Remembering the Past Australia

Pioneers and Veterans of Ipswich, Queensland

"A Glimpse at Some of our Old Residents"
[By Red Gum]

First published in the
“Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser”
7 April 1898.

View of Ipswich c1870

View of Ipswich c1870. State Library of Queensland.

A noble monument they leave behind –
Those brave old men! They meekly pass away.
We miss the gentle heart-the sturdy mind;
But still their work grows mightier day by day.

No sculptured marble, then, need we up-raise,
Here stands the living works of their own hand,
No song of triumph need resound their praise,
For hark! a people’s voice fills all the land
Who made the desert bloom-the solitude
Grow tuneful with the voice of men ? ‘Twas they-
Those brave old hearts-that noble brotherhood
Who, one by one, now softly pass away.


WE love to look upon the old man, with his frosty head, his furrowed cheek, and wrinkled brow.” Perhaps a glimpse of a few of the early residents of Ipswich will be interesting. Indeed, one may stand in Brisbane-street, and easily count the surviving members of what I may term, with all due reverence, the “old brigade,” among whom Death has been much in evidence of late.

Before I go any further I feel it my duty to pay a tribute of respect to one of the grandest ladies in West Moreton — a lady who has believe, the honour of being the oldest resident of her sex in Ipswich, one who has had the privilege of witnessing, during the last fifty-three years, the growth of Queensland from a small settlement into its present prosperous proportions. The lady I am referring to is the mother of Mr. Samuel Watson and Mr. Richard Watson, of this town; of Mr. John Watson, of Lowood; and of Mrs. Richard Burrell, of Booval — all Australian born. Her family are well known throughout the district. Mrs. Watson, too, has the distinguished honour of having been born on the same day as Her Majesty Queen Victoria — namely, on the 24th of May, 1819 — and is therefore approaching her seventy-ninth year, and she still keeps hale and hearty. She and her lamented husband emigrated to New South Wales from Ireland, arriving in Sydney by the emigrant ship Alfred in January, 1841. Subsequently Mr. and Mrs. Watson came on to Brisbane (Moreton Bay) in 1845, and at a later period Mr. Watson was placed in charge of the border police stationed at Woogaroo under Dr. Simpson. After about twelve months at Woogaroo in the service of the New South Wales Government, Mr. Watson came to Ipswich in 1848, having purchased land at the second Government land sale of Ipswich town property. The head of the Watson family had the honour of being the first small stock-owner in Queensland, as well as being the first cotton-grower in West Moreton, West Ipswich (almost opposite Mrs. Johnston) being the scene of Mr. Watson’s residence for many years, until he removed to Walloon, and then subsequently to Tarampa. It was while residing here that death claimed Mr. Watson. And what experiences must his venerable partner have gone through? She first saw Ipswich as a bush village, and she has witnessed its growth to its present dimensions.

Glancing over. some of the names of the “comrades of the old colonial school,” I think the veteran son of Vulcan, Mr. Hugh Campbell, is entitled to precedence. Mr. Campbell was born in Argyleshire, Scotland, and when about eight years of age his father — Mr. Donald Campbell — and family emigrated to New South Wales in 1838, and went on to the Maitland district, living at Scone for four years. It was while here that Mrs. Campbell died. The discovery of the Darling Downs by Cunningham, and the pioneering of that wonderful country by the Leslie brothers, caused many families on the New South Wales side to look to this side for “fresh fields and pastures new.” Mr. Donald Campbell, with his family (two sons, Lachlan and John, and a daughter — the latter lady was afterwards the respected mother of the Horton family, Mr. Thomas Horton, of Ipswich, being the youngest son), came to Moreton Bay from Sydney, and arrived here in June, 1842, they being the first family — after the Thorns of course — to make Ipswich their home. It was in May of 1842 that Governor Gipps proclaimed the Brisbane and Limestone districts open to free settlement, and the first attempt in this direction was made at Little Ipswich, near the One Mile Bridge, where the Campbell family first lived. Mrs. Hugh Campbell is also a representative of a family of pioneers who came over from New South Wales to Ipswich in 1848 to settle here — namely, the McLeans. Mr. Hugh Campbell, whose father was also a blacksmith, has therefore resided in Ipswich for the past fifty-six years. Will the mantle of the father of Ipswich fall on his shoulders? He, too, was one of Ipswich’s earliest cricketers, having played the noble game on the site of the present Lands Office. in East-street, and subsequently on the site of the North Australian Hotel in Nicholas-street.

