Longitude: 151.611157 Latitude: -25.625793
Metres above Sea Level: 111.0 m
Area: 68.4 km² Perimeter: 52.3 km
View Gayndah’s Statistics & Demographics
Gayndah, Queensland’s Oldest Town !!!
Set on the banks of the Burnett River in Queensland, Gayndah is reported to have once rivalled Brisbane and Ipswich to become the capital of the new colony of Queensland.
Though Brisbane (first known as the ‘Moreton Bay Settlement’) and Ipswich had been settled somewhat earlier than Gayndah, they are both classified as ‘cities’ – hence, the
actuality that as a town, Gayndah, is, in fact, Queensland’s oldest . . .
The following excerpts provide an overview of the early days of European discovery:
” . . . There was a time when the Burnett was considered good sheep country and numerous large flocks were run there. Those were the days of the shepherds, the romantic days of nearly a century ago, when Queensland was part of New South Wales and ‘squatting’ was the fashion throughout the land.
THE rich pastoral areas of the Central and Upper Burnett were settled soon after the discovery of the river. To whom the credit of the discovery is due is still a matter of controversy. The latest encyclopaedias and Queensland Government pamphlets give the credit to J. C. Burnett, a young surveyor, who, in 1846 and the following year, traversed the river from its source to where it enters the sea at Hervey Bay. In all probability, however, the first white man to discover the Burnett was Henry Stuart Russell; but he mistook it for the Boyne, which Oxley had discovered in 1823. Russell’s discovery was made about 1843. He afterwards founded a station near the head of the river . . . “
” . . . APART from its rich pastures, the Burnett River district has vast timber wealth, hardwood eucalypts, cedar, and hoop pine being the most valuable. In the magnificent forests the bottle-trees attain an enormous size, and the rare bunya pine is a feature of some parts of the attractive landscape. Graceful palms of many varieties adorn the wonderfully beautiful jungles along the lower course of the river. Much of these panoramic forest and jungle areas was discovered by Burnett, who was an enthusiastic naturalist. He was quite a young man at the time, and set to work collecting specimens of the timbers and lesser flora of the Wide Bay district. Unhappily, however, before he had proceeded far with his labour of love he died. Owing to the destruction of the timber, much of the primeval splendour of the Burnett and Auburn rivers has vanished; but sufficient remains to enable us to form some idea of their panoramic beauty in the bygone shepherding days . . . “
Source: Excerpts – ‘Sydney Mail’ – Article ‘Shepherding Days on the Burnett River, Queensland’ – by George McIver – published 1st January 1936
Europeans Arrive . . .
On the 14th May 1848, Thomas and Charles Archer left Cooyar, just over 200 km south of Gayndah, with a party of 16, which included shepherds, bullock drivers and hut keepers; 2 drays, drawn by 10 Oxen each; 3 horses, 1 mare and foal; plus more horses which were owned by the men of the party; 2 tons of flour; 1,500 pounds of sugar; 2.5 chests of tea; bush tools; incidentals; and, two flocks of sheep – one of 4,300 in number, and, the other with 3,800. On the 3rd June 1848:
” . . . The next night they camped on Barambah Creek within l½ miles of Ban Ban head station then owned by Humphries and Herbert, the farthest out station at that time. Here they leave the beaten track and have to cut their own track up to Mundubbera, Coonambula and Eidsvold. Their next camp was on a small Oakey Creek about half a mile from its junction with the Burnett, in the evening they walked up on a small rugged peak a short distance from their camp. The diary continues :
” . . . Beneath us lies the Valley of the Burnett, surrounded by a complete amphitheatre of mountains, which in some places are very high and assume the shape of immense cones, indicating their volcanic origin. Long reaches of the river are here and there visible breaking the sameness of the low forest country which lies between us and the mountains. Here and there smoke from an aboriginal’s fire is curling up from among the timber which (with the exception of our dogs barking at the camp) is the only indication that the valley is inhabited . . .”
This undoubtedly refers to the spot where Gayndah town stands to-day . . . “
” . . . They continue their journey, and Thomas Archer rightly claims that he was the first man to drive a bullock dray through what was to be the town of Gayndah in a short time. They continued on and went between Mount Debateable and the river and on to Deep Creek. The road the Archers blazed in 1848 is still in use today . . . “
Source: Excerpts – ‘The Discovery, Exploration and Early Settlement of the Upper Burnett’ – by Mr HS Bloxsome, Delubra, Mundubbera – read 25th August 1942 – pp 341
Gayndah was first known as ‘Norton’s Camp’ – Norton having been a carrier.
