Bay pioneers celebrate history of generations
It is part of Christensen family legend that an adventurous and headstrong young woman, freed from the shackles of a protective family by her 21st birthday, boarded a ship in Odenz, Denmark and set sail for a bustling portside city in a far flung corner of the world.
The corner of the world Ernstina Swarz was destined for was Queensland, Australia and the city, Maryborough.
The Dane left her homeland with a few possessions and enough money for a return journey home but soon gave her small amount of savings away to a poor family she befriended on the ship to Australia.
Stepping off the ship in 1873, Ernstina now had no choice but to forge a life in a strange new place.
Soon married to Poul Christensen, a carpenter whose family home still stands in Tiaro as Country Women’s Association headquarters, the pair went on to have five children, one of whom, Andrew, would become one of the first settlers in Nikenbah.
Together with his father and father-in-law to-be, Andrew built a sprawling farmhouse where he lived with wife Ettie and raised their three children.
Today, Andrew and Ettie’s granddaughter Leanne Moore and great granddaughter Stephanie reside in the historic piece of Hervey Bay history.
Strong family ties and a love of the land were at the core of the European pioneering families who set Hervey Bay on the road to progress over a century ago.
Now, in 2013, the Christensen family boasts five generations who have made the city their home despite the odds.
Ms Moore’s older sister, Cathy Christensen, and mother Arline speak of their strong bond to Hervey Bay with affection and pride.
“I really appreciate being asked about what I know about the area and the connection we have is a very personal thing,” Cathy said.
“There are really only a handful of people that have been here from the beginning and even our family, with such a long history in the area, has only been in Hervey Bay since 1921 after arriving in Maryborough in the 1870s.
Cathy lived in Maleny for a number of years, but has been back in the region for the past 15 years as owner of the O’Regan Creek Estate Vineyard.
“I did want to experience living in a place that was completely new, where I had no connection to anyone.
“Now I’ve moved back, what I feel myself doing is watching all the changes with a lot of interest. If I felt there were changes in the wind that weren’t in the best interest of the city, that’s when I’d say something.”
Mum Arline tells of a tough but rewarding life growing cane and running cattle while raising three daughters in the 50s and 60s.
“All the roads were gravel and we didn’t really have much spare time,” Arline says.
“I was married at 19 and learnt to drive soon after that in a two tonne truck. I used to put Cathy in her pram and lift her into the truck beside me when I had to drive into town to get things.
“We thought of moving to Bundaberg because it was more profitable up there, but we didn’t in the end. All the family was here.”
Both women recall hair raising attempts at getting up over Ghost Hill in order to visit family or friends.
“To get over Ghost Hill, mum would stop at the bottom, put the car in first gear and then go very slowly up. Sometimes we’d get to the top and we wouldn’t be able to get over it the first time,” Cathy said.
“So, she’d back down to the bottom and try again.
“It used to give me nightmares that we’d tip over backwards at the top – it was so steep.”
Now, with sealed roads and major upgrades in the pipeline, and expansion of shopping centres, hospitals and new homes adding to the Bay’s urban sprawl, Cathy and Arline say Hervey Bay’s growth is a big part of the city’s story.
Even though Cathy’s two sons moved away after completing school, as have most of her nieces and nephews, she said that if the work opportunities were here, more of the younger generation would stay.
“It’s a beautiful place to live and I think that’s why it’s attracting so many new residents,” Cathy said.
“And all the development is fine as long as sensible decisions are made.
“It’s extremely important to me that places of significance like the Soldiers’ Memorial Hall at Pialba and the pier are preserved and the essence of places like the foreshore are maintained.”