High tide had the waters lapping the top of the rocks at the Jetty at Redland Bay.
Quandamooka people have lived on and around this area for tens of thousands of years. Geological evidence dates occupation at a minimum of 21,000 years. Local people identify the Noonucal, Gorenpul and Nughi as the traditional owners of the Islands and adjoining areas. Food supplies were plentiful. Fishing, hunting and gathering were part of the communal economy, with people collecting food according to their carrying capacity, and food shared according to families’ needs. Dugong as well as fish such as mullet and tailor were caught with nets, sometimes aided by dolphins. Turtle and shellfish were also collected. Oysters, mullet, crabs, cowrie, prawns, cockles, eugarie, mussels and turtle were common foods at different times of the year. Other foods hunted and collected at different times of the year included kangaroo, wallaby, goannas, flying foxes, birds, possum, and bandicoots, native fruits and berries, honey, and drinks made from flowers.
The Aboriginal name for the Redland Bay region is Talwalpin after the cottonwood tree which was widespread in the area. The origin of the name Redland Bay is not known however it is possibly a descriptive name for the rich red soil of the area.
In 1855 Joseph Clark was running cattle on over 25 thousand acres which stretched from Ormiston through Mount Cotton to the Logan River and eastward to Moreton Bay. Clark did not renew his lease on the land in 1858 and it was handed over to TB Stevens who ran the fellmongery (tannery) on Hilliards Creek at Ormiston. During the early 1860s immigration was encouraged and J C Heussler was appointed Emigration Agent in Europe for the colony of Queensland. The initial wave of emigration led to almost 7,000 German people coming to Queensland. Early settlement was in Bethania of the Logan region on land relinquished by cotton growers and in 1868 land in Gramzow (Carbrook) was opened up under the Crown Land Alienation Act with Mount Cotton and Gramzow being taken up by German settlers. Mount Cotton settlers included the Heinemann, Benfer and Holzapfel families.
In 1866 the township of Redland Bay, formerly part of Scott and Campbell’s original land grant, was subdivided into one acre lots. The 1868 Queensland Post Office Directories listed residents of various occupations in the area, these included
farmers HP Airey, JP Drake, Chas Hervey, John Shipart, groom Richard Long and carpenter Pat Horisk. From the early 1870s sugar was the main crop in many parts of the district, the area became known as the Redland Bay Sugar Plantation. William and Richard Newton were credited with starting the first sugar mill on the estate.
S.S. Walrus, the first boat of the Floating Sugar Mill Company would travel to sugar plantations to collect the cane and crush it on board, having a flat-bottom allowed for the vessel to be beached close to the cane which had to be carted a short distance. The Walrus would visit the plantation at Redland Bay and those along the Logan
River. The boat also became known as a floating distillery, making rum from the sugar cane.
In 1869, a 100ft sailing ship was converted to steam and the SS Walrus began to sail up and down the rivers in Queensland’s Moreton Bay area as a floating sugar mill. James “The Bosun” Stewart also obtained a licence to operate a rum distillery on the boat, using the molasses obtained from sugar milling. The licence expired in 1872, but Stewart continued to operate the illegal still for a further 11 years. The pot still from the Walrus was used for the original Beenleigh rum.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the SS Walrus. In 1876 it was adrift at sea and expected to break up. The ship was salvaged by Samuel Crawford, who earned £500 for his trouble. Finally, in 1884, the ship ran aground on the banks of the Albert River. The pot still was still intact and Stewart sold it to two local cane farmers, Francis Gooding and John Davy. They had planted cane in the area between the two rivers in 1865 and had named their property Beenleigh after their home in England.