Late in '49, the Mount Stuart Elphinston arrived with a shipment of exiles, which was soon followed by the ship "Bangalore". This was the last shipment of this undesirable class. The Hashemy was lying in Sydney Harbour with a similar cargo but were denied a landing. The Eagle steamers ran alongside and brought them up to Moreton Bay.
Another eventful arrival about this time was the ship "Emigrant". Both on the voyage and whilst lying in the Bay, a frightful epidemic was raging. Between thirty and forty died whilst lying in quarantine. The ship's doctor succumbed to the fatal malady. Dr Ballow (the Health Officer in Brisbane) went down (with a strong presentiment he would never return).
He soon fell a victim. The daily reports brought up from the Bay were mournful in the extreme. Doctor Kannan volunteered to go down (to what then appeared the very jaws of death). However he was spared to see the fell disease stayed and in due time a clean bill of health was reported.
The year '50 was fruitful of notable events. The visit of Sir Charles Fitzroy, who was then the Governor - we were then looked upon as far off dependency Colonel Snodgrass was our Parliamentary representative. In the year '50 or '51 the first Circuit Court was opened by Mr Justice Terry. The advent of these legal gentlemen, with their gowns and wigs, created quite a sensation.
The court was held in the big room upstairs in the old Courthouse. On the calendar were two men,Wagner and Fitzgerald, who were tried for murder, condemned and hanged on the hill outside the jail wall, on the present site of the Electric Telegraph Office.
Another case, of little importance in itself, but was the cause of great financial change - a Publican named Genier had his till robbed of supposed cash. On investigation it was found the cash consisted of I.O.U's. The charge fell through on the ground of its not being legal tender. The issuing of these was prohibited and they were at once called in.
This system had previously been the chief circulating medium. The amounts were usually from five shillings down to two pence. There was but little coin of the Realm in circulation at that time. However, the Bank of NSW was now the monetary difficulty arranged.
Communication with Ipswich by steam boat was first started by the Experiment, afterwards supplemented by the Hawk, owned by Boyland and Reid, which was followed by the Swallow, built by Mr Winship. She was expected to be a rapid bird of passage like her feathered namesake, but failed to create a sensation as regards speed. The following years saw quite a fleet of river boats - the Bremer, the Settler, the Breadalbane, the Emu, the Ballarat, the Brisbane and the Ipswich. The four latter were owned by the Ocean Steam Company. See: River Steamers
The communication with Sydney was at long intervals and very irregular. The monthly arrival of the old Tamar (occasionally relieved by the Shamrock). The Tamar was commanded by Captain Murphy. Her arrival was quite an event - her smoke would be seen as he came up the river and the news of a Sydney steamer's arrival would be the universal topic. (There were no means of signaling.) Little groups would be gathered together awaiting her arrival with impatient expectancy, as this was the only means of communication with the outer world beyond a few small schooners.
The business men would have consignments on board. One would have a few bags of Pampanga sugar, another two or three half and quarter chests of Hysonskin tea, another a keg of nails, the want of which has caused a delay in building. The publican was expecting a consignment to replenish his cellars (no local breweries). The delivery of the mails was of paramount interest. The European news would be four or five months old. There were no cablegrams or telegrams to flash as in our day.
A second steamer was placed on the Sydney Line - the Eagle started her maiden trip in '50 in charge of Captain Allen. She decorated with bunting and welcomed with cheers as she rounded Kangaroo Point. In after years the honour of making rapid trips fell to Captain O'Reilly, in charge of the Boomerang.
There was no steam trade to the North of Moreton Bay. Maryborough and Port Curtis were the only two Ports and these were served by sailing coasters.
The Constabulary Force was composed of three constables and one chief, quite equal to local requirements. A very small affair compared to the Force of the present day. Our Coalfields were of limited character. The first was at Moggill, owned and worked by Mr Williams. The output was very small - I suppose equal to the demand. This property was purchased by a Syndicate, Messrs Panton, Faircloth, H Buckley and others. It had ceased working for many years.
In industry of the Boiling down Establishments created a large employment during the season. They were in the hands of enterprising men, R I Smith, John Campbell and Peter Fleming, all on the banks of the Brisbane and Bremer. This was the only outlet for the surplus flocks and herds. Owing to the limited population the consumption was very small. The idea of supplying the home markets with either frozen or living stock was left for the present generation to develop.
