The Palms Sugar Mill

1881 - 1924


The Palms Sugar Mill c.1890's 

The lands on which the Palms mill were located were originally part of the Alexandra Estate.  The Melbourne Mackay Queensland Sugar Company was formed in 1881 and took over the management of  a number of mills in the Mackay district.  The formation of the company was a bold stroke to supply capital to supplement the old mills with newer and larger equipment in preparation to compete with the coming lower prices for sugar.  Several hundred acres were cleared an planted in readiness for the new giant mill. 

A mill with a capacity of 1500 tons was ordered  from Mirrlees, Tait and Watson in June 1880 and the buildings were erected and almost complete by June 1881 and the crushing commenced shortly afterwards.  The mill plant included a double crusher, triple effet and had toggle gear on each mill.  There was an automatic megass carrier and a Cuban water tower.  Water was pumped from the nearby Pioneer River by a Blake pump which could add 20,000 gallons an hour to a large dam near the mill.  The estate was divided into 40 separate well fenced paddocks.  

The old company was dissolved and in 1882 a new company called the Mackay Melbourne Sugar Company was formed to take over the old companies assets.

Due to the Queensland Government outlawing the use of South Sea Islander labour in Sugar mills it was imperative for the Company to find new sources of cheap labour.  Cingalese labourers were employed in 1884 and Javanese labourers were brought in to work for the plantation in 1885 with another contingent arriving in 1886.  However the Dutch government prohibited the trade at the end of 1886.

The construction of the new Palms mill meant the demise of the older and smaller mills like Alexandra, Nebia and Branscombe.

After 1894, the Melbourne Mackay Sugar Company had only one mill in operation,. The Palms, which was making losses.  In 1896 the company's assets were sold to the Union Mortgage and Agency Company for 75,000 and the company was wound up.  The mill was taken over by the Australian Estate and Mortgage Co. Ltd.

In 1896 the total area of the Palms estate was given as 8,094 acres with 3,042 acres under cane.

The Palms remained one of the last of the big plantations, however part of the estate was cut up in 1905 and sold to settle European farmers.  Rumours at the time had told of its imminent demise however it continued for many more years.  A tramline was built connecting The Palms with Te Kowai and in 1911 one was built south to Palmyra .

The 1918 Cyclone severely damaged the Palms mill.  Part of the sugar house collapsed ruining about 1000 tons of stored sugar.  Most of the roof and chimney of the mill was destroyed and the worker's quarters were damaged.  As a result Pleystowe mill crushed the cane from the Palms Estate

After 1924 the Palms mill ceased crushing altogether and the two companies operating the Palms mill and the Pleystowe mill were amalgamated to create the company "Amalgamated Sugar Mills Ltd.".  Some of the Palms machinery went north to the Kalamia mill in the Burdekin delta. 

References -

Hamilton, Pat. (1994). Sugar from the Scrub. Moorooka, QLD: Boolarong Press. p. 30-32.

Kerr, John. (1988). A Century of Sugar. Mackay, QLD:  Mackay Sugar Co-operative Association Limited. p. 21, 93-94, 97, 100, 108, 130, 205, 207.

Kerr, John. (1980).  Pioneer Pageant. Mackay, QLD: Pioneer Shire Council. p. 72, 73, 99, 100, 127, 163-164, 195.

Manning, K.W. (1983). In Their Own Hands. Farleigh, QLD: Farleigh Co-op Milling Association Ltd. p. 63, 104-105, 132-133, 143, 169


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Glen Hall


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created 18 November 2003.
last updated 18 July 2017 .
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