Hopevale, the oldest surviving Aboriginal mission in North Queensland, has a continuous history as an institution from 1887 to the present. Social and genealogical continuities with the past are important for Hopevale people but modern life on the mission is also the product of ninety years of official administration. Descendants of the original inhabitants of the Cooktown area form part of the wider Cape York Aboriginal community produced by the haphazard workings of government policies, and today live in towns, on stations and other Queensland settlements. However, most of the people who can still lay claim to the area are members of the Lutheran community at Hopevale;, tracing back genealogical connections within the mission five or more generations. Hopevale people maintain strong personal ties to their community and land, even if they have moved elsewhere. Although Hopevale is an artificial community, socially and geographically isolated by its founding missionaries, its roots lie deep in the history of the Cooktown area.

Hopevale people take a strong interest in their own history. The oldest people, whether born on the mission or brought there by police as children, grew up in an established mission society that became their entire universe - a universe which, during their lifetime, before and after World War II, underwent two complete transformations. Younger people know something of, but did not experience, a time when mission life apparently was insulated wholly from the outside world. They have heard of their ancestors who formed the core of the early mission, and of others who maintained the last autonomous Aboriginal groups in the area, often taking final refuge in small bush camps on mission land. Knowledge of the past of Hopevale, though rich, is unorganized, and largely contained in the memories of a few.

This Web site explores the earliest period in the formation of the Hopevale community, the founding of the mission at Cape Bedford. Why did government, police or settlers want such a mission at all? Why did missionaries take it up? Why did Aborigines frequent the mission, and why ultimately, did they remain? European settlement subjected Aborigines to intense pressures and transformed with incredible speed the possibilities for Aboriginal life in the Cooktown hinterland. The transformation - initially often violent, and only latterly subject to any form of centralized direction - was nonetheless patterned: the fate of most Cooktown Aborigines was early elimination, and those who survived, both on and off the mission, took their places in the evolving colonizing society.

The missionaries shared with the rest of white society a conviction that European civilization was superior to Aboriginal savagery; but their well-articulated and self-conscious views about the nature and potential fate of Aborigines constitute the most important source for understanding the foundation of the mission community.

Whatever tales the Aboriginal people of lower Cape York might have heard about white men and their murderous weapons, they could never have been prepared for the amazing speed and massive extent of colonization and settlement when it occurred. In 1872 an expedition led by W. Hann was organized exkp0ressly for the purpose of investigating prospects for settlement and mining up to the 14th parallel. Hann's guarded report induced James V. Mulligan and six companions to leave almost immediately to prospect on the Palmer River, and the party returned south on the 3rd of September 1873 with news of payable gold. within a week the government had commissioned a party to locate a port from which the new goldfield could be supplied. Two weeks later Mulligan and a party of one hundred miners with three hundred horses were back on the Palmer River. The speed of occupation and its transforming effects impressed even those engaged in the enterprise,. When G.E. Dalarymple arrived at the Endeavour River mouth in late October 18773 he found an apparently empty and 'remote' place. The following morning the Zeichhardt steamed into harbour carrying government police for a new port town, wardens for the goldfields, road engineers to prepare a route to the Palmer, and some seventy impatient miners. Dalrymple observed:

On Friday we had sailed into a silent, lonely, distant river mouth ... On Saturday we were in the middle ... of a young diggings township -- men hurrying to and fro, tents rising in all directions, horses gazing and neighing for their mates ... the shouts of sailors and labourers landing more horses and cargo, combined with the rattling of the donkey-engine, cranes and chains.

By early March, only five months later, two tracks to the goldfields had been cut. The Cooktown Police Magistrate estimated that at any one time no less than 1,000 men were coming or going on the track; the population on the Palmer itself was 2,500 and expected to reach 5,000 by the end of the month. To feed them 2,000 horses were constantly on the road. By March 1874 the population of Cooktown had reached 2,500. One observe counted over 550 tents in the main settlement, and an equal number spread over an eighteen mile suburb. The main street was already lined by eight hotels and public houses, a brewery, a Chinese boardinghouse, various stores and other commercial establishments. More substantial evidence of permanency was soon forthcoming. By June 1875 the Crown had received more than 5,000 pounds in land revenues; not only were substantial buildings erected on Charlotte Street but cattle already grazed on newly opened pastoral runs. Butcher's Hill just northeast of the diggings opened in 1874; Mount Mulgrave to the west of the goldfield was settled in 1876.

Farming properties began to be taken up along the north bank of the Endeavour River for some eighteen miles of its length, in particular at its junction with two permanent creeks, where the small township of Marton was established. Farming and pastoral settlement, hard on the heels of the gold rush and outlasting it by several decades, as well as the fishing industry which was established some time before the influx to Cooktown, interfered with local Aboriginal life for more than activity on the goldfields. In the early period, however, the large scale, continuous penetration of the bushy by miners, digging and travelling on the roads, was the focal point of interaction between Aborigines and Europeans. In early years miners feared Aborigines as 'bloodthirsty cannibals', and regarded their very presence as hostile. During the 1880s, however, pastoral and farming settlement rapidly expanded; new cattle runs were taken up in the dry, western country around Laura and the goldfields. "Smaller farming and cattle properties spread along the Endeavour River branches and its tributary creeks. Aborigines came to be regarded by colonists as 'thieves and scoundrels'; complaints to the police reflected more concern for the predations of hunters on settlers' cattle than any genuine fear for the safety of the settlers themselves. Settlers, however, often phrased their complaints in terms of putative threats to their persons, or alleged attacks. Henry R. Jones wrote:

take my earnest and solemn warning that if some decisive steps are out taken at once to put a stop to these black raids, some of us about here will lose our lives, as the blacks are growing bolder and more mischievous every day. They are certainly worse about here now than they were years ago, as any mischief they do now is done with perfect impunity, at least as far as the Native Police are concerned .... We are being impoverished almost daily by our losses in stock being killed and crippled and, what is still worse, driven all over the country.

