Tuesday, March 15, 2016

b. The History of Bracken Ridge The reasons for the research

The History of Bracken Ridge

Where is Bracken Ridge?  Halfway between Bald Hills and Sandgate, 20 klms from Brisbane and defined on all boundaries by the major northern highways of Brisbane. 

In earlier times we described it as being near the Pine River, next to the Bald Hills Radio Masts, with Sandgate to the right, and either the first suburb or the last suburb on the northern outskirts of Brisbane!  A bit of a secret!

Thanks for Google Maps 

In today's modern world, the catch cry is usually, if you want to learn something simply "google" it.  

Hundreds of thousands of people do so on a regular basis every minute.  They make decisions on what they learn, or they believe what has been written.  School children rely on the information to complete their studies.

But what if the information that they have found was completely untrue?

There is no easy way of simply wiping the blackboard clean and changing the information.

The world's largest on-line information source is Wikipedia.   It contains details on almost everything, gathered from world-wide sources, but not always qualified. 

To change information on Wikipedia, they require the sources and publication of the intended changes.

That is why the simple cob of corn is so vital to the history of Bracken Ridge.

A northern suburb of Brisbane developed in 1962, previously known as Rosehill, so it says.

But the simple fact is that in August 1886, Mr Ferguson won a prize for his 
special corn grown on his property, Brackenridge, Sandgate.

There are in fact 5 incorrect statements.

These are the points that require changing.

1.  The area now known as Bracken Ridge was originally called "Rose Hill". In the late 19th                      century, it was predominantly a rural area. 

2.  Louis Hope was the first European landowner in the area, and he grew 
sugar cane and other crops. 

3.  The Brown family and the Ferguson family were also important early landowners in the area

4.  .Dairy became an important industry in the area, and continued to be the chief rural industry until          the area became more residential. 

5.   The first school in the area was opened in 1957

Much like a debater prepares his argument in a contest, as does a Family historian.

Their role is to work with the "facts" and to find the material to prove those facts looking at all aspects of the family they are working with.

Family historians also ask questions, pose suggestions and explore theories and write their findings on the research of those families who are of interest.

The result is that almost every family recorded as owning land in the area, has been researched.  Land dealing began in 1845.  But researching those early people takes in the areas from Pine Rivers to Bramble Bay.  Originally Brackenridge was known by its locality.

Brackenridge, Bald Hills;  or Brackenridge, Sandgate;  often it was just a farm near Sandgate, sometimes it was a house name at Zillmere.  Almost all, however have been crosschecked against the original available Lot numbers. 

Each of the landowners had a link with another, and those links formed a chain, and that chain found its way to Dr John Lang, and Scotland.

Before 1859, Queensland was part of New South Wales.  A determined group of Scottish settlers drove the push for separation.  Those very same people were intrinsically linked also to the speculative land acquisitions in Bracken Ridge, between Sandgate and Bald Hills, and were all the original settlers and farmers.  Their families have been researched, and additional information sought with any descendants.

What a story it is. 

It begins in 1866, when Mr Ferguson won a prize for his corn, and it follows the lives and families of each of the people recorded as landowners on the 1924 and 1938 maps.  Quite a few of them.

When the 1938 map was prepared these original people were long dead.  But still their names are recorded on land maps.  Some had no descendants, no-one to pass on the lands. 

Perhaps the answer lies in conjunction with the information from Queensland Government regarding early titling of land records.   There was none!

Early History of Titling in Queensland

To establish ownership of land in Australia, it is necessary to have some form of proof of ownership which is recognised by law. The systems adopted in the past to provide evidence of ownership were based on the method known and accepted at the time.
When Australia was first settled, the English method of recording land dealings was adopted. This method was contained in the Registration of Deeds Act 1843. Land under this Act is referred to as ‘Old System’ land.
Under this system, land was granted to a subject of the Crown by issue of a deed of grant to the ‘grantee’. This was the only deed ever issued for the land and it was written on long lasting parchment. When the original grantee sold the land, he/she had his/her solicitor draw up the lengthy and costly deed of conveyance necessary to legally transfer the land to the purchaser. This, together with the deed of grant, was given to the purchaser, who was required to keep them safe, as they were his/her ‘title’ of ownership.

