Monday, 26 March 2007

Living with insignificant ghosts

"Even among locals few today have heard of the Rosewood Scrub. Geographically and demographically it is an insignificant part of Australia. Like the rosewood scrub itself the name has all but disappeared." German Settlement in the Rosewood Scrub: A Pictorial History

Living with ghosts sounds interesting -- living with insignificant ghosts is simply deflating. As far as I know, there isn't much that you can do about changing the social status of your ghosts. What I am doing instead is to write about the past in order to try and understand what it was like to live and work in this area nearly 140 years ago. To motivate myself to delve deeply into the "squalid mess of history" and to write about it, I've decided to blog the process.

The Rosewood Scrub is a tiny part of the state of Queensland, Australia. About fifty kilometres due west of the state capital of Brisbane, it was an area of impenetrable, well scrub, in the late nineteenth century. Allan Cunningham of Cunningham's Gap fame, called it "impervious brushes." English and Irish settlers sensibly avoided the hilly, forested areas and settled on the floodplains near to the towns of Walloon and Rosewood. In 1868 the area was opened to selection and European migrants, especially Germans, began taking up claims. The scrub encompassed the settlements of Kirchheim, Marburg Valley, Back Plains and Lowood. Ironically the town of Rosewood was never part of the Rosewood Scrub. Modern names that may be more familiar are those of Haigslea, Marburg, Tallegalla, Minden, Prenzlau, Lowood and Glamorgan Vale.

In reality, none of these names may be familiar even to residents of Queensland. Yet I am interested in how and why migrants would embark on ships at Hamburg, Germany, sail for three to five months via Tristan d'Acunha Island and the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian Ocean, around the bottom of Tasmania and up the eastern coast of Australia to land at the port of Brisbane, transfer to a barge upriver to Ipswich, then embark on foot and end up in Tallegalla or on Back Plain. What drove them away from Germany? What drew them here? How much did they know about what was waiting for them? What kept them in this area to the point where there are direct descendants of the original settlers living on the same land 140 years later?

Will my reading and writing about these people increase their ghostly status? Perhaps not, but it will answer some questions for me.

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