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The first settlers of the Nambour area

   Who were these people...   Petrie, Blackall, Currie, Bury, Murtagh, Whalley, .... ?

The first Europeans arrive

Captain James Cook named the Glasshouse Mountains when he sailed by in the Endeavour on 17th May, 1770. His journal describes them as being 'remarkable for the singular form of their elevation, which very much resembles a glass house, and for this reason I called them the Glass Houses: the northern most of the three is the highest and largest: there are several other peaked hills inland to the northward of these, but they are not nearly so remarkable'.

Lieutenant Matthew Flinders came ashore from the sloop Norfolk and climbed Mount Beerburrum in July 1799. Flinders also made accurate charts of the local coastal strip, and revisited the area during his circumnavigation of Australia in 1802-3. The first Europeans to tread the soil of the Maroochy district were the cedar getters, Thomas Pamphlett, John Finnegan and Richard Parsons who were sailing from Sydney south to the Illawarra district to take on a cargo of timber. After days of cyclonic weather in which they were blown hundreds of miles north of Sydney, they were shipwrecked on Moreton Island in November 1823.

Believing that they were south of their destination, they crossed to Bribie Island and then the mainland, and trekked northwards in a mistaken attempt to reach the Illawarra. They waded across the Mooloolah River at low tide, whereupon Pamphlett found the going too hard and decided to return to the aborigines on Bribie Island who had befriended them. Finnegan and Parsons reached the Maroochy River, followed its south bank upstream, and passed through the Diddillibah area before turning north. They eventually reached the Noosa River, whereupon Finnegan turned back. Parsons continued on to the Mary River.

Pamphlett and Finnegan met up again and explored parts of Moreton Bay before being picked up at Skirmish Point on Bribie Island by John Oxley who was fortuitously sailing past in the Mermaid. Oxley was returning from an unsuccessful expedition to Port Curtis to look for additional sites for a convict settlement. They told Oxley about a large river they had discovered that flowed into Moreton Bay, and accompanied him as he sailed up it for fifty miles in a rowing boat.

Oxley named this the Brisbane River after the then Governor of New South Wales, and the next year, 1824, he returned to help establish the first penal settlement on its banks. While Oxley was there, he was pleased to meet the third man, Parsons, who had returned to civilisation after living for a time with the aborigines. Thus the City of Brisbane was founded.

In Sydney in 1830, Dr John Dunmore Lang wished to build a much-needed school. He returned to England to seek approval and financial assistance, and won the support of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He chartered a ship, the Stirling Castle of 350 tons, arranged the supply of stores, and recruited suitable migrants to accompany him back to New South Wales.

Andrew Petrie

When the Stirling Castle set sail in June 1831, among its passengers were Andrew Petrie, his wife and five children. Andrew was an architect and builder, and upon arrival in Sydney he built Dr Lang's new school and other buildings.

Andrew worked for himself for a time, but found that he could not compete with cheap convict labour. He therefore accepted a position as Clerk of Works in the Ordnance Department. In 1837 he was sent to the Moreton Bay penal settlement as acting Superintendent of Works. He arrived at Stradbroke Island with his family on the James Watt, the first steamship to reach Moreton Bay. The ship anchored at Dunwich, and the Petries were rowed across the bay and up the river to the settlement in a small boat crewed by convicts. There they found that the nascent town of Brisbane consisted of only ten buildings, and that they were the only free settlers.

One of Andrew's first jobs was to get the flour mill (now the Observatory on Wickham Terrace) functioning. He found that the machinery had been incorrectly assembled, preventing the wind from turning the sails. It had been converted into a treadmill worked by convicts, but Andrew rectified the faults and soon had it operating as it should. The Commandant of the settlement, though, continued to use it as a treadmill, as a punishment for unruly behaviour.

Petrie was also interested in exploration, not only because of his desire to know more about the country, but, as a builder, it was important to find new timbers and building materials. In 1838 Andrew, John and two aboriginal guides had ridden from Brisbane to the Maroochy River in search of gold. They had collected specimens of the Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii) from the district and Andrew was the first white man to climb Mt Beerwah.

