Maria Creek Soldier Settlement

Guest Blogger: Marie Carman, El Arish History Station Museum

The El Arish History Station museum houses a collection of the town’s documentary history in the original railway station which operates under the auspices of the El Arish Community Sports and Recreational Association Inc.

El Arish the town was originally established as a soldier settlement town following WWI. Six of the streets were named for WWI Generals - Monash, Chauvel, Royston, Ryrie, Wilson and Glasgow and the seventh after Francis Paxton Martin, who was the supervisor of the Maria Creek Soldier's settlement.

The above photo is four buildings in Chauvel Street, El Arish, and is taken near where the History Station museum stands today.  This same image was used in the June or July 1923 edition of the Australian Sugar Journal.

The buildings from L to R :

  • The private home of Mr. Frances Paxton Martin, Supervisor of the Settlement, who had been in Egypt with the 6th Light Horse under General Sir Harry Chauvel and arrived in El Arish, Queensland circa 1919.  Mr Martin was instrumental in setting up almost everything.  The museum has a copy of his journal which lists in detail the allotments, the soldiers who were settled there and the jobs they each did in the town between 1921 and 1925, giving us a wonderful insight into the town's early history.  We purchased a digitised copy of the journal from the Queensland State Archives who very generously copied the three hundred odd page document for us. The Museum is in touch with the Martin family who hope to visit El Arish for ANZAC Day next year.
  • The El Arish State School facing west.  This is not our current school as it was rebuilt facing the north in the thirties.
  • Frank Martin's original office, which later became the El Arish Post Office and then a private home until its destruction by Cyclone Yasi in 2011.  I can imagine Frank Martin walking down to work in the mornings past the school.
  • The corner of the Railway Station master's residence is just showing. It is still there today, and beautifully maintained by its private owners since the cyclone.

The photo of the cottage above with the people on the front verandah shows an original settlers cottage built on high stumps because of its close proximity to Maria Creek.  This house belonged to Martin Lyons Kearney (Leo), a returned soldier who served in France.  There was no bridge over Maria Creek early on, and Leo had a flying fox system set up in order to cross it.  You can just see  a water tank and a stove attached which is an indicator it was the home of a married soldier.  The unmarried ones made do until they needed to get these things.


The photo of the Anzac Day march is indeed the mid-fifties.  It is taken at the El Arish RSL Memorial Hall on Royston Street.  The museum also holds a photo of the Returned Soldiers present on the day. I can provide the names of everyone present for anyone interested.

Each year on Anzac Day, museum members mount a display which is visited by hundreds of people. Plans are now underway to commemorate every soldier associated with El Arish in 2015.

Marie Carman, El Arish

P.S. Queensland State Archives has files on the Soldier settlement areas of Queensland. The following letter is an example of the correspondence contained in the El Arish file. The revaluation Board report is part of Item 1042859, dated 16 October 1924.



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Hi I read with great interest your article on the soldier settlement history of El Arish, Qld. I am currently writing my family tree and have found much evidence documenting the history of both my great uncle, Amarald Glen Trestrail, his wife, Violet Maud Trestrail and her former spouse, Justin George Gooliaeff. I would love to access more information in regard to their early settlement and production of sugar cane at El Arish. I would like to access the digital copy of the journal of Frances Paxton Martin, if possible. I also request your permission to reproduce this article in my family tree on I look forward to hearing from you.SincerelyErika Mary Birmingham

Hi ErikaAt Tully Library we are also collecting local history, and would love to get in touch with you. I note your great uncle AG Trestrail was awarded the Military Medal. Please feel free to contact,H. Pedley

Hi Erika, Thank you for your query.. I have emailed Marie on your behalf so I am sure she will contact you shortly. We are both happy for you to add the contents of the John Oxley Library blog to your ancestry account. The images used in the blog story are from the digitized collections of the State Library of Queensland also. We encourage you to contact Queensland State Archives as well - for more information regarding soldier settlement records.Thank you Helen for sharing information about the additional records available at the Tully Library. Erika,...good luck with your continued family research.Regards,Anne ScheuDistributed Collections Coordinator, SLQ

it is this spouse! realy careful station.

