BY J. J. KNIGHT, IN THE " QUEENSLANDER." dated 1892

The First Ferry

About this time, much inconvenience was experienced in crossing the river, and none felt it more than the squatters, who on coming to the Settlement had to leave their teams on the south side. To get over themselves they had to employ a man who had a dingy, but who like the policeman, was "there when not wanted, when wanted never there." If it were desired to get a horse on to the north side it was generally towed over by the small dingy before mentioned.

This inconvenience seems to have impressed the indefatigable John Williams with the idea that there was money in running a decent ferry; so once more he struck out a line for himself by building a punt - and such a punt. He was assisted in the construction by Davidson, who had helped him to erect his house, and when completed he gave the vessel the name of '' The Time Killer." This appellation was not altogether inappropriate, since the timbers with which it was built made it so difficult to propel that a considerable amount of time was killed in making one trip across the river, while those who had to work it nearly shared the same fate.

Having obtained three years' right to run it Williams placed the punt on the Russell Street ferry, and though the plucky pioneer's enterprise was thoroughly appreciated at first, the teamsters after a while began to grumble, and thus annoy their benefactor. Occasionally, at a later period, the Time Killer was used to fetch coal from Moggill for the steamer, and during these absences her loss was felt by those who, though not satisfied with her capabilities as a ferry, preferred her to having to swim their horses. But John struggled on, and those who did not like his system had the alternative of camping at the usual spot on the south side-an alternative seldom taken advantage of.

Plucky Pioneers

In the meantime, the herds on the Downs had been increasing, and the results of this together with the extension of the squatting stations towards the Settlement began to be felt to an appreciable extent in Brisbane. Most of the supplies had to come to Brisbane, and the same may be said of the products of the squatters intended for the South. With this increase in the herds and the correspondingly small market for the surplus sheep and cattle arose the necessity for a boiling-down establishment, which gave " Tinker" Campbell the opportunity of starting what may be regarded as the first industry at Kangaroo Point.

What the bold speculator did to warrant punishment with the appellation of" Tinker" no one seems to know, and, judging from the fact that " Tinker" happened to be a squatter, the title seems to have been particularly out of place. Like most initiators of industries in sparsely populated districts, "Tinker" had many reverses, and his property during the several years he ran it came within arm's length, so it is said, of that highly obnoxious social disturber, the bailiff. Eventually in 1846 it did change hands.

Up the Ladder of Fame

While, however, "Tinker" Campbell was thus distinguishing himself in the boiling down and salting of carcasses Mr. Andrew Petrie was again coming to the fore in opening up, as it were, what have since become extensive coal deposits.

Governor Gipps, too, continued to grow famous, for about this time he gave his sanction to a petition the evil results of which have long since made themselves felt. It will be remembered that when dealing with the survey of the town it was mentioned that a roadway was reserved along the bank of the river from the bridge to New Farm (Eagle Street). It was in 1843 that this reserve was taken away at the request of Sydney merchants and some of it cut up into allotments.

There is no doubt that this alienation of river frontage will in the future tell even more disastrously against the shipping facilities of our port than now. But what did Governor Gipps care for posterity? His sole desire was to squeeze out revenue with which to replenish the mother Treasury. What little frontage now remains under the control of the corporation is so held not because Governor Gipps had any regard for the future but because he could not find purchasers for it.

We Are Included in a Constituency

It will have been observed that Brisbane by this time was slowly but surely progressing. This fact seems to have been recognised in the South; at any rate the people here suddenly found themselves included in a constituency; how or why was not revealed to the residents.

Fearing that some readers may consider this " concession" a contradiction of a previous statement that the South seemed determined to stifle all attempts at progress in Moreton Bay. I hasten to state that the electorate included Port Macquarie and the Upper Hunter with a seaboard of hundreds of miles, and with its head polling place at Raymond Terrace on the Hunter.

It will thus be seen that the voice the Moreton Bay people had in the councils of the country in reality (as one writer aptly puts it) amounted only to a very inaudible squeak.One member was required to represent this vast electorate, and taking into consideration the facilities which presented themselves to voters we may safely assume that the few residents here did not excite themselves much over the event.

