The greatest villain of them all, perhaps, was Millbong Jimmy, whose reign fortunately was now drawing to a close. On the 6th November he suddenly made his appearance at Eagle Farm, driving Mr. Richards away from his home there and robbing him of provisions.
Having plundered this place he crossed the river to Doughboy Creek, where he demanded to be supplied with rations from the sawyers whom he found at work in the neighbourhood. He was given what could be spared ; but he wanted more, and intending to enforce his demand he "rushed" the hut.
Consequently a struggle ensued between the black and a sawyer and a bullock driver. Millbong Jimmy struck the sawyer a fearful blow on the arm with his waddy, and so disabled him. The sawyer at once rushed to the hut, secured a gun, and, returning with it, shot the troublesome aboriginal through the head just as the bullock driver was about to go under. Jimmy was then secured, placed in a bullock dray, and brought to the Settlement - dead, for he expired on the way.
This man had a very bad record, for from the year 1832 he had carried on his work of murder and plunder. In that year he first brought himself prominently under notice by leading a party in an attack on several members of a boat's crew. After beating them severely they proceeded to roast them alive, but the return of the Commandant and remainder of the crew saved the poor fellows' lives, although they were in the hospital for over twelve months, and never fully recovered.
In the meantime Jimmy stuck up several huts, and in 1839 made his appearance in the Settlement. Here he broke into the windmill tower for the purpose of stealing flour, but being surprised he contented himself with stabbing Acting Chief-constable Thomson in the chest with a long knife. He next attacked the Government station at Eagle Farm, and repeatedly threatened the lives of the Westaway family, who resided there.
Even on the day preceding his death he committed several robberies at Breakfast Creek, and while crossing the river with some of his mates to avoid capture he met a boat and set upon its three occupants. In defending themselves one of the crew accidentally shot a comrade who was handing him a gun.
A subscription was got up and £10 a head offered for the apprehension of Jacky Jacky, Dick Ben, and Moggy Moggy for the murder of Gregor and Mrs. Shannon, and Horse Jimmy for the murder of Mr. Uhr, a crime committed just prior to that at North Pine. Prisoners under the charge of warders were sent out to scour the bush, and as a result Horse Jimmy was shot by a prisoner of the Crown named Daniel Doyle, who was accompanied by James Reynolds and John Lyndon.
While on this subject an incident typical of almost daily occurrences in the Settlement, but in which the blacks alone were sufferers, may be related. One of the gins had been ill-used by a native called Wellman. The gin's brother was not prepared to allow this to pass unnoticed and unrevenged, and accordingly proceeded to deal out vengeance.
After some sharp fighting between the two the score or more sable spectators joined in the fray, and a battle royal took place. Waddies and knives were the weapons used by the men, but the gins contented themselves by tearing out the hair of their opponents. At the conclusion of the fight it was found that two of the men had been severely injured, and these were borne away on the shoulders of the gins. It is needless to add that scenes such as these greatly alarmed the white women who happened to witness them, and greatly disturbed the otherwise peaceful routine of " city" life.
In bringing the year 1846 to a close let me relate an incident which revives the memory of times long since passed, and recorded thus in the Courier :-
" A few days since, while digging in a garden, a workman discovered part of a human skeleton with irons on the legs similar to those worn by the prisoners during the time this place was a penal settlement. It is conjectured that the bones are the remains of some poor wretch who had in all probability been murdered by a fellow-prisoner, and after wards placed under the sod by him to escape detection. It is well known that murders among the prisoners were not infrequent, and that many of them committed the most diabolical crimes in order that they might be deprived of an existence which had become hateful as well as burdensome on account of the severity of their punishment."
In after years many leg-irons were found indifferent parts of Brisbane. In one case a gentleman walking along the river bank not far from the present gas works on the south side kicked against what appeared to be a piece of iron. Stooping down and digging round with a stick he found the substance to be a ring so firmly embedded as to render it necessary to lever it up with a sapling. On dragging it out the gentleman was not a little horrified to find the shin-bone of a human being within the fetter. Probably had the matter been investigated a complete skeleton would have been discovered.
