Rosewood History ©

Settlers in a slab hut on a dairy property ca.1877


Before European settlement the lands in the Ipswich region, including the Rosewood Scrub, were the home of the Jagera, Yagera and Ugarapul people. Archibald Meston, in his publication “The Queensland Railway and Tourists Guide,” (1891) gives the old aboriginal names of this district as “Cowpanby” and “Boonooroo,” which literally means “all brigalow” from the brigalow scrubs which covered the adjoining hills. A well-known man at the time was King Johnnie of Tarampa who held everyone’s respect. These people lived peacefully in the open forest and had many tracks through the Rosewood Scrub and pathways to connect neighbouring groups.

On 6th June 1859, Queen Victoria signed the “Letters Patent”, granting approval for Queensland to become a separate colony to New South Wales. Queensland would have its own government. On 10th December, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, our first Governor, read the proclamation establishing the Colony of Queensland from the balcony of Government House. After the separation towns outside of Brisbane began to develop. 

The Rosewood Scrub was first thrown open to free selection by proclamation in the Government Gazette on the 17th August 1867. A few selectors ventured into the gloomy recesses of the dense scrub and selected half a dozen lots at £1 per acre under the Leasing Act of 1866. 

When the Macalister Homestead Act, aka the Alienation of Crown Lands Act of 1868 came into force, it restricted sales of Crown land to lots of land located in the country. It allowed people to take up a homestead selection at a reasonable price. From the 1st of March, a constant rush of settlers took up selections until there was not a single block of the rich scrub land, other than reserves, left in any part of the Scrub. 

The first section of the railway line from Ipswich to Toowoomba, which terminated at Bigge’s Camp (Grandchester), was completed in 1864 and officially opened on 31st July 1865. As a result a township developed around the level crossing known as the Rosewood Gate, which soon became a conditional stop on the line. The only house in the vicinity was an Inn, the “Rising Sun” on the old Toowoomba Road, which had been operating from late 1857. The men of the railway gang and their families lived in tents at the back of, and nearby the hotel. There are reports of a flood in March 1864 when many of these families had all of their possessions washed away. The paddock behind the hotel was covered by several feet of water and tents and boxes etc were floating about in all directions. The whole of the country from the Seven Mile to Rosewood was under water. As a measure, Ipswich reported that the water there was six feet higher than the previous flood the year before.

John Farrell, one of the railway workers, arrived at the camp later in the year 1864. He became the first resident at Rosewood Gate when he built a small home in the corner of the present day school grounds, facing the railway line. He was appointed to take charge of the level crossing. Between this small railway siding and where the majority of settlers’ homes would be situated was dense scrub, with only a few tracks made by men leading their horses (bridle tracks).

Settlers slowly began to arrive and make their way into the dense Australian bush. One can imagine the apprehension felt by these new immigrants and especially by the women folk. Were they dressed for the Queensland climate and the virgin bushland? What would they encounter there? Would the conditions be ok for their children? Would they have suitable and sufficient provisions? 

The Rosewood Scrub was described by an agricultural reporter for the Queenslander in 1876 as – neither forest land, underwood scrub, nor vine scrub, but partakes of the characteristics of all three. The trees there are really timber, and by no means sparse, the entire surface between being covered with a dense mass of undergrowth; and although the vines are in no place tangled and matted enough to prevent progress without hewing your way with a tomahawk, they are plentiful enough in all directions to effectually impede progress, and render the work of falling and burning a very laborious matter.

To reach their destinations settlers had to cut their way through the undergrowth, and parts of the forest would have been quite gloomy. All necessities would have been carried with them. The bushland harboured dangers like stinging nettle, stinging trees, Jack Jumper Ants, snakes, spiders and dingoes. Yet it also sheltered never before seen creatures and provided sensory delights in the perfumes of the native flora, the beauty of the majestic trees and the complete silence, which was only broken by the musical notes and calls of the creatures inhabiting it. Beautiful orchids, staghorns, ferns and and crows nests were abundant. Wrens, pheasants, finches, quail, wagtails, magpies, butcher birds, honeyeaters, water fowl, plovers, wild ducks, ibis, bush canaries, cockatoos etc were numerous. The scrub turkeys (Aboriginal name Tallegalla) were also plentiful and without the turkeys , possums, hares, kangaroos and even galahs to eat, many settlers could have died. After sundown it would have been pitch black in the scrub. The howling of the dingoes and the cries of the curlews broke the silence. The only light apart from any moonlight that penetrated the canopy on a bright night would have been from their log fire or a slush lamp, which was a open container (like an old tin can) containing fat, a piece of rag and a wick.

