Aboriginal connections

Sites of Aboriginal Significance

Reputed to be an aboriginal burial ground. An eye witness account of the period 1877—1885 reported that a "black’s camp was situated near Barry’s Scrub, Tick Hill, now known as Mt Lofty, near where Cock's old house stands today. Quite a few blacks have been sighted in the vicinity of Cock’s House” The eye witness also mentioned a good small permanent waterhole a little further north (in McKenzie Street) about where Harvey's dairy started.

There were regular corroborees held there. From 5-600 aborigines were seen by Mrs William Henry Groom, the wife of Toowoomba's first mayor.

Stone axes were found during excavation of foundations for new buildings.

Californian style bungalow named, "tOMBONDA" the aboriginal name for, "house on the hill".

A family living here several years ago reported nothing but scrub here when their house was first built. They believed that, originally, aborigines lived in the area behind the house.

Perhaps originally a stone axe site?

Named 'Struan' when rebuilt in 1931. Sister Kenny died here in 1952. The name sounds aboriginal though this may not be so.

Cathy Freeman, champion Commonwealth athlete attended this college.

In the 1880's or 1890's. Captain Blaney was a governor of the Toowoomba jail. He retired and built a house which he called Wirra Wirra House. This was named after a tribe of blacks whose habitat extended from near Cabarlah to Hodgsons Creek. The house was later used by the Preparatory School then moved by an artist to Greenmount.

Named by Mrs Boyce after Burketown wharf, which was named after the last aboriginal woman in Tasmania.

Owned for many years by teacher Miss Clarice Corr. Her father was speared by blacks at the Palmer River goldrush.

Named by the original owner after a fierce aboriginal tribe from north west Queensland.

Apparently a meeting place for aborigines. There is fairly reliable evidence from the son of one of the original pupils that there was an aboriginal camp in the grounds in 1877. When the noise from the camp disturbed the boys at their studies. it was moved to another area of the grounds near Taylor house.

On 10/10/1984 Mr George McNulty spoke of his recollections of the Toowoomba area. He recalled that there were aborigines living in the Grammar School area and that they met with the Moreton Bay blacks there. They had their corroborees there but weren't allowed to get too permanent. They were regarded as a nuisance in the town. The coppers used to be mounted and would drive them back to the Grammar School Oval.

In March, 1870 an Aboriqine named Jacky Witton was hung here.

The Toowoomba Chronicle of 19th April 1881 reported that that the Industrial and Reformatory School for Girls was proclaimed a public jail and that the School was to be moved to the old Court House, where De Molay now stands.

It was proclaimed that education was desirable for half-caste children and that these childen should be arrested. treated as 'neglected children' and admitted to reformatory schools at either Toowoomba or Lytton.

The History of Queensland Police: The Long Blue Line, comments, "This was not immediately and universally implemented by the police but it did mean that government policy was pushing the police into major interference with the life of aboriginal families, with the result that children were being taken away without the consent of parents to be placed in employment, white homes or institutions."

In January 1882 the building was occupied by 10-12 girls. In February 1889 it was reported that a new building had been built outside the Toowoomba Jail wall and facing Margaret Street. The building was well off the ground, verandered and spacious. The kitchen and laundry adjoined the school room which had 22 pupils ranging in age from 6-18. A detached building was erected as a hospital.

Rumour has it that the ghost of a girl can be seen at night in De Molay House. Apparently a girl was unhappy with her life in the reformatory so hung herself in a small room on the first floor during the night.

Together With the old jail, the reformatory was closed in 1903. The girls went to various homes in Btrisbane.

An aboriginal skull was found here when the foundations were being dug for the new station in 1935.

George McNulty recalled the only blackfellow he saw in Toowoomba permanently was Billy Daylight. He was a tracker at the Police Station but couldn’t track an elephant!. Apparently Billy got tired of hanging round the police station and put up a gunyah on the side of thee toll bar, where George Essex Evans lived. Billy was joined by a funny person George called Leaping Lena, a white woman. Lena was given that name because when spoken to she"d jump around and face the opposite way. They wouldn't have them [aborigines] at Eagles Nest, a camp for the unemployed. Leaping Lena looked after Billy until he died at his gunyah.