The year just closed had undoubtedly been the most eventful in matters touching the progress of the little Settlement, and in entering upon the record of a new year there were many signs indicative of an even better future. Each succeeding month had become marked by evidence of prosperity, and some at least of the claims of the struggling pioneers had gained the attention of the Government.
Perhaps no bettor exemplification of this prosperity can be found than the livestock returns as made up to the 1st January, 1847. It is shown by these that the small beginnings of the squatters - and they were really the index, though townsfolk generally did not care to admit it - were assuming large proportions.
In the county of Stanley there were 167 horses, 1036 head of cattle, 222 pigs, and 3 sheep ; in the district of Moreton Bay there were 685 horses, 17,157 head of cattle, 152 pigs, and 218,622 sheep ; while in the district of Darling Downs the figures stood - horses 577, cattle 20,055, pigs 40, and sheep 317,958. To show the extent of our growth it is only necessary to state that in 1844 there were in the three districts named the following stock : 650 horses, 13,295 head of cattle, and 184,651 sheep.
On the second day of the new year we find a "Gazette" notification establishing courts of "petty sessions at Ipswich, Cressbrook (Messrs. M'Connel's station), Cambooya (then the headquarters of the Commissioner of Crown Lands), and at Canning Downs (the station of the Messrs. Leslie). The gentlemen claiming the honour attaching to the office of Courts of Petty Sessions were Messrs. Sidney Smith, Henry Abbott, Robert.
Augustus H. Kemp, and Robert R. Hunt. These courts, presided over by the squatters themselves, were of course most convenient institutions for the station-owners, and were supposed to benefit the public generally. Whether the public did receive any real benefit is an open question, and one which cannot be decided at the present time.
It is a noticeable fact, though, that the " magistrates of the territory," who were mutually accommodating by adjudicating for each other, were seldom on the losing side ; and although they were undoubtedly put to great inconvenience by the sudden departure of many of their hired servants the losses of the more "canny" ones were to a great extent made up by their having charged 9d. per pound for the blackest of black sugar, 35s. for a pair of poor blankets, and occasionally on slight pretexts muleting their servants of every farthing due to them. Incidents of this kind, however, are best left alone, for though important enough at the time their importance has faded with the years which have since elapsed.
At this late date the pernicious I.O.U. system - a system which engendered distrust, and not without reason since many of the dirty pieces of paper were not worth the material they were written on-still prevailed, and as trade and population increased the necessity for the establishment of a bank became more and more pressing. The currency so fluctuating, the interchange so embarrassing, and the practice of the barter having oft to be resorted to, there were certainly very good grounds for the Courier’s advocacy of the opening of such a financial institution.
Notices such as the following could often be seen:
“Repeated inquiries having been made of the undersigned respecting the I.O.U. signed ‘R.H.’ offered for sale by him on advantageous terms to prevent unnecessary trouble he begs leave to refer all parties who are anxious to obtain information regarding these lucrative investments to Mr. Ren Hampden, New Store South Brisbane, the party from whom he received them. – Thomas Rickett”.
This notice will show how such ‘lucrative investments’ as promissory-notes are known to be were got rid of , and for the benefit of those who may require another example. I may add that a gentleman now living had a pile of the ‘lucrative’ documents issued by a well-known squatter and of the reputed value of over £300, but which when submitted to auction realised only a trifle more than was required to liquidate the expenses of the sale. Still he ought perhaps to consider himself a lucky individual, for there were others whose ‘accumulated savings’ were submitted and passed in without a bid.
While in the throes of this great labour difficulty, however, on incident occurred which had the effect of diverting the attention of all, and which caused a shock to the little community to survive which took some time. Indeed, amid all the troubles none bore more heavily or had such marked effect on the struggling inhabitants than the wreck of the Sovereign.
The bearers of the news of this sad accident were blacks, who arrived at the Settlement late on the night of the 15th March. The terrible story soon spread, and in a remarkably brief space of time many of the residents were gathered in anxious groups discussing the probabilities of the affair, and eager for details ; for on board the Sovereign were many well-known neighbours and friends. In order to satisfy this thirst for news the Courier published an " extraordinary," which contained the account which furnishes the particulars for this narrative.
