Maleny Pioneers & Neighbouring Districts

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Mapleton Pioneers

The Smith Brothers select ground near Mapleton Falls 1888

SCRUB CLEARED. PROLIFIC FRUIT-GROWING AREA. MAPLETON'S GROWTH. By Our Mapleton Correspondent. Mapleton, situated at the top of the Blackall Range, is known throughout Queensland as the centre of a prolific fruit growing area. The story of its conversion from scrub to mountain township, and the genesis of the establishment of fruit farms, provide interesting reading. IN 1889 Messrs. T. D. and W. J. Smith arrived in the district from Redland Bay, their objective being the summit of the Blackall Range, where they hoped to find land suitable for banana growing. The North Coast railway was then in course of construction, and had been completed as far as Caboolture, from which centre the journey to Nambour was continued by means of Cobb and Co.'s coach, the Smith brothers travelling all night, except for stoppages at Mellum Creek, near Landsborough, and Cobb's Camp, now known as Woombye. The continuation of the journey to the Blackall Range had of necessity to be on foot, tracks of any description being unknown. There were two settlers between Nambour and the top of the Range-James Stark, at Highworth, and J. Murtagh, at Dulong. These men were engaged in timber-getting, this being the only established industry, and Mr. Murtagh, knowing the locality, proffered his services as guide. After inspecting scrub lands on top of the range, the Smith brothers selected a block of 150 acres, adjacent to the Mapleton Falls Some 12 months later in April, 1890, they returned to settle in Mapleton, felling 20 acres of scrub, and planting five varieties of bananas. The butts for planting were procured from Redland Bay, and took six weeks to reach their destination, being conveyed by boat to Maroochydore. A bullock team brought the butts to the top of the range, a special track being cleared for the purpose. It may be mentioned that Dalzell Pinches, in the Dulong Range, proved a stumbling block to settlers for many years, until the present deviation, known as the Pivate-road, was made. The grade of Dalzell Pinches was one in four. During the first year of residence in Mapleton Mr. T. D. Smith had an unpleasant experience. While engaged in exploration near the falls he came upon a carpet snake, and having a gun with him shot the reptile through the head Being anxious to save the skin he threw the snake over his shoulder to carry it back to camp. The snake entwined itself round his body, and began to crush him. He managed to stagger to the camp, which, fortunately, was handy, reaching it in an exhausted condition, and his brother rendered assistance. The snake measured 21ft 4in in length. An account of the incident was recorded in the "Courier" in August. 1891 FURTHER SETTLERS. Five more settlers arrived in 1891. Messrs. D. J. Williams, W. H. Rosser, the late Mr. E. H. Biggs, the late Mr. D. Johnson, and the late Mr. David Smith, all of whom engaged in banana growing. Small log huts provided shelter for them and their wives and infants, and the men walked to Nambour - nine miles distant - once a week for provisions. At this time no scrub land had been cleared for grass, and it was not possible to keep horses. With the bananas coming into bearing the problem of transport and the establishment of roads arose. Working bees were formed, each grower helping his neighbour. As the ballast train on the North Coast railway was running by this time as far as Woombye, the growers decided to make Woombye their main outlet, and a track was cleared by them through the scrub. When the fruit was marketable it was conveyed to Woombye by pack-horse team four or five horses being linked together Each horse conveyed three bunches of bananas, one on each side, suppoited by a cradle, and one in the centre of the saddle. The return trip occupied 12 hours. When the settlers took the children out the packhorse was again made use of, kerosene cases being suspended from each side of the saddle, a tiny tot occupying each case. When only one small child was available, a large stone in the other case, served as a balance. The district showing signs of progress, a weekly mail service was inaugurated between Mapleton and Woombye and Mr. D. J. Williams was the first mail contractor. He did the trip-a distance of 10 miles-on foot in all weathers. carrying mail bag and parcels, and received 6/ per trip remuneration. A pear tree in the township, still existent, marks the site of the first receiving office. Incidentally, this was the first fruit tree planted in Mapleton. FIRST HOUSE. FIRST CART, FIRST MAIL COACH. It was not