Backward Glance: Cobb’s Camp or Woombye?
  • Wednesday 09 December 2015

When gold was discovered at Gympie in 1867 there was no road connecting Brisbane to Gympie.

James Rutherford, Manager of Cobb and Co, advised that as soon as a suitable road was completed his firm would run regular coach services between Brisbane and Gympie.

On May 8, 1868, the government announced it would build the road connecting Brisbane to Gympie.

The surveyors marked the midway point on the hill south of Paynter’s Creek.

The road was completed in October 1868 and by November, Cobb & Co. coaches were carrying passengers, mail, goods and gold between Brisbane and the Gympie goldfields.

Ten staging depots were established during this time.

Middle Camp, later known as Cobb’s Camp, was near the point marked at Paynters Creek as being halfway between Brisbane and Gympie. Here Cobb & Co’s road manager Mr Whatmore decided to build a hotel, a residence, horse stables and horse yards.

Directly opposite the stables were pools of clear running water which provided a welcome relief midway between Brisbane and the Gympie goldfields for the coach horses and weary travellers with bullocks, horses and on foot.

These stops along the northern road, like the timber rafting grounds from an earlier era, provided the stimulus for the beginnings of settlement.

The 1871 census recorded 104 people living and working in the Maroochy region. Only 31 were permanent settlers, the rest were timber getters.

The Maroochy River near Low’s Yandina depot was the major centre of population, followed by Petrie Creek, Cobb’s Camp and then Buderim.

Middle Camp was the only accommodation built by Cobb and Co for passengers along the route between Brisbane and Gympie. Middle Camp Inn and its surrounding buildings soon became known as Cobb's Camp Hotel.

In 1881, Frederick Schubert took charge of the Cobb’s Camp Hotel, and purchased 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land, which included all Cobb & Co's land and buildings. This is the area on which the township of Woombye now stands.

In the 1880s, the court house was built near the police station.

The existing name Cobb's Camp was considered unsuitable by the government as there were already many places of that name, so ”Woombye” was chosen, after the Aboriginal word ‘wombai’, which refers both to the black myrtle tree (commonly known as the lilypilly Eugenia Smithii) and the axe handle made from its wood.

The early settlers who arrived between 1877 and 1891 came in a period when the means of communication with Brisbane was mainly by road with Cobb’s coaches, horse and bullock dray and wagons, carts or on horseback or by walking.

The other form of transport from 1863 to 1894 in the Maroochy region was Pettigrew’s boats travelling to and from Mooloolah and Maroochy Heads carrying logs, sawn timber, produce and passengers to and from Brisbane.

The town of Woombye was surveyed in 1890 and in 1891, the railway from Landsborough to Yandina was opened. From 1891 to 1914, Woombye became the rail centre to which Buderim farmers carted all their fruit and produce to rail to the Brisbane markets.

Learn more about the Coast’s unique history by reading our Backward Glance series. There’s a new story every Wednesday.

Thanks to Council’s heritage library for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.