Ulster Lodge, Brisbane, 1893. (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 186343)

Between 1824 and 1842, Moreton Bay was a place of secondary punishment in the New South Wales colony. With the North Bank (Brisbane City) being the main establishment, there were nearly 2,400 men and 145 women who lived at depots stretching from Stradbroke Island to Limestone (Ipswich) in the west, including Cowper’s Plains (Archerfield-Rocklea-Coopers Plains), and Eagle Farm.

In pre-separation Queensland, the bush, and emerging pastoral holdings and farmland, between the Caboolture and Logan Rivers was known as the Moreton District of New South Wales. Later it was known as the County of Stanley. Districts, parishes, and counties were land administrative divisions for the purposes of property ownership (the divisions had no governmental administrative or political function), and eventually, one of the sub-units of the Stanley County was the Parish of Yeerongpilly. The process of local government would be slow for the districts beyond One Mile Swamp.

Brisbane’s very small municipal council formed in September 1859. The commercial hub was South Brisbane, which started as South Ward in the early Brisbane Municipal Council (made up of only four wards), and the area did not become its own township until 1887 when the former South Ward amalgamated with the division of Woolloongabba. Thomas Blacket Stephens was a Southside alderman, and second Mayor, in the first Brisbane Municipal Council, while his son, William Stephens, was the first Mayor of the South Brisbane Council. A number of the early aldermen in the Brisbane Municipal Council had landholdings on the Brisbane Southside, particularly Robert Cribb. However, it was the aldermen in the South Brisbane Council who shaped the Southside; Thomas Heaslop, Abraham Fleetwood Luya, and, of course, William Stephens, who became an important figure in the Ministerial Queensland Governments.

On 11 November 1879, the first divisional boards were established across non-urban areas of Queensland, including both the Woolloongabba and Yeerongpilly Divisional Boards. A realignment of the divisions occurred on 14th October 1886 with the formation of the new Stephens Division, named after Thomas Blacket Stephens. In 1902 the divisions became shires. The Stephens Divisional/Shire Office was on Ipswich Road, down the hill from the Annerley Junction, near Victoria Terrace. The Yeerongpilly Divisional/Shire Office was near the Rocklea railway station. In the early twentieth century, the shire aldermen held sway over the development of the Brisbane Southside. Philip P. Marshall was the first Chairman of the Stephens Shire Council. The founder of Queensland’s leading drapery business, George Arthur Bayard, was a later Stephens Shire Councillor. Frederick Arthur Stimpson and George Grimes were also other influential Stephens Shire figures. George Grimes also represented Bulimba in the Queensland Parliament, and his brother, Samuel Grimes, was the state member for Oxley for 20 years.

The formation of the Greater Brisbane City Council in 1925, that amalgamated the 21 shires from Sandgate to Yeerongpilly and Moggill to Belmont, was one of the greatest achievements in Australian local government. It made Brisbane the largest city administration in area on the southern hemisphere. The original wards on the Brisbane Southside were Balmoral, South Brisbane, Coorparoo, Stephens, and Yeerongpilly. Some of the Belmont Ward fell west of the Bulimba Creek. The Stephens Ward was to be short-lived. It only existed just beyond the 1931 Council election (lasting less than a decade). At the 1934 election the defunct Stephens Ward area became Buranda Ward on the Junction Park side of Ipswich Road and the South Brisbane Ward on the other side of Ipswich Road.