Cameron and Hebbel's Perseverance Mill

Introduction

 

In this section we look at another mill that operated in the Perseverance area in the late 1800's, namely Cameron and Hebbel's Perseverance Mill. That mill was located on the banks of Perseverance Creek some 2 km downstream from A. & D. Munro's Palmtree Mill. The site where the mill was located is on private property and is therefore not accessible to the public. We understand that no relics or layout evidence remain at that site.

 

In compiling this overview of the Perseverance Mill and its owners, we have relied heavily on the National Library of Australia's archived newspapers, together with land records and family history records.

We begin with some background on the company's principals: John Cameron and Johann Heinrich Hebbel.

Company Principals

John Cameron was born in Scotland in 1841 and journeyed to Australia at the age of 21 on the Helenslee, embarking from Greenock in April 1862 and arriving at Moreton Bay in August 1862. Johann Heinrich Hebbel, later known as John H. Hebbel, was born in Germany in 1843 and journeyed to Australia at the age of 22 on the Beausite, embarking from Hamburg in May 1863 and arriving at Moreton Bay in September 1863. 

Both arrived in Australia as single men but married not long after arrival: John to Simona McDonald at East Talgai in 1869 and Johann to Matilda Andersen at Toowoomba in 1871.

First sawmilling venture - Aubigny Mill at Whichello

Based on newspaper reports and advertisements of the day, their first significant venture into the timber industry was in 1876 when they took over the operation of an existing mill known as the Aubigny Mill. That mill had been established by Alfred Waraker and Herbert Bond in circa 1875 on a 640 acre selection located about 3 km west of Pechey's Albert Mill.

Earliest known Waraker and Bond newspaper advertisement.

Toowoomba Chronicle and General Advertiser, 23 June1875

The earliest known Cameron and Hebbel newspaper advertisement.

Toowoomba Chronicle and General Advertiser,13 Dec 1876

Credit: National Library of Australia

Credit: National Library of Australia

Herbert Bond had selected that 640 acre property, located in an area that was later to be known as Whichello, in January 1875.

The Aubigny Mill was located on a 640 acre selection just west of Pechey. (That 640 acre property and 2 adjoining 100 acre properties  were subdivided into 10 acre blocks in the late 1880's thus forming the basis of the Whichello district). 

Herbert Bond continued to hold the lease on that 640 acre selection after the transfer of the mill operation to Cameron and Hebbel and we see that on the 9th of February 1877, after he had completed the required 2 years of residency (1868 Act) and had made the required level of improvements to the property, he lodges his "Proof of Fulifilment of Conditions" application. The records associated with that application confirm the presence of a steam sawmill on that property at that time as well as 9 men's huts, 1 well and 1 acre of lucerne.

Relocation to Perseverance Creek

 

Later that year, Cameron and Hebbel begin to seek out new timber reserves, this time in the Perseverance Creek area, some 18 km south east of their mill at Whichello. 

Cameron and Hebbel selections in the Perseverance Creek area.

They independently apply for conditional leases on properties bordering Perseverance Creek and on the 3rd of October 1877 those applications are approved; John Cameron being granted a conditional lease of Selection 860, a 640 acre property on the northern side of Perseverance Creek, and John Hebbel being granted a conditional lease of Selection 861, a 340 acre property on the southern side of Perseverance Creek. We also see that on that same day Duncan Munro was granted a conditional lease for an adjacent Perseverance Creek 980 acre selection. So both parties - Cameron and Hebbel and A&D Munro - had begun to stake their claims to future timber supplies in this timber rich area.

Selections where conditional leases were granted to Cameron, Hebbel and Munro respectively, in October 1877

Selections where conditional leases were granted to Cameron, Hebbel and Munro respectively, in October 1877

But complications arose for both John Cameron and John Hebbel when the Lands Office realised that Selections 860 and 861 were partly on a designated Timber Reserve. Initially the Lands Office cancels these leases but then a year or so later, reinstates them. Cameron and Hebbel then begin the relocation of their “Aubigny” mill equipment to Perseverance Creek.

 

A report in the "The Queenslander, published 1 November 1879", records the completion of the transfer. That report reads in part:

"Hebbel and Cameron’s saw-mill has been transferred to its new site (Perseverance). It certainly should cause a little more stir and create a furore amongst the teamsters"

At the new site, the mill was known as the Perseverance Steam Saw Mill.

 

In the following year, John Cameron and John Hebbel apply for Certificates of Fulfilment on their respective Selections and the supporting documentation accompanying Hebbel’s application, excerpt below, provides us with an insight into the mill’s infrastructure at that time. What is particularly interesting is the extent of accommodation associated with the mill as it suggests quite a community residing on that property.

