An early view of Drayton Street, Dalby. The Royal Hotel was near the Church of England.
An early view of Drayton Street, Dalby. The Royal Hotel was near the Church of England.

EARLY DAYS: Dalby’s progress

WHEN the horse and bullock teams travelled west to take supplies to the newly developed cattle and sheep stations, they needed water for their stock when camping at night.

Crossing the Myall Creek, they noticed there was good water to be had, so they turned it into their favourite camping spot.

From there it was not far from St Ruth and Jimbour Stations.

It became obvious that the creek crossing would be a good place for a hotel.

Henry Stuart Russell of Cecil Plains assisted his hutkeeper Samuel Stewart to build a rough bush shanty in 1847 and was soon open for business when Stewart moved in with his family.

A year or so later, the Ross family opened another shanty on the other side of the creek.

No doubt for the teamsters, this soon became their favourite camping spot and some may have stayed on for days with the attraction of alcohol.

Within a few years a blacksmith shop and general store opened east of the creek on Drayton Street as it was known after the survey of the town was completed.

The newly surveyed town was designated as Dalby, but for most it was still called Myall Creek for some years.

It was the arrival of Fred Roche in about 1854, who was an enterprising businessman.

Using the teamsters, he extended his sales in all directions from the town.

In 1863, the town had acquired more hotels, churches, businesses and even a school it was ready for municipal elections and Fred Roche topped the count to become the first mayor.

However progress was fast approaching as the first railway was laid out from Ipswich and over the range to Toowoomba.

Then it progressed to Dalby arriving in 1868.

This must have had a dramatic effect on the teams coming from Ipswich as the volume of supplies were delivered easier and much faster by train.

However the railway line extended no further west for almost eight years which meant the teams were then coming from the south, north and west came to Dalby with their wool giving the town an economic boost.

Dalby may have experienced similar notoriety as did the small Texas town of Abilene in USA.

It is said, when it was also the rail head for a few years, it became the legendary wild west frontier town.

When the line moved on it sunk into obscurity.

Dalby would have been a lively place too as at that time the town boasted twenty hotels.

Rev JC Kirby was shocked with the place when he visited here in 1869.

He recorded: “Adventurers were here from every country under the sun. Women are scarce and the men are of the lustful, masterful sort”.

He is remembered for his statement: “Dalby is indeed a high place of Satan”.

The town did suffer some decline after the line extended west in 1876.

According to Richard Drew, Dalby began to move forward after his arrival in about 1908, Land was being opened up for farming and soon three spur railway lines extended to Tara, Jandowae and Bell.

Today, highways extend in all directions from Dalby.

They follow to some extent the old wagon tracks to the ‘City on the Plains’.


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