Settlement in the Maleny area officially commenced with the allocation of the first parcel of land to Mr Isaac Burgess by the Government of Queensland. This parcel of land was Portion 98, Parish of Maleny, an area of 790 acres, selected on 12 November 1878 under the Crown Lands Alienation Act of 1876. The south-eastern boundary of this selection ran through the present Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, so that the north-eastern portion of the Reserve is a part of what was the original land selection.
Mr Burgess had been a horse team operator between Brisbane and the Gympie goldfields which opened in 1867. Before selecting land at Maleny, he had been the first person to acquire a land holding at Landsborough (then known as Mellum Creek). His interest in the Maleny area, then known as Blackall Range, was primarily timber ( in particular the remarkable stands of Red Cedar which occurred here). In an account of this era written by his grandson, I. J. Burgess, it is recorded that in 1886 he shipped a red cedar log to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition held in England. This log, halved and polished, is now housed in the London Museum.
Regarding the subsequent subdivision of this Portion, it has been reported that by 1954 there were fifteen individual farms and orchards. Importantly, there was also one hundred acres transferred to the former Landsborough Shire Council in 1941 by sisters Elizabeth, Mabel and Mary Thynne. The sisters transferred the land to the Council through a Deed of Trust, with the aim of preserving the rainforest in perpetuity, and honoring their mother Mary Thynne (nee Cairncross). Subsequently, on 11 December 1966, the sole remaining daughter of Mary Cairncross, Miss Elizabeth Thynne, donated a further five acres to the Council.
Sunshine Coast Council continues to honour the Deed of Trust and this land forms the core of Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.
As the local population increased and the Reserve became accessible to large numbers of visitors, it became necessary for the establishment of a Caretaker’s residence. Funds for the construction of the Caretaker’s residence were provided from the Thynne family endowment. The building was completed and the first Caretaker to be appointed took up residence in 1971.