The squatters objected to Aborigines and because they killed cattle but because by hunting they ran the cattle which then would  not fatten. Aborigines crossing station land and camping at water holes were not approved of by settlers. At this time  police were willing to move Aborigines off settlers' land, to caution them against killing stock, and to hunt them down when they were considered threatening, but they were less prepared than many settlers wished to 'disperse' Aborigines - to shoot up Aboriginal camps - merely for hanging about. Fitzgerald, the Police Magistrate at Cooktown, remarked:

It is utterly hopeless for him (the police inspector) to expect the good feelings of the majority of his neighbours - humanity is unrecognized - their creed: extermination of the natives.

As both Aboriginal men and women became useful in the colonial economy, not all settlers regarded extermination as a necessary policy. In fact, both official and popular opinion believed that Aborigines, archaic remnants of an outmoded form of humanity with an anachronistic style of life, were destined to die out. According to a Cooktown Herald editorial in 1874:

When savages are pitted against civilization, they must go to the wall; it is the fat4 of their race ... Much as we may deplore the necessity for such a state of things, it is absolutely necessary, in order that the onward march of civilization may not be arrested by the antagonism of the Aboriginals.

For some colonizers of the Cooktown area, this belief morally required the conquering civilization to ease the pain of the last days of the Aborigines, for others, it was a justification for venality. Whatever their attitude toward Aborigines the very presence of the settlers soon made the Aboriginal hunting and gathering way of life impossible. In the Cooktown area this process occurred extremely rapidly. The road to the goldfields, as well as the telegraph line to Maytown finished in 1876, followed the Endeavour River for almost its full extent. Police patrols and gold escorts made hunting and camping along this vital artery risky for Aborigines. In addition by the late 1870s scattered farm settlements existed along both banks of the river, during the next decade and a half settlement enclosed virtually all the land along the river, more than half of the right-hand branch, and all permanent waterways connected to them. Following a government investigation into the possibility for tropical agriculture experienced a sudden sugar boom. In the McIvor region, unsettled prior to 1881, more than 13,000 acres were taken up by southern speculators in 1882. A map drawn in 1896 to show rural properties, displays the complete colonial dominion over all permanent water in the Cooktown area. In twenty years, just one generation, any possibility of living within a traditional economy had been denied the Aboriginal population.


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By the late 1890s, W.E. Roth, the Northern Protector of Aborigines, pointed out to Queensland legislators that it was not feasible to expect people displaced by settlers simply to move on to the next river or creek, as this was certain to be owned by another group who would punish such trespass with death. In reality, however, the next river or creek was being taken up by colonial settlers. This situation drove Aborigines to beg, to steal food, or to prostitute themselves for tobacco or flour. Roth noted the situation confronting local Aborigines in the Cooktown area:

As a case in point, I may mention that of a Northern run with a seventy mile frontage on a main river, both sides, where the manager has had trouble with the blacks, of late owing to their "disturbing" (not spearing) his cattle ... The manager himself told the police that he would allow no blacks on the run and that "the trackers should shoot them - that was what they were kept for".

The effect on the people whose tribal land was in the immediate vicinity of Cooktown was also noted by Roth in his first report:

You may have wondered at my gathering so little information of scientific value concerning the actual Cooktown blacks: in fact they are so demoralised and yet half-civilised that it is extremely difficult to obtain anything really reliable concerning habits and customs of the "old days".

This was in 1898, one generation after the advent of the intruders.

This loss of Aboriginal self sufficiency was to benefit the settler and the townsman, despite fears of Aboriginal predations on stock and goods. Destitute Aborigines constituted a convenient supply of cheap labour; stock workers, housemaids, errand boys, water carriers, and bedmates could be had for the cost of minimal rations and a bit of tobacco and calico. Even in the mid-'80s, police were wary of settler requests to arrest Aborigines camping on stations; they suspected that the settler wanted them rounded up and brought in to carry out stock work. A reliable supply of labour was needed on stations. Some Aborigines were kept more or less permanently as domestics and stockmen; generally they received no wage, but they, and a number of their dependants, were fed and maintained. By the late 1890s when the options for self-maintenance in the bush had virtually disappeared and the numbers of such dependants, people begging or seeking work, grew too large, station managers requested police to remove them. Formal legal power to deport Aborigines to distant reserves was provided in the Act of 1897.

The controversy in Cooktown over 'bringing in the blacks' reflects this ambivalence among settlers. In May 1881 the Cooktown police magistrate, Howard St. George, accompanied by two sub-inspectors and ten native troopers, travelled to Cape Bedford. They found no tracks so moved north to Cape Flattery. There they sighted some people, but failed to establish contact. St. George decided to send among them

some of the boys who understood the language, and when peaceful relations have been established induce them to accompany them to the coast near Cooktown hen I have no doubt that some of them might be induced to come over to town and if a beginning was once made they would be sure to repeat the visit.

Police Magistrate Fitzgerald succeeded in camping with the Cape Bedford people the following month, and his report concluded that Cape Bedrord should be reserved for Aborigines. A temporary reserve was immediately gazetted on the north shore of the Endeavour River mouth. Two months later the Mayor of Cooktown wrote to the Colonial Secretary:

Referring to the matter of the treatment of aboriginal natives in this district I beg to state that numbers of them are almost daily camped on the North Shore ... If the work of civilising them is intended to be carried out they must be supplied with a certain quantity of food and in course of time no doubt some of them will be induced to ship in vessels engaged in the beche-de-mer fishing and also in town.

