Evolving from Davy and Gooding's sugar plantation, Beenleigh is often referred to as the town with three beginnings, because of three different attempts to establish a township in the region. John Davy and his brother-in-law Francis Gooding settled in 1864 and named their property 'Beenleigh' after the Gooding family property in Devonshire England. Both men arrived aboard the Young Australia in 1862, Davy was accompanied by his wife Mary, who was Gooding's sister.
Michael Tansey established The Planters Rest Hotel on the road to the Noyea Sugar plantation in 1867, and he was the first receiving officer for the mail. At that time he also had a butcher's shop and a store. In 1868, James Savage established a general store at the crossroads of the five roads leading to the Logan and Albert Rivers. By 1871 Tansey moved into the current Beenleigh town ship and built a new hotel of the same name. His old hotel became the National Bank.
The police station, court house and school were established in 1871. The township continued to grow with the construction of other hotels operated by Peter Betz in 1873, and Franz Meyer in 1874. Michael Tansey left Beenleigh in 1873, so presumably one of these publicans took over his hotel.
The Church of England opened in 1875. It was designed by well known architect F D G Stanley and made extensive use of yellowwood, Noosa pine, ironbark and polished cedar. Community cultural and sporting activities evolved in the town. A dramatic society, a cricket club and the show society were established in 1871 with the first Beenleigh Show held in 1872. By 1881 the town had a population of 303 and by 1885 boasted a range of services and professions including a bank, baker, blacksmith, brick-maker, builders, chemist, cordial maker, dairymen, three distilleries, drapers, an engineer, hairdresser, ironmonger, saddler, solicitor, surgeon, wheelwright, watchmaker, a telegraph office, three hotels and its own newspaper, the Logan Witness.
In late 1879 a new system of local government was introduced. A number of Divisional Boards were formed in the region, including the Beenleigh, Waterford, Tingalpa, Yeerongpilly and Tabragalba. The Beenleigh Divisional Board administered from Holmview Road through Beenleigh Yatala, Eagleby, Alberton and Ageston to the mouth of the river and south towards Coomera.
The German population purchased the Good Templars Hall in Beenleigh and transformed it into St Peter's Lutheran Church in 1884.
Tenders were called to construct a railway from Yeerongpilly to Beenleigh in 1883. The contract for the first section of railway to the north bank of the Logan River was given to Fountain Brothers and was due for completion by 1 July 1884. The bridge work and the extensions to Beenleigh and Logan Village were awarded to Overend and Co. to be completed by May 1885. The Beenleigh line opened on 25 July 1885.
The Beenleigh Rum Distillery evolved from the still of the old S.S. Walrus, a floating sugar mill and distillery that was notorious for evading state duties on its rum production. It ran aground on the bank of the Albert River in 1884.
During the late 19th century Beenleigh remained the centre of the local sugar industry, but the industry declined following the disastrous 1887 floods. At Davy and Gooding's Beenleigh Plantation, the cane crop was destroyed. Cane cuttings waiting to be milled washed away, as did more than 5,000 gallons of rum from the distillery. Many farmers left the industry at this time, and coupled with impending Federation and the white Australia Policy, the use of Kanaka labour, which many farmers relied upon, would no longer be available. The township remained viable although did not grow as quickly in the early 20th century.
The Beenleigh Ambulance service was established in 1919.
A rural school operated from 1925, which included male dominated industries such as leatherwork, metalwork and woodwork.
A new road bridge over the Logan River linking Loganholme and Beenleigh was opened in July 1931. It replaced the ferry which had operated from the site since 1868.
The Beenleigh scout den was dedicated in 1944.
Further changes occurred in a post-war local government boundary re-alignment. Beenleigh, Nerang, and parts of Tingalpa and Waterford Shire were incorporated into the new Albert Shire. The councillors initially met at Beenleigh, but quickly changed the location to Southport.
Beenleigh became an important stopping off place for travellers on the road to the south coast, which would later be known as the Gold Coast. The realignment and duplication of the Pacific Highway in the late 1960s saw the by-passing of Beenleigh and a decline in the town.
The railway between Beenleigh and the Gold Coast was decommissioned in 1961 due in part to the growth in motor vehicle ownership and the focus on road transport, both private and commercial. Yatala suffered from this decision with the 1968 closure of the hotel, which Frank Chardon had built on high ground to replace the one washed away in the 1887 floods. The old railway bridge was also earmarked for removal in 1969. However a new concrete road bridge was built at Loganholme in 1968 as part of the duplication of the Pacific Highway.
The Beenleigh State High School and the Beenleigh swimming pool opened in 1964.
The tourism industry was developing along with the urban sprawl. Both Ashtons and Bullens Circuses were lobbying the Albert Shire Council for approval to construct Lion Parks. In December 1968 Bullens were negotiating the purchase of land in Stapylton, which became the Beenleigh/Yatala African Safari when it opened in June 1969. Ashtons established their park on the corner of Bryants Road Loganholme in April 1969. It was known as Ashton's Animal Kingdom. Both of these ventures were relatively short lived. Ashtons was sold to the Myer Corporation in 1977 and Bullens to Westmark Corporation in 1987, which intended to build an international Formula One race track and other facilities.
Continued growth in the region meant a greater demand for public transport. While the railway department maintained the line to Beenleigh, it was still removing the old track to the Gold Coast in 1977 to make way for roads on the rail reserve. The old timber railway bridge at Loganlea was decommissioned on 25 June 1972, when the new concrete bridge opened. By 1984 the State Government accepted a transportation study which recommended the redevelopment of a rail link between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Resumptions commenced early in 1986. Two years later the project was temporarily shelved, although the electrification of the line as far as Beenleigh was completed by March 1988. The project continued and the line was gradually duplicated with a new bridge over the Logan River built during 1990. The south coast line as far as Helensvale was completed on 17 April 1996.
Beenleigh remained the headquarters for emergency services in the region and a new fire station was built on the Pacific Highway, near the Beenleigh cemetery, in December 1981. A new Beenleigh Police Station was built in September 1983, and construction began on a new ambulance centre adjacent to the fire station the following month.
A new bridge at Loganholme was constructed with Bi-centennial funding in 1986. This led to the decommissioning of the old 1931 bridge, while still using the 1968 bridge. The Motorway construction led to further bridge construction during 2000. The Pacific Motorway project was initiated following the Goss Government's defeat in 1995, partly on the controversial issue of the proposed Eastern Tollway (South Coast Motorway). This proposal advocated a new route south and included a tunnel under the Daisy Hill State Forest, and a bridge over the Logan River between Carbrook and Alberton at the old ferry site. The project was strongly opposed by the Queensland Opposition and organisations such as VETO (Veto Eastern Tollway Organisation). Both preferred the upgrading of the existing Pacific Highway. The tollway project did not go ahead.
Plans for the Pacific Motorway were announced in April 1996 after a change of government. The northern interchanges on the Motorway included the completion and integration of the duplication of the Logan Motorway. Construction began in late 1997 and was completed in September 2000.