• 1

  • 2

  • 3

Brief History Of Daintree, Far North Queensland

For centuries the Daintree area was inhabited by the Kuku Yalanji people.  They lived in small kinship groups of 8 to 12 in camps spread along the banks of the river and creeks between Bloomfield and Mossman.  They know this area as Julaymba

Lieut Jefferies in armed transport HMS Kangaroo called at Schnapper Island for wood and water.

James Venture Mulligan discovered payable gold on the Palmer River

6/7 Dec. George Augustus Frederick Elphinstone Dalrymple, a Scotsman, named the Daintree River for Richard Daintree, the former Government Geologist, now Queensland’s Agent General in London.  Dalrymple was searching for a route from the coast to the Palmer River Goldfield.  He also named the Mossman River and the Heights of Alexandra.  The 4500ft mountain behind the Heights of Alexandra he named Thornton Peak

Dan Hart’s expedition followed Dalrymple’s report of large numbers of cedar trees and sailed up the Daintree and Mossman Rivers.

Sept.  O’Grady and Henriques had 30 men cutting cedar on the Daintree.

Aug.  Edmund Hayes applied for 160 acres around the sawmill he had erected with Mr Barclay on the north bank of the Daintree near its mouth.  The selection was cancelled in 1878 because he only paid the first year’s rent.

The discovery of gold in the Hodgkinson River changed everything for the Aboriginals in the Daintree Rainforest. Violent clashes between the indigenous people and the European settlers often resulted in fatalities. Not surprisingly the European settlers, with their modern sophisticated weaponry, had the upper hand.

The first permanent settlers in Daintree area were John, Archie and Gavin Stewart.  John Whitehead Stewart took up Portion 57 across the river from the present township, named it the Skeleton Estate, and grew the first mango and mangosteen trees in the area.  The first postal receiving office on the Daintree was opened on his premises.

1879 to 1885
Many of the choice blocks were selected by southern men for speculative purposes but not many settled there. The absentee landlords fulfilled the selection conditions by bailiffing or leasing, hoping someone else would invest capital in a sugar mill that would enable them to sell their land at a profit.

Patrick and Bridget Reynolds selected a block on the Upper Daintree River.  Brother Thomas followed.  They cut red cedar logs and cleared the land, then bred horses for the Indian Army.


William Reynolds arrived and took up selection 128 in Jan. 1882.

John Stewart selected another 400 acres, built a bigger house and grew maize.  He sold his main plantation to George Frederick Scott.

Oct.  Frank Osborne selected two square miles on Stewart’s Creek named Kassary

Heinrich (Harry) Fischer took up selection 162 of 445 acres.

Dec.  Archibald Hastie Stewart took up selection 179 adjoining his brother John.  He made his living cutting timber and rafting it down the river.

Jan.  Frank Charles Fischer, brother of Heinrich, selected 371 acres.

  The Daintree River flooded.

Arthur Osborne was the first white child to be born in Daintree at Marion Vale

Sept.  The Junction Hotel and Store were built and opened by John Mahoney who selected 158 acres on the north side of the river.  The post office was moved to the Store.

A water-operated sawmill was built for the cedar cutters by Masterton and Jamieson.

March.  Machinery arrived for a steam powered sawmill owned by Bredhauer and Co.  Bad management and low prices led to the collapse of milling.

16th Jan. Ruby Reynolds, daughter of William and Mary was the first white girl to be born in the Daintree area (says her grandson)

Timber operations ceased and many inhabitants left.

Carl Berzinski settled Portion 235, an island of about 80 acres in the river and it still grows the original para grass, first called Pentzcke’s grass.  It set the foundation of the Daintree dairying industry.

April 6.  Disastrous flood.  Bridget Reynolds, daughter Marie and 3 year old grandson Henry (son of Heinrich) and an aboriginal girl were drowned when their house washed away.

May 8.  Bailey’s Creek School No. 1004 began on Mr J Doyle’s property

May 15. 
Daintree River School No. 1005 began on Mr H Fischer’s property.  Miss Mary Julia Cronin was the teacher of both.

April.  Both half time schools closed due to resignation of the teacher, Mr P Keating, who had to row 16 miles between the schools, 4 of them in the open sea along the coast each week.

March.  Provisional school re-opened on the request of Mr H. Fischer

Frank and Arthur Osborne cut a track up Thornton Peak

July 31.  Bailey’s creek school closed and was allocated to Osborne’s property on the Daintree River.

Both half time schools closed due to lack of pupils

The inquiry committee into new sugar proposals found only three permanent settlers remaining – Frank Osborne, John Shewan and Mrs Stewart.

