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Capricorn Coast History
History of Early Settlement Yeppoon & Capricorn Coast
by Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson is an artist, author, businessman, science nerd, and social commentator based in Queensland, Australia.
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Before reading this article, I recommend
you first read:
- History of Rockhampton & Environs - The Darumbal Tribes
- History of Rockhampton & Environs - Early Settlement
The Ross Family
European settlers had claimed most of the land around Raspberry Creek (near
Byfield) and Cawarral in the coastal hinterlands east of
In 1865, the Ross family reached the coast and staked
out large tracts of land. Andrew Ross and his sons, Robert and James
soon owned most of the seafront land from Raspberry Creek near
Byfield to the Fitzroy River, an area that nowadays constitutes most
of the Capricorn Coast.
Robert Ross, who would go on to both fame
and infamy, set himself up at present-day Taranganba. He set aside a
reserve a few kilometres north and named it Bald Hills. In 1867, the
town reserve was surveyed then proclaimed as suitable for
The Government Surveyor reported the site as, "Yapoon, a
spot northward of Emu Park about nine miles, was most suitable as a
The name, especially given its definition, is
believed to have come from the Darumbal people, the indigenous tribe
local to the region. Indeed, on the western fringe of Rockhampton
City, an expansive wetlands system was named Yeppen-Yeppen Lagoon.
On that basis, the etymology of the two districts is generally believed to be
For the sake of
completeness, another theory for the naming was recounted in the
Morning Bulletin some sixty years later in 1923, that Yeppoon gained
its name from an Aboriginal word meaning thunder, or the roar of
surf, or a very loud noise.
the release of land in 1867, initial settlement was slow. Though intended to
become a township, the region's rich soils attracted farmers rather
By 1882, only seven buildings existed in Yeppoon
and were predominantly holiday accommodation for travellers.
changed the following year with the commencement of regular
stagecoach services from Rockhampton, and the continued mining of
copper and gold in the coastal hinterlands around Cawarral and Mount
A Growing Community
By 1889, the town was growing steadily, and boasted
several hotels and boarding houses, a sugar mill, a telegraph
service, a Methodist-Presbyterian church, and Yeppoon's first state
school which is today a heritage listed building.
production the lifeblood of the town, better transportation was
needed, not only to Rockhampton but along the coast as well.
trains were proving unwieldy, especially when passage to the north
of town meant waiting for the tide to go out, so in 1893, a new road
was hewn into the cliff-face of The Bluff on Yeppoon's Main Beach.
Steam wagons followed and the north of Yeppoon opened up to new
commerce and communities.
Pastoral Lands and settlements now filled
the landscape from Woodbury and Byfield in the north, inland through
Bungundarra, Lake Mary, Tanby, Mount Chalmers, and Cawarral.
of Yeppoon, all arable lands through Taranganba, Lammermoor, and
Mulambin were also claimed as far as to present day Causeway Lake.
South of the lake, progress was also running full steam. The new
town of Emu Park was taking form with the completion of the first
coastal railway from Rockhampton in 1889.
Even at this early
stage of Capricorn Coast history, Emu Park and Yeppoon shared an odd
rivalry, with Emu Park attracting the more elite section of
Rockhampton and Mount Morgan society, while the "common man",
especially gold miners from Cawarral and Mount Chalmers gravitated
With Emu Park separated from Yeppoon by the
expansive Causeway Lake and the shifting dunes of Kinka, that sense
of separateness between the two seaside towns continued for another
fifty years until a permanent tide-proof causeway was finally
constructed to join the two ends of the coast.
That separate history
however, allowed Emu Park and Yeppoon to develop distinct
personalities that are still apparent today.
Emu Park's beautiful
public places and grand old buildings are evidence of a very rich
history and the wealth bestowed upon it by its patrons.
rail line also made access easier to Keppel Sands, at least for half
of the journey, with a siding located at Tungamull. From
there, the fifteen kilometre trek to Sand Hills (renamed Keppel
Sands in 1927),
was frought with peril, not least of which was the permanent
wetlands that effectively made the town an island. Monsoonal rains
could isolate Keppel Sands for several weeks.
It was because of this
inaccessibilty that Keppel Sands failed to grow at the same pace as
its sister towns across Coorooman Creek, but nonetheless a
pioneering spirit from local residents saw the township prevail. In
1893, the Sand Hills State School opened.
Six kilometres south of
Keppel Sands yet even more inaccessible, Joskeleigh was settled by
pastoralists around the same time.
The first of these was Paul
Alexander Joske and his wife Leigh for whom the district is named.
Keppel Sands and Joskeleigh are linked due to their mutual isolation
but also because of their closeknit and somewhat disturbing history.
To the present day, Joskeleigh remains a testament to times that
many white Australians might prefer to forget, as it is home to one
of Australia's most prominent South Sea Island communities;
descendents of peoples blackbirded from their native homes to work
as indentured labourers in the sugar and tobacco plantations of the
The late 1850s ushered in a feverish period of growth and
expansion with the fast-growing town of Rockhampton at its centre.
Gold finds at Mount Morgan and Canoona brought prospectors who hoped
to make their fortune.
Pastoralists came in vast numbers too, their
eye set on the lush grazing delta surrounding the Fitzroy River to
feed the growing population.
By 1860, farms and settlements were
spreading out along the coastal flats and dunes, while in the
hinterlands, prospectors panned for gold.
The gold rush lasted for
fifty years, and with it came the railway, new towns, and a diverse
mix of people from all corners of the globe.
Some made their fortune
while others perished, and others still were caught up in infamous
scandal. Reports of gold finds in the central interior of the
Capricorn Coast began around 1860 at Mount Chalmers.
Suggested further reading:
- History of the Capricorn Coast - Coming of the Railway
Local History index page