The History of Beerwah by George Walton

What do you like about Beerwah, or its adjoining centres for that matter, but this article is about Beerwah, and particularly what it was like in 1937 when I first knew it. The writer has been asked by Roland and Lydia Munyard to contribute this article for his website named Beerwah. Although I do not now know many of you personally, you will know me because the new bridge over Coochin Creek adjacent to Peachester Road has been named in remembrance of our family, of whom there are still some residents in the area.

The “History of Beerwah” or “What do you like about Beerwah” by George Walton.

Roland and Lydia are people of considerable experience, being from South Africa, then living in the London area of England for a number of years, finally coming to Australia, and, after living here for a little while, buying the house and property that was ours. After all the experiences they have had they are delighted with everything about Beerwah, including the house, its location, the people and everything they can say nice about the town. It is certainly a great satisfaction to me to know that they are so happy with living at Beerwah, and for the valuable friendship that has evolved out of it. Probably Roland hasn`t said it anywhere else on this website, but he services and programmes 260 computers for the Glasshouse Christian College, as well as being a certified high school lecturer. To complete this part of the story Roland and Lydia have four lovely children ranging in age from two and a bit to thirteen. I think that one was born in South Africa, two in England, and one in Australia. Who can beat that.

When our house was being built in 1947 I can remember the builders labourer saying” that is the third car that has passed today; it is” London all at once”. I do not know how many vehicles pass along that road in a 24 hour day now, but I guess it would be nearer to three thousand than just three. Going back to 1937 the district was changing from a timber getting centre to a farming centre, the farming being mainly pineapples. The Fruitgrowers Association, I think that it was called Coochin Creek Fruitgrowers Association was formed about the year before. The railway had a not very large shed around where their establishment is now, with the staff being one person. They did not sell anything, just arranging for the ordering and loading of the railway wagons to markets, or to canneries; not Northgate, it had not been thought of at this stage.

One good measure of the growth of the district would be the schools and learning institutions. In my early days there were about 40 pupils at the Beerwah State School. My sister Mary has told me that the school got down to nine pupils during World War two. Some time after the war it returned to around the forty pupils where it remained for a considerable number of years. In this period there was one teacher named Mr.Fred Hodgens. His wife Grace helped with the teaching, but was unpaid. How times have now changed with two primary schools and two high schools, this including the Christian college.

While it was before my time current residents may be interested in the start of education in the Beerwah district. The State primary school . is some distance from Beerwah; this is because the first settlement was at Coochin Creek where John Simpson built the first hotel and other facilities required by travellers going by Cobb and Co. coaches to the Gympie goldfields. There came a time in the 1880s when there were enough pupils to warrant a school. In those days the residents had to provide the land and building, when the education department would provide a teacher and teaching materials. John Simpson gave twenty-three acres of land which is still the school property. The residents built the building with pit-sawen timber and shingle roof. This building served until around 1914 when the education department built a new school building.

The old building was sold to the Methodist church for six pounds,[ $12], who pulled it down and rebuilt it only a couple of hundred metres from its original site, the education department allowing them the use of the land at a peppercorn rental. This was as far as I can remember the only church building when I first went to the district, it being used on alternate Sundays by the Methodists and the Baptists, both providing the upkeep. The next church established was Church of England, this being in the new village of Beerwah. Neither of these churches exist today in their original form or place. It is interesting that when the Methodists and Baptists built new churches around 1957, the old church in the school grounds was sold to the Church of England, who shifted it to Landsborough, rebuilding it in an improved form . They used this church for many years until their present arrangement, when it was sold or acquired by a tourist resort in the Maleny area. They have suitably rebuilt it for letting for special occasions such as weddings and family social get togethers. What a story about the old building originally built with the crude methods of the pioneers

We have mentioned the pineapple industry which became highly mechanised in my time including the building of the first successful boom harvester designed and had built by me. Other industries of note includes a period of tobacco growing, quite extensively in the Beerwah-Glasshouse area. Other tropical fruits such as bananas and papaws, and tree crops such s macadamias, avocadoes, citrus, and latterly peaches and nectarines There is also huge poultry industries in the district. Most people probably think as I do that in a short period of years Beerwah will have reached city status with much agriculture and horticulture having to move to other areas.

The railway went through. About 1890 with the railway station named Beerwah, no doubt after the Glasshouse peak of that name, which is stated in the aboriginal language to mean something like,”reaching to the sky”. This was to have a major effect on the area. A new hotel was built on what later was known as Wimberleys Corner, that is the northern corner of the junction of Simpson Street and Peachester Road. This was built by John Simpson, who also built a sawmill where Mill Park now is. This sawmill was in operation for many years after I came to the district, it being sold at one time to a Brisbane company named Brown and Broad. It is now many years since this has disappeared, probably because the good timber in the district had been cut out. Although another sawmill was established in the 1950s alongside the Peachester Road across this road from where the new retirement village is now situated. This mill operated until fairly recent times. The hotel mentioned in this paragraph eventually burnt down, with a new hotel being built in its present location. The first decent grocery store for Beerwah was built where the hotel was burnt down, this being taken over by the Wimberley family not long after world war two. The present hotel was built when the then new Bruce Highway,”now the Steve Irwin Way” was constructed.

