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Lappa is a township surrounded by confusion not only regarding the meaning of the name but also its exact location. There are at least two stories explaining how it was named and three places which claimed the name of Lapp – Lappa, Lappa Lappa and Lappa Junction.

During the 1880’s there was constant agitation for a road from Cairns to Herberton and across to Georgetown. Another early route was from Port Douglas through Thornborough and down to Georgetown. At the crossing of Emu Creek where Oaky and Sandy Creeks flow in Henry Wade established his Oakvale Hotel. The settlement became known locally as Wadetown. It was a welcome stop on the long journey over the dusty flats.

Silver was discovered by Phil Haplin and party in January 1891, between the Featherbed Range and Emu Creek a few miles north west of Wade’s. They gave it the name Lappa Lappa. The first claims taken up were the Sherman, Continuity, Joint Stock, Comstock, Brown Snake and Better Luck Next Time. The Comstock, taken up by Gibbs and Hardman, was immediately floated into a local company largely financed by the Irvinebank Mining Company’s capital. The settlement of Wadetown became officially known as Lappa.
Construction of the railway to Chillagoe began in 1899 and the route passed within a few hundred yards of Wade’s Hotel.
A.S. Frew, the Chillagoe Company’s construction engineer, decided to open the Chillagoe Railway in October 1900 as far as the junction with the proposed railway to Mt Garnet. This junction at the top of the Featherbed Range, five miles beyond Wade’s, was called Lappa Junction. A stopping place called Emu Creek was made near Wade’s, but within a year a more permanent stop was chosen a mile beyond Emu Creek at a spot closer to the wolfram and silver mines. This stop was called Petford but it was not until 1918 that the Lands Department decided officially to change the name from Lappa to Petford, thus ending the confusion.

The surviving buildings at the Lappa Railway Siding include the station office, and the Espanol Hotel and an adjoining house, which are privately owned.
The Hotel dates from about 1901, when the line to Chillagoe was opened. The origin of the name was also a point of contention. Two different stories appeared in the ‘Wild River Times’ in October and November 1896. The first story involved a brown snake. A miner had been bitten by a brown snake and he yelled for help. His mates rushed to help and bled the wound by sucking blood out through a grass straw. They took him to the creek, washed the wound and bandaged it. The yells that the agonized prospector gave when bitten sounded no more coherent than Lap-a-Lapa and the miners all called the place by that name.

A prominent local resident indignant at the brown snake story decided to write to the ‘Wild River Times’. He claimed to have a more reliable explanation which he wished recorded for the sake of history. As he said, “it is a long way inside the bounds of probability that Lappa Lappa may yet become sufficiently important to deserve mention at the hands of a future historian of North Queensland.” He stated that the locality of the mines was first called Brough after Phil Halpin’s native town in Ireland. However, Halpin suggested that the place be called Lappa Lappa, the native name of the cliff-faced hill overlooking the prospecting claim.
The correspondent recalled that the adjoining claim, Better Luck Next Time was a failure, hence the name. The Brown Snake claim was so called because a brown snake was killed by the miners when they were pegging out their claim. Gibbs and Hardman named their claim the Comstock because it had a rich streak of sulphide through it and they hoped it would be like the rich Comstock in Nevada.
If you have any items of interest on life in Lappa and would like to share them with us please use our Contact form to let us know.
Some of the types of items we are interested in saving are:.
   ~ old photos, maps, calendars, receipts, newspapers, magazines, brochures, directories, catalogues and phone books ~
   ~ any photographs, negatives and glass slides ~
   ~ family histories and trees, the history of old houses, old deeds etc.,

Text taken from:
1. 'The Naming of Lappa' by Ruth S. Kerr.

2. 'Lappa Railway Siding' p105, Far North Queensland.