The steamer left Brisbane on the 3rd March, 1847, with a large cargo of wool (forty bales of which were on deck), hides, tallow, and sundries. The saloon passengers were - Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gore, two children and servant; Mr. Henry Dennis, of Darling Downs ; Mr. W. Elliot, of the Clarence; Mr. E. Berkeley, Brisbane; Mr. Joyner, Sydney; Mr. Diehard Stubbs, Sydney; two females and sixteen males steerage passengers, with the master (Captain Cape) and a crew of twenty six - in all fifty-four.
On reaching Amity Point a strong southerly gale sprang up, which kept the vessel at her anchorage six days. A start was then made, but on getting to the bar it was not deemed wise to proceed, and Captain Cape accordingly returned to the anchorage. On the 11th another effort was made, and as the bar did not present a dangerous appearance it was decided to go on. The passengers, after so long a detention, were glad to get away, and were in high spirits.
As she passed over the first roller one is said to have remarked that the " rails" were down, and on going over the second Mr. Gore chimed in with " Here's a five-barred gate - how nobly she tops it!" How little did the amused passengers think of what was so soon to happen.
One more roller had to be met, but before this was encountered the engineer called to Captain Cape that the framing of the engines and part of the machinery had broken down. Captain Cape could scarcely believe this, but on descending from his post and examining them he found it only too true the frames were broken close under the plummer-blocks, which were turned upside down.
The ill-fated vessel then drifted towards the Northern Spit, and terrible seas broke over her, while suddenly the rudder chains parted. The sail was set and the starboard anchor was let go, but this with some fifty fathoms of chain was carried away. No time was lost in getting the other one out, but this dragged, and on went the worm-eaten tub nearer the spit until the rollers broke over her with violence, carrying away bulwarks and causing the wool and billets of wood to move violently about the deck.
These moving dangers killed three men, and several others had limbs broken. Captain Cape could see no hope of saving his ship and told the passengers so. Scarcely had he uttered the words when a tremendous sea swept off the fore-cabin companion, flush with the deck and washed away the fore hatches. Tarpaulins were fastened over the hatchways, but these proved as tissue paper to the huge volumes of water that at times swept the decks.
The scene which presented itself at this time was fearful in the extreme. Terrified passengers cried piteously for help where there was none; others plunged into the sea in the agonies of despair; while some sought consolation in prayer. Messrs. Dennis, Berkeley, and Elliot worked at the pumps, which, however, soon became choked, and they then assisted in throwing over what cargo remained on deck.
While doing this Mr. Stubbs was carried overboard, but managed to get on deck again. He went down to the ladies' cabin, which he found half full of water. Mrs. Gore and her child were lying in one of the berths thoroughly exhausted, water almost constantly pouring over them through one of the dead lights which had been stove in.
Having given the child to the servant, who was standing with the stewardess on the companion ladder - the only safe position - he conducted Mrs. Gore to the same spot, and procured some stimulants from the steward's cabin which he gave to the ladies.
Mr. Gore shortly afterwards came through the skylight, and with Mr. Stubbs tried to block the aperture with mattresses, but without success. They then went on deck and helped there until a piece of wood struck Mr. Stubbs and disabled him. Both then went aft, where an affecting scene took place between Mr. and Mrs. Gore "Mary, there is no hope for us now; we shall go to heaven together," were the words addressed by Mr. Gore to his wife. Mrs. Gore seemed perfectly prepared to meet the inevitable fate which awaited her, and with her calmness and Christian-like resignation replied, "We can die but once; Jesus died for us. God keep us."
The vessel was certainly sinking, and recognizing this fact all the woman were got on deck. The dreadful moment which was to determine the fate of all who still remained on board drew nigh, and each saw in the others countenances a vivid expression of his own feelings. Mr. Dennis stood near the poop with his head cut open and bleeding profusely, Mr. Berkeley and Mr. Elliot close by him. Holding on to the shrouds was Captain Cape, while Mr. Stubbs, still retaining his presence of mind, cried out, "Avoid the suction," and then leapt overboard. One wild shriek, a roll of the vessel, and the struggle for life commenced.
