HISTORIC CONTROVERSY: Gai-ee was formerly known as Mt Wheeler, possibly named after Frederick Wheeler.
HISTORIC CONTROVERSY: Gai-ee was formerly known as Mt Wheeler, possibly named after Frederick Wheeler. Allan Reinikka ROK160518agai-ee1

Confusion remains over origins of landmark names

ALTHOUGH their official renaming was announced last week, there still seems to be confusion about the origins of the colonial names given to two significant Central Queensland landmarks.

Baga (formerly Mount Jim Crow) and Gai-ee (formerly Mount Wheeler) have for many years caused anguish for the Darumbal people given their speculated links to racist terms in the US and a white man who was believed to have massacred many Indigenous people by forcing them to jump from the summit.

Rockhampton woman Michele Lang has been researching the region's history for some years and is the volunteer Queensland coordinator for the Australian National Placenames Survey (ANPS).

VIDEO: Take a walk up Baga alongside 1880s explorers

READ: Darumbal elders' triumph as landmarks renamed

Although she stressed her views were her own and not that of the ANPS, Ms Lang said her many years of research into place names had helped her arrive at these opinions.

"As a volunteer researcher, I have spent years researching local place names and thus far have been unable to prove definitively how Mount Jim Crow and Mount Wheeler were named,” Ms Lang wrote in a letter to The Morning Bulletin.

"Various theories have been suggested, the racist explanation being only one of them but it is the one that has received the most publicity.”

An 1880s essay published by The Morning Bulletin suggests Baga may have been named for the surveyor Jim Crow, but does mention the title's links to racial segregation and slavery in the US.

Ms Lang said there was another explanation which could also be plausible, originally published by Capricorn Coast's Spectator News Magazine in November.

This explanation was offered by Fred Lawn of Yeppoon, who said his great-grandfather George had won a race between builders of the Yeppoon-Rockhampton Road and fettlers up the mountain.

With a high level of fitness, the race organisers handicapped him, making him carry a crow bar which was "an integral part of a Jim Crow”, a machine fettlers used to curve the railway line.

"Fred said the story he heard as a boy was that his great-grandfather won the race and that's how the name came about,” Ms Lang said.

Ms Lang also cited an article by University of Queensland researcher Jonathan Richards about the colonial naming of Gai-ee where he discounts the theory the mountain was named for Frederick Wheeler and a massacre of indigenous people.

"Although there is evidence in the records proving that the Native Police on at least one occasion forced Aboriginal people over a cliff, there is no account connecting this site with such an event,” Mr Richards concluded in his research.

"In addition, although there is adequate proof that Frederick Wheeler and troopers under his control killed Aboriginal men, women and children on a number of different occasions, there are no records to support the claim that he forced them to jump from cliffs.

"It would appear, on balance, that Mount Wheeler in Central Queensland is named after Gold Commissioner John George Wheeler.”

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