Friday, December 28, 2012

Up the River on a Side-wheeler

In the early years of the colony when roads were crude or non-existent,  water transport was a far more efficient way to move people and goods.

Steamers on the Brisbane River 1855 (Conrad Martens)
The township of Ipswich was previously a convict station where limestone was quarried and burnt in kilns to provide lime for building.

Beyond Ipswich the river was not navigable because of rocky outcrops, so the township was the natural location as the transit port for goods and produce to and from the interior.

At first punts were used between Brisbane and Ipswich, relying on the tides and manpower to make the journey.

In 1846, the Moreton Bay Courier announced that a steamer would make a trial run upriver to the inland port.

Advertisement in The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 20 June 1846
THE "EXPERIMENT."-This steamer started from North Brisbane, on her experimental trip to Ipswich, on Wednesday morning last. Mr. Pearce, the owner, and a select party on board, were warmly greeted as they passed up the river, by a large concourse of spectators, who had assembled to witness her departure.

Owing to the imperfect knowledge of the person acting as pilot, respecting the river flats, she got aground near the crossing place at Woogoroo, and was detained until daylight the following morning, when she proceeded on her voyage, and reached her destination at one o'clock. The Ipswich folks were quite delighted at her appearance amongst them, and expressed their satisfaction by giving a hearty reception to Mr. Pearce and all on board. [1]

The initial trip being a success, the owner immediately planned to also offer pleasure cruises around Moreton Bay.
Advertisement in The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 27 June 1846
Mr. Pearce intends to accommodate parties of pleasure desirous of visiting the Bay, and other favourite places, with the use of the steamer, should it be required for such a purpose. There is no doubt that many persons will gladly avail themselves of the opportunity to take trips down the river during the summer season. She has excellent accommodations, consisting of gentlemen, and ladies' cabin, as well as spacious steerage. On Tuesday, Mr. Pearce applied to the Magistrates for a license for the sale of spirituous liquors on board, which was immediately granted.[2]

A week later the Experiment was reported as having made the round trip upriver to Ipswich in the “highly satisfactory” time of six and a half hours.

THE "EXPERIMENT." - The return trip of the steamer on Sunday last, after allowing for the time occupied in placing beacons in various parts of the river, was accomplished in six hours and a half, so that the result, as far as regards speed, which averaged, seven knots an-hour, is highly satisfactory. Her future trips will be made on alternate days in each week, commencing on Monday next. In order to obviate any inconvenience to passengers, regularity will be observed in the time of departure from the two townships, notice of which will be given in our next number. It will be seen by our advertising columns, that the Experiment is engaged for the conveyance of a party of pleasure to the Bay to-morrow. The reasonable price of the tickets, and the accommodation provided for the table, will no doubt ensure a numerous attendance on board.[3]

Paddle steamer docked at the Ipswich wharves, ca. 1870
A few months later, a detailed report of a trip to Ipswich appeared in the local press. It is a fascinating description of a riverine landscape still largely untouched by European settlers and the waters unsullied by industry.

Trip to Ipswich by Water

Those among our readers who may be unacquainted with the scenery on the banks of the River Brisbane will, perhaps, feel interested in the following particulars, gleaned during a recent trip to Ipswich in the “Experiment” steamer.

The country on the south bank of the river has been cleared for a distance of about one mile from the township; a small portion only is under cultivation, the greater part being used for paddocks. A number of sheds for the sawyers extend some distance on the south bank, while on the opposite bank there is not a single dwelling or hut, above the township, of any description.

About five miles down the river are the Ovens rocks, situated a short distance from the north bank. The country here is rather thickly wooded, with patches of brush reaching down to the water's edge, the open parts, however, are covered with excellent grass. At the six-mile rocks the banks are of considerable elevation, and rocky; the soil is generally excellent; a fine rich mould prevails for miles.

Here the silk-oak, caouthouc[4], pine, cedar, and the eucalyptus trees flourish luxuriantly. On the south bank is a place called the Sandstone Rocks, from whence a man jumped in order to save his life when pursued by the blacks, and swam across the river.

Near this spot an attempt was made to find coal, but the sample not answering expectation, the cut then made was abandoned. About ten miles from the settlement is Canoe Creek[5] flowing into the river from the southward; and lower down on the northern side are several flats formed by deposits of sand and mud from the creek, and which are not covered at low water.

