The Montville History Group

Montville is a hinterland village in the central Blackall Range of the Sunshine Coast Region. Montville and the surrounding areas of Flaxton and Hunchy have a population of around 900. Nearby towns include Maleny, Mapleton and Palmwoods.

Jean Capper, Alan Sly, Steph McLennan and Betty Bennett

The Montville Historical Group (MHG) was founded in 1983 by four dedicated history enthusiasts: Steph McLennan, Jean Capper, Alan Sly and Betty Bennett. Its first project was to produce a pictorial history, Montville Memories, as part of Montville’s centenary celebrations.

The MHG is auspiced by the Montville Village Association, an incorporated, not-for-profit community charity. It aims to research, preserve and publish the history of Montville and its surrounding districts and to record the oral histories of those who have shaped the Montville of today. Steph McLennan was the first convener of the group, with Gillie Warren taking over in 1993. Cate Patterson became convener in 2013 and has held that position since.

Under Steph’s leadership, the group collected extensive oral histories, photographs and primary source documents and produced a series of poster size photographs that are still displayed with annotations on the walls of the Montville Village Hall. As the post mistress and editor of a small local newspaper, The Montville Flaxton Happenings, Gillie wrote monthly historical pieces from 2000 to 2012. These stories proved extremely popular and awakened an interest in Montville’s history.

Tony and Gillie Warren

Under Cate’s tenure, the MHG established it own website and the group began to post stories, often based on Steph’s research and Gillie’s earlier writings, but including original research as well. The series on the history of Italian prisoners of war working for Montville farmers towards the end of World War 2 was a new story and was also published in The Hinterland Times, attracting a wider audience including descendants of some of the Italian soldiers involved. This began a long-term relationship with the Hinterland Times which still publishes MHG stories that have a wider appeal.

Through the MHG website and Facebook page and the support of the Hinterland Times, the MHG began to field requests from a range of people seeking mainly the history of their families in Montville. Pressure mounted for the group to write a history of Montville. In 2019, the group decided that, instead of writing a historical tome, it would publish a series of stories on the social history of the people who contributed to the early European settlement of the district, its growth as a farming community, and its emergence as a tourist village. The MHG wanted to write stories based on personal memories, capturing the authentic voices of pioneers, farmers and developers in an easy-to-read style. And so, Montville Stories Series Project was born.

In 2020, the MHG published 4 books in the series. The first, Sawdust and Steam: The Story of the Flaxton Mill, 1936 to 1963 (Book 4 in the series) by Gordon Plowman was opportune because it was ready to go. This was followed by Early Settlers of Hunchy, Razorback, Flaxton and Montville, 1885 to 1914 (Book 1) by Cate and Doug Patterson, Home on the Range: Memories of the Cuthbertson Family, 1953 to 1965 (Book 5) by Ruth Barden, and Silky Oaks and Camphor Laurels: Centenary of the Opening of the Flaxton Provisional (State) School, 1922 to 2022 (Book 6) by Gordon Plowman. The MHG was able to attract community funding to publish the first three of these and has relied on not-for-profit sales to fund later publications.

In May this year, Book 2 in the series, Fifty Years of Boom and Bust: 1914 to 1964 was published. In addition, research is well underway for Book 3, Fifty Years of Change: The People who Shaped the Montville of Today, 1964 to 2014. In 2022, The MHG plans two more publications; The Institutions and Social Groups of Montville and The Buildings of Montville.

The MHG has always been a relatively small group. Today it boasts 6 members but only 1 is still a permanent resident of Montville. As a result, it meets irregularly but communicates frequently via email and, occasionally ‘phone. It is proud that it has been able to provide the people of Montville with a sense of their history and looks forward to completing the last 3 books in the Montville Stories Series  and leave a legacy for Montville and its historians to come.

Doug Patterson