Early Pioneers
Antipodeans Anticipation
Antipodean's Anticipation.   My husband's Great Great Grandfather, David Cannon McConnel was an Australian pioneer from 1840. Whilst reading his letters written to his mother in 1843, I was intrigued when he suggested she fly out to see his property “Cressbrook”, near the Moreton Bay Penal Colony. Researching flight lead me to the existence of the Aerial Steam Carriage. Patented in 1843 and widely advertised throughout the British Colonies the machine never got off the ground. The Atlas newspaper wrote in March 1843: “ ..an invention which if only partially succeeds, must revolutionise society, and instead of dwelling on the tolerably-sized surface of the globe or world, by the ease of intercourse, will become so small that we must migrate to the stars. What becomes of free trade when goods are spinning among the clouds, flying with goods from all parts of the world?”
Obstinate Bad Tempered Bullock

Extracts from a letter to his mother in Manchester, England. Dated 16th September 1841.

My Dear Mother,

....it has been a long time since I have seen any of you. Where do you think I have been all this time? I have been a wonderer over the face of the earth, for the first 8 months without either friend or a home; sometimes not even a roof over my head, except for the blue and brilliant sky, or thick masses of cloud and rain. I have been in many scenes of peril, but providence has guided me safe through all. At one time I was seated getting my luncheon with another man, surrounded by thirty blacks, no one of whom has ever seen a white man before; at another time galloping over logs and dead trees after some obstinate and bad tempered bullock, who would not come up at work as usual; at another, coming up to my tent from the bush, very glad to have something to eat, to make up for the two previous days, when I had nothing but tea.

....I think it was about the 1st of February when I set off from Sydney on my expedition to Moreton Bay, and I arrived there on June 11th .... being five weeks on the road in going 750 miles ... Most of the trouble is over now; I have all my sheep and part of the cattle at Moreton Bay, grazing on fine and beautiful country, where I hope they will remain for some years; they will do that if this station turns out to be as good as it appears. ….”

Mort and McConnel Ride to Sheepstation.
Extract from a letter from David McConnel to his brother Fred, dated October 27th 1844.

Dear Fred,
  .........Mort and I found a mob of cattle, & was driving them past the scrub near the junction of the lagoons; when the cattle started & snorted & would not go on; I tried them at three places, at last they bolted back, near the scrub, & there stood a number of blacks, with their spears shipped & boomerangs ready
Moreton Bay Bride
Extract from a letter from David McConnel to his mother dated October 6th 1842 .

Dear Mother,
...................I am doomed here to lead a miserable life in the bush, as least as far as society is concerned. Fortunately I have plenty of books to amuse by study; but they will be here in three weeks. There is no female society here & I may say that I have not seen a lady for the last 10 months. I have scarcely spoken to a young unmarried lady since I came from England. Other people find the same fault with the colony, so I am not singular.  If anybody wish to come here, he should be married first, then he would have a companion to solace his weary hours; but his wife should be one who could go through hardships & could live economically. A farmer’s daughter with such education as to give her a refined taste & good manners is one for the wilds of Australia.  

Mary McConnel wrote – on her arrival in Moreton Bay:
....arriving safe in Moreton Bay, 1st May 1849. What a dreary waste of water the Bay looked. ...It seemed really to me as if we had come to the end of the known world, and no other had dawned upon us. .... My husband went to secure accommodation for us in the one hotel of which Brisbane could boast, “Bowe’s Inn.” ... How shall I describe it?  ... I went in, and was going to shut the door when I found if I wished to do so I must put a chair against it, as there was neither handle, lock, nor bolt! Then I looked for a blind to the window, but it was innocent of such luxury, and I could not spare the one towel to make the room private.
Leichhardt and McConnel

McConnel was the first white man to enter the Brisbane Valley, travelling overland from southern New South Wales and crossing the Darling Downs to settle his run on the 15th July 1841.

On 11 November 1843, Leichhardt arrived at McConnel’s Station. He wrote in his diary ..

He has a very comfortable dwelling and his run here is very suited to cattle and sheep raising. Usually this run is regarded as the best in the whole district. Mr McConnel has 1300 head of cattle and about 10000 sheep. His lambs give 95 – 97%, which is extremely favourable. The cattle keep to some open flats under these mountains and the sides of Stanley Creek ( later renamed the  Brisbane River ). The sheep are in a more hilly area at Cressbrook” ….