No copy of the deed was maintained in a government register. It was up to the owner to prove ownership.
All land in Queensland identified as previously being under the Registration of Deeds Act 1843 has now been brought under the Land Title Act 1994.
Queensland became a state in its own right in 1859 by separating from New South Wales. By the creation of the State, the Crown in the right of the State of Queensland owned all the land in the State except that which had previously been granted to individuals. Where a grant had taken place, an estate in fee simple (freehold title) was conveyed to the grantee. That is, the Crown passed outright ownership to the individual and, in legal terms, the land had been alienated from the Crown, subject to any stated reservations.

A separate title issued for each owner when the land was brought under the provisions of the Real Property Act 1861, now the Land Title Act 1994, under the Torrens System of registration.

That made perfect sense, how many people "kept" these old deed of grants?  It explained also some information that came to light in the research.  This old 1858 map is from the Brisbane City Council archives.

At some time after perhaps 1865, the then current landowners names must have been recorded on the area maps, as those records were available..  

Here is a map of Brisbane c1865. 

By 1962 broad acres of land had found its way into the control of State and Local Governments and a locality was finally given a name, and an identity.  New housing estates developed, many chose Bracken Ridge to call home.

It is well documented that the Fergusons were the first settlers in Brackenridge.  There is a park dedicated to that fact.  Louis Hope? not one park is named after him.

Sugar cane was grown by Louis Hope, yes it was, on his property at Ormiston, in fact he built and owned Ormiston House.

Sugar cane was grown at Bald Hills but not by Louis Hope.  Louis was an aristocrat, a man who didn't get his hands dirty, and reminded people of his stance in society.

Dairy was an important industry, possibly more known at Bald Hills along the flats of the Pine River. However it was pineapples and pigs that Bracken Ridge was renowned for.   Mr Albury grew one weighing over 2 kg. a fact reported in the papers of 1921.   Later potatoes were grown. 

In fact, pigs, pineapples and potatoes were still grown in 1970. Many times the pigs escaped! 

There were some dairies in Bracken Ridge, up in the Walu Street area, and those cows are remembered for their 4.00am feeds on the newly planted lawns of new home owners.  On Norris Road, where the school is, there was another dairy.  Those cows also managed to escape at times and used to regularly chew my well tendered grass. 

If you visit a library and ask for a book about Bracken Ridge, you will be disappointed.  There are none.  If you research Bracken Ridge on the internet, you will be lucky to find anything other than the wikipedia listing, which so many others have copied.  Time for a change!

More importantly, though is that 2016 marks the 150th Anniversary of Bracken Ridge.

Bracken Ridge The First 100 Years.

Most Brisbane suburbs has a record of its history, except Bracken Ridge.  Online resources tell very little by way of historical events, from the first recorded settlement.  What they do tell is incorrect.

To be able to correct those errors, a comprehensive study of landholders, settlers and farmers, who were the first to either purchase or farm the land was carried out.  The early settlers were immigrants from Scotland who arrived in the years between 1845 and 1865

All had a common association with Dr James Lang.  Many were involved in the politics and business affairs of Brisbane, and belonged to the group which pushed for separation from New South Wales.
Some were merchants bringing their produce, some were stonemasons, some were farmers, most were "hand-picked" by Dr Lang to promote his ideals in a new colony.

The settlers faced enormous challenges as they cleared the land for crops.  They felled huge trees, and created farmland from the scrubby undergrowth, and found rich soil and water essential components for producing their crops.

From John McConnell who bought huge tracts of land in 1845 in the Bald Hills, Bracken Ridge Sandgate region, to Tom Dowse, a freed convict who became a Mayor, and a wealthy man.  To the Cribb Brothers, land speculators who amassed over 1000 acres each, but whose methods became quite questionable.  William Loudon, another with large land holdings, whose partner was Robert Cribb, and his associations with yet another Scottish landowner, Daniel Somerset.

James Gibbon and William Hobbs, a man who farmed dugong oil.

All these men, and others, were land speculators.  All have their names recorded on the land maps of 1924 when amalgamation of all the local councils took place.  All who purchased their lands by 1855.

Later purchasers included Henry St John Bridgeman, a banker previously from Ireland, who became the manager of a fledgling bank opening in 1863 and closing in 1866.  His associations were also with Bishop Quinn who arrived in 1861. 

Some eventually became miners, working the goldfields as did hundreds more at the time of a huge financial crash in 1866. 

