History of Cabarlah


Photograph March 2017 by L Galligan showing the Coffee shop and Cuckoo Clock shop

Cabarlah is a rural village on the New England Highway 18 km north of Toowoomba, situated in the Geham Parish of Aubingy County. The suburb of Cabarlah has an approximate area of 20 km². It is surrounded by the suburbs of Fifteen Mile to the north east, Geham to the north, Highfields to the south, Kleinton to the west, and Murphys Creek and Spring Bluff to the south east[1]

The original Aboriginals of the district were probably the Jarowair. However, in the 1880's or 1890's Captain Blaney, a governor of the Toowoomba jail retired and built a house he called Wirra Wirra House. This, it was said, was named after a tribe of aboriginals whose habitat extended from near Cabarlah to Hodgson’s Creek[1]. Neighbours of the Jarowair people included Waka Waka, Giabel, Jagera, Barunggam, Kaiabara, Kabi-Kabi, Undanbi and Batjala (Geham SS 1996).

From the 1850's the settlement at around Toowoomba grew rapidly. There was a strong demand for timber, and timber mills spread north along the Highfields Range. From the 1860’s to 1883 the area was called Five-Mile Camp within a larger area of Highfields. From 1883-1885 the Divisional Board office was listed, by the Post Office Records as at being at “Five Mile, Highfields”. It is thought that the name Cabarlah derived from an Aboriginal expression describing the ring-tailed possum[2] A 1930 article has it as a “Native name of the mountains in the neighbourhood”[3]

A 1944 letter to the Railway has this version as well. The name Highfields (or Highfield) was probably named after a Highfields pastoral run, north of the township[4]. The name Highfleld/s does not appear in the newspapers until 1864.

The article in March 1865 suggests very little development before 1864 in the Highfields district (which included Cabarlah). In 1860 the land around Cabarlah was gazetted the Royal Agricultural Reserve.[6] Townships grew to service the timber mill workers and the 1860’s. The names Cabarlah, Geham, Pechey, Perseverance, Pipeclay, Ravensbourne and Hampton came later (1870’s to the 1880’s).[7]

The article below describes Highfields and its extent in 1865 from Stony Pinch is just outside Toowoomba (current Mt Kynoch) to Perkin's Hotel at the first sawmill near Geham. Early settlers would have included Sondergeld’s, Wilkes, Bishop, and Larkin.

The article (10 Nov 1865) highlights the selection of land from the Agricultural Reserve between 18 and 80 acres. Highfields Paddock was **. By November the same year the size of some land packages had changed to between 5 and 10 acres near Bishop's Paddock (this was probably between Sondergeld's and the street known as Shostaki Rd) and 40 acres near Sondergeld's.

The article also names Bishops Paddock; Sondergeld’s farm; Kynock and Megard’s farms; Timothy Larkin (so he may have owned por 293 – 300 or could be to the West as they are on Reedy Creek.

This map of Cabarlah is part of the cadastral map of the parish of Geham. It shows many of the original owners of the land. The northern boundary includes portions 83 – 206 and the southern boundary from portion 259 to 27.

It also shows the route of the railway and parts of the Geham Parish boundary. The map is available from the Queensland Government historical cadastral maps.


An article in 1874 notes people donating money from the Highfields areas (including Bearkley and Wilks) as well as Kipperbillum, Reedy and Pipe Clay Creeks. Reedy Creek goes through the Sondergeld Land, and Pipe Clay Creek, near Hampton, at times runs parallel to the Hampton/Esk road. An article[7] states that John Cameron and Hebbel had a sawmill at the railway station from 1880 to 1890. Cameron and Company were listed in 1892 as having a sawmill at Pipeclay Creek (2 miles south east of Hampton on the Crow's Nest line).

4 July 1874 article:

About fourteen miles from Toowoomba, on the Highfield road, is the No. 2 Primary School, within about half a mile of which I am informed Mr Munro is about erecting a steam saw mill. The road to Highfields has been of late considerably improved by the erection of numerous culverts across the various gullies, and a road has been cleared through the scrub, within about half a mile of the residence of Wm. Merritt, Esq. J.P., and the road party are now engaged in erecting a culvert across a nasty gully close to where they have been clearing. At most of the farms, fruit can be obtained for the taking of it away — so plentiful is it. In all directions the feed for stock is all that can be desired. On Cooby Creek, which Mr James Murphy (of Overton) informs me was formerly a portion of the Gowrie run and reported unfit even for grazing purposes, there are now I am told about 10,000 head of cattle depasturing, and in most excellent condition. In this direction the selectors are turning their attention to grazing as well as cultivating.

On Cooby Creek

  • Mr G. Loveday has 2000 acres for grazing and cultivation,
  • Mr J. Russell 3000 acres ditto,
  • Mr James Murphy 2000 acres ditto,
  • Mr Tansey 2500 acres ditto,
  • Mr M'Cafferty 600 acres ditto,
  • Mr Bradley 400 acres ditto.

Geham Creek

  • Mr Dominick has 200 acres grazing and cultivation,
  • Mr Brown 200 acres ditto,
  • Mr Bonham 400 acres ditto,
  • Mr G. Say 200 acres ditto,
  • Mr Munro 200 acres ditto,
  • Mr Plant 300 acres ditto,
  • Mr Gillis 100 acres ditto,
  • Mr Greer 200 acres ditto,
  • Bank New South Wales 400 acres ditto (let to Mr A. Fairlie),
  • Mr Lawrence 400 acres ditto.

On Kipperbillum Creek (think this comes off Cooby Creek north of Geham)

  • Mr Boden has 400 acres cultivation and grazing.
  • Mr Hamlyn 500 acres ditto,
  • Mr L. Robinson 500 acres ditto,
  • Mr T. McGrath 200 acres ditto,
  • Mr W. Merritt, J.P., 200 acres ditto (40 acres of which are cultivated).

At Kinkeboorumdah

  • Mr John Death has 320 acres grass and cultivation,
  • Mr Case 100 acres ditto,
  • Mr Cossart 1500 ditto,
  • Mr Bidgood 500 ditto,
  • Mr J. McQuillan 1000 acres ditto,
  • Mr A. Merritt 400 acres ditto
[1] http://queenslandplaces.com.au/cabarlah[2] http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/35931764? [3] https://www.mycommunitydirectory.com.au/About/Suburb/Queensland/Cabarlah[4] http://www.queenslandplaces.com.au/node/412 Retrieved 21/10 2017[5] http://downsfolk.wikidot.com/aborigines [6] http://www.storytell.com.au/High_Site/history.htm[7]http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/rfa/regions/qld-south-east/cultural-heriatage/forest-industry-places/pdf/qld_se_saw4.pdf


There may have been a mini gold rush in 1870, put perhaps very short-lived,.

Brisbane Courier 9 June 1870