Improvements to Selection 861, as recorded by the Ipswich Crown Ranger on the 5th of October 1880

Boundaries of Hebbel's selection as surveyed in October of 1879

This relocated mill was probably operational from late 1879 but the first newspaper advertisement referencing the mill’s new location appears in the 19th of November 1880 edition of the Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser. In that advertisement we also see reference to new equipment that had been installed at the mill, namely "Planing and Machinery of the Newest and Most Improved Description specially imported from America to their order........." as well as reference to the range of timber products involved.

Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 19th November 1880. First advertisement promoting operation at the Perseverance Mill

Credit: National Library of Australia

 

That advertisement also provides us with a useful summary of Cameron and Hebbel’s facilities at that time, namely:

  • Perseverance Steam Saw Mills via Murphys Creek

  • Town office and Timber Yard – Railway Station Toowoomba

  • Timber depot – Murphys Creek Railway Station

Reason for relocating from Whichello to Perseverance Creek

Although we have no references to substantiate it, we expect that the principal reason Cameron and Hebbel relocated the mill from Whichello to Perseverance was the dwindling timber supplies in the Whichello district. We do see references to them experiencing water supply issues at the old mill site and the long haul from the site to the nearest railway station, namely Murphys Creek, may also have been an issue for them.

Certainly the new site at Perseverance appears to have offered advantages in all 3 respects: it was in the centre of a timber rich area, the mill site was located adjacent to a creek and the distance to the Murphys Creek railway station was some 5 miles less.

Transfer of Selection 861 from Johann Hebbel to H.A.T. Shum

On the 4th January 1881, some one month after John Hebbel received his Certificate of Fulfilment for Selection 861, for reasons we don't understand, the lease of the property was transferred to H.A.T. Shum. Some 9 months later, Shum paid out the remainder of the "10 year's rent" on that lease and was granted the deeds to that property. Records show though that the mill continued to operate under the Cameron and Hebbel name and that John Hebbel and his family were residing on the 340 acre selection. 

Transport of milled timber to the Murphys Creek Railway Station

As mentioned above, Cameron and Hebbel had a timber depot at Murphys Creek and it would appear that milled timber destined for the Toowoomba market and beyond was hauled to that depot and then transferred to rail. R. Chapman, in his "Reminiscences of the Main Range" booklet, provides us with an insight into how that haulage operated.

"In the local railway yard a timber staging was erected. Bullock teams and horse teams hauled the sawn timber from Cameron and Hebbel's mill at Perseverance. Later a steam traction engine with two trailers attached brought in the loads. One day this engine bolted down a steep hill and came to a stop against a tree at the bottom"

The route from the mill to the station was probably about 9 miles in length and the traction engine's steam boiler required fuel and water replenishment during that journey. Chapman's booklet also provides an insight into how that provision was made:

Billets of wood were piled on the roadside to feed the boiler and a suction pipe attached to draw the water from the nearby creek crossings”.

Newspaper reports in the Darling Downs Gazette and the Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs General Advertiser on the 31st of October 1885 provide some detail on this engine and its function, with the Gazette identifying the model as a 12hp Aveling and Porter traction

Toowoomba Chronicle and DD General Advertiser, 28 Jan1882

Typical only: Aveling and Porter 12 hp traction engine

engine and the Chronicle outlining how its tasks will include "pulling wagons from Murphys Creek". 

 

Cameron and Hebbel's depot at Murphys Creek appears to have been on Portion 14: a 4 acre, 3 rood, property. According to an 1891 advertisement for the sale of this property, it was "adjoining Murphy's Creek Railway Station" and "with 5 cottages upon it". 

Other land acquisitions

On the 20th of May 1885, some 3 years after John Hebbel transferred his lease of Selection 861 to H.A.T. Shum, he successfully applied for another lease, this time for Selection 4092A, a 640 acre property located some 3 km south east of his Perseverance Creek selection. It was quite an elevated property and was referred to as "Hebbel's View".

In October of 1888, his residency and improvement requirements having been met for Selection 4092A, he is granted his Certificate of Fulfilment entitling him to freehold tenure subject to payment of the remainder of the 10 years rent payments. But he doesn't proceed with that option and instead transfers his lease to John Garget, a Toowoomba resident. Garget was a significant figure at that time, having been the builder of what are now considered to be some of Toowoomba's most iconic buildings. These include the Toowoomba Grammar School, the Toowoomba Post Office and the Toowoomba Court House (Stage 1). John Garget also served as Toowoomba's mayor between 1876 to 1878 and again in 1885. 

