The Ipswich area is located east of Brisbane. It was home of the Jagara Aboriginal people before the arrival of European settlers. In 1826 Captain Patrick Logan, the commandant of the convict settlement at Brisbane, noted limestone along the banks of the Bremer, and soon sent an overseer and five convicts to quarry limestone and to erect a lime-burning kiln. The river allowed ready transport of the quicklime. The encampment became known as Limestone. Convicts laboured there for 15 years, when the area was opened to free settlement and the site for a town surveyed. The following year the town was renamed Ipswich.
Ipswich benefited from its location at the intersection of routes to the Darling Downs and upper Brisbane Valley. It was hoped that Ipswich would become the capital port on the river, but after Queensland separated from New South Wales, Brisbane leapt ahead and became the capital city.
Ipswich was proclaimed a municipality in 1860. Queensland's first secondary school, Ipswich Grammar School, was established three years later, but it was a difficult decade for the new municipality, which was soon suffering droughts, floods, high unemployment and finally depression. The shortage of cotton during the American Civil War was its only saving grace. By the end of the 1870s, however, demand for local produce and manufacturers saw Ipswich commercially buoyant. The demand for coal saw a strong growth of mining to the north and east of the town from the mid 1870s onwards. Miners swelled the population of the Ipswich area. Local farmers also turned to dairy farming as the American cotton market recovered. Its diversified economy provided some protection for Ipswich during the floods, droughts and severe economic depression of the early 1890s. By Federation the district was headed into another period of prosperity including industrial, business and residential growth. Mining developed further, with railways and tramways laid to the coalfields, engineering works opened and meat preservation plants developed. Ipswich was declared a city in 1904.
Through the Great Depression, drought and World War II local industry sustained the region. It gained a military airbase at Amberley as well as air raid shelters and other installations. After the war economic development saw the opening of new collieries and expansion in meat and butter processing, the production of timber products and the introduction of chemical and tobacco manufacture. In 1949 the Moreton field was still the largest producer of coal in Queensland, with 67 small mines yielding 47 percent of the State's output. By 1960 the railway workshops at North Ipswich employed 2500 people while coalmining engaged 3000 and the woollen mills another 1000. Agriculture was still important, especially cotton closely followed by barley, sorghum and wheat.
Ipswich today is the fourth-largest local government area in the State and a key regional centre of South East Queensland.
Information from the Ipswich Heritage Study, vol. 1, Final Report, prepared for the Ipswich City Council by the Ipswich Heritage Study Consultancy Team, University of Queensland, edited by Leonn Satterthwait, ICC, Ipswich, 1992.
People's Voice: Australian Community History On-line website http://www.peoplesvoice.gov.au/stories/qld/ipswich/ipswich_c.htm