Many who had been disabled sank to rise no more, others clung desperately to the pieces of wreckage, while the body of Mrs. Gore was observed by Mr. Stubbs near the vessel, the good lady having doubtless died from fright. Mr. Dennis, who with Mr. Berkeley was clinging to a wool bale, cried out, " For God's sake save the child !" while Mr. Gore piteously appealed to someone to give him his offspring. The appeal was not made in vain, for Mr. Stubbs swam towards it, caught it by the hair, and delivered it to the father. He came near losing his life, however, owing to the child clinging convulsively to him.
Mr. Stubbs then struck out and reached a wool bale, when he saw Mrs. Gore's servant, who implored him to have pity on her and render her assistance. He tried to lash two bales together by means of his belt, but one of the bales sank, and he then left the girl with the other while he endeavoured to find a piece of timber. He reached the breakers on a plank, but observing Mr. Gore and the child inside the skylight he swam towards them, and got inside it.
They were almost immediately washed out again, and when he last saw Mr. Gore he had his child in his arms. He then made towards the breakers on the bar, but how he got through them Mr. Stubbs had not the slightest recollection. At any rate he remembered nothing until he reached the shoal water, a distance of about four miles from the scene of the wreck. He was helped out by a native.
Captain Cape, who was one of those saved, stated that after swimming for some time he fell in with Mr. Berkeley, who was hanging on to a wool bale. While making his way to him he managed to catch hold of a paddle-box, and called to Mr. Berkeley to come to him, which he did, and they kept company for about an hour and a half.
On nearing the surf Captain Cape advised his companion to hold on with all his strength in going through the heavy breakers. Immediately afterwards Mr. Berkeley called his attention to a mountainous wave behind. The water broke upon them, and poor Berkeley disappeared.
Captain Cape met three more breakers, and did not recollect anything further until he found himself on a hillock of sand on the beach, where he had been carried by the blacks, who had dragged him through the surf. As soon as he had regained sufficient strength he was conducted by the blacks to Mr. Stubbs, where he also found the body of Mrs. Gore, and shortly afterwards her eldest child was washed up.
A Mr. Richards and Mr. Clements, who were fishing close by, rendered every assistance in their power, and aided by a prisoner of the Crown named William Rollings, a servant of the pilot, and the native crew, with great difficulty, succeeded in saving the lives of six persons, who but for their efforts must have perished in the surf.
While the injured and exhausted men were being attended to by some of their rescuers, others were covering the bodies of those who had been washed up with sand to prevent the sea birds disfiguring them. Immediately on the receipt of news of the terrible catastrophe reaching the Settlement a party set out.
On reaching the beach it was found that decomposition had already set in, and consequently it was deemed inadvisable to carry the bodies back. It fell to the lot of Captain Wickham to fulfil the last rites, but this gentleman became so overpowered by his feelings that he could not conclude the service, and the sad office had to be undertaken by another person.
Opinions differ as to who was to blame, for while the want of wisdom on the part of the parsimonious Government of New South Wales by not allowing a survey of the Bay to be made or sanctioning the removal of the pilot station from Amity Point to the north of Moreton Island was manifest, it was a well-known fact that the Sovereign was rotten and that her engines were old and imperfectly fitted.
The practice of storing cargo on deck prevailed, too, and the danger of this proceeding had been plainly demonstrated just before, when the deck cargo of coals of the Tamar was washed into the engine room and blocked the machinery, and her other cargo had to be jettisoned. It was not uncommon thing either to stow cargo in the cabins.
But whoever was responsible for the Sovereign catastrophe, Captain Cape was made to suffer by the company, who refused to give him another vessel, and on the evidence of one man charged him with neglect. They were, however, badly seconded by the public.
It may be mentioned that one of the "passengers" was John McQuade, who was being escorted to Sydney under sentence for wilful damage done in the police cells. He was one of those saved, and on his surrendering himself on his return to the Settlement he was discharged. A subscription list was established and liberally subscribed to for the benefit of those who suffered monetarily by the catastrophe, and the blacks at Amity Point were each presented with a brass plate bearing the following inscription, which spoke for itself :
" To , of AMITY POINT. Rewarded by the Government for the assistance he afforded with five of his country-men to the survivors of the wreck of the steamer Sovereign, by rescuing them from the surf upon Moreton Island, on 11th March, 1847, upon which melancholy occasion forty six persons were drowned, and by the aid of the natives ten were saved."