Next month his tone became more uneasy. he reiterated the need for the government to feed Aborigines until they took up what 'work they may be found suitable for' but warned 'they are becoming a nuisance to the townspeople who complain of their being allowed into the town at all. Aborigines were now crossing the river 'to beg from house to house and in many instances terrify the inmates'. Within a few months townspeople demanded a regularized, supervised, rationed settlement be organized on the North Shore Reserve which would keep the 'naked savages' off the streets except when their labour was required.

By 1885 the Cooktown Independent's editorial opinions reflected the changing climate:

"Bringing in the blacks" is one thing, but keeping them in as a fraternity of thieves is another, and we won't have it. The poor devils have been taught how to appreciate civilised food by a civilising and humane government, and then they are left to satisfy their cravings by preying on decent people in indecent costume, to the disgust of wives and daughters ... We will adhere to our opinion that they should be rounded in at the North Shore Reserve, and kept there by the aid of the police, with a qualified governor or teacher to show them how to work for their living, by cultivation, fishing, etc., and by hiring themselves out, to beche-de-mer boats. Every two or three months our fishermen have to go south for labour, while there are hundreds of black loafers about the suburbs. By confining them to their reserve, and establishing a labour depot under charge of a qualified protector, the town would be cleared of an intolerable nuisance and the demands of the fishing labour market met.

No Queensland mission society wished to start work on the North Shore Reserve, but a series of fortuitous events brought missionary Johann Flierl, later founder of the New Guinea Lutheran Mission, to Cooktown and ultimately to Cape Bedford. Delayed on his way to New Guinea, Flierl preached to an unenthusiastic German community and picked up a few words of Guugu-Yimidhirr from Aborigines he encountered about Cooktown. Stung by the remarks of the German Consul that missionaries had refused to work at Cape Bedford because it did not offer any prospects of material gain, and encouraged by Fitzgerald, Flierl applied to the Premier of Queensland to establish a Mission Station at Cape Bedford, pledging at least five years of school, gardening and Gospel. The government, in accepting the arrangement, offered to assist the missionary with buildings, tools, seeds and free rations for twelve months. The Cooktown police also offered a native trooper as interpreter for the first month.

Flierl saw both a pressing and to improve the lot of the Cooktown Aborigines and a particularly open field for Christian missionizing. He wrote:

The number of b lacks in the close vicinity is supposed to be 400-500. Three years ago they were still cannibals (frassen sie noch Menschen) ... only recently they started coming into Cooktown begging for alms. They have not had much contact with humans (sic); they speak hardly any English. The 'ironclad' power of the police during former times should have trained them for Christianity (sic).

Flierl's earlier experiences with Aborigines in South Australia led him to observe carefully the North Shore natives' appearance and customs: their dances were 'ugly and disgusting'; their 'bloodthirstiness', work were ample evidence that the mission had much to contend with among 'these poor pagans'. Missionary Pfalzer, a young seminary graduate who replaced Flierl at Elim in September 1886, decided after only a few months that his expectation that the Aborigines might have been partially 'civilised' by contact with Europeans was ill-founded. From being 'notorious cannibals' who 'attacked anything that moved, be it animal or human, speared it, roasted it and ate it', Pfalzer considered the Aborigines to have hardly progressed at all; changes that had occurred he attributed to violence between white and black: to 'a number of terrible bloodbaths ... - whether justified is a different mater - in which almost all fathers of children who are now ten years to older were killed', and to police control of Aboriginal groups. Nevertheless, Pfalzer remarked, 'robberies and lootings take place almost daily as well as injuries to whites and killings of Chinese'.

Aborigines north of Cooktown had 'noble acts' to their credit, (rescuing shipwrecked whites), but also 'despicable acts of treachery' in their debit (for example, rebelling against a Cooktown fisherman near Lizard Island, throwing him overboard, and absconding with his boat). The missionaries were quite prepared to believe that the Cape Bedford people only recently had ceased cooking and eating their own dead; the Aboriginal practice of hauling around the wrapped and rotting corpses of deceased children, mourning over the remains for months at a time, was abhorrent to them. Here was evidence that, in their darkened and Christless lives, 'they have not our hope'. 

The most immediate evidence the missionaries had for the degraded state of the Aborigines and hence their need for the Gospel, however, in 1888, was puzzled that so many Aborigines were wandering about the town and not at the mission; he reflected afterwards that their pr4esence in town was due to 'lust, alcoholism, and opium-addiction'. The missionaries despaired at cultivating either soil or souls when their native labour periodically left the Mission for town where they would beg from door to door, occasionally cut wood, carry water, or wash clothes. Aborigines themselves chided the missionaries for having mangal murru 'short hands', saying that on stations near town or at the 8-Mile Native Police camp, for a few days' work, they could receive generous handouts. Pfalzer had to concede that by contrast two pounds of bread and a cup of tea was not much pay for two hours of hard labour on the mission. Missionary G.H. Schwarz thought that Aborigines' working for food in Cooktown, or even begging was not too bad; 'much worse is the way in which black women and girls earn their good and tobacco, and one's hair stands on end when one hears even the smallest children talk about this'.  though missionaries devoted their primary attention to the Aborigines on the Reserve who were subject to the lure of town and its demoralizing influence, they were aware of 'vast and promising' opportunities for mission work among the 'crowds of natives' in the hinterland.

Flierl originally agreed to ask for no government support for the Mission Station (which he named Elim) after the first twelve months, but when government support ceased, in April 1887, it became progressively harder for the Mission to feed its inmates. As one agricultural venture after another failed, the missionaries were constantly in debt to Cooktown merchants, clamouring for money from Germany or South Australia. The missionaries at Cape Bedford, though found the Queensland government cooperative, and they repeatedly asked for police assistance, both in keeping whites off the Mission, and in keeping Aborigines, especially children, out of Cooktown and in school. They also sought partial financial relief by asking the government to subsidise the mission school. The missionaries themselves pinned their highest hopes for improving the natives on the school.

