Thomas Roper - Separation from NSW

Coming events cast their shadows. The supposed boon of separation had for several years been the vital topic of the day, the appeal for which was unanimous, in which the whole country joined issue - squatters, farmers, business men and mechanics. Crowded meetings were held. All the eloquence of the local talent was poured forth most lavishly and enthusiastically cheered.

Dr Lang was indefatigable in keeping the prize well before the public eye and ear, both with pen and platform oratory. The Home authorities were petitioned again and again. At last the Royal Assent was granted, her most Gracious Majesty christening the new-born Colony "Queensland". In the year '59, Sir George Ferguson Bowen was appointed first Governor.

The year following, the first Parliament was formed and a new Nation sprang into existence, with an enormous territory and containing within herself all the elements for building up a mighty Nation, with ample room for millions of the over-populated British Isles to find a home and help to open out nature's rich storehouses. The extent of her mineral wealth must remain to be developed by coming generations.

What a few years back was looked upon as Terra Incognito has now been taken possession of by the Frontier Squatter and vast flocks and herds are now depasturing thereon. The time has arrived for Brisbane to lay aside her swaddling clothes and enter the arena of life's battle as a stalwart stripling. A municipality is proclaimed. The formation of streets and lighting the same call for immediate attention.

In '65, a Board of Water Works was instituted. The Enoggera Reservoir was constructed, The old town waterhole disappeared and a new era had set in. Owing to the monopoly and consequently high rates of freight enjoyed by the A.S.N. Steam Company, a new Company was started, chiefly composed of Brisbane Shareholders.

Captain Putello (formerly an employee of the old Company) was appointed manager and sent home to superintend (supervise) the construction and sending out the infant fleet, consisting of the Queensland, Lady Young and Lady Bowen. The senior Company at once lowered their freights.

For a time there was keen competition; however, through insufficient capital, the Queensland Company succumbed to its more powerful rival, which resulted in the older Company purchasing their complete plant and resuming supremacy of the Coasting Trade without a rival. Some few years after this, Howard Smith and Son established themselves in Brisbane as Ocean Carriers.

They too met with similar treatment as the defunct Q.S.Company. however they were able for the strain and maintained their ground and are now powerful and friendly competitors for public patronage.


In the year '63, Brisbane was subjected to a flood, which was succeeded in '64 by a disastrous fire, the first of any magnitude the town yet experienced. Queen Street from the corner of Albert Street (well known as Cairncross's corner) nearly up to the Bank of NSW was laid in ruins.

There was a Volunteer Fire Brigade at work, but the appliances brought to bear were ill-adapted to contend with a fire of such magnitude. Refuge Row, the site of the present A.M.P. Buildings up to the Telegraph Office. Naturally these buildings were all of a temporary character and have long since disappeared.

The year '66 was noted as the year of the great Riot. Navvies who had been employed in the construction of the Ipswich and Toowoomba Railway struck work and came down to Brisbane in a body about 60 strong. There was some consternation amongst the inhabitants of the different villages as they passed through. The bakers and butchers threw open shops as a peace offering.

However, there was no wrecking or violence offered until they arrived in Brisbane. Here two or three of the ringleaders now became very prominent. Making absurd demands of the government, threatening to sack the treasury, etc.

To meet such an unexpected emergency, all the Government employees were quickly enrolled and marched out, parading Queen Street. The ringleaders now demanded bread or blood with threatening gestures. They were soon taken in hand by the Police and locked up, and finally sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, where they got the bread they so defiantly clamoured for. The main body quickly dispersed, and this ended the first Labour trouble of Queensland. There were no Labour Unions then in existence.

About this time the Bank of Queensland failed and a terrible depression was experienced by the community. However, the cloud was soon to be dispersed in a most unexpected way. In '67, the Gympie Goldfield was discovered. A Mr Nash, a gold prospector, after many weary months of fruitless toil among the ranges, most fortunately was led to prospect a gully, afterwards well and favourably known as Nash's Gully. Here he came across rich deposits of the precious metal. He reported the same to the authorities and claimed the one thousand pounds reward previously offered by the Government, together with a prospecting area.

The news spread like wildfire, both in Maryborough and Brisbane. Thousands wended their way to the new Eldorado. All sorts of vehicles and conveyances were pressed into the service. One man landed on the Field having wheeled a barrow containing his little ones and necessaries over a hundred miles. His indomitable pluck carried him through. A man of such stamina was bound to succeed, which was verified in his case. He became one of the leading men of the town and today holds a prominent position there.

This rich field came most opportunely for the country. It had universally been acknowledged as the salvation of Queensland. At one time over a thousand men (breadwinners) from the Valley alone were working at the alluvial ground, all getting something.

There was no capital required or months to wait before any return for labour expended, as in the case of deep sinking on the Reef, nor any costly machinery to invest in. The outfit consisted of a pick and shovel, prospecting dish and cradle, and to start work at once, and, possessed with a Miner's Right (a Licence to Mine), the field was before him.

Working the reefs in search of matrix gold (which has grown to such an important industry) required a large capital. To realise, this, Companies were floated and a large amount of labour is employed to work the same. Many thousands of pounds are expendable on machinery.

The road from Brisbane to Gympie over the Blackall Ranges was about one hundred and twenty miles of very rough broken country. It was a terrible experience, more especially for all vehicular traffic. However, extravagant expectations on reaching a new goldfield swept aside all obstacles that would effectually bar any other enterprise.

The sugar industry is far too important to pass over. In the year '62, the Honourable Louis Hope on his Cleveland estate started salt works by the process of evaporation form artificial pans. The industry not realising expectations, he determined to form a sugar plantation. A large amount of capital was expendable in machinery and plant and preparatory works but, not proving the success anticipated, after a few years it was abandoned.

The Logan and Albert appears to have been the pioneers' favoured locality, as it was thought the climate was more equable and the virgin scrub soils more productive. Kanaka labour was now introduced, but from various causes the industry (except in a few isolated cases) did not realise expectations and in many instances the plantations have been converted into grazing and agricultural farms. The climate of the Tropical North appears more congenial for the development of the sugar cane.

During the year '68, Brisbane was honoured by a visit form Prince Alfred (now Duke of Edinburgh). The reception was truly Loyal and Royal. As occurrences of more recent date are still fresh in the memories of many of your readers, consequently there will be no interest in perusing the same.

I omitted to mention when writing of the discovery of gold in Gympie that Canoona was the first Field discovered in Queensland in the year '58. The present town of Rockhampton owes its origin to this discovery.