The early years (Pre 1900)


On Thursday October 18th 1900, twenty-two children from nine Goodwood families enrolled at the new Goodwood Provisional School. The first teacher, Miss Annie Dodd, would have looked on while the children stepped up onto the verandah and entered the classroom to begin their studies, much like today. Their respective fathers were listed in the School Register as Station Master, Railway Worker, Miner, Labourer, Bricklayer, Selector, Mill Manager, Farmer and South Sea Islander.

It is amazing to consider that a little over forty years earlier, the only people in the area were a handful of enterprising pioneers on pastoral leases, transient timber-getters and Aborigines who had not retreated or vanished. In the 1860s, Maryborough was a thriving well-established town with a port, and was a centre for farming, in particular, sugar cane growing. The land which later became Bundaberg was only just opening up and so the area between the two towns was still barely known.

However, word began travelling south about great stands of timber in what is now the Childers area, a rainforest wilderness known as the Isis Scrub. Timber in large quantities was needed not only to house the hundreds of new immigrants, but also to fuel the Maryborough sugar mills.

In 1868, the Queensland Government enacted the Crown Lands Alienation Act, which allowed people to select parcels of land for their own use. The Act “made large tracts of land available for agricultural selection, providing the opportunity for those with modest capital to establish themselves on the land … In the Isis, selectors looked to the red soil ridges supporting the fine stands of timber”. As the wave of selectors washed into the Isis, the Aborigines found that “the land which had sustained them steadily lost its value for hunting and gathering."

Most of the first selectors were loggers who worked areas near rivers so they could float their logs downstream, then raft them to Maryborough, a practice that continued for a number of years. On the Gregory River, an area known as Ascot Crossing, or “the rafting ground”, was the most convenient spot for the loggers to float their timber. The loggers blazed new trails where there were none, staying on their land long enough to remove the best timber, then moving on.

One very early selector was Charles John West who in July 1869, took up 248 acres on the north side of the Gregory River, naming the area Goodwood. Over the next few years he was to expand his holding by making further selections on both sides of the river until the Goodwood Plantation encompassed around 2500 acres. West grew a variety of crops including maize, figs, oranges, bananas and pineapples as well as growing about 170 acres of sugar cane. The rest of the property was used for grazing of his 500 horses, 600 cattle and Berkshire pigs.

Ploughing at Goodwood

This was a time of rapid development when entrepreneurs could make fortunes. In 1876, the Railway was still over ten years away, therefore travel by ship or coach were the only options for those who could not ride or walk from place to place. Charles West therefore began operating a coach run for travellers from Maryborough through the blossoming areas of Howard, Horton, Goodwood and on to Bundaberg. The route would of course incorporate his own Goodwood coach stop, where fresh horses could be procured for the rest of the journey. Along with that coach run, he also established a coach run from Abingdon to Musket Flat, on the old Maryborough-Gayndah Road.

When West formed a partnership with Robert Blissett is not clear, but Blissett’s finances were a huge asset to them both. In 1885 they established the Goodwood Sugar Mill, the first sugar mill in the Isis District. Early that year, the equipment had been shipped up the Gregory River to within 8 miles of the mill site. From there, the equipment was hauled to Goodwood by teams of bullocks. Many workers were employed at the Goodwood Mill and Plantation, including 42 Kanaka labourers. The Plantation’s own cane was crushed, along with that of other neighbouring farmers. Mr Risebrook and Mr Carl Thoms were the only local cane growers to supplement the 250 acres of Goodwood Plantation cane in the 1886 crushing. By mid-year, the mill was producing fine white sugar said to equal the best made at Mackay. Goodwood was now on the map.

Historic Goodwood photo


ABOVE: Goodwood Sugar Mill, the first mill to be built in the Isis district, crushed sugar from 1885 to 1917. Goodwood owes its existence to the Goodwood Mill and Sugar Plantation. Photo courtesy John Oxley Library.

When the Goodwood Railway Station [then known as Gregory Station] was opened on August 1887, it heralded further development of the area, as well as being a great improvement on West and Blissett's local coach run, which ceased operation when the railway line reached Bundaberg six months later. The new community desperately needed a school. Abingdon school opened in 1881 and for a time, some Goodwood children travelled there, and later to Horton School, by coach. Others who lived nearer the railway, sent their children by train to Howard. Both trips involved considerable time and inconvenience. No wonder they began lobbying for a school at Goodwood!

Finally on October 7th 1899, a meeting was held at Mr Blissett’s residence to discuss the formation of a school. While certainly not the only ones to support a school, those present were the ones whose names were recorded in the original Minutes book. But many others also worked hard to achieve their dream of a school at Goodwood.

This article first published in "Visions and Dreams: The Centenary of Goodwood State School 1900 - 2000", p10, compiled by Robyn Housechildt and Sonia Furlonger.

References made include:

“Only Room For One; A History of Sugar in the Isis District ” by John Kerr, pp 11-18 “Southern Sugar Saga" John Kerr, p 34 “Taming the Isis", B. O'Neill, p87, pi28.

Interview with Mr Richie Webb.

Last reviewed 16 January 2020
Last updated 16 January 2020