Range pi­o­neers en­coun­tered thick scrub

Sunshine Coast Daily - - YOUR STORY -

IN EAR­LIER times, the Mapleton district was a very dif­fer­ent land­scape than it is to­day.

The area was first tra­versed by Euro­pean ex­plor­ers in the 1840s. It was cov­ered in lush rain­for­est and mas­sive trees, in­clud­ing red cedar, white beech, bunya and hoop pine.

Thick un­der­growth and vines made the area dif­fi­cult for early ex­plor­ers and tim­ber­get­ters to nav­i­gate.

The scrub, as the rain­forests were known, cov­ered much of the Black­all Range in­clud­ing the Mapleton re­gion.

The lure of tim­ber brought the first pi­o­neers dur­ing the 1880s and large quan­ti­ties of trees were felled by axe-men us­ing spring­boards.

In late 1880s, David Smith, from Red­land Bay, sent his two sons to the re­gion in search of suit­able land for grow­ing fruit.

The North Coast Rail Line had only reached as far as Ca­bool­ture at that stage, so they took a Cobb and Co Coach from Ca­bool­ture to Nam­bour.

The coach and pas­sen­gers stayed overnight at Cobbs Camp (now Woom­bye), then con­tin­ued on by coach to Nam­bour.

In 1889, the two brothers – 20-year-old Thomas and 21year-old Wil­liam Smith – walked west from Nam­bour car­ry­ing heavy swags. There were no tracks from Nam­bour, only a trail to Du­long.

Tim­ber-get­ters James Stark, from High­worth, and J Murtagh, from Du­long, were the only pi­o­neer set­tlers in that re­gion.

Just past High­worth, the Smith brothers en­coun­tered thick, thorny scrub.

It took two days to reach the Range and they liked what they saw, so re­turned to Nam­bour for sup­plies.

They bought a tent, axes, brush hooks and suit­able pro­vi­sions, which they carried on their backs while cut­ting a path­way through the rain­for­est scrub us­ing axes and brush hooks. They pegged out their se­lected block, which had not been sur­veyed, and staked their claim next to Mapleton Falls. They weren’t to know at the time, but these two young men were found­ing a new set­tle­ment.

Later, when drought oc­curred, the swampy grounds near the falls as­sisted when wa­ter be­came scarce.

Wil­liam Smith lodged an ap­pli­ca­tion for an agri­cul­tural farm on Oc­to­ber 30, 1889.

He later for­feited that se­lec­tion as it was not the land he had ex­pected and later, in 1890, lodged a claim for a more fer­tile spot on the east­ern edge of the Range.

Thomas Smith se­lected a block at Mapleton on Novem­ber 15, 1889. He paid a de­posit for the 120-acre (48.6ha) hold­ing with the pro­vi­sion that the bal­ance was to be paid off over 10 years and im­prove­ments made to the block.

There was no grass­land to keep live­stock, and the young set­tlers faced hard days and nights of la­bo­ri­ous work to clear enough land for some pasture. By 1891, the brothers had built a two-roomed slab hut with a shin­gle roof and flag­stone floor.

They cleared enough land for pasture and planted ba­nanas and or­ange trees, as well as other crops.

Once the hut was com­pleted, their sis­ter Amy came to the Range to as­sist with do­mes­tic du­ties.

A drought from 1891 to 1892 saw all sur­face wa­ter dry up in ev­ery creek.

They feared fail­ure, but Thomas no­ticed a patch of moist ground near a stand of gum trees.

He set to work with his brother and dug a 20m deep well.

They were renowned for their hard work. While wait­ing for their crops to grow, the brothers built roads down the range and did tim­ber-get­ting.

At night, they would hang a lantern close by to plant their straw­ber­ries and other crops.

They planted five dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of ba­nanas and af­ter 12 months, they were ready for mar­ket.

The Smith brothers bought five pack horses at $3 each (a sub­stan­tial amount of money for the time) to bring their ba­nanas down the steep range to Woom­bye to meet the newly opened rail line and load up their goods for mar­ket.


The re­turn trip by pack horse took them 12 hours from Woom­bye.

The ex­ten­sion of the main rail­way sys­tem reached Nam­bour in 1891, which opened up the district to fur­ther set­tle­ment.

Seedlings planted by the Smiths pro­duced the first cit­rus crop by 1892.

Mapleton quickly be­came a lead­ing cit­rus-pro­duc­ing area.

Once the road to Palm­woods was com­pleted, the har­vested fruit was packed into wooden cases and trans­ported by horse-drawn wagon down the steep and nar­row Range Rd to Palm­woods Rail­way Sta­tion.

At the turn of the 20th cen­tury, land-clear­ing by set­tlers had made way for sugar cane,

dairy farm­ing, crops and pasture. Be­fore mo­torised trans­port, many early roads be­gan as tracks carved out of the forests with bul­lock teams.

Du­long Look­out was once close to the orig­i­nal road, lead­ing from the ma­jor town­ship of Nam­bour to Mapleton, which went straight up the Du­long Range and over Dalzell Pinch.

James Allen Dalzell had se­lected land in 1882 near where the look­out is sit­u­ated.

Trans­port prob­lems such as the Dalzell Pinches, in the Du­long Range, proved a stum­bling block to set­tlers for many years, try­ing to ma­noeu­vre bul­lock teams, haul tim­ber and later sugar cane down to Nam­bour.

Forms of trans­port in­clud­ing slides were used be­hind horses as well as pack horses through­out that district.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Coun­cil’s Her­itage Li­brary Of­fi­cers for the words and Pic­ture Sunshine Coast for the images.

SAME, SAME BUT DIF­FER­ENT: An or­ange or­chard es­tab­lished for six years on scrub land near Mapleton.

Pho­tos: Con­trib­uted

Trans­port­ing cit­rus in long pack­ing cases from Mapleton, ca 1910.

Pho­tos: Con­trib­uted

Note the thick stand of orig­i­nal rain­for­est in the back­ground. ca 1905.

A fruit­grower's fam­ily mem­bers gather straw­ber­ries at Mapleton.

Mapleton Falls in Obi Obi Val­ley, Mapleton, ca 1910.

Har­vest­ing sugar cane with a horse-drawn cane truck at Storey's Cane Farm in Mapleton, 1921.

Mem­bers of the Skene fam­ily in front of their res­i­dence Bon Ac­cord, at Flax­ton in 1899.

Cleared land on a Mapleton prop­erty, ca 1910.

Photo: Con­trib­uted

Group pic­nic at Kon­dalilla Falls, ca 1913

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