Flierl outlined his mission programme for the Police Magistrate:

... the main point of all Missionwork is to Christianise the heathen ... so consequently they become good civilised too - and this chiefly has to be done by religious instruction and preaching of the language of the aborigines ... so they acquire a right understanding of the gospel of truth. On the other part in daily conversation and by teaching all what is possible must be done to communicate in English with the white people ... As well as for young people instruction in School being good means of education, so for adults work and especially work in gardens to become steadily and useful men.

He concludes:

A good furtherance in our work would be if the natives who frequent the township shall be kept away after opening a station for them.

He argued that:

the blacks need to be shown, taught, attracted to the outdoor work, which will turn this wilderness into a flowering garden; and they must learn to accept a way of life that gives them a safe and permanent food supply in return for the labour of their hands and the sweat of their brow.

Flierl apparently envisaged his task to include: (a) religious instruction, with (b) learning the native language as a prerequisite combined with (c) secular and practical education of children, and (d) training adults to do productive work, with the aim (e) of cultivating eenough food to feed the station, thus (f) making it possible for the Aborigines to abandon their nomadic habits, and (g) insulating them from corrupting European influence. Flierl soon left for New Guinea, and the new missionaries, recent graduates from mission training at Neuendettelsau in Bavaria, were young and inexperienced. 

W. Poland came to Elim in June 1888 and remained for more than twenty years. A slight man with a partially paralysed arm which hindered his ability to work physically, he took a strong interest in the Elim school children. But G.H. Schwarz was ultimately to have the most profound effect on the Mission community. He arrived at Cape Bedford aged nineteen in 1887 and remained almost without a break until 1942, when he was interned as an enemy alien. From 1889 onwards, Schwarz and Poland were jointly in charge of Mission activities. Poland and his wife cared mainly for schoolgirls at Elim, and Schwarz, physically imposing and a strict disciplinarian, managed a variety of agricultural and pastoral projects at Cape Bedford with Aboriginal labour. The two men complemented each other: Poland - kind, slight, in a civilized' household where women cooked and sewed - sang hymns and played parlour games with young Aboriginal girls; Schwarz, a no-nonsense bachelor worked in the fields and mustered cattle, preaching the Gospel, disciplining disobedient Aboriginal youths, and defying 'heathen' adults. These two men supervised the creation of the modern Hopevale community, and presided over local mission policy. 

Flierl had appealed to the police to keep Aborigines out of Cooktown and to find ways to get them to frequent the Mission. For years the missionaries despaired, of making any progress 'while the blacks are allowed, if not encouraged, to hang around Cooktown loafing, begging, and brawling'. Tribal fights, rumours of free blankets, pipes, tobacco or rations would lure them into Cooktown, and children would disappear from school to follow their parents. The missionaries were unsympathetic to the reasons Aborigines gave for leaving: Aboriginal warfare put the mark of Cain upon them. The missionaries struggled to supply enough food to keep Aborigines on the station. They decided to try at least to keep school-age children on the station whether or not their parents could be induced to remain. At first the missionary would simply go to the camp and drag truants back to school over their mothers' objections but soon the missionaries decided that the children must be housed away from their parents on the station, there there take all their meals and attend school. The missionaries could thus keep children under control (and indirectly maintain a hold over their parents), and also remove them from evil camp influences. Pfalzer asserted: 'It goes without saying that they never hear or see anything good while they stay with the other generation'. Schwarz found that the 'girls listen in rap attention to the filthy gossip the women bring back from Cooktown. The poor youngsters 'unwittingly absorb the most appalling moral poison'. Schwarz's solution was to house boys and girls in separate dormitories and to enforce a rule of silence at bed-time. According to the missionaries Aboriginal parents also tried to induce them to keep and feed infants, proposing to come only for periodic visits, though the missionaries refused to keep children below school age. 

The government initially supplied rations to Aborigines on the Mission because they hoped that if the Aborigines received enough food it would prevent their wandering about and induce them to remain permanently on mission stations. The missionaries hoped to supply enough food to keep Aborigines from stealing mission food crops, to get them to cultivate gardens and to receive the Word of God. The Aborigines did not always seem to appreciate the efforts at cultivation made on their behalf. When Meyer tried to get them to drain a swamp near Elim for rice cultivation, they complained that they preferred to eat nuts from trees already growing there. Pflzer considered it counterproductive to encourage Aborigines to fish or hunt to supplement dwindling rations: 'What they catch on the side they eat on the side, and if they ever have lots to eat by themselves, they don't turn up for work either'. Nor were Aborigines always impressed by the missionaries' generosity; they responded to the dictum that only those who worked would be fed by asking, 'Does the One in Heaven tell you to give us so little?' Quick to relate mission life to the promised Heavenly Paradise, they frequently asked 'How much food will there be in Heaven? and 'How much work will be done there?'

