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Brisbane NSW - Moreton Bay Settlement - Darling Downs

Archibald Meston set about documenting the aboriginal tribes of the Brisbane district and recorded their dialects and language. He published some of his work in the Courier Mail in 1923 towards the end of his life. He gained an understanding of the aboriginal through learning their varied dialects in the 1870s and was able to comprehensively document the different tribes' culture and activities.

Two editions of this work appear as 'Native Place Names' and 'Lost Tribes'. There has been some controversy as to his interpretation of aboriginal place names but as he pointed out, the meaning and pronunciation given by different tribes varied and he chose to use the one in most use by the tribe that frequented the area.

The section An Essay by J.J. Knight serialized in the 'Brisbane Courier' titled 'In the Early Days' in the year 1892 depicts Brisbane from the time of being a convict settlement to the separation of the state of Queensland from that of New South Wales in 1859. To appreciate the pioneering climate of the time, a background to Brisbane's role as a maritime port needs to be documented.

The genesis of Brisbane starts as a penal settlement known as 'Moreton Bay Settlement'. Its location was chosen because it was, in the opinion of the first Commandant, an area which afforded protection against attack by the Aboriginal tribes as well as having natural barriers to contain the convict population.

When Moreton Bay Settlement ceased to be a penal settlement, the town was surveyed and town lots were auctioned in an era of wild land speculation. Prices paid were well above the norm and the 'town' consisted mainly of the buildings built during the convict era.

There had been no infrastructure such as bridges or roads built and there were limitations as to its suitability as a port. This fact affected Brisbane's viability and relevancy as a centre of trade.

The main industry for traders in Brisbane was to cater for the Squatter class who had extensive land holdings on the Darling Downs. The Squatters needed to ship their wool product to Sydney for shipment to England for the insatiable mechanized weaving industry.

Shipping overland via bullock dray was expensive so a trade developed where coastal steamers from Sydney navigated up the Brisbane River to Brisbane, with supplies and took on the wool cargo for transshipment to Sydney. The early wharf for this trade existed on the south of the river in what is now South Brisbane.

The reason wharves were established here was because bullock drays from the Darling Downs were unable to cross the Brisbane river at any stage during their journey from the Darling Downs.

Soon river steamers took on this trade, loading up at Ipswich from the drays and arriving and storing the wool in North Brisbane. This appeared to be a better economic solution because the amount of exports from the Darling Downs had risen and loading direct to ocean going wool clipper direct to England was the preferred option.

There were drawbacks because these large ships could not navigate the Brisbane river because of its shallow nature. These ships would anchor in what was known as 'Brisbane Roads', the area of Moreton Bay off Nudgee and the river steamers with barges would ferry the cargos to and from Brisbane. This double handling of cargo was an expense the Squatters could not endure and sought an area of Moreton Bay where a deep water port could be built to enable direct loading to the wool clippers.

They proposed Cleveland Point as the most viable site but it needed governmental approval to deem it a port of entry for customs purposes. Governor Gipps was not convinced that Cleveland Point would make a suitable port and consequently Brisbane was deemed the port of entry and the Customs House was built on the present site.

Had the Squatters got their way then the town of Brisbane would have been irrelevant and at the time of Separation, Ipswich or Cleveland Point might have been the State Capital. Steam dredges soon made the river navigable for the wool clippers and wool stores and wharves sprang on the river at Eagle Street and South Brisbane. Brisbane by this time was the centre of commerce for the region and naturally the choice for State Capital over its contender, Ipswich.

In the final installment in December 1892, Knight presented a time line of events which started in the beginning of the convict settlement to Separation. This chronology has been reproduced on the page titled 'Time line' and relevant stories pertaining to the events have been hyper linked.

There are narratives which provide a commentary on the overall conditions which existed and for which there are no definite chronological link and these have been indexed on the page titled 'In the Early Days'. 'Convict Era' is research into the penal settlement known as Moreton Bay Settlement