When the going gets tough – the tough get going A tribute to Maria and George Butt pioneers of Montville.
Many families in the mid-1800’s migrated to Australia from England for various reasons. It could have been the prospect of making a fortune on the newly discovered goldfields, better conditions of employment, the opportunity to purchase cheap land or just the lure of adventure. Whatever their reasons for settling in a new land leaving friends and family was a huge leap into the unknown. One young couple, George and Maria Butt who made the break from the Old Country and embarked on this long and arduous journey were, in later life, to be honoured and acknowledged as one of the first of the pioneering families of Montville on the Blackall Range.
Mrs Butt was born Maria Ravenscroft at Oldbury, Staffordshire on the 1st, August, 1852 and in 1874 at aged 22 years married George John Butt, aged 21 years, of Aston, Warwickshire.
Ten years into their marriage Maria and George decided to migrate to Australia and with their three children, George, Hannah and William they boarded the steamship S.S. “Chibassa”, leaving England on November 18, 1884. This was indeed a brave move with Maria already pregnant with their fourth child.
The Butt family’s passage to their new land was not all smooth sailing. As the ‘Chibassa’ neared the Australian continent the vessel headed through the Torres Straits and then south along the East Coast of Queensland, docking at Bowen. George, in order to augment his financial resources, assisted in unloading cargo from the ship, and in doing so met with an accident.
Disembarking at Brisbane George was hospitalized for a period while the family stayed for a month at the immigration depot in William Street, Brisbane. When he recovered, the Butts sailed to Maroochydore. Again the family encountered bad luck when this vessel ran ashore on the treacherous Maroochy Bar and was wrecked. The family, with other passengers on board, experienced great difficulty in making for the shore. I’m sure everyone on board that boat were very happy to finally reach the safety of dry land.
George Butt decided to move his family north to the small mountain settlement of Buderim which at this time was still an emerging community. In 1862 Tom Petrie had made the first official record of Buderim when he explored the area to investigate its timber resources. Timber getters were soon prominent in the district and a timber depot for William Pettigrew was established in 1864. This lead to the surveying of Buderim into selections. George Butt’s future employer Joseph Dixon was one of the first selectors with sugarcane the main crop. Dixon and Fielding established the first Mill on Buderim and a second mill in 1880. This was the area into which the Butt family arrived five years later.
George joined a brother-in-law in the employ of Joseph C. Dixon. He was appointed a field officer supervising the work of the South Sea Islanders on the Dixon Sugar Plantation. It had been three months since the Butts had left England. But sadly on the 24th February, 1885 Maria lost baby Maud Ellen who died on the same day as her birth.
The family later moved back to Brisbane where George soon secured employment. After two years the Butts returned to Buderim but the fertile volcanic soils of Montville on the Blackall Range beckoned.
George had previously explored this district known as Razorback, later named Montville and when it was thrown open for selection he bought 160 acres of scrub country for which he paid the nominal purchase price of 2/6 (25c) per acre. The land was described as Portion 71V, Survey Plan No. M37.903, Selection No. A.F. 983 Date Selected: 1 October 1888, Selector: George J. Butt, Deed Prepared: 27 September 1895.
George obtained three months leave from his Buderim employer Joseph Dixon and proceeded to cut and split his own timber on the selection in order to build a home for his family. When the small house was completed the family moved in and George and Maria commenced citrus growing and also engaged in other farming pursuits. The Butts were one of the first settlers of Montville and the first to exploit the cultivation of citrus on the Blackall Range.
For three years George laboured long and hard – working on weekdays at Buderim and returning to Montville each Saturday, his horse laden with supplies to spend the weekends clearing the dense scrub on his selection.
There were only five settlers at Montville before the Butts arrived in 1888. This period would have also been extremely tough and demanding for Maria, with three children, aged 7, 8 and 11 years to feed and clothe, maintain the property, single-handedly deal with any emergencies during the week days and still be available at any time of the day or night when her services were required as a midwife. She was very isolated for a number of years before Alfred and Henry Smith arrived on the mountain in 1893 with Henry and wife Jane building a home next to the Butts selection.
Maria and George produced ten children within a space of 19 years. Maria lost her first four Australian-born babies, Maud at Buderim and between 1888 and 1893, Albert, May and Henry at Montville. All three children born in England – George, Hannah and William and three daughters, Annetta (born 1889,) Annie (1891)) and Eveline (born 1906) born at Montville survived to adulthood. Conditions must have been very harsh for women in those early years. When you consider the conditions under which they labored in small isolated areas with no doctor on hand, is it any wonder infant mortality was so high.
