Backward Glance: Coochin Creek and its history
  • Wednesday 17 February 2016
This is the story of the little lost town of Campbellville ─ not far from Beerwah.

Today there are few traces of this thriving little community.

James Campbell was a Scottish-born early Queensland entrepreneur who established many businesses on the Sunshine Coast.

Prior to establishing Campbellville he had been buying timber from the timber getters around the Blackall Range.

The logs were pulled out by bullock wagons, sent down the steep range by timber chutes transported to both Mellum and Coochin Creek by bullock teams and floated down to the rafting grounds located on the lower reaches of Coochin Creek.

From there, the timber was towed by sailing cutters to Campbell’s City Wharf in Brisbane.

James Campbell also purchased several ships and built up a thriving shipping trade.

The firm James Campbell & Sons was founded in 1882.

His other ventures included the Buderim Mountain Sugar Mill, which operated until 1889 and the Sportsman's Arms Hotel and store built in 1882 north of Mellum Creek, later known as Landsborough.

In 1881, James established the first sawmill on the near North Coast which was situated on the eastern side of Mellum Creek, below its junction with Coochin Creek.

A town grew up near the mill, reasonably close to the timber rafting grounds and became known as Campbellville.

The town included cottages for the employees, a store and post office as well as a school which had an average attendance of at least 14 students.

Campbellville became a social centre not only for those living there but for the small population living in the surrounding area.

Dances were held in the school and tokens were issued as a form of bartering in the town for goods.

James Campbell had begun this milling operation in December 1881 on Portion 22 and 22A, Parish of Bribie, an area of five acres.

To supply the mill, he bought timber properties.

In 1882, he purchased four selections of 160 acres each known as Bald Knob, Ellerslie, Balmoral and Glenmore on the Blackall Range and in 1883, he purchased a hardwood selection near the present town of Landsborough.

Have you heard of Hardwood Road? That was the route used by the bullock teams to gain access to Coochin Creek.
The gazetted township of Campbellville and its mill was the second of 11 sawmills owned by James Campbell and Sons Pty Ltd between 1876 and 1936.

Due to the building of the North Coast Railway line, the Coochin Mill was closed down in 1890 and the machinery moved to a new site at Albion.

The closure of the Coochin Mill was a considerable loss to the communities of Bribie, Mellum and the Blackall Range.

It was no longer viable to transport the timber by ship.

The little town of Campbellville faded into history soon after.

Pumicestone Passage, also known as Bribie Passage, extends from Moreton Bay to the Caloundra Bar and is just over 35 kilometres long via the channels. Eighty percent of this waterway is less than two metres deep.

One of Campbell’s ships was the paddle steamer SS Mavis.

She made her first trip on January 26, 1883, was 47 tons gross measurement and was the first steamer to run to Bribie and back.

She was built by J W Sutton and Co for James Campbell and was used to convey timber from Coochin Creek to Brisbane taking passengers to and fro, general cargo and supplies for residents in the district.

Captain Tutty was the master of the Mavis and was renowned for navigating the Bribie and Pumicestone Passage.

The captain was always in command and during those years of trading was not known to run the ship aground or for her to be stuck on shallow sand banks navigating the Pumicestone Passage.

Captain Tutty had no lights or leads to steer the vessel and relied on his knowledge and known land marks.

The Mavis’s Brisbane to Coochin Creek weekly service was maintained for seven years.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Hero picture caption: 

Campbell’s residence known as the Bar House at Campbellville at the mouth of Coochin Creek, ca 1900

Carousel image captions:
Image 1: - Bob Leach at Mellum Creek crossing on Hardwood Road, Landsborough, ca 1918.

Image 2: Leach family members at Hardwood Road, Landsborough. Samuel Leach worked at Campbellville Mill on the junction of Mellum and Coochin Creek, ca 1938.

Image 3: Swimming at Alex Cochran’s Coochin Creek property close to the junction of Mellum and Coochin Creeks ca 1930.