Darling Downs History
Early History 1850 to 1885
Brisbane emerged as the main commercial centre in the colony. Water transport was dominant during this time, with ships carrying exports of coal and rural products, and imports of manufactured goods between Brisbane and Ipswich.
Spicers Gap and Cunninghams Gap
- 1827 In June, Spicers Gap seen from Glengallen Creek on the Darling Downs by Allan Cunningham, coming up from the south, north-east of modern day Warwick.
- 1828 In August, Cunninghams Gap discovered by travelling south-west from Ipswich. Cunningham looked to the north for Spicers Gap, but it was 4kms south and he missed it. And Cunninghams Gap was found to be almost impassable for heavy vehicles.
- 1840 First farmers, the Leslie Brothers who farmed the Darling Downs in 1840 with stock from a New England station, then the most northerly settled district in NSW.
- 1842 Town of Drayton established near Toowoomba for freight.
- 1847 In April Spicers Gap rediscovered by Henry Alphen, and named after its peak (Mt Spicer). Squatters Patrick Leslie and Fred Bracker put up most of the money to clear the road, and lay a "corduroy" or pine log surface. By early August, two drays had travelled to Ipswich using the new road, saving three days and approximately 100 kilometres. In the 1850s, the corduroy road collapsed. By 1857, a team of up to 60 bullocks were needed to haul a wool-laden dray through difficult sections of scrub.
- Between 1860 and 1865 a properly designed and engineered road was completed. Much of this road still remains.
- In 1861 the single iron wire telegraph line was built establishing the first telegraph link between New South Wales and Queensland.
- 1871 With the coming of the railway to Warwick from Brisbane via Toowoomba, Spicers Gap Road was virtually abandoned. Heavy haulage by railways proved to be much more efficient than the slow haulage undertaken by drays and teamsters.
- 1910 Interest was revived after 1910 with the development of the motor car and recreational driving. Shire Councils were lobbied to repair the road, but it was not always passable.
- 1925 In 1925-27, communities from the Darling Downs and Fassifern Valley combined to build a road through Cunninghams Gap.
- 1935 In 1935, the Cunninghams Gap route was upgraded by the Main Roads Commission to a highway.
Spicers Gap Road was maintained until the Cunningham Highway was completed. Governor's Chair became a popular spot for picnickers in the 1930s and 1940s and this continues today. Spicers Gap Road was officially opened, as an historic road, by the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Environment on 23 August 1992. The historic road was declared a Conservation Park in 1998.
** End of page