herbert River Valley on an electioneering tour in 1883 it was a plantation stronghold though the small farmers had just formed the Herbert River Farmers’ Association (HRFA) and were hoping to supply the newly opened Victoria Mill. He had to convince the planters and small farmers that he would look after their interests. He met with businessmen, small farmers, planters and plantation managers. A photograph was taken to mark the event.

Samuel Griffith on an electioneering tour to the Herbert. Pictured with local landowners and businessmen including Lewis and Alfred Cowley, Frank Neame, Farrand Haig, and Charles Watson (a member of the HRFA), 1883. (Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Council Library Photographic Collection)
In 1890 when CSR threatened to close down Victoria Mill the HRFA wrote the Premier a ‘strong’ letter urging the continuance of Melanesian labour which the Association argued would keep CSR Company in the district. The Premier replied the he was planning a visit to the north and that the farmers would be advised when he was to visit Halifax. Sir Samuel Griffith sailed up the coast in the Government steamer, the Lucinda in December 1890. On the afternoon of the second day of his visit to the district, 25 December, the farmers presented to him the papers they had prepared. Griffith returned two weeks later, docked at Dungeness, and again invited farmer representatives to meet with him again on board the Lucinda. Those who met with him were August Anderssen, A. W. Carr, N. C. Rosendahl and John Alm, stalwarts of the HRFA.

In his memoirs, John Alm gave a first-hand account of that meeting. After general conversation, “the private Secretary, Mr Bell, appeared and informed the party that there were refreshments waiting below. They found a table neatly set in the saloon. The Premier sat down with the party, and the private Secretary acted as waiter. Sir Samuel was in excellent humour. He continually told the visitors not to be afraid of his whisky; stating it was good - no doubt it was, but it had the trick of mounting to the head; so they had to be careful, as they had a couple of hours work ahead of them, pulling their boat home.”

The Lucinda pictured on the city side of Brisbane River, opposite South Brisbane Wharves, n.d. (Source: State Library of Queensland. Lucinda (ship). (2004). Image number: 51548)
In May 1894 a farmers’ deputation again was brought to the steamer the Palmer when it docked at Dungeness where it was received by Premier, the Hon. H. Nelson. John Lely, Secretary of the HRFA, presented the farmers’ petition about the need for labour for the cane fields. A photograph of the steamer was taken by Harriett Pettifore Brim when she was a photographer in Ingham.

Steamboat the Palmer, Queensland, circa 1890-1900.(Source: Harriett Pettifore Brim, photographer on the Herbert River 1894-1902. State Library of Queensland. Image number: 31054 Harriett Brims collection 1890-1930)
Bianka Vidonja Balanzategui, “The Herbert River Farmers’ Association:  'clique of insignificant cockies' or 'agents of change'?” (PhD manuscript, James Cook University).
John Alm, Early History of the Herbert River District: Being "The Memoirs of the Early Settlement of the Lower Herbert and the Start and Progress of the Sugar Industry in the District (Aitkenvale: Terry Lyons, 2002, original edition published in Herbert River Express, 11th October 1932 to 20th January 1934), 59.

Friday, 23 March 2018


Today the historian's task is made so much easier because the digitization of sources is advancing at a fast rate. One of those valuable digitized sources is TROVE where digitized newspapers are to be found courtesy of the National Library of Australia. Unfortunately old editions of the Herbert River Express have not been digitized, and may never be, but a large number of current and defunct newspapers  are. During a search on another subject I found this obituary of EMMANUEL MARTIN. He is a lesser known pioneer of our district. He was one of the first European suppliers of Ripple Creek Mill (formerly Ripple Creek Mill had only been able to attract Chinese tenant farmers because it could not pay the prices for cane the CSR did) and the property he farmed in 1905, BUSHFIELD, was an historic one, having been selected in 1871 by Francis Cashel Gardener. It was from Gardner that WILLIAM BAIRSTOW INGHAM had arranged to buy 700 acres for his INGS Plantation. The other properties that he farmed were also historic ones: FARNHAM which was a selection taken up by James Atkinson in 1870 and COWDEN (not Cowder) which had been taken up by George Wickham in 1872.
His obituary (sourced from TROVE) shows how enterprising the first European pioneers were:

Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 - 1954), Monday 3 July 1950, page 2

Another link with the past was broken when Emmanuel Martin died last Saturday. One of the old pioneers, he left his blrthplace, Newcastle on Tyne, County of Durham. England, In the year 1883, arriving at Townsville in January 1884, in the steamship Duke of Buckingham. The late Mr Martin, after reachingTownsville immediately proceeded to the Herbert River district, where he engaged in his own trade of grocer with Reggazoli and Redman, general storekeepers, of Cordelia, Herbert River. After severing connections with Rcggazoli and Redman he took a mail contract delivering from Dungeness to Ripple Creek, Gairloch and lngham. (Dungeness was later destroyed
by a hurricane). He later turned to his old trade, opening the first General store at Seymour, Herbert River, which is now known as Bemerside, and which he conducted for several years. In 1905 he turned his hand to farming, on property known as Bushfleld, North Gairoch, supplying cane to Wood Bros, and Boyd. Ripple Creek Mill.
Later he also farmed properties known as Cowder and Farnham, on the Halifax Road near Ingham,cane from which was supplied to the Victoria Mill, near Ingham. In 1917 he purchased a cane farm from Mr. A. Barnes, North Gairloch, supplying cane to the Macknade Mill, which he retained up to his death. He retired from active farming and came to reside in Townsville in August 1934. In 1885 the late Mr. Martin married Miss Woods and reared a family of three daughters and six sons, the daughters being Mrs. Humphries (Townsvllle). Elizabeth Martin (Townsville). and Mrs. Tucker (Mt Isa), and the sons, Robert S. (Cairns). Hugh T. (Gordonvale) Ernest (Townsville), Michael T. (Ingham) and Matthew W. (Townsville). His eldest son, George R. died six years ago.
Ripple Creek Mill 1882. Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Photographic Collection

First ANZAC Day dinner Ingham 1920. Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Photographic Collection. G. Martin is back row, 11th along - tall man wearing a 'bow tie'.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Vale Dr. Evelyn Scott AO

Ingham, like any small town, despite its rural location and small population, has produced many great people over the time who have gone out into the wider world and left their mark. These have come from all walks of life and backgrounds. A good number have been Indigenous Australians and descendants of the indentured Melanesians labourers brought to Queensland to work on the sugar plantations.  
One such, was Dr. Evelyn Scott (formerly Backo), an activist for equality, and for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.  Dr. Scott passed away in September at the age of 81. She was farewelled on Friday October 6 in Townsville at a State Funeral. Fittingly, the accolades, tributes and memories of a remarkable woman flowed.
Dr. Scott attributed her achievements to the values imparted by her family and her childhood spent in the Herbert River Valley. Here she recalled experiencing “tolerance and acceptance of all peoples;” very different to what she encountered when she left. Those differing experiences shaped the activist she was to become.
Her political activism began with her initial involvement with the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League in the 1960s. She went on to actively campaign for a YES vote at the 1967 Referendum as a member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI). In the late 1990s, she held the chairmanship of the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. She was instrumental in the establishment of Aboriginal legal services, housing societies and medical services and was on numerous government advisory bodies. Her achievements include being made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia, a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and an Australian Achiever Award, and being named a Queensland Great.  She was also awarded two honorary doctorates.
Her life and work were underpinned by the simple but powerful philosophy that her son, Sam Backo, recalls Dr Scott instilling in her children: "There's only one race and that's the human race."
Sources: Abraham Rhea. “Indigenous activist Evelyn Scott hailed as key freedom fighter at state funeral in Townsville.” ABC News, October 6, 2017. Accessed October 11, 2017.                                               
“Dedication earns doctorate,” Herbert River Express, May 9, 2000.

