Fernvale, a rural town of 1000 people is 35 km west of central Brisbane and 20 km north-west of Ipswich.
Situated in the south-east of the Brisbane Valley, Fernvale was one of the earliest localities in which pastoral leaseholders were resumed for closer-settlement in the late 1860s and early 1870s. The pastoral leaseholders were Fairney Lawn (1841) and Wivenhoe, the names of which continue as Fairney View (the railway station south of Fernvale) and Wivenhoe Dam. Farmers at Fernvale engaged in mixed cropping, but cotton was widely grown, stimulated by the world shortage caused by the American civil war.
At first known as Harrisborough, Fernvale was a recognisable locality with the opening of a Methodist church (1871) and a primary school (1874). The name was first used for the Fernvale railway station in 1884. There was also a German Baptist church and a Church of Christ. The Ipswich railway was extended through Fernvale to Lowood in 1884 and a school of arts was active from about then into the 1890s. The railway and the agriculturally more productive northern part of the Brisbane Valley, however, centred growth and population on Esk and Toogoolawah; each of these had dairy factories, and Collinton and Mount Beppo were productive mixed farming areas. Fernvale's population thus stayed at about a couple of hundred people, and Pugh's Queensland Directory (1925) recorded a hotel, a blacksmith and four stores. Apart from the hotel, the Fernvale Hall (1934) has been the town's social centre.
Whereas floods ended cotton growing, droughts and economic competition ended dairying around Fernvale in the 1960s. Some of the holdings were turned over to beef cattle, others to rural/residential subdivisions. Road commuting to Ipswich became an easy mode of travel to work and Fernvale's population increased by about 50% during 1996-2001. The railway closed in 1993.
Fernvale has a comprehensive range of shops, a hotel-motel, a pre-school centre and a primary school. A weekly Sunday market is held at the school. Fernvale's census populations have been:
Ruth Kerr, Confidence and tradition: a history of the Esk Shire, Esk, Council of the Shire of Esk, 1988
Fernvale, Brisbane Valley Heritage Trails, 2011