Greenbank was settled very early in the 1840s. Peter Jackson and Jack Slack ran a horse trading business in South Brisbane. Jack Slack originally leased land in Slacks Creek, to run horses. Slack's brother William later selected land at Slacks Creek, while the Jackson and Jack Slack partnership selected at Greenbank. William married Mary Ann Skyring, his neighbour's daughter, in 1857 and had eight children. When William died in 1874, Mary Ann then married Peter Jackson and remained in Greenbank.
A further selection at Greenbank was that of Adam Moody's know as the Apple Tree Run, or the Leaning Apple Tree Run. Moody apparently used to lead kangaroo hunting trips for the VIPs of Brisbane.
Another notable settler along Beaudesert Road was Richard Talbot Wynne. He had come from Ireland as a child and when his father Robert died in 1866, the fifteen year old Richard became head of the family, which included his mother and two sisters. While keeping the family farm going, young Richard also sought work at Henderson's property at Jimboomba. He worked for Hendersons until he was thirty and then devoted his energies to his family property of Willowbrook. He married Ellen Slack, daughter of William and Mary Ann. Richard Wynne's sister Frances married Dan Slack, son of William and Mary Ann, and brother of Ellen. Wynne's business interests revolved around cattle grazing, dairying and horse breeding. The Slack Brothers, Dan, Jack and Will, were well known as brumby hunters in the area between The Blunder on Oxley Creek, to the border ranges.
Dairying, farming and timber getting were the main industries in the region from the 1880s. At that time a hotel existed on the corner of Teviot Road and Pub Lane and was used as a changing station for the Cobb and Co Coaches en route to Beaudesert via the Old Paradise Road between Acacia Ridge and Jimboomba. The first Post Office was located in the triangular lot between New Beith Road and Old Greenbank Road. The hotel was named the Teviot in the early 1900s, but its licence was allowed to lapse following the withdrawal of the coach service in 1924.
In the 1890s the old Greenbank Station was being subdivided into farming estates and the locals lobbied for a school. A public meeting was held at the Greenbank Post Office in February when Archibald Jackson, the receiving office keeper for the mail, was elected secretary of the school committee. William Moody and William Slack were elected members of the building committee. Many children attended the North Maclean School which was five miles away. Archibald Jackson complained that his children had to leave at 7 am to walk to school and did not return home until 6 pm. They were constantly tired from walking and he felt he would have to keep them at home. A school needed to be built in Greenbank and at that time there were five families with nineteen children in the area, many of whom were attending the North Maclean School. William Slack leased the school site to the Department of Public Instruction at a cost of 1/- per annum. Tenders were called for the construction of the school, but in the meantime the local sawmill owner increased the price of timber, which meant that tenderers could no longer build for the price quoted. Eventually the school was completed by volunteer labour and classes began in January 1893. It was declared a state school in 1912.
The Greenbank School closed between 1943 and 1950 due to insufficient pupils.
In 1906 following the increase in tick fever, three private cattle dips were built in the Greenbank area.
A Railway League was established in Beaudesert in 1914 to lobby for a standard gauge rail link between Kyogle and Beaudesert. In March 1921, the New South Wales Public Works Committee met in Casino and called many locals to give evidence. A lack of transport was the main hindrance to the development of northern New South Wales. The rail from Sydney only went as far as Murwillumbah. While pig raising was an important off-shoot from dairying, pig farmers who sold to Queensland meat companies, had to rail the pigs to Murwillumbah, walk them to Tweed Heads and then rail again to Brisbane. The construction of a direct rail link across the border would improve this and other industries, including dairying, cattle and timber. For many years the continual vacillation continued as to whether a road or a railway connection was to be built linking Beaudesert with Kyogle.
Eventually the railway was approved and, in June 1923, the Queensland Government announced the plans for an extra platform at South Brisbane to accommodate the interstate line. The survey party began work near Beaudesert, although it was apparent that the new line would not pass through the township.
The railway was completed on the Queensland side in July 1929, with the construction of the tunnel on the New South Wales side taking a bit longer. The line opened in 27 September 1930. It was jointly funded by the Commonwealth, the New South Wales Government and the Queensland Government. Completion of the link via Grafton to Sydney would have to wait until the completion of the Clarence River Bridge, which was expected to be completed in eighteen months time. This would further open up southern markets for Queensland fruit and vegetable growers and meat producers.
The new railway posed some problems for local graziers who usually drove cattle to Brisbane Markets along Teviot Road and Paradise Roads. The railway department installed gates across the line, but farmers had to be aware of the train timetable, in order to drive their cattle across the line before the train came. A new section of road was created for this purpose at Greenbank when the route to Old Greenbank Road was blocked.
A number of sawmills operated in the region around Greenbank in the 1930s, including one at New Beith on Oxley Creek.