The character of the country is bold and picturesque; in the distance may be seen D'Aquilar's Range, presenting delightful scenery, while a range of hills at the back adds considerably to the romantic appearance of this beautiful spot.

Brisbane North & South Brisbane from kangaroo Point 1851 (Conrad Martens)

The tide extends to the crossing-place at Canoe Creek. The banks of the river at this place are covered with the most luxuriant foliage, indicating the excellent quality of the land, which only requires capital and labour, to render it highly productive.

About seven miles below Canoe Creek are the Seventeen-mile Rocks, which extend across the river, and form an insurmountable barrier to vessels drawing more than eight feet water. There is but one channel, which is very narrow, and the tide rushes through it with great rapidity.

The Sovereign steamer tried to get up the river at this place, but the width of the passage did not allow of her making the attempt, with safety, and she was obliged to turn back. A bridge might be constructed here at comparatively little expense. Two miles farther down is Mosquito Island, close to the north bank, and contiguous thereto is Mongrel Creek, flowing from Black Fellows' Range.

There is a road from the settlement to the brushes on this creek, the banks of which abound with pine, cedar, and other valuable timber. The country here is rather more diversified, the banks consisting of fine ridges opening away to the south, and clothed with the richest verdure; judging from the appearance of the grass, it would be very suitable for hay.

About twenty miles from Brisbane is Mount Ommaney, situated on the south bank, with a small blind creek running round its southern base. On the opposite side is an apparently well-watered creek, and apple-tree flats, the country thinly wooded.

At Lower Redbank, the banks are steep; a mud flat juts out on the south side, and extends upwards of twenty yards. The appearance of the river at this place is very pretty, forming a kind of basin; the elevated bank commands a most delightful prospect.

On proceeding farther up the river, the first object that claims attention is Cockatoo Island, in the middle of an extensive reach, near which place is the "Narrows," a name which indicates the difficulty of the navigation. A mud bank extends from this island to the middle of the river, causing a very rapid current in the navigable part of the stream.

Woogaroo Creek, Goodna 1890
After passing this island, and on the south bank, is Woogaroo, the residence of Dr Simpson, the Commissioner of Crown Lands, which is beautifully situated in a bend of the river, and commands a fine view of a very extensive reach. The house is placed on an eminence, and the prospect from it is very pleasing and varied; there is a gentle slope to the riverside, and the soil is of the richest description, being an accumulation of vegetable matter.

A more promising aspect or more favourable position could not have been selected on the banks of the river. The gardens are very extensive, and, owing to the labour bestowed upon them, have been highly productive. A portion of the brushwood has been left standing, and will, doubtless, furnish the site for an exceedingly pretty refuge from the scorching summer heats. Woogaroo Creek forms the western boundary of the property.

On leaving this delightful spot you proceed up the river until you come to the flats, formed by deposits from the last-mentioned creek, and which extend for some distance on the northern side of the   river. Avoiding these, you enter the Coal Reach, which is extensive and, hurried as our views were of its banks, they cannot, unless nature has deviated from her usual laws, but be fertile. It is here that the steamer obtains a supply of fuel.

There are also some flats, caused by the removal of Spicer's Island, which has been gradually washed away by the floods in the rainy seasons. On entering the River Bremer, the country improves very much, the banks being thinly wooded, and clothed with luxuriant herbage.

Ipswich landing place 1851 (Sketch by Conrad Martens)
With the exception of some occasional obstructions from partly-sunken trees, and rocks here and there, the navigation of the Bremer by vessels of light draughts of water is very easy; there is no tide-way, but a rise and fall of about two feet. The water within two miles of Ipswich has a brackish taste, but abreast of the town it is perfectly sweet.