The election took place on the 23rd June 1843, there being two candidates, Mr. Alex. McLeay and Mr. Charles Windeyer. The former had been selected in 1825 to proceed to New South Wales as Colonial Secretary. He, however, resigned that position in 1837. Mr. Windeyer was a pressman (he was the first recognised reporter in the House of Lords) who had emigrated to this colony in 1828, and on arriving here had accepted the office of clerk of the Bench of Sydney and shortly afterwards rose to the more important position of Police Magistrate. The honour of representing Moreton Bay fell to Mr. McLeay, he being returned by a narrow majority.

By his election Moreton Bay was doubly honoured, for on taking his seat in the House he was elected Speaker, although we do not believe the few residents here either benefited by or cared for the distinction. Truly we were an outcast settlement; but then perhaps as we could command scarcely sufficient votes to influence an election we had in this respect, little ground for complaint just then. As a matter of fact Mr. McLeay was elected by the Port Macquarie people, and these he continued to serve to the very great detriment of Moreton Bay.

As population began to increase here, the injustice of this exclusion (for that is practically what it did amount to) made itself severely felt, and three years afterwards, great were the efforts made to remove the representative. It was found at this later period that Port Macquarie was obtaining annually large amounts for repairs of roads and bridges, while Moreton Bay was left in the cold, with all petitions for redress unheeded. It may be mentioned that from 1842 to 1844 the revenue derived amounted to the modest sum of £6281, while the population rose from 665 in 1812 to 1120 in the following year and to 1595 in 1841.

At the time of his election, Mr. McLeay was 77 years of age, and naturally he was not considered sufficiently active for the position he held. But he pleased the residents of Port Macquarie, and as they showed no desire to remove him. Moreton Bay had to " grin and bear it," notwithstanding the fact that the number of votes had increased greatly and population had more than doubled. It is questionable indeed whether the honourable member for Moreton Bay had ever seen Moreton Bay; he certainly had no interest there.

The 11th of October, 1843, saw the first sale of Ipswich lands, which was held in Brisbane, and the result, I believe, proved eminently satisfactory, inasmuch as it placed a considerable sum in the coffers of New South Wales.

Local Jealousies

The Government, in 1844, still refused to give any guarantee that Brisbane Town would ever become the centre or headquarters, and this, coupled with the fact that the rival claims of Cleveland Point were being periodically advanced, militated greatly against the advancement of the town. It is, therefore, surprising that it showed any signs of progression at all. A controversy, too, had arisen as to whether the north or south side should become the local centre, the argument used being that the south had direct intercourse with the interior.

The idea found much favour among the newcomers, and consequently South Brisbane began to out-pace the older place. But the race was of short duration, for the north had obtained too firm a hold to be beaten in this way. One effect of the spurt may be said to have boon the opening up of a third town, Kangaroo Point. In consequence of certain representations made to the Government, a large area of land on the Point was surveyed, and at the sale nearly the whole of it fell to Mr. (afterwards Sir) Evan Mackenzie, at the upset price of £1 per acre.

Viewed through the spectacles of Mr. Mackenzie the speculation was a good one, but it had the effect of further scattering the sparse population, which was not to the advantage of a settlement just emerging from convictism. Following this, we find a second ferry opened to connect Kangaroo Point with what is now Petrie's Bight. The curious can to this day find traces of the approach from the north side near the Aquarium Company's wharf.

A Predominance of Hotels

Among the few new structures in the Settlement inns were unduly prominent, and this, coupled with the fact that the licensing laws were often totally disregarded, did not tend to raise the moral standard of the place. The teamsters, and indeed the squatters themselves, made their visits to the Settlement occasions for uproarious conduct. On the Rev. Dr. Lang visiting Brisbane he was very much shocked at what he saw, and declared that ‘the habits of the people were most irregular’ which, after all, was a mild way of putting it. The doctor relates one of the incidents, which brought him to form this conclusion.

Several squatters were drinking in an inn in Queen street when one of the number offered to wager that he would jump his horse over the table at which they sat. This sportsmanlike, though extremely foolish bet, was quickly taken up and without further ceremony the horseman appeared on the scene booted and spurred in the orthodox manner. But in those days when erecting public houses it was not deemed necessary that rooms should be lofty; and the horse referred to was not built out of the ordinary style of architecture.

