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Seaforth was named by Hector MacKenzie Finlayson, a Native of Seaforth in Scotland who was one of the early pioneers.
In 1879 Messers, McBryde and Finlayson selected a large are of country in the Parish of Ossa near Cape Hillsborough. At that time McBride and Finlayson owned a sugar mill called Richmond near Mackay. The mill was obsolete and wasteful, and was not paying well, and at that time the sugar industry was in decline and the price of sugar was very low.
McBryde and Finlayson thought to erect a more efficient mill on the land they had selected. 10,000 acres of mostly very fertile land. The sugar industry at that time had very cheap labour for field and cultivation work.
The cheap labour was from the South Sea Islands mostly from the Solomon Islands. But when the Samuel Griffiths Government came into power in Queensland they abolished Kanaka labour in the sugar industry.
Many of the small mills closed down and the sugar industry almost perished. Banks would not advance money for new mills, so McBryde and Finlayson abandoned the idea of establishing a mill int he Seaforth estate.
The northern boundary of Seaforth Estate was the coast. The original homestead was near the high water mark near a crescent shaped beach (known now as Seaforth Beach). The beach was about four miles long and about one third of the eastern part of the beach was an aboriginal reserve.
McBryde and Finlayson had 10,000 acres on the hands and were thwarted as far as the sugar mill was concerned. They turned the land into a cattle breeding property and secured the occupation lease of miles of country to the west as far as the Murray River. They also got the occupational lease of Cape Hillsborough country (for an aboriginal reserve). They bought their first cattle (about 500 cows) from Archer Bros at Gracemere, Rockhampton and some very fine Hereford bulls for Durundur. Parts of the Seaforth Estate was used as a stub breeding place and produced some very fine young bulls.
The Seaforth herd grew to about 6000. Jim Jamieson, head stockman (a very experienced stockman) told Finlayson his country was very much overstocked and in the event of a drought the water supply was very much inadequate. He induced Finlayson to reduce the herd to 3000. After Finlayson had sold the excess cows Seaforth had a drought, but the losses were not heavy.
Then an unforseen disaster happened. The cattle tick can and about 75% of the herd died from tick fever and red water disease. A remnant of 400 or so cattle survived. Albert Cook bought them as they were immune to the tick. That was the end of the once fine Seaforth herd of Hereford cattle.
Finlayson Planted coconut and mango tree avenues. Near the present post office are some very tall kauri pine trees. It was at that spot that the original homestead was built. Later Finlayson built a much larger on the adjacent hill commanding a fine view of Seaforth bay. There also use to be a stockyard adjacent to where the primary school is now.
The first manager of Seaforth Estate was a man called Silvester Fraser his tenure was about two years. Lumsden took charge for about a year then Finlayson himself to over. He has about six of sever Kanakas, and under the instruction of Finlayson they cleared all the trees and undergrowth as far back as the Lily Swamps. They planted coconut and mango avenues.
Finlayson had no further use for the Seaforth Estate and prevailed on the Government to re-purchase the property. It was surveyed into blocks for closer settlement. A large part near the sea was surveyed as a camping reserve, and the remainder into larger blocks with the necessary roads. The blocks were soon taken up by retired people, pensioners and farmers wanting seaside homes.
McBryde and Finlayson sold the estate for a substantial figure. Finlayson started for Scotland the land of his birth. He went via Canada and there contracted smallpox, and is reported to have been buried at sea. He was a fine personality and a likable fellow. John McBryde left to manage Rous Mill in Lismore and then on to Sydney to educate his 6 children. He lived at Vaucluse and died in 1921. His wife Maggie, continued to live in the family home until her death in 1950.
Though McBryde and Finlayson cantered their cattle raising around the Seaforth Settlement, Sir Alexander Miller Macartney and John Barrlington Macartney had developed a prosperous cattle property called forest hill just a few miles south east of Seaforth.
George Halliday was another early settler who selected land on a small peninsula across from Seaforth Creek. It is believed he came to the district in 1885 but his first home as demolished by a cyclone.
Subsequently he erected by himself a stone dwelling. The roof was then blown off in the 1898 cyclone. Each of these early settlers has a landmark named after them. e.g Finlayson point.
About 1900 when the McBryde and Finlayson Estate was handed over by the Government for closer settlement many people bought house blocks on the beach front. So began the small township of Seaforth.
The Government took over the grazing lands and most of the land became Crown land, and could be bought or leased for a small fee. Three men Howell, Denman and Jane, leased much of the land for cattle raising and up till 1912 the settlers in the district were engaged in pastoral industry. But from then on, the Government opened up blocks of suitable land for agricultural purposes. Crown land could be bought for two shillings and six pence an acre but agricultural land was valued at 10 pence an acre.
Among the first to take up the land for agricultural purposes was Giles, Miller and Jane. These men and their wives were true pioneers of the district. For it was them who carved out from the rugged scrub and bushlands, Homesteads and clearings where they planned to live and grow crops.
