North Eton Sugar Mill
1888 - 1988
North Eton (The Defiance) Mill. c. late 1800's. (Source: Mackay Historical Society Archive No. 85-318a)
The impetus for cane farmers from Eton to build their own mill came from dissatisfaction with low prices paid to them for their cane from the nearby Victoria Mill as well as the Queensland's Governments new scheme in promoting establishment of Central Sugar Mills.
W.O. Hodgkinson the founder of the "Daily Mercury" was engaged by the Queensland Government to assess the different small mills and other applications received that would be worthy of receiving government loans in established a Central Sugar Mill.
The first North Eton application was submitted by a group of farmers on 29 October 1885 for £13,000 and was later amended in November for a request for £20,000.
The North Eton Central sugar Company Limited was registered on 14 October 1886 with capital of £25,005. It was decided to purchase a mill that was originally destined to be built in Proserpine by the Crystal Brook Sugar Company. The directors of that company decided not to proceed with mill due to low sugar prices and labour uncertainty in the early 1880's.
Work on construction of the Sugar mill began in early 1887. A branch line was laid from the Mackay-Eton railway line to the mill site. The mill was officially opened on 1 January 1888 by the Queensland Premier, Samuel Griffiths even though the mill was still not completed. The mill was christened "The Defiance" probably due to the fact it was built less than a mile away from the Victoria Mill.
The mill was completed and in August 1888 the first government -financed Central Mill in Queensland crushed for the first time.
The opening of the North Eton mill caused the closure of three other nearby mills, Victoria, Barrie and Marian. North Eton was able to pay growers more for their cane and had the advantage of a double crushing mill and a railway.
1895 saw the formation of the Double Peak Central sugar Company Limited. It was formed to supply tramlines to the North Eton Mill which had lacked the necessary capital to build its own. The company was continually plagued by income problems and repayments to the government for the original loan.
North Eton Mill was plagued by insufficient cane supply and by 1915 the situation had worsened with the Company's bankers refusing further funds and the government only guaranteeing their account to £8000. Drought and the Dickson wage award for workers threatened to make the 1916 season even more precarious for their financial situation. In 1917 the company defaulted on loan repayments and the Government took possession of the mill.
Following the takeover work began immediately on modernizing the mill plant. The tramway lines were also repaired and brought up to an acceptable standard.
Another company as formed to takeover the mill from the government. The North Eton Co-operative Sugar Milling Association Limited was formed and the mill was taken over from a loan of £60,000 from 1 January 1928.
The railway line to Eton had closed on 1 August 1959 due to the Railway Department finding labour costs on short hauls uneconomic and this resulted in higher costs in the mill transporting the sugar by road.
Expansion programs at the mill in the 1960's and 1970's had stretched the viability of the mill. Development of the Kinchant Dam in the 1970's finally saw the major problem of the mill's cane supply alleviated. The North Eton mill was always plagued by poor cane supply in drought years but with the Eton Irrigation scheme with water from the dam saw growers able to maintain their crop in dry seasons.
On 1 February 1988 the mill merged with Farleigh, Racecourse, Marian and Cattle Creek Mills to form the Mackay Sugar Co-operative Association Limited.
Kerr, John. (1988). A Century of Sugar. Mackay, QLD: Mackay Sugar Co-operative Association Limited. p. 9, 35-37, 40-42, 45, 55, 63-64, 73, 81-82, 85, 101, 109, 117, 123-124, 141, 170, 173, 206-214.
Kerr, John. (1980).
Pioneer Pageant. Mackay, QLD: Pioneer Shire Council.
(1987). The Defiance – The story of North Eton Co-operative Sugar Milling
Association Limited, 1888-1987. North Eton, QLD: North Eton Co-operative
Milling Association Limited.
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