Subsequently Stone argued the middens were really scrub fowl nests made by the orange footed scrub fowl (Megapodius reinwardt). Bailey, Wright and Beaton all believe human agency responsible. Bailey estimated there were over 500 middens, of which he examined over 300, some as high as 10 m. Ethnologist Dr WE Roth reported the middens in 1901; as did government geologist CFV Jackson in the following year.
Anthropologist Richard Wright led an archaeological excavation of two sites in 1963 and 1971, which confirmed his view that the sites were of human origin, and the middens - thought to be at risk from possible future mining developments - were placed on the Australian Heritage Commission's Register of the National Estate since 1980, mainly because as Richard Bailey argued, their cultural heritage value far is greater than their natural heritage value.
John Douglas: calming Cape York's troubled waters
John Douglas was Queensland Government Resident Thursday Island 1885-1904 and Premier of Queensland 1878-79. This photo shows John Douglas with his sons at Thursday Island in 1903, the year before he died.
His was the vision to calm the troubled waters of western Cape York Peninsula through the establishment of a string of missions down the coast. Commercial fishing based at Thursday Island had made lucrative profits from the export of pearl shell and beche-de-mer, but also had considerable impact on the population of the Torres Strait, and on the Aboriginal peoples on the western and eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula. Thus the Queensland Government was under some pressure from both the Colonial Office and liberal opinion in the colonies and in England to address the impact of the fishery on the indigenous populations.
Douglas lobbied his old friend and political ally, Queensland Premier Samuel Griffith to support establishing missions in the region as a means of maintaining civil order.
Image: John Oxley Memorial Library
The imperative behind the mission regime was always political and this bedevilled not only church-state relationships, but also the relationship between the church and the Aboriginal people. Subsequently, a number of historians have been highly critical of the church's subservience to and dependence on the government.
Hugh Milman: policing the frontier
As Police Magistrate on Thursday Island at the turn of the century, Milman made frequent reports of Aboriginal people being kidnapped for work on the pearling luggers, and like John Douglas was a strong supporter of the missionaries and their work, and an advocate for the human rights of the Aboriginal people.
"I have information," Premier Samuel Griffith told the Queensland Legislative Assembly in 1884, "that the kidnapping of our own natives has been going on for a considerable time; and we should be prepared to put it down with an equally strong hand as the kidnapping of South Sea Islanders." Milman's reports were the source of Griffith's information.
The Moravians come to Mapoon ... and Weipa
The first missionaries to staff the missions on western Cape York Peninsula were from the Moravian Church in Europe.
The Moravian Church of the late nineteenth century owed its existence to the resurgence of German Pietism in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, although the pietistic roots of Moravianism predate the Reformation. In pre-Reformation times the Moravians were part of a sect of evangelical non-conformists, "strongly represented amongst the artisans in the great cities" more generally known as the Brethren. The Moravian movement soon spread to England, where, according to Hey, it "played a far larger part in the great Evangelical Revival in England than many people supposed."
John Wesley was profoundly influenced by the German Moravians in England. After his return from Germany, Wesley had written to Moravian leader Nicholas von Zinzendorf:
I greatly approve of your conferences and bands; of your methods of instructing children; and in general, of your great care of the souls committed to your charge.
This peculiarly Moravian form of Christian communalism, and isolation from the secular world, which Wesley lauded as "deadness to the world", was still vital in 1891, a century and a half later. The Moravian presence in Australia can be traced back to Charles James Latrobe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, who was trained as a Moravian minister.
This group founded Mapoon in 1891 (left to right): James Ward, Minnie Hey, Matilda Ward and Nicholas Hey. Minne Hey and Matilda Ward were sisters. James Ward died of fever at Mapoon in 1895; his widow retired from Mapoon in 1917. Nicholas and Minnie Hey retired from Mapoon in 1919. Minnie Hey died in Sydney in 1970 aged 100 years. Image: Arthur Ward Miracle at Mapoon 1908
While in Victoria, Latrobe requested the Moravian Mission Board in London send missionaries to Victoria to establish Aboriginal missions there. The Victorian Presbyterian Church financially supported the Moravian Mission at Ramahyuk from 1863, and quite naturally, when the Wards arrived with Hey in 1891, they visited this stations. Matilda Ward wrote:
We also visited several aboriginal stations and became acquainted with the blacks of Victoria. These we found living in comfortable homes neatly furnished, clad in European costume and the children attending school.
Edwin and Thekla Brown: first missionaries at Weipa
English Moravians Edwin and Thekla Brown had already been selected to staff the next mission to be established on the lawless and wild western coast of Cape York Peninsula, when James Ward died of malarial fever at Mapoon in January 1895.
When the Browns arrived in 1895, the Moravian missionary magazine Periodical Accounts recorded that, "after spending Christmas (1895) most enjoyably at Ramahyuk, where they obtained a very valuable insight into the working of an aboriginal station on Moravian lines, they returned to Melbourne."
In April 1896, the Browns arrived at Mapoon where they were to stay for two years, preparing for the establishment of Weipa.
