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Toondah Harbour in 2021

Whence Cassim?

John Cassim was a Mauritian Indian, whom it appears was transported to Moreton Bay in 1840. He had received a seven-year sentence, and was amongst a group of Mauritian convicts who were transported to Sydney via the Layton early in 1840 (Mauritius had been occupied by the British since 1810). In April 1840 fifteen of these men, including Cassim, were sent on to Moreton Bay, which was soon to be opened for free settlement, apparently to conduct experiments in sugar growing. Sugar was the principal Mauritian cash crop at this period, and was exported regularly to New South Wales. Presumably, the Mauritian convicts were considered to have had some experience in the sugar industry.

Cassim received a ticket-of-leave (conditional pardon) at Moreton Bay in February 1844. By 1851, John and his wife, Mary, were operating a boarding house at Kangaroo Point, which they maintained until late 1855. Then From late 1855 to mid-1860 the Cassims leased Cleveland House (now the Grandview Hotel), and an adjacent dwelling, from pastoralist Francis Edward Bigge. These buildings had been erected at Cleveland in the early 1850s as part of Bigge’s unsuccessful push to establish Cleveland as the principal port of the Moreton Bay region.

About 1860, Cassim erected his Cleveland Hotel on an allotment adjacent to Cleveland House (now the Grand View).

Cassim’s Cleveland Hotel ca.1871

The Cassims were well-known and respected Cleveland identities and devout Catholics, whose hotel not only was synonymous with Cleveland as a seaside resort, but also served as a mass centre from the early 1860s until the construction of the first Catholic church at Cleveland in 1877. John was a trustee of the local church in the 1870s and 1880s, and would not accept payment from any priest staying at the hotel. Cassim’s Island, in Moreton Bay, is named after him.

Grand View from Cassims today (2021)

(Condensed from the Queensland Heritage Register)