March 16. A cyclone razed Port Douglas and surrounding countryside.  Two people were killed.  Within twenty-four hours, sixteen inches of rain fell.

Frank and Louis Fischer bred a new strain of cattle that had high tick resistance and high performance in a tropical environment.

Frank Osborne built a 30 ft launch to work from Port Douglas up the river.

Frank Fischer opened a butcher’s shop in the village

July 4. Daintree State School No.1022 opened with 10 pupils.

A butter factory and sawmill were built.  Both factories were run on the same steam boiler.  The caravan park now occupies the site.

Daintree had a store, post office, drapery, butcher, baker, café (short-lived) blacksmith and sawmill office.

The dairy industry was very strong.  Jim Hill ran cattle on Berzinski’s island and the cream was rowed 6 miles to the butter factory three times a week.

Barrett Creek Bridge opened.  Until then a journey to Mossman by horse took about 6-8 hours as Barrett Creek could only be safely negotiated at low tide.

Arthur Osborne and Charlie Tunnie built the store. Previously Chap Osborne had run a store and wife Violet was the postmistress

Arthur, Chap and Eric Osborne were running the launch service with the Daintree and the Echo to Port Douglas and Cairns and fortnightly to Low Isles.

Early 1930s
The Butter Factory became a co-operative run by the dairy farmers and they installed their own boiler.

The Daintree to Mossman road was completed. Before that the only access to Daintree Village was by river.

March 12.  A cyclone hit Daintree.  The butter factory manager’s house was turned into a hospital and the school was blown askew on its stumps but there was no loss of life.  8 inches of rain fell in 4 hours.

Stewart Creek Bridge was built, just above Daintree village.

Regular boat service to Port Douglas ceased.  The MV Daintree had carried cargo and mail from Cairns and Port Douglas

Fire destroyed the butcher’s shop and the Daintree Boarding House.

Feb 28.  Twyford Provisional State School opened near Stewart Creek

The Osborne Bros sold their launches and established the Daintree-Mossman motor service with a bus and a truck.  Mr J. V. Martin later took over the business and added a fleet of semi-trailers

Jack Maxwell, engineer of the butter factory, built his home in the village.  It is now the restaurant and museum.

Jan.  Pastor Akehurst of the Assembly of God built a timber church and living quarters for a Mission Station.  50-80 aborigines lived there led by King Toby.


Two bombs were dropped in the swamps along the river east of the town.


Sawmill closed due to fuel rationing and lack of logs.

Jan.  The Dormitory opened at the Mission. 15 aboriginal children lived there.

The first telephone exchange, Twyford, was installed in the Stewart Creek area.

At the end of the year 50 Aboriginal people were at the Mission and 12 girls were in the dormitory.  They had a sawmill and grew bananas and pineapples for sale.  They also grew potatoes, pawpaws and fruit.

A steel punt built from ex Army pontoons was used to ferry timber trucks over the river.


A Church of England was built on land donated by Dick Fischer

Dec 1.  The Daintree Shire Hall, built by Arthur Zillfleisch and Co, opened   

March 28.  Record floods for about 40 years.  27 ft above the decking of Stewart Creek Bridge

The Douglas Shire Council had a ferry run by an outboard to cross the river until a larger one on cables was run by A. Fapani.

The Council commenced a vehicular ferry and the road extended to Cape Tribulation    

1960 -1970
Many contractors cut timber in the Daintree/Cape Tribulation area      

The butter factory closed

Sept 8.  The Mission was auctioned.  All the aboriginals had been moved to the Mossman Gorge Reserve and the children from the dormitory were returned to their parents. Many people did not want to move.

Electricity was turned on in Daintree township.

The Daintree National Park was declared by the State Government

Mains water connected to the township

STD phones were available

The first tourist boat on the Daintree River

The Daintree Tea House opened.

The Steens purchased Jack Maxwell’s house, renovated it and opened a restaurant.  They also opened the Timber Museum and gallery. Some of the cedar cutters’ original tools may be viewed in the Daintree Timber Museum & Gallery, now owned by Karin Whittington.

Dec 31.  The Post Office and Commonwealth Bank agency closed.

Dec.  Storekeeper Beryl Wruck was taken by a crocodile at Barratt’s Creek

The Wet Tropics of Queensland was inscribed on the World Heritage List

Last section of road from Mossman to Daintree fully bitumenised

Nov 5.  Fire destroyed a block of shops in the village

March.  The biggest floods since 1952.  52 inches of rain.  The River was 2 kms wide.

Compiled by Pam Willis Burden March 2006
A more detailed time line history has been published as a Bulletin and is available for $2 plus postage from the Douglas Shire Historical Society.