The missionaries quickly realised that their goals were tied to a closed circle of necessity that was to plague them for sixty years. To become 'civilized', the Aborigines had to settle on the Mission; Aborigines were attracted to the Mission by ample supplies of food; such supplies could only be obtained through Aboriginal labour. 'The only thing that could keep these wildly roaming hordes together at all is work; and if they are to work, they must be fed', wrote Pfalzer in 1887. Thus began a continual, but rarely successful, effort to produce foodstuffs. The missionaries faced two insurmountable difficulties: they considered local Aborigines 'incorrigible loafers', in constant need of supervision, but always ready to eat rations. They also discovered that early government officials already knew: that the land available was very poor. The missionaries searched the Reserve for better gardening areas, and Schwarz ultimately settled on the southern sloped of Cape Bedford, naming his station 'Hope Valley'. Although Flierl considered religious instruction to be the greatest priority, in the first years the missionaries had little time for preaching. They lamented their lack of progress in spiritual matters. In fact their metaphors of religious enlightenment reflect their mundane preoccupations. Flierl commented on the religious training of Aboriginal women ... if they could learn to clear the garden of weeds, they might come to appreciate the weeds in their hearts and minds and prepare a fine clean bed to receive the blessed Seed of God's Word into their hearts'. Pfalzer, in a more nutritive vein, hoped that the heathen's hunger for human fresh will soon be transformed into hunger for the Bread of Life'. As Bloomfield Meyer and his staff, somewhat apologetically, but spiritual work after building and cultivation activities.

At Cape Bedford the missionaries tried to pursue Flierl's program of learning the language and saving souls. The Elim school was conducted in Guugu-Yimidhirr. With the help of a Diyart evangelist, Johannes Pingilina, Schwarz translated the Lord's Prayer into Guugu-Yimidhirr only three months after his arrival in Australia. As the missionaries became more proficient in the language, they appreciated its subtleties, although they clearly never grasped its basic grammatical structure. They were particularly pleased to discover expressions which seemed to encode religious concepts and considerable effort was devoted to uncovering native religious ideas. The missionaries, however, tried to oppose and correct these 'mistaken notions'; Schwarz, at Hope Valley defiantly made his coffee over a Dhabul or 'sacred' fire, in the face of predictions that strange Aborigines would surely murder him. On the other hand, Pfalzer considered beliefs about transmigration of souls and rebirth (he thought Aborigines believed they would be reborn as whites), proved that some 'spark of Divine Revelation' remained even among these heathens, these 'lowest of the low' - and thus that even their wretched souls could be saved for the Kingdom of God. 

The parents of children in the Cape Bedford school, passing back and forth between Cooktown, local farms, cattle stations and new goldfields north at Starcke River, were confronted everywhere with a white man's world. The terms on which Aboriginal men and women could find flour, grog or a bit of tobacco in Cooktown were less easy than the missionaries imagined, even though the forty-odd hotels and grog shops in booming Cooktown were happy to pay. Aboriginal help in liquor, and to see them more for cash. It was profitable for publicans to employ Aborigines on whom they could depend and who could warn them about strangers who might have informed the police, once the restrictions on supplying Aborigines came into force. Chinese in Cooktown (merchants, market gardeners, miners) were able legally to import opium, and Aborigines acquired charcoal opium from them in exchange for work and sexual services. Police found this impossible to control, but were unable to convince the government to forgo the 20,000 pounds a year opium import revenue. In 1904 Roth attributed the heavy death rate among Aborigines to opium.

The violence, disease and human decay which resulted from intoxicants offended Cooktown councilors and in 1883 an ordinance excluded Aborigines from town after dark. Missionaries and police tried to exclude Aborigines from town altogether, but their efforts failed because too many townspeople profited from Aborigines, relying on their cheap, casual labour and, increasingly, on the virtually free work f Aboriginal children. Roth described this practice:

Settlers in outside districts who have plenty of Myalls about their country are often importuned by town residents and others to bring them in a boy or girl. In due time the child arrives. How the children are separated from their parents is a subject of conjecture and surmise. Most people will tell you they are better off with Europeans ... Most of the children will bolt (if old enough and the distance is not two great) and then they are termed ungrateful by their owners. This practice has been going on for years, and with the exception of one or two cases ... without good result to the children; they change masters and mistresses, prostitution and disease follow, they can only speak pidgeon English, and generally become pariahs among both whites and blacks.

The future of these children was even more uncertain than that of adults; stolen, or bought at a young age, raised as salves, uneducated in Aboriginal or European knowledge, unshaped by either morality, they faced certain rejection by both worlds when set adrift to shift for themselves as adolescents. Traffic in children, and the kidnapping of children and adults had been common on the east coast of Cape York before the establishment of Cooktown. This was the principal means of obtaining labour in the beche-de-mer and pearlshell industry, as Roth reported in 1905:

At Cape York the beche-de-mer fisheries have been going on for thirty years past now and the natives here - although hopelessly demoralised from a protective point of view - have, nevertheless, ... come to that stage of civilisation when their very existence is in a sense dependent upon the trade.

To recover pearlshell and beche-de-mer Aborigines had to dive along reefs, and this was unpleasant, dangerous, and debilitating work. during the recrudescence of this industry in the late 1890s Roth observed the effects on young Aborigines:

The following ... (eight) deaths all within eight weeks of the boys' return from the boats ... may be directly attributable to the life, and exposure. All these boys were apparently in sound health at the time they were originally signed on, and, with one exception were well under twenty years of age. The symptoms were common: general emaciation, pains in the back and chest, coughing and the spitting of blood.

Not surprisingly few people knowingly and willingly shipped on these boats. 'recruiting practices involved subterfuges, corruption, and outright force to obtain the divers desired. One ploy was to obtain the services of boys from the old men of a tribe through payments of flour and tobacco. As late as 1898 Roth reported such a case from Starcke River. It was relatively easy for boats to abduct people along the coast. In 1882 the Collector of Customs at Cooktown was moved to observe, 'The mode of obtaining their services should, in the interest of common humanity, be more legitimately pursued than decoying them at every convenient spot along the coast and its islands irrespective of age or sex'. In 1884 Frank Lee was charged in Cooktown with running down a canoe, kidnapping three Aborigines and shooting or attempting to shoot the rest. The beche-de-mer boats were willing to pay 4 pounds a head to 'recruiters' of Aborigines at this time. Fear ruled the boats, and captains developed elaborate procedures for protecting themselves against uprising, assault, and escape.

