A Cape Town District Six Museum tagged image from photographer – denisbin as published on Flickr.
Gympie. The Mary Valley Rattler train in Gympie railway station.
Image by denisbin
Gympie and its goldfields.
When Queensland was separated from NSW in 1859 it was a colony with a small population and a very sparsely distributed population, mainly along the coast. Mining was the economic savour and impetus of much growth in QLD in the 1860s and 1870s. The first major mine field was the discovery of gold at Gympie in 1867 which helped QLD survive the 1866 depression. Gympie was built on gold and for fifty years it provided a good base for QLD’s growth and expansion. It was soon followed by major gold discoveries at Charters Towers and Ravenswood in 1872 in land from Townsville. These gold rushes were followed by another at Palmer River north west of Cairns in 1873. In the 1880s major copper and silver discoveries were made in QLD with the most famous being the Mount Morgan copper and silver mines near Rockhampton in 1882. Tin was discovered at Herberton on the Atherton tablelands in 1880. But Gympie became the first great mining town of QLD. The port for entry of goods and machinery and export of the gold was through Maryborough.
When James Nash discovered alluvial gold in a creek at Gympie in 1867 it saved the state and for years was known as “the town that saved Queensland.” For a while locals called the district Nashville and James Nash is credited with amassing £7,000 worth of gold himself. He invested in risky mining ventures and a drapery business that failed and lost most of the money by the 1880s. In 1888 the QLD government gave him a government position with a salary of £100 per year. Nash died in Gympie in 1913 but the government in thanks for the discovery of the Gympie goldfields continued to pay his widow £50 a year until she died. The government soon changed the name to Gympie based on an Aboriginal word “gimpi gimpi” meaning a stinging nettle tree. At that time Gympie was canvas town and nothing more. But gold mining continued until 1925 and so Gympie emerged as a solid wealthy town. Deep shafts were sunk around Gympie form the early 1870s after the alluvial gold petered out. Gympie lies on the Mary River and has a population of around 21,000 people. It has many heritage listed public buildings of note. Because of the gold mining around the town site the streets are curved and not regular in layout. The streets also had to try and avoid the flood prone areas. The Mary River is notorious for sudden flash floods. The railway from Maryborough reached the town in 1881 and the line from Brisbane reached the town in 1891. When the Gympie borough was created in 1880 Gympie had 4,500 residents. By 1901 it had 12,000 residents and two newspapers, a hospital, six churches, seven schools and a School of Arts.
Many of the heritage listed buildings are in Mary Street. They include:
•242 Mary St. Bank of NSW. 1890. Classical. Pediments over windows. Balustrade on roof.
•236 Mary St. The Joint Stock Bank building. 1882. Classical façade.
•218 Mary St. Tiny Tozer’s building. 1896. Small store two windows wide.
•216 Mary St. Crawford building. 1881-5. Another small commercial and classical façade.
•199 Mary St. The Royal Bank of QLD. 1892. Beautiful Greek classical porch.
Nash St parallel to Mary St.
•39 Nash St. School of Arts building. 1905. Red brick and verandas. Edwardian.
Channon St. The Main Road at right angles to Nash and Mary Streets.
•36 Channon St. The former Courthouse. 1902. Red brick with unusual cupola on clock tower.
•22 Channon. Post Office. 1880. Colonial architect Francis Stanley. Classical with gables and triangular pediments.
•26 Channon St. Courthouse and Land Titles Office. 1873. One of the oldest buildings in Gympie. Mixture of classical and Georgian styles.
•18 Channon St. 1869 and 1890. Wesleyan Methodist Church. Gothic in style.
Other buildings elsewhere in the town.
•Tozer St. Railway station. 1910. The wooden station has beautiful curved steel struts beside the platforms.
The most prominent local man was Andrew Fisher. Fisher visited Gympie in 1891 and became involved in local politics in 1893. He entered the QLD parliament and later the new Commonwealth parliament in 1901. In 1908 he and the Labor Party formed a collation with the conservative protectionist Alfred Deakin and then Fisher became a the Prime Minster in 1908 to 1909.. Andrew Fisher then became the second Labor Prime Minster of Australia in his own right from 1910 to 1913 and again in 1914 to 1915. Fisher was the member for Wide Bay district which covered the region from Hervey Bay to Gympie from 1901 to 1915.
Gympie has a Mining Museum and Historical Museum with café, shops attractions etc and sections on gold mining, state schools, the life of Andrew Fisher, the dairy industry, gold mining techniques, gold stamping battery, the life of James Nash etc. After years of closure and expenditure of some millions of dollars the City of Gympie has underwritten the restoration of part of the railway tracks along the Mary River valley. In the afternoon we will experience the Mary Valley Rattler following the 1891 route into the city now disused because of the Tilt Train. The Mary Valley Rattler service and rail museum is run by local volunteers. Food for thought: the Gympie gold fields produced the largest nugget ever found in QLD (the Curtis Nugget 1868) and produced over 4 million ounces of gold during its lifetime.
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