Cameron and Hebbel properties in the Perseverance Creek area and at Murphys Creek

Cameron and Hebbel also purchase land near the Toowoomba Foundry in the mid 1880's, presumably for timber yard purposes. The price paid for that land was £1000.

Depression years

 

So in the mid-eighties the company appears to be operating quite successfully but as the end of the decade is approached we see a change in conditions and a number of claims are made on the company over petty debt issues. Although we have no references to substantiate it, we expect that a contributor to this financial stress may well have been timber supply issues arising from 10 years of felling on their selections.

Then in around 1890 a nation-wide depression sets in and demand for timber drops off and prices are lowered across the board by Toowoomba millers. Cameron and Hebbel's operation presumably struggles in these times and we note that a petition seeking liquidation of the company is filed in mid August 1891.

Having reached agreement with the creditors, the partners go their separate ways. John Cameron and his family depart Toowoomba in late 1891 and settle in Western Australia and John Hebbel and his surviving children (his wife Mathilda passed away in 1887) appear to remain at Perseverance until circa 1902.

New mill operators

The worst of the depression is over by the end of 1893 and on the 25th of January 1894 an article appears in the Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Advertiser announcing the reopening of the mill under new management. That article reads:

 

"We are requested to state that the Perseverance Saw Mills, late Cameron & Hebbel, are now again in active operation under the management of Messrs, White, Keen (sic), & Co."

Issues appear to arise at the mill though as we see a series of management or ownership changes, as indicated by the two advertisements and one notice below:

Toowoomba Chronicle and DDA, 25 Jan 1894 

Credit: National Library of Australia

Toowoomba Chronicle and DDA, 3 Feb 1894 

Credit: National Library of Australia

Toowoomba Chronicle and DDA, 24 Jul 1894 

Credit: National Library of Australia

The next report we have indicating the mill's operational status is one published in the Darling Downs Gazette on the 27th of July 1895. That article includes references to scenes witnessed by a party while travelling by road from Hampton to inspect the newly established or upgraded A. & D. Munro mill at Palmtree. That road ran past the "Cameron and Hebbel" mill site. The report reads:

"A short distance from the foot of the spur stands the Perseverance Saw Mills, formerly the property of Messrs. Cameron & Hebbel, but now worked by another company. Picking up a companion here, we proceeded a mile further on, through wattle scrub, arriving at Mr. Munro's selection, and passing into the most grandly timbered country we have been privileged to inspect".

But operations at that mill must have ceased shortly afterwards as we see advertisements announcing that the mill equipment and buildings were to be auctioned on site on the 1st of September 1896 "by order of the Mortgagee".

Around that time the owner of the 340 acre property, formerly Selection 861, agreed to lease an easement through the property to the A&D Munro company and that easement became part of the route of Munro's Hampton to Palmtree tramway. Munro's completed that tramway in September of 1897 and their new Palmtree Mill commenced operation in November of 1897. Some two years later further changes were underway as the 340 acre property was subdivided into 40 and 50 acre blocks and advertised for sale as "The Perseverance Estate".

Darling Downs Gazette, 9th Dec 1899

Credit: National Library of Australia

This subdivision heralded a new era in the Perseverance Creek district with closer settlement and a community of mill workers and farmers settling on the lands formerly occupied by Cameron and Hebbel.

 

As mentioned previously, there is no evidence of the mill structure remaining on site, but quite remarkably, some 140 years after the mill's closure, there is a reminder of its presence in the form of slight impressions left by the wheels of wagons used to haul timber to the mill. Those impressions can be viewed from Google Earth, particularly when using the 2011 imagery. They can be seen on the southern of the creek, from the mill site east towards National Park Rd.

In the next section we outline the information we have found relating to John Cameron and John Hebbel and their families.

The Cameron family

 

John Cameron arrived at Moreton Bay in 1862 having sailed from Greenock, Scotland, on the Helenslee. A point of interest is that one of his fellow passengers on that voyage was Duncan Munro.

John married Simona McDonald at East Talgai, near Allora, on the 6th of November 1869. Simona's place of birth was Inverness, Scotland.

 

On their marriage certificate, John's occupation is listed as Stonemason and his place of residence as Warwick and Simona's occupation is listed as Servant and her place of residence as East Talgai.

The East Talgai Homestead was constructed in 1868, primarily of sandstone, and it's quite possible that John Cameron was involved in that construction.