Then the settlers, firstly the Stewarts and the Duncans in 1855, the Fergusons in 1866, the McPhersons in 1870, J. Grant, J. Mc Pherson, all linked back to the Mc Connels.

Recorded settlers in Bracken Ridge from 1900 onwards,  the Slaughters and Flewell Smiths, all have a story to tell, which forms the  history of Bracken Ridge.

From 1860's onwards the papers feature numerous advertisements for the sale of land and farms in Bracken Ridge.  But there were no buyers. 

Could this be one of the reasons that the State Government and the City Council became the owners of so much land, and were able to build a reservoir to supply water to Redcliffe, to construct public housing at a time where there were schemes to bring English migrants to Australia for Ten Pound?   Jobs and housing they were promised.

In 1962 the suburb was created when land developers Willmore and Randell became developers, Cambridge Credit Corporation were their business partners, but how did the Barclay Corporation become involved?

Every one of these people are the history of Bracken Ridge.

Not Rose hill as the children are being taught, not settled by Louis Hope as wikipedia insist, but Bracken Ridge where the first school was operating in 1915, years before the school was built in 1957.  

The farms produced pineapples, pigs and potatoes, not sugar cane as wikipedia print.

All those points have been resourced, media clippings, maps and genealogical research included.  

Many of the people have biographies, they are contained.  Bracken Ridge The First 100 Years is a compilation of the resourced facts.

Memories of Bracken Ridge covers the next 50 years, a time when vacant land became a community. 

How the early residents worked and contributed to the vibrant modern suburb it is today.

Bracken Ridge used to be known in real estate terms as "Brisbane's Secret".  Thirty years ago people had no idea where it was.  Next to the Radio Mast at Bald Hills became the answer, at the Pine River Bridge, going towards Sandgate.  Even then the locality described the place. 

Without a doubt the reasons people chose to create their lives in Bracken Ridge was the atmosphere, the feeling of living in the country, the views, and the cooling sea breezes which blew without fail every afternoon, or on the change of the tide.

Time marches on those original residents, like the original settlers are reaching the stage of their life where the young refer to them as "Old timers".  But it is those old-timers who have clear memories of what their community was like, when they were young and raising their families.

Most suburbs and towns promote extensively their milestones.  Important community projects are undertaken, leaders make plans and offer suggestions as to what lasting monument can be created to recognise those who created the past.  All those except Bracken Ridge.

In August 1866, Mr Ferguson from Brackenridge, Sandgate, won a prize for his corn.  The story was reported in the newspaper.  That story and hundreds more have been read, and many are reproduced here.

That makes Bracken Ridge 150 years old.

As a community and a suburb, the residents should be very proud of such a milestone.

Thanks to Mr Ferguson and his winning cob of corn, the first recorded date may not have been discovered until around 1889.

Because we were getting to the age when memories start to fade, I thought it was about time to write down what I knew about Bracken Ridge in the old days.   I thought a Facebook group "Memories of Bracken Ridge", was the best way forward. 

That changed the moment the wikipedia entry was read.  It was quite upsetting though when I was told that the children at school had been taught this incorrect information.

The end result is an amazing story of how Scottish immigrants, used to the cold of the Highlands, adapted to the hot and humid conditions under the Queensland sun.

Bracken Ridge has always been one of Brisbane's "best kept secrets".  Unfortunately this may have remained one of them.

Kris Herron
March 2016

Our family and Bracken Ridge

I have said to many,  "I am not an author, I didn't go to "author school", but I am the writer and keeper of family stories".

Kris and John Herron

John and I  bought our house in 1971 at Bracken Ridge , and moved in, in 1972, and opened a business in 1974, in the new Tavern Shopping Centre.  As this point in time we are probably regarded as "The Old timers".   The ones whose memories create today's history. 
We were one of a group of like-minded people who organised and then personally guaranteed the loan to build the Bracken Ridge Kindergarten in Barrett Street.
During the 38 years that we lived in the community, whether it be at the kindergarten, or Norris Road State School, or later for many years, at St Paul's School, I was happy to undertake the role of Treasurer, often coupled with fete co-ordinator, pot planter, lamington maker, costume maker and throughout that whole 38 years, proud to call Bracken Ridge home, and the wonderful group of other workers, all of us were friends.  We ran cake stalls on Thursdays, outside the Commonwealth bank and Russels in Sandgate, often freezing cold from the westerly winds, as we did in Gawain Road, outside the material shop.    

