Backward Glance - Cobb and Co Part 2
  • Wednesday 31 January 2018

Cobb and Co were very successful in other Australian states and the need for reliable, regular transport for mail and passengers from Brisbane to the goldfields in Gympie saw the much awaited Cobb and Co service begin in 1868 – 150 years ago.

In 1868, Brisbane’s Tom Petrie, who knew the region well due to exploration and timber getting, assisted with clearing the coastal route which became Gympie Road.

Many parts of Gympie Road were described as rough, steep, boggy and difficult.

Tom’s father, Andrew, had been appointed Superintendent of Works at Moreton Bay Penal colony in 1837.

He had local knowledge of the colony and his son had been raised in the region. Tom Petrie took with him, Hiram Barnes, a coach driver and road manager for Cobb and Co.

They ensured the road alignment was correct and suitable for coaches, horses, passengers, and the large loads carried on the coaches.

The road between Brisbane and Gympie was complete in October 1868 and by November 12, Cobb & Co coaches began carrying passengers, mail, goods and gold between Brisbane and Gympie.

The first northbound coach was driven by Hiram Barnes and left Queen Street in Brisbane around 4am. 

A second coach departed Gympie, driven by Robert Martin. They met at James Low’s coach depot and post office on the Maroochy River.

The journey was a success for both coaches and their drivers.

A wonderful reception greeted the coach when it arrived in Mary Street, Gympie with cheering crowds all through the diggings.

Mr Barnes, was carried head high to the Northumberland Hotel for a night of celebrations. 

Ten staging depots were established along the 187km route between Brisbane and Gympie.

Coaches departed twice each way per week, which was later increased to three coaches each way per week.

 In 1868, the cost of a fare was approximately $7 in today’s currency. 

Passengers boarded the coach at the Cobb and Co head office at the Royal Hotel in Queen Street, Brisbane.

They crossed the North Pine River to Petrie’s “Murrumba” then continued on to and over the tidal Caboolture River on a punt. Fresh horses were provided at a staging depot near what is now Morayfield.

The coach continued on to the isolated Glass House Mountains region, stopping at Grigor’s Bankfoot House for meals and refreshments, and another change of horses.

The site of Bankfoot House was well chosen above flood levels with fresh water easily accessible from the local Coonowrin Creek.

William Grigor had selected 160 acres, roughly halfway between the Caboolture River and Edmund Lander’s homestead.

Coach routes needed food, accommodation and horse changing facilities at about 25km  intervals.

Grigor and Lander’s selections were ideal for these new endeavours and they soon identified a way of turning this new mode of transport into a profitable business.

Low, who had established a depot on the Maroochy River, could see the potential as well.

Travelling further along the main Gympie Road across Rocky Creek, the township of Mellum Creek, later known as Landsborough, provided another changing depot.  

Isaac Burgess, one of the earliest selectors in Maleny, as well as Mellum Creek, built a store, accommodation and a Temperance Hotel north of Mellum Creek in 1877 to accommodate travellers.

Pioneer Edmund Lander had a depot near the upper reaches of the Mooloolah River in 1868. It was a stopping place known as the Coach House.

From here, the route followed what is now the Palmwoods - Mooloolah Road to Woombye. 

In wet weather, the drivers always remained cautious due to boggy patches through this district.

After the Coach House near Mooloolah, the next stop was Cobbs Camp – now known as Woombye.

The surveyors who charted the road from Brisbane to Gympie had marked the midway point on the hill south of Paynter’s Creek. Middle Camp, later known as Cobb’s Camp, was near the midway point.

Here Cobb & Co’s road manager Mr Whatmore, who had originally condemned the coastal route, decided to build a hotel, a residence, horse stables and horse yards. The builders were Mewett and Son of Caboolture.

There was a water reserve leading to a gully that carried clear running water directly opposite the stables.

Not only did the coach horses have water, but travellers with bullocks, horses and those on foot had a camp and water reserve midway between Brisbane and the Gympie goldfields.

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.

They purchased 160 acres of land, which included all Cobb & Co's land and buildings.

During the 1880s, the Court House was built near the Police Station.

The name Cobb's Camp was considered unsuitable by the Government as there were already many places with that name, it was renamed Woombye for the myrtle tree which grew locally.

- Next week, we will continue to trace the coach journey north from Middle Camp to the goldfields in Gympie.

Image Captions

Hero - Woombye residents awaiting the arrival of Cobb & Co coach during the re-enactment run in Queensland's Centenary year 1959

Image 1: Staff in front of Thomas McClintock's coach building and blacksmith shop, Blackall Street, Woombye, 1910

Image 2: Cobb's Camp Hotel, Woombye, 1872 

The hotel, together with a keeper's residence, horse stables and horse yard, was established by Cobb & Co. to provide a staging camp and accommodation for passengers following the construction of trafficable road between Brisbane and Gympie in 1868. The first passengers arrived on 12 November 1868. In 1870 James Costa, the keeper, was granted a liquor licence for Cobb’s Hotel under the name of the 'Nil Desperandum Hotel'. Karl Stumpf became the licensee in 1877 and continued until 1881. ca 1872

Image 3: Blackall Street, Woombye looking east towards the hotel, 1918

Image 4: Cobb & Co coach at Woombye as part of the Queensland Centenary year celebrations in 1959

The coach is typical of coaches that plied the Brisbane to Gympie route, carrying passengers, mail, goods and gold.

Image 5: Group of North Coast pioneers travelled in a Cobb & Co. coach along Old Gympie Road during Queensland's centenary year, 1959

Cobb & Co. Coach on the old Gympie Road between Mooloolah and Landsborough, as part of Queensland's Centenary celebrations during 1959, an old restored Cobb & Co. Coach followed the original route along Old Gympie Road through the Sunshine Coast region, which the coach line followed in 1868. A group of North Coast pioneers met this Cobb & Co coach at Landsborough, outside the Landsborough Shire Council Chambers on the day.

Image 6: Cobb & Co., Old Gympie Road, Kallangur Courtesy Queensland State Archives