It can be fairly acknowledged that Beenleigh owes its existence primarily to the chance discovery by Captain Logan in 1826, of the river which he named the Darling, in honour of the Governor of the day. The Governor in turn renamed the river the Logan in honour of the explorer.
The area was first opened in 1840 by timber getters in search of cedar and hardwood but very little is known of the actual history until 1863 when a family, headed by Thomas Hanlon, arrived by the boat "Furet Star:. Hanlon was to have worked for the Manchester Cotton Company, which had been experimenting with cotton crops in the district. However he finally settled on an area of land on the northern bank of the Logan River.
Associated with the settlement and growth of the Beenleigh district which began in 1864, are well known pioneering families whose descendants are carrying on the work begun by the early settlers. The first record of settlement in 1864 was that of Robert J Hohnston, who began to grow arrowroot and cane on his 120 acre farm. However the partnership of John Davy and Frank Gooding is credited with having established the first permanent settlement. They began to grow cane on their plantation, which was named Beenleigh, in memory of the family estate in Devonshire, England. This was located between the two rivers on an area of land now flanking Plantation Road. By 1865, this was a well established and flourishing farm.
The name Beenleigh was used by postal authorities in the year 1867 after two earlier sites selected for the town had proven unsatisfactory.
Michael Tansey, who had been active as a hotel keeper, butcher and trader at the earlier site, moved to the site of the present town of Beenleigh, where he reopened his business, calling it "The Planters Rest".
James Savage built the first home in Beenleigh in 1868 and began to trade as a storekeeper. This home was subsequently used as a general meeting place and for church services, by the steadily increasing population.
In 1871 the first school was opened, with Mr Mussey as the teacher. Today this school is named the Beenleigh State School and is located in James Street. By this time Beenleigh was well and truly established and in 1872 the first courthouse and police barracks was opened. In this building, in the same year, the local population staged the first agricultural show.
Further progress was marked by the printing of the first newspaper, "The Logan and Southern Districts Advertiser", on the 9th February, 1878. Today the area is served by two local newspaper, The Albert and Logan News and The Reporter.
Beenleigh was to have its first administration in the year 1879, when the Beenleigh Divisional Board was inaugurated; this body had as its first chairman, Mr John Davy. Beenleigh now forms the northern part of the Gold Coast Shire.
Prior to the opening of the railway in 1885, Cobb & Company coaches plied between Beenleigh and Brisbane. The railway still exists today and provides fast service for about 50% of the town's workforce who travel to Brisbane daily.
Cultural development in the fast growing community culminated in the opening of the first School of Arts in 1887, this being the first public institution in the district.
From its humble beginning when Thomas Hanlon arrived in 1863, Beenleigh has continued to grow and today is a thriving township of some 7,500 people.
The Gold Coast City Council, of which Beenleigh is part, has prepared a Town Plan which allows for increased residential subdivisions and an ultimate population of about 15,000 people.
Permanent water supply was connected in 1949. However due to the growth of industry and population, Beenleigh now obtains its water from Brisbane.
Three schools cater for the educational needs of children in the area and at the present time a total of 2300 students attend the State High School, State Primary schools and the convent school.
Many children are transported by bus from outlying areas.
Citizens are proud of the thirty-three and a half metre swimming pool, built in 1964. This was the first pool in Queensland built under the State Education Grants Scheme. The town also boasts of a modern library, where residents are offered a wide range of books and magazines to suit their particular requirements.
Industry has played a most important role in the town's development, some of the major ones being, beef, livestock and rum distilling and in the adjoining district of Woongoolba, sugar cane is grown.
Each week people from the town and adjoining district come to the weekly sales of cattle, pigs and calves. Cattle for these sales are drawn mainly from Coomera, Waterford and Beenleigh.
In 1954, Teys Brothers established a slaughterhouse in the district, and today it is the largest private employer in the shire, with a workforce of between 180 and 200 persons, 80% of these being from Beenleigh.
60% of all beef slaughtered is exported to the United States of America, United Kingdom and Japan. At the present tim 1000 head of cattle are slaughtered each week.
Woongoolba area has about 30,000 acres of cane under cultivation, which yields a yearly crop of 170,000 tons of cane for crushing.
Situated in this area is the Rocky Point sugar mill, established in 1878. The mill is the only privately owned sugar mill in Australia and gives employment to about 100 people. The mill is capable of crushing some 90 tons of cane each hour, and this is sent to Brisbane to be refined.
Rum was first distilled at Beenleigh in the 1860s by a local sugar mill owner from a floating distillery on the Albert River who later moved his operation to the present site.
In 1917 the distillery was taken over by Beenleigh Rum Pty Ltd. It was forced to cease production in 1969 due to the fall in rum consumption in Australia. It began operating again, however, in May 1972.
Land in the area issued mainly for dairying and growing of crops. These include vegetables, grain, hay and fruit.
The area is also being opened up and developed for new residential subdivision to allow for future growth.
The region consists of ranges of low to moderately high hills, bordered by a coastal plain which is continuous with the alluvial plains which occupy valley floors within the hills.
The region may be generally described as experiencing a humid climate, with moderate temperatures and a concentration of rainfall in the warmer half of the year. The average annual rainfall in the region varies from approximately 1270 mm to 1650 mm, apart from the mountainous country in the south of the Gold Coast Shire, where the annual average is as high as 3050 mm.