A bronze tableau on a pedestal in Brisbane depicts Andrew on horseback with sons John and Tom, preparing for an exploring expedition. (The reconstruction of King George Square in 2007 has required that the tableau be removed from the Square and placed in storage. After the work is completed, the tableau will be restored to its position in front of the Brisbane City Hall.)

Tom was unable to accompany his father on that trip, as he was just seven years old, the only white child in the settlement. He grew up with the local aboriginal children, learning their Turrbal language and customs, how to make their toys and weapons, and, what was to be of great significance in his later life, their code and creed. As a boy, he moved freely and safely among aborigines and convicts alike. This may have been helped by the fact that he smuggled food and tobacco to them whenever he could. During journeys with his father, he also gained knowledge of bushcraft and surveying and so became indispensable as a messenger or companion to early exploration parties.

As the Foreman of Works in Brisbane, Andrew was responsible for many of the town's early government buildings, and when Brisbane was declared a free settlement in 1842, he was transferred back to Sydney. He did not wish to leave his new home, so he resigned from government service and established himself in Brisbane as a builder, stonemason and undertaker with his son John.

For fifty years before the first settlers arrived on the Blackall Range, white men were travelling the aboriginal tracks through its scrubs and forests. John Fahey, an escaped convict, lived with the Aborigines in the Range foothills from 1840 until he was recaptured in 1854. When passing through Brisbane, the botanist and explorer Dr Ludwig Leichhardt spent some time as a guest of the Petrie family. In December 1843, a party comprising Dr Leichhardt, John Archer of the Durundur sheep-run, a Mr Waterstone and three aboriginal carriers walked through from the southern end of the Blackall Range to attend the bunya feast celebrated by the aborigines every year at Baroon Pocket. They then followed the Mary River as far as Tiaro before returning home. On their way back, they explored the Maroochy district between the Blackall Range and the coast.

The Bunya Proclamation

Squatters and settlers began arriving, particularly after 1842, when the transport of convicts to the Moreton Bay district stopped and the area was opened up to free settlement. Timber getters and pastoralists alike were moving into the area north of Moreton Bay, forcing the Aboriginal people off their traditional lands. Andrew Petrie saw this happening, and suggested to the New South Wales Governor, Sir George Gipps, that he recognise the significance of the area to the native people by restricting the access of white settlers. The result was that Governor Gipps, on Petrie's advice, published an Order in the Government Gazette on 19th April 1842 to reserve the area for the Aborigines. This became known as the Bunya Proclamation, and stated:

"It having been represented to the Governor that a District exists to the northward of Moreton Bay, in which a fruit-bearing tree abounds, called Bunya or Banya Bunya, and that the Aborigines from considerable distances resort at certain times of the year to this District for the purpose of eating the fruit of the said Tree:- His Excellency is pleased to direct that no Licences be granted for the occupation of any Lands within the said District in which the Bunya or Banya Bunya Tree is found. And notice is hereby given, that the several Crown Commissioners in the New England and Moreton Bay Districts have been instructed to remove any person who may be in an unauthorised occupation of Land whereon the said Bunya or Banya Bunya Trees are to be found. His Excellency has also directed that no Licences to cut Timber be granted within the said Districts."

 The effect of this Proclamation was to make most of what we now call the Sunshine Coast, especially the lands between the Mooloolah and Maroochy Rivers, into an aboriginal reserve.

In 1846, when two hundred Aborigines of the Brisbane area took fifteen-year-old Tom Petrie to the bunya feast in Baroon Pocket, they showed him where his father and brother had camped eight years before at Razorback and Doolong.

Andrew and John Petrie built the substantial two-storey 'Adelaide House' in 1853, which was Brisbane's finest residence at that time. On 7th September 1859 the Municipality of Brisbane was proclaimed, and John Petrie became Brisbane's first mayor.