The Experiment made the trip in eight hours, against a strong head wind, which is rather more than six miles an hour. While we are upon this subject, it may perhaps be as well to remind our Ipswich friends that they should erect a wharf whereon to land the goods brought by the steamer. The proprietor has done everything in his power to afford them accommodation, and he certainly has a right to expect that they will contribute their quota towards the improvement of the township.[6]

 © K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 20 June 1846
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 20 June 1846
[3] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 27 June 1846
[4] Perhaps from caoutchouc, India-rubber i.e. a species of rubber tree. OED
[5] Now known as Oxley Creek.
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 8 August 1846

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A German Colonial Christmas

Picnic Group at Enoggera Reservoir, Brisbane

In 1865, about ten years after the first German emigrant ship arrived in Moreton Bay direct from Hamburg, a reporter from the Brisbane Courier wrote of the German settlers’ Christmas celebrations, highlighted by a picnic and shooting contest “in a pretty little valley” in Toowong.[1]

ERSTES DEUTSCHES SCHÜTZEN-FEST. (The First German Shooting Fest)

SOCIABLE fellows are our German brethren, and they really enjoy a holiday as it should be enjoyed. They determine upon having a good picnic after their own fashion, and they always succeed in carrying it out in a manner not to their own satisfaction only, but to that of those who belong to other nations. They have the happy facility of creating sunshine, even although a large cloud hangs above them always joyous, and never depressed by adverse circumstances.

William Leworthy Goode Drew 

The picnic which they gave yesterday was certainly a great success. Although postponed for a week, those who were present yesterday at the pleasant gathering which took place in a pretty valley which lies beyond Mr. W. L. G. Drew's residence, and near to the homestead of Mr. W. C. Belbridge[2] - appeared thoroughly to enjoy themselves, and the delay which had been occasioned through the unpropitious weather a week before had not had apparently any effect in checking the enthusiasm which was universally displayed by those who were present for entering into and enjoying the games and sports associated with their own fatherland.

Many members of the German community of the Ipswich District came down-river by paddle steamer.  The catering was professionally done by Mr. Lenneberg, of the prestigiously named “Cafe de Paris” although the heat of the Queensland summer was not kind to the temperature of the drinks.

Excursion group arrive by  Brisbane River steamer

The steamer “Diamond” took down a large number of the visitors, but there were many who proceeded to the trysting-place in cars and other vehicles. At one time it was estimated that there about three hundred persons on and near the camping-place. To Mr. Lenneberg, of the “Cafe de Paris”, was entrusted the task of satisfying the thirst of all, and considering the bad spot which was selected for the encampment, he managed very well.  The ginger-beer and lemonade were certainly very hot, as also were other equally enticing liquors. Fowls and pigs had a sultry appearance about them; but what of that? It was a picnic.

Picnic at Brookfield ca. 1888

Johann Heussler, a prominent member of the German community, dominated the shooting program.  Among other things, he was a merchant, emigration agent, and German Consul. His grand mansion built on a prominent hill in Brisbane is now Queensland Government House.  The reporter lamented the poor quality of the rifles but praised the crafting skills of the German ladies who had adapted the native flora to a European-style victory wreath.

Johann Heussler

First on the programme was the Erster Teil[3] or rifle-shooting at a target 200 yards distant. We cannot compliment the gentlemen who entered for the prizes upon their good firing, but we think that in this case (for a wonder) the rifles were not comme il faut[4]. They were not what they should have been for short distance firing. The bull's eye was hit only once and that by Mr. Heussler, who was firing off a tie. He consequently obtained not only the first prize, but also a prettily wreathed scarf manufactured by some ladies out of gum-sprigs and wild flowers.

The shooting events were interspersed with musical entertainments, especially of glees - unaccompanied songs featuring multiple voices, rather like a barber-shop quartet – which were very a popular German tradition.

To the English visitors the various glees sung during the day afforded a great deal of pleasure. At about one o'clock the national song of "Vaterland " was sung most admirably; and, considering the present juncture of affairs in Europe, it is pleasing to know that here the Germans are united, and that, although they can meet together and enjoy themselves, they still preserve the national love for their country in a proportion equal to that displayed by Englishmen for theirs.

The bucolic joys of a bush picnic

After luncheon Dr. Emmelhainz addressed the ladies and gentlemen present at some length, and so interesting was the speech that it was listened to with the greatest attention, although other sports were in anticipation. He referred briefly to the stand in the cause of freedom which had always been maintained by the German people.

Shortly afterwards he distributed the prizes which had been won by the rifle shooters, some of which were very valuable, making the ceremony of distribution pleasant by various happy remarks. The hoop-game for ladies then followed, and after that dancing, though by the way that was kept up at intervals throughout the day. Merriment in every form contributed to prolong the day's enjoyment, and it was late before the sounds of music were lost to the pretty little valley which was, the scene of the Erstes Deutsches Schützen Fest.