Aborigines from Cherbourg regularly danced at Shows held here. There are also unconfirmed reports of corroborees here before white settlement.

Held by State Archives is a petition from a native trooper from the Darling Downs named Georgy (QSA COL.A39 No.934 of 1863) When his wife was stolen by a white man he ran away. Georgy was arrested and lucky not to be shot on the spot. After his arrest he was dragged to the Police Barracks 40 miles distant by attaching his hands to the stirrup of a horse. The solicitor who prepared Georgy's petition was Charles Lilley who, in 1879, was to become Chief Justice of Queensland and in the 1890's, Chief protector of Aborigines. He owned land in Toowoomba and Lilley Street is named after him.

This was a known-site of battles between aborigines and whites.

Mount Tabletop (610 metres) was named by Allan Cunninghmam, "Twiss' Table Mount" after the political under-secretary at the Colonial Office [30 May 1828 - November 1830], Horace Twiss on 27 June 1839.

Ludwig Leichardt included it in a topographic profile, calling it, "Table Top Mountain", (Meeba). It is possible that Mount Tabletop could be the 'Gerelgerel' referred to in Lieutenant Gorman's Journal.

Robert Dansie quotes Robert Ramsay:

"It was no set of degraded cowards that drove back a party of the best men from Darlinq Downs at the battle of One Tree Hill! It was no coward, who when a party of white men were pursuing his tribe and following each other in single file along the top of the range, stepped in front of them from behind a tree, delivered his spear killing the first horse in the party and then made his escape,amidst a showere of bullets ! “ (Morass to municipalilty. p.31)

See also the History of the the Gatton Shire: "The unrest continued as the months went by. In 1843, Multuggerah [known to the Europeans as 'Moppy') recognised leader of the Brisbane Valley tribes, decided that the time had come to stop this encroachment on his lands. He stole and slaughtered sheep and also stole supplies.

Aborigines later ambushed a group in a cul de sac. The armed escort fled leaving all the supplies and wagons behind. The angry squatters pursued the aborigines to Table Top. The aborigines defended themselves by pelting down rocks on men and horses below them. The fight became known as 'The Battle of One Tree Hill”.

According to Robert Dansie, Mrs Phyllis Hall and Mrs Jean Turbane are the only known descendants of Multuggerah's group. (Dansie, R. (1990) Toolburra: The Conditions and Prospects of the Native Tribes

BETWEEN PERTH ST (Site of Roessler's Garden) and PICNIC POINT
An eye witness account between 1877 and 1885 says: “there was a black's camp years before that time between the garden and Picnic point.”

The name means 'The Place' and probably refers to Tabletop nearby.

Some of the early settlers recall a tribe of aborigines who lived on the south western corner of Hume & Alderley Streets.

Swamps were full of reeds which aborigines called Woomba Woomba. It was marked on wool bales for this area. A boy put 'To' in front of 'woomba woomba' and the name stuck. This swamp area was full of birds, animals and fish which gave the aborigines a plentiful supply of food.

Site of the Perkins brewery. The brewery chief, named Perkins, adopted a local aborigine called 'Paddy Perkins ' who was fond of biblical quotations. Paddy’s real name was "Boondow' and he was born at Cecil Plains about 1850. He married Emma, a domestic servant. They had a daughter named Amelia Grace. He died on 19th December, 1902 and was buried by the roadside near Quinalow.. (See Conflict on the Condamine)

The murder of Geoff Cuff, cook at Jondaryan Station occurred outside the hotel on 3/10/1863 and was allegedly committed by aborigines..

A tree at Giltrow home has significance for aborigines as many years ago a Bora ring lead to the tree"

Apparently there was a Bora ring in the vicinity of St Andrews Presbyterian church.

