Local history is currently undergoing a renaissance, a trend which is being reinforced by the centenary celebrations of many shires in 1979.
The writing of local, shire or regional histories poses a number of problems. There is certainly no one simple format but an immediate and obvious approach is to collate the reminiscences of the older residents of the area. This can best be done by a local history society which should be regularly engaged in collecting memories and mementoes of times past and in recording the passing of times present. Local historians can also best uncover interesting sites, establish the beginnings of various institutions and link together the chain of family histories. Bauhinia Shire and the Springsure district have been fortunately served in this respect by Elizabeth Gilmour, who in 1959 prepared the Springsure centenary booklet, and in 1970 the Centenary history of the Springsure state school.
This new history, to celebrate local government in the area, takes a different approach. Only to a very limited extent has oral history been used, although an informal, xeroxed booklet of a few reminiscences has been separately prepared for reference. Much more needs still to be done in this respect. The main aim here has been to fit the area of the Bauhinia Shire within the general history of central Queensland and Queensland at large. Consequently, themes of economic, social and cultural history continually dominate the pages -- looking at the general development of the area, the fortunes of the pastoral industry, the progress of sheep and cattle, the trials of agriculture, the provision of communication links to the outside world, the coming of different forms of transport and their effect upon the people, the provision for the social and cultural needs of the community -- firstly, the coming of law and order, then, education and health services, and finally, the local response to problems of industrial strife, war and depression.
Chapter one looks at the frontier situation -- the violence between two different cultural groups. A fairly full picture of Springsure in 1864 is also given because the census of that year provides the first detailed analysis ever made of the area. Chapter two lays the pastoral foundations; included here is the problem of pests. The latter is a sub-theme which runs through the work, because such problems have always been major, yet overlooked, features in the history of the land. Again, a rather complete picture of the district around 1879 is made, for comparative purposes at this time of centenary.
By chapter three, with local government being introduced in 1879, some detailed study is given to the early, faltering years of the Divisional Board. The next decade, the 1890s, were difficult years -- with the 1891 strike and the depression -- and culminated in the disastrous drought of 1902. But the community again showed resilience and the early years of the twentieth century saw resurgence and experimentation. The Great War was entered with a spirit of confidence and an abundance of patriotism. The inter-war years (chapter six) showed a more subdued tone but by and large, in spite of the numerous difficulties, the district rode out the Great Depression without hideous scarring. The final chapter surveys the rush of developments and improvements which has occurred in the community within the last thirty-odd years. Owing to the difficulty that the historian has in treating contemporary events, this chapter has not been examined in as much detail as earlier chapters.
The operations of the Bauhinia Divisional Board, later Shire Council, interweave through the pages because in a number of respects it became the focal point of the local community. The Council has had a bearing upon the man on the land, and indeed upon the economic condition of the whole community; it has also helped provide local social and cultural services.
This then is a study of local government but within a wider, national setting. It links the pursuits of a basically rural community with the need for better communications and an improved quality of life. It reveals a wide variety of attitudes -- towards unions, wars, central governments, depressions, Aborigines and so on. But most importantly it asserts a faith in the strength of local government, of the capacity that a small country community has for endurance, and of the ability of these people to fashion a congenial and cohesive pattern of living.
The number of sources available for this study has been very extensive -- almost too much so. Apart from the oral sources already mentioned the Board/Council Minute Books (and other local government documents) are voluminous and provide an invaluable insight into the whole range of community life, not just the daily round of Council work. The printed parliamentary sources also provide a huge expanse of material on local matters, especially for the nineteenth century. Springsure is fortunate in being an early centre of settlement in colonial Queensland. Archival sources provide some insights, but are fairly limited. Newspapers, of course, can supply many of the details on social life; and greater use would have been made in this study if time had permitted.
Because so much of this study is based on so many different minutes of Council meetings, it began to look as though the presentation of this book would become top-heavy if the regular system of footnoting were adopted. Consequently, this approach has been eschewed and instead a condensed list of references is given at the end of each chapter. The references are presented in the order that the themes and information appear in the text, so that it is possible to obtain fairly easily a citation for a quotation or statistic. Generally no attempt has been made to refer to particular Council minutes.