THE Proserpine sugar mill as we know it can trace its origins back to 1897.
THE Proserpine sugar mill as we know it can trace its origins back to 1897. Peter Carruthers

A concise history of the Proserpine sugar mill

THE Proserpine sugar mill as we know it can trace its origins back to 1897 when it was built with the help of the Queensland Government.

Before then, however, a smaller mill on the banks of the Proserpine River at Glen Isla, run by the Crystal Brook Sugar Company, was built to service the burgeoning Queensland sugar industry.

But the mill went bust after three or four years, former Proserpine Mill director Jim Large remembered.

"They were already transporting cane from Bowen by ship up the river, unloading it and bringing it to the mill,” Mr Large said.

"The mill then went bust and through agitation they appealed to the government for assistance.

"The government then built the central mill.

"There was no railway and no roads of any kind and the river landing became the only way they could get the sugar out.”

At the time the town of Proserpine did not exist.

Activity focused on the overland telegraph between Bowen and Mackay which followed the same route as the overland coach.

Once the mill was established a tram line was run between the Proserpine River landing and the mill.

Eventually a spur line was built off the overland telegraph into town and the town grew up around the mill.

The mill operated until 1931 when it was taken over by a co-operative of farmers.

"The farmers contributed nothing other than supplying cane to the mill,” Mr Large said.

"It progressed on until 1951 when it paid off the debt to the government and then it became a full-blown co-operative.”

The Proserpine co-operative was widely regarded as the "purest” cooperative operating in Australia.

"Purest in that no one has any shares and paid its own way,” Mr Large said.

The mill was taken over by Sucrogen (parent company Wilmar) in 2011.