Times Past with QT history columnist Beryl Johnston
Times Past with QT history columnist Beryl Johnston Claudia Baxter

Times Past: Cotton was king in Ipswich during 1800s

COTTON growing was very much to the fore in the early days of Ipswich history.

Undoubtedly the credit to drawing attention to the prospects of cotton growing in this colony was due to a Presbyterian minister the Rev Dr Lang, who in 1847 wrote a book entitled The future cotton fields of Great Britain.

It was he who organised shipments of emigrants in 1848 and 1849 from the nucleus of the cotton growing industry in this colony.

Rev Dr Lang had visited the Moreton Bay district in 1845 and was greatly struck at the healthy and vigorous appearance of a few cotton plants, which he found growing merely as an article of curiosity.

One of the places he visited in Ipswich and found cotton growing was that of Mr Richard Watson, who resided at little Ipswich.

Mr Watson didn't know anything about the plant until Rev Dr Lang told him it was cotton and Mr Watson didn't know how the seed came to be in his yard.

Reverend Dr John Dunmore Lang played a key role in cotton production in early Ipswich.
Reverend Dr John Dunmore Lang played a key role in cotton production in early Ipswich. CONTRIBUTED

 

EXPANSION OF COTTON

It wasn't until 1861 that an effort was made to grow cotton on an extensive scale and this was started by Mr John Panton at Woodend from which cultivation he, in 1862, picked the first bales of cotton and shipped them to London.

Therefore this was the first cotton export from Queensland.

The importance of this shipment was reported in a Sydney Morning Herald of 1862 and the article read: "The shipment for England of four bales of cotton from Queensland is an event in the history of cotton cultivation in Australia, which calls for some notice. The steamer "Telegraph" which arrived from Brisbane brought down from Mr Panton of Ipswich four bales of cotton - the cotton was grown on a small plantation near Ipswich) area later named Woodend belonging to Mr Panton.

Occasional samples of cotton have been sent home (England) from Queensland chiefly as specimens of what can be grown, tut the bales produced by Panton may be spoken of as the first shipment of cotton from Australia as an article of commerce and will be regarded with much interest both here and in England."

John Panton was responsible for the start of cotton production in Ipswich.
John Panton was responsible for the start of cotton production in Ipswich.

 

SHORTAGE OF AMERICAN COTTON

In the 1860s America, which had vast cotton fields, was involved in its civil war so cotton became scarce and the cotton mills of Great Britain looked elsewhere for this crop.

Things were so bad overseas at that time Queensland sent a draft for 500 pounds (collected by subscription) and sent it to England to ease the situation somewhat.

 

LARGER COTTON DELIVERIES

In a later article in The Queensland Times it was reported that July 19, 1862 was looked upon as a red letter day in the colony of Queensland.

Forty bales of cotton, grown within a short distance of the town of Ipswich, left Mr Panton's wharf en route for England.

Thirty of those bales were taken off the estate belonging to the Ipswich Cotton Company at Booval and 10 off the ground at Woodend belonging to Mr Panton.

 

COTTON GROWING EXPANSION

By 1863 there were about 300 acres under cotton and those growing it in the Ipswich district included the Ipswich Cotton Company, Mr Panton, Mr J Guilfoyle (Seven mile Creed) Mr Robinson, Mr T Delaney Moffat, Mr Verrall and Mr Joshua Bell.

From 1863 to 1873 the cultivation of cotton had increased from 300 acres to an acreage of several thousand.

 

GINNING ESTABLISHMENTS

There were ginning establishment in Ipswich including those of Messrs J & G Harris, Messrs row & Lennon (East St) Mr John Pettigrew and Messrs Cribb & Foote.

Other areas having ginning rooms were Bundamba Creek, Redbank, Fernie Lawn, Yahmanto (as the area was then spelt) Harrisville and Harrisborough.

 

COTTON WAS KING

Cotton was king in those days and Mr D Jones of Redbank Plains said: "It can be well remembered the busy country roads where one would meet team after team of horses or bullocks heavily laden with bales of cotton for conveyance to the ginning establishments and everywhere were seen the dark green foliage of the cotton plants dotted with snowy pods."

Mr Johns also recalled the hilarity of the boys when picking the cotton and he said the air rang with laughter or joyous song - the refrain taken up by the whole of the pickers.

 

FIRST COTTON ARTICLE MADE

The first article manufactured from cotton grown on the Ipswich Cotton company's estate at Booval was a pair of ladies gloves.

It was stated in September, 1862 that the texture of the fabric was more like silk than cotton, which showed the superior quality of the cotton.

The gloves were put on public display in a shop window.

 



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