Vidonja Balanzategui Bianka. The Herbert River Story. Ingham: Hinchinbrook Shire Council, 2011.
Source: National Museum Australia

Marchers during the May Day 1968 procession in Brisbane holding placard. (F3400 Grahame Garner Collection, image 39 Fryer Library, University of Queensland)

Monday, 18 September 2017

Swedes, Danes and Norwegians all

Across the Queensland sugar districts the first small selectors were typically Anglo-Celtic or local-born of that origin. However in the Herbert River Valley a significant number of those who took up small land holdings and who would go on to farm sugar cane were from Denmark, Norway and Sweden an origin masked in some cases by the Anglicizing of their names. For instance, Charles Watson identified as a Swede when questioned as to his nationality by the 1889 Royal Commission panel. William Johnson was actually Wilhelm Sorensen.  What is also notable about this first cohort is that most came either with wives, or married soon after arrival in Australia. This is in contrast to the rest of vanguard leading the charge north, young single men with adventurous spirits who literally risked all, spirits, health and money. The intrepid women who came, many with children in the folds of their skirts, did so knowing that the tropical climate was documented to be detrimental to women’s and children’s health.
August Anderssen was an immigrant from Sweden. He, his wife Eva and son John arrived in Bowen in August 1872 as assisted passengers. He gave his occupation as carpenter. His wife was a domestic. They immediately secured work helping to establish Arthur and Frank Neame’s Macknade Plantation and Mill. The family remained at Macknade for about eight years until August seized his opportunity to obtain land of his own. In that time the Anderssen family befriended other new arrivals.
Johan Ingebright (John) Alm, was one of these new arrivals, and in time marriage between their children would unite the two families. John was born in Norway and married Danish born Antonia Praetorius in Bowen in 1872. He was 21 years old and gave his profession as ‘bushman’ while his wife’s profession was ‘domestic’. By the following year he was employed by Henry Stone, first acknowledged European resident of the Herbert River Valley, and manager of the Scott Bros., properties of Valley of Lagoons and Herbert Vale. Alm consequently may have managed William Bairstow Ingham’s property.

Neils Christian Rosendahl arrived in Townsville from Denmark in 1869. His wife was fellow Dane, Anne (Ane) Mortensen. They were in Cardwell when their son, Christian was born in June 1872. After coming to the Valley Neils was permitted to occupy some land owned by the Neame brothers and Waller.

Harald Hoffensetz and William Johnson (Wilhelm Sorenson) both arrived in the Valley in 1872, accompanying John Hull who selected a property that he called Blackrock. There he tried to grow tobacco with the assistance of Hoffensetz and Johnson. Harald Hoffensetz migrated to Australia from Denmark in 1871 aboard the ship, the Gutenberg. He was 22 years old when he married Norwegian immigrant Augusta Pedersen in Rockhampton in 1872 and from there they proceeded to the Herbert River Valley. At Blackrock on Christmas day of that year, Harald Hoffensetz’s wife Augusta gave birth to a baby boy they named Julius, the sixth baby born in the wider district of the Valley, and the first of their 11 children. Hoffensetz got his start, clearing the land and farming for himself on Arnot’s Rippple Creek selection in 1877. 

The interconnectivity  of these first immigrant Nordic families is further illustrated by the marriage of Jutta Louisa Maria Hoffensetz to Lauritz Nielsen, land holder, plantation overseer and later storekeeper.  

The forces that pushed this remarkable cohort of Danes, Swedes and Norwegians from their homelands and pulled them to the Herbert River Valley are worthy of further investigation  and wider recognition. 
Land holders and business men, Lower Herbert circa 1882. Charles Watson, sitting on ground, far right (Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Photographic Collection)

Mrs Jutta Nielsen (nee Hoffensetz) with sons Oscar and Herbert (Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Photographic Collection)

Monday, 10 July 2017

A genuine advocacy

The fact that stood out most starkly in the recent feature in the ‘Herbert River Express’ marking the 50 year anniversary of the service of John M. Scott as a solicitor in the Herbert River district was the value placed by his clients on his integrity and genuine concern and  advocacy for their interests.
The other thing that could be taken from a reading of that article is the history lived, known and conserved by one individual who has lived in the district for a lifetime.  John Scott has a powerful memory of past events and significant primary documents of historical value still in his care. So much of what he recounted to the reporter about his legal predecessors, and his family’s connections to the district, their work, the location of the businesses etc. is first hand knowledge probably only known by him now.