One of the most notable trees growing abundantly in the area was the Acacia Fasciculifera or Scrub Ironbark or Rosewood tree. It is a very pretty tree when flowering and it is believed that the that the town was named in its honour. Other trees indigenous to the area were Crow’s Ash, Cedar, Pine and Brigalow trees. 

So much of the Scrub succombed to the ruthless axe and firestick. It was densely timbered and the tallest trees were difficult to fell and it was dangerous. Some men were injured, some lost limbs or lost their lives. The sounds of axes rang out through the scrub. Trees were felled, stumps and unwanted scrub burned off, sites cleaned up and over time small clearings began to dot the landscape. Initially settlers lived in tents or other roughly assembled structures like bark huts, so it was necessary to clear a small space for them first, until a more permanent house could be built. 

There was no more important tool to the settlers than an axe. Without axes they would have achieved very little. Saws were also vital and hoe-like tools called grubbers were used to remove tree stumps and roots. Mauls, wedges and froes for splitting and adzes for shaping, as well as hammers, augers and chisels were all essential in the building process. The first generation houses were slab huts with shingle roofs or wattle and daub huts, and they typically had bare earth floors.  

The pioneer men and women were a special and versatile breed. Strength, resilience and a good sense of humour were among the qualities they possessed. If they didn’t have the necessary skills when first entering the scrub, they were quickly acquired because it was a case of sink or swim. The only way to detect their selections was by the survey pegs at the corners of theri blocks and the occasional marked tree to indicate the boundary. Tracks had to be cut to and from their selection to allow access for the horses and carts, so necessary for bringing precious water and other goods to and from the homestead. Sometimes they travelled for miles to get water, commonly carried in kerosene tins, perhaps two suspended on a shoulder yoke if they had to walk, and they could spend most of the day away. It must have been a big task to keep up the supply needed for cooking and domestic use. Imagine trying to bathe or wash clothes on a regular basis. Water was also needed for the animals and gardens. The unreliability of rain was perhaps the hardest obstacle to overcome. The droughts of 1874 and 1884 would have been unbearable to some.

From dawn till dusk the men worked clearing, hand-hoeing, ploughing, fencing carting water etc. Eventually, when enough land was cleared, crops of maize, pumpkins, sweet potatoes etc were planted. Hard yakka!  Bandicoots wanted a good share of the seed corn and potaoes for themselves, and they, along with the cockatoos, hares, kangaroo rats, bad weather and crop diseases competed fiercely with the farmers for the spoils. The produce then had to be taken to the nearest market in Ipswich. Women and children often walked to town carrying buckets of eggs, butter and other goods to sell. The corn and other produce posed a bigger problem. There were no surveyed roads to use so the men held meetings and formed deputations to write to or visit the Lands Department. They also lobbied local politicians for assistance. At times it seemed unlikely, but eventually help came. Imagine negotiating the sticky black soil roads in wet weather! 

Women needed to be self reliant while raising the children, caring for domestic animals and tending garden plots. They were so far away from any services that often times their roles were those of nurses, midwives, teachers, cooks, dressmakers and some probably delivered a calf or two. One of the many hardships would have been the lack of medical assistance and knowledge. No doubt they reverted to old wives’ tales and the herbal medicines they bought with them.

Settlers included William Mathew who in 1868, selected 80 acres of agricultural land at Rosewood and settled on what is now the eastern side of John Street. James Foote from Ipswich acquired almost the same acreage on the western side in 1867 but he didn’t live there. Around 1873 each of these two men gave half a chain of land along the boundary of their property for the formation of a road for public use, now known as John Street.

John Vance, William Meiklejohn and Samuel Waight settled in or close to the township. Other early neighbours were Richard Mason, James Dale, Robert Beavis, Martin Beavis, John Nichols, Domenico Pedrazzini, Thomas Hogan, Robert Boughen, Michael Rush, Joseph Wilds, Samuel Eaton, Joseph Hudson, Bernard Farley and Lawrence Smallbone. There were a few settlers out near the Seven Mile, some being Michael Raatz, Alexander Grant, John Armstrong and Henry Jacobs.

Progress was slow at first and can be described as “sometimes a feast, sometimes a famine”.