The family relocated from Warwick to Toowoomba sometime between 1870 and 1874. The first substantive reference we have

East Talgai homestead 1897

to John Cameron's involvement in the timber industry is a notice in the Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Advertiser, 8th January 1876. It reads:

 

"We, the undersigned, lately carrying out the business of saw mill proprietors at the Aubigny Saw Mills, Highfields, under the style of Waraker & Bond having this day admitted John Cameron as a partner, the business will henceforth be continued at Highfields and Toowoomba under the style or form of Waraker, & Bond, & Co., saw mill proprietors, dated 1st November 1875, signed A.F. Waraker and Herbert William Bond"

Some 12 months after this admittance, the Aubigny Mill ownership appears to change from "Waraker and Bond" to "Cameron and Hebbel".  The Cameron and Hebbel business partnership lasted 15 years and over that time it would appear that John Cameron resided continuously in Toowoomba, initially at Bell Street, while John Hebbel and his family appear to have resided on site at the Perseverance Mill property, or nearby, for most of the time. That arrangement suggests that John Cameron may well have been the partner responsible for the timber sales while John Hebbel managed the sawmilling operation.

Following the liquidation of the Cameron and Hebbel business, John and his family relocated to Western Australia, with shipping records showing their arrival there towards the end of 1891.

Not long after his arrival, John became engaged in rail carriage building and his efforts in completing an order of 80 wagons for the Government Railways are outlined in the following extract from an article published in the 24th March 1893 edition of "The Inquirer and Commercial News, Perth, WA":

"An important new industry has been started in this colony by Mr. John Cameron, an experienced builder and contractor lately from Queensland. The Government recently invited tenders for the construction of eighty railway wagons, to be built in the colony and delivered at Fremantle and the tender of Mr. J Cameron was selected.....

 

Mr Mather, Superintendent of the locomotive workshops at Fremantle, has inspected the (first) thirty wagons and pronounces them to be the most satisfactory trucks that have yet been obtained from any quarter for the Government railways".

John Cameron later became a Government employee and rose within the ranks to become the Government Supervisor, Carnarvon. John passed away in Perth at the age of 70, in 1912. He was predeceased by his wife Simona, who passed away in Perth in 1907.  

The Hebbel family

John Hebbel arrived at Moreton Bay in September 1863 having sailed from Hamburg on the Beausite. On the 8th of May 1871, some 8 years after he arrived in Queensland, he married Matilda Andersen at Toowoomba. Matilda's place of birth was Kattrepel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

Matilda Magdalena and John Heinrich Hebbel

Credit: Megan McCawley (GG Granddaughter of John and Matilda Hebbel)

John's early years in Queensland are not well known to us at this time and the first definite reference we have relates to his involvement in the Aubigny Mill towards the end of 1876.

The Hebbel's were a large family, typical of that time, with 4 children having been born prior to the family's move to Perseverance and another 8 born while the family were residing at Perseverance. When the family first arrived at Perseverance there were no schools in the vicinity and John Hebbel and other local residents - Joseph Cossart, Alf Bidgood, James McQuillan and John McQuillan - successfully applied for a school to be built. That school, known as the Perseverance Creek School, was opened on the 10th of November 1880.  

Credit: Crows Nest and District School Centenary 1877 - 1977, Souvenir Book

All indications are that John was a highly regarded member of the community, having been selected as a Commissioner of the Peace and having served as a local councillor on both the Highfields Divisional Council, under the chairmanship of Duncan Munro, and the Esk Divisional Board and as chairman of the Perseverence School committee.

Sadly, Matilda passed away in 1887, not long after the birth of their 12th child. Matilda and two of her children are buried near the site of the sawmill. Family records show that Anna, the eldest of the children "at age 14 then cared for brothers and sisters and for her father".

Plaque as memorial to Matilda Hebbel and her children Emma and Frederick

Perseverance School admissions records show that the younger members of the Hebbel family continued to reside at Perseverance at least until 1900 although it would appear that John may have had to seek employment elsewhere at times. The Quarterly Electoral Roll commencing 1st of January 1893 shows John as residing at "Tin Mines, Crows Nest" and having the occupation "Miner".

It would appear that John Hebbel later relocated to the Ipswich area, probably around 1902, and then a few years after that to Innisfail where he was engaged in building construction related work. Newspaper reports from Innisfail show that he continued with his community service contributions. Those reports, together with Hebbel family correspondence records, suggest that he was man of fine character.

John Hebbel, seated, Innisfail, 1912

Credit: Megan McCawley (GG Granddaughter of John and Matilda Hebbel)

John Hebbel passed away in Innisfail on the 30th of December, 1918.