Pioneer Sugar Mill

1867 - 1882


John Spiller's Pioneer Mill


John Spiller and John Crees selected 719 acres, which they called Pioneer Plantation on the north side of the river.  On 1st June 1865 Spiller with Donald Beaton, one of his employees and  Jack Seaton a native of Manilla planted the first sugar in the district he had bought from Java.  Spiller lacked the capital to build a mill and crushed his first few acres of Ribbon cane in a primitive homemade mill in November 1867.  This mill had upright wooden rollers and the juice was boiled in an ordinary boiler. 

His next crushing was in February 1868.  The sugar was a light brown colour with a pleasant flavour.  He again made sugar in 1870 using the home made mill, driven by one horse.  In the early years, Spiller's main source of income came from cotton and maize, while his cane multiplied and his capital steadily increased.  

Spiller ordered a steam-driven mill in 1871 but it was not ready until late in the year and he acquired an iron horse-mill from Cassada plantation to assist in crushing his 221 acres of cane.  He therefore had the first double crusher mill in the district, both horse-driven.  The New Pioneer mill began crushing on Thursday 19th October 1871.

In 1877 Spiller installed a new 4 foot 6 inch mill with self acting  carrier.  By then there was also two large multi-tubular boilers and one flue boiler, five clarifiers, four centrifugals with two more about to be installed.  Over the years Spiller greatly increased the area of his plantations.  In 1879 he laid the first tramway in the district from the mill to the back of the plantation.  A locomotive, constructed in Mackay by Victoria Foundry, was completed in May 1880.  It was used on both River Estate and Pioneer plantations.  Spiller and Brandon sold Pioneer estate and moved to the Burdekin.

References -

Kerr, John. (1988). A Century of Sugar. Mackay, QLD:  Mackay Sugar Co-operative Association Limited. p. 61.

Kerr, John. (1980).  Pioneer Pageant. Mackay, QLD: Pioneer Shire Council. p. 27, 34, 43-44, 58, 59, 71, 74, 83, 86, 100.

Manning, K.W. (1983). In Their Own Hands. Farleigh, QLD: Farleigh Co-op Milling Association Ltd. p. 7, 8, 9, 12, 11-22, 42, 78-81, 86, 201, 202


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Mackay Historical Society and Museum Incorporated 2001-2006.
created 28 October 2003.
lat updated 09 August 2006 .
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