This is the Peters Family story in Cardie Peters words
I am Cardwell Peters (Cardie) born in Mareeba on 8 February 1936. I was born at the Ormonde Private Birthing Home located in the house still standing next door to the child care centre on Constance Street, Mareeba. This is the story of my family.
The Peters family connection to Australia commenced in 1861 when my great grandfather Wilhelm Henry Greebel arrived. He had been born in Ottensen, Scheleswig Holstein, Germany in 1836. No record has been found of his emigration into Australia, but he often worked as a ship’s pilot so we believe he may have been part of a ship’s crew and jumped ship in Australia, probably in Sydney. The first record of him is in Bowen where he worked as a carpenter. He was known in Bowen as Wilhelm Peters with the nickname ‘Bare foot Peters’ because he only wore shoes to weddings and funerals.
My great grandmother, Paulina Petschke was also born in 1836 in a town called Steinau in what was then, East Prussia. She and 338 other passengers arrived in Brisbane on 2 August 1862 on the ‘SS La Rochelle’ which had departed Hamburg in Germany in April that year. Like many single female immigrants at that time, she came to Australia under an agreement of marriage, immediately joining Wilhelm in Bowen. The marriage was not made official until some considerable time later. In those days, things like marriages and christenings could only be formalised when a pastor happened to ride by. For Wilhelm and Paulina that happened in Kingsborough, north of Dimbulah, about 20 years after they first met!
In January 1864 Wilhelm Peters was listed as ship’s carpenter on the SS Policeman as part of the government delegation led by Dalrymple to develop a port and township at what is now Cardwell, and to open routes to connect the rich cattle producing hinterland to a port. At that time the sheltered bay was called Rockingham Bay and the tiny settlement, Port Hinchinbrook. It was not gazetted as Cardwell until July 1864 by Governor Bowen to honour the Right Honourable Edward Cardwell, MP.
Paulina either accompanied Wilhelm or joined him soon after, because my great uncle George Cardwell Peters was born in Cardwell in October 1964. This began a tradition for the Peters’ of naming their children after the location of their births. Paulina had 9 children but only 3 survived to adulthood. In Cardwell, Wilhelm worked as a carpenter, specialist pilot, and undertaker. The Cardwell settlement struggled, and in 1866 Wilhelm found work at ‘Valley of Lagoons,’ a pastoral lease near the headwaters of the Herbert River. He was there for a least 12 months but by 1870 had joined the Gold rush at the Gilbert Ranges where his second surviving son, William Gilbert Peters was born in 1872. We believe he went to the Gilbert via Ravenswood where stories survive of ‘Peter the German’ having a fight with a battery owner over non-payment of a crushing bill.
Records indicate that both Wilhelm and Paulina actively filed for and mined claims as did the three surviving children. Mining was a competitive occupation, and there are many records of court disputes and rumour of physical fights amongst miners. Wilhelm and Paulina mined at the Gilbert until 1872 when it seems the minerals ran out and the Peters’ took out claims on the Headwaters of the Percy River where my grandfather, Percy Peters was born in September 1872. Paulina died in 1898 at Montalbion, a small town which was located 8 kms outside Irvinebank.
The Peters continued to mine, mainly tin but also gold, silver and lead. When he was 36 years old, my grandfather, Percy, acquired miner’s phthisis, a tuberculosis like disease, so he quit mining and bought his family to Mareeba. My father, named after his Uncle Cardwell, was 5 years old. He was the only son of 4 siblings. Eventually Cardwell and Wilhelm joined grandad in Mareeba. Wilhelm died in Mareeba in June 1917. He is buried in the old Mareeba Cemetery. Cardwell died in 1924 and is also buried in Mareeba.
Just after coming to Mareeba in 1906, Percy bought a 1,000-acre block of land along Pickford Road, Biboohra where he ran cattle. In 1921 he also bought a 300-acre parcel of land from Kate Maud Atherton, daughter of Mareeba’s original pioneer, John Atherton, along what is now Kenneally Road. He built a slaughter house on land where the Caravan park is currently standing and had a free-range piggery across the road in what is the sub-division along the Mareeba Cairns highway. His brother Cardwell, who never married, bought the land adjoining on the other side of the Barron River. Percy also bought a house block and built a home in Walsh Street just up the road from where Coles is located today. My wife and I bought that house, which is still there, when Percy died in 1960. Although in 1972 we built a home on the property along Kenneally Road, we still sleep in my grandfather’s bed!
As well as the house, Percy also built a butcher shop where the Uniting church is now and then in 1927 he built a butcher shop next door to his home. The butcher would hang the meat ordered by farmers, all wrapped in butcher’s paper with the name on it out the back. The farmer would come in after finishing work about 6 o’clock. Farmers would walk through the gate, up the side of the shop to the back, pick up their meat and go home. The meat would go on account at the shop. That is how things were done then. My Grandfather closed the butcher shop just after World War 11 ended in 1945 and leased the building to the NQ Bacon Factory, eventually selling it to them in 1950. My father, Cardwell Peters continued the cattle property at Biboohra, passing it to me on his death. That property is now managed by the fourth generation of Peters, my sons Mark and James.
As a child, I helped out with the cattle. When I finished school in 1951 I became an apprentice fitter and turner at Lawson’s Sawmill until Dorothy and I were married in 1957. We spent 3 years travelling around Australia on a ‘Working Honeymoon”, working in every capital city until we came back in 1960. Dorothy’s parents had Mareeba Hardware where Mitre 10 is now and we both worked in the shop. Eventually I found work with Granite Engineering and was there for 19 years before I sold real estate for a couple of years. For 18 years Dorothy and I had a gift shop in Coles. These days I call myself semi-retired. I have lived in Mareeba all my life. Now I spend my time volunteering and contributing to the town my family helped build.
Janet Greenwood Operations Manager
Janet commenced work with the Mareeba Heritage Centre in July 2016. She had the vision to create this project and was instrumental in acquiring funds and putting the right people in place to bring this project together. Janet is passionate about community engagement and development.
Mick Hay Announcer (Mareeba 4AM & Innisfail 4KZ)
Mick has worked casually in radio for 30 years at a number of stations including 4LM, 4GC and 4KZ whilst also working for Telstra. He joined the 4AM team taking over the Breaky Show full time in July 2014. Mick enjoys living in tropical North Queensland after growing up in Innisfail and staying in areas like Thursday Island, Normanton, Mount Isa, Cairns and Mossman. In his spare time, Mick likes to go camping, do a bit of fishing and he enjoys the great outdoors.
Angela Musumeci Volunteer Project Officer
Angela was born in Mareeba but like most young people left to pursue a career in Corrections and then Community Services. On retirement, she returned to her home town and is happy to be contributing to progression and preservation.
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