Brief History of Maryborough.
This fertile area of Queensland was the fifth area to be settled when it was still part of NSW. The first settlement in QLD was at Redcliffe (and later Moreton Bay) as a convict colony in 1824. This was followed by white settlement at Ipswich in 1842 and further inland in the mountains at Warwick in 1847. The NSW government sent explorers to the Mary River area in 1842 which was when the river was named. Then in 1847 inland from the Mary River a town was surveyed but not gazetted until 1849. It was Gayndah which now claims to be the oldest town in QLD. The establishment of Gayndah is remarkable given transport difficulties. Near the coast Maryborough was the site of a wharf for pastoralists in 1847 and later a small town was created in 1850 making Maryborough the fifth settlement in what is now QLD. The first land sales at Maryborough were in 1852 although a general store had opened before this time on leased land in 1848. The new town of Maryborough was sited on the Mary River which rises near the Glasshouse Mountains inland from the Sunshine Coast. It generally flows northwards to enter the sea a few miles downstream from the town of Maryborough. The Mary River was named after Lady Mary Lennox the wife of the Governor of NSW Charles Fitzroy. The little town struggled to establish itself but once QLD got independence from NSW in 1859 Maryborough began to grow more quickly as free white settlers spread around the new colony. The delays in growth were partly caused by local Aboriginal resistance to the white pastoralists. Between 1847 and 1853 twenty eight white settlers were killed by Aboriginal people. A white massacre of around 100 Aboriginal people in the early 1850s brought some calm to the area and broke the resistance of the Gubbi Gubbi people. The Gubbi Gubbi people were called the Gin Gins by white settlers hence the name for that town north of Maryborough. Like so many Australian towns Maryborough’s growth was fuelled by mining discoveries. Maryborough was declared an official QLD port in 1859 and the first ship load of immigrants disembarked directly at Maryborough in 1860. Most were female and instead of obtaining work as servants immediately accepted offers of marriage from the men of the district. Maryborough became a municipality in 1861. It soon had a Customs House, a Courthouse and School of Arts but it really grew with the discovery of gold inland at Gympie. Maryborough served as the pot for goods going to and from Gympie from 1867 onwards. The QLD Land Acts of 1867 also opened up the pastoral leasehold lands to farmers for the first time. The main crops grown were maize and sugar. At about the same time as the Gympie gold rush Maryborough got its first sugar mill, a timber mill and John Walker of Ballarat opened a foundry and engineering works to produce mining equipment just as he had done previously in Ballarat. The port expanded and the town grew. A new Post Office (1869), hotels and general stores opened to cater for the miners and the townspeople. By 1871 Maryborough had 3,500 residents with its own newspaper’s, churches and schools. The wider district population was 9,000 people. By 1876 the population had swelled to 5,700 people. The first railway opened in Maryborough in 1881 when a line connected the port with Gympie gold fields.
Maryborough South Sea Islander Hospital. The Kanaka indentured labour system was introduced to QLD in 1863. The Polynesian Hawaiians called themselves kanakas. This was the term used in the 19th century to cover the South Sea Islander indentured labourers. Most who came to the Maryborough region (and Bundaberg too) were from the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). Some Islanders were also taken as indentured labourers to Chile, to Canada, to California and to Fiji. The arrival of the first indentured islanders coincided with the beginnings of
the sugar industry in the Maryborough region. Sugar is a very intense labour crop and in the USA, the Caribbean and
South America African slaves were used for such work until the mid-19th century. The Americans had their tragic Civil War to end slavery there. British colonies were not allowed to have slaves by the 1830s century including all of the Australia colonies. African slaves were gradually freed in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the mid-19th century. South America had its slaves all freed by the 1870s. Although descendants of the South Sea Islanders like to refer to themselves as the Sugar Slaves this term would be highly offensive to all descendants of African slaves of the Americas and Caribbean. Indentured labour was a common labour system in the 19th century and continued into the 20th century. In Australia the Commonwealth government ran a similar indentured labour scheme for young British men who wanted to be farm labourers. They served a three year term, with no pay until they had completed their indenture, and they needed government permission to buy work boots or any other item. In SA this scheme was known as the Barwell Boys (Barwell was the SA premier at the time) scheme but it operated in WA and other states too. This indentured labour system ended in 1925.
