The Founding of a City – Turallin
Queenslander, Sat 9 Nov, 1889
A Government Land Sale in the Bush
BY OUR AGRICULTURAL REPORTER
A dead-level country, heavily timbered with the useless gray-box eucalypt, interspersed with casaurinae, gray gums, wattles, and occasional ironbarks; a soil of sandy-loam characteristic, sparsely covered with a grass and herbal vegetation which looks sadly inferior compared with the luxuriant and thick growth on the grand Darling Downs only a few miles off; a view circumscribed by the gray fringe of gray-barked trees, relieved only at one point by the pretty homestead of Pine Creek station.
Such is the site chosen for the town of Turallin, which possibly in the far (very far, I am afraid) future may develop into a great city, but who can venture to predict the fate of a new born Australian town?
This was the scene I viewed on the evening of Wednesday, the 30th October, but on the morning of the following day a great change took place. By 10 a.m. horsemen could be detected wending their way between th gray-boled treses from this direction and from that, and making towards a bough-shed erected in the very centre of the future “city.” Then half a dozen buggies trotted up and discharged their cargoes of passengers, including the Messrs. Falkiner (sen. And jun.) from Toowoomba, the well-known auctioneers, a bank manager, a clergyman, two or three merchants, and others.
Next up trooped on foot a bevy of bush ladies, with children and without, till finally a gather of 150 souls was congregated on the box tree level. The centre of attraction was the bough-shed, with its roughly made seats, its long pine-board tables, sundry boxes of cakes, sandwiches, fruit, etc, cups, saucers, plates, and the adjacent fire against a box-tree log, at which could be seen two old oil-drums and one old kerosene tin filled with boiling tea. From the strong horizontal limb of a tall box-tree depended a long double rope formed into the shape of, and to be used as, a swing. In this a fine bouncing cherry-cheeked young lady was being swung sky-high by a male friend, and before an admiring crowd.
Nearby, in an extemporized hurdle yard, were several hundred old ewes; adjacent to this was a sapling yard with an entire horse tied up; a few hundred yards away was a mob of two dozen good bullocks in charge of a drover.
The scene was a strange one, and beyond the comprehension of the local cattle, which came walking quietly up and stopped and stared at this extraordinary invasion of their domain, until they were rudely dispersed by the excitement aroused by a group of half a dozen horsemen arriving helter-skelter, full racing gallop, on to the ground.
Among the crowd the two Falkiners could be seen distributing large sheets of paper, on which sundry lines and squares denoted allotments, and these were being studied by a few of the elder of the visitors, but this proceeding was voted too slow for the majority, so a cry arose for a race!
And sure enough a new bridle was produced from somewhere, and five competitors immediately declared their intention of racing for it.
Reader, I am not describing a country race meeting, but a Government land sale in the bush, the founding of a future city! A most successful sale, too, for eventually every town lot was sol at a good advance on upset price. But not to anticipate.
“Where is the best course?” was asked by young Mr. Falkiner, the auctioneer acting for the Government, through the unfortunate illness of Mr. Kennard, of Toowoomba.
“Oh! The main street will do. It is all cleared.” And down the main street trooped the five horsemen and their starter, whose red neckerchief tied to a stick did duty for a flag. Half a mile or thereabouts was traversed: then the cry, “They’re off!” “They’re off!” arose; and in two minutes the Maiden Plate of Turallin, in the shape of a bridle worth 12s. 6d. was pulled off by “Paddy Joyce’s brown”.
“Now, gentlemen, let us get to business,” shouted Mr. John Falkiner, who had jumped on to the top of a box stump. The Maiden Plate excitement had put all in a good humour, so the crowd left the “course” and surrounded the auctioneer. The first lot of 2 roods, a corner one, was put up at six pound, and speedily run up by 10s. bids to ten pound, when it was knocked down amid cheers to Mr J. Maloney as the first purchaser of a town lot in the new town.