Of our native flora and fauna he wrote:

You cannot imagine what a rich impression the Moreton Bay Chestnut Castanospermum australe makes with its dark green pinnate foliage and the short racemes of red and yellow flowers shooting from the branches and next to it is a Melaleuca with linear lanceolate leaves of pale green colour adorned as a cloth of white honey-scented flowers. So on the banks of the rivers and streams colours succeed colours now. One as beautiful and more beautiful as the other. After the red Calothothamnus finishes flowering, the white Melaleuca and the red and yellowish Castanospermum come. Already the buds of Kullu mistletoe are developing, which probably in two weeks will be a new adornment of the murmuring streams or of the tranquil waterholes inhabited by tortoises and Ornithorynchus.

I Could Smell Their Smoke
Extract from David McConnel to his mother dated October 6th 1842  

Dear Mother,

………………About six weeks ago, as I was riding down to the settlement by myself, I was a little surprised by them. I came to a crossing place on the Brisbane River; on the banks of the river, is about 120 yards of “brush” or thickly timbered land all empty spaces chocked up with vines & under wood. Outside was a smoke, which I knew to be black’s smoke, but I didn’t see any, so ventured along the road through the dark and gloomy brush; as I went down, I heard reeds rustling behind me, so trotted on, turned round a sharp corner into the bed of the river & saw 4 blacks with spears in their hands about five yards of me; they were taken by surprise. They looked at me, & saw a brace of loaded pistols on my saddle, were afraid,& so attempted to pass off things jocosely, & said “Good morning”; “name you”, then one of them said; “me Sydney” (I understand); “I believe, Mister McConnel”; to which I answered “Youai” (yes) then asked their names, & where their country was, & “name you”, Name yarrone beonging to you:,”what for you sit down creek”, they said “we spear him fish”, “how many white fellow sit down, close up”, along with you”, now this was a home thrust, so I said “Three fellow close up:, knowing at the time that there were three men coming about 5 miles off; all this happened without my stopping my horse, so I said good morning & was out of their reach, but was not comfortable then, for I had five miles of scrub to ride close to, & all the was I saw black’s smoke – several times heard them cooeeing or shouting; as long as I had arms with me, there was no danger.

Girl With Purple Hair
Extract from a letter from David McConnel to his brother James, dated 17th January 1846.

Dear James,
..............You have no idea how dull it is, here at the settlement; the place is more destitute of amusement than any place  I know almost; it is too hot to make excursions; there are no literary excitements, so if I could not find some occupation here, I should suffer considerably of ennui; the society here I do not admire; & in this country good society is generally very proud, & reserved; most of the people have not been very well off at home, & have become more wealthy & looked up to here & there has been little or no restraint to their pride, which shows itself to an amusing extent in Sydney. & astonishes all new comers.
Frightened Horses
    Extract from a letter from David McConnel to his brother Fred, dated March 4th 1845.  

Dear Fred,

............Horse stock is strong at present, that is, we have as many as we want. ....Tom a chestnut horse bought from Balfour for ₤14-10/-5 year old is ready for use. Ginger a horse bought from Bow, saddle & bridle given in for ₤15, 5 year old, does a good deal of my work after cattle, & is a capital horse. He went 16 miles in less than an hour, after Balfour’s mares. I ran down a native dog with him the other day, which Wolf (McConnel’s dog) held, till I cut off his head with my sword. Dick (McConnel’s favourite horse) does the rest of my work. Prince is ridden by Mort.

Frightened Cattle
Extract from a letter from David McConnel to his brother Frederic dated October 27th 1844.    

Dear Fred,

………… Before & ever since you left, the blacks have bee repeatedly reducing our cattle not with tallow or salt beef for sale, but into fresh meat for their own consumption & into a few dead skeletons & a great many living ones. We mustered the cattle the other day & were 39 head short, but a few of those probably were on the run in some snug corner. We believe that there is a white man with them, for these reasons 1st that we have several times seen tracks of a man wearing shoes, among the blacks’ tracks; now the blacks hate wearing shoes, they cramp their feet. 2nd their attacks on the cattle display such cunning & judgement, that we think there is a white man to assist them. They make a smoke at one part of the run & attack the cattle at another. They drove all the cattle off the plains, & over four camping grounds, & then the whole of the cattle went into the scrub near Scott’s station; some of those cattle ran through scrub & down the river 20 miles without ever stopping, a few joined Scott’s cattle. The rest came back again the next day.