by Dawn Barrie
The Local Property That Just Keeps Giving
It’s currently the home of Parklands Christian College but the property on the corner of Rosia and Hillcrest roads has had a very fruitful life.
First mention of the property in historical records arises in April 1893 when the Lands Office of the Queensland Government received a letter from residents at ‘Logan Ridges’ requesting that they gazette a piece of land so the community could build a Provisional School for the children in the area. A Provisional School was approved on the basis that the average attendance be at least 12 children, and that the selected teacher could board with a family in the district.
The 16 acre site was gazetted on 14th April 1894, and part of the land was hand cleared by settlers in the district. The school building was built of timber with a pitched roof of bark, the walls being lined with hessian. It continued as a Provisional School until August 1908 when the department closed the school citing budgetary constraints. The school reopened in March 1909 as a State School, with head teacher Miss Kate Burns who was willing to accept a yearly salary of just 60 pounds.
The original building was infested with white ants and was closed again in 1910. A new site for the school was found and the unused school building at Browns Plains was relocated to the present site of the Park Ridge State School. The original school saw about 87 students go through it’s doors over the 15 years it operated at this site. Something it would do over and over again in the decades to come.
The Rosia Road property was left dormant until a young poultry farmer applied to the Queensland Lands Department to lease the land at Rosia Road in 1936. Norm and Doreen Watson took out a peppercorn lease on the land with the proviso that they improve the land.
Norm set about clearing the land by hand with the assistance of Norm Prescott. They split logs and began building a shed to live in. This shed was later used as a fruit shop and became known as the Fruit Shed. They also used the logs to build the large chook pens. Long saplings were used for perches and butter boxes for nesting. These chook sheds were still on the property in the 1990’s.
When the Watsons first took up residence, they also grew small crops, which were later extended to pineapples and citrus. Initially the land was cultivated by horse and plough, then a small caterpillar tractor and then advancing to Ferguson tractors. The small crops were marketed at the Brisbane Markets. However most of the citrus and pineapples were sold at the farm with people driving from as far away as Woodenbong and Chermside.
Norm was quite innovative in providing oil burners on below 0 degree mornings to prevent the pineapples being frosted. With thermometers set at different areas around the farm, as soon as the temperature dropped below freezing, a bell would ring and he would go out and light all the burners. The farm was regularly used by the CSIRO to showcase best-practice farming to those who were interested in making a good income from small acreage.
During the 2nd World War, the American Army, who had a large camp on Camp Cable Road, applied to the Qld. Egg Board to be able to have all the eggs that came from the Watson farm. The business continued to grow after the war and in the early 1950’s they built a hatchery on the farm and purchased two large Armstrong Siddeley engines to generate electricity for the incubator which held 10,280 eggs. When the Park Ridge community approached SEQEB about bringing electricity to the area, they agreed to do so on the condition that Norm Watson’s farm connected to the grid. So Norm sold the generators ensuring that Park Ridge could be fully powered.
At the same time Norm moved into cockerels for Red Comb poultry abattoir (later called Ingham’s) which had opened on the hill beside the school in the early 1960s. Red Comb (Ingham’s) was actually located at Park Ridge because at the time Norm Watson was their biggest producer of table birds. He allowed his chooks to run in the citrus orchards to produce muscle and a large bird, which was the type required in the early days.
Over the years Norm employed many young men on the farm, often from the state ward, and endeavored to give them an understanding of being an upright citizen, by teaching them the values of life.
In 1972 the farm was sold to Col and Margaret Stainer who continued to grow the poultry and citrus sides of the farm and built a new brick fruit shop/restaurant which is still in use for church activities.
Logan West was booming in the 1980s due to major developments in Browns Plains that took the area from a few thousand residents to 30,000 residents in a short period. During that time, the Rosia Rd property was gradually sold to Parklands Christian Church (formerly Logan West AoG) with the vision of creating a school. The church quickly outgrew the ‘fruit shop’ and controversially set up a large ‘Canvass Cathedral’ to cater for the growing congregation. The tent was eventually destroyed during a wild storm and work began on the large auditorium that currently exists at the front of the property.
Parklands Christian College was started in 2001 bringing the property full circle back to its place as an education facility helping new generations of young people get a good start in life. The original 16 acre block has now been expanded to 45 acres along with the college’s vision to build a facility that serves the Logan West community for many years to come.
Park Ridge History Connect researches and records local stories from previous generations. Visit www.parkridgenews.com.au to see our history stories collection.