During their time at Montville George obtained a position on Young Brothers sugar plantation at Bundaberg and twelve months later sold forty acres of his Montville land for £200. (George had previously paid £10.00 for those forty acres). He once more returned to Montville and lived on his selection with enough finance to continue his citrus farming venture. For years the Butts successfully engaged in fruit growing during the period of their stay at Montville. For his efforts financing, developing and expanding the citrus industry, along with Henry Smith, George became known as the “Father of Montville”.
When the Montville State School was officially opened in November 1908 a celebration dinner was served in the School of Arts. George spoke in reply to the toast of the district. He said, ‘it was now about twenty years since he came to look at the land here, and was told then that he would be mad if he brought his wife and family to such a place. However he thought that roads would soon be made to good land, but alas they may be made, but not soon, he and others having to crawl up parts of the Razorback on their hands and knees. Settlers all stuck together and helped each other. One man feeling sorry to see so many bananas as he had going to waste, took a load to Palmwoods on a slide for him. The settlers in those days got no assistance from the Government, but were put to a good deal of trouble in getting deeds, etc., still he never regretted coming to Montville.’
After all the proceedings were completed a concert was held and the talents of some parents were on display with Maria playing the pianoforte and George singing ‘You’ll never miss the water ‘til the well runs dry.’
George Butt was also a founding member and officer of the Montville Masonic Lodge in 1918 where he was the foundation Senior Deacon. He was the Master of the Lodge in 1927-28.
He was one of the first Justices of the Peace in the district, and did his share of Shire Council work at Nambour for five years, in many ways proving his active interest in public matters, and when Governor McGregor visited Montville, he always called on George and Maria Butt at ‘Witton Lodge’ for information of their pioneering days and their very creditable achievement of this almost impossible task.
In 1916 the senior Butts sold out and moved to Maroochydore where George started the first general store and a real estate agency. Four years later he disposed of the business to his son William, who continued the business while his parents entered into a well-earned retirement, although the couple still lead a reasonably active life.
As he grew older George suffered from poor health and on April, 20, 1937 at aged 81 years he died at his home at Maroochydore. The funeral, which was largely and representatively attended, moved to the Woombye cemetery where George was buried. Six years later on the 26th February, 1943 Maria passed away in a private hospital at Nundah at the age of 89 years. Her obituary recognized the calibre of this well-known lady and detailed her kindly disposition and ready assistance to anyone who sought her help. She had enjoyed the company of a large circle of friends. Maria’s resting place is also the Woombye Cemetery.
Together Maria and George Butt battled hardship in the early days of the district, yet for all the setbacks the couple carved out a full and rewarding life in their country of choice. The Butts can rightly be honoured as one of the first of the pioneering families of Montville.
The origins of the Western Avenue, Montville can be traced back to the early days of the Butt family. The road was originally known as Butts Road, then the Back Road, later Western Road and finally Western Avenue.
The Butts, apart from establishing the Montville Citrus industry passed on their legacy to two of their sons, George Jnr, and William (Billie), who also farmed for many years near the original selection, and their grandsons Harry and George carried on that tradition.
George and Maria’s children:
George John born in Edington, Warwickshire 29/12/1876 and died on the 17/09/1948
He came from England with his family, lived in Montville and farmed in the district. George’s son Albert Edward who was born in 1896, probably named after his dead uncle who died in 1886 aged four months, served in World War One and is listed on the 1914-1918 Montville Honour Board. Albert who was single and worked as a farmer was lucky. He enlisted on the 13th May, 1918 at aged 18 years 6 months. His parents George and Annie were required to sign a consent form. He Completed his training, was assigned to the 7th Rifle Division and on the 14th October, 1918 he boarded the troopship SS Wyreema but when at sea the troopship was recalled and Albert disembarked in Australia on 21 December, 1918. The signing of the Armistice on the 11th November, 1918 had intervened and the war was over. He was discharged from the A.I.F. on 6th January, 1919.
George John followed his father George senior as Master of the Montville Masonic Lodge and then his son Harry was Master in 1933-34 and again in 1944-5. His Grandson Harry Butt died in April 1987 after 60 years of service to the Lodge. A School Bursary was approved in his name in 1987, however he did not live to present it. Until her death in 1991, his wife Edna made the presentation at the end of each school year. Harry and his wife had no children, but a nephew, Graham George Butt, the son of George the younger son of George Jnr. became a member and served as Master in 1990-91, making it four generations of Butts who have been active in the Lodge. The Bursary to the school in the name of Butt was very appropriate because George Snr. had been one of the original men who had fought to ensure that the school became a reality.
