Apple Tree Creek
History of the Childers area
The Isis district's first inhabitants belonged to the Kabi (or Kabi Kabi) tribe of aboriginal people living a traditional lifestyle focused on native foods of the area, and fishing in streams, rivers and the sea. A legacy of their time is evidenced by a number of place names in the shire, including Cordalba, meaning 'place of koalas', Booyal 'ironbark tree', Junien 'ironstone', Kowbi 'sugar', Marule 'lizard', Bootharh 'eagle', and Duingal 'a type of tree'.
Europeans first came to the area to live in the 1850's, the river Isis being named after a river in Britain, itself named after the Egyptian goddess of fertility. While this name later proved to be apt with the discovery of the rich red soils of the Isis plateau, this fact was not known at the time the river was named. The first permanent cattle properties in the area were 'Eureka' in 1854 and 'Agnes Vale' in 1855.
The closer settlement of the area was very much encouraged by the development of good transport spines. A small river port for coastal vessels was proposed at Buxton on the Burrum River, this settlement once carrying the names of Buxtonville, Newport and Burrumba. But the great impetus for agriculture came with the arrival of the railway line, to Childers in 1887, Cordalba in 1896, Booyal and Dallarnil in 1913. Although the Government railway to Childers closed in 1964, its role in developing the Isis area remains pivotal, and cane trains still use some of the route.
Sugar was the key crop grown in the Isis, with the district mill at Isis Central first crushing in 1897. Prior to this, another large mill was operated by CSR at Huxley until 1932, other smaller mills existing at one time at Doolbi, Knockroe (Kowbi), Goodwood, Horton and South Isis. After 1972, the Queensland Government sponsored the expansion of the cane country into the flatter, coastal country of the Farnsfield, Goodwood and North Gregory districts to bolster production. The hillier former cane lands closer to Childers have been used in recent years for vegetable and fruit crops.
Largely developed around the rail head established in 1887, the town of Childers is the key centre of the shire and is scattered along the top of the ridge line. Named after the well known British prime minister, Churchill Street is the main street and exudes charm in its well preserved heritage character. The town has known a number of serious fires, including one in 1902 which destroyed much of the town centre.
The town was reputedly named after the Victorian Auditor General of the time, Mr. Hugh Childers, the name also being shared with a small town in Victoria's Gippsland. However, another plausible theory exists that it was named after an English town called Childre not far from Abingdon.
To the north west of Childers, Cordalba functioned as the main Queensland Railways depot and interchange station between 1896 and 1964, an old railway goods shed being a reminder of those days. Woodgate Beach gained its life saving club in 1939, but most settlement came after the 1950s, this being a growing beach resort bounded by the Kinkuna National Park. Woodgate was named after Mr. Thos Wood, once being called Westgate.
Buxton maintains a quieter character at the site of the early river port, the original proposal for the port here involving a possible quarantine office and customs house. Located at the confluence of the Isis and Bruce Highways, Apple Tree Creek suffered a serious flood in 1937 which destroyed the town's original hotel, the state school closing in 1969. Perhaps the smallest township is Booyal in the west which had a railway station between 1913 and 1955 and a hotel (the Crown Hotel) until 1964.
The Isis district boasts several 'ghost' towns. Horton had its own sugar mill, crushing for two seasons prior to the end of the 1894 season, and this business was enough to result in a small town that boasted the Grand Hotel, Jensen's general store, church, school, post office and railway station in its heyday. After it closed, the Grand Hotel was pulled down and shifted to Childers.
Nearby, and to the north east, is Abington, which is sited on the old Coach Road between Maryborough and Bundaberg. In coach days, the long gone Horse and Plough Hotel (the Shire's first licensed premises) was an important stop, but after the arrival of the railway in 1887, Abington faded away. The site of the town can still be seen today on the south western corner of Abington and Coach Roads. Abington boasted the first hotel in the shire and also the first official school which opened in 1881.
The Isis has had its own local government since 1887, the area being separated from the original Burrum local authority area on the last day of 1886. The shire administration building is a heritage structure opened on Anzac Day 1926 in Churchill Street, near the depot and water tower. Adjoining this building is an ex First World War German cannon, gifted and railed to Childers in 1922 to honour the district's soldiers.
Other key facilities in the Isis Shire are the Childers Hospital, the show grounds (first used in 1903) and the Paragon Theatre (opened in 1928). Local residents of distinction include Dame Annabel Rankin (who resided on a farm in Rankin Road, Childers) and one time Premier of Queensland, Jack Pizzey.
Childers Train Station
Isis Sugar Mill