The colony of Queensland is founded

On 10th December of that year, the Moreton Bay settlement detached itself from New South Wales and became a separate colony with a population of 24 000 and its own governor. In honour of Queen Victoria, it named itself 'Queensland'. The first Governor appointed was Sir George Ferguson Bowen, GCMG, after whom the Brisbane suburb of Bowen Hills is named, as well as the town of Bowenville. (The town of Bowen is located on Port Dennison, which was originally named 'Port Bowen' by Matthew Flinders in 1802 after Captain James Bowen of the Royal Navy.)

Adelaide House was leased to the new Government for use as the Governor's residence. Sir George and Lady Diamantina Roma Bowen lived there for 21/2 years until a permanent Government House was built adjoining the botanical gardens. Adelaide House is remembered as the place from which the establishment of the colony of Queensland was proclaimed. Today it is the deanery of St. John's Anglican Cathedral.

The developing town of Brisbane required an ever-increasing food supply, and this led to expansion of the surrounding farming areas. This progress, combined with the positive reports about the fertile volcanic soils north of Brisbane, led to the enactment of the Unoccupied Crown Land Occupation Act in 1860, which resulted in the embargo on settlement and logging of our district being lifted. This was one of the first Acts passed by the new parliament and given Royal Assent by Governor Bowen after he took up duty.

Sir George was an energetic governor and during his term of office great changes occurred in Queensland. Immigration and land schemes were started, as was a railway system. Gold and other minerals became important to the development of the colony, beginning with the discovery of gold at Gympie. A practical man as well as a scholar, he believed that no governor should be appointed who could not ride and shoot.

After eight years in office, Governor Bowen moved on to become the Governor of New Zealand. He was followed by Colonel Samuel Wensley Blackall, who served from 14th August 1868 to 2nd January 1871. [List of Governors of Queensland.] During his short term as Governor, Colonel Blackall endeared himself to all classes of the community. Upon his untimely death in office at the age of 62, he was the first person to be buried in Toowong Cemetery, and his impressive memorial continues to dominate the hill there. In 1874 the surveyor C. S. Bradbury named the Blackall Range in his honour.

Tom Petrie

Tom Petrie was a popular figure with the local Aboriginal tribe, the Turrabul, because he grew up playing amongst them and spoke their language. As a young man there were times when Tom had to ride out to protect his aboriginal friends from the raids of land-hungry colonists. It was said that one group of young Turrabul men even asked him to brand their shoulders with his initials 'T.P.', so that other colonists would realise that they were Tom Petrie's men and not shoot them.

In 1862, now aged 31 years, Tom returned to the Maroochy area by boat with a timber-cutting gang of 25 Aborigines. He navigated his way over the bar of the Maroochy River and they made their way upstream. They entered a creek and followed it for three miles until it became too shallow. There they found that a crowd of five hundred aborigines had assembled for a corroboree. The aborigines liked and respected Petrie, and honoured him with the title of 'Turrwan', meaning 'a great man with remarkable powers'. Tom and his men set up camp nearby, in a clearing in the thick vine scrub that covered the area. They stayed for two weeks and cut two hundred cedar logs. The creek became known as Petrie's Creek, and the whole surrounding area was known by that name for the next thirty years. Tom later wrote a definitive book about the way of life of the local aborigines.

Early in 1863, William and Richard Westaway, with Edmund Lander and Thomas Maddock, drove five hundred head of cattle from Eagle Farm in Brisbane to the Petrie's Creek area and built a slab hut and cattle yards at Deepwater, now known as Bli Bli. They later retraced their steps a few miles and settled at 'Maradan Downs' (now known as 'Meridan Plains') on the Mooloolah River, where they were joined by their father John Westaway. The area now known as Kawana was part of their holding.

William Pettigrew, a surveyor by profession, had arrived in Brisbane on the Fortitude in 1849. Observing that the growing settlement urgently needed building materials, he established one of the first steam-driven sawmills in the Moreton Bay district within four years. In 1855 the two-year-old mill burned down. He rebuilt it, and ten years later that mill also was destroyed by fire. In 1867 he built his third sawmill in Brisbane.