Up to this date the only amusements known to Brisbanites were horse racing and an occasional foot race. It will readily be understood then that the populace were somewhat startled on reading the following announcement, which appeared on the 24th April, 1847 :-
Amphitheatre, South Brisbane Mr George Croft, from the Victoria Theatre, Sydney, and late of Astley’ s Royal Amphitheatre, London, begs to announce to the inhabitants of Brisbane and its vicinity that his New Amphitheatre, South Brisbane, will be open for public amusements on Monday evening next, at 8 o'clock precisely, when the following feats will be performed - A series of evolutions on the tight rope by Mr. Croft. Clowns to the rope Messrs Feathers and Benson. A comic song by Mr Feathers, also a comic dance by Mr. Benson, after which Mr. Croft will dance on opera dance on the tight rope, and the High land fling in character - when Messrs Feathers and Benson will go through several amazing feats as clowns to the rope Mr Feathers will give a recitation "On Law" (formerly a favourite dialogue of the celebrated Mr. C Mathews at home).
Mr Croft will commence with acrobatic feats, will throw a somerset through a fire balloon 12ft high, throw several lion leaps over chairs, tables, etc, dance a hornpipe on his head on a candlestick! and to conclude the evening's amusements Mr C. will walk up a perpendicular ladder 10ft high, and place himself in a horizontal position on his head, when all at once the ladder falls into a complete cataract, leaving the performer on his head on one pole surrounded by fireworks! Prices of admission Boxes, 3s, pit, 2s
So varied a programme of deeds of daring could not fail to draw, and it is therefore not surprising to find that the house was filled, " nearly fifty persons having to stand." With the exception of a few slight mistakes Croft went through his performance remarkably well, but unfortunately there was a scarcity of jokes and paucity of wit on the part of the clowns, which had a damaging effect, and caused two young fellows to interfere with the stage arrangements.
This, however, only tended to enliven the proceedings, and on the whole the entertainment was appreciated, it being predicted that Mr. Croft would have the support of the inhabitants as long as " he confined himself to legitimate fun to the exclusion of scurrility and indecency"!
From this it would be inferred that George's reputation had preceded him; at any rate he was not long in showing himself in his true colours, for a week or two later he graced the first appearance of his wife on the tight rope with an improper song, and so "burst up the show," for although it was encored by a part of the audience the insult offered to the majority was too great to be borne.
To lend variety to this performance a number of aboriginals were admitted into the arena, and those stared in stupid amazement at the proceedings. After this Croft's audiences became diminutive, and in a few months the climax was reached, Andrew Graham selling Croft's "scenic effects," and in fact all his belongings, to liquidate a debt of £26 12s. 3d. due for board and lodging. It was some time before Brisbane was again troubled with or amused by a speculative showman.
In the meantime the work of exploration was being pushed on, Leichhardt being out to the westward of Moreton Bay, while Mr. Burnett, Assistant Surveyor, was busily engaged in tracing to its month the river now bearing his name, but then called the Boyne. But neither met with much success, for while Leichhardt suffered such terrible privations as to compel him to retrace his steps, Burnett also was prevented from accomplishing the object of his trip, and accordingly returned to Brisbane.
Shortly afterwards Leichhardt again set out, this time to Fitzroy Downs (discovered by Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1846), and after a brief absence returned to Sydney, where he made arrangements for his last long trip, from which neither he nor any of his party returned. Mr. Burnett, too, did not long remain idle, for determined if possible to trace the Boyne to its source he left Brisbane in July and gratified his desire, and at the same time he made an examination of Wide Bay and the river discovered by Mr. Petrie.
His report was immensely satisfactory for all parties, and to Moreton Bayites in particular, for to these he foretold that Wide Bay would never compete with Moreton Bay, although it would form an excellent harbour for coasting vessels, and would in the course of a few years become a place of considerable trade. To mark his appreciation of the perseverance and enterprise evinced by Mr. Burnett in the performance of his duty the Government ordered that on all maps and other official records the word " Boyne" should be changed to " Burnett," and the Wide Bay River to that of the " Mary" in honour of Lady Fitzroy - Mr. Petrie is again left out in the cold.