Trees were felled and these in turn cut out by hand to make posts and rafters to form the first houses of the district. Not an easy life roads were rough creek crossings were bad, if there were any. It was a long haul to town when buckboard and horse was the only form of transport. Some men were compelled to find work to buy the equipment to run their farms.
Things were tough for the women who were left in the bush with their children, and at times with flooded creeks preventing their men from getting home. With transport being such a problem the women lived off the land receiving supplies from town only a few times a year.
Everything was grown with purpose, fruit and vegetables and crops for the cows, poultry and goats which were kept for the table. Flour, sugar and tea were bought in bulk quantities and making bread was a daily chore. The goats were fed on crops and slaughtered at a tender age, salted goats meat was a favourite for all.
Apart from seeking out the meals and helping with the many task on the farms the women had the children’s education to plan and the Correspondence school met the needs of many a worried mother.
A Mrs. McCreedy, a former school teacher helped many mother with problems for the elder children. Later on Mrs. Miller also a former teacher conducted school in her small home on her own children, and other children who wished to attend.
One of the greatest set backs the Seaforth area had was the 1918 cyclone. Brave hearts and great perseverance alone kept the farmers going because there was nothing left of the crops. Beautiful pawpaw patches lay flat on the ground, bananas were destroyed, leaves were blown from the toughest tree, even the bark was stripped from the trees. Birds blown from their perches were tossed so savagely they lay three deep against logs, sheds or anything that stood up to the fierce winds.
The story is told of one young pioneering woman who lost her whole glory box of linen. When a sheet of iron blew through the house and ripped open the box. Exposing the contents to the ravaging elements.
The creeks were in high flood, endangering the cattle and property. A huge tidal wave engulfed the Seaforth settlement forcing the people to leave their homes and make for the hill where Finlayson had built his homestead. It was several days before they could return to their homes which were washed inside and out, with sticky, salty, muddy water. It was no easy task for the women to clean thing up and start again, but with the true pioneering spirit they did it.
From then on progress was slow but prices improved and their was a ready market for most products. The cattle men were doing well during World War one. The fruit farmers carried their fruit direct to the house wives in Mackay. Even back then pawpaws from Seaforth were a popular fruit, as well as pineapples, bananas and tomatoes.
After the war when things settled down the Government threw open more land for agricultural lease at 27 shillings and 6 pence an acre. Among these new settlers came the Oliver’s, Lane’s, Schmidt’s, Smith’s and Murrays.
These people could not persuade the Government to provide a school. But after much negotiation the Government promised to send a teacher is the Seaforth people could provide a school building. This was approved and the first school was opened as a provisional school and March 23, 1935.
The first teacher was a Mr. Charles Martin. Years later, about 1949 the Presbyterian Church bought the little building and a State School was set up. The building being transferred from Cliftonville.
Mr. Schmidt otherwise known as “Piney” sets the credit for being the first man to export pawpaw to southern markets.
Everyone grew them for the local market but when in Brisbane Mr. Schmidt saw some poor specimens for sale. He told the agent he had better fruit he was feeding to his pigs. On his return he sent a few sample cases. They carried so well that selling pawpaw’s to southern markets became the standard practice. The pawpaw farmers had bad luck for a few years in succession losing entire patches during excessive wet seasons.
The settlement was called Seaforth, the first post office built in 1948 was registered as Springcliff so as not to confuse it with the Seaforth Post Office in New South Wales.
There was an old ambulance station with staff on duty during holiday periods, but this was demolished. The ambulance movement was still active and in 1958 a new two story building was officially opened.
The first church services in Seaforth were conducted in a private home, but when the Presbyterian Youth Council purchased the old Provisional School it was used by Methodist Presbyterian and Church of Christ.
Roman Catholics built a church in 1957 and in 1958 the Seventh Day Adventists officially opened their church. In 1958 the Church of England bought land to build the Anglican Church.
Mr. Burgess built and operated a saw mill on the mouth of Seaforth Creek. He was a man of great foresight as the timber industry was important in Seaforth, the farmers depended on it to make case timber. There were huge Milkwood, Leichhardt and Mountain Ash nearby. The mill supplied the local carpenter with the timber which was used to build Seaforth.
The fishing industry was also important to Seaforth attracting tourists during holiday periods. There use to be two licensed fish traps of the mainland with Seaforth and Victor Creek providing great locations for the recreational fisherman.
The C.W.A was formed on November the 2nd 1947, the membership for 1947 was 35, and throughout the years meeting have been held regularly. Sometimes they were held at the ambulance centre, the local store and the Presbyterian Hall. Later land was purchase and it was cleared by Messers, Fox, Archbold and the Brischke brothers. The block was donated by Mr. Albert Schmid as well as a tree to be made into forms and tables were given by MR. S. Jarrett. The building was created by a contractor, Mr. W. Hutchinson assisted by a few willing helpers.
The Rest Room, (valued at the time $1000 pounds) was officially opened by the State Treasurer Mrs. Flora A. Johnson on September 3 1953. The furniture was almost all donated by well-wishers.
To be cont…..