After the Bunya Proclamation was repealed in 1860, Pettigrew had become interested in harvesting the abundant timber in the area north of Brisbane as far as the Maryborough district. In September 1865, he and James Low of Yandina spent five days on horseback exploring the areas drained by the Maroochy River, Petrie's Creek, Paynter's Creek and Eudlo Creek. Pettigrew established his fourth sawmill on the Maroochy River and a depot with a well-equipped wharf at the mouth of the Mooloolah River. He operated a small steamship, the S.S. Tarshaw, and also two small paddle steamers of less than 100 tons each, the Gneering and the Tadorna Radjah. Pettigrew became a Member of the Legislative Council in 1878 and Chairman of the Caboolture Divisional Board in 1881. Both of his sawmills were destroyed in the great floods of 1892-93. Also in 1893 his two paddle steamers were wrecked - the Gneering on the bar off the Maroochy River's mouth and the Tadorna Radjah in the flooded Brisbane River. He was bankrupted in 1897.

In 1867, William Clarke planted the first sugarcane in the Maroochy district, near Deepwater (Bli Bli). Government surveyors were working in the area, measuring the land and dividing it into blocks.

Gold is discovered at Gympie

In October 1867 James Nash discovered gold at Gympie, and a rush of settlers northwards from Brisbane began. The original track north from Brisbane passed the McConnell property of Durundur (west of Caboolture) and then headed through the Glasshouse Mountains. It then climbed over the Conondale Range near Maleny and passed through the site of Conondale itself before following the Mary River valley to the goldfields.

The government of the day decided that it would be better to have a route north that avoided the Conondale Range, so they asked Tom Petrie to find a better way through, closer to the coast, as he knew the country. The general manager of Cobb & Co., James Rutherford, promptly announced that as soon as a new road was completed, his company would run a regular stagecoach service between Brisbane and the Gympie goldfields. On his expedition to find the new track, Tom Petrie took with him Hiram Barnes, the Brisbane road manager and driver of Cobb & Co., who had already set up stagecoach services between Brisbane, Ipswich and the Darling Downs. Barnes would be able to offer advice on the best routes for coaches across creeks and gullies. 

Tom was contracted to simply ride through from near Brisbane to Gympie and then on to Maryborough, putting a 'blaze' on trees to mark the way. His new route ran from north of Brisbane through Caboolture to Mellum Creek (Landsborough) and then Petrie's Creek (Nambour). At today's Yandina, the route turned north-west and went past Mt Eerwah into the Mary River valley. He completed this work in a matter of a few months, and later marked tracks to Buderim and many other places. Tom died in 1910, and in 1911 the town of North Pine changed its name to 'Petrie' and raised a monument to him there, unveiled by the then Governor Sir William MacGregor. To this day its inscription proclaims that it was built to 'honour the memory of Tom Petrie (1831-1910) and to commemorate his great services to Queensland as a Pioneer, Patriot, Philanthropist'.

Tom's blazed route soon became used by people walking or riding their horses from Brisbane to Gympie to search for their 'lucky strike', and before long it became known as the North Road or the Gympie Road. Although the 'road' was still untrafficable by carts, sulkies, drays or wagons, it was the only way to reach the gold fields by land, as a railway north of Brisbane had yet to be built. People using the road no doubt admired the virgin country that they were passing through.

Those who could not face the arduous journey up the North Road could travel by steamer from Brisbane up the coast and into the Noosa River, disembarking at Tewantin. A local coach service then provided transport to Gympie. Soon the track was being used enough to permit passage by drays, sulkies, waggons and even wheel barrows, and the track developed beneath the iron tires, horseshoes and tramping boots.

The first road in our area, and a stagecoach service

On 8th May 1868 the Government announced that it had allocated 2700 pounds to construct a trafficable road along Tom's track to the goldfields. Before the year was up, the road from Brisbane to Gympie had been cleared and improved sufficiently to allow Cobb & Co. to begin a daily service to the gold fields. Hiram Barnes drove the first stagecoach from Brisbane to Gympie on 12-13th November, 1868. The advent of this new road had the effect of making the upper Mary Valley (today's districts of Maleny, Conondale and Kenilworth) into a backwater.