Simultaneously with this discovery by Burnett another of more immediate importance to the Settlement perhaps was made - a good practicable road over the range for wool teams from the south end of the Downs to Ipswich, which obviated the necessity for sending the dray by the circuitous and difficult route over Hodgson's Gap.
The discoverer of this was Henry Alphan, a stock man in the service of Messrs. Leslie, of Canning Downs. The plan of the northern entrance to the Bay, too, was completed in April, and was taken to Sydney for approval by Mr. Thornton; while it was freely rumoured that the pilot station was to be removed from Amity to the north end of Moreton Island, and that Captain Freeman would be appointed harbourmaster.
The Government, however, again began to show a parsimonious spirit, and dealt somewhat harshly with the residents by closing the hospital and refusing the tenants in the barracks a further lease of the shops, stating with regard to the latter that it was their intention to dispose of the land at the upset price of £100 per acre, with the value of the buildings as computed by Mr. Burnett added thereto.
They shortly afterwards changed their minds, and offered to submit to auction the leases, which would extend up to five years. This offer was declined as the Government refused to refund on the expiry of the lease any amount that might be expended in effecting repairs, which were very badly required at the time. The difficulty was eventually settled by the granting of an extension of lease for twelve months on the original terms.
The launching of the first two-masted vessel from what is now Petrie's Bight was an event of some importance, and as might be expected caused something of a stir in the Settlement. Up to this, boat building had not extended further than the construction of a few punts, with an occasional small boat. The honour of building this larger vessel fell to a Mr. Cameron, who performed the work for Captain Deloitte. The ceremony of launching took place on the 15th of May, and was graced by the presence of a number of ladies and of the military.
As the little craft moved into the water Miss Petrie christened her the Selina, and a few days afterwards she left for Sydney loaded with timber. Her dimensions were :-Length, 62ft.; beam, 15ft. Gin.; depth of hold, 7ft. 6in.; length overall, 70ft.; and her capacity, 45,000ft. of timber. The career of the Selina was short-lived, as will be seen in a subsequent chapter.
Following closely on this holiday came the great gala, the anniversary race meeting As usual there was a great turn out, and during the three days over which the few events extended there was no lack of enthusiasm nor paucity of attendance. There was only one regret - the much wished for band had not come into existence. Times were not very bright, but notwithstanding this £200 was subscribed for stakes and some £50 for the concluding dinner, which at this period was deemed the only fitting termination of anything in the way of a public gathering.
The great distance combined with the dreary nature of the road to New Farm had the previous year been something of a drawback, but this was to some extent removed this time by the decision of the enterprising owner of the Experiment to run the boat to the course. And it is pleasing to know that his enterprise was fittingly rewarded. Nothing of very great importance happened, except that the people of Ipswich and the back country refused to countenance the proceedings. Had the races been held at Cleveland Point they would perhaps have subscribed liberally.
However, notwithstanding this boycott, the meeting was a great success and the people enjoyed themselves as witness the following episode which is chronicled in the Courier - 'In the evening the 'boys' kept it up in North Brisbane in grand style under the able leadership of a gentleman well known to the sporting fraternity. It so happened on this particular night that a hogshead of beer was quietly reposing under the veranda of the Victoria Hotel when it was observed by the boys aforesaid.
The word was passed and the cask was was set in motion down Queen street as far as the corner of Albert Street. Finding the amusement highly exhilarating our heroes commenced rolling it back again up the hill, and got it is far as the green opposite the Post Office (then located between the site of the present Town Hall and George Street).
Here a council of war was held, and it was decided to make a manful attack upon the head, as being the most venerable part of the cask. This was soon accomplished, and a general invitation was given to imbibe the contents, which was accepted by numbers who had assembled to witness the fun ' Capital stuff Ned, is it not?' said one ' Old Tooth is a brick,' said another, and all agreed that it was an excellent remedy for a cold. Suffice it to say that neatly the whole was drunk by our Bacchanalians and their guests without the slightest compunctious visitings of wry faces.