There were no vehicles in the early days of Brisbane beside the bullock and horse drays, with the exception of Captain Wickham's Sociable which was brought out on Sunday to enable the family to go to church.
The first public conveyance was started by a Mr Woods, if I remember rightly. It was running from the Sovereign in Queen Street to the Royal George in the Valley - that is, when there were any passengers to carry. The only road fit for driving was the road to Eagle Farm and this was the work of convicts. Any kind of an outing had to be accomplished on horseback. I am afraid many of the ladies would be denied this pleasure.
The timber supply for building purposes was all sawn by hand. The day of sawmills had not yet arrived. The Binstead Brothers on North Quay were the principal Sawyers. Certainly there were no very extensive contracts rushing in. If so, they exercised the virtue of patience.
The memorable year '51 electrified Brisbane by Hargreave's discovery of Gold at Summer Hill. Most exaggerated and absurd rumours were startling the whole community. The find at Summer Hill was quickly followed by another and far more important one on the Turon. This last information threw all business completely our of gear. Men of all classes were now seriously talking of going to have a look.
The steamer Eagle, also the brig Jack belonging to I & G Harris, were quickly filled to overflowing, so intense was the excitement. After a few trips of the Eagle, the bulk of the able-bodied men w ere landed in Sydney, leaving their wives, sweethearts and children to the protection of the aged and infirm old men.
But a very small percentage of Brisbane crowd made a success of the venture. The gold was not to be picked up on the surface of the ground. After a month or so the fever had died out and many returned to their homes poorer, wiser and sadder men.
During the year '51 the first School of Arts was opened. The leading spirits were John Innes, James Spence, Langridge Poole and others. The spirit of debate was just awakened and the first Separation meeting was held. Taylor (the learned Blacksmith), Robert Cribb and other orators of note (at that time) addressed the meeting.
The year '52 saw the initiation of cotton cultivation. Messrs, Poole and Eldridge, druggists, had the honour of pioneering this (at one time) important industry, thus emulating the Great Mechi of razor strop fame, London, who took such a prominent position amongst the British farmers during the Forties. The cotton was found to take kindly to our Queensland climate and flourished luxuriously.
The following years several companies were formed and large areas were placed under cotton, but the scarcity of labour for picking the same proved fatal. The Government stepped in to assist to nurse the infant into manhood by giving a bonus of £5 per bale of ginned cotton. The following year it was reduced to £2 per bale and the third and last year to £1 The cessation of the bonus proved the death of cotton cultivation.
The agricultural districts around Ipswich took a prominent place. The firms of Cribb and Foote and I & G Harris imported costly ginning machinery. Thousands of bales arriving both by land and water during the season gave the town a busy and bustling appearance. There was one peculiar advantage in its cultivation - the poorest land would produce the finest staple cotton.
The great and insurmountable difficulty was the scarcity of hands to harvest the crop, which was exceedingly perishable. On a bright sunny day the balls would burst and give the appearance of a field of snow; a single day's rain would destroy the farmers' prospects - the cotton would be stained and unmarketable. Another great obstacle was the competing with America in the home market. It was found unpractable. The cotton trees were rooted out and burned and a general resumption to the original staples, maize, potatoes and hay.
During these years, there was a constant war betwixt the squatters and selectors. The former wanted cheap labour and broad acres for his flocks and herds. They fought close settlement tooth and nail. They had a great preponderance in Parliament and were masters of the situation.
The Darling Downs, they asserted, would not grow a cabbage. To punish the Brisbane trade they threatened to make Cleveland the shipping port and deliver their work on Blue Water. There seems to be an inherent antagonism between the flock master and the tiller of the soil, from the time of Cain and Abel, which culminated in Fractricide.
In '53 a new era in timber for building purposes now dawned on the community by the erection of a sawmill by our enterprising townsmen, Wm Pettigrew, Esq. As usual in all progressiveness of this nature, opposition was his own by the craft which they looked upon as in danger.
They predicted failure and a speedy collapse. Unfortunately their predictions of the latter were soon verified. It was burned to t he ground in '55. It was re-erected and again burned down in '74. It was wrecked for the third time by the 'Big Flood' of '93. Again restored and in full work up to date. Surely the grit of the Scotsman was much in evidence here.