A Time Line of Significant Events – Part 2

1804 t0 1900


Captain William Edwardson sent by Governor Brisbane in the cutter “Snapper” to locate a river location suitable for a new penal settlement, Edwardson sailed up Great Sandy Strait.  He failed to discover the Mary River and assumed that Tin Can Bay was a river.  He described Great Sandy Strait as “a safe and capacious anchorage”. 


Colonial authorities in Sydney, as a result of Matthew Flinders’ recommendations, established the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement where Redcliffe now stands.  It was later moved to a site known to Aborigines as Meginchen.  Although the settlement was outside the territory of the Great Sandy Region people, eventually the establishment of that settlement led to the tragic demise of the Aboriginal people of the region.

However, the Aborigines were not the only victims of cruelty and inhumanity in that infant colony.  The brutality meted out to the convicts of the penal settlement caused many of them to escape.  A number were befriended by the Aborigines, and became “White blackfellows”.


John Graham, an Irishman convicted at age 24 to 7 years transportation for stealing 6 3/4 lb hemp, escaped from Brisbane.  He found his way north to Cootharaba Country where he was accepted as a “bunda”.  This was one of the Aboriginal moeties to which a person was assigned.  His tribal name was “Moilow”.  He married a widow, Mamba.  Both lived happily in the tribe for six years until Mamba died.  Fretting and disconsolate, Graham then abandoned his tribal ways and surrendered himself once more as a convict in Brisbane, during 1833 where he was to serve out his time as a “constable” until pardoned.

David Bracefell escaped from the infant Moreton Bay settlement three times and each time on returning he was so brutally punished that he absconded again.  He also became a “bunda” named “Wandi”, meaning “The Great Talker”.  He was recaptured briefly in 1837 near Noosa by Lt. Otter  but he escaped again and remained at large.


Under the command of Captain James Fraser, the brig, Stirling Castle was bound from Van Diemen’s Land and Sydney to England via Torres Straits.  The heavily pregnant Eliza Fraser was accompanying her sea captain husband.

21 May:  Stirling Castle was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef hundreds of kilometres north of Fraser Island.  The crew all put to sea in open boats and began to row to the nearest known settlement, Moreton Bay.  The crew experienced a series of misadventures including five weeks at sea.  The two boats became separated at sea.  The 38-year-old Mrs Fraser gave birth to a premature child in the pinnace.  It survived only a few hours.

29 June:  The boat that the Frasers were in landed near Waddy Point in search of food and water.  Most of the pinnace party abandoned Captain and Mrs Fraser and other weaker members of the party and began walking down the beaches to Bribie Island receiving food from Aborigines.  At Bribie they met a shooting party from Moreton Bay under Lt. Otter.  Survivors and Aborigines told the authorities of other survivors left living with the Aboriginal groups in the Wide Bay area.

In the meantime, Aborigines had taken in the sickly 57-year-old Captain Fraser, Mrs Fraser and others.  The true circumstances appear to be obscured by Mrs Fraser’s conflicting accounts of what did happen during those seven weeks of “captivity”.  Her husband was alleged to have been murdered by Aborigines before her eyes, but another survivor claimed that he had died of natural causes and poor nutrition.  First Mate Brown of the “Stirling Castle” was alleged to have been burnt at the stake there.   In 1842, Petrie nominated it as “Brown’s Head”.

Three days after word reached Brisbane, a long boat carrying Otter and and John Graham.  Graham, the literate convict who had lived six years with the Kabi.  They camped at Noosa Heads where they recovered a 17-year-old Bob Carey and Robert Dayman.  Graham then set out on a long, futile 60 kilometre walk down Teewah Beach, trying to find clues to Mrs Fraser’s whereabouts.  By the time the rescue had started, Mrs Fraser had been transported from Fraser Island across Cooloola to Lake Cootharaba where a big corroboree was under way.  The next day Graham set off, alone and unarmed, and learnt that Mrs Fraser, “the She Ghost”, (Kabis believed in reincarnation) was at the “Wa-Wa” (place of Crows) Corroboree Ground near Lake Cootharaba (about Fig Tree Point).

Learning that one survivor, Baxter, was on Tome (southern end of Fraser Island), Graham first made a daring solo rescue of Baxter crossing from Inskip Point in a commandeered less-than-seaworthy canoe at the wrong time of the tide.

Having conveyed Baxter back across the Strait to Lt. Otter at “Gullirae” (Double Island Point), Graham then set off to recover Mrs Fraser.  He walked 50 kilometres down Teewah Beach across the dunes and wading through the swamps to the edges of Cootharaba Lake.