Daytime temperatures in coastal areas and adjacent coastal plains are generally in the 20s most of the year. However, in the mountainous areas, average winter maximums are approximately 16 deg C.
In winter, clear skies and drier air are associated with cool to cold nights and frosts (sometimes heavy in the low-lying areas away from the coast) may occur.
The Albert and Nerang Rivers, which flow through the region, are subject to flooding in the summer wet season, although flooding in the winter months has occasionally been reported. Flooding is caused most frequently by the intense rainfall associated with a tropical cyclone or a depression.
Most of the region's vegetation has been disturbed and only small areas exist in their natural state. Besides being removed for urban development, the vegetation has been cleared or partially cleared for cultivation, grazing and timber getting and much of the remaining vegetation has been purposely conserved.
Strand vegetation occurs on the foredunes of the region's ocean beaches. The main plants are goats' foot convolvulus and spinifex, with a localised variety of succulent plants. Urban development has displaced much of the strand vegetation of the mainland beaches.
Around the sheltered islands of Moreton Bay and in the lower reaches of the streams which discharge into it, mangroves are found up to the tidal limits. The tidla and muddy flats and banks are conducive to the growth of mangroves. Mangroves are breeding grounds for marine life, especially prawns and crabs. Mangrove associations occur in the muddy area between the tidal limits.
Stretching along the coast in the lower lying areas of the coastal plain "wallum" country and tea tree swamps are encountered.
The undulating hills, adjoining plains and river flats support predominantly Eucalyptus open forests.
The cane farming industry is centred east of the Pacific Highway around Beenleigh.
Dairy holdings on the western fringes of the Gold Coast have been taken over the land subdivision; the same applies to farms between the Brisbane boundary and Beenleigh.
Beef cattle grazing in the region supports an abattoir at Beenleigh.
The region also contains a number of piggeries and poultry farms.
Inhabited by Ugarapul, Wangerriburra, and Komleumerri tribes. They were peaceful because there was plenty of food here.
First white settlement in Queensland, penal settlement at Moreton Bay. Captain Logan was in charge and he explored much of the area between the Logan and Nerang Rivers. He said the land was really good and suggested it was suitable for free settlers, but the area was closed until 1824. He was mysteriously murdered on his last expedition. However three men, Lawless Brothers and W. Humphreys, came up from Sydney to settle here due to Logan's description. They brought sheep and horses and claimed two properties along the Albert River at Beaudesert. Not many more squatters came. Captain Robert Towns brought Kanakas in to work on his cotton plantation on the Logan River. They were paid 10 shillings per month and were supplied with rations. Others brought in Chinese as shepherds.
Johann Christian Heussler of Frankfurt, went back to Germany and brought back workers for sugar plantations. Eagleby was then known as German Pocket. Cotton was first exported. Captain Towns owned 4,000 acres along the Logan River and employed 260 kanakas. There were other cotton companies at Pimpama and Nerang. Francis Lakey worked on the early sugar mills and used his sawbench to cut timber for the boiling vats at Pimpama - the timber yards were developed by his sons. Only one mill remains at Woongoolba, which also produces molasses for the Beenleigh Rum Distillery.
The homes were bark humpies. If pioneers had more tools, the walls would be of slabs, roof of bark or shingles, and consisted of two rooms - a bedroom and a kitchen.
"Do It Yourself" instructions from Mrs Ransoms Australian Enquiry Book was popular. In it was a list of tools required and prices.
Land at Beenleigh was bushy scrub but was the junction of four roads. James Savage built the first house and in it opened Beenleigh Exchange Store. Michael Tansey moved his hotel, general store, butchery and post office from the area between Beenleigh and Yatala. John Dauth of "German Pocket" set up a blacksmith shop.
First school opened, with 52 children Beenleigh State School). Agricultural Society of South Queensland, with its centre at Yatala, met at various places, including Beenleigh and held plowing matches.
Printing in George Street established (first newspaper) called The Logan and Southern District Advertiser. This was the height of the sugar industry - there were 14 mills at this time. First rum distillery established - river steamer "Walrus".
Railway between Brisbane and Beenleigh replaced Cobb and Co's Royal Mail Line of coaches and river cargo. (This helped change from sugar to dairy.) Pastor Hausmann built brick kilns to produce bricks for sugar mill and church (Lutheran).
School of Arts established.
Revival of rum distillery industry on Albert River.
"German Pocket" church rebuilt
with the same bricks. First Catholic Church at Yatala removed to
Beenleigh in conjunction with the convent. Tobruk Memorial Convent
(1954) so named because of Monsignor Steels being presented with a model
of memorial to "Rats" at Tobruk.
The following work has been created by Year 4 at Beenleigh State School.
BEENLEIGH RUM DISTILLERY
The Beenleigh Rum Distillery was built in 1884. It is Australia's oldest distillery that is still working today.
Francis Gooding and John Davy were given a property in 1861 which they named Beenleigh. They planted sugar cane and built a sugar mill which was called Beenleigh Sugar Mill. That's how the nearby town became known as Beenleigh.
Before the Rum Distillery was built, Francis Gooding and John Davy had the first 'floating licensed distilery'. When it was no longer seaworthy, the men purchased a still, and in 1884, Beenleigh Rum was licensed and distilling commenced and continues today.
Beenleigh Rum Distillery has produced
various rums throughout the years. Today the distillery produces
four rums: Beenleigh Superior White Rum; Beenleigh Traditional
Rum; Beenleigh Rum Liqueur; and Director's Special.