George Colledge (sometimes College) was one of the first selectors to take up land in the Mt Crosby district and he wasn't anybody's fool. Along with Robert Bland he selected land that was fertile, close to the river, and at a point where he could cross the river and make his way to Ipswich for any provisions he might need.
Few others found land of this quality locally because a geological feature known as the Neranleigh-Fernvale beds dominates the north side of the Brisbane River. We know them better as the stony ridges that most of us live on - great for solid building, but to be avoided if agriculture is your goal. At Colleges Crossing these beds meet the uplifted edge of the puddingstone overlaying the North Ipswich coal measures (the change in topography is most evident as you make your way up the Colleges cutting on the south side of the river).
Colledge selected his land in 1854, long before most of the land around Mt Crosby was taken up. The delay in successful alienation of land at Mount Crosby can be attributed to other better lands being available nearer to Ipswich and towards Moggill. It was nearly twenty years before those lands were exhausted and selectors were forced to accept second best on the Neranleigh-Fernvale beds.
Colleges Crossing is named for George, although early maps show his crossing point a few hundred metres downstream of the current bridge. Still, it is approximately the site of the first crossing in the district and remains the principal one. It even retains an element of 'floodability' that has typified bridges at the site since the earliest records. In fact it was the very unreliability of bridges at Colleges Crossing that led the Board to construct a bridge at the site of the current day Mt Crosby weir in 1894.
The current spelling of 'Colleges Crossing' is a relatively recent development (1980 - 1985) and can be attributed to two principle reasons. Firstly, in his own time George spelled his name both ways, though the correct spelling is likely to have been 'Colledge'. Secondly, during the real estate developments of the 80s both spellings were used rather indiscriminately before 'Colleges' eventually gained the ascendancy. It's a bit clumsy of us, just as were the early mapmakers who spelled his name two ways on the same map, but I think George unlikely to have cared. He would probably be pleased to know we have a reason to think of his pioneering efforts from time to time (and surely that is the test of it).
From early in the 1920s Colleges Crossing was a popular picnic and tourist spot for the residents of Brisbane and Ipswich alike. The main reason for its survival as a kind of pseudo-parkland was the width of the road easement on the southern bank caused by the road building authorities' aversion to floodwaters, an inability to decide on the easiest route to Mt Crosby and the poor quality of the soil on the same bank.
In 1926, Alex Thompson, proprietor of the kiosk at the Wintergarden theatre in Ipswich, proposed to turn Colleges Crossing into a 'pleasure resort'. Shortly after that, it was declared a recreation reserve by the Moreton Shire Council and Thompson was granted a lease.
He held that lease only until 1928, after which the Kerr Brothers, storekeepers of Mt Crosby, held it until 1934. During this time Cribb and Foote, major department store owners in Ipswich and significant landholders in the area, began promoting the area as the Mt Crosby Lakes District. One of their brochures poetically described the area as
'not only all the amenities of the seaside close to [Ipswich's] door … it also has beauty wild and shy'
There were other leaseholders up until the 1950s, after which the policy on privately owned recreation areas changed and profit making enterprises were no longer approved.
For all the fun that was had there, Colleges Crossing also saw its share of tragedy. In 1864 an unknown man in a cabbage tree hat drowned within sight of George Colledge; on Boxing Day 1909, Second Engineer at the Mt Crosby Works, Hugh Hendry, was drowned trying to cross the flooded bridge; in 1913 Russian boy and only child Cecil Visokinsky drowned while playing with friends in the swollen river; and in the 1930s two boy scouts from the Allawah camp drowned just upstream.
- J. Nissen, Creating the Landscape: A History of Settlement and Land Use in Mt Crosby, Master of Arts Thesis, University of Queensland, 1999.