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Greenbank was settled early in the 1840s. Peter Jackson and Jack Slack ran a horse trading business in South Brisbane. Slack leased land in Slacks Creek to run horses, and his brother William also chose land at Slacks Creek.
The Jackson and Slack partnership selected land at Greenbank. In 1857, William married Mary Ann Skyring, his neighbour's daughter, 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 taken by Adam Moody, and known as the Apple Tree Run, or the Leaning Apple Tree Run. Moody led 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. When his father Robert died in 1866, 15-year-old Richard became head of the family and provided for his mother and two sisters. He looked after the family farm Willowbrook and also worked at the Henderson's property at Jimboomba. After 15 years working for the Hendersons, he devoted all his energy to the family farm. Richard Wynne married Ellen Slack, daughter of William and Mary Ann Slack. His sister Frances married Dan Slack, Ellen’s brother. Wynne's business interests revolved around cattle grazing, dairying and horse breeding. The Slack brothers, Dan, Jack and Will, were well-known local brumby hunters, who hunted between The Blunder on Oxley Creek and 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. It was a changing station for the Cobb and Co. Coaches travelling to Beaudesert via the Old Paradise Road between Acacia Ridge and Jimboomba. The first post office was located on the triangular lot between New Beith Road and Old Greenbank Road. In the early 1900s, the hotel was re-named the Teviot. Its licence lapsed following the withdrawal of the coach service in 1924.
In the 1890s, the old Greenbank station was subdivided into farming estates and local people asked for a school. A public meeting was held at the Greenbank Post Office in February 1890. 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 of the local children attended North Maclean school, which was five miles away. Archibald Jackson complained that his children had to leave home at 7:00 am to walk to school and did not return home until 6:00 pm. They were always tired from the long walk and he felt he would have to keep them at home if Greenbank didn’t get its own school.
In the 1890s, there were five families in the area with 19 children. 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. While the tenders were being called for construction, the local sawmill owner increased the price of timber. This meant that tenderers could no longer build the school for the price quoted. The school was completed by volunteer labour and classes began in January 1893. It was declared a state school in 1912. The Greenbank school was 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.
In July 1929, an interstate railway line was approved and completed on the Queensland side of the border. The line opened on 27 September 1930. The new railway was expected to open up southern markets for Queensland fruit and vegetable growers and meat producers. However, the new railway posed problems for local graziers who drove their cattle to the Brisbane markets along Teviot and Paradise Roads. The railway department installed gates across the line, but farmers had to be aware of the train timetable and make sure they could drive their cattle across the line before the train came through.
A private track was bulldozed on Jack Anderson’s property, from the Old Greenbank Road gates to Middle Road (where the roundabout is now). The track saved Anderson from having to go through the railway gates. Once Stoney Camp Road was built, the public started to use Anderson’s track. Anderson donated the track and its land to the Council when he subdivided his land in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
A number of sawmills operated in the region around Greenbank in the 1930s, including one at New Beith on Oxley Creek.
In January 1938, residents of Greenbank and Browns Plains applied to the government for telephone services. At that time, there were five homes willing to connect in Greenbank and three in Browns Plains. Locals worked together to supply the timber telephone poles and supply the labour to erect them. The service required 13.5 miles (22 kilometres) of line and cost ₤397 ($794). The Greenbank telephone and telegraph office was established at the home of Mr Sheppard in Middle Road opposite Pub Lane. Sheppard was also secretary of the local progress association. The telephone service opened on 15 August 1938 and was capable of servicing 45 homes. The Browns Plains telephone and telegraph office was run by Mr L M Bock, who was also the post office keeper. He had one phone, with 10 homes on a party line.
Postal services were upgraded in the late 1930s. John Cordingley, the Kingston storekeeper and blacksmith, took on the postal service wayside delivery in the west following the closure of the Park Ridge Post Office (which had been operated by a farmer, Mr A Wilson). He delivered the post twice a week. Local residents were surveyed to determine how many deliveries they would prefer. Several residents, including Blenda Swensen, Noel Watson of the Kingston piggery, C Scott, L Smith, F Bignell and Tom Seeleither, all asked for an increase in postal deliveries. On 19 March 1940, Mr Cordingley started to deliver the mail by horse and sulky three times a week to Kingston and Park Ridge. Cream carrier Johnson delivered in the Greenbank area.
In November 1949, the Greenbank Progress Association resisted military authorities who sought to resume large parcels of land in the area for long-range target practice and other military manoeuvres. In 1949, the councils had just completed improvements to the Maclean–Gailes Road (Goodna–Oxley Creek Road). The proposed land resumption would take away residents’ livelihoods, reduce the rates collected by the local councils, and probably reduce the services available to remaining residents. In the 1940s, the funding allocated to a division was directly related to the rates collected locally. Both Greenbank Progress Association and New Beith Progress Association lobbied 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 and the Greenbank Army Camp was mainly used for cadet camps, while the ‘nashos’ (people conscripted for national service) trained at Wacol. The 4,500-acre camp had been used for logging and for grazing the Hereford stud herd of the previous owner, Mr Stewart.
In 1952, a report was commissioned to value the timber on the site as a way to value the property. Queensland Industries Pty Ltd concluded that there were isolated specimens of valuable timber, but that logging had already removed most of the worthwhile timber. The report concluded that there was not enough economic potential to warrant commercial use of the area for timber supplies. It noted that if the area was allowed to regenerate for 50 years, it would become a valuable timber area again.
Throughout the 1960s, the Commonwealth Government continued to acquire land in Greenbank. In 1966, the Commonwealth was sought to resume more land for military purposes. A deal was struck with the Queensland Government to procure Timber Reserve 446, south of Goodna–Oxley Creek Road. Again, this land resumption met with strong local opposition, particularly to the planned road closure. Residents argued that the road 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 in spite of the opposition, and Greenbank became the training ground for the regular army, army reserves and school cadets.
It is likely that the development of Greenbank Army Camp influenced the decision to proceed with a major upgrade of Mount Lindesay Highway in April 1967. Almost $180,000 was allocated to construct a 22-feet-wide bitumen pavement from Illaweena Street to the Greenbank turnoff (Middle Road).
In June 1967, an automatic telephone exchange was established at Greenbank. It was a 40-line exchange, with 15 subscribers initially.
In March 1986, the Edwards family property in Ison Road, Greenbank was subdivided into 40 rural residential lots and offered for sale. 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 left the family’s date and persimmon trees in place.
In March 1986, the Greenbank Show was held for the first time. It included a full program of livestock and horse events as well as sideshow alley. Over the next few years, the show society continued to expand the event in the Teviot Road showgrounds. The show included 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 in 1996. The significance of the 4,500 hectare site lies in its relatively intact nature as a refuge for wildlife threatened by land clearing. At-risk plant species include Plectranthus Habrophyllus, and endangered fauna include the koala and greater glider. Greenbank is connected with both Oxley and Blunder Creeks to the north and Spring Mountain and Flinders Peak to the south west. The region is a haven for migratory insect-eating birds such as the black-faced monarch and the rufous fantail, as well as many nectar-feeding birds. At least seven frog species and 16 reptile species have been identified in the area.