This fact does not appear to have even suggested itself until the rider had attempted the feat, and had received such a rebuff from the ceiling as to cause him to quickly reach the floor again and to ruminate over his own foolish action. It need scarcely be said that the attempt was never repeated again.

The State of the Settlement

The majority of Crown buildings had, comparatively speaking, fallen into ruins, and the Government appeared no more anxious to repair them than they were to expend a few pounds in road forming. Will it be believed that at this date only about one mile of road had been made, and that along the river bank, which had been used as a promenade for what Dr. Lang was pleased to call " the scarlet and pipeclayed military"? One would think that with so many convicts (there were 1200 at one time at their disposal) the several Commandants would have devoted some of their efforts at least to forming a few thoroughfares.

But no ; their chief desire had been to procure as much wealth as possible from the ground for revenue purposes. The very gardens, which had been the pride of the military, were now shamefully neglected - so much so, indeed, that they were little beyond grazing ground. It was manifest that the Government designedly neglected the representations of the residents.

The burying ground on the North Quay was a favourite rendezvous for swine, which rooted and rooted until, it is alleged, the mortal remains of some of those laid there to rest were brought to light. And all this for the want of a few chains of fencing. As a matter of fact, if any improvements were made they were done at the expense of the mere handful of residents.

Even the shipping company - whose dividends, by the way, had not been such as to recompense them for the outlay - donated sums of money to assist in works and otherwise helping the place ahead. One such generous act was the voting of an amount "to build a bridge across a creek in Eagle Street," and another the granting a free passage for Dr. Leichhardt and his equipment when undertaking his memorable expedition to Port Essington.

At a later period a similar concession was granted to Mrs. Chisholm," the friend of immigrant girls," who came to Moreton Bay to find positions for her charges, some of whom, by the way, are now alive. Were it necessary many instances of commendable generosity on the part of outsiders could be given. If proof were needed of the gross neglect of the Government it would be found in the position they took with regard to the choice of entrance to our waters, at that time gained between Stradbroke and Moreton Islands, the pilot station being at Amity Point.

The bar at the southern entrance was then as now most difficult to negotiate, and especially so to the vessels then on the route. The narrow escapes of the craft were brought under the notice of the powers that were, while the safety of the Cape Moreton route had been fully demonstrated. Captain Freeman, who afterwards filled the position of portmaster, but who was then skipper of the schooner William, while on a voyage from Sydney was tempted towing to stress of weather to attempt a passage into Moreton Bay by the northern entrance, and got into a channel, which was in honour of the discoverer, named Freeman's Channel. By this it is known up to the present day, but it is not largely used by nautical men.

At the time, however, several tried this route with success. Yet the dilatory Sydney legislators would not remove the pilot station, the keeper of which was always fearful lest it might be washed away; neither would they sanction a survey being made. And so this dangerous entrance was allowed to be used, and was recognised by the authorities. They were brought to sad awakening in March of 1847, when the steamer Sovereign, with a valuable cargo and forty-four souls, broke up on the bar. Then, and not till then, did the Government see the force of the people's arguments, and after so terrible a reminder of their culpability no time was lost in giving effect to the oft repeated suggestions.

Indignation Meeting

In the year 1844 the first indignation meeting ever held in the Settlement was conducted in the court-house (formerly the convict barracks) at the instance of the squatters. As a matter of fact the squatters in the forties occupied about the same position as labour does today in the field of agitation. Considering the importance of the subject to be discussed and the enormity of the injustice it was anticipated was about to be done to the pastoral community it is somewhat astonishing to find that the attendance was so small.

In approaching matter ,it is perhaps necessary to state that originally immigrants in the South who could boast of a certain amount of capital (£500) were awarded grants of large areas of land but the grant was conditional on immigrant employing one prisoner for every hundred acres he received. This system prevailed until early in the thirties when Governor Burke became alive to the corrupt practices which it lead to and made a radical alteration by instituting sales by auction, the upset price being fixed at 5s per acre.

