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Joseph and Maria McCarthy with daughter May (later Dickson) on right and granddaughter Eileen Riordan

Joseph and Maria McCarthy with daughter May (later Dickson) on right and granddaughter Eileen Riordan

When you read the sign at the look out at McCarthy’s Lookout on Mountain View Road, it talks about the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains displayed in their glory below. Little do you know there is so much interesting history, this side of the view!

by Gay Liddington

In 1877 at the age of forty, Joseph McCarthy arrived on the Blackall Range in the quest for ‘red gold’ the much sought after Cedar trees. He was later joined by his Irish-born wife Maria.

The young woman ten years her husband’s junior had already birthed six children with seven yet to be born. She nursed her youngest who was one year old and would soon fall pregnant with another.

This seventh child, Bridget Agnes, would become the grandmother of a Queensland Premier, Mike Ahern.

Six years after his arrival Joseph McCarthy acquired as a Deed of Grant for Conditional Purchase Selection, Portion 1221 (640 acres) at a cost of twenty-four pound. This in part would become grazing pastures known as McCarthy’s Farm.

Joseph McCarthy portrait. (image from State Library of Queensland)

Joseph McCarthy portrait. (image from State Library of Queensland)

The area along Mountain View Road, Maleny, incorporates McCarthy Road, McCarthy’s Lookout and McCarthy Shute Road. The land remained in the family for the next seventy-one years.

It was a harsh existence for the pioneers who raised their families in slab huts by the light of kerosene lamps. As they settled the land they were largely dependent on their own resources. They kept chickens, milked cows, churned butter and made cheese.

Once per month a store man would do the rounds of the farmhouses in his horse and cart. He took orders for staples such as flour, sugar and tea bought by the bag. Bread and damper was baked in the wood stove, fish from the creek, wallabies, pigeons and scrub turkeys taken from the bush.

Maureen Finn and her son James, descendants of Joseph and Maria McCarthy, proudly speak of their heritage and share stories handed down through the family.

“I lived with Grandmother Maria for a time. I was fifteen when she died. She was a woman of indomitable spirit and cantankerous nature. She is known in the family as the first white woman in Maleny,” recounted Maureen, daughter of James McCarthy.

“Mum grew up in the little wooden house just behind the lookout. She grew up looking out at McCarthy’s Lookout every morning when she got up to milk the cows.

John and Elizabeth Grigor of Maleny. (image from State Library of Queensland)

John and Elizabeth Grigor of Maleny. (image from State Library of Queensland)

“Everyone thinks that Mountain View Road was named because of the mountain view but it was actually named after the house that Joseph built for his family. Their house was named Mountain View,” shared James.

The steep descent on the southern end of the range provided challenges for the first timber getters. This was overcome by creating earth chutes, usually constructed out of bark or timber. Logs would be ‘speared’ down the steep slopes of the mountain, sliding and hurtling to the bottom where the bullock drays and teamsters hauled the logs.

The distance from the highest point of McCarthy’s Chute down to the rafting grounds at Coochin Creek was about forty kilometres. In the early days of settlement there were no railways or roads other than the logging road coming through the chute.

“Joseph decided to take up a selection of land because he needed somewhere to put the bullock team to drag the timber back to the chute. And that’s where the name of that road comes from…McCarthy Shute Road,” said James.

Mary Ellen McCarthy like many of that family made her mark in history in an unexpected way, recollects Maureen. “There was a fellow who drove the horse-drawn cream truck. It was before the days of the butter factory. They used to take the cream down to Landsborough Station.

“As he did the rounds of the farms everyone would ask him to buy them a Casket Ticket whilst in town. Aunty Mary Nellie as we called her won third prize! It was about three hundred pounds. She used that to help build the first butter factory.”

Maria McCarthy portrait. (image from State Library of Queensland)

Maria McCarthy portrait. (image from State Library of Queensland)

James adds, “Mary Nellie was on the butter factory board but does not appear in the original photo. It seems she was not allowed to be in the photo because she was a woman even though she had invested significant funds!”

James Finn is passionate about his family history and agrees it’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together to get the complete picture but then you get to a point when you find some pieces are missing.

The family continue to search for the graves of Joseph and Maria’s children Andrew and Gertrude who died at a young age. They are buried in what was known as the ‘grave paddock’ in the vicinity of the lookout.

“I think there must have been a whole group of timber getters that travelled round together. The Tesch family were in Logan at the same time as Joseph and Maria. Then they turned up in Maleny shortly after them and began milling the timber,” said James.

The view: McCarthy Lookout today

The view: McCarthy Lookout today

“Joseph donated land for the showgrounds and land for the first school. It was a slab hut built on his property at Wootha. In 1892 he opened the Maleny Post Office,” said James.

Eleven years later the farmers assembled at the McCarthy farm and formed the Maleny Co-operative Dairy Association. Present at that historic meeting were: Joseph McCarthy, Thomas Cole, John Grigor, H. Bartlett, R. Tucker, Hon. A.J. Thynne and E.T.F. Thynne.

The association’s butter factory in Maple Street treated the first cans of cream on December 19, 1904.  In 1908 the Maleny Co-operative Dairy Association won a trophy at the Franco British Exhibition in London, for butter produced at its Maple Street Factory.

Application to Lease Lands. (image from Landsborough Historical Museum)

Application to Lease Lands. (image from Landsborough Historical Museum)

Joseph McCarthy, the first selector, is regarded as the founder of the dairy industry in Maleny. He sent his butter in kegs to Brisbane grocery stores, donated land to his community and was instrumental in opening the way for others to follow.

And, like all the pioneering families that created the town of Maleny, Joseph and Maria McCarthy were ordinary people doing extraordinary things.