A Beche de mer man owning a small vessel will sail from Thursday Island with two congenial ruffians ... shipped a mate or cook ... He will then by presents and promises induce as many blacks, male and female, as he can carry to come on board ... and sail for his ultimate destination - some islet or sand bank in the Great Northern Channel, or far out on the Barrier Reef. Here he will erect his smokehouse and commence real operations. Taking all the male blacks he will sail to another sand bank, perhaps fifteen or twenty miles distant, will thee land them, and leaving them a small dinghy in which to reach the neighbouring reef where the beche-de-mer is to be collected, he and his mates will return to their headquarters where they will revel in the society of the grass widows of the fish collectors, whom they will occasionally visit for the purpose of bringing in the fish obtained by them to the smoke house. Meanwhile the blacks will work patiently for a time, fed on a small allowance of 'sharps' (an inferior kind of flour) and such fish as they can catch. Those that get sick die unrelieved and unrecorded and they all live the hardest possible life, generally on the verge of starvation and frequently in want of water.

Often Aborigines were put ashore hundreds of miles from their own districts, facing hostile tribes and predatory whites along their routes home. women were detained on board for years at a time. Tooloo came to the attention of the police in Cooktown when she was around fifteen years old having been taken to sea some five years earlier by the schooner Flirt. Her companions were said to have run away off Cape Tribulation. she was left in the care of a Cooktown hotelkeeper, then 'decoyed away' by some native troopers. The captain of the Flirt tried to trace her, promising to return her to her native area and put her into domestic service. Anhoth3er notorious incident occurred in 1882 when eighteen Aborigines aged nine to forty, procured from Townsville arrived in Cooktown.

They drafted these 'boys' and gins after the manner of sheep, each captain casting lots for nine, mixed sexes, without reference to the instincts of the parties concerned some of whom, I know, manifested a strong aversion to their separation. Amongst those who fell to the lot of Captain Webb of the 'Pride of the Logan' was a girl of 11 or perhaps 123 years old - a mere child, comparatively - who must have received shameful treatment on the voyage between Hinchenbrooke and Cooktown, as one Steve Barry, who belonged to the 'Reindeer' tender proceeded on board Webb's vessel, took forcible possession of this child, claimed her as his own and actually dragged her by the arm through the main thoroughfare of this town, despite my remonstrances until he lodged or secreted her in a public house incidentally for very discreditable purposes.  

Inspector Fitzgerald received advice that he possessed no powers to prevent 'the carrying off of gins'. The abduction of children, however, could be prosecuted. The abuse of women in the fishing industry became a significant demographic factor. Venereal disease, the exposed life on the boats, the insecure existence, and the likelihood of early death all affected women's capacity to reproduce and to rear children. Just as every diseased or drowned diver was lost to the Aboriginal community, each woman dead or diseased or unable to care for her baby was a loss to her own generation and those following. The rapidly dwindling numbers of Aborigines in the Cooktown area reflected this situation .

The treatment of women and girls by these boat crews was regarded by police as one of the main causes of murder by Aborigines and eventually the shipping of women and children was prohibited. Fishing crews had long been accustomed to paying Aboriginal fathers and husbands in food and tobacco for the sexual services of their women. Miners took temporary possession of women in similar ways, though violent conflicts often arose when miners refused to return women to their husbands. These practices and the ambiguous position of the children resulting from such unions forced the government to attempt to control access to aboriginal women. white rights to female labour, and the movements of Aboriginal women, were controlled by legislation and refinements of policy during the ten years after mid-1890. Colonial officials regarded Aboriginal women as even more dangerous sexual than European women:

We can hardly expect the emotions of the savage woman to be under more severe control than those of the white. All aboriginal girls, with a few rare exceptions, would drift towards one common destination involving their own degradation and additional burdens on the state.

Even where they were in legitimate employment their 'unowned' sexuality was considered a problem because their employers dismissed them if they became pregnant. Control of the Aboriginal women was essential in the implementation of Aboriginal policy:

Freedom for the women to come and go when and where they please will ensure a permanent increase of the half-caste population.

Roth was appalled by the abuse of half caste girls, many of them bought as small children and raised as servants in Cooktown households. The girls themselves were the result of thirty years of abuse of their mothers. The very existence of these children and their vulnerability touched the sensibilities of officials and by 1902 a bureaucratic campaign was under way to bring children, especially girls, in from the bush, out of dangerous living situations with single men, aliens, publicans, etc. and to place them in institutions before they reached puberty. The Act of 1897 and its amendment: in 1901 regulated Aboriginal employment through permits and legal agreements which became the main means of controlling Aborigines in the colonial economy. Theoretically every case of employment was examined and approved by protectors; men's wages and conditions of employment were controlled, but the placement of girls and women most concerned protectors. During the period when the regulation of Aboriginal employment was undertaken seriously, authorities accelerated the removal of Aborigines to reserves. For 'humanitarian reasons', protectors incarcerated waifs and halfcaste girls at missions for protection and training. Their future as adults on the missions was seen as a problem for, to allow them to marry tribal Aborigines was to throw away all the effort that had gone into civilizing them, but it was even more undesirable that they marry non-Aborigines. The rounding up of children and their placement of missions contained the seeds of later policies of permanent mission residence.

By 1896 the government had accepted that Aboriginal free access to towns was undesirable. The Colonial Secretary wrote:

Aboriginals are and should be removed after the sun goes down, and no law is necessary to justify this, save the law of neccessity.