In the, History of the Brisbane Hospital, it is recorded that in the 1850's, “individual aborigines were given handouts as needed in the form of rations or blankets. It is not known whether the first hospital in Toowoomba, opened in 1859, also gave help in this way.

The Brisbane Hospital history mentions some interesting case notes of the 1850's: An aboriginal patient left hospital without leave - "Too many ghosts", was his explanation. Another aboriginal patient was, " found destitute and brought in by Police… She can neither see nor stand. and is thin and miserable. She was found in the Blacks' camp, abandoned by them and her blanket (new Government one) taken away".

In June 1893 an aborigine named Jane Warner died at the Toowoomba hospital. As was frequently the case the hospital had to arrange the funeral. Her employer was asked to pay the three pounds cost of burial. Many aborigines are buried in the public section of the cemetery. They have no tombstones.

In 1898 scientist Archibald Meston complained about the incredible inhumanity of 2 doctors who had sent an aboriginal woman suffering from puerperal fever unattended on a train from Toowoomba to Brisbane. This woman subsequently died. Meston complained bitterly that too many doctors had apparently no more compassion for an aboriginal patient than for a sick kangaroo. (p.97 Race Relations in Colonial Queensland 1911 )

I can recall the Boulia hospital in far western Queensland had separate wards for aborigines and whites. It is not known whether it was the same in Toowoomba.

See, John Hills tombstone: “speared by blacks at Mt Rascal. Eton Vale on 15/9/1843.” He was buried at Eton Vale then re-interred at the cemetery on 6th March,1909. John Hill was following some straying stock into the bush. Later,men at the homestead were alarmed to see a horse galloping madly towards them with John Hill clinging to the saddle. As they lifted him from the saddle they found a spear protruding from his back. It took three men to remove the barbed spear. He died 18 days later in great pain. (See A.B>Yeates, Toowoomba’s First Decade 1850-1860)

'Gabbinbar' means 'beautiful place'.

The ‘Goonburra blacks' who lived in the district called the place ‘chinkery' or chingerrie (Place of water).
Maurice French in Conflict on the Condamine reported an1850’s Toowoomba resident referring to some 300 niggers mooching around Drayton. One wore a brass plate referring to him as King of Drayton.

The squatters did not allow aborigines to come to Eton Vale homestead for fear of theft and warfare. The Goonburra therefore took to the scrubby hills on the outskirts of the Eton Vale run. They raided the Eton Vale stock and were pursued by the stockmen who were often unsuccessful in their attempts to catch the 'rascals'. It is understood that the Aboriginal name for the battle ground was 'Moyumneura'meaning 'many tomahawks', the place where the tomahawks of fallen braves were scattered. The hill is now known as Mt Rascal. (See, The Cambooya Story by Rae Pennycuick)

According to the Gatton Shire history, in 1840 four aborigines from the Lockyer and Downs led Gorman on the track which is now known as Gorman's Gap and was used as a route to the Downs for some time.It was never an easy trek at any stage. Later travellers described looking down from the gap road to 'Hell Hole' which was scattered with the fires of aborigines. Apparently aborigines travelled this way en route to the Bunya Nut feasts.

Archibald Meston claimed an interesting aboriginal legend related to the spa. It was that a whole tribe had been buried there in the dreamtime by clouds falling in celestial vengeance when an aboriginal woman had allowed two lice from her hair to be inadvertently blown into the camp fire. From the depths of the tribe's burial place had sprung the spa spring. The legend allowed that the special water could be used to heal sick Aborigines but the water could not be drunk. (See History of Gatton in the Lockyer Valley p.40)

Aborigines believed that the natural mineral springs made the sick strong and the strong, stronger, and they enshrined it in their legends as "Goonee Gong" or the Water from the moon. and 'Woo-urra-kimigh' or The place where the clouds fall down. (See, History of Withcott & the Upper Lockyer by Don Talbot.)

A large camp of aborigines was located opposite Withcott Hotel and there were often noisy and spirited corroborees. Later Withcott became the site for police barracks (See, History of Withcott & the Upper Lockyer ).

