The Rise and Fall of the Tobacco Industry in Forest Lake (Archerfield Station)
Homestead Park in the north of Forest Lake is the site of the earliest settlement in the suburb, and home to Archerfield House. The property included all of Forest Lake and much more.
It was purchased by the Durack family in June 1882 and mined for coal by the Queensland Land and Coal company, however no coal was ever found and it was auctioned off to Patrick Perkins in 1888. It was taken over by the Queensland Investment and Land Mortgage Company in the crash of 1893 when Mr Perkins could no longer pay his mortgage.
The company was unable to sell the property until 1915 when it was purchased by John Henry Hart. He was the last private owner of the Archerfield Estate. After he died in 1928, his executors formed an agreement with a new company to subdivide the property. It was divided in 1937. The northern section of the Archerfield Estate (which included today’s Doolandella and Pallara – a total of 4000 acres) was acquired by the Brisbane City Council for rate repayments. The Harts lost ownership of this land and received nothing from the transfer. Part of this area later became Forest Lake. The larger southern section of the land was transferred to Arthur John Stuart.
Some tobacco has been grown in Australia since the early years of settlement, but by the 1920’s Australia was still importing 90% of it’s tobacco. After a Select Committee report in 1929, the Federal Government provided a Bounty (reward) on locally grown and a Duty (tax) on imported tobacco.
The Great Depression also began in 1929, bringing widespread unemployment and desperation. The promise of a tobacco boom stimulated interest and led to an expansion in tobacco acreage. The government had to run ballots for tobacco land releases and private projects sought to cash in on the generous bounties. The Archerfield Estate, located where Homestead Park is today, was involved in this bubble of opportunity.
J H Hart, the owner of Archerfield Station since 1915, died in 1928. His estate managers were looking to sell or lease the property and in 1931 formed an agreement to allow Archerfield Tobacco Lands Ltd. to use part of the property.
The first tobacco crop at Archerfield Station was reported in 1932. It was grown on the Homestead site on about four acres of previously cleared and watered land. Though Archerfield House had burned down in 1928, there was a caretaker’s cottage there which was used by the company. A tobacco curing barn was built and in use by May 1932 (Bob Eason of Darra later saw it and reported that it was “large and well-made, using good timbers.” On May 21, 1932 The Courier Mail reported two distinctively opposite tobacco leaf varieties being grown on the property – American Hickory Prior, a heavier leaf with a strong mid-rib and heavy lateral veins, and the Crutcher, which had brighter and smaller leaves. The latter appeared to be the most suitable for the soil. Both were affected by severe seasonal conditions, and in addition many of the Crutcher plants were destroyed by mould and had to be uprooted.
Archerfield Tobacco Lands Ltd. later became involved in a case of fraud through an apparently unofficial involvement with the Texas Tobacco Plantation Pty Ltd. Texas Tobacco Plantation advertised community settlements of tobacco growers in Queensland. This venture went terribly wrong, leading to a public scandal six months later. The court case was held in Melbourne and was widely reported in Queensland, where the Archerfield Estate was central to the affair.
Archerfield Tobacco Lands Ltd lasted less than two years, and very little tobacco was ever produced. The principals of the Texas/Associated Tobacco Company were imprisoned and the investors had lost their money. Archerfield Tobacco Lands Ltd never received the title to Archerfield Station. The tobacco boom was over by 1934 and the manager of the Hart’s estate was advertising to sell off all of the Archerfield property.
By Vicki Mynott, Before Forest Lake
Adapted for print by Jamie Furness