When it is considered how the early residents suffered from enervating fevers, which required a healthy and bracing climate to restore people to their former vigour, it is remarkable that the townspeople were so slow in obtaining access to a seaside resort.
How Emu Park was first discovered is not very clear, but it was certainly not much known before 1867.
About that time, four men took a trip to the coast for fishing and shooting. Three of them were Messrs R Hewitt, A Matthews and J Phillips. The identity of the fourth is not known at this time.
Mr Matthews owned a small vessel with which he traded between Rockhampton and northern ports. It is quite likely he knew something about the bald hills, that now form Emu Park, from sailing along the coast.
Mr Matthews, by the way, was the brother of the clever actress and singer Miss Julia Matthews, who, when asked her nationality on one occasion, said she was an amalgamation. Her father was Scottish and her mother was Irish. She was born in England and brought up in the colonies.
Mr Phillips was the father of Mr H Phillips, fruiterer on East Street, and he came to Rockhampton in 1861. He worked for the Bulletin proprietor, Mr R Ross, who owned Cawarral station. Those connected with the station must have known of the existence of what is now Emu Park, but did not make that knowledge public.
The party of four referred to above, were found fishing and shooting by Mr Ross who summoned them for trespassing and disturbing his stock. He had them fined. It is supposed that one of the four men wrote to the Government.
As the people of Rockhampton had made an application for a township on the sea coast, a commission was formed and consisted of Captain R M Hunter and Messrs T Macdonald-Paterson, James Atherton, William Pattison, Henry Jones, William Davis and probably one or two others.
Mr R Sharples, who had previously been to the coast, was asked by Captain Hunter to go with him. The reason was that the Captain had a different opinion from the other members of the commission, and believed that the bald hills, from which they were looking, were to the north of Cawarral Station. The others thought the hills were to the south. The party was thus split in two, each going its own way on horseback.
The upshot of it all of this was that what is now Emu Park was discovered and reported on to the Government. The first land sale took place in about 1869 or 1870.
A considerable time elapsed before any buildings were erected there, but people went to the locality for picnics and on holidays. They camped under the trees in what is now the Botanic Reserve.
Emu Park was generally considered to have been discovered by Mr Hewitt. He evidently had a hand in it as the town was first named Hewittville.
A large number of emus and marsupials in those days were to be seen in the combes of Emu Park, but they were soon shot off by so-called sportsmen from town, whose only idea of sport is to destroy.
Mrs R Pearson was induced to put up a boarding house at Emu Park in 1871, and Mr J Brown, who took great delight in the place from the very start, also built a house.
Mr Alexander Grant built on the side of the hill above the Grand Hotel. Where that hotel now stands was the site of Mrs Pearson’s house. Mr E Macaree also put up a cottage. A mail coach was run every week for some years by Mr R Hewitt, the return fare being £1.
Very early in the history of Emu Park, Captain Little built a cottage not far from Tanby Head, known as Tanby Hall. It was a lovely spot, but decidedly lonesome. Captain Little is dead, but he has a daughter living in Marlborough. In about 1873, the late Mr P Downer built what is now a portion of the Emu Park Hotel, and after a year or two he was succeeded by Mr Hugh Fulton. Since the advent of the railway, which was opened on the 22nd December 1888, the picturesque little township had considerably increased in size.
Mr Morris was the first man in Emu Park (perhaps 70 years ago) to go to the islands in a dinghy and bring back oysters and fish. He sold them in Emu Park. He then bought a small boat called Annabel and then later bought a boat which he named Crete (because he was a Cretan) which was large enough to carry about 40 passengers. He took people on cruises and fishing trips.
The passengers on the Crete would go over to the Peak Islands on weekend trips, find turtles that came ashore to lay eggs and turn them on their backs so they wouldn’t run away during the night. The next morning they would set the turtles on their feet again, scramble on the turtles’ backs and get a free ride out to sea, jump off the turtles and swim back to shore again.
The history of the Crete is a fascinating one. It was made in New Zealand, originally a sailing boat, and was owned by a man called Lucas who lived on South Keppel Island. Apparently a convict from New Zealand managed to escape and came across to Australia in a boat, landing in Yeppoon. People believe that the Crete could well have been that boat, which was subsequently sold to Lucas, and that got beached at Emu Park sixty years or so ago. It was sold to Mr Morris who repaired it and used it for his fishing trips. Later on, Mr Morris fitted a Wilson engine onto the Crete. The boat sits on land and will probably never be put to sea again.
The Pine Beach Hotel was originally a boarding house and Grand Central was the name of the hotel which is now Mrs Mac’s newsagency. The Old Imperial Hotel, which was between Blue Bird Cafe and Green’s Hardware Store, burned down in 1925. There were a total of four hotels in Emu Park: the Riviera, Pine Beach, Imperial and Grand Central.
Mrs Large’s shop was originally a post office, facing onto Patterson’s Street. Beggs owned it. Jimmy McDougal, Ronny McDougal’s father, rented it for a shop after the post office shifted to its present building.
The cafe next to Mrs Large’s shop served meals and sold groceries. Patterson seemed to have been the original owner. Then a series of people owned it, but one man committed suicide over the shop. Apparently he was losing money and one day in desperation he cut his throat in one of the back rooms of the cafe. About that time a family of Greeks were waiting on his doorstep to see whether he would sell his shop to them.
Mrs Mills’ house used to be a Haberdashery run by a Miss Henni Powers. She also sold soft drinks, biscuits and lollies and was very popular with the children.
Leight’s second-hand shop was once a grocery shop run by Mrs Mills’ father, Matt Rhine.
Mr Mills, Mr Billy Mills’ father, owned what is now Buehows. They sold groceries and served afternoon tea.
Notes and Links
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- This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
- My mother interviewed many long-term residents as part of her research into the history of Emu Park.