The McConnel’s & Toogoolawah
Prior to the establishment of the town of Toogoolawah in 1904, Cressbrook was considered a township in its own right.
In 1871, D.C. McConnel took his son James Henry McConnel into partnership at Cressbrook, namely D.C. McConnel and Sons. Under J.H. McConnel’s instruction Cressbrook experienced significant changes including the establishment of the Cressbrook Dairy Company with his siblings and local farmer Thomas Coleman, which built and ran the Cressbrook Condensed Milk Factory in 1898 on the banks of Cressbrook Creek, as it was decided no longer economical to use Cressbrook’s now almost 60,000 acres solely for fattening and breeding Hereford cattle. Consequently Cressbrook was cut up into 5000-acre allotments and sold on generous terms to Cressbrook farmers for the production of milk for the factory. This business interest combined with the expansion of the Brisbane Valley Railway Line to Cressbrook meant that farmers no longer needed to cart their milk to Esk.
In 1904, J.H. McConnel donated further land for the establishment of a township near the condensed milk factory, which he subsequently named Toogoolawah after the indigenous name for the area in Brisbane where the McConnel’s farm and residence, Bulimba House, was located.
J.H. McConnel then gifted further land for the establishment of Toogoolawah’s St Andrew’s Anglican Church in 1906 and the town’s recreational precinct, named McConnel Park in the family’s honour.
After many years working with the Esk Dairying, Agriculture & Industry Association, J.H McConnel was responsible for founding the Toogoolawah Dairying, Agriculture & Industry Association with his son Edgar in 1913. Edgar remained President of the Toogoolawah Dairying, Agriculture & Industry Association from 1913 until 1927.
J.H. McConnel’s wife, Madge, took an interest in the development of the district, which subsequently led to her founding the Amateur Tree Planting Club and the Gardening and Progress Association of Toogoolawah. She was also responsible for financing the shingle roof for the St Andrew’s Church in Toogoolawah.
In 1955, Duncan McConnel donated part of the McConnel family crest, namely the stag head, and their motto ‘Victor in Arduis’ to the Toogoolawah State School for use as their crest and motto in honour of their silver jubilee. Duncan was also an active member of the Toogoolawah Dairying, Agriculture and Industry Association.
Christopher McConnel has worked as an advocate for the Toogoolawah and Brisbane Valley District, particularly in relation to its history as well as land and water management. In recent times, Christopher has been interviewed nationally on topics including the 2011 floods and the management of Wivenhoe Dam.
From 1987 until 1989, Susan McConnel was on the building committee of the Alkira Aged Care Facility in Toogoolawah, working as publicity officer. She was also President of the Ladies National Party in 1980 and has been a volunteer in the Youth Red Cross, an advocate and committee member for the establishment of “Our House” in Toogoolawah and a member of the Blue Nurses Sub Committee.
In 2013 and 2014, Caitlin McConnel was selected as the Rural Ambassador for the Toogoolawah Dairying, Agriculture & Industry Association as a continuation of her involvement with the association as a member and volunteer. In November 2015, Caitlin was honoured to have been named on the Somerset Condensery Gallery Advisory Committee. The initial federally funded project was aimed as turning the former Nestles Condensed Milk Factory packing shed built circa 1920 into an art gallery. The site was originally the Cressbrook Condensed Milk Factory founded in 1898 by Caitlin’s great-great-grandfather J.H. McConnel and subsequently sold to Nestles in 1907.