” . . . In 1848 Thomas Archer’s bullock dray, drawn by ten bullocks, passed over the site of Gayndah on his way through the Burnett River basin, to the Upper Burnett. In 1849, a bullock dray link was established between Gayndah and Maryborough. In the heyday of Gayndah, as many as 1,000 teams used this road, hauling wool and supplies . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Triumph in the Tropics – An Historical Sketch of Queensland’ – by Sir Raphael Cilento – published 1959 – pp 361
The Archer Brothers account of that first river crossing across the Burnett River where Gayndah now stands, was published in the Rockhampton ‘Morning Bulletin’ on the 7th May 1953: ‘Tale of a River Crossing‘
” . . . The first station on Burnett waters was taken on the head of the river by Stuart Russell in 1843 and named ‘Burrandowan.” It passed from him to Friel and Gordon Sandeman, and then to Towns & Co.
Other squatters followed until a large area of the Burnett country was taken by men under the impression that the river was the Boyne of Oxley in 1823, and they remained in that belief until Surveyor Burnett in 1847 found that Oxley’s Boyne was 110 miles north of the Burnett. Even to-day on the maps one of the heads of the Burnett is erroneously named the Boyne. Twenty miles from where Gayndah stands the Messrs. Strathda took up “Cooranga” in 1848. “Barambah” was taken up by Richard Jones and “Booubyjan” by Lawless in the same year. “Rocky Bar” and “Redbank” were taken up by John Rose in 1848 as sheep and cattle country, and sold to E.H. Lloyd. Robert Fleming took up “Dykehead” in 1848, which passed to Alfred Thomas in 1852 and John Croker in 1860. The famous “Hawkwood” Station, 37 miles from Gayndah, was taken up by John Kinchela. Thence it went to the Archer Bros., and from them to Cameron, Mackenzie, and Murron. “Yendah” Station was taken up in 1848 by R. Wilkin and Elliott Brothers, and the very well-known “Mount Debateable” Station, 4 miles out of Gayndah, by George Macotta, the first squatter who ever brought sheep from the Darling Downs to a station below the Range at Helidon. “Ban Ban” Station was taken up by the Messrs. Herbert in 1846 and “Ideraway” in 1848 by J. B. Reid, who sold to J. J. Caldwell. The well-known “Wetheron,” 12 miles from Gayndah, was taken up by William Humphrey in 1845, and from him it passed to the Hons. B. B. and S. Moreton, sons of the Earl of Ducie. “Eidsvold” Station was taken up by the Archer Brothers in 1843 and from them it passed to the Ivory Brother.
When the foundations of Gayndah were being laid there were only a few squatters on the Burnett, and these were nearly all educated men of good families with command of money and the confidence of the Banks and financial institutions . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The History of Queensland: Its People & Industries’ – by Matthew J Fox – published c 1923 – pp 823-824
A Town is Established
By 1849, enough people had settled along the banks of the Burnett River to warrant a township to be declared. ‘Norton’s Camp’ became Gayndah – the name originating from the aboriginal ‘GI-Un-da’, meaning thunder. This year also saw a post office and mail service, by pack horse, commenced running between Maryborough (which had been declared a postal town in 1849) and Gayndah. During this year Gayndah had also acquired its first pub, the ‘Corinth Arms’, and by 1850 the town had its own Police Courts.
The Maitland Mercury published the following excerpts on the 4th January 1851:
It sounds like the mail run could have been quite a dangerous undertaking for just over £8 per week . . .
The census of 1852 reported a population of 92 for Gayndah.
” . . . It must have made considerable progress when Tom White went there in 1857 and started The Burnett Argus. The Gazette now represents the Press in Gayndah, which is a very prosperous town of nearly a thousand people, the centre of a thriving district of farmers and fruit-growers and squatters, with a population of over 4,000 people.
The railway was opened to Gaynday on December 16, 1907 . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The History of Queensland: Its People & Industries’ – by Matthew J Fox – published c 1923 – pp 824
The first mail coach ran from Maryborough to Gayndah in 1861 – the trip taking two days with Degilbo being the half-way mark.
Horse racing became a large part of Gaydah’s culture.
