Blackall Range (Montville/Flaxton/Mapleton)

The product of a volcanic extrusion

Blackall Range (Montville/Flaxton/Mapleton)
Entrance to Kondalilla National Park, Blackall Range, 1964. Image credit: Picture Sunshine Coast.

Origin of name

The Blackall Range is the product of a volcanic extrusion, with a maximum height of 450 metres. It was named in 1874, after Sir Samuel Blackall, Governor of Queensland (1864-1871).

Early history of settlement

Mapleton, Montville and Flaxton on the Blackall Range are renowned for their natural beauty, their rich rural history and their arts and crafts.

The pioneers of Mapleton were William and Thomas Smith who applied to select land in 1889. They cleared the dense vine scrub and planted bananas. The fruit was carried down the Range by pack-horses. In 1892 David Williams planted bananas and oranges, Harry Johnson strawberries and bananas, David Smith oranges, and Edmund Biggs strawberries and oranges.

Mapleton was first known as Blackall Range, then Luton Vale. The area was officially named Mapleton in 1894 at the suggestion of early settler William Smith who had read about "a pretty little place on top of a hill named Mapleton in England".

Mapleton quickly became a leading citrus producing area. The crop matured one month later than other citrus areas. The orchards produced an excellent livelihood for many families and greatly increased the value of land. In the early 1900s, citrus growing was at its peak in Mapleton and the road connection to Nambour was severely damaged by horse-drawn vehicles carrying heavy loads of fruit and produce. The Moreton Mill tramway had been built up to Dulong and after persistent agitation, it was extended to Mapleton in 1915. The tram carried passengers, as well as timber, cream, pigs, cattle, fruit and sugar cane. Once a month it ran day excursions for visitors from Brisbane. The tramline operated until 1944 when improved roads and more efficient motor transport made it obsolete. By then the citrus industry had collapsed on Montville, due to the Depression and insect infestation. Mapleton farms converted to dairying, pineapple growing and small cropping.

At Montville the first to select land were E.J. Burnett and G.L. Bury in 1881, but the first selectors to take up residence were Peter Weitemeyer and his wife Isabella, who selected land on the present Mill Hill Road in 1887. Other families soon followed. In 1888, William McClintock selected land for a farm on what would become the site of the township of Montville. In 1893 Henry Smith and his brothers arrived. Henry built the only cattle dip in town and opened the first shop and Post Office in Montville.

Montville was originally called Razorback because of the steep ridge on which it stands, where Henry Smith applied to establish a Receiving Office for mail. His first two suggestions of a name for the Office - Razorback and Vermont - were rejected as having already been used. So he suggested Montville, the name of his hometown in

Connecticut, USA, and this was accepted.

In the 1880s, thick rainforest covered the locality. Settlers cut into the scrub and made a clearing big enough to build a home. Cape gooseberries grew in the clearings after bushfires and by 1893, these were being harvested and sent to jam factories in Brisbane. Bananas were planted on the rich red volcanic soil. The citrus industry was pioneered by George Butt and Henry Smith and in 1905, Alfred Bowser began the pineapple industry. Citrus orchards and pineapples farms soon covered the plateau at Montville. Oranges and mandarins were marketed mainly in Brisbane and the southern states, but Glen Retreat Mandarins from Smith's orchard were being shipped to England. In 1930, Bowser planted the first macadamia nut trees and in 1945, J. Wilson began wholesale packing and despatching of avocados. Dairying was an important industry, until the European market collapsed and the last dairy in Montville closed in 1980.

For the first half of the 1900s, Montville, with its cool summers and mild winters, was a thriving mountain holiday resort. Several guest houses - including Elston, Manjalda, Mayfield, Belvedere - prospered, attracting visitors from all over Southeast Queensland.

The first selector at Flaxton was Joseph Dixon, from Buderim, who selected 800 acres, extending from the edge of Mapleton to what became known as Skene's Hill at Flaxton, Here he planted bananas and, in 1892, citrus trees.

Flaxton was named in 1890 when the Postal Department set up a Receiving Office at the residence of J.C. Wyer, who chose the name of a place in Norfolk, England, where he was born. Other early Flaxton residents were William Skene, Mrs Dunning and family, Mr Probert and Tommy Tama, a South Sea Islander. Dixon moved to Gympie in 1896, returning in 1905. In 1908 he replaced the original pit-sawn house with "Chermside" homestead, which was still located on the same site in 2000.