27 August:  Fortunately, Aboriginal belief in reincarnation, which had helped so many bundas to survive, also helped the rescue for by convincing his former step-sons and his father-in-law that Mrs Fraser was the reincarnation of his ex-wife and their mother and daughter, the long dead Mamba.  Graham persuaded the then 400-strong group not only to release Eliza Fraser but to convey her by canoe across the lake.  They then escorted her to a waterhole at the back of the foredunes where he had them wait until he not only returned with suitable clothing for her near naked, emaciated body, but also an escort back to civilization.

Bracefell was alleged to have assisted in rescuing Mrs Fraser but this was never acknowledged or mentioned by Graham, Mrs Fraser or Otter.

Fraser Island became known as “Frasers’ Island”, although the name “Great Sandy Island” was still retained on maps for another 100 years.


23 February:  The romantic, irrepressible Eliza Fraser secretly wedding another sea captain, Alexander Greene, in Sydney.  He was her late husband’s cousin and he became her manager.

Two survivors of the Duke of York, wrecked near Rainbow Beach speared to death.


Bracefell spends a year living on Fraser Island.  He had earlier lived for a year on Woody Island.  He later reported that 2,000 to 3000 had assembled on the Ocean Beach near Indian Head during the mullet season.


With the penal settlement of Moreton Bay about to close and Queensland to be opened up to free settlement to help reinforce British claims to this vast territory, Andrew Petrie led an expedition in a precariously small craft to locate and Moonaboola River which he had heard of from Aborigines.  On the way he located two escaped convicts.  He found Bracefell near Noosa Head, which he named “Bracefell Head” after the first ex-convict who described the landscape and qualities.

Petrie negotiated Great Sandy Strait and obtained an Aboriginal guide at Ballargan.  They followed up the Moonaboola (Mary) River (which Petrie called the Wide Bay river)assessing its potential for timber and grazing.  In the process they rescued another “bunda”, James Davis or “Duramboi”, who was living with a tribe near Tiaro on the Mary River.  Bracefell and Davis described Cooloola and Petrie records their obvious reference to the Noosa Plains:  “They also informed us that there was a beautiful country about forty miles from Bahpal (Bauple) Mountain extending quite to the ocean and abounding in emus and kangaroos.  According to their account this country is thinly wooded.”

Petrie and his family had arrived in Australia aboard the “Stirling Castle” in 1827 and so while he was on Fraser Island he searched for Capt. Fraser’s remains.  He noted and reported on Fraser Island’s superb forests.  Subsequently other Petrie generations pioneered the harvesting of this timber.  Petrie’s exploration rapidly led to squatters taking up selections along the Mary River (later in 1842).


The settlement of Maryborough became established having been surveyed in 1846.  At first called “Baddow”, it was subsequently renamed Maryborough and the river the Mary, after the wife of Governor Fitzroy who had been killed in a carriage accident near Government House Parramatta.


Commandant Walker and 24 Native police, supported by a number of “special constables” (local mounted squatters who had volunteered to help arrest some Aborigines for which there were warrants) spent eight days on Fraser Island carrying out what was euphemistically described as an examination of Aborigines.  Subsequent reports indicate that this was a pretence for a series of massacres which occurred between Christmas Eve and 3 January.  It may have been seen as a little “silly season” or Christmas sport for the squatters.


Great Sandy Strait becomes an international shipping lane.  Sailing vessels crossed the Wide Bar bar and hauled into the lee of Fraser Island to take on water.  During this period sailors caused many Aborigines to become addicted to opium and they also introduced many pernicious diseases including venereal diseases.

Massacres of Aborigines were occurring quite openly and regularly in and around and Fraser Island Maryborough.  In most cases “white volunteers” assisted the infamous Native Police in these chores.


It was reported that survivors of the missing ship “Seabelle” were living with the Aborigines on Fraser Island.  Two young albino Aboriginal girls were “rescued” but they could not speak English and they had no experience of European culture.  They were sent to Sydney where they were confined to institutions where they died.


Queensland becomes a separate state and gains its own independent government.


The whole of Fraser Island was gazetted as an Aboriginal Reserve.  This was rescinded after commercial timber-getting began.


Tom Petrie liaised with the Aborigines to enable William Pettigrew to asses the alleged timber potential of Fraser Island.  With his partner Pettigrew immediately established a sawmill at Dundathu on the banks of the Mary River to exploit of Fraser Island’s kauri pine and timber brought from Cooloola via Tin Can Bay.


