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.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A lucky escape! Surveying for a town.

The route linking the new European settlements along the northern tropical coast mirrored the one initially taken by the European explorers as they made their way trying to find the most traversable land route.  Following the explorers would be teamsters and hopeful settlers.  It should be observed however, that the Indigenous people before them had established well-worn tracks too and the stock routes forged by the Europeans often aligned with those.  Those original bush tracks, now well-travelled stock routes took on the appearance of recognizable if primitive roads. Settlements grew out of watering stops and around the bush pubs that were erected at regular intervals.  
Ingham began life as a camping ground on the coastal stock route. As that Camping Reserve took on the appearance of a township it was surveyed  in 1878 and individual blocks for a proper township were pegged out on either side of the already surveyed road which led on to the pastoral selections. The width of the road was not decreased in the survey because it would still have to carry heavy dray traffic and herds of cattle to those pastoral selections further up river. As the nature of future development was uncertain the main street of the Town Reserve, now known as Lannercost and Herbert Streets, ended up staying as wide as the former stock route.
Early observers thought the location of the newly surveyed township an unwise and nonsensical choice. A visiting press correspondent wrote in 1882 that  “It seems unacceptable that this town should have been placed so far from the river, which is the principal means of communication with the outer world, but so it is and to this fact may perhaps be attributed the slowness of its growth..”  The visiting Reverend Gilbert White, minister to the Anglican Parish, wrote in 1885 that Ingham was no more than “A few offices, two hotels and a few private houses on either side of the road, or as they call it, a street. Close by runs a creek about 40 feet broad and 20 feet deep called Palm Creek from some fine palms which grow on it. In the wet season, if a flood comes, the creek will flood the whole country in a few hours.”
The road, or street, as the Reverend described it was no more than a wide track gouged deeply by dray and wagon wheels. Clouds of choking dust rose in dry weather as the drays and wagons passed through, while in the wet season the road became a quagmire of cloying mud and it was not uncommon for loaded wagons to bog to the axles. Much swearing and shouting, whip cracking and braying of frightened and straining animals would fill the air.
It is salutary to note that even if it had seemed strange at the time that the Town Reserve was not located right on the Herbert River which was then the primary means of moving people and goods it turns out that it was rather fortunate. The land that had originally been surveyed for a town selection was close to the river and when the river bank gave way one flood those original town blocks were washed into the river! 
That was not the only lucky escape for the new township! It was only by the skin of its teeth that it wasn’t forever known as Sligo rather than Ingham. But that’s another story!
Vidonja Balanzategui, Bianka. Thirty-three miles to Rollingstone: A Short history of Rollingstone and Balgal. Thuringowa: City of Thuringowa, 2003.

Vidonja Balanzategui, Bianka. Herbert River Story. Ingham: Hinchinbrook Shire Council, 2011.
Bullock team, Frank Fraser Merchant Store,  Lannercost Street 1915. Image: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Local History Collection
H. Lynch with his mule team leaving Frank Fraser Merchant Store, Herbert Street. Image: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Local History Collection

Ingham 1918: note railway track and unpaved road. Image: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Local History Collection 
Lannercost Street 1971. Photograph taken from top of Canegrowers Building. Image: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Local History Collection

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