Cobb & Co. established numerous depots about fifteen miles (24 km) apart along the North Road for the purpose of changing horses, but their main depot along the route was at Middle Camp (later Cobb's Camp, now Woombye), for that point was the 'half-way house' between Brisbane and Gympie. Acting for his employers, their road manager Mr Whatmore built the Nil Desperandum Hotel near the depot, together with a keeper's residence, horse stables and horse yard. The hotel was ready for business in time for the first Cobb & Co. stagecoach from Brisbane, which arrived at sundown on 12th November 1868. The 62 mile (100 km) trip from Brisbane had taken fourteen hours, including three stops of fifteen minutes each to change horses.

The hotel was located about 100 metres south of where Paynter's Creek crosses today's Nambour Connection Road. Downhill from the stables was a water reserve where the creek had a good supply of clear, running water. Not only did Cobb & Co's horses drink there, but travellers with horses and bullocks often camped on the reserve and watered their animals too. As the official name 'Nil Desperandum' was too much of a mouthful for the travellers and local residents, the name 'Cobb's Camp Hotel' was soon adopted instead. In 1870 the hotel keeper, James Costa, was granted a liquor licence.

The daily coaches from Brisbane and Gympie would meet at Cobb's Camp in the late afternoon and the passengers would have their evening meal and sleep overnight in the hotel. The next morning, the passengers would board the other coach at 7.00 am, which would then return to its base, taking its new passengers on to their destinations.

There was a smaller depot set up at Yandina, where James Low had built a hotel named Mooroochie House. Brisbane to Gympie stagecoaches also overnighted at Low's. The existence of the two depots meant that drivers and horse handlers were needed, and the hotels required cooks, maids and other staff. These people made their homes near their places of work, and so the hamlets of Cobb's Camp and Yandina began to grow.

The famous British author Anthony Trollope visited Queensland in 1871 and travelled by Cobb & Co's coach from Gympie to Brisbane. Describing this trip, he wrote:

"There was a fixed idea that coach-driving was a British accomplishment, and quite beyond the reach of anyone out of Britain. Since that time I have seen something of the driving over the Alps and other European mountains, something also of driving in America, which lessened my belief in the 'unapproachability' of the excellence of the Englishman. I have now travelled over the Gympie road, and I feel certain that not one of my old [coach-driving] friends - and I have many such friends - would, on being shown that road, have considered it possible that a vehicle with four horses should have been made to travel over it.
"There is often no road, and the coach is taken at random through the forest. Not infrequently a fallen tree blocks up the track, and the coach is squeezed through some siding which makes it necessary for the leader to be going one way while the coach is going another. But the great miracle is in the sudden pinches, looking as though they were almost perpendicular, down which the coach is taken - and then the equally sharp ascents - not straight, but at a sharp angle, up and around which the coach is whirled.
"The art of driving on such roads depends very much on the foot. The vehicle is provided with strong machinery for dragging the hind wheels, so as to almost stop their rotation - and this the coach-man manages with his right foot. I heard of previous accidents to the coach, but of none to passengers. I at any rate went through in safety, and I recommend others to make the journey.
"We slept during the night between Gympie and Brisbane at a place called Cobb's Camp, at which the pleasant manners of the pretty German hostess almost atoned for the miraculous profusion of fleas. I here pronounce my opinion that the man who drove me from Cobb's Camp to Brisbane was the best driver of four horses I ever saw. Had he been a little less uncouth in his manners, I should have told him [so]."

The first settler in the Petrie's Creek area was 34-year-old Matthew Carroll, who selected 160 acres of land fronting the Gympie Road and bounded by the road to Bli Bli and Petrie's Creek on 31st January 1870. After pitching his tent on land now used by the Nambour Bowling Club, he built a slab house on top of the hill that now forms part of the Nambour Showgrounds, that became known as Carroll's Hill.


