The traditional owners of Brisbane and surrounding areas are the Jagera, Yuppera and Ugarapul people who occupied the region for thousands of years prior to European settlement.
During local settlement in the 1880s a Bora Ring, a sacred Aboriginal initiation site, was discovered at Clarendon, west of Lowood. In 1981 archaeologists recovered Aboriginal artifacts about 5300 years old from an ancient site near Fernvale, 9km from Lowood.
Exploration and Settlement
Major Edmund Lockyer and his party were the first Europeans to navigate the upper reaches of the Brisbane River. From 10 September to 6 October 1825, 14 men in two boats explored the Brisbane River as far as its source, over 200km from the penal settlement at Brisbane.
On September 17th dead trees lying across the river forced the crews to pull the boats overland in the region where Lowood later developed, becoming the first Europeans to visit and explore this district.
Nearby they discovered a significant Brisbane River tributary, later named Lockyer Creek. They encountered friendly Aborigines during their history-making explorations.
When the embargo on settlement within 50 miles of Brisbane was lifted in 1842, European settlers began arriving in the region to take up new government leases. By 1848 18 large 'runs' had been established by the Brisbane Valley's first pastoralists, among them 'Fernie Lawn', 'Wivenhoe' and 'Tarampa', whose boundaries covered the areas where future settlements would include Lowood, Vernor, Fernvale, Wivenhoe Pocket and others.
In 1868 Government leases were opened up for selection and sale. Lowood was surveyed for Government approved 'closer settlement' by Surveyor R.D. Graham in 1872, but the township itself did not start to develop until the 1880s.
Along with settlers from Britain, many immigrants from Prussia and Germany settled in the region and introduced their culture, farming techniques and language to this district.
In the 1880s there were still several hundred Aborigines living off the abundant plants, animals and birds in the 'Rosewood Scrub' that blanketed the region's hills and valleys, and the numerous fish species in the rivers and creeks. As settlers cleared the scrub and expanded their properties, many Aborigines moved away from the district.
Industry and the Railway
When Lowood became the first terminus of the Brisbane Valley Branch Line in 1884, the area consisted of scattered farms, Hancock's sawmill and only two public buildings - Bethel Lutheran Church (1876)and Cairnhill Provisional School (1881). One newspaper report said the line "terminated nowhere".
This area was known as "The Scrub", being the northern end of the Rosewood Scrub, the dense vine forest that extended from Rosewood through Minden, Marburg, Glamorgan Vale and Tarampa.
With the opening of Cairnhill Provisional School in 1881, the name Cairnhill was adopted for the surrounding district. Rail authorities referred to the location as '19 Miles', its distance from Ipswich, before officially naming the new terminus Lowood. Railway records give its meaning as "Descriptive of locality", referring to the low brigalow scrub.
Timber getting and small crop farming became important local industries. A thriving township developed around the railway precinct as shops, hotels and businesses were established and more homes were built.
Lowood became the market distribution centre for surrounding communities. Soon tonnes of local produce were being dispatched daily by train to Ipswich and Brisbane.
The district was remarkably productive: sheep, pigs, poultry and beef cattle were raised and Lowood became well known for its quality dairy produce.
Agricultural crops in the district were as diverse as maize, fruit, lucerne, grapes, onions, potatoes, legumes, cotton, sugar cane and even coffee.
Lowood in Four Shires and Three Electorates
In the early 1900s Lowood district was divided among four shires - Walloon (based at Marburg), Tarampa (based at Gatton), Rosewood and Esk, and three State electorates - Rosewood, Lockyer and Stanley. From 1912 to 1917 Lowood had its own Shire Council, before becoming a division of Esk Shire.
Fires and Flooding Rains
Floods in the 1880s and 1890s destroyed thousands of hectares of crops and pasture, and washed away homes and other buildings along with hundreds of head of stock and sections of the railway.
In February 1893, the Brisbane River rose 86 feet (26.4m) at Lowood, still a record and metres higher than the major floods of 1974 and 2011. The railway line was submerged and the telegraph lines were several feet under water. Many properties across the district were completely wiped out.
Nine major fires ravaged parts of the township between 1904 and 1940. The eastern side of Railway Street was destroyed three times in eight years - remarkably the opposite side of the street escaped unscathed.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of the volunteer "bucket brigades" no lives were lost in any of these fires. After each blaze new buildings soon appeared and life went on.
Railway Closed, Heritage Remains
Improvements in roads and heavy transport progressively reduced rail transport to uneconomic levels. The Brisbane Valley Railway branch line ceased operations to Lowood in 1989 after 105 years of service.
Lowood's historic railway station and rail yards now form part of a large public park in the town centre, while the rail corridor from Fernvale has become a popular section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
Lowood has preserved a surprising array of historic buildings and sites that are important reminders of the town's character and heritage.