On June 10, 1898 Brown, his un-named assistant and a party of seven Aboriginal men from Mapoon, travelling by whale boat, arrived at the site to establish the mission.
"Seven of the Mapoon men, selected by Brown himself, went to help him and his assistant in founding the new station.
"They left Mapoon on 6th June, travelling in small boats. They were five days on the way. There followed a series of disasters. Almost all the party suffered from illness. The Mapoon blacks removed from the influence of the station and their old teacher, lapsed into heathenish practices under the spell of native etiquette and some of them ran away. By the end of the year only half the house was finished. But patience and perseverance overcame difficulties. The seven were punished in the wise fatherly fashion of Mapoon, where it is quite understood that revenge is not punishment." Arthur Ward Miracle at Mapoon 1908: 224
Just what were the so-called heathenish practices of the Aborigines remains unrecorded, as does the nature of their punishment, but it should be noted that in 1909 Hey was the subject of a magisterial inquiry into his use of corporal punishment at Mapoon.
John Douglas' first visit to Weipa September 1898
Thursday Island Government Resident John Douglas visited Brown in late September 1898, stopping off at Mapoon on the way to collect Hey. Douglas' own account of his trip to Weipa was published in the Torres Strait Pilot newspaper, and the report appears in barely legible facsimile here. The government steamer White Star, successor to the Albatross anchored at the junction of the Hey and Embley rivers, and the party disembarked to the whale boat to row the eighteen miles up river to the mission station, a four hour trip on the rising tide. Brown, Douglas reported, was "hard at work on an extensive building for which all the piles were in position, and a portion of the framework erected."
Douglas surveyed the surrounding neighbourhood on horseback, and found it satisfactory saying: "There appeared to be a good supply of water, and the soil gave every indication of being suitable for cultivation." Part of the logic in selecting an inland site was to attract the indigenous people away from the coast where they were subject to the depredations of the fishery, and to keep the missionaries away from the fever-carrying insects of the coastal lagoons, but most importantly to find a good source of soil and water; deficiencies that were to bedevil Mapoon for most of its life.
As to the indigenous inhabitants, Douglas reported, "there was a camp of blacks at the station and Mr Brown gave them a good character as willing workmen." More locals appeared down river at the junction of the Embley and Hey rivers where the White Star was moored. (Source: Torres Strait Pilot, 8 October 1898)
Dr Walter Roth, Protector of Aboriginals 1899-1906
Dr Walter Roth. Image: John Oxley Library.
The new century saw the development of the system of Aboriginal "protection." In 1897 the Queensland Parliament passed the Protection of Aboriginals and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act at the initiative of the then Home Secretary, Sir Horace Tozer. Under this Act, local officials, usually police officers, were empowered to act as the local Protector of Aboriginals, sewing the seeds of the tragedy of stolen children.
The missionaries pleaded with Douglas to be included in the new regime, to be appointed Protectors and Superintendents of the newly created reserves. Their wishes were granted. Supervising the whole system were two officials: the Southern Protector of Aboriginals and the Northern Protector of Aboriginals. Dr Walter Roth, an English medico was the first Northern Protector. An immensely humane man, who was an amateur anthropologist, Roth strongly supported the missionaries in their work and made a substantial number of visits to Weipa. Roth resigned in 1906, fed up with the strong opposition his policies aroused.
Home Secretary Justin Foxton visits Weipa in 1899
Weipa opening, 1899. Image: John Oxley Library.
One of the strongest supporters of the new regime was Sir Horace Tozer's successor as Home Secretary, Justin Foxton. Foxton made it his business to visit Weipa within a year of its foundation where he participated in the distribution of blankets to the Aboriginal people. He was accompanied by his wife, Walter Roth (the Northern Protector of Aboriginals), William Parry-Okeden the Police Commissioner, at least one journalist and a photographer, as well as Hey from Mapoon.
Strangely, the Government Resident from Thursday Island, John Douglas was absent from the party, finding pressing business to attend to on the outer islands of the Torres Strait at this time. This photo shows the party gathered at the mission house with Aboriginal people from the area. It was not until after the discovery of bauxite in 1955 that politicians found it necessary to return to Weipa in large numbers.
The Embley River Mission is named Weipa in 1899
During the Home Secretary's visit to Weipa in 1899, Mrs Foxton planted a mango tree outside the mission house and officially named the station Weipa, which according to Hey, meant "hunting ground" but which is a word for the Embley River in the Anathangnayth language.
Watching Mrs Foxton plant the tree are (left to right): Mr Foxton (Home Secretary) holding the spade, Weipa missionary the Rev Edwin Brown, Zoe Brown (his young daughter), Mrs Thekla Brown. Over Mrs Foxton's shoulder is the Rev Nicholas Hey, Mapoon Superintendent.
First church building at Weipa
The foundations of the first church built at Weipa were made of pise, a form of rammed clay. These foundations are still there today, though the old church building has been demolished.
This site at the area now known locally as Twenty Mile will be the site of the centenary celebrations on June 10, 1998.
Image: Arthur Ward, Miracle at Mapoon, 1908