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Capella History Capella History

Capella began as a resting place for travellers on the Rockhampton – Peak Downs Road. Naturally the first buildings were near to the creek to ensure a supply of water. By 1862 there were a few squatters in the area but there would have been little traffic (and probably no road) until after 1861 when gold and a few years later copper were found a little over 50km to the north in what is now the Clermont area. By the end of 1863, a thousand miners were operating in Clermont, most of whom had travelled the 420km from Rockhampton and often walking behind loaded drays.

In 1862 the Government realised that the Peak Downs district was growing in importance and sent Charles Gregory to survey the sites for three townships, one at Crinum Creek (Lilyvale), one at Capella Creek and one at Hoods Lagoon (Clermont).

When the mines began to operate, many heavily laden wagons travelled the road. In 1865 Mr G Skardon advertised his Retro Creek Hotel as the ‘first day’s stage from the diggings with water and grass in profusion’.

The first reference to a settlement at Capella Creek is in 1865 when the Peak Downs Telegram reported that ‘a middle aged woman had dropped dead from a disease of the heart at Kennelly’s Coach and Horse Hotel, Capella Creek, in the act of getting flour from the store’.

Little is known of Capella in the sixties and seventies. Most of the settlers were migrants from the British Isles who now lived in primitive conditions on a diet which consisted mainly of meat and flour. Everyday life must have been very harsh. The Peak Downs Telegraph in the sixties published some horrifying stories such as that of four men who died of thirst after attempting to drink the blood of a pet dog and later their own.

When the railway line drew near, the settlement moved closer to the proposed site of the station, and when the train reached Capella in 1882, there were three public houses, three stores, two blacksmiths and a butcher’s shop. All of which had been built to cater for the needs of the hundreds of railway workers, sleeper cutters, carriers and carpenters who were employed on it.

In February 1883, about 26 square miles were resumed from Gordon Downs and Retro and thrown open for selection under the Railway Reserve Act.

Areas close to town could be purchased in lots not exceeding 160 acres (65ha) at 20 shillings ($2) an acre. For a homestead under 80 acres the condition was residence and five annual payments of sixpence (5 cents) an acre. This enabled a number of railway employees, teamsters and other workmen to obtain small blocks of land near Capella.

By 1911 Commonwealth statistics show a population of 317 and 67 occupied dwellings. There was little change over the next 60 years, as in 1971 there were 321 people and 83 occupied dwellings.

When the Post Office was built in 1911 there were less than fifteen buildings in Peak Downs Street, none of which were between Crinum and Malvern Streets. The town at that time had a cordial factory and a small cotton ginnery. It had had a buttery factory, but this building had been dismantled and moved to Emerald in 1907 after the 1899 - 1902 drought had put paid to a fledgling dairy industry.

In the 1920s a building boom began. Five houses were moved from Mt Morgan to Capella and 18 new homes were built, mostly under the Workers Home Scheme. The QCWA Rooms were erected; Mrs AC Purdie built a café beside the Post Office in 1923; Mr R Dobson constructed a garage on the opposite corner across Conran Street in 1924 and then in 1926 immediately south, a picture theatre which incorporated a dance floor and stage. Mr R Chesney built a bakers shop in 1925. The National Bank was added in 1930 and in 1936 the Peak Downs Shire Hall (now the Capella Community Hall) with the best dancing floor on the Central Highlands was completed.

The 1938-45 war brought the town almost to a standstill and over 20 houses were empty. In 1945 the Department of War Organisation suggested that in view of the shortage of building material they could be considered ‘abandoned’ and purchased for removal. Though this was not permitted, over half of them were later sold for removal to the QBFC or to new settlers.

Several Housing Commission homes were built and the Education Department erected homes for the two school’s teachers. Eighteen retirement units are now in service. The Peak Downs Shire Council’s employees housing program saw 20 houses and nine units constructed over the years. But the most rapid growth was in the early 1980s when BHP Gregory Coal Mine erected 60 homes in Capella to accommodation some of its workforce. The mid 2000s has seen another housing expansion paralleling the expansion of the Central Highlands coal industry.

In 1979, an arcade opened with nine shops that included a Doctor’s surgery, haberdashery and hairdresser. This was converted to motel units by the owner of the neighbouring Capella Hotel Motel in 2006.

The State Primary School held its Centenary Celebrations in 1883. The State High School opened as a Secondary Department in 1984 and became a full High School in 1989. There is also a Prep School and Early Childhood Centre. The Capella Skate Park opened in 2001.

In 1984 new offices for the Peak Downs Shire Council (amalgamated into the Central Highlands Regional Council in 2008) and Capella Library were built. New pavilions, ablution blocks, yards, playing fields and spectator facilities have been constructed adjacent to the original showground arena at Bridgeman Park Sporting Complex in Hibernia Road, culminating with the Capella Covered Arena in 1998.

The Capella Cultural Centre was completed in 1992 and then the Aquatic Centre was constructed in 1997 to replace the 1959 swimming pool. The Capella Courtyard completed this entertainment precinct development in 2004.

The bulk grain handling facility was started in 1964 and has expanded to what you see today to the west of the rail line.

The town water supply is drawn from Capella Creek in times of good flow and pumped into three large earthen dams. A pipeline connecting Capella to another water piping system from Tieri to the Bedford Weir was laid in 2003.

Capella is proud of its reputation as a peaceful, safe and healthy rural town with all the necessary facilities including excellent schools, all possible television receptions, recreational amenities and country hospitality.