Entrepreneurial pioneer of Landsborough district

By Sonia Isaacs

Isaac Hudson Burgess (1834-1905) was one of the first pioneers to settle in the Blackall Range region. Despite illiteracy and relatively humble beginnings, this intriguing man went on to display an entrepreneurial mindset that saw him own over 1,400 acres of land, oversee numerous business ventures, operate three accommodation houses, a two-storey hotel, store and butchers shop and become instrumental in establishing the first school in Landsborough amongst other achievements.

While Isaac Burgess is credited as being the first selector for both Mellum Creek (Landsborough) in 1871 and the Maleny district in 1878, up until recently, relatively little was known about his life. Recently, the Burgess family have compiled a more comprehensive history that has been shared and featured on the Maleny Historical Memories website  providing a fascinating insight into the man who became an important figure in the economic growth and development of the Landsborough district.

Isaac and Hannah Burgess, with children Samuel and Annie Image Credit: Picture Sunshine Coast. Sunshine Coast Council/State Library of Queensland

We thought it would be interesting to focus on some of his local hotel ventures. Following the flushed rush of the Gympie Goldfields, and the completion of Gympie Road between Brisbane and the goldfields in September 1868 allowing the Cobb and Co coach run, Isaac Burgess decided that Mellum Creek presented a fantastic opportunity to establish a business supplying provisions to travellers travelling along Gympie Road. In 1870, Isaac, his wife Hannah and their son Samuel left the Gympie Goldfields and headed south to Mellum Creek.

In 1871, Isaac became the first selector in Mellum Creek. He applied for selection of Portion 1, Bribie parish on October 16, 1871 with his lease commencing from January 1, 1872. According to family records, this property was on the northern side of Mellum Creek and covered 128 acres.

Over the course of his years in Mellum Creek (later named Landsborough) Isaac owned three accommodation houses. The first was a slab hut with a bark roof which was built on Portion 1 around 1871. This became a calling place for refreshments and a change of horses for the Cobb & Co coach en route to the Gympie goldfields; it also served as a general store. While it is uncertain what the name of this accommodation house was called, some historical accounts suggest it may have been a ‘Temperance Hotel.’

In 1877 Burgess selected Portion 19 (572 acres), again on Mellum Creek, this time on the Brisbane side. Here he erected a two-story hotel, a store, and a butcher shop. It is presumed this hotel was called the ‘Sportsman’s Arms Hotel’. On March 19, 1880 records show that Isaac applied for a publican’s licence for ‘fermented and spirituous liquors’ for the Sportsman’s Arms Hotel. Over the course of the next six years, the hotel had several licensees. In 1886, the location of the hotel was described as where ‘the main Gympie Road also passes through Mellum Creek, and where the best road to the Blackall Range cuts this road at right angles also at this spot’.

By 1889, Mellum Creek was described as becoming a town of some importance. The railway line was almost completed, and a newspaper article from that year describes Isaac’s next Landsborough hotel venture the ‘Pioneer Temperance Hotel.’  A newspaper ad at the time describes the hotel as having “first class accommodation for travellers with good tables kept!”