This view of old Dalby is from Bell Park looking down Cunningham Street. The hotel on the left is the Club Hotel where the Russell Hotel now stands
This view of old Dalby is from Bell Park looking down Cunningham Street. The hotel on the left is the Club Hotel where the Russell Hotel now stands

A history of business in Dalby

It was just a little western town beside the railway line. There was a time Dalby seemed to prosper and rose above the settlement that had been a teamsters camping ground. The steam trains had arrived in 1868 giving the town a boost for eight years until the line moved on. At the beginning of the 20th century it was difficult to service the large surrounding area. The 1901 census revealed 1416 people were resident in the town which was surrounded by large grazing properties. People living on the stations came in 50 to 100 kilometres for supplies. The soil roads were rough in the dry and boggy in the wet.

Still, the town could boast of an attractive Post and Telegraph office with the School of Arts nearby. A hospital, railway station and three churches were part of the scene along with a number of businesses. Salvation Army Barracks, large State buildings and a flour mill that had just been established. There was a Farmers’ Cooperative with a Butter, Cheese and Ice Factory.

A mart had been opened for marsupial skins. This industry provided employment for a large number of young men during the long drought as in many cases it had been their only source of income.

Thirteen hotels operated in Dalby giving some idea of their popularity at that time. There was a racing club (Northern Downs Jockey Club), an Agricultural Society and a Recreation Reserve set apart for athletic pursuits. Perhaps as a precursor for the future, a bore had been sunk over 600 meters deep and a good supply of water was obtained.

The people of the town, perhaps felt things were looking up. Their member in the Legislative Assembly was JT (Joey) Bell, son of the famous Sir Joshua Peter Bell Elected in 1894; he was to prove his worth in the years ahead.

The climate was mild and dry and particularly adapted to the requirements of persons suffering from consumption and other chest diseases. Joey Bell got behind the idea and moved the Government to build a Sanatorium. This was erected on the road well out of town for a cost of $20,000. Forty-two patients were able to be housed. The institution was the first of its kind in the Australia and the treatment what was what was known as the open air treatment. The patients slept and ate on the verandas surrounding the Sanatorium buildings and practically lived in the open air. All the work of the Institution was performed by the patients themselves under the supervision of a matron and four nurses. The Government paid for all the expenses.

Joey Bell got behind the movement to resume some of the larger company owned holdings for subdivision. His family’s old station of “Jimbour” was one of those that were cut up for selection. Settlers were encouraged to move up from the south. Bell pushed for spur railway lines to be extended from Dalby to Bell, Jandowae and Tara and the town began to move forward. With the development of cars and trucks the roads slowly improved to accommodate the increasing traffic.

Richard Charles Drew arrived in the Dalby about 1908 and he stated that he had a glimpse of the old town before it began to prosper.

In the hundred and twenty years since, the story of Dalby has been one of success.

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