In 1838, however, Governor Gipps, with that revenue squeezing propensity which is characterized nearly all of his gubernatorial acts and which continually brought him into conflict with the colonists at large, raised the minimum, first to 12s then the £1 per acre. In 1844 the squatters fee was £10, and besides this they had to pay assessment fees intended to defray the expenses of the commissioners etc. Of the time of which I write, however, Governor Gipps continued his incursions on the privileges of the pastoral tenants of the Crown by compelling them to purchase annually a large area of their runs (about 300 acres each) at the upset price of £1 per acre.

The object of this was to supply money to provide for immigration and so give the squatters labour. Naturally the squatters ‘kicked’. They had struggled through their recurring difficulties and were becoming thoroughly sick of the periodical tinkering with the land laws. In the hope of ending this, the squatters of Moreton Bay (in common with those in the South) convened their first indignation meeting, which was held as before stated.

The chair was occupied by Sir (then Mr.) Arthur Hodgson and during the proceedings, which naturally were of a most unanimous character, some very hard things were said about the Governor and his extraordinary proposals; while it was confidently anticipated that such an alteration in the regulations was the forerunner of disaster to the pastoral industry.

How far these predictions were realised is at the present day apparent, but there is no doubt that at the time Governor Gipps was not justified in adopting the course he did. For the want of a better outlet much of the stock found its way to the boiling-down pot, and those animals which were not sufficiently fat for that were killed and the product hawked about the settlement for sale.

It is a fact well known to very old residents indeed - Sir Arthur recently related the story himself - that Sir Arthur Hodgson, accompanied by Neddy Dwyer, a peculiar old-time character, went his rounds regularly with a wheelbarrow, crying "Prime legs of mutton, 6d. a piece!" These were pickled by the residents.

At such a time, when practically the only outlet for stock was through the medium of the boiling-down pot, when squatters themselves had to hawk the meat, and when commercial transactions both here and in the South were at a standstill, it can readily be understood that such an encroachment on their liberties and their savings was inopportune, and calculated to take some of the energy out of our early wool-growers.

A Travellers’ Troubles

Having reached that point of our history where the state of trade warranted a steamer being kept on the route, and when we were really beginning to walk, as it were, perhaps an account of how those who travelled in the ships fared on reaching our shores may prove interesting. Let the reader then listen to what Mr. Thomas Dowse, an old and respected resident - now gone to his rest - records as his experiences of 1848.

He journeyed from Sydney in a small schooner, but on reaching Amity Point - the pilot was stationed there then - he transhipped and came on to Brisbane in the pilot boat, landing at the makeshift wharf referred to as first occupied by the Hunter River Company." Night had set in before we entered the river," he says, " having had to contend against a strong south-westerly breeze across the Bay.

It may therefore be set down as an established fact that when we shook ourselves together on the old wharf, about 8 o'clock in the evening, we were not exactly the parties competent to be called upon to express an opinion upon the beauties of the river, or the natural advantages of the Settlement. On the contrary, my friend, the skipper, said something about his eyes and limbs that did not convey a blessing to himself or to his hearers.

But it was cold; and it was hard to avoid being uncomplimentary when we considered that we had left the comfortable quarters of Jemmy Hexton, the old pilot at Amity Point, about 4 that morning without breaking our fast, and with the exception of a slight feed on the voyage had not been able to keep up the necessary carbon to keep the inner man comfortable. In fact, we had all been the victims of misplaced confidence. We had expected to land in Brisbane in about eight or ten hours, having a good boat and crew; instead of that we had nearly doubled that period of time.

A portion of the southern wing of the old barracks had been converted by the ingenuity of the lessees from a "dirty dreary kitchen or cook-house into a snug and comfortable store and dwelling-place, in which, on the night I made my appearance therein, I found a hourly welcome from the worthy occupiers, Mrsses. John Harris and Richard Underwood, trading in the new Settlement under the style and title of ' Harris and Underwood, General Storekeepers.'

The company at the supper table consisted of the firm and their ladies, an old gentleman named While, then acting as Postmaster and Superintendent of the ticket-of-leave Constabulary stationed in Brisbane, the captain, and myself. The amusing anecdotes of passing events given with much zest and humour by our hosts, and their graphic particulars of life in the Settlement, kept us in high good humour, and very much helped to thaw our stagnant blood and make us have a better opinion as to the future of the young community."