LOOKING BACK: Doolong Flats Juice Mill
I WANTED to write this week about a forgotten site that I believe is of great historic significance for the local area.
In a heavily forested section of Wondunna not far from the Fraser Coast Anglican College, between two growing housing estates, lies the scattered and discarded remnants of an important part of Hervey Bay's history and, in particular, the initial development of the sugar industry.
This was the first mill in Hervey Bay; the Doolong Flats Juice Mill.
While it was not a success, it was at the forefront of the early attempts to cultivate and develop the land around Hervey Bay.
It is rather tranquil here in the forest with the sounds of birds breaking the silence above a carpet of wildflowers and other vegetation green from the recent rains.
But for a brief period - 1883 to 1889 - the Doolong Flats Juice Mill was a site of industry, workmen and traffic.
The founders of the facility were two enterprising Danish settlers; John Hansen and Hans Jorgensen. They had high hopes for the profitability of their venture.
The heavy machinery used was purpose-designed and constructed at Walkers in Maryborough and its first day of operation was on July 18,1883.
That first day of operation on this site was marked with much fanfare in the presence of a large number of optimistic locals.
However, it was followed the next day with a painful and unfortunate incident where a worker's foot got stuck in the rollers of the mill, crushing it and requiring amputation.
The location where the juice mill stood can be identified among the otherwise flat country through the landscape at first and then through the artefacts on and in the ground.
The site, over a couple hundred square metres, includes several pits, rubble mounds and evidence of past clearing.
Among the rubble mounds which help to identify the site from the otherwise flat swampy ground can be found metal artefacts as well many handmade bricks.
In August 1883 the Maryborough Chronicle reported on the first load of sugar being produced here reaching the firm of Brennan and Geraghty in Maryborough.
The sugar was described as "dry, hard, and of an excellent quality. Being manufactured by the open pan process it does not, of course, compete with vacuum pan whites.”
The mill was also praised as being of "excellent working order, with all the necessary appliances for taking cane from neighbouring farmers, and they have the credit of initiating a very profitable branch of industry among the countrymen residing in the Pialba scrubs.”
Despite the initial indicators of success for Hansen and Jorgensen, within a matter of months financial difficulties necessitated the sale of the mill and associated agricultural lands.
It continued under different owners, but in a matter of years the mill would be left to ruins where it would sit here in the scrub for over 125 years.