A Plain History

Image: Sheep Washing at Cecil Plains c1895 Source: John Oxley Library

Image: Sheep Washing at Cecil Plains c1895
Source: John Oxley Library

This week’s topic is thanks to digging through the collection and coming across the “Jondaryan Shire Handbook” from June 1977. I got all excited, thinking it would be like an almanac and I’d surely get an interesting story out of it. Nope. What I did find was a nice concise history of the old shire, mentioning that Cecil Plains was one of the first properties to be taken up in the area, and so I thought I’d see what else I could find.

Cecil Plains derives its name from the pastoral run of the same name. First used by Henry Stuart Russell and his brother Sydenham Russell in 1841, It is believed that the name was chosen to honour their mother Cecil Charlotte Russell, nee Pemberton. Originally thought to be useless for sheep, the property was mainly used as a cattle run. In 1865 the property was stocked with sheep and by 1908 it was recorded in Darling Downs: the Garden of Australia that Cecil Plains was considered to be the best sheep country in the Downs.

In 1916, Cecil Plains was the last of the major Stations on the Downs to be repurchased/resumed with Gowrie, Eton Vale, Westbrook, Jimbour and others already having been subdivided. These subdivisions where made available “to soldiers holding honourable discharges” by the government as a part of the Soldier Settlement Scheme.

Under the Discharged Soldiers’ Settlement Act, 1917 and associated regulations, every discharged member of the armed forces was entitled to apply for land and financial assistance. Under the Act this included war workers, munitions workers and the dependents of a deceased soldier or sailor such as a widow, mother, sibling or child who were dependent upon his earnings 12 months prior to his enlistment. The main purpose of this Act was to place ‘willing and suitable settlers on the land’. It also aimed to open new land for settlement and at the same time to provide employment and assistance for the thousands of discharged soldiers after the wars. Another form of assistance granted to discharged soldiers was in the form of grants to build houses. – Qld State Archives

Talk of a railway branch line from Oakey to Cecil Plains began around 1915, but the line wasn’t extended until 1919, and closed in 1993. The township of Cecil Plains was proclaimed in 1924. In 1938, allegedly after local “teetotallers” rebuffed several earlier attempts to establish a local watering hole, Mr T.M. Gleeson was granted a hotel licence for Cecil Plains and the Victory Hotel was opened shortly thereafter. The local school opened in 1898 and the secondary department in 1966, and is still operational today.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week hope you’ve enjoyed this brief history and we’ll see what we can dig up next time.

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