Mr. Thomas Moore, of South-street, comes next in order, his father and family arriving in Ipswich only a couple of months after the Campbell family. The Downs country still going ahead, Ipswich quickly became the terminus of those “making for” the Land of Promise. Of course, I make no pretention (sic) of knowing anything about those periods, except from information gleaned from eye-witnesses at different times; but, referring to the rolling country of Darling Downs, the land that “would not grow a cabbage” has been much sought after since that” terrible” prophecy — made, too, by one of the early legislators who, some years after, confessed to be slightly out of his reckoning. However, regarding the pioneers of Ipswich, Mr. Samuel Good, of Waghorn-street, came here with his parents from Brisbane in 1844, being as he states, “only a nipper,” about four years of age, when his father, the late Mr. Jacob Good, arrived in Ipswich as a baker in the employ of the late Mr. George Thorn.

Another very old Ipswichian is Mr. Robert Wilkinson, J.P., of Denmark Hill, who came along with his parents overland from New South Wales to this district in 1845. Mr. Wilkinson, whose parents emigrated to Sydney in 1841, has had his share of colonial experiences in both colonies, and before Ipswich became anything like what it is at present he “ran” a sawyer’s pit In Nicholas-street, about on the site of Union-street, going to the railway station. And dear old Nicholas-street with its “bottle’” alley” — namely, the lane leading into Ellenborough-street ! ‘Pon my word, the boys of the present day do not seem to have anywhere near the enjoyable times that the Nicholas-street lads had in my youthful days — perhaps we had more room; and then that old English Church! Well, pass good old boyish days — those days of cherry-hunting along the then bonnie banks of the Bremer, as far as McIntyre’s, at Woodend . Even the old Bremer River seems to have got narrower, through, I think, the destruction of the trees lining its banks, allowing the land to fall away, there being nothing, as it were to “knit” or keep it together like the growth of trees on its banks, and there is one venerable lady in our midst who almost implored the Hon. A. Macalister to protect the banks of the Bremer, so far as the growth of trees is concerned, as far back as thirty-eight years ago.

By-the-way, the late Mrs. McIntyre, whose death was recently chronicled, was another grand lady resident of the colony since 1848, having lived in Ipswich from the year 1848. To return to Mr. Robert Wilkinson’s career. He and his late father were for several years In the Franklyn Vale and Rosewood districts, working as sawyers and shingle-splitters; and it was only quite recently that I was entertained by Mr. Wilkinson’s reminiscences of the early times, including some reference to shooting-matches among the residents of Ipswich, the champion shot of whom was the late Mr. Peacock (who had only one arm), the respected father of Mr. Colin Peacock, of Laidley. Mr. Robert Wilkinson, however, in 1849 assisted to establish a branch of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows in Ipswich, but it failed. Some years later he was prominent again in the establishment of a lodge of the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows. This was in 1862, so I think I am correct in styling him as the “father” of Oddfellowship in Ipswich.

Another old resident of Ipswich is Mr. Richard Gill. He came to Sydney in the ship William Jardine, between 1841 and 1842. Subsequently he emigrated to Moreton Bay, and established a business in South Brisbane in 1846. Mr. Gill shortly afterwards removed to Ipswich, where he started in a general business — ironmongery principally-in Bell-street, about on the site where the merry-go-rounds put up at generally, and was also appointed postmaster by the New South Wales Government — a position that he filled for many years since Separation under the Queensland Government.