William Henry Von Lossburg

The final address was given by the elegantly bewhiskered Dr. Von Lossberg (note the aristocratic appellation “Von”), who spoke on behalf of the many German residents of the rapidly developing Ipswich District.

We may mention that in the course of the day Dr. Von Lossberg[5], of Ipswich, stated that he had been requested by the Germans of that town to represent them, and to express a hope on their behalf that on a future occasion they would be able to join their countrymen in Brisbane. 

The following year Christmas celebrations were reported in the German settlements along the Logan River.  The phenomenon of decorated trees, festive dishes, and Yuletide songs was, at the time, a particularly German tradition, which would be introduced into England by Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert.[6]

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrate Christmas

Christmas on the Logan has been kept up with all honour and custom. Social visits have not been neglected, and the weather was cloudy and cool for the season. The Germans keep up their fatherland customs; they have had their Christmas trees and medley dishes, and sung and prayed, and watched the old year out and the New Year in. The old year has been a memorable one for them.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Brisbane Courier 3.1.1865
[2] Situated in what is now the Brisbane suburb of Toowong.
[3] First section. (German)
[4] Being of the accepted standard. (French)
[5] Medical practitioner and Colonial Officer for the district of Ipswich.
[6] The Brisbane Courier 9.1.1866

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Rumpus in the Back Slums

According to reports of the day, street fighting was not uncommon in the early days of Brisbane Town. In fact, many of the townspeople considered outbreaks of pugilism an entertainment.

To the disgust of one correspondent to the Moreton Bay Courier, some of the most enthusiastic spectators were women.

Colonial Soldier
PUGILISTIC DISPLAYS. - A correspondent in calling our attention to a desperate fight which took place in North Brisbane on Tuesday last, between a soldier and a sawyer, says:-

"I counted no less than eight women who were present, looking on with great interest; and one disgrace to her sex was actually cheering and goading the men on by applause, oaths, and shouts!

This virago was the wife of one of the combatants."

O témpora, O mores[1]![2]

Women were not only spectators. They were not shy to enter the field of combat themselves.

A frequent correspondent to the Moreton Bay Courier using the nome de plume "Asmodeus”[3], described one such bout in the area of humble abodes behind the main street of Brisbane Town.

The report is a wonderful example of the erudite and entertaining writing style of a educated person of the time, observing the street life of the town.

Early View of Queen Street, Brisbane

RUMPUS -A correspondent signing himself "Asmodeus[4]" calls our attention to the rows which he states nightly take place in some of the houses at the back of Queen-street, near the Military Barrack.

On Monday evening it appears there was a regular “shindy" amongst the folks in the "back slums," and a first rate scene was exhibited between two married females, both of middle age.

The combatants commenced by belabouring one another with broomsticks, and eventually resorted to "fistycuffs," displaying no little science, and several distinct rounds came off with great applause. Jealousy, we understand, was the belli tete rima causa[5], and we are enabled to state that the conjugal rights were effectually vindicated, as the offended spouse completely destroyed that beauty which had beguiled her husband, who, by the way, stood by during the whole combat, apparently delighted at the contest for his affections.

Victorian Era Street Scene

To his great astonishment, however, his spouse having demolished her feminine adversary, immediately directed her energies to her liege lord and master, and, amid the roars and cheers of the bystanders, gave him a sound drubbing.

She was, however, "hauled off," as Jack would say, but not before the countenance of her dear husband had been made a miniature map of the Carribbee Islands, which had been graphically described thereon by the nails of his better half.[6]

There are no reports of any police involvement in the skirmish so the citizens involved seemed to have settle their dispute without the interference of the law.

[1] Oh, the times! Oh, the morals! (Latin)
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 18 December 1847
[3] Hebrew King of demons.
[4] Hebrew King of demons.
[5] Cause of the nasty fight. (Latin)
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 27 November 1847

Friday, December 7, 2012

Doctor Von Lossberg is Missing

Dr. Henri von Lossberg was one of several German doctors active in early colonial Queensland. Like many of his fellows he had made the voyage to Australia as a ships’ surgeon on board an emigrant ship from Hamburg.

The barque, Alster, 347 tons, Captain C. P. Hanson, sailed from Hamburg for Brisbane, on the 16th of April last, and arrived in Moreton Bay Roadstead on Friday last, the 7th instant, after a favourable passage of 102 days from port to port.

