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BEFORE THE RAILWAY:- Westwood was Probably first visited by shepherds from the Archer Brothers' property at Gracemere. The township that developed in pre-railway days was named Preston. This settlement was an important staging Point for horse and bullock teams and coaches linking the inland with Rockhampton.
THE COMING OF THE RAILWAY:- In 1865, a contract was let for the building of a railway 30 miles from Rockhampton. The terminus of this railway was names Westwood. Historians have claimed that this railway was built because of pressure on the young colonial parliament by central Queensland representatives. This is probably true because Westwood had a railway eight years before Brisbane. While the long term aim of the Westwood railway was its extension to the Central West, its immediate effect was felt on this area of the Rockhampton hinterland. It was not uncommon to see as many as thirty teams camped for the night at the Westwood rail-head. The Westwood-Banana run, for example, involved two coaches and five horse teams.
Westwood became the centre for an extensive network of mail coaches and carrying services.
The line had reached Westwood in 1867 but it did not reach the next station on the line, Gogango, until 1874. It was during the years while it was the terminus that the town of Westwood had its most colourful years. The extension of the line was inevitable however, for this 30 mile railway did not have sufficient revenue to justify its existence. The extension of the line naturally meant a decline for Westwood.
Early Westwood must have had much of the romance that we associate with the wild west of America. Two famous bushrangers spent some time in the Westwood area. The infamous Gardiner is known to have visited Westwood . A young hotel employee, Bill Madden, is reported to have robbed a stage coach. His hide-out was in the scrub about three miles from the Sebastopol Hotel. He was later arrested at the hotel. Up to ten hotels at one time operated in the proximity of Westwood. The present day homestead of Mr Colin Lawrie is on the site of the old Sebastopol Hotel. On the whole, Westwood did not see the lawlessness of the wild west. At one time, the town had a police Sargent and five constables.
Nearby, gold diggings and the population they drew added further colour to the town. As with all gold diggings in Australia at that time, large numbers of Chinese wore attracted. Several gardens and orchards also existed around the town.
During its heyday Westwood supported no less than three blacksmith and wheelwright shops, two butcher shops, two saddlery and harness shops, a boat-making shop, a chemist Shop as well as general stores.
Reports vary as to the level the population of Westwood reached. It was between 2.000 and 3,000 though some accounts have it an high as 4,500. The difficulty here is caused by the size of the floating population associated both with gold diggings and major rail extensions.
even before the establishment of the government school at Westwood, a private school was in operation. This school gradually became redundant after the National school opened.
In 1871 the inhabitants of the Township subscribed £85.13.0 for the purpose
of building a school. A heated dispute developed amongst the inhabitants
as to where the school should be built. The residents partitioned the
Board of Education to alter the chosen site, sending letters and telegrams
objecting to the site.
The following is a list on the north or Hoblers side of the railway terminus
Total 14 Adults 25 Children
In spite of the objections, the Board refused to change the site and tenders were called for the erection of a school house and teacher's residence. A tender for £344 from Alexander Walls was accepted by the Board add building commenced in March 1872. W. J. Spencer was appointed as the first teacher. The school opened Monday 26th, with an attendance of 47 increasing to 105 by 1877, The teacher had occasion to protest to the Board regarding the use of part of the school grounds as a graveyard. The practice ceased after Mr. Spencer's complaints and a new cemetery site was selected.
Mr. Spencer was head teacher of the school until 1876. He was succeeded by Alfred Fisher. The next Head Teacher, Samual Joseph Wills, held the position the longest, for almost 24 years, 1879-1902. As well as being the towns head teacher, Mr. Wills, who retired at Westwood, was also the district's doctor, dentist and midwife. One of his sons, Mr. P. R. Wills, who was born at the school residence and educated at the school, rose to the position of Commissioner of Railways. Another son Mr. Herbert Wills was an assistant teacher at the school.
One other head teacher who lent medical aid to those in need was Mr. H. C. R. Stevens who was head teacher from 1915 - 1922. One former resident had stated that during the Influenza epidemic at the end of World War 1, he was called out night and day. He also administered first-aid to many accident cases, whilst awaiting the arrival of an ambulance or train to transport them to Rockhampton.
Three churches were also established. A public meeting in 1873 decided to erect a church for Protestants. A separate Anglican church was built. Roman Catholics had for at least three years a resident priest.
AFTER THE BOOM YEARS:- The census of. 1886 showed that the population of Westwood had dropped to less than 200. Regardless, the town still had three hotels, the "Railway", the "Westwood", and the "Queen's", and two boarding houses.
Two churches, the United Protestant and St. Bridget's R.C. Church still had regular services. The R.C. Church was later shifted to Depot Hill and replaced by a smaller structure.Below is a list of Westwood and nearby residents in 1894 obtained from the Post Office Directory of that year. The directory did not include the names of railway maintenance workers, who then, as now, formed a sizable proportion of Westwood's population:-
20TH CENTURY WESTWOOD
Westwood served as the venue for Rockhamptonites interested in a day in the country, particularly in the days before the Rockhampton - seaside lines opened. Even after the turn of the century Westwood remained a popular venue for honeymooners.
The railway refreshment rooms were for many years not only a congenial meeting place for local residents but were also known throughout the length and breath of the Central Highlands and the Central West. In the days when the railway was virtually the only means of travel between Rockhampton and the West, all Westerners knew that Westwood was the first or last refreshment stop depending which way they were heading. With the introduction of the Midlander and on-train refreshment facilities these rooms gradually became redundant and were closed in 1957.
A familiar sight for more than 30years between Westwood and Rockhampton was the Westwood Rail Motor. This service replaced the "cockys"' train. With heavy congestion on the line caused by coal trains and declining patronage the rail motor was withdrawn about six years ago.
At Husham, just cast of Westwood a hospital was set up in 1919 to treat workers from Mt. Morgan suffering diseases associated with mining. The hospital subsequently became a sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis. Since 1959 it has been a hospital for the aged and closed around 1980
The upgrading of the Blackwater to Gladstone Railway had ensured a constant population for Westwood in the years to come.
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