Residents of Greenbank and Browns Plains applied to the government for telephone services in January 1938. At that time there were five homes willing to connect in Greenbank and three in Browns Plains. Locals had to band together to supply timber telephone poles and supply the labour to erect them. It was estimated that the service would require thirteen and a half miles (twenty two kilometres) of line and cost three hundred and ninety-seven pounds (seven hundred and ninety four dollars). The Greenbank telephone and telegraph office was established at the home of Mr Sheppard in Middle Road opposite Pub Lane. (He was secretary of the progress association in the 1940s.) It opened on 15 August 1938. The service was capable of servicing forty-five residences. The Browns Plains office was run by Mr L. M. Bock who was also the post office keeper. He had one phone with ten on a party line.
Postal services were also upgraded at this time, with John Cordingley, the Kingston storekeeper and blacksmith, undertaking the postal service wayside delivery in the west following the closure of the Park Ridge Post Office, previously run by local farmer, Mr A Wilson. Local residents were surveyed to ascertain the number of deliveries they would prefer. Blenda Swensen, along with Noel Watson of the Kingston piggery, C. Scott, L. Smith, F. Bignell and Tom Seeleither all requested an increase in the current delivery of twice a week. As of 19 March 1940, Mr Cordingley delivered the mail by horse and sulky three times a week to Kingston and Park Ridge. Cream carrier Johnson delivered in the Greenbank area.
The Greenbank Progress Association had a fight on its hands in November 1949, when the military authorities sought to resume large parcels of land in the area for the purpose of long range target practice and other military manoeuvres. At that time the councils had just completed improvements to the Maclean - Gailes Road, (Goodna-Oxley Creek Road). The resumption of land would not only take away the livelihoods of local residents, it would mean a reduction in the rates collection in that division, and subsequent reduction of services for the other residents, at a time when funding allocated to a division, was directly related to the rates collected in that division. Greenbank and New Beith Progress Associations lobbied both the state and federal members and the Beaudesert Shire Council to refuse the resumptions.
By August 1951, the resumptions were approved and gazetted. National Service had been introduced at this time and the Greenbank Army Camp was mainly used for cadet camps, while the 'Nashos' trained at Wacol. The four thousand five hundred acres had traditionally been used for logging, and for grazing the Hereford stud herd of the previous owner, Mr Stewart. A 1952 report into the value of the timber on the site was commissioned to ascertain the valuation of the property. Queensland Industries Pty Ltd concluded that while there were isolated specimens of valuable timber, overall the timber cutting that had occurred over the previous fifty years had exhausted most of the worthwhile timber, so at that time there was not enough economic potential to warrant commercial use of the area for timber supplies. It was also noted that if the area was allowed to regenerate over a further fifty years, it would no doubt be a valuable timber area again. The Commonwealth Government continued to acquire land during the 1960s.
A new automatic telephone exchange was brought into operation at Greenbank in June 1967. It was a forty line exchange with fifteen subscribers initially.
By 1966, the Commonwealth was seeking to resume more land in Greenbank for military purposes. A deal was struck with the Queensland Government to procure Timber Reserve 446, to the south of Goodna-Oxley Creek Road. Again this met with strong local opposition. This time, objections were to the road closure. Residents argued that this was the only trafficable road in times of heavy rain and flash flooding, when the Oxley Creek Bridge was often flooded for three days. The road was also regularly used by local timber haulers. The resumption proceeded. Greenbank became the training ground for the regular army, army reserves and school cadets.
It is likely that the further development of Greenbank Army Camp influenced the decision to proceed with a major upgrade of the Mount Lindesay Highway in April 1967. Almost $180,000 was allocated to construct a twenty-two feet wide bitumen pavement from Illaweena Street to the Greenbank turnoff (Middle Road).
The Edwards family property in Ison Road, Greenbank, was subdivided into forty rural residential lots and offered for sale in March 1986. Charles Edwards had been a bee keeper and timber-getter. He and his sons cut timber for the first electricity poles in Brisbane and for railway bridges on the interstate railway. The initial subdivision preserved the family’s date and persimmon trees.
The Greenbank Show was held for the first time in March 1986. It included a full program of livestock and horse events as well as sideshow alley. The show society continued to expand the event in the Teviot Road showgrounds over the next few years, with the inclusion of arts and crafts, cooking, photography and floral art, as well as old favourites like tent pegging displays, martial arts, highland dancing and emergency service displays.
Greenbank Military Training Area was placed on the register of the National Estate in1996. Its significance lies in its relatively in-tact nature as a refuge for wildlife threatened by land clearing. It comprises about four thousand five hundred hectares. At-risk plant species include Plectranthus Habrophyllus, and endangered fauna include the koala and greater glider. Greenbank is contiguous with both Oxley and Blunder Creek to the north and Spring Mountain and Flinders Peak to the South West. The region provides a haven for migratory insectivorous birds such as the black-faced monarch and the rufous fantail, as well as a range of nectar feeding birds. At least seven frog species and sixteen reptile species have been identified.