The only other business on that Eastern side of the railway was a garage or service station, but I do not think that was built until after the war, the proprietor being Reg. Perrin. There were a couple of houses on the southern side of the hotel, and the big house known as Mawhinneys, this latter still being there with some businesses in its base. Coming back to the western side of the railway line we have already talked about the grocery store. On the opposite corner was the butchers shop, this building still being there, now used for other purposes. These were the days when butcher shops had a layer of sawdust on the floor. How often the sawdust was changed is not known, but hygiene was not a high priority. The proprietor was George Pitt with meat coming in from the slaughter yard a couple of times a week.. I can remember them carrying the shoulders of meat or whatever with dogs nibbling at it as they went along. There was no cold rooms or refrigeration, so fresh meat could only be bought one or two days a week. The rest of the time only salted meat could be bought.

Fairly close to the butchers shop was the bakery where they actually baked the loaves on site with the bread being quite satisfactory. I am not sure of the original name, but I think that it was O`Halloran. Further up the street was a newsagency which also sold an assortment of goods. This shop had a number of owners, probably the best remembered one being Bryce. All we have left is the post office and this was in the front of a house located about where the I.G.A. is now. It was operated by a man named Barnes who had a wooden leg, a legacy of world war one

There are sixty years between these two photographs. Unfortunately Dot only survived A little over two more years

What about houses on this side; my memory is not too good here, but I do not think there were more than half a dozen with a couple of small houses being built by John Simpson for employees of the sawmill, about four others scattered about. A remarkable thing about present day Beerwah is that much of the business including the Woolworth complex, the Turner Plaza and the library and community hall are all built on what was swamp. In the wet season these areas would all fill up with water which would remain for much of the year. The Peachester Road which went through the centre of this was only a mixture of gravel and mud becoming impassable on a few occasions. There was always a track approximately where Nichols Avenue is now, and it was usually possible to get to Beerwah along this track when the Peachester Road was impassable.

And what about the old Coochin Creek establishment that we talked about at the beginning of this story. They tried using the hotel as a guest house for a time, but this didn`t work with the buildings laying idle for some years. Eventually an area of land including the buildings was bought by a farmer named Sid. Gould He had the buildings pulled down using what material he could for workmens houses and farm sheds. I believe these houses still exist, no doubt with some alterations along the way

The Hallelujah Hut. There would be few people now remember this icon, which was built by John Simpson on the opposite side of the road to the hotel. It was a well constructed building with a wooden floor, being built to store horse feed. When the horres went the building had little or no use until a group of young people at the church got the idea of using it for social and party activities. I have no idea who gave it the name but it was well known at the time. I was not there on a lot of occasions but I remember Guy Fawkes night on one occasion, We seem to have forgotten Guy Fawkes, but it used to be a great occasion when I was young, 5th. November I believe. A heap of rubbish would be piled up, dragging it out of the bush for hundreds of metres around. When built Guy Fawkes would be put on the top and the lot set alight. Fireworks could be bought by anyone at the local store in those days as could gelignite. So, pennies and shillings would be saved for weeks to buy crackers and bungers. At mid-night one character, un-named would put a stick of dynamite in a 44 gallon drum and let it off. The noise could probably be heard for a couple of kilometres. Unfortunately in this respect, the property changed hands around 1939, the Hallelujah hut being pulled down for materials towards building a house

I am sure that I have written more than enough. Here is another incident. It was the practice to cover the pineapples with wood wool or paper bags to protect the fruit from sunburn in the summer. Other means are now used. When I was about twenty years of age, brother Ernest and I had some bales of wood wool undone, and was stuffing it into chaff bags to take to the field. I noticed a big lizard looking thing in a bundle that I put in the bag. Tipped it out again, didn`t like the look of it and killed it. There was a fruitgrowers meeting on that night. We took this big lizard in to be told it was a death adder, my only experience with one of those..

I suppose most districts have their bizarre stories. At Redridge, the first property we had at Beerwah, there were three large mango trees. This is where the death adder was, but also legend has it that a fellow under the influence of the D.Ts hanged himself from one of these trees. Nobody else will do so because the trees are not there any more. Across the road there was a fellow we called the professor, which he probably was. His family had grown up and apparently he didn`t get on so well with them. So he had a den built for himself close to Old Gympie Rd. After he passed on the building was unattended with vines and rubbish growing over it. One day somebody decided to have a look in it to find a skeleton there.

I have mentioned the hotel on the corner of Simpson St. and Peachester Rd. I later knew this Baptist pastor who stayed there a night in 1916. The cost, two shillings for the room and one shilling for breakfast, thirty cents in all. The good old days they say; I do not think so..

Roland Munyard, the owner of this website would like to thank George Walton for writing this article and thereby contributing to the younger and newer generation of Beerwah residents.  

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.