Martin Lyons Kearney (Leo) (1884-1980) mentioned in this blog was my great-uncle. He was married twice to two Bainbrigge widows, but had no children of his own.

Hello Margaret,Wonderful to hear from you regarding this blog entry on the Maria Creek Soldier Settlement. Marie was the instigator of this story about El Arish. Perhaps the two ladies on the verandah are the Bainbrigge sisters and the gentleman is your great-uncle.Anne ScheuDistributed Collections Coordinator,Queensland Memory | State Library of Queensland

It's awesome to pay a quick visit this web site and reading the views of all friends about this paragraph, while I am also zealous of getting know-how.|

Great post here. Lots of information, I look forward to reading more from you.

what an awesome article! I am very proud to say that Francis Paxton Martin is my grandfather and although having never met him, he is such an inspiration for me and my family! I am always learning so much about him with every website I come across, this one is fantastic!!

Great article! So wonderful to hear about Francis Paxton Martin- who i am proud to say is my grandfather! I am constantly learning so much about him all the time and he is such an inspiration. Would it be possible for me to obtain a copy of his digital journal? Regards,Eloise Martin

Hello Eloise, thank you for your contribution to the Maria Creek soldier settlement blog post. It will be best if Marie Carmen responds to your query as the museum community is custodian of the journal in El Arish, north Queensland.I have forwarded your comments and question to Marie. I am sure she will respond in due course. Regards, Anne Scheu - State Library of Queensland

My grandfather had a soldiers settlement at El Arish after WW1. Do you have any information about James Thomas Sydney KEANE?

Hi Alison,Your question is being passed on to Marie Carmen who should be able to help with your query. The contact numbers are provided in the link to the El Arish History Station Museum in this blog post.Regards,Anne Scheu | State Library of Queensland

Hello from El Arish Alison, I'm very happy to be able to talk to you about Mr.Keane. We do have some information for you, we have his war record as an Engineer in France and his settlement journal entry upon taking up his sugar cane block # 115 here in El Arish. I will have that block on a map from 1923 or thereabouts and I have some school records if his children attended here. We have our regular ladies morning tea today and I will ask if anyone remembers him,depending on how long he farmed here I guess. Cheers Marie

This is a wonderful cameo of an article. My father was Francis (Frank) Paxton Amherst Martin. It is good to know that his work is recognised, and that his memory lives on!! I haven't been in El Arish since Anzac day 2015 - what a great gathering that was!! The day was a total credit to those who put the time and effort into organising the event. Keep up the good work. God Bless, and cheers from Janette Bevan

This is a great cameo article re the early days of El Arish. I am the daughter of Francis (Frank) Paton Amherst Martin, and am so proud of his achievements in settling the North. I haven't been in ElArish since Anzac Day 2015. What a wonderful community occasion that was!! It was a real credit to those who invested the time and effort to make the occasion such a memorable event. Thank-you. God Bless. Janette Bevan

Hello Janette, thanks very much for your kind words, your Dad's contribution here in El Arish is really immeasurable. I was told that Frank called a meeting with the original farmers and they all decided together to rename the Settlement as El Arish. We were given a large sign recently which reads El Arish in English and Arabic. It was a stage prop in the movie "The Lighthorsemen", with Sigrid and Peter Phelps, and was generously donated by the Lewis family of Adelaide.Cheers Marie Carman

i am thrilled to be reading this information. my grandfather too was one of these brave returned soldiers who was granted a soldier settlement. he's in the ANZAC day photo you have on this page. my grandfather was roland carl jackson, known as charlie. jackson road south of el arish was named for the family. thank you, julie jackson

Hi Julie,Glad you have been able to find Charlie in this photo, we have a younger photo of him in uniform and a few family records along with his war record, and a map of his farm. Cheers Marie

Great to hear from you Julie. I will let Marie know you have a family connection.Regards,Anne