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Property Management Veresdale  (4285)

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Veresdale – Suburb Profile

Robert Towns’ plantation was situated between Veresdale and Gleneagle. Captain Patrick Logan had named the region Letitia Plains after his wife. This property was part of the original Nindooinbah station, which Towns had procured from Alfred William Compigné, who owed him money. Towns was a Sydney businessman with interests shipping, island trading and stations in northern Australia. His Logan plantation was known as Townsvale and he installed a manager, William Tutin Walker, who later purchased the estate. Towns initially used the Logan River for transport, building a wharf and store at Logan Village, and travelling overland for the remainder of the journey.

Robert Towns was of the opinion that the cotton plantation could never succeed if he had to pay colonial wages. He took advantage of his contacts in the South Pacific and sent the schooner Don Jaun to procure Melanesian labourers. The initial load of seventy-three islanders arrived in August 1863, and these workers were given contracts providing them with wages of ten shillings ($1) a month, including food and housing and a provision to be repatriated if they wished. Towns gave specific instructions to the captain of the Don Juan, Captain Grueber, that the Islanders were to be treated with respect and integrity. He chose Ross Lewin as the agent procuring this labour on the islands because of his familiarity with their language and customs. Lewin already had many years’ experience on the islands in the sandalwood trade and his diligence in carrying out Towns’ requests was questionable. By 1867 Lewin was offering his services to any plantation owners in the Colony requiring Pacific Islander labourers. He became notorious in his illegal recruitment practices.

While Towns had initially hoped to develop a community of islanders on his property, he could never convince married men to come to Queensland. Ultimately the estate did develop as a thriving community of workers both European and Islander, employing carpenters, overseers and a blacksmith. The property had its own cotton gin and sawmill and a small hospital.

By 1866 management was using the track to New England, which roughly followed the current Mount Lindesay Highway, to transport his cotton to Brisbane. Despite the treacherous approaches to the Logan Bridge at Maclean, it was quicker than the round trip by boat, which took a week. It was through this regular transportation to Brisbane that the legend of Jerry’s Downfall began. Jerry was apparently a Kanaka working at Townsvale, who capsized a bullock dray of cotton while crossing Chambers Creek. The locality is marked by a plaque erected by the Beaudesert Historical Society, although its assertion of a later link with the Keaveny family is contested.

An overly romantic version of life at Townsvale plantation was published in the Logan and Albert Times over a number or weeks in late 1968, written by Rhoda Hassell, granddaughter of Walker. She claimed that the Kanakas were willing workers and everything was done for their care and protection and their lives made as happy as possible. They were from the islands of Sandwich, Loyalty and Tanna. The Kanakas had clothing purchased from army surplus from the Crimean War. The coats of the uniforms were scarlet, trimmed with brass buttons, so provided a picturesque site in the cotton fields. Some were apparently loathe to return home at the end of their term of service and Billy, Dick and Nellie remained working for the family for many years. The bell which called the Kanakas to work was later donated to the Church of England Grammar School.

Despite the massive investment in the establishment and running of the Townsvale plantation, its success was dogged by regular flooding and irregular drought. It did, however, receive a gold medal at the 1867 Paris Exhibition for Sea Island Cotton. By 1871 cotton planting was reduced to fifty acres and by 1873 cattle proved to be more lucrative. Towns himself had moved to North Queensland in 1865. He established Burketown and Townsville in partnerships with others. He died in 1873. The Townsvale property was then run by William Tutin Walker. When the American Civil War ended, and the market for Logan cotton dried up, the great stands of hoop pine here became the next marketable product. The timber mill on the Townsvale plantation provided employment locally. Veresdale eventually had a Court House, Police Station, Post Office, hotel and store.

Veresdale and Woodhill continued to grow as a regional centre revolving around the old Townsvale plantation. The Townsvale State School opened in 1873, was renamed Veresdale in 1874 and changed to Woodhill in 1899. A post office run by D Morrison opened on 1 January 1874. Matthew and Verdon Hinchcliffe opened a new branch of their store at Veresdale early in 1878. The township boasted a police station from 1877 and a Court of Petty Sessions was established in early April 1879. A ten-acre cemetery reserve was proclaimed on 26 April 1879, and a board of local trustees was appointed. William Everdell established the Walton Hotel (named after his hometown in England) at Woodhill from about 1875. It functioned as a staging place for the mail run between Logan Reserve and Telemon. Hotels were centres of community activities at the time and the Walton Hotel hosted a public meeting in August 1879 to discuss the route of the proposed Upper Logan Railway. Land was also set aside here for a School of Arts later that year and, when the Tabragalba Divisional Board was established, it first met at Veresdale.

The Veresedale Wesleyan Church was built opposite the Woodhill Hall. Land had been allocated by the family which the Everdell’s had purchased from (possibly Tanner) but Mr Hinchliffe who lived at Veresdale had donated a substantial amount of money for the church and insisted that it be named Veresdale, even though it is at Woodhill.

Veresdale was described by a correspondent to the Logan Witness, 11 February 1882, as ‘the centre of one of the finest basaltic districts of Australia, and is congenial to the successful growth of most sorts of European fruits with a large plantation of pine in the vicinity. However the transport costs to Brisbane are prohibitive to local farmers. The township boasted a stipendiary magistrate, police quarters, and a state school’.

The township of Veresdale was subdivided in 1885.

Dan and Jane Morrison opened the first hotel in Veresdale in 1874 and operated it until 1877. August Weilant operated the Victory Hotel from 1881. In 1882 it was operated by James Rogers, and it ceased trading in 1888. Publican Samuel Manning moved from the Rose and Crown at Acacia Ridge in 1885, when the railway line by-passed his establishment and relocated to Jimboomba. He then moved to Veresdale in about 1901 and ran the Veresdale Hotel. He died there in 1918. The Hotel continues operating to the present day although has been rebuilt.

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