” . . . Gayndah was a flourishing social centre in the ‘sixties, the squatters being keen sportsmen and hunters. Annual meetings of the Queensland Jockey Club were held there, and in 1868 the first Queensland Derby Stakes of one and a half miles was run, the winner being W.E. Parry-Okeden’s Hermit, ridden by Powell . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Triumph in the Tropics – An Historical Sketch of Queensland’ – by Sir Raphael Cilento – published 1959 – pp 361
” . . . In 1854, Gayndah and the Burnett stepped forth in antagonism to Brisbane as the metropolis of the now confidently awaited colony in the north. Meeting – protesting – growling – chaffing and chattering – the dwellers within its presumed borders already began to rebel against the assumption that Brisbane was necessarily the future seat of crusade enrolled such names as W.H. Walsh, H. Herbert, William Forster, Bouverie, Joshua Sewell, Robert Strathdee, H.H. Brown, William O’Grady Haly, James Mackay, G. Sandeman, G.N. Living, Charles Archer, John Livingstone, H. Palmer, E.B. Uhr, J.D. McTaggart, Archibald M. Thomson, Clement Lawless, W. Elliott, W. Young, &c. Brisbane’s abuse of her rivals, by letters and newspapers, enriched the very license of language. To here everything external smacked of Galilee. For lack of something to quarrel with during a lull, the Courier of April affirmed “that the squatting community numbered amongst them a few who, as their own fortunes are not permanently identified with this land, think it better to secure the support of Wentworth’s party on the squatting question than to separate from that party for the mere purpose of saving the northern districts from perpetual obscurity and misgovernment . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The Genesis of Queensland’ – by Henry Stuart Russell – published 1888 – pp 291
It is interesting to read the article about the visit to Gayndah by WB Tooth, esq in the February of 1858 – the year before the separation of Queensland from the colony of New South Wales – it seems not much has changed over the years . . .
An insight into the Christmas of 1860 in Gayndah rings with an air of hope, promise, community, fun and laughter.
Though details are elusive, Gayndah had acquired its first hospital sometime prior to 1860 as the following excerpt of an article confirms:
” . . . Three patients were admitted, during the last month, in the hospital – 1 pauper and 2 pay patients ; discharged – 1 pay ; remaining – 2 pauper and 1 pay.
Source: Excerpt – ‘The Moreton Bay Courier’ – Article ‘Gayndah (from our Own Correspondent.) Gayndah, November 10, 1860.’ – published 17th November 1860
Gayndah published its first newspaper on the 29th April 1861:
” . . . Through the courtesy of Mr. A. E. Nazel, the proprietor of the “Gayndah Gazette,” the writer was privileged to see the first copy of a paper published in Gayndah. It was named the “Burnett Argus and North Queensland Advertiser,” and was the first paper published north of Brisbane at that time, namely, April 29, 1861, when No. 1 of vol. 1 was printed. Mr. Thomas White was proprietor, and he wielded an able pen. He was particularly drastic on Brisbane and Ipswich, and many of the statements made in the leading columns, published a the present time, would have provided fine fees for the legal fraternity. Perculiar to relate, there was not a single Brisbane advertiser, although a number or Sydney merchants thought fit to make themselves known. The circulation of the first issue was stated at 455 . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The Brisbane Courier’ – Article ‘The Central Burnett – Gayndah, “The Capital.” – Old History – Public Institutions. – Entering a New Era’ – published 13th April 1923
This article also mentions:
” . . . Even in those distant days there was an hospital in Gayandah, for a the end of March, 1861, after six had been discharged, three remained. It appears that this hospital was in existance prior to separation, and that a grant was made from New South Wales. Dr. Thomas and Dr. Stevenson seem to have been the medical advisers . . . “
” . . . A distribution of blankets to the blacks after returning from one of the great feast at the Bunyas took place on May 14  . . . “
” . . . Even in those dim days the condition of the Burnett Terrace, a reserve running along the river of the same name, was severely commented upon, and the writer of a letter pointed out the beauties of Gayndah, and the need for improvements . . . “
‘Gayndah State School‘ opened on the 12th October 1863 and remains today as one of the beautiful historic buildings that line the streets of Gayndah. The school buildings and gardens are beautifully maintained – let’s hope the proposed cut-backs to not jeopardise this remnant of the era of the first pioneers . . .
The CBC Bank opened its doors in 1864 – closing just ten years later.
The happenings of the November of 1866 make interesting reading and are represented in this article.