The next lot, not being a corner one, fell for 7 pound 10s. to a Pittsworth and Toowoomba mercantile firm; then came one for six pound 10s.; then one at eight pound, bought for the church The next offered was Lot 5, a corner of the main road the main cross street. Several buyers wanted this, for on it could be built perhaps the leading hotel, so the bids were quick till thirteen pound was reached, and the Q.N. Bank declared the purchaser. The opposite corner, however, was as good a site, and its turn came next, but the bank manager again topped the bids at thirteen pound 10s.
Things went briskly on now. No thoughts of horse-racing, all were wanting an allotment, and eight, nine ten and 12 pound 10s. were the prices at which the hammer fell, till the lots had worked back to another corner of the main and cross street adjoining the bank. For this there was smart competition up to fifteen pound, when the inexorable ban manager nodded another 10s. and “got it,” having secured two acres in the very centre of the new town for fifty five pound 10s. Some day the Queensland National Bank will possibly sell for five hundred pound 10s. or more; that is, when a gold mine or a coal mine, an artesian well or a railway, crops up in the district.
In all, forty lots of half an acre each were disposed of in the rapid and efficient way Mr. Falkiner, Jun. possesses as an auctioneer, for he was not one whit nervous although this was his maiden effort as a Government land auctioneer, and the result was that there were no withdrawals, but every lot realized on the average nearly 50 per cent over upset price. Certainly the sale was successful, and it ended with three cheers for the young auctioneer. But the day’s work was by no means over, for now lunch was announced, and the ladies sat down on the sapling seats, the sandwiches, cakes, and fruit were handed round, the two oil-drums and the old kerosene tin filled with tea were brought in, and everyone dipped in his or her pannikin or cup, drank, ate, and made merry, though not one drop of intoxicating liquor was obtainable.
After lunch Mr. J. Falkiner again jumped on his stump and offered for sale a 1200-acre block, the property of a settler in the neighbourhood, but no offer was made. Then he moved to the yards and sold the old ewes and the other stock. Business being now ended the rest of the afternoon was given up to pleasure, and horse race after horse race was run, till the drooping of the sun warned those who had a long way to go that it was time to leave.
Now for an explanation of this strange, this unique, Government land sale. Let me state that this township of Turallin owes its birth the the energy of F. Struver, Esq., the hospitable and popular owner of Pine Creek station. Recognising the want of a township in the district – for there was none nearer than Pittsworth, 35 miles away – he made representations to the Government to get this land surveyed, assuring them that it would all be sold. The Government, nothing loth to obtain money, fell in with his wishes, and the result has justified Mr Struver’s assertion that the township was required.
But in order to make it a success Mr Struver left no stone unturned. He interested the residents in the neighbourhood in the matter and got them to make a gala day of the occasion, and also to initiate stock sales. Thus it was tht the adjacent station owners gave their shearers a holiday, and, all shearers being owners of good horses, a race meeting resulted; the wives and the daughters of settlers came to see and to talk, and to e seen and be talk to; the swing was erected for the young folks’ amusement; and the bough-shed, the tea, sandwiches, cakes, and fruit were provided by the two nearest residents to the new township, Mr F. Struver and Mrs. Bacon. In short Mr Struver showed the Government how to run a land sale, and the result was, I must reiterate, all lots sold at 50 per cent above upset price.
The future of the new town I will not venture to predict except to say that for a long time it will be in the germ stage of growth unless accident develop it. There is talk in the neighbourhood of a railway to it. If that happens it will of course get a help up. At any rate when the ugly box forest is cut down, it will not be at all a bad place, for the soil is a sandy loam, and does not stick to boots, wheels, and everything as is the case in townships on black-soil flats. Also, though the box forest appears level, there is an undulation of surface, and the township is on the crown of it, and the ground slopes to the banks of Pine Creek, which contains a fairish sort of waterhold for town requirements, and which only wants a small dam to turn it into a miniature lake.
Turallin is reached by coach from Pittsworth, which leaves Mr Bowden’s comfortable hotel once a week.