So when the indentured South Sea Islander trade was established in Queensland in 1863 the first labourers were covered by the 1861 Masters and Servants Acts. (All colonies – and later states- had such acts which controlled labour relations right through to the 1980 and 1990s when anti-discrimination and equal opportunity acts watered them down.) Queensland acted quickly after 1863 and introduced the Polynesian Labourers Act in 1868. Amongst the many clauses of the act was the establishment of inspectors of conditions on plantations where South Sea Islanders were indentured. They weighed food rations, inspected housing and clothing. The act was also designed to protect the Islanders’ basic rights and to stop the “kidnapping” of Islanders. All ships captains had to ensure that there was no coercion and that the Islander’s recruitment was consistent with the QLD Polynesian Labourers Act. Although white settlers and Islanders died of fevers and tropical diseases frequently in the Maryborough area it had one of four Islander Hospitals erected by the QLD government in the early 1880s to help alleviate disease and death among the Islander populations in QLD. The first inspector for the health conditions of the Islanders began work in Maryborough in 1875.Their complaints about the conditions under which Islanders lived led to the opening of the 50 bed Maryborough Pacific Islander Hospital and doctor’s residence. Islanders had a higher death rate from disease than whites and extra health care was needed. Thus the Maryborough Hospital opened in 1883 to improve health conditions but it closed just five years later. Like other Islander hospitals it was funded from the wages due to dead Islanders. These wages were diverted to state government coffers. Attached to the hospital was an Islander cemetery which was formally established in 1891 but was used for interments whilst the hospital existed. A total of 363 Islander patients died at the hospital and were presumably all buried in the cemetery. The Maryborough Pacific Islander Hospital buildings were removed in 1892 and some equipment moved to the Maryborough Hospital which established a separate Kanaka ward. The site of the Pacific Island Hospital and cemetery was left vacant until sold off as vacant land in 1911. A controversy arose a couple of years when the Maryborough Council was considering allowing building on the former site. Action were than taken to have the site declared a heritage area. The outcome for this has not yet been decided. If building approval were to happen one can only hope that a suitable memorial and monument is placed there to remind everyone of Maryborough’s role in the South Sea Islander traffic. The site is near Tinana 5 kms west of Maryborough.
The first South Sea Islander labourers arrived at the port of Maryborough in 1867 on the schooner Mary Smith. All were male and found employed straight away with the Maryborough Sugar Company. They were paid £6 per year (paid at the end for the three year contract) compared with a white labourers who would have received up to £30 a year. The Islanders also were fed and housed which the white labourers were not. The Maryborough Sugar Company also paid for the voyage to and from the South Sea Islands. When the Mary borough Pacific Islander Hospital closed in 1888 it was partially because the number for South Sea Islanders was declining in the district. Numbers continued to fall in the 1890s as sugar profits declined. Then all South Sea Islanders were covered by the “White Australia Acts” of the new Federal Government in 1901. At that time the Islander population in Queensland was at its peak with around 9,000 Islanders. Commonwealth legislation banned recruitment from 1904 and started deportation in 1906. By 1908 7,000 Islanders had been deported and about 2,000 were allowed to stay on in Australia because of marriage or health or other issues. Over the life time of the South Sea Islander trade around 60,000 Islanders had been brought into Queensland and of those about a quarter were employed in the Maryborough district.
The Port of Maryborough.
The town actually began with a wharf as once prospective settlers learned that the River Mary was navigable white pastoralist and cotton and maize farmers moved into the district upstream from around 1848. Then in 1859 as the colony of Queensland was created from New South Wales a new international port was created at Maryborough. The town had moved from West Maryborough to the present site. Consequently the first Customs House was erected in 1861. In 1860 the first vessels arrived at the port of Maryborough direct from Europe with a load of immigrants. In 1869 nearly 7,000 immigrants had landed in Maryborough and by 1878 nearly 16,000 had landed here. In fact between 1860 and 1900 around 22,000 immigrants arrived directly in Maryborough from England and Europe. Maryborough also had a coastal steamer service to Brisbane and Rockhampton. From 1867 it also handled all the goods going into and the gold coming out of the goldfields at Gympie. In the last quarter of the 19th century the port of Maryborough handled saw timber, sugar, wool, meat, gold, maize, etc. Before the end of the 19th century when river ports like Maryborough were about to be forgotten because they could not handle larger steamers its imports and exports were roughly in balance in terms of value. The most valuable exports were: gold, silver, copper, fruit, hides and skins, sugar and wool. Of these the most valuable were sugar £50,000, raw and refined, followed by silver/lead £33,000, gold/silver £9,000 and skin/hides £8,000.