A snippet of the evolution of Gayndah as perceived in the year 1897:
“On entering Wetheron Run, the traveller is well in the Burnett pastoral district, with the exception of several small agricultural settlements around the small towns of Gayndah, Nanango, and the mining town of Eidsvold, entirely devoted to cattle-raising. The district is one of the oldest settled in the colony, being at the time of separation the centre of a large and thriving population, and at that time entirely given over to sheep farming. Since then the district, as a pastoral one, has gone backwards. Gayndah, the capital of the district, was 35 years ago a very prosperous and thriving town, for in those days breeding ewes were selling freely at over a guinea a head, to stock northern country ; but no attention was paid towards infusing fresh blood into their flocks, and what with in-breeding and overstocking sheep fast deteriorated and have now vanished from the district. In those prosperous days Gayndah was considered by Burnett men, at least, as the Hub of Queensland. The Powers and Conollys were the autocrats of Gayndah ; their will was law. Horse-racing was carried on on lines little inferior to Randwick or Flemington, and life ran pretty high when squatters visited the local capital. But, alas ! those days have vanished, and Gayndah is now a veritable sleepy hollow, nestling on the banks of the Burnett. A prettier site for a town does not exist in Australia. It possesses a municipality large in size, but very small in revenue ; indeed, it may be designated a free grazing run for its 200 inhabitants. It still rejoices in a turf club, a district hospital, school of arts, post and telegraph offices. It is surrounded with good agricultural land, and if the inhabitants would throw off some of the lethargy that for a long time has seemed inherent in them, and bring the capabilities of their district prominently under the notice of the outside public, both population and capital would soon appear amongst them. The resumed halves of the runs are all open for selection as grazing farms, but do not seem to have been taken up to any large extent. If these areas were ringbarked and water conserved, the carrying capabilities of the country would be greatly increased, and the day would not be far distant when wool would be again in the ascendant and prosperity brought back to the district . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The History of Maryborough and Wide Bay and Burnett Districts – from the Year 1850 to 1895’ – by George E. Loyau – published 1897 – pp 138-139
There are many historic buildings and monuments that line the streets. The amazing museum includes examples of the homes of the earliest pioneer era, as well as an enormous inventory of historic machinery, carriages and artifacts – a ‘must see’ for all who visit Gayndah, especially the history enthusiasts. Parks and gardens are dotted around the town, each providing an inimitable element to enjoy. The landscape comprising of the river valley, rolling hills, the sudden mountain peaks is beautiful, and the birdlife mesmerising !!!
The Geology . . .
Geologically speaking, Gayndah is most interesting and is best described by the following excerpts describing the evolution of the ‘Gayndah Beds’ and ‘Gayndah Block’:
“ . . . Triassic [251 to 199 million years ago] rocks occur in two tectonic settings. In the western part of the area Lower Triassic continental sediments and volcanics have been deposited in a broad shallow basin which overlaps the faulted contact between the Lower Palaeozoic and Upper Palaeozoic [542 to 251 million years ago] sequences.
The basal unit in this area is the “Gayndah Beds” comprising of sandstone, shale, coal and conglomerate. A lower Triassic flora together with isolated fossil insects have been collected from the shales.
Overlying the “Gayndah Beds”, apparently conformably are 2,000 feet of intermediate pyroclastic volcanics and andesitic flows. These are the “Aranbanga Volcanic Beds”, which contain plant fossils of the Lower Triassic age. The “Gayndah Beds” together with the “Aranbanga Volcanic Beds” are gently warped in the vicinity of Gayndah but strong regional deformation is unknown . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Geological Society of Australia – Queensland Division – Guide Book – Maryborough Basin Field Conference – October 10-11, 1964’ – pp 14-15
“ . . . The “Gayndah Block” is bounded on the west by the post Lower Palaeozoic unity of the Yarrol Basin and on the east by the Perry Fault. The block comprises of undifferentiated Lower Palaeozoic metasediments and volcanics, extensively intruded by medium to coarse-grained granite. The age of the granite is unknown but it is suggested that it was intruded in the Upper Palaeozoic.
Lower Triassic sediments and volcanics rest unconformably on the older units. These Triassic units have not suffered regional deformation, indicating that the “Gayndah Block” retained some measure of stability since the Triassic. Gentle warping of the “Gayndah Beds” in the vicinity of Gayndah, is probably due to adjustment by faulting of the Lower Palaeozoic Block.
The “Perry Fault” is a small section of a lineament which has geological control over a large portion of south-east Queensland. In the Gayndah area the “Perry Fault” has a north-westerly trend, and throughout most of its length it is a normal fault, with the downthrow block to the east. The displacement caused by this fault varies along its length but no estimate of maximum displacement has been made. The locus of Pleistocene [1.8 million to 11,700 years ago] vulcanism falls within the region of influence of the “Perry Fault”. Evidence suggest that the fault line is still active; the epicentre of the Gayndah Earthquake of 1935 [magnitude 5.8] was located on the fault . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Geological Society of Australia – Queensland Division – Guide Book – Maryborough Basin Field Conference – October 10-11, 1964’ – pp 19
Today, Gayndah attracts many international backpackers for the duration the harvest season, which breathes life into the town, however, it is evident that the town has suffered greatly due to the recent flood events. We should all make a concerted effort to support the country towns of Australia – the towns that are the backbone of our country, where the historical elements demonstration the evolution of the past 200+ years of European occupation are still evident.
Gayndah is a very welcoming township, RV Friendly, and should not be passed by, as there is so much to learn and discover – it is so worth adding to your travel itinerary !!!
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