Matthew Carroll in 1900, aged 64 years, and his wife Ellen.    Photographs courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

The first settlers at Petrie's Creek

William Samwell selected 1625 acres to the west of the Gympie Road on 30th March 1870. He used this land to run cattle, and named the property 'Namba Station', (or 'Naamba' or 'Nambah'), using the aboriginal word for the flowering trees that were growing in the area. It is likely that the word referred to flame trees (Brachychiton acerifolium), a type of kurrajong, which are still common in the district.

It is also possible that 'Namba' referred to the red-flowering bottle-brush (Callistemon viminalis), or the coastal Tea-tree (Leptospermum laevigatum), or even only the bark of the Tea-tree, which the Aborigines used as a blanket in winter. Though the original meaning of 'Namba' is not recorded with certainty, it is known that William Samwell himself anglicised the spelling and pronunciation to 'Nambour', for he used the word in this form in a letter written to the Department of Lands in 1872, referring to his cattle station.

Mr Samwell hired George Land Bury to build a six-roomed homestead on a ridge there, overlooking the Petrie's Creek valley. Namba was a successful cattle property, although the animals were sometimes disturbed by travelling Aborigines passing through in the bunya nut season, on their way up to Baroon Pocket. The land covered by this cattle-run has now become the residential areas of Burnside and Nambour Heights, stretching west as far as Highworth., and the site of the homestead is now occupied by Crescent Drive, not far from the present Nambour Heights shopping centre. The eastern boundary was the North Road to Gympie, the southern boundary a line from the North Road down Arundell Avenue and continuing west, and the northern boundary near Tuckers Creek.

By the late 1870s, a small number of pioneer families had settled in the area. In 1882, Daniel Currie selected 640 acres, including Currie's Knob, a big hill over which the Gympie Road ran. The present Nambour Connection Road still runs over it, in the vicinity of Lamington Terrace and Panorama Drive in Nambour. The Currie family were commission agents, and opened the first general store and butcher shop in the fledgling settlement. Their homestead was in today's Magnolia Street, which is named after a large tree there which the Curries planted.


Daniel Currie, father of John, in 1905.    Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries


Daniel Currie's house 'Bundara' on the site of today's Magnolia Street, Nambour.    Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

Thomas Howard selected a block with frontage to the Gympie Road near the present intersections of Currie Street with Howard and Maud Streets.


Thomas Howard in 1905, and Catherine Howard in 1900.    Photographs courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

By 1880 most of the land in the Petrie's Creek valley had been selected, but not yet built on. In 1884 Matthew Carroll put up the first hotel in the Petrie's Creek district at the corner of Gympie Road and Bli Bli Road. This was a ten-roomed inn built of pit-sawn timber, with a detached dining room and kitchen. Passing travellers often stopped there, and it was the scene of many large all-night social gatherings, a spacious ballroom being provided for dancing.

In August 1881 a railway line had been completed between Maryborough and Gympie, enabling people to travel to the gold fields by ship to Maryborough and then by train. This led to the stagecoach service from Brisbane through Cobb's Camp to Gympie becoming unprofitable, so Cobb & Co. ceased its operations on the route later that same year.

The North Coast Railway from Brisbane to Yandina was not opened until 1891, so for ten years the major commercial link between Brisbane and Petrie's Creek was by sea. Foodstuffs such as bags of flour, sugar and tea, clothing, boots, household requirements and furniture were shipped from Brisbane across Moreton Bay, unloaded near Mooloolaba, carried by waggon to the Maroochy River, and then loaded into small boats or a punt for transport up the river or Petrie's Creek to the settlements. The North Road continued to be used for private transport, carts, waggons, and movement of animal herds.

Frank Murtagh, an Irishman, arrived in Queensland with his wife Mary and baby son Larry on the Duke of Buckingham in February 1883. Three brothers of Frank were also on that ship, two of whom, Jim and Denis, also settled in the Nambour district.  In 1884 Frank took up a 320 acre selection below Kureelpa and named it ‘Highworth’ after Mary’s home town, which is south of Birmingham.  Due to his inability to eke out a subsistence on the steep wooded land, Frank sought work in Brisbane and as a consequence forfeited his selection.  He was able to re-select 124 acres in 1892, and this is the land traversed by the tramway.  Frank’s sons, Larry, John, Denis and Frank Jr. worked bullock teams hauling timber in the Dulong, Mapleton and Kenilworth areas. John was killed in action in France in World War I. Frank was a staunch supporter for the tramway construction.  He later held positions of importance as a Cane Inspector and then as founding Director on the board of the Moreton Central Sugar Mill.

