Experts seem to differ on the origin of the name Woolloongabba. According to Brian Randall of the State Library of Queensland “It’s believed to be an aboriginal word, or based on an aboriginal word…It’s seen to be a place that had some ceremonial significance for aborigines. ..believed to be based on the aboriginal phrase for ‘a place of water’ because there was a water course that ran along that land between Vulture and Stanley Street.”

Until the 1890s the area was generally known as ‘One Mile Swamp” as it was low-lying and there were many water holes and swamps which made transportation a challenge to European settlement in the early days.

Bullock teams hauling logs.

The roads from both the Logan district and the Darling Downs travelled through One Mile Swamp and teams of bullock drays and livestock rested there. The Clarence Hotel was established in the early 1860s to provide rest and refreshment to those passing through.

Here’s how ‘Nut Quad’ a Brisbane Courier journalist, described it on 8 September 1923.

"Just when Woolloongabba received its present name is a point not easily determined. In pre-separation days the name was sometimes heard in South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point, but in those days the land lying between the site of the old Clarence Hotel and the present hustling Fiveways was commonly called the One-Mile Swamp.

This swamp extended from a point just below Webster's bakery, on Annerley Road, to the Clarence Hotel, then into the low-lying portion of the Woolloongabba Railway Reserve (on old maps described as a reserve for water supply). Following this, in a series of fairly large waterholes, connected by shallow channels, it crossed the Ipswich Road just below the Fiveways, and finally joined the head waters of Kingfisher Creek near the junction of Wellington and Logan roads.

Before separation from New South Wales there were three or four cottages in Vulture Street immediately opposite the reserve. One of these was occupied by a teamster named Joe Howe, and another by Tom Crowe. But the houses then on and near the present Fiveways could have been counted on one's fingers."

Through the mists of nearly 70 years one 
can still visualise the wattle-scented forests 
of Woolloongabba, with the grey Ipswich
 road creeping out into the distance past
 the Rocky Waterholes past Oxley, and
 out into the unpeopled country towards Ipswich.

Woolloongabba has always been 
the gateway into South Brisbane -
a sort of  "in between" such
 places as Cooper's Plains, Eight
 Mile Plains, Logan, Ipswich, etc.