Below is an edited transcript from the Sunshine Coast Libraries Oral History section. Date of interview 13 February, 1985 with Annie Montville Mitchell (nee Butt) who was 84 years at time of interview. Annie Mitchell (nee Butt) was born on 14 August 1901 to George John and Annie Butt (nee Muirhead). The Muirhead family were also pioneers of Montville. Annie was one of six children and married David Marshall Mitchell at Nambour in 1923. The couple had two children – Allan and Ray. Annie describes her life as a child and young adult on the parent’s Montville farm.
‘I lived on a big acreage at Montville with my Uncle’s farms on both sides. The family grew mostly pineapples and citrus. I attended Montville State School and then taught in an assistant teacher’s role at the school after I turned fourteen. At sixteen I went to work on the farm because my father wanted me to as all the boys had gone. My two elder brothers were working elsewhere. Me and my sister used an iron plough with a horse and sprayed the crops.
I never enjoyed any of the work on the farm. We had to get up at five o’clock in the morning and get the two or three cows milked and half the time they used to kick us and we’d have big bruises all over our legs. We walked about three miles to school and when we got out of school at 3.30pm we’d had to run all the way home to be there by 4.00pm. There were a lot of gooseberries and we used to had to go straight over into the gooseberry patch and pick gooseberries until dark and then have tea and then sit up until twelve or one in the morning and shell the gooseberries ready to go away the next morning. All I did was work on the farm.
Dave, my future husband, more or less rescued me from all that work when we married.
On a Sunday, we nearly always went out with friends and to Kondalilla Falls. We could go down to the Falls from the Western Road near Montville and go down through the paddocks and down, different roads, it was all through scrub and everything. It wasn’t laid out like it is now and we had to walk around a narrow ledge and there was a big bottomless pool down there. We also went up on top of the falls.
We had a piano and my father let us learn a bit but not enough to make anything out of it. My father ruled with a rod of iron. When it came to ordering clothes for us he’d buy a dozen yards of stuff and I used to have to sit up with him at night and make out the order. He never got Mum to do it. Everything was bought in Brisbane and the worst part was having to make up the clothes. Because I didn’t sew Mum used to sneak in and help me. When working in the rain we would get wet though. Is it any wonder I got arthritis.
Annie was asked if other children have the same sort of lives? I don’t think so because lots of the people were really annoyed at the way Dad treated us. But it was just his nature. Mum was really quiet. Dad died twenty or twenty-five years before her. Mum lived to be ninety-two. Dad was only seventy-one. After I was married I went off to Nambour and didn’t go back. I joined the Presbyterian Guild and a croquet club. I won a few trophies.
When I lived at Montville Mum thought I had mumps but couldn’t get in touch with Nambour as there was no phone then. But they managed to get medicine up to me. My grandmother, Maria Butt lived down the road and she got appendicitis up there and Doctor Penny was the doctor in Nambour then. They only had the horse and buggy and they’d send for him at night-time and he’d come. He had bells on his horse and you’d hear the bells ringing when he’d be coming. All the women took it in turns and nursed my grandmother and she got over it.
During war time Dad bought a place at Maroochydore and the family used to take a lot of the soldiers at Christmas time down and give them a holiday in the house. To get to Maroochydore we only had the horse and wagon and we’d break up at school on Friday and Dad used to put a hood over the top of the wagon at the back and pack it all up and away the family went. It took days to get to Maroochydore. Then we’d stop there for six weeks and then Dad would have to take everyone back home again in the wagon and horses.
There was nothing hardly there at Maroochydore. My grandfather, George John Butt, opened the first shop at Maroochydore and then Cliff’s father (William Butt) – took over from his father. I was send down to work for Grandad and Grandma in the shop.
After Dad bought a piece of ground next to the family home he built a house. When the new Nambour School was built, that’s many years ago, he bought the old school and moved it down to Maroochydore and he built it down there. Bought it for twenty-five pounds.
My mother’s family, the Muirheads came from England by sailing boat and then by boat and landed first at Maroochydore where the hotel is now at Maroochydore. Then Dad’s people, they’d never met them before or anything then, they were just strangers. Well, they (the Butt family) were wrecked on the bar and got everything wet when they came to Maroochydore. When they landed the Muirheads had their washing lying all over the grass. My father walked all over it and my mother went for him. “You keep off my mother’s clothes,’ she said. They were both kids. Mum was about seven and Dad was about seven,” and afterwards they married.