The first timber was harvested by “Yankee Jack” Piggot.  Kauri pine, (Agathis robusta) or Dundathu” as it was called by the Aborigines and white beech (Gmelina leichhardtii) were the first targets for exploitation of the region.  Pettigrew explored the Noosa area for timber potential.

The first livestock were taken to Fraser Island.


The American sailing ship, “Panama”, damaged on Breaksea Spit, was beached at what is now Rooney’s Point.  While its survivors were waiting aboard for rescue from Maryborough, they were sustained by Aborigines.  However, nearby at the same time Aborigines speared Yankee Jack Piggot.to death.  This is believed to have resulted from his abuse of Aboriginal women there.

A select committee recommended  in a report to the Queensland Legislative Council that the Sandy Cape lighthouse be constructed.  Despite the urgency of the committee’s recommendation, tenders did not close until four years later.


Journalist, Ebenezer Thorne settled on Kin Kin Creek to become the first white settler in the Cooloola area.  He was subsequently employed on newspapers in Gympie and Maryborough and wrote a book, “Queen of Colonies“.


Wilson Hart sawmill in Maryborough began to began timber from Fraser Island and Cooloola.  Another Maryborough firm, Hyne and Son, began taking timber from Fraser Island soon afterwards.  Both sawmills drew half their hardwood timber resource from Fraser Island for their Maryborough mills until the end of 1991.


Gold was discovered at Gympie by James Nash.  The booming gold settlement demanded more exploitation of the forests.  It inevitably accelerated the demise of the Aborigines.  Expansion of European settlement resulted in a rapid degradation and then disintegration of the Aboriginal culture and traditional lifestyle.  It led to a decimation of the Aboriginal population.


Increased demand for timber particularly resulting from the 1867 Gympie Gold rush led to increased demand for timber from Cooloola.  At first only softwoods, kauri was taken but later hardwood stands of blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) and satinay (Syncarpia hillii) were exploited.  Ex-miners began a mill to cut pit props for the mines, but their infant industry employing 150 timber cutters yielded far more than Gympie required.  The scrubs of Kin Kin were being felled and taken down to Lake Cootharaba at Mill Point near Elanda  Point to be milled at a mill run by Luya, McGhie, Goodchap, and Burns.  Processed timber was rafted down the Noosa River to be shipped off to Brisbane and Sydney.

More than 26 million super feet per annum (more than was being taken from Fraser Island during the 1970s) was sent to Brisbane on the 79 ton, 92 feet x 17 feet paddle steamer “Culgoa” until it was wrecked on the Noosa River Bar in 1891.  Other ships were also engaged in transporting large quantities of timber from Tewantin and from Colloy on the North Shore.  As well as the hoop, kauri pines and Beech of the Kin Kin scrubs, much timber was brought down the Noosa River from the scrubs of Cooloola.  Timber was shipped through Tin Can Bay from Ramsay’s Scrub.  Some reports record that as many as 200 logs, 12 abreast and secured by chains, were often towed down the Noosa River by paddle steamer, although these larger rafts appeared to move between Elanda and Colloy (opposite Munna Pt.), from where 50 logs at a time would be taken to Brisbane by paddle steamer.


Sandy Cape light station was erected on its present site.  The successful tender was was submitted by a Maryborough builder, Rooney, for 4524 pounds.  The 30-metre-tall iron tower was manufactured by Hennet and Spinks in Bridgewater, England.  The tapered cast iron sections were landed at Panama Point and the parts hauled by bullocks along the beach and up the  where the sections, made with such precision, were bolted together on a concrete base.  The light was first exhibited on 19 May.

A mission conducted by Methodist minister Rev. Fuller was established at North White Cliffs, known to the Aborigines at “Balarrgan”.  Although it was abandoned within two years, its influence irrevocably affected the traditional culture of the Fraser Island Aborigines .


Rev. Fuller’s Methodist Mission at North White Cliffs was closed so that the government could take over the land for official purposes.  He moved to a new Reserve at Noosa Heads.  Rev Fuller reported an ugly story recording the malicious massacre of dozens of innocent blacks in an ambush at Murdering Creek near Lake Weyba.  Many curious Aborigines were lured into a foul trap and ambushed and slaughtered by murderous stockmen.  In 1894 there were reported to be hundreds of blacks in the Noosa area.  Ten years later there were alleges to be none.


Balarrgan became a quarantine station to handle the migrants flocking to the Gympie goldfields.

