Brief History Of Mowbray, Far North Queensland

The Mowbray Valley was the hunting ground for the Chabbuki (Tjapukai) tribe of aborigines. They moved through the valley on hunting trips between Port Douglas and Mona Mona camp near Kuranda.

1877 - 1900

June. Christie Palmerston and his mate William Lakeland [?] discovered a route suitable for wagons and pack teams from the Hodgkinson goldfield down to White Cliffs near Island Point, which would now become the goldfield's shipping outlet to be known as Port Douglas. Their route over the range down into the river valley was called the Bump Track because of its steep grades. Palmerston named the river that had led them down the range after the Goldfield Warden for Thornborough, William Matthew Mowbray.

One hundred years later a memorial was erected in Craiglie to recognise the centenary of Palmerston's exploration achievment which directly led to a settlement here and which paid tribute to all of the teamsters, packers and their untiring transport animals.

Aug. John James Montgomery applied for the first homestead selection No.23 of 160 acres.

Sept. Thirty teams comprising the first to traverse the "bump" came down the road from the Hodgkinson in convoy. Some of these were part of a group of thirteen loaded wagons to be the first to return with more than 100 tons of stores.

Nov. Rudolf Berzinski selected 160 acres just outside the 6 mile boundary of Port Douglas, at Craiglie. He was a pioneer settler of Mowbray. He and his wife are buried in the Port Douglas cemetery

The area between Spring Creek and Yule Point was known as ‘The Police Camp’. This is where all the men and horses for the Mounted Police and Gold Escort from the Hodgkinson goldfields were located.

A Road Board was established and improvements made to the Bump Road. Four Mile Camp, later named Craiglie, was set up as a packers’ and teamsters’ village. The Ryan family owned one hotel and the other premises was known as Ruggs’ Hotel. There was a blacksmith and farrier shop, a bakery, a butcher shop, a saddlery, a school near the tamarind tree and several homes.

John Trezise, a Cornishman known as Cornish Jack, settled at Spring Creek, growing citrus, rice, maize, a jackfruit tree with huge fruit, then cane. The original home was destroyed by the 1911 flood. Trezise Road is named after him. He died in 1910 aged 74.

John James Montgomery with his partner John George Robbins built Mayfield between the Mowbray River and the Spring Creek junction. They grew fodder, rice, citrus and fruits, supplied to the teamsters. They had Chinese tenants.

Bill Millet, a pioneer coachman, selected land and built up a citrus orchard. He had a Chinese tenant. They all made their fruit cases from split palings dressed with a tomahawk. Sawn timber was not available. But Bill bought a two-horse-power kerosene engine and a circular saw to make his cases.

The number of hotels in Port Douglas, Craiglie and Mowbray consolidated to 15.

Early 1880s
John Pringle arrived from South Queensland and built a house at Craiglie. His five sons and one daughter went to Craiglie school while his property in South Mossman could be developed should a sugar mill be built

James Reynolds selected Mowbray Vale, with wife Margaret. He grew cattle, maize, fruit and sugar cane. He opened a butcher’s shop at Craiglie. He died in 1905 aged 65, and is buried in the Port Douglas cemetery. His son James Patrick, born in Thornborough in 1878 but educated in Port Douglas, was Chairman of the Shire from 1913-1920.

James Reynolds’ citrus and mango orchard had 2400 trees.

When the Cairns railway was completed to Myola, just beyond Kuranda, the importance of Craiglie for the “Knights of the Road”, the teamsters, ended.

The Stewart family settled at Spring Creek on property originally selected by Allan Gray. Before she was married, Mrs Stewart had worked for Mrs Gray in Port Douglas. On the property there was a fine orchard and Chinese tenants, Lee Hon and Lee Mew.

Early 1890s
Severin Berner (Barney) Andreassen settled in the Mowbray Valley. He had been fishing for beche de mer from Schnapper Island with his partner Mr D. P. Monynahan.

The railway between Cairns and Mareeba was opened with the result that the Bump Track became used only for passenger traffic rather than predominantly for freight as it had been. Craiglie soon became a deserted village.

The two single-storey galvanised iron hotels at Craiglie, Ruggs and Ryans, were moved to Front Street Mossman and re-erected as the Royal Hotel and Mossman Hotel respectively.


John Robbins of Lower Mowbray Valley, procured a Brahman bull from Melbourne Zoo in an endeavour to build up a strain of tick resistant cattle. The locals called them Zebus. The progeny of this bull was the forerunner of the Brahman stock through the north.

1901 -

Jan. An extension to the cane tramway connecting Mowbray to the Mossman Central Mill was opened. The journey to Mossman took 1 hour 26 minutes.

20,000 cases of oranges and mandarins were shipped out annually from the Port Douglas wharf, most coming from the Mowbray Valley

James Patrick Reynolds, second son of James and Margaret, took up a selection adjoining the home farm and grew sugar cane until he retired in 1947. Reynolds Park in Port Douglas is named for James and his father.

He recruited a gang of white cane cutters, among them six Connolly brothers from New South Wales. Three of the brothers married three of James’s sisters and stayed on to acquire land and grow cane in Upper Mowbray.

March 16. A cyclone devastated the area, the second “blow” within 5 weeks.

A Methodist Church was built near the top of Robbins Hill by Mr Fred Stevenson

Mr F. W. Stevenson acquired property at Killaloe and commenced cane farming. His four daughters assisted him in cutting the cane

A severe drought made the fallen timber from the 1911 cyclone very dry and bushfires burnt kauri pine and hickory.

1917 ? earlier?
Rosebank house was built by Billy Burdett, assisted by Matt and Michael Connolly, from timber from the property sawn at Billy’s sawmill.

1919 ?
Diggers Bridge was built over the Mowbray River by returned soldiers for the Douglas Shire Council


March. A severe cyclone struck the valley damaging some houses and many mango trees.

Early 1920s
The Bump Track was used by cars and buses which were helped up the very steep places by teams of horses. James Patrick Reynolds, who lived at the foot of the Track, supplied the horses.


Craiglie school closed

Most of the aborigines of the Mowbray area had gone to Mona Mona Mission Station near Kuranda.

Cars began to replace horses and buggies and the road to Mossman improved.

May. The Mowbray School opened with Mr. A. L. ‘Bunny’ Edward as teacher.

With the coming of cars, tram traffic fell off and tram services to Mowbray were discontinued and other timetables were reduced.

The use of the Bump declined after the opening of the Cook Highway between Cairns and Mossman.

1942-1945 (WW II)

The Bump Road was mined where it passed along a very narrow ridge so it could be blown up in the event of hostile invasion.

During the centenary of the district, a memorial was erected to the teamsters at Craiglie.

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.