In 1870 a Provisional school opened in what was the old Rising Sun Hotel building, which was the Vance family’s home at the time. A teacher was appointed and he stayed for a short time. Then John Vance started a school in his dining room and began agitating for a state school to be built. About 1874 he opened the town’s first shop at what is now 16 John Street. A second hotel under the name “Rising Sun” opened at its present location and the next year the Congregational Church was built. The state primary school was also opened. In 1876 a rest room was built at the railway station. Some farmers were growing cotton and more than 200 tons of timber, bark, firewood, pumpkins, and almost 4,000 bushels of maize was loaded at the station in one week. (1 bushell is equivalent to 8 gallons or 36.4 litres). Mason’s Bridge was completed and the township got a police station. The district was thriving. 

Douglas William Jerrold described it well when he said, “Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” 

In early March 1875 the Minister for Land and Works, Mr Henry Edward King, visited the district to gain an understanding of what the settlers wanted. On seeing the bad state of the roads, he promised to help. Consequently three or four gangs of men started work clearing roads and making bridges over creeks and gullies, to enable the farmers to bring their produce to market, or to the nearest railway station at Rosewood Gate.

Progress at Rosewood Gate continued, as reported by the Week’s correspondent in April 1877:- Now the “public” has changed hands, and an addition of which will give more than double the space the old one, is neatly finished. A new hotel is also building on the other side of the line, of very fair proportions; and there is talk of a third. The Post Office has a branch mail to Tallegalla, and an office for registering births and deaths. The railway station now ranks as equal to any for the transaction of business, and does as much, or more than any between Ipswich and Toowoomba. A telegraph office is built, though the operator has not come yet. A chapel has been raised. A butcher supplies good beef and mutton fresh three or four times a week. There is a shoemaker and Crispin makes the best hard-wear mud-crushers I have ever been able to buy. There is a blacksmith. There soon will be a police barracks. A cemetery is proclaimed or gazetted, or whatever it is they do. The school has been enlarged for 100 children, and is full at that. There is a coal pit on which many hundreds have been spent, and which is bound to succeed. I suppose we shall have a newspaper soon, and then look out.

To prove to the authorities that the district was productive, and that proper roads were necessary to enable farmers to take their produce to market and the railway station, the first exhibition was held in the school room in July 1877. It was more like a “Paddy’s Market”. The exhibits consisted mainly of maize, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. No animals were shown. From this the Rosewood Farmers’ Club was formed, which later became the Agricultural and Horticultural Society.

Also in 1877 an exploratory shaft was sunk at Rosewood in the hope of finding coal for the locomotives. Coal mining began at Moorelands and Walloon. 

Rosewood Gate became known as Rosewood under the Electoral Districts Act of 1878. In the same year a station master’s house was built and the first station master Kingsborough Black, was appointed. Prior to this appointment, John Farrell, William Mathew, John Vance and Margaret Farrell had been the gate-keepers.

On 11th November 1879, the Walloon Division was created. 

In 1881 Joseph William Evans, a Chemist, came to town; a weighing machine capable of weighing up to 20 tons was installed at the railway station; John Herman, a baker, set up in business in Vance’s store; the Walloon Board passed a new bylaw which imposed a wheel tax of £2-£8 per annum on bullock drivers in the division, and the first of two petitions for Rosewood to become a Shire was sent to the Governor, the second in 1886.

By 1888 Rosewood had three hotels, the Rising Sun (1874), the Rosewood (1879) and the Commercial (1884). There was a drapery, the Royal Bank (1887), several general and produce stores, a chemist, blacksmith, saddler, bootmaker, baker, butcher and plumber, barber, and Rifle Club (1887). Five churches were operating, the Congregational (1875) Wesleyan (1882) Primitive Methodist (1882) Church of Christ (1885) and Baptist at Lanefield (1887).

