John Gilbert, who was part of Ludwig Leichhardt’s 1944-45 expedition from Jimbour to Port Essington, reported coming across the Lilyvale waterhole on January 26, 1845.
Lilyvale, named for the Crinum lilies that grew there in abundance, has vanished – almost without a trace. Even the headstones of the cemetery, some of which withstood the elements until the early 1960s, have succumbed to the repeated flooding of Crinum Creek and disappeared beneath the silt, except for one. A plaque mounted on a large stone now lists those who were buried in the original cemetery.
The settlement began as a resting place for travellers from the coast to the Peak Downs district in the early pastoral industry and mining era. Gold had been found in the Clermont area in 1861(with copper a few years later). Nothing is known of its early days, but in 1862 pioneer surveyor Charles Gregory drew up a plan for the Township of Lilyvale.
In December 1864 an advertisement for a race meeting at Crinum Creek signed by I. Levy, promises a first class dinner free on Christmas and Boxing Days at Mr M Solomon’s Waterhole Hotel. The name was later changed to the Lilyvale Hotel.
In March 1865 Richard Spratly applied for a Publican’s license to operate a second inn to be known as the Crinum Hotel. By 1870 the Lilyvale Hotel appears to have closed and in July of that year the Crinum Hotel was ‘To Let’.
As there was no school some children were sent south to boarding schools or relatives to be educated. Sometimes they where separated from their families for several years, owing to the difficulties in travelling.
With the opening of the railway line to Capella in 1882 Lilyvale’s reason for existence gradually disappeared and the people went elsewhere. The last birth recorded there was in May 1887 and was that of Arthur Charles Balfour, whose father, George Balfour, was a storekeeper.
The Lilyvale Waterhole was said to be haunted by a ghost who uttered blood-curdling shrieks. The story told was that Johnny Chinaman carted water from the waterhole and, as the banks were high and steep, backed the cart against a certain stump to hold it whilst he filled his buckets. One day he missed the stump and with a dreadful yell, horse, cart and Chinaman vanished into the waterhole which at the time was over thirty feet deep. Though this story cannot be verified, records show that on 14th October, 1870, Johnny (Chinaman) was drowned in Lilyvale Waterhole.
Another sad but intriguing story is hinted at in press report of a Mrs Burns of Lilyvale, who in 1886 ‘was attacked by a suicidal maniac and who, when held in the Clermont lockup for her own good, attempted to cut her throat with a piece of steel from her crinoline’.
Today, coal mines almost encircle the site. A shelter was built in 1988 on the original location of the Lilyvale Hotel, however standing in the lonely, rocky spot with just some Sisal plants for company, it is hard to imagine a settlement there. But records list blacksmiths, butchers, storekeepers, publicans, labourers, graziers and even a boilermaker, all of whom once lived at Lilyvale.