until 1894 that the small community of settlers decided on nam- ing their centre, Mapleton was chosen- "maple" being an emblem of sweetness, and "ton" a symbol of quantity. In 1895 Mr. D. J. Williams built the first four-roomed timbered house in Mapleton, and the event was celebrated by a dance, which lasted all right, practically every settler in the district, at Montville, Obi Obi, or down the range to Highworth-was present and "Williams's house warming" was talked of for many years. As the number of settlers increased, and progress became more evident, it was decided to divert traffic to Nambour, and a road was made of sufficient width for a vehicle Messrs D. and W. J. Smith made the first venture, with an improvised cart to carry their produce in lieu of pack horse. With steep inclines to negotiate, and on a road without a good surface, it was necessary to unload and reload every half-mile, and the return trip took two days. In 1899, a regular coach service was commenced by Mr. E. H. Biggs, between Mapleton and Nambour' a post office then being established and conducted by Mrs. W. H. Rosser, Mapleton was the first town in Queensland to be served with a motor mail service, Mr. E. H. Biggs, in 1907, acquiring a motor buggy. Subsequently, Mr. Harry Johnson took over the coach service, and his son (Mr R. Johnson) continues at the present day. CITRUS FRUIT. After several years of successful banana production, lighter crops were tried-strawberries, coffee, and eventually citrus. Some citrus seedlings were planted as early as 1892 by Mr. E. H. Biggs, and the orchard is still in existence and bearing well Mr. T. D. Smith also planted seedlings, but later replaced them with worked trees. Strawberries were planted as a stop gap until the citrus trees came into bearing. Growers did remarkably well with strawberries, obtaining 1/ a quart on rail for Sydney and Melbourne. As the families grew up it became necessary to build a school, and by voluntary labor a building was erected of pit sawn timbers. The school served also as church and dance hall until the present school building was erected by the Education Department. The Mapleton tram commenced to run in 1915 and this resulted in an expansion of the timber industry and large quantities of cedar and pine were obtained from the Obi Obi valley. Mapleton's buildings today include a School of Arts and Masonic Hall and a hotel and two boarding-houses. SCENIC ATTRACTIONS. From Mapleton township a fine panoramic view of the coast between Cape Moreton and Noosa Heads is obtainable embracing points of interest such as Buderim, Coolum, and Nin- derry Mountains, Maroochydore, Alex- andra Headlands, and other seaside resorts are easily distinguishable. For the tourist who likes to ramble, and is not averse to climbing there is much that is beautiful awaiting him off the beaten tracks. An example is Baxter's Creek, which runs far away down in mountain gorges to join Obi Creek. The dense scrub abounding with elk- hoins, orchids, &c. reaches to the water's edge, and the creek bubbles over boulders, forming numerous miniatuie falls. Baxters Falls, near the head of the creek, although tiny in comparison with the Mapleton Falls, are very beautiful. The Mapleton Falls are easy of access, and are much favoured as a picnic resort. A peep over the edge reveals a gorge of dense tropical scrub 300ft below, and a bird's eye view is obtained of the Obi Obi valley and distant ranges. CHIEF INDUSTRIES. Fruit growing is still the chief industry, bananas, pineapples, and citrus fruits being successfully grown in the rich volcanic soil. From the State Timber Reserve No 445, situated near Mapleton, large quantities of black- butt, tallow wood, and flooded gum are obtained, and the Provisional Forestry Board is at present giving attention to an experimental plot on this reserve. Although the range proper is almost entirely devoted to fruit growing, the dairying industry holds an important place in the rural activities of the dis- trict. The range falls away eastward in a succession of shelves or plateaux into Dulong and Kureelpa, where dairy herds thrive on the luscious growth of paspalum and clover. This area, in stock-carrying and productive capacity, is one of the richest in the State. Many of those who blazed the track have gone to further fields or crossed the "great divide" There still remain, however, some of the old pioneers of this vicinity, among whom are Mr. W. E. Pope, well known in the civic life of the community. Mr. W. Whitecross, and members of the English and Phillips families. Transcribed from the 'The Brisbane Courier' Saturday 5th September 1931

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