Hannah was born in Wilton, Warwickshire on the 14/12/1879 and died on 1/08/1946
Hannah married Victor James Dunning on 19th August, 1903. Victor was born on 24/08/1880 in Queensland. He was a farmer and the couple lived at Woodford, Queensland.
William Joseph was born in Edington, Warwickshire, England, 12/03/1881 and died on 31/07/1940
William immigrated with his family to Australia in 1884. He married Miss L. Unwin of Bald Hills, Brisbane and engaged in fruit growing and other interests in Montville. George Senior had started a general store at Maroochydore under his house by the river. Following his father’s retirement In 1922 W.J. ‘Billy’ Butt opened a general store in a new building near the Victory hotel and ably assisted by members of his family, he built up a successful business connexion.
The business was later moved to Duporth Avenue. It was also the location of the post office from 1922 to 1948. In the early 1920’s visitors arriving at Maroochydore from Nambour by tram and connecting boat service were met by Billy Butt. He would meet the tram at Bli Bli and take holiday makers to Maroochydore by boat. In 1922 the Maroochy Shire Council commenced building a road suitable for motor traffic to connect Nambour with the coast at Maroochydore.
For the last three years of his life he had suffered ill health until he passed away aged 59 years, just three years after his father’s death. He was an esteemed and prominent businessman of Maroochydore. His son, G.S.C. (Cliff) Butt took over the business. At his time of death he was survived by his wife, Mrs Butt, a son Cliff and daughter, Mrs N. Fielding and three grandchildren. William Joseph is buried in the Woombye Cemetery.
The following is a tribute included in his obituary. ‘Mr. Butt was one of those unassuming and esteemed characters who was animated with a deep public spirit. He was one of whom it could be said that the spirit of charity permeated his being. He earned the respect and esteem of all who knew him. From him visitors in the course of their business requirements and while staying at the resort, sought information respecting the best fishing spots on the river, the tides, and other helpful information, and the ‘fishing prophet’ as he was sometimes titled, was usually not very far out. His nature was that of benevolence and kindliness of disposition. The late Mr. Butt will be missed from amongst his large circle of friends. No one has ever been heard to speak unkindly or disparagingly of him. He adhered to the highest principles of life, and his trying illness was born with great fortitude. To him, Maroochydore owes quite a lot. But the memory of such a man as William Butt will be cherished by all those who had the pleasure of knowing something of his personality which was an influence for good in the community and in his family circle.’
Maud Ellen born and died on the same day 24/02/1885 at Buderim.
Albert Edward born 19/07/1886, died 24/11/1886 at Montville (four months old)
May born 30/07/1887 died 19/07/1888 at Montville (12 months old)
Henry died 27/01/1890 at Montville
Annetta May born 27/09/1889 at Montville and died 18/08/1968.
Annetta married William Dudley Eggleton, born 1889, Fullham, London and died 21/07/1929. William had left England on 15/04/1911 and married Annetta on 4 July, 1914. The couple lived at Montville and were fruit growers. William enlisted in the Armed Forces in WW1 at aged 28 years. He is described as 165cm tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. He had defective vision and wore glasses but passed the medical and dental examinations. He was a Private in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force and trained in the Technical Department as a wireless operator stationed in Rabaul, New Guinea. He returned from Rabaul on 06/08/1919. Before arriving in Australia he had been a member of the English 9th Middlesex D.O.O. Regiment for 4½ years. His name is on the Montville Memorial Board for WW1. The couple produced 4 children including Albert William 1917-1977 who served in WW2. Annetta is buried at St Matthew Anglican Cemetery, Sherwood, Brisbane.
Annie Maria Butt born 14/12/1891 at Montville. Died 17/04/1975.
Annie married Edward Ernest Bowser on 9th December 1914. He was born on the 2/08/1890 and died on 02/03/1956. Annie and Edward are buried at Woombye Cemetery. In 1937 they resided at Diddillibah, Qld. Two of their children – Ashley Benjamin born 19/03/1918 and Ruben Ernest born 12/04/1920 were farmers and both served in WW2.
Eveline Mabel Butt born 30/05/1896 at Montville. Died 07/05/1960. Eveline was appointed an Assistant Teacher at Montville State school and later married Walter Smith of Hunchy. Walter was born on 1/02/1898 and died 27/07/1968. Both are buried in the Witta Cemetery, Qld. The headstone for Eveline is spelt Evelyne and date of birth listed as unknown. The couple farmed at Conondale.
Trove – Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser
Sunshine Coast Council
Transcript of the June 27, 1966 text from the photo above the door of the Montville Hall