Boggy roads were a bane to horse drawn vehicles. The automobile fared worse but gravel roads saved them.
Boggy roads were a bane to horse drawn vehicles. The automobile fared worse but gravel roads saved them.

Travelling through Downs a ‘nightmare’ for visitors

WHAT had started off as a leisurely drive across the country was quickly turning into a nightmare. Katherine Browne, accompanied by her daughter Mary and Uncle John had left their home, Tartha, on the Moonie River to drive in their horse drawn vehicle to Ipswich for shopping. After passing through St Ruth and Jondaryan they arrived at rain soaked Toowoomba some six days later. Worse was ahead of them.

They stayed at Mole’s Inn where they remained the next day to get the horses shod. They went to a few shops but Katherine commented, “Toowoomba is a wretched, gloomy looking place.”

However, on Thursday it kept on raining and the Browns had to spend their time in the public room as the only other one was taken. Their sole amusement was walking up and down the veranda as the streets were too muddy.

On Friday they got away early and bought some food for breakfast. They had to walk to the top of the range with mud over their ankles. Katherine was feeling very unwell. Ahead was a long steep descent which was very difficult as it was extremely muddy Then Mary’s head began to ache caused by the shaking and walking. Though they were riding in the horse drawn vehicle they had to alight and plod through the mud at creek crossings and bad road conditions. Showers of rain were still coming over and they all had become wet. They were heading for the Inn at Gatton which was a 30km journey. The mud was so severe that the horses could hardly pull the vehicle along. When the ladies had to get out and walk they sometimes stepped into knee deep holes which left their clothes in an awful mess.

Mary was becoming despondent. She had been crying for some time she said she would rather sit down and die than go any further and her mother felt the same. She wrote “I never was in such a wretched situation in all my life and I pray to God that I may never be again.” However a fearful crossing place was ahead but a kind man and woman helped them across safely.

At last they reached the inn and were shown into a comfortable bedroom. A nice, civil, waiting woman took away their wet and muddy clothes to be washed and a tub of warm water was provided for them to bath in. They had a change of clean dry clothes and were given a nice meal.

“I do not think enough can be said of the comfort and enjoyment of the peaceful rest one feels in a comfortable, well-ordered road side inn, after such a day as ours.” She wrote. Mary felt much better too, after she retired to a warm bed.

They stayed there for the next two days recovering. Katherine claimed it was the best Inn she had ever stayed at but there were some problems too as by Saturday night all the beds were taken and the snoring of the men disturbed the ladies sleep. As the day broke one character began walking up and down the veranda singing. Katherine recalled “I felt very much inclined to call out to him as I call out to the children, and ask if he remembered it was Sunday.”

However it turned into a fine sunny day and all was peaceful and quiet, so the Brownes went for a walk down by the river. When they returned a new crowd of travellers had assembled at the Inn and many were drinking.

On Monday morning they got away early but the road was still in an awful state. By 1pm they reached Laidley described by Katherine as “a poor wretched looking town, just forming, with a muddy swamp on entering.”

They started up a rough ascent called the Liverpool Range.” After a long and tedious pull up to the top we looked down on many ranges of distant mountains and had the beautiful breeze from the sea” They reached the Postman Inn that night but Katherine was feeling ill again They came to an Inn called the Rising Sun and there they received letters from home and it seemed to get to Katherine as she wrote “I wish I was this far on my journey home, or as far as Jondaryan, breathing the fresh air of the Downs instead of this sultry close atmosphere.”.

At last on Wednesday 20th March, on a beautiful sunny day, the Brownes reached Ipswich and Katherine commented that it was much prettier than she expected.

It was two week since they had left home and the next day they started shopping. Uncle John bought a coat and they purchased a parasol, mantle and hat for Mary.

What Katherine and her family bought and how they returned is lost in history but thanks to her meticulous diary she gave us a glimpse of how, going shopping in 1861 could be quite an ordeal.

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