Among the early immigrants were shiploads of German settlers from 1860. As the numbers grew the first Lutheran pastor arrived in 1864 followed by a second in 1867. These and later pastors came from Germany or Denmark, mainly the Schleswig district, which was occupied by Germany from 1864 after it defeated the Danes. Between 1860 and 1891 around 180,000 immigrants arrived in Queensland with an assisted government passage and some rights to lease land. Around 16,000 were non British mainly Germans, Danes, Norwegians and Swedes. Other Australian colonies only gave assisted passages to British immigrants except for Tasmania and Queensland. Most of the non-British immigrants were German but the QLD government’s agent I Germany also recruited Scandinavians, Swiss etc. Queensland became the colony with the greatest number of Danes and it had almost as many Norwegians and Swedes as NSW. Some of these non-British immigrant’s landed in Maryborough with the first ship load arriving in March 1871 on the Reichstag from Hamburg. The Scandinavians especially settled at Tiaro and Tinana near Maryborough, around Bundaberg, Pialba at Hervey Bay and in other places like Kingaroy where Sir Jo Bjelke-Petersen lived. The town of Eidsvold, near Gayndah is a Norwegian name and it was established by the Archer brothers from Larvik in Norway. As most of the Scandinavians were Lutheran (but some were Catholic), Danish, Norwegian and Swedish names are often linked to the Lutheran churches of the Maryborough district. Some Scandinavian names (mainly Danish) of Maryborough early settlers include the Jocumsen, Claussen,Madsen, Kehlet, Weinberg, Okeden, Boge, Möller, etc. Many Danish and other Scandinavian names can also be found in the Polson cemetery at Pialba Hervey Bay such as Christensen, Hansen, Mortensen, Nielsen, Petersen, Thomsen etc.
A stroll down Kent Street from Pallas Street.
1. On the left is Queen Elizabeth rose garden.
2. The Dominion Milling Company factory site. Now derelict. The Maryborough flour mill when erected in 1890 was the furthest north in Australia. It was acquired by the Dominion Milling Company around 1910. The distinctive entrance arch was erected in 1915. All operations only ceased in 1977. In more recent years it has been a saw mill and an antiques centre.
3. The old power house from the 1920s when cities like Maryborough had their own electricity generator.
4. The Freemasons Centre.
5. On the right Maryborough High School. Its original grand buildings were opened in 1881 as Maryborough Girls Grammar School.
6. On the left beyond the school oval is Maryborough Boys Grammar School erected in 1881 and the gates erected in 1909. It is now the TAFE campus.
7. The Maryborough Central School. The first school was established in 1862. The grand l two storey building was erected at the height of the European immigration period in 1875. More wooden classrooms were built in 1882 as the infant’s school.
8. On right is the City Hall. Built 1906 in American colonial style in red brick. Australia’s only pneumonic plaque outbreak occurred in Maryborough in 1905. Eight people died and a plaque commemorates that sad event.
9. On the left the School of Arts. 427 Kent St. This grand classical building was designed by Adelaide architect John Grainger. It was completed in 1888 replacing a former wooden school of arts building. In 1972 it was purchased by the City of Maryborough for use as a library. The round windows above oblong windows is unusual. Cost £3,500.
10. On the right. Finney Isles and Co store 1908. The building was designed by the prominent Bundaberg architect, F. H. Faircloth. Alterations were undertaken to the building in 1918 due to the expansion of Finney, Isles & Co business. The building was purchased by Fritz Kinne in 1923 and their name is in the central pediment. This German background businessman was an alderman and twice Mayor of Maryborough.384 Kent St
11. On the left before the next intersection. This was the Stupart’s Emporium built in 1883. No 373 Kent St.
13. On the right. The Royal Hotel. Built in 1868 and given its “royal patronage” authority by Governor Bowen of Queensland in that year. Established in 1856 and totally rebuilt in this classical style in 1902.
14. On left at 331 Kent St. The former Australian Joint Stock Bank built in 1882. Great classical features but the windows are too narrow and spoil the effect. Main facade is on the side street. Its proportions are much better. The author of the Mary Poppins book P L Travers was born in the building in 1899. Her father Travers Goff was the bank manager at the time. She was born as Helen Goff. Her statue is next to the building. Look for the street crossing lights showing Mary Poppins.
14. On the left at 327 Kent St. Built in 1915 as the Queensland National bank. Now known as Woodstock House. Good height, grand pilasters up the sides of the building, fine pediment, Corinthian columns with acanthus leaves at the top, both triangular and rounded pediments above windows, good symmetry. A great classical style building.
15.On right at 310 Kent St is the former Francis Hotel. This was the site of the first hotel in Maryborough around 1852. A second storey was added in 1919 with lots of Edwardian woodwork on the balcony. It closed as a hotel in 1992.
16. On the right next to the hotel is the former stores of Douglas Helsham. Construction began in 1874 and was completed in 1875. Helsham employed a Brisbane architect James Cowlishaw.
17. On left at 297 Kent St. The former Royal Bank built in 1888 with almost some Art Nouveau curves. The architect was Italian Victor Caradini. The roof line pediment is “broken” and now includes the name Monsour. Fred Monsour was a Middle Eastern silk and fabric importer. With his brother they had several stores and warehouses but he name in the cartouche these days refers to Dr Monsour a local medical practitioner.
18. At the very end of Kent Street and to the right is the former Engineer’s Arms Hotel. This strange very narrow hotel between two streets was built in 1889 is Maryborough’s answer to the Flatiron building of New York.
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