John Scott talks of his predecessors whose practice he joined and then assumed. In the first days of European settlement the Police Magistrate provided the necessary judicial services and the services of solicitors had to be secured over distances in Townsville or Bowen. Residents could write to columns such as Legal Answers in the ‘Queensland Figaro and Punch’ for legal advice and referral to their closest solicitor. 

On page 21 of the article in the ‘Herbert River Express’ on July 1 2017 marking John M. Scott’s 50th anniversary there was reprint of an advertisement dated February 24, 1897 that Leland E. Challands published to advise the public that he was applying to be admitted as a solicitor. Today, with the aid of TROVE we are able to answer some of the questions that Scott himself voiced about the location of his predecessors’ businesses and the timing of moves to different locations and are able to plump out that account a little.   A faint paper trail testifies that Leland E. Challand was admitted to the bar in March 1897 and locates him in Ingham In late May 1898. He left Maryborough and arrived in Ingham to take over the legal practice of Mr. A.J. P. Macdonnell (MacDonnell) who left for Cairns to enter into partnership with Milford and Hobbs, Solicitors. 

Macdonnell had arrived in Ingham sometime after being admitted to the Queensland Bar in September 1895. Macdonnell entered whole heartedly into Ingham life, enjoying racing (as a member of the Herbert River Jockey Club) and shooting (competing in shoot-offs) and making lasting friendships. He was farewelled at the Planters’ Retreat Hotel on a Monday, he left on a Tuesday and Challands arrived on the Wednesday. Like his predecessor he threw himself into holding positions on the committees of community organizations including the Herbert River Jockey Club, the Herbert River Golf Club, and sugar industry associations: the Herbert River Farmers’ League and the Australian Sugar Producers Association.

Meanwhile he became the Divisional Board’s solicitor and a significant land holder acquiring the Orient with Thomas Kirkwood and blocks of land along Lannercost Street. When the Shire Hall burnt down in 1916 Challands was quick off the mark offering to sell a block to the Council to use for a new Shire Hall. The former Shire Hall land went to auction in 1921 as two blocks. The block closest to the Royal Hotel was sold to E.J. Hardy and the other to Messrs. Ryan and Challands. Edwin Hardy and Gerald Venables began operating as commission agents in 1922, and so did  J.P. Ryan in partnership with J.W. Cartwright. A new Shire Hall was built in 1921 and he conducted his business in the Hall, firstly as a sole practitioner and then in partnership with Vincent Edward Hay Swayne as Challands and Swayne. When he and Swayne parted ways in 1928, Swayne took on G.H. Hopkins as articled clerk. Hopkins was admitted to practise law in 1932 and joined Swayne as a partner in 1933.

The Shire Hall became increasingly inadequate. Plans were drawn up in 1937 for a new shire hall but finances were unavailable so the Ingham Picture Company, in return for being granted a virtual monopoly on picture theatre activity in the town of Ingham, undertook to carry out improvements to the building. Swayne and Hopkins moved out in that year and relocated to the Hardy and Venables buildings adjacent to the Royal Hotel. When Mr Swayne ceased to be a partner the practice was conducted by Hopkins together with J.S. Dwyer as Hopkins and Dwyer until 1967. Following that Dwyer conducted the practice with John M. Scott as partner until Dwyer’s untimely death at the age of 53 in 1975. Since that year Scott has conducted the practice under the name of John M. Scott since 1976 and in the same address that the practice had been conducted in since 1937.
“John M. Scott – 50 Years,” Herbert River Express, July 1, 2017.
TROVE – DIGITIZED NEWSPAPERS http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/search?adv=y
“Council of the Australian Sugar Producers' Association,” Brisbane Courier, February 15 1908, 5. 