James Stark, a timber getter, selected a block close to the bottom of what became known as the Highworth Range, now generally known as the Dulong Range.

William Whalley

James Whalley was a Yorkshireman born in 1834 who brought his second wife and five children to Australia on the S.S. Roma in August, 1883. He applied for a 160 acre block near Brisbane on the Mount Cotton Road, but the land turned out to be unproductive. An acquaintance, a Mr Bradshaw, told him that he was going to a place called Petrie's Creek where good land was available. James decided to undertake an inspection and, with his thirteen-year-old son William for company, walked from Tingalpa in Brisbane up the Gympie Road to Petrie's Creek in April 1884.

The trip took three and a half days, the overnight stops being at South Pine, Grigor's Bankfoot House (Glass House Mountains) and the Cobb's Camp Hotel. On the fourth morning they called in at 'Nambour House' (the homestead of the Nambour Cattle Run) where they met Pat Riley, manager, and Patrick King, stockman. Mrs King, the cook, called out to William, "Give me your billy, son." She took it and filled it with milk for him. Irish immigrants, Paddy King and his wife were still working there although he had three years earlier selected a block of 314 acres adjoining the southern boundary of the Nambour Cattle Run. They had named this block 'Burnside' as it was on the side of a 'burn' (Gaelic for 'creek'- today's Whalley Creek).

The Whalleys then walked a short distance to a mineral reserve which they were very impressed with and decided to claim. It was in the vicinity of today's Henebery Road. That afternoon they headed back to Brisbane but it began to rain and they were forced to spend the night in a hollow tree near the site of today's Palmwoods. They spent the remaining nights camped on people's verandas. When they reached Brisbane at 4.00 pm on the seventh day, James Whalley remained in the town that night so that he could make his application for the land the very next morning. He sent William on home (another ten miles) to report that all was well. In total, William walked 180 miles (290 kilometres) in the space of a week.

Their application for a section grant was approved a few weeks later and the Whalleys, with the rest of the family loaded in a horse and dray, returned to Petrie's Creek. Young William (with his brother Nattie) had to walk the whole distance again, as they had to lead the family cow. The Whalleys cleared their land, which was three miles west of Petrie's Creek. Whalley Creek can still be seen crossing Windsor Road at Burnside. They cleared the scrub and built a humpy, but young William did not like farm work and took a job at Mitchell's Sawmill at Sylvania (Rosemount) for fivepence per week. He wanted to learn a trade, so set off for Brisbane where he served an apprenticeship as a plumber.

Eventually he returned to the growing settlement of Nambour, and in 1896, aged 25, opened a shop as a plumber and general storekeeper. He was, at that time, the only licensed plumber between Brisbane and Gympie. William Whalley called his shop the 'Universal Store', and later built a second store in Mapleton. A spur of the Mapleton Tramway terminated at its front door. 

William and Alice Whalley and their children in 1912.    Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

Whalley Chambers still exists today in Currie Street in the heart of Nambour, facing Centenary Square. His fine colonial home 'Stoneleigh' remains in excellent condition at No. 37 Blackall Terrace in Nambour, although it is now converted into professional offices.


Left: Alice and William Whalley in 1949.     Right: Their residence 'Stoneleigh' in Blackall Terrace, Nambour.    Photographs courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

William became one of Nambour's leading businessmen and made a valuable contribution to community life. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the first Maroochy District Hospital Board, president of the Agricultural Show Society for almost 20 years, and served on the Board of Directors of the Moreton Central Sugar Mill for 38 years. He died aged eighty-one in 1952 and is buried in the Nambour Historical Cemetery.


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