My next subject is that of a very dear old friend — Mr. Thomas Woolley, who emigrated to New South Wales, arriving in Sydney on the 9th of October, 1848. After only a few days here, he obtained a passage to Moreton Bay in a sailing vessel, which took five days to reach Brisbane, where be stayed three days. Mr. Woolley then “shipped” for Ipswich — the “head of navigation” — in the little steamer, Experiment; they started from Brisbane at 9 a.m., and reached Ipswich at 9 p.m. Mr. Woolley says that they worked hard at the pumps all the way, and on arrival at Limestone, he put his first night in Ipswich at the late Mr. Martin Byrnes’s public-house, which was just then opened, being situated on the corner of East and Bremer Streets, where Mr. George Livermore (another old resident of this district, by the way) at present resides.

Portrait of Thomas Woolley

Portrait of Thomas Woolley. View of Ipswich c1870. State Library of Queensland.

In those days young men had no choice but to turn their hands to what ever was offered them. Mr. Woolley worked hard as a sawyer during the early periods of his residence both at Franklyn Vale and Pine Mountain districts and in Brisbane; he worked at a “pit” in Ellenborough-street, situated then about on the site of Mr. John Halley’s bakery business. As a sawyer and that was the chief industry in the Moreton districts in those times — Mr. Woolley cut timber for the first School of Arts, in Brisbane, erected nearly opposite the site of the General Post-Office. Queen-street, the pit being not far distant. The timber for the Congregational Church in Brisbane-at the present time the residence of Mr. Edmund Gregory, next the Government Printing Office-was sawn by Mr. Woolley, who opened the first timber yard established in Brisbane by the late Mr. “Bobby” Cribb, near Creek-street. In Ipswich, Mr. Woolley partly cut the timber for the late Mr. Benjamin Cribb’s first London Stores, in Bell-street, on the site nearest the Bell-street entrance, and any one can observe the several stages of expansion that have taken place from the original long room in Bell-street right round into Brisbane-street.

Mr. Woolley is one of the oldest — if not the very oldest — lay preachers in this district, having identified himself in this respect some time before there was any church built in Ipswich. He can well remember the first church services held under a roof taking place in the parlour of the “Red Cow” public-house, in Bell-street; also services being held in the original slab-built court-house, then situated about on the site of the post-office, in Brisbane-street. He recollects the erection of the first Wesleyan Church in Ellenborough-street — a weather-board cottage then, passing which, in those far-off days, was the path to Little Ipswich; and he was, more or less, closely connected with the first band of Wesleyan preachers who visited Ipswich from Brisbane in the early days; in fast, Mr. Woolley occasionally, when employed in Brisbane, rode to Ipswich to conduct services. As for himself, Mr. Woolley has been connected with the Baptist persuasion (and that, too, in an official position) since the days of the late Rev. Thomas Deacon — indeed, Mr. Woolley is the only survivor of the original seven, including the Rev. Thomas Deacon, who established the Baptist Church in Ipswich, the first services being held in a building, then known as a bowling-alley, situated on the site of Mrs. Kennedy’s store, at the corner of Brisbane and West Streets. Subsequently the Baptist Church in West-street, was erected, the old building being still in existence.

It may be truthfully stated that Mr. Woolley has witnessed the growth of all the Churches in Ipswich, as well as being identified with the progress of the Press. He joined the the ‘Ipswich Herald’ In March, 1860, during its management by Mr. Edmund Gregory, the present Government Printer, and has been employed ever since on the ‘Queensland Times’ (into which the ‘Ipswich Herald ‘ merged, of course), having passed his thirty-eighth year in its service. Mr. Woolley — who, by the way, is approaching his seventy-first birthday, which will be on Saturday next — was also one of the prime movers in the formation of the Rechabite Society in Ipswich.

