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Centenary Committee Meetings - 7:30pm, Memorial Hall, Home Hill.
Next meeting - Thursday, 7th February, 2013.

This web page is part of the Home Hill Chamber of Commerce website
and is a contribution to the Centenary Celebrations by the Chamber.

Words in bold type are links to more information.

When Captain James Cook discovered** and named Cape Upstart in June 1770, he was unaware that the land that lay beyond the coastline would one day be developed into one of the richest agricultural land in the State. While other maritime explorers, Flinders in 1804 and King in 1819, did briefly investigate the coastline, it was in 1839 when Captain Wickham, anchored the Beagle in Upstart Bay and with a party of his men rowed about 16 km up the river which he named the Wickham. He observed the spreading plains that would one day become the prime sugar-cane land of the Home Hill district.

It was soon realised that the Wickham River had already been discovered in its upper reaches by the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt who had named it the Burdekin.

In his search for new land, explorer W.H. Gaden in 1857 also viewed our area. From the inland he struck the Burdekin at the junction with Bowen River and followed it down to the sea. His application for Inkerman Land was not successful.

Unknown by any explorers of the time, James Morrill was already living in the area. He had been the only survivor of the ill-fated "Peruvian" shipwrecked on the Barrier Reef in 1846. It was due to the kindness of the local aborigines that he survived. It was not until 1863, that he again made contact with white people.

With the Queensland becoming a separate State on June 6th 1859, land was being surveyed and opened up to grazing. In the early 1860s Inkerman Downs in the hands of by John Graham MacDonald, Robert Towns and A. Stuart, but was later taken over by the North Australian Pastoral Co. which had also absorbed Leichhardt Downs.

On Heath Creek on the southern side of the mouth of the Burdekin River a landing was built for the shipping of cargo in and out of the area. Scouts from Inkerman Station would climb Mt. Inkerman to sight the incoming boats. It was the upper reaches of Heath Creek that became Groper Creek, our fishing resort, well known to tourists all over Australia.

Other selectors took up land in the area. These were mostly larger acreages suitable for grazing, but when the Queensland Government began to see the potential of the sugar industry in the area, the Closer Settlement Act in 1906 led the way for smaller blocks to be made available. The Repurchase of the Inkerman Estate was finalised in September 1910. The arrangement to open this land to sugar growing relied on the promise of John Drysdale of Pioneer Sugar Mill to build a new mill on the southern bank of the Burdekin River.

In December 1911 the first ballot took place at the Ayr Court House. The Down River blocks were opened up first and another ballot in June 1912 began the opening up of farms in the Up River area.

Since 1891 the rail line from Bowen had terminated at Bobawaba awaiting a decision to go north or west. With the release of farming blocks, the Government pushed ahead with the railway that would join the line which had proceeded south to Ayr in 1901.

Meanwhile on the southern bank of the Burdekin, Drysdale’s Mill began to take shape almost immediately. A temporary rail track was laid across the bed of the river beside the growing rail bridge, to convey material for construction. The Mill was ready to crush in 1914.

Sugar growing had been successful on the northern side of the river because steam pumps were used to irrigate the crops from deep lagoons. Many of the Inkerman farms had no surface water. The only answer was to tap the vast underground resources of water unique to the area. The farmers felt that the answer was a central power house to supply electricity to drive individual pumps. Eventually the Government agreed to the Inkerman Irrigation Scheme. Work began about 1916 but it was not until 1922 that the Power House was opened and the scheme in partial operation. A farmers’ co-operative took over the running of the scheme in the early 1930s and managed it successfully until the facilities were absorbed by the Government Power Authority and closed in 1953.

Blocks in the township of Home Hill opened for auction on January 28th 1913. The Crown Hotel, Gunter's store and Mrs. MacGregor's lolly shop were among the first buildings erected. In those days Eighth Avenue was marked by a deep gully that held the water after rain and it took many years before it became the street as we know it.

Written by Laura Scott, Lower Burdekin Historical Society Inc.

For more history, select "Read all about it!" on the menu on the left.

** Captain Cook may not have been the first European to see the East coast of Australia. Cristovao de Mendonca could have sailed along our coast in 1522. There are other sources claiming the Egyptians visited Australia centuries before that.

Words in bold text are links to more information. If you know of a site with good information, please let us know the site address. Help us build this page.

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These special historical pages are dedicated to the pioneers of Home Hill and the people who are recording and promoting awareness of the work of our hardworking founders.

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