Backward Glance - Post Offices of Yesteryear
  • Thursday 10 October 2019

In the pioneering days of the Sunshine Coast the postal service provided the main and often the only means of communication. Transport was slow and arduous and before the telegraph and telephone developed, the arrival of mail brought a welcome reprieve to what was for many a hard and isolated existence.

The stout-hearted mail contractors cut their own paths through the bush, forded flooded streams and braved the summer heat to deliver the mail. Gradually postal routes were established as Cobb & Co coaches carried mail to the area and then as the rail network extended, faster and more reliable networks were created.

Early post offices, or receiving offices as they were then known, became a necessity to provide communication between settlements, especially with Brisbane.

One of the earliest Post Offices was at Maroochy in 1883 when a Post and Telegraph Office was opened in the Maroochy Hotel with Mrs Christina Low as Postmistress on a salary of twelve pounds per annum. In 1886 the office work had increased sufficiently for a salary increase to fifteen pounds and to twenty pounds from 1 April 1889.

The mail service 110, Maroochy to North Maroochy, operated from 19 May 1888 over a distance of six miles once a week by horse. It was discontinued in 1891 when a Post Office opened at the newly opened Yandina railway station.

Records show an office opening at Maroochydore the same year with Office keeper, Mr W Rowland in charge of the Receiving Office. In this early period, Receiving Offices handled incoming and outgoing mail and the sale of stamps. 

The local mail services included Eudlo and Maroochydore via Buderim, being a distance of 18 kilometres, which was serviced three times a week by horse and buggy and between Maroochydore and Coolum which was serviced by boat or on foot. 

The Maroochydore Office closed in 1898 and it was not until 1916 that Maroochydore was again served by a Receiving Office.

On 23 September 1885 a Receiving Office was established at the residence of Mr Mathew Carrol at Petrie Creek and he was paid six pounds per annum for his duties. 

In 1889 Mr H Tucker took over as the new Postmaster and in 1890 the Petrie Creek post Office was closed and a Nambour office was opened in a humpy bought by Mr and Mrs G H Jones. Ann Jones became Nambour’s first Postmistress on 1 August 1890 and continued in charge until 1898.

The first Post Office in Caloundra followed soon after in 1897 with a Receiving Office being established in the living quarters of the Lighthouse Keeper, Mr W Edlundt at the Caloundra Lighthouse.

It is interesting that in 1884, Mr A F Matveieff, Superintendent Electric Telegraphs, stated in a report that a new line would be erected from Caboolture to Caloundra Heads as “In view of the recent threatening aspect of European affairs and the active preparations then being carried out in local defence matters, it was decided by the Government to construct these lines for lookout purposes with all speed.”

In 1897 an enterprising Henry Smith residing in Razorback recognised the benefits of having a Receiving Office linked to Palmwoods and from there to Brisbane. He wrote to the Under Secretary of the Post and Telegraph Department in Brisbane asking permission to establish a Receiving Office. He was advised that there was already a Razorback Receiving Office in Queensland and he would have to decide on a different name. After another knockback, he finally suggested “Montville” which was accepted. So Razorback became Montville, gained a Receiving Office and Henry Smith became the first Receiving Officer.

Joseph Dixon settled in Buderim in 1879 and built his home in what is now known as Dixon Road.  Mail was sorted at his home from that time for delivery to the few residents in the area.

Later John Burnett ran a postal service at his shop on the corner of Ballinger Road and Main Street. 

The Royal Mail was carried by Cobb & Co coach from Brisbane to Gympie with a stopover at Mooloolah and from there Albert Reynolds rode his horse from Landsborough to deliver mail to Buderim.

With the tramway being built from Buderim to Palmwoods, Jack Neil ran a postal office in the Tramway station from 1914-1935. When the tramway ceased operating Jack Neil purchased land from James Lindsay and offered a portion of his land for a new post office, provided he and his family could continue to provide Buderim’s postal services.

In 1937 a new building was erected and became the non-official post office operated by the Neil family until it was sold to the Commonwealth in 1950 to become Buderim’s official post office. The original building is now home to the Buderim War Memorial Community Association.

If you’d like to learn more of the history of this building, it will be open to the public on Saturday 19 October 2019 as part of the Open House Sunshine Coast event.

Post office business continued to flourish with the increasing population and in 1927 the Nambour Chronicle advised the Department was anxious to impress upon the public that the early posting of Christmas mail is essential. 

It also advocated for the public to convey that Yuletide message of goodwill and cheer by telephone to many folk over a long distance who would be glad to hear the human voice speaking the Season’s greetings.

Post offices were also targets for crime. On 2 March 1928 the Nambour Chronicle reported the safe at the post office and tram station at Buderim was blown in the early hours of the morning.

The cash box was forced opened and the contents of six pounds six pence was stolen. A charge of gelignite was forced into the keyhole of the safe but after the explosion the door jammed and the thieves were unable to get their hands on the one hundred and forty pounds held within. The police contended that the robbery was the work of a professional safe-blower.

Times have certainly changed in the way we communicate with each other. Receiving mail was an important service to the early pioneers for many reasons, including how it was such a joy and diversion from the everyday chores when communities were isolated by distance.  It would be interesting to hear Henry and Ann Smith’s thoughts on the myriad of social communication platforms available today.

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

Image: Moffat Beach Post Office and Cafe, Seaview Terrace, Moffat Beach, ca 1940