Who does not know Mr. Patrick O’Sullivan? Is there a person in Queensland who, if he or she does not actually know him, has not at any rate, heard of him. P.O. came first to Brisbane in 1847, and then to Ipswich in 1848, and has always been identified with the progress of the town. It may not be generally known that Mr. O’Sullivan was a soldier in the British Army — a fine broth of a “Kerry boy” I have no doubt — at the time of the coronation of Queen Victoria, a celebration that he remembered well. He is, I think, the only survivor in the colony of the first Parliament in Queensland. Of course, the first Premier of Queensland is still in the land of the living — in England, namely, Sir R. G. W, Herbert. It is due greatly to Mr. O’Sullivan that the Ipswich Hospital was first erected, the following being the incidents that led up to its establishment: — During the elections of the fifties for the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Sullivan proceeded to Brisbane for the purpose of bringing up three or four patients from the Brisbane Hospital to vote at Ipswich (of which they were residents), but the Brisbane Hospital authorities wold not allow P.O. to take them out of the institution. Mr. O’Sullivan resented this treatment-indeed, the whole “bang” lot at Ipswich were in a terrible state over this refusal, and in those times, very few votes, turned the verdict of an election, and the leaders (including the late Messrs. Vowles, A. Macalister, Dr. Dorsey, and others) met in the Clarendon Hotel — where now stands the Queensland National Bank — and decided, there and then, that in future there should be an Hospital in Ipswich. This came to pass, and the present grand institution is the outcome of that little contretemps with the Brisbane hospital authorities.

Portrait of Patrick O Sullivan

Portrait of Patrick O’Sullivan. View of Ipswich c1870. State Library of Queensland.

Here is a joke in connection with P. O’Sullivan’s Parliamentary career that is worth reproduction, it having occurred during the erection of the Ulster Hotel, at the corner of Mortimer and Brisbane Streets, early in the sixties. Mr. O’Sullivan was giving the contractor a helping hand by carrying up shingles to him, to whom he remarked: “It is a good job that you are in Queensland, for, if you were in Ireland, you would not have a member of Parliament carrying up shingles for you;” to which the retort came: “It is a good job for yourself that you are in Queensland, for, if you were in Ireland, you would not be a member of Parliament.” However, be that as it may, as a politician Mr. O’Sullivan has more than held his own, and, I believe, it is due to his exertions that the present North Ipswich cricket reserve was granted. In the early days Mr. O’Sullivan was one of the first footballers in Ipswich, and he still takes a great interest in the Rugby game. He is now in his eightieth year.

I cannot close this article, which deals principally with people who came here in the forties, without referring to Messrs. Thomas Towell and George Holt, also the respected mother of Mr. F. A. Whitehead — all of whom came from the Old Country in the late Dr. Lang’s ship Fortitude, which arrived in Moreton Bay on the 20th January, 1849. I believe it is Mr. Towell’s intention, if all goes well to the advent of the 20th January, 1899, to gather all the Fortitude passengers together — or as many of them as can make it convenient to attend — for the purpose of celebrating their “jubilee” in Queensland. I sincerely hope that Mr. Towell will be successful in his efforts. Mr. Towell, of course, is well known as having been connected for nearly thirty years with the Electric Telegraph Department. Mr. Holt (who now lives at Kholo), previous to starting in the bakery business in Ipswich, was for several years in charge of vessels trading between Ipswich and Brisbane.

The few people I have mentioned have witnessed the growth of Ipswich from a bush to its present proportions, during which time the firms of Messr. Cribb and Foote, (since 1849) and Geo. H. Wilson and Co. (since 1853) have been household words the length and breadth of the colony. To me it is especially pleasing to notice Mr. G. H. Wilson — who came from Newfoundland, North America — still apparently hale and hearty.

Perhaps, on some future occasion, I may “touch up” the residents who came here between 1849 and 1860; but I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without mentioning three veterans at their several occupations — namely, the veteran engineer, Mr. David Rogers, of North Ipswich, who came to New South Wales in 1843, and who erected the first steam flour-mill in Sydney. He also erected the machinery for the old Bremer Mills in 1850, and subsequently erected pumping machinery on the opposite side of the river to Nicholas-street, at the foot of which, parallel with Bremer-street, were the hydrants from which the water was conveyed to the inhabitants by means of water-carts. Then there is our veteran publican, Mr. John McGrath, of the North Star Hotel, who came to Ipswich in 1852; and our veteran tailor, Mr. Joseph Sparks, who came here in 1858.

By the way, I caught a glimpse, the other day, of a very old Ipswich identity, Tommy de Long — a Tartar; he will not allow himself to be called a Chinaman, and his aversion to “piggie” afforded the youths of the early days much enjoyment. De Long, from what I can make out, came to this district about 1849. Poor old Tommy!

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