 John became involved in all the "male" activities, where they built, shovelled, mowed, organised and together as "teams", we all worked for the betterment of all of our children.
I was the first female member of the  Bracken Ridge Central Lions, and enjoyed my time as Secretary.  A CYSS began around 1986 and again I was treasurer.  We were active members of Pine Rivers Jaycees, and through Australian Jaycees in 1988, won an award for a course conducted at the CYSS.

My long and rewarding career in real estate began in 1983. As a business owner my personal commitment was to my staff and to the many landlords whose properties we managed.  One aspect of my work was the satisfaction of "helping" others to solve their real estate problems, and to see broad acres become attractive housing estate. 

In order to achieve those outcomes, the elected representative Local, State and Federal all played an important role, whether by listening to the residents' concerns and suggestions, by helping where needed, and always being approachable.  As professionals, we had the utmost respect for one another.

In 1986, there was not one traffic light in Bracken Ridge.  How things have changed over the past 30 years .   The suburb now is almost unrecognisable to the sprawling rural lifestyle it once offered.

We lived in three different homes in Bracken Ridge, our children went to the local schools, all were involved in extra-curricular activities.  My husband coached cricket.  Our eldest son played Aussie Rules at Sandgate Football Club and cricket with the Bracken Ridge Cricket Club and Rugby with St Paul's.
Our daughter learnt ballet and modern dance, she was a member of the Pony Club, and one of the first girls to begin at St Paul's, when it became co-ed.  She was a member of so many sporting groups.
Our youngest son was a member of the Bracken Ridge Swimming Club, he was a member of the Debating Group at St Paul's, and a very keen member of Rural Youth, he played rugby, and cricket.
He had a beautiful Jersey cow called Dairy Maid.  Rural Youth closed and we had to buy an acreage to keep "Mary" Most people who lived here in the 1990's would remember our yellow house, Mary and her calf Holly behind the bus stop across the road from the TAFE.  Along with the horses, chooks and the worst investment I ever made the $16.00 pair of geese! 

We always believed the property was on the Cobb and Co route to Gympie, that was another myth.
We were members of the Bracken Ridge Central Lions Club, and John was one of the original committee charged with the  of the resourcing, funding and building of the Steam Train in McPherson Park.

My real estate career ended rather abruptly in 2003, when my head exploded with a ruptured brain aneurysm, and I left work in an ambulance and never returned.

That rupture resulted in catastrophic circumstances which I felt responsible for.

Over the years my direction focused on genealogy and family history.  Many works have been researched and completed. All have been documented, stories told and websites published so that others in the future can learn of their past. Many brick walls broken through.  

Finally learning history made sense and unleashed a passion that I was previously unaware existed!  I even found my own Scottish family. 

 My 4th great grandmother was a Ferguson, from the same region as the Ferguson family who immigrated from Scotland.

My research has been extensive, and include many different relatives, from convicts to inventors, to English military to King William the Conqueror.  A very rich tapestry indeed.
These "projects" have kept my interest since my rehabilitation, and sometimes it feels like I am in full time employment, without the stress!

While retirement has lured many original Bracken Ridge residents to others places, as one, we will never forget the great atmosphere we enjoyed living in one of Brisbane's best kept secrets.
Some have contributed their memories, and for that a huge thank you.

This research project is my legacy for all the seven of our grandchildren, in the hope that they will one day be proud to say that they also belonged to the "Bracken Ridge family".

Not that "grandma turns everything into a history lesson"

Happy 150th Anniversary.  Bracken Ridge.

Kris Herron  Hervey Bay  Qld


  1. Knowing the true history of a place like Bracken Ridge is important. So often, school children learn facts which are not really accurate at all. The history that they learn about a place will depend on a lot of factors, including what serves some people best. It is important to correct things which are clearly untrue before the truth is forgotten.

    Keneth Parish @ Lion Land Marketing

  2. Knowing the true history of a place like Bracken Ridge is important. So often, school children learn facts which are not really accurate at all. The history that they learn about a place will depend on a lot of factors, including what serves some people best. It is important to correct things which are clearly untrue before the truth is forgotten.

    Keneth Parish @ Lion Land Marketing