The area round Heldion was known to the Aborigines a 'Ybarba'.

The area around this village was known as 'Tammamareen' meaning, where the fishing nets were burned by fire.

The aboriginal word for this area was 'Bocaninnie' meaning old woman.

George McNulty recalled hearing about aborigines at Highfields: "They were a tribe who kept moving around. They became a nuisance by stealing axes, tomahawks, etc and they'd get on the settlers nerves".

See, Race Relations in Colonial Queensland by Evans, Sanders & Cronin, UQP 1988

I. In 1842 James Campbell, from Westbrook station, reported that he needed plenty of men and the station well-armed to quell any uneasiness there" (P,36)

2.In the early 1840's at Humpy Flat (Grantham), a settler named Rogets took 400 sheets of ironbark used for shelter by aborigines. The aborigines responded by killing 17 white men, mostly shepherds. (p.41)

3. Also in the early1840's in this area, a resistance campaign led by aboriginal leader 'Multuggerah' stopped supplies getting through to Downs settlers. The aborigines killed, stole stock and generally harassed the wagon trains The settlers, with military aid, took reprisal action. After several weeks of fighting the aborigines submitted. (p.42)

Also read:
Some Ceremonial Grounds of the Aborigines in the Darling Downs Area, Qeensland by Bartholomai & B Meedot, 1961.

Also, Remarks on the aborigines written by J D Wood, held by the State Archives ( 62/1118 COL A/28)

Also Morass to Municipality by Robert Darcie DDIP, 1985 pp 31-3

"By 1860 the 'Aboriginal question' had been resolved bv a variety of means: 'disease, alcohol, warfare and kidnapping. There were still some local Aborigines around Toowoomba but they were regarded almost as 'non-personsl" Pioneer- squatter, Robert Ramsay, commenting on the deaths of a few white men in the early forties defended the right of the aborigines to protect their territory."

See also The Long blue line by W Ross Johnson, (p.8) quoting a journalist who in 1858 wrote,
"… the number of blacks killed …. it is impossible to estimate. They are being killed officially by the police and also unofficially by settlers and diggers every day. Nor are women and children by any means universally spared when murders are being avenged by the whites".

The History of Gatton Shire in the Lockyer Valley describes the aborigines as abouit 6ft tall, very muscular, with good bodies but with many scars. They carried firesticks and heavy woomeras to throw their spears. Around their camps baskets of rushes, animal skin cloaks and pointed sticks for root qrubbinq were seen.

The Giabal tribes (The 'fire blacks' from the Downs) occupied the hills at the head of Flagstone and Stockyard Creeks and came east as far as Gatton. They spoke a dialect of the Bangjalangic group

The Cambooya Story states that the Gooneburra aborigines lived on the Darling Downs. They were known as the 'fire blacks’ because they regularly burned off the land in the early summer. This promoted new growth for the native animals of the region.

Kangaroo,wallaby, plains and scrub turkey were plentiful as were wild duck, turtle, fish and reeds, rushes and waterlily. The name 'Cambooya' is thought to be named after the edible tubers of the rushes which grew in the area. It has also been suggested that 'Cambooya' meant 'many winds' because of the strong westerlies which occur during winter in that district.

In the publication, Darling Downs 1840-1940, the tribe said to be located here was the 'Bigambul’ tribe which was also written as 'Bigambel '. The meaning of many words is also given in this publication.

(The Gooneburras of Table Top by J.Nolan Toowoomba Chronicle Of 4/8/1971)

Other Reading

A Bibliography for the History of the Darling Downs. 2nd ed. Maurice French. D.D.I.P. 1979

The bibliography in Toolburra: the Conditions and Prospects of the Native Tribes: Stories, opinions, events and reports concerning the aborigines in the Darling Downs and Moreton Districts, compiled by R.A.Dansie and printed by the Toowoomba Education Centre in 1990

The Aborigines of South East Queensland by J.G.Steele. An address to the Toowoomba Historical Society on 19/5/1980

John Clements

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