Pettigrew and Sim constructed the first private railway in Queensland in Cooloola.  The locomotive “Mary Ann”, the first ever built in Queensland.  The rails were spotted gum set into slots in cypress pine sleepers held together with wedges.  Bullock teams were used in conjunction with the wooden rail tramway.  Protected by the unburnt damp of a rainforest, the remains of these rails can still be seen today some 10 km from the terminus at Poverty Point.  Some of the cuttings and embankments once used by the railway, a few hundred metres east of Camp Milo, are still in use.  Until 1884 this took timber from the Broutha Scrub north to Poverty Point on the shores of Tin Can Bay.  Rafting of logs up Tin Can Bay and Great Sandy Strait to Pettigrew’s mill had begun in 1863 and gained impetus with the rail line.  It was to operate for 30 years.

Tragedy struck when the boiler at Mill Point exploded killing five people.  This inspired a poem by Judith Wright a century later, “The Graves at Mill Point”.


Bill Hall took up property on the Cooloola’s Noosa North Shore at “Bill Hall’s Ridge”.  The name was later changed to “Tuppennywoe” after the tribal name of King Tommy of the Noosa Tribe.  It is now known as Hall’s Knob.  This was near Teewah Village in the present Fauna Sanctuary.  Both selections were surrendered in 1918.  John Ramsay who extracted timber from what is now known as Ramsay’s Scrub took up a selection to secure his access to timber.


Syncarpia logs, resistant to marine borers, were harvested in vast quantities from both Fraser Island and Cooloola to go to help the construction of the Suez Canal.


One of Maryborough’s pioneers, Harry Aldridge, obtained pastoral leases at Eurong and Indian Head.  With Dickens he bred remount horses for the Indian Army.


Three small freehold areas a kilometre north of the ‘White Cliffs’ were selected and subsequently freeholded.  They were known as “the colliery’s block”.


Some of Cooloola was declared a Forestry Reserve.  The harvest of timber from Cooloola took a heavy toll during the 19th and 20th Centuries.  The extraction stopped only on 31 March, 1991.


Mitchell brothers established some native pine plantations on Fraser Island.  The first permanent Department of Forestry camp was later established in 1913 in this area “Dipuying”, beside Bogimbah Creek.


The iron-clad timber-framed tower at Double Island Point was constructed.  Originally the light source was kerosene.  After being converted to electricity in the 20th century the light was automated in 1992 and the light-keepers left the site.


“Mallsgate” wrecked near Double Island Point.  Porlorunki, an Aborigine, was given a suitably inscribed “king’s plate” for helping rescue survivors.


A gun was sited across the Great Sandy Strait from Balarrgan to repel potential Russian invaders who, it was feared, might attempt to sail up the Mary River.

A telegraph line was built from Hervey Bay to Sandy Cape.  A submarine cable ran from Urangan to Woody Island, before running down the length of Woody Island, then across to Bogimbah.  From here a resident line keeper patrolled the line.  First Pat Seary and then Hans Bellert maintained this communication link.  Both lived several years at lived at Bogimbah.  Bellert also had a factory for processing dugong there.


The sawmill at Mill Point ceased operations.  The remnant of the jetty jutting into Lake Cootharaba are favourite roosts for cormorants.


Hon Shirley Lovell saw what from her drawings looks like a 30 foot dinosaur known to the Aborigines as a “Moha Moha” on the beach at Sandy Cape.


The Australian Association for the Advancement of Science nominated the whole of Fraser Island as one of four outstanding areas of Australia most suitable for national parks.  The pre-eminence of the timber industry prevented this option being pursued for another half century.


The mission at Balarrgan was briefly revived by the Queensland Government.  It was the site of the first land rights conflict between Aborigines and Europeans on Good Friday when Maryborough excursionists claimed that the beach had been “a favourite resort for pleasure parties for over twenty years” and a popular “watering place since before Queensland got separation“.  A public meeting in Maryborough on the topic drew 300 to 400 people.  Within months, as a result of parochial pressures the Aboriginal mission was transferred to a less desirable site near the mouth of Bogimbah Creek.

The government of the day ignored Aboriginal tribal identities, cultural and social practices, and traditional hostilities.  As a result hundreds of Aborigines and more than a dozen different cultures from all parts of Queensland were amalgamated in one settlement.  At one stage nineteen different linguistic groups were represented at Bogimbah.  There was an extremely high mortality rate due to poor management, malnutrition, diseases (including influenza and venereal disease) and drugs (including opium and alcohol), introduced by Europeans.  There was an extremely high mortality rate.  Within seven years, 56 Aborigines were buried in one cemetery, at Bogimbah and 38 were buried in another.