The barque, Alster
She brings 112 German immigrants, who are under the medical supervision of Dr. Henri von Loss berg, the surgeon superintendent. Throughout the passage there has been but little sickness of any kind, and none of an infectious or contagious character. The prevalent diseases were those of a class likely to be induced by "a board-of-ship" life, such as catarrh and rheumatism. There was only one birth, no deaths. [1]

Dr. Henri von Lossberg
(State Library of  Queensland)
He soon set up practice in Ipswich and over the years became a spokesman and community leader amongst the substantial German population in the surrounding districts.

DR. VON LOSSBERG can be consulted daily at Mr. M. O'SULLIVAN'S private Family Boarding House East-street from 8 to 11 a.m. and from 2 to 5 in the afternoon.[2]

The ministrations of the good doctor were frequently mentioned in the local press, particularly to those citizens who met with misadventure in the bush. Snake bites were not uncommon, the European victims unaware and unused to the deadly threat posed by these indigenous serpents.

Daniel Burke, a bullock-driver, was bitten by a snake on Wednesday, the 18th instant. He was camped with his mates near the Seven-mile Creek, and in getting out of bed about ten o'clock, he was bitten near the ankle. He was taken to the neighbouring boarding-house, and his mates came into Ipswich for medical assistance.

A group of Australian snakes, engraving 1868 SLV
Dr. Lossberg went out to him and found the bitten part much swollen, and the man exhibiting the usual symptoms. The doctor opened and scarified the wound, and administered doses of ammonia, ipecacuanha, and brandy. The man, however, became drowsy and dispirited, and with difficulty was kept walking about. At about four o'clock his mate was unable to sit up with him any longer, and the patient himself could not take any more stimulus. Dr. Lossberg then took him in hand, and kept him in motion until the effects of the poison were overcome. The man has since completely recovered.[3]

Ipswich ca. 1870
Lest than a year after his arrival in the colony, the alarming news reached Brisbane Town that Dr. Von Lossberg had gone missing in the bush on a journey from Ipswich to the Logan River district where many German farmers had settled.

From Ipswich we hear that Dr. Von Lossberg is missing; and it is feared that he has gone astray in the bush somewhere between that town and the Logan.[4]

There was much concern amongst the local at Ipswich as to what might have befallen the doctor, who was by no means an experienced bushman. It was later found that the doctor had reached his destination, treated his patient, and left for his next call the following morning.

It seems that things went seriously wrong only a few miles down the track.

The doctor finally reappeared in Ipswich until a week later, and wrote of his misadventure in the local newspaper.

“I left the following day at ten a.m. (June 23), and a black boy accompanied me for about two miles on the road. At starting I was under the impression he would go with me to make the next station, about fifteen miles distant, as the country is a very mountainous one; but I could not induce him to do so.

From this time up to Tuesday, the 28th of June-viz., nearly six days and five nights, I was wandering about the bush. I lost my horse the second day after leaving Telamon Station. Not having matches or blankets with me, without food of any description, my condition during the cold nights is better imagined than described.” [5]

Despite the depredations of being lost and alone in the bush, not the least for a refined European, the hardy doctor managed to survived using his medical kit. He finally stumbled onto a sheep station.

“Having a little quinine and laudanum with me, I occasionally took small doses, which gave me great relief. When my strength was nearly failing me, on the sixth day, I fancied I heard the bleating of sheep. I made for the sound, and, after travelling a little while in that direction, I found myself at Mr. Collins, Maroon Station, where I was treated with princely hospitality.

Dugandan ca. 1900
I had sufficiently recovered to leave the next morning, and was kindly supplied with a horse. Passing Cudgen and Dugandan, I arrived in the evening at the Peak Mountain. I can't sufficiently thank the gentlemen at the above stations for their kindness and true Australian hospitality shown to me. I safely arrived here on Thursday last at mid-day."[6]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Courier Monday 10 August 1863
[2] North Australian and Queensland General Advertiser Thursday 20 August 1863
[3] The Brisbane Courier Monday 23 January 1865
[4] The Brisbane Courier Saturday 2 July 1864
[5] The Brisbane Courier Monday 4 July 1864
[6] The Brisbane Courier Monday 4 July 1864