While there is no doubt that the first inhabitants of our area were members of the Tarrbul (Turrabul) group of Aboriginals, a small number of Europeans squatted in small humpies, living the idyllic existence, dining on what nature provided, the official ‘settling’ of The Gap began in the late 1850s and by 1875, the area consisted of the following 19 landholders:
J. F. McDougall
P. J. & J. Paten
W. H. Paten
H. H. Payne
C. H. Sigley and
Prior to the above, it is recorded that a certain Mr Darby McGrath occupied the entire valley as a cattle and sheep station. I am unable to ascertain if he had in fact leased the land from the colony of New South Wales, or just took possession.
For the next 40 plus years, an occasional area would change ownership, be joined to an adjoining farm, or acreage sold off to create new property. In 1919 the area of 413 acres owned in 1875 by the Hon. J. F. McDougall was cut into 42 small farms and as “Soldier’s Settlement” was to accommodate 41 men, plus one nurse, returned from WWI to establish a poultry industry. Within 10 years, only eight of these original ‘settlers’ were still on their property, many being greatly traumatised by the ravages of war, or complete lack of knowledge of poultry and simply walked away.
Those who remained, quickly learnt that the text-books on poultry were for English conditions and learnt their skills by trial and error. Banding together to help each other, they formed the Soldier’s Settlement Co-operative Hatchery Association Ltd., which eventually lead to the establishment of the “Red Comb Co-op”. Many of these farmers and their off-spring added greatly to the second leap forward of the area.
After almost four years of debate and indecision by our then Citizen’s Municipal Organisation Council, as to whether further development or the Green-belt to the City of Brisbane would remain, agreement was reached that all homes on either side of Waterworks Road, west of Walton Reserve, would be sited back 100 feet, to give a grand tree-lined avenue into the area. Approval was given for the first residential sub-division to proceed with “Berry Estate-Walton Bridge” open for sale on the 14 January 1956 with the 27 blocks selling on the first day, all in excess of the reserve price.
Many more estates were to follow, with names such as Ashgrove Park, Beverley Hills, Parkdale, Curtisfield, Majestic Outlook, Alton, Grant-Lea, Glenbrae, Finlayson & Farrell, Eastern-Vista etc, which triggered the explosion of our area – and still continues today. I am often asked “who was the first settler in The Gap?” and would like to be able to reply that the Paten and Hilder families travelled side by side into the area in order to say “equal first”, but pipped by Darby McGrath. A conflict of opinions pervades this question.
John Hilder was one of eleven children of Thomas and Leonara Hilder of a small farming village of Mountfield, Sussex England, and he emigrated to Australia on the sailing vessel “Hastings” and arrived in Moreton Bay on 30 May 1857. On 5 April 1859, he purchased 35 acres (Lot 175) from the then Colony of New South Wales, at a cost of £1 per acre on which he established “Mountfield Dairy Farm” in the area now known as Hilder Road.
John and Harriet Paten of Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire England, arrived in Moreton Bay on the ship “Irene” in February 1858. With them was their second youngest of eight children, Jesse, who was born in 1842, his older brother Phillip and two sisters. Another brother William, had already made the journey to Adelaide in 1854. The family settled on 45 acres (Lot 168) in the area now known as the Walton Bridge Shopping Centre.
For a more detailed account of these two pioneering families from the pen of their descendants see Paten Family by Dick Paten.