The reserve was their rightful place and here they were expected to remain unless gainfully employed elsewhere. Similarly, station managers and farmers only tolerated Aborigines usefully employed on their properties. Roth 'while anxiously string to treat him (the Aboriginal) as a human being whose wishes should, as far as possible - i.e., within reasonable limit - be considered and respected' maintained that the forced transference of Aborigines to reserves could be justified where drought and settlement thereatened starvation, where remoteness restricted access to medical and surgical requirements and where they could not be adequately protected against unscrupulous aliens and Europeans. By 1900 nearly all Aborigines not gainfully employed for lawful purposes by respectable Europeans were candidates for forced removal to reserves.

During the last decade of the nineteenth century Cape Bedford Mission became a small community, with a core of permanent residents whose entire existence was tied to an evolving Mission social life. Disillusioned by their failure to lure adult Aborigines to the station and unable to support and feed large numbers, the missionaries concentrated on an enclave of children whom they could carefully supervise. Agricultural efforts on a reduced scale were continued, with severely curtailed finances. Until the end of the 1890s and the arrival of the Protectors, Meston and Roth, the missionaries enjoyed little support from local authorities, even less from settlers, miners, timber-getters and fishermen. As Aboriginal numbers around Cooktown dwindled, the Mission became the last refuge for elderly 'heathen' Aborigines. By carefully marrying off Aboriginal women who were faithful coverts to Christianity the missionaries established an isolated Lutheran enclave, while Aborigines outside either perished or developed radically new ways of life. 

After missionary Pfalzer departed for New Guinea, leaving Schwarz and Poland alone at Cape Bedford Schwarz planned to reduce cultivation at the Mission to a level the missionaries, schoolchildren, and the few adults could manage. He could neither feed nor rely on the availability of a larger Aboriginal work force. From the time Schwarz moved to Hope Valley, leaving the Polands at Elim, there was a (normally amicable) division of labour between the stations. Poland and his wife kept the schoolchildren at Elim; Schwarz, the older children, and any adults who could be induced to work raised food crops and cattle at Hope Valley. Periodically, Schwarz attempted to consolidate the stations. In 1900 Elim closed and the Polands and their schoolgirls moved to Hope Valley. By 1902 Schwarz was trying to make commercial success of copra and sisal fibres.

Relations between Mission and government underwent a series of reversals. In April 1889 Police Magistrate Milman recommended the government grant the Mission an annual subsidy of 200 pounds, subject to his continued good opinion of Mission management. Milman advised Schwarz to use the subsidy for rations and to eep meticulous records so as to justify further requests for assistance. Schwarz, always sceptical, agreed that while Aborigines might well come to the Mission if promised government-supplied rations and that this was better than driving them from the towns or stations, he was nonetheless anxious about too many Aborigines blocking to Elim for free food. he was also dubious about depending on government aid which was contingent on the goodwill of a sympathetic police magistrate. Schwarz's fears proved well founded; after a few years of favourable government inspections, the missionaries fell out with Police Magistrate Chester who in 1893 persuaded the government to cut off the subsidy. The official reason was to save money during a financial crisis, reflecting Chester's opinion that 'no practical result' had resulted from the Cape Bedford work and that:

no result at all commensurate with the outlay is ever likely to be shown by the latter station and especially since it is impossible for ... the police to force the aboriginal children to remain in the schools, as such action would be contrary to the essentially voluntary principle of the scheme and would, moreover, inevitably break down.

The missionaries felt that the police magistrate had ordered the subsidy discontinued because he was unable to persuade Schwarz and Poland to send some educated, well-behaved Aboriginal girls into Cooktown to work as domestics. Chester was determined to have the girls, but the missionaries left the choice to the girls, who refused. Cape Bedford received no government subsidy between 1893 and 1 April 1897, when 5 pounds per month was granted for Aboriginal relief, apparently at Meston's suggestion. In the interim the missionaries struggled to feel not only Aborigines but also themselves. Uncertain funds were received from Neuendettelsau and emergency grants from South Australia. The government only approved a renewed annual subsidy of 100 pounds, 'conditionally on Missionaries Schwarz and Poland taking in hand some of the Cooktown aboriginal waifs and strays', after Schwarz approached Roth and argued that he had eighty or ninety Aborigines to feed daily who were otherwise starving. This was the beginning of a cooperative relationship between Schwarz and various Protectors of Aborigines and, over the years, many children from other parts of Queensland were transplanted to Cape Bedford.

Roth considered that a beneficial feature of the 1897 legislation was that it afforded protectin to the missionaries who could (by taking out 'agreements' for employment' on their own boys') keep Aborigines on the station. Wiothout such agreemnts the young Aborigines 'as soon as they can make their way on thir own, go off to Cooktown and accept any employment white people will give them'. The missionaries always had found their neighbours hostile to their enterprise, competing by underhand means for the services of the Aborigines the Lutherans also wanted. The local settlers also had their eyes to mission land, often expressing the sentiment that setting aside useful land for Aborigines only impeded progress. Commercial timber-getters fought to gain access to the Reserve and they received the support of the Cooktown Chamber of Commerce.

... it is scarcely logical to stop the development of a distinct by locking up some of its riches natural resources as far as the white man is concerned, while they are freely vested in the blacks to whom they are of no use whatever. The position is intolerable and of injustice to the capitalist who has invested capital in the latest machinery (i.e. sawmills) for the purpose of converting this latent wealth into actual money.