Herbert River Jockey Club Committee, Ingham, Queensland, 1933, State Library of Queensland, Accession number: 82-11-3. Date: 1933. Top: T. Bonning, E. Mullins, J. Allingham, F. T. O'Malley. Bottom: W. S. C. Warren, R. J. Walsh, T. C. Christie, C. V. Ranson, R. E. Cartwright, F. A. Cassady, W. Stuart, J. A. Murray, A. J. West, J. Keogh, O. T. Langley, J. M. Thomson, L. E. Challands.

Monday, 29 May 2017

A life to be endured

In the comfort of our ‘first world’ lives we still battle terrible health scourges: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or miner’s black lung for which we desperately try to find cures. While we no longer live in fear of epidemics of diphtheria, measles, whooping cough or polio because these have largely been eradicated where inoculation programmes have been successfully implemented, it also makes us complacent, because we have no scarring memory of mothers in out back mining Queensland towns like Ravenswood, burying child after child, within days, when diphtheria swept through the town. If we happen to visit the desolate, dilapidated graveyards of yesteryear and stand at the foot of such graves the misery and tragedy is tangible. Walk around the old Ingham Cemetery or the Victoria Estate Cemetery or any older cemetery and you can’t but be struck by the youth of the deceased and the appreciation that they died from things which today are largely preventable because of availability of medicines, access to health services, inoculation and attention to safe working practice.
Dan Sheahan, our own bard, as always, has the words to describe what it was like in the not so long ago days of early Ingham when:
“No medical aid when Doctor was wanted –
The Priest and the Parson were far, far away –
Their women beside them they plowed and planted…
When hot fever came, unaided they’d linger –
No ambulance raced “at the double” for them –“

If we look at the first years of European settlement in the Valley we see that that death visited the small community with heartbreaking frequency. Infant and child mortality rate was very high and death did not discriminate by nationality or status. The Aboriginal population was decimated by European diseases and the death rate amongst the Melanesian indentured labourers was staggering. Medical care was very much reliant on home remedies, castor oil being a common cure all, and the generous and capable women who acted as midwives to neighbouring women.  Much of what faced them was beyond their knowledge and abilities: breech births, bullet wounds, severed limbs, strange fevers, snake bite, impacted wisdom teeth, dysentery, measles, typhoid, diphtheria, meningitis, respiratory illnesses, convulsions, and the plethora of childhood illnesses that were potentially fatal in those days, all confounded them. Sadly neglect and earth-eating, because of poor diet, were also causes of death in children. Robert Shepherd commented that “there were few settlers and their wives who were able to rear all their children … with some families suffering blow after blow.” 

The first so called doctors who found their way to the Valley were often inept, as much victims of the harsh conditions they found themselves in and of the drunkenness succumbed to by the young men they came to tend.  In fact it was observed that “the easiest way to find the town doctor was to look in the gutters in front of the hotels”.  Arthur Neame records in his diary that  a doctor who had came to the Valley lived in a shanty on the river bank was “not good, he was often drunk and used to draw drugs from our store containing opium to mix as medicine for his patients, and take them himself.” Neame ended up studying a book a doctor had given him and did all the doctoring on his plantation himself. The first competent, permanent doctor came to Ingham in 1883. His name was Dr. W.C. Macdonald. He was fired by a determination to do something about the health problems rife in the Valley. Apparently he “persuaded, threatened and blustered for a more realistic approach to environmental problems along with rigorous treatment.”
Sheahan, D. “Back to Ingham.” Songs from the Canefields. Josephine R. Sheahan, Ingham, 1972.
Shepherd, Robert. “The Herbert River Story: The Health Menace.” Herbert River Express, January 14, 1992; and "The Herbert River Story: The Black Years Pass." Herbert River Express, January 28, 1992.
Moore, Clive. “Whips and Rum Swizzles.” Lectures on North Queensland History. Townsville: History Department, James Cook University of North Queensland, 1975.
Neame, Arthur. The Diary of Arthur Neame 1870-1897.
Vidonja Balanzategui, Bianka. The Herbert River Story. Ingham: Hinchinbrook Shire Council, 2011.
Ingham Hospital Board members, 1909
 People pictured: (back row L-R): R.S. Alston, B. Lynn, Dr. W.C. MacDonald, Hon. A.S. Cowley, J. Menzies, A. Friend. (sitting): Nurse Probationer L. Bonning, Sam Allen, A.J. Cobroft, Jim Ryan, J.J. Cockburn, Matron Macartney.
Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Collection