A GLIMPSE OF ROSEWOOD – FROM A CORRESPONDENT [Queensland Times 29 September 1888, page 3]
Having occasion to visit Rosewood, last week, I was agreeably surprised to find such a large town ship. I had often heard of Rosewood Scrub, and had pictured an hotel and blacksmith’s shop, and, possibly, three or four houses, but, instead, on stepping out of the carriage, Mr. Emmott’s general store and drapery warehouse caught my eye. He seems to have a first-class assortment of all kinds of goods. After crossing the line, and entering the township, I came to the police barracks. This place, like the station, struck me as being quite inadequate for the township, as I found, on talking to several of the business people, that they are dissatisfied with its position. It is their general opinion that the station should have been built to the north of the line, as all the business places are on that side. I also expected to have seen a Post Office close by, but it seems that the authorities have overlooked this altogether; the only place in which letters can be posted is at the station, and, even then, a stranger would have some difficulty in finding the box. Opposite the police barracks is the Rosewood Hotel, a nice, commodious building, kept by Mr. Hodge. Next door I came to Mr. Prebble’s general store and drapery a very nice clean looking shop. Opposite is the Royal Bank. Considering the monetary transactions in this place, it is full time that a new bank was built, the existing “edifice” being a small two roomed cottage.  Then I came to Mr. J. Farrell’s (contractor) residence. He has just completed a road, which, I believe, is called John street. This is the principal street in the township, and is a credit to both the contractor and the Divisional Board. Then I looked into Mr. Quinn’s saddler’s shop. Next door is Mr. Evans’ chemist’s shop. Opposite is the Congregational Church. The Rev. Mr. Roper is the resident pastor. I might mention that the spiritual welfare of the inhabitants of this district is well looked after, there being not fewer than six churches here.  Then, I arrived at the Commercial Hotel, kept by Mr. James Ponting, where I partook of a splendid luncheon. This hotel has the best of accommodation for man and beast. Opposite is Mr. Aspinall’s (boot and shoe maker). Then comes Mr. P. Angel’s general store and bakery. This is, perhaps, the largest and best building in the district. His stock comprises grocery, drapery, crockery, ironmongery, &c. Besides being the only baker in the township, he is also a large purchaser of all kinds of farmers’ produce. Next is Mr. Elder’s (blacksmith, wheelwright, shoeing-forge, and implement maker). I am told that he has three fires in almost constant use. Opposite is Mr. Harcla (saddlery and barber), who gives an easy shave for threepence.  I came then to Mr. Matthew’s, market gardener, whose ground is nicely laid out, and stocked with all kinds of fruit and vegetables. (No Chinamen wanted here.) A little higher up I came to Walters Bros.’ butchering establishment, next to Mr. Arndt (general store and produce merchant). He, I believe, has a branch store in Ipswich. There is still another store, kept by Mr. D, Pfrunder. He, I am informed, is the oldest storekeeper here. Then we came to Mr. Adams (wheelwright and blacksmith). He, I believe, employs four men. I have now given you a full list of the business places to the north of the line. In my next I shall have something to say of the farmers, also of places to the south.

In 1889 the Royal Bank opened; Captain Rea opened the Caledonian Colliery near Walloon; the travelling dairy arrived at Rosewood and thereafter the dairy industry took off. Dairying in the district led to co-operative diaries being set up and associated industries such as butter and cheese making.

In 1890 the Royal Hotel was built along with new police barracks. On the 11th October part of the Walloon Division was separated to create the Rosewood Division. 

The courtroom was erected in 1892. The sugar industry was progressing slowly but surely.

At the turn of the century the productive vision and determined efforts of the early residents were being realised. In the coming decade Rosewood would experience its greatest growth period.

[Pugh’s Almanac 1900]
AGENTS (Insurance) – J. L. Frederich, R. Hodge, D. Pfrunder, Collett Bros
BAKER – C. T. Bragg
BLACKSMITHS – J. Elder; P. H. Adams
BOOTMAKERS – John Aspinall; M. Bourke
BUILDER – R. Hodge
BUTCHER – Mrs. J. McGeary; J. O’Sullivan
CHEMIST – J. W. Evans
CHURCHES – Congregational. Rev R. Figis; Church of Christ, Church of England & Roman Catholic (visited); Baptist Rev. J. Glover
CREAMERIES – Minden Farmers’ Co-operative Dairy Co Ltd; Black Plain Farmers Co-op Dairy Co. Ltd; Ben Meissner, Patrick Ahearn; Rosewood Co-op Dairy Co; Lanefield Farmers’ Co-op Dairy Co.
CLERK OF PETTY SESSIONS – (Acting) Acting Sergeant George Perry
DRAPERS – T. B. Tronson; J. L. Frederich
DRESSMAKERS – Miss O’Brien; Miss Collett
HOTEL – Royal, Mrs Hanlon; Rosewood, R. Hodge; Commercial, W. Trim; Rising Sun, B. Sloane
PRODUCE MERCHANTS – J. L. Frederich; R. Hodge; T. B. Tronson
POLICE – Acting Sergeant George Perry in charge, Constable Perkins
POLICE MAGISTRATE – Visits from Ipswich
POSTMASTER – Telegraph Manager, Savings Bank Officer & Registrar – J. K. Burns
SADDLERS – H. Zornig, S. Phelps
SAWMILLS – Collette Bros; Wohlgemuth and Spann
SOCIETIES – Protestant Alliance Friendly Society, No 22; Masonic Lodge Rosewood 878, S.C.
STATE SCHOOL – Committee: P. H. Adams, J. F. Collett, G. H. Dutney, W. F. Ruhno (chairman) and B. Sloan (secretary).
STOREKEEPERS – J. L. Frederich; T. B. Tronson
TEACHER – J. Tuffly; Assistant M. Blackmore; average attendance 104

