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.
The Lilyvale township, named for the Crinum lilies that grew there in abundance, began as a resting place for travellers from the coast to the Peak Downs district around the late 1850s. After gold was found in the Clermont area in 1861 (with copper a few years later), pioneer surveyor Charles Gregory drew up a plan for the Township of Lilyvale in 1862.
Lilyvale 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 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.
A shelter was built in 1988 on the original location of the Lilyvale Hotel. Today, coal mines have almost encircled the site. 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.
The waterhole has silted up since those times and is not as deep now.