Habana Sugar Mill

1883 - 1902

Habana Mill circa 1895. (picture courtesy of John Oxley Library No. 6588r. )

Edward Maitland Long and William Robertson established Habana plantation in 1881 on 6000 acres of land that Long had owned for some years previously.  They originally called it La Habana.  Machinery for the mill arrived at Habana Creek wharf in early 1883, and was carted about 5 miles further up the creek to the mill site.  The mill consisted of a 4 feet 6 inch single crushing plant from Mirrlees, Tait and Watson.  Habana mill began crushing on 19th July 1883.  The official opening quite a social occasion.  Many of the districts sugar pioneers were among the guests and Mrs. Charles Rawson fed the first cane into the rollers and christened the mill La Habana.  The following evening a ball was held at the School of Arts, in Mackay, to celebrate the occasion. The mill produced 1,500 tons in the first season.  

From 1884 Long leased some of his land to farmers.  Farms ranged in size from 40 to 300 acres.  One of the early farmers had a seven year lease, for the first two years, he paid no rent and then 1 per acre, for cultivated land spread over the term of the lease.   Long paid ten shillings a ton for cane, or thirteen shillings cut and delivered to the rollers.  He had 4 tenants the first season and 26 by 1896, as well as 1,300 plantation acres of cane.

In 1885, Long installed double crushers at the mill.

Long began laying tramway throughout his land in 1888.  The mill was in a hollow and the trucks often made their own way to the mill, while the horses and mules rested.  By 1894 there were 17 miles of tramway, one loco and 400 trucks.  Much of the cane at Habana was grown up the very steep hillsides and cane was delivered to the tramline below in chutes.  This arrangement was later improved on by the use of flying foxes, which delivered hundredweight bundles of cane to the tramline, which was anywhere up to mile below.  Sugar was shipped from the Habana wharf.  Long was one of the first to suggest the idea of paying for cane on the basis of sugar content, however he met resistance from growers who preferred the security of a guaranteed flat rate for tons delivered.

In 1894 Long employed almost 200 Japanese farm labourers to plant cane.  

Habana closed at the finish of the 1901 crushing due to financial problems.  With no mill to crush their cane, some farmers walked off their farms.

Bassett Parish Map from 1908 showing the location of the Habana Mill and some of the tramlines connected to the mill.

References -

Kerr, John. (1988). A Century of Sugar. Mackay, QLD:  Mackay Sugar Co-operative Association Limited. p. 23, 73, 84-87,98.

Kerr, John. (1980).  Pioneer Pageant. Mackay, QLD: Pioneer Shire Council. p. 74, 78, 86, 128, 130-131, 135, 141.

Manning, K.W. (1983). In Their Own Hands. Farleigh, QLD: Farleigh Co-op Milling Association Ltd. p. 24, 65, 70-71, 80, 112, 115, 116, 124, 132, 143, 147-154, 247, 265 .

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Glen Hall

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created 3 November 2003.
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