At Cape Bedford the issue was cattle pasture. The Mission kept a small herd but neighbouring settlers freely ran their cattle on the Reserve, abused Aboriginal stockmen and apparently made off with Mission stock. In Cooktown itself the Mission's reputation was always fragile, among both Aborigines and Europeans. When Mission debts were high Meyer reported people in town would yell in the street: "...those bloody missionaries, always writing cheques when they can't pay ..." Around the same time Aborigines in Cooktown told people that Schwarz had driven them from the station and complained of his meanness. Townspeople also encouraged Aborigines at the Mission to run away. Alex McNickle, a setter on the Endeavour River, considered that Cooktown people rather than the missionaries had 'reformed the Myall tribes adjoining the town up as high towards semi-civilization as they generally get' and the Mission boys he considered were work-shy and dishonest. He dismissed Meston's suggestions for increased Mission support: 

With regard to the Cape Bedford Mission station, it it coasts 1000 pounds per annum to teach 'a few gins' of one tribe, how much will it cost to reform the numerous tribes of Queensland blacks ...

Aborigines he believed were 'relics of humanity who must die out in a few years'.

McNickle's remark about teaching a few gins' reflects how, perhaps by default, the missionaries had come to focus their efforts on Aboriginal schoolgirls. Ultimately they used their control of these women to draw Aboriginal men into their proposal Christian community. The missionaries, long concerned for the welfare of Aboriginal girls, were horrified by the relations between Aboriginal men and women and refused to contemplate the prospect of any of their girls associating with heathen husbands. Young men, even those on the Mission, were 'utterly unreliable'. As the schoolgirls grew older, however, even the missionaries became sensitive to the 'bitter reproach' in the Aborigines' queries concerning their keeping marriageable girls on the station, since everyone ()even little Mission children) knew that many local whites took sexual advantage of Aboriginal women.

The missionaries lived in constant fear that older girls would be overcome by a desire to marry and would run away. They feared adults would simply abduct girls and so older students were closely supervised and their dormitory was guarded at night. In April 1889 five girls were lured away by a large mob of Aborigines passing through Elim on the way to a great yam-eating ritual on the Melvor River, but Schwarz and the McIvor Native Police Inspector fetched them all back again. The missionaries, betraying their own theories of sexuality, considered that the girls' own impulses and urges might get the best of them. Poland, warned by his Midsion superior that the first girl to be baptised in the church might not be able 'to resist future temptation', replied to temptations'. Such anxieties held Schwarz and Poland back from baptizing girls until they were considered strong enough not to fail their new faith. One girl did leave the Mission to marry a native trooper but died in childbirth shortly afterwards. Both missionaries and mission authorities frequently worried how to find suitable mates for Christian girls.

Ultimately the girls began to 'prove' themselves: they gave up smoking, cursing, fighting and sulking and they learnd to do choires and to practise 'disinterested giving, unknown among their tribe'. Poland wrote of his little girl pupils:

Once we see proof in the heathens that they are no longer slaves of their passions and low cravings, that they have ceased to subordinate themselves to sin, we may assume with confidence that the spirit of the Lord abides in their hearts and is working in their minds.

In 1895 five girls were christened and another eight at Whitsuntide 1898.

Similar success with Mission boys was not forthcoming. From the beginning boys often ran away just as the missionaries thought they had begun to progress. Boys often went to Cooktown seeking food or tobacco; they left the dormitory to dance in 'heathen' camps or to attend ceremonies. One young Aboriginal after ten years of 'model' behaviour one day ran off and later appeared in Cooktown, married and working on a fisherman 's boat. The story of Podaigo, as told by the missionaries in detail, reflects their view of the problems. A year after his arrival at Elim Schwarz singled out Podaigo made a good impression on  Poland the day he arrived in Elim and, along with the girl Kakural (baptised Anna in 1896), appeared quickly to grasp and remember 'Christian concepts'. Podaigo was also the first child to learn to sing newly translated Guugu Yimidhirr hymns properly, to acquire a true appreciation of the Gospel message, to be able to ask relevant questions about it, and to have any success with arithmetic. The missionaries claimed he once spontaneously praised Jesus for saving him when out at sea on the mission boat during a storm. 

In 1889, however, when Podaigo was about sixteen, he began to show a certain restlessness. Poland thought he had begun 'to waver in his desire to please God', finding his manner vulgar and unpleasant when with other boys, unsure and nervous when with missionaries. Once when he was being 'lazy and clumsy' Schwarz slapped him and, in the ensuing scene, Podaigo picked up a spear which Schwarz seized to beat him further. Later the same year he again disappointed the missionaries by yielding to the urgings of certain elders and leaving the station to attend an initiation, where he could eat the forbidden yam. When he returned, apologising for allowing the old men to lead him astray, 'Podaigo was punished by being banned from church services for one month. To the missionaries' surprise he appeared not to have forgotten his schooling or Bible stories. Though grown from a child to a young taller than Poland, 'only spiritually he (had) not grown strong yet'. 

In September 1889 Podaigo fell into disgrace. Poland later called it the saddest day in his professional career. While on the beach near Elim Podaigo and another boy chased to Elim schoolgirls along the beach and into the water, saying 'shocking and disgusting' things. Afterwards he apparently chose as punishment to be tied up one full morning rather than to leave the station, but Poland was shocked to find him unrepentant and defiant. Shortly afterwards he picked up his spears and left the station, returning before Christmas after having worked for a local settler. He was 'sullen but untroubled by guilt' and though he told the missionaries he had come back because he had been made to work on Sundays, he told other boys that he had returned because the settler had run out of tobacco. Poland dispatched Podaigo to Hope Valley to work like the other older boys. Here he settled in, moody, but more capable than his fellows.

Although Podaigo had written a letter to Poland's bridge-to-be in Germany, he was not on the station when the white women arrived in late 1890. He had been sent back to the settler from whom, it appeared, he had stolen a shirt and a pipe. Schwarz wrote to him telling him he could return to the Mission of he repaid the stolen items.

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