Womens ward of the Ingham Hospital Queensland 1916
Source: State Library of Queensland: View this image at the State Library of Queensland: hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/97694

Ingham Ambulance vehicle 1925
An ambulance vehicle used in Ingham, pictured with First Superintendent Mr Edgar Von Alpen.
Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Collection

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

But you’re gone, Digger, gone – all your troubles are o’er – May the soft winds of Ingham blow over your rest

Seeing the Celotto/ Sheahan family members proudly riding their horses in the ANZAC parade today reminds us that late in the nineteenth century an Ingham resident, Captain Alfred Henry, bred horses for use by the British Army in India for Australian horses were in high demand by the British military. Australian mounted units too were held in great esteem for their riding and shooting skills.
Further, as the parade files past the Mafeking Tree and turns eyes to the saluting officer it is a moment to reflect on the valour of local servicemen and women, and the heartache of families waiting at home for their return. The story of the Mafeking tree is the story of John (Jack) Simpson.
Jack Simpson volunteered for the Second Boer War which began on October 11 1899 and ended on May 31, 1902. The Boer War took place in what is now South Africa. The area was then divided between the British held territory of Cape Colony and Transvaaland Orange Free State held by the Boers who were descendants of Dutch settlers. The Boers declared war on Britain but the actual reasons for the discord between the two, the Boers and the British, and which of those reasons precipitated the war have been the subject of contention. Certainly, the Boers had reason to wonder about Britain’s interest in Transvaaland as they had already made a raid on the Boers in 1896 for the gold mines in Boer territory. Furthermore the Boers regarded the positioning of British troops on their borders as confrontational.
Jack arrived in Australia as a baby in 1878. His father, Stephen, took the position of Telegraph Master in Ingham in 1882. There was an Army tradition in the family with Stephen having served in the British Army. Along with the other Australian volunteers, Jack served in the Queensland Mounted Infantry and was reputed to be a fine horseman and a tough bushman. He was one of those troops besieged in the town of Mafeking for seven months from October 1899 to May 1900 and was wounded during the relief operations, His father planted the Mafeking Tree, a blackbean tree, on Palm Terrace, to commemorate the military relief of Mafeking. Celebrations of a similar sort were held right across Australia simultaneously.
Given his descendants’ annual presence in the Ingham ANZAC parade, with their horses and uniforms giving us all a real taste of the past, the last word on war here should rightfully be that of Dan Sheahan, our local bard, who’s pen never failed to nail the sentiment. In 1944 he poured out a poem ‘The Death of “Digger” Martin on the death of George “Digger” Martin of Long Pocket. Mourning the loss of a friend and reminiscing about their shared youth and hopes he ended his poem with these stanzas:
And we’ll saddle the ponies and solitude seek
Where the black bream were biting on Broadwater creek –
And there well away from the world’s mad strife
We’d smoke and we’d talk on the problems of life.

But you’re gone, Digger, gone – all your troubles are o’er
And the shade of Broadwater will know you no more –
May the soft winds of Ingham blow over your rest
In peace and in war, you were one of the best.

Soldiers of the Light Horse Brigade 1914, Hinchinbrook Shire Library Photograph Collection

Sheahan, Dan. “The Death of “Digger” Martin,” in Songs of the Canefields. Ingham: Josephine R. Sheahan, 1972.

Vidonja Balanzategui, The Herbert River Story. Ingham: Hinchinbrook Shire Council, 2011.