Also in 1900 Rosewood had a lawn tennis court, a new exhibition building at the showgrounds and construction had started on the Seven Mile Bridge. 

On the 31st March 1903, the Rosewood Division became the Shire of Rosewood. 

St Brigid’s new church and the Epidemic Hospital were built in 1910 and Thomas Bulcock made additions to his newly acquired home “Glendalough”. A telephone exchange was established at Rosewood with 15 subscribers.

In 1911 a branch railway winding northwards past several coal mines to Marburg was completed. Thirty two life membership badges were presented to members of the A. & H. Association. At this function one of the members said, “A man needed six months’ rations and an axe to make a start, together with a stout heart, to face the Scrub.”

Around this time The School of Arts was built, Nurse Domrow established her private hospital (later to be called “Weeroona Nursing Home” and “Elite Maternity Home”). Nurse Kucks built and opened a private hospital called St Florence’s in John Street (No 45). This later become St Kilda Private Hospital.

Matthew Joseph Fox described Rosewood in Volume 1 (1919) of his 3 volumes, “The History of Queensland: Its People and Industries”.
Near Rosewood are rich alluvial flats. The soil here is formed of decomposed igneous rock washed down from neighbouring hills of volcanic origin. Water may be obtained by sinking at shallow levels, and lucerne, owing partly to the deep root-driving propensities of that plant, grows luxuriantly almost anywhere in the district. Maize and  oats yield heavy crops, and the country is eminently suited for dairying and mixed farming. But the agricultural propensities are not properly realized until the visitor ascends a line of volcanic hills lying some four miles to the north of the railway line. From the summit of this ridge there opens a view stretching as far as the eye can reach, which displays a vista of undulating agricultural land of the highest quality, which in the springtime or in the autumn gleams with a verdant wealth of pastures, to be found only where a copious rainfall meets with soil naturally well drained by reason of its physical and chemical characteristics. Few parts of Australia are suited to the production of so numerous and varied a list of crops as is the Rosewood district. This feature is common, in a more or less marked degree, to all the richer and better watered areas of the eastern coastal regions of Queensland; but is particularly pronounced about the locality under review. Among the heavier crops attracting a large share of local attention is sugar-cane, which is crushed at a mill established at Townshend (formerly Marburg), the terminus of a line some nine miles in length which branches off from the western railway line at Rosewood. Without the use of manure farmers have found their industry has maintained its high productive value without apparent diminution since the days of earliest cultivation. Increased yields are obtained here and there by the proper application of fertilizers, but advanced methods have not as yet come to be commonly adopted. With the use of scientific systems of cultivating the laud the high returns already secured would be greatly added to. What has been described as the highest quality of coal yet found in Queensland lies buried below the Rosewood farms. One mine is working within a mile from the town, whilst another is in operation a mile further out. Deposits of shale have also been discovered in the district, and a natural deposit of gas was found at a depth of about 800 feet. Unfortunately, the bore was destroyed by an explosion, and no systematic effort has since been made to again locate the supply. The Rosewood shire contains an area of 219 square miles, whilst the population was officially estimated on December 31, 1914, as numbering 3,570 persons. The local authority was proclaimed on July 1, 1905.

The population of Rosewood had grown from 90 (1881) to 357 (1901) 1,418 (1911) 1,146 (1921) 4,500 (1924). [Pugh’s Almanac] 

The Rosewood Register Marburg Mail said: From the Census taken on 4th April 1921, the population of Rosewood shire was 4,326 including 2,9216, males and 2,130 females; dwellings occupied  863, unoccupied 41, being built 2, total 906.

Later figures (approx):-
6000 in Shire (1931) 7000 in Shire, 1250 ratepayers (1934) 1600 (1947) 1800 (1951) 2200 (1954) [Trove]

4899 (2001) 4617 (2006) 2834 (2016) 6007 (2021) [Bureau of Statistics]