John Buhot - Pioneer of the Sugar Industry in Queensland

John Buhot (Bio) and his wife left London in the sailing ship Montmorency on 28th December 1861 and arrived in Moreton Bay, Brisbane on 11th April 1862.

He had previous experience as a sugar planter at Barbados in the West Indies. Soon after his arrival he was offered a managing position on a sheep station due no doubt to the fact that he held letters of introduction to several influential colonists. However, in view of his previous experience in the sugar industry, he decided to remain in that sphere of activity.

His entry to that industry and the opportunity to make granulated sugar was not easy as previous attempts by other colonists had been unsuccessful and had been carried out at a good deal of expense. One difficulty, which others had experienced was in the quality of the colonial lime. However, John Buhot was encouraged and urged not to fail by George Raff, (Bio)who was one of the several friends to whom he had a letter of introduction on his arrival in the colony.

John Buhot, who was sure of his ability to make sugar if suitable canes were available, visited Walter Hill, (Bio) the then Curator of the Botanical Reserve (now included in the present day Botanical Gardens). Walter Hill gave him much assistance in the selection of suitable sugar canes and Buhot acknowledged this valuable help, without which, in his opinion, he would not have succeeded in his task.

Every assistance and encouragement was also given by Captain Louis Hope (Bio), Dr. Hobbs (Bio), William Brookes (Bio) and George Edmondstone (Bio), M.L.A. Andrew Petrie (Bio) made the small trays, coolers and incidental apparatus free of expense at his own workshop.

The canes available at the Botanical Reserve were immature, as the best canes had been taken for previous attempts for the making of sugar by others. Buhot, in the circumstances, selected the best available canes. He crushed them in the shop of William Brookes at 143 Queen Street, Brisbane (Brookes and Foster Ironmongers).

The liquor was tempered and clarified in public on the footpath outside and then taken to the Botanical Reserve (Botanical Gardens) where, under the close observation of all those present granulated sugar was first made in the Colony of Queensland. The quantity was approximately five pounds from seven gallons of liquor.

Buhot used the coral lime of Moreton Bay which he obtained from Andrew Petrie for tempering the liquor. A present of a small quantity of sugar was given to him, as he was the oldest colonist, to sweeten his tea. Petrie was delighted to have, had that day, the satisfaction of using sugar actually produced in Brisbane and prophesied that John Buhot had laid the foundation of what would be Queensland's source of wealth.

He was requested by Captain Louis Hope to experiment in the manufacture of sugar from ribbon and Bourbon cane then growing in his garden and the result was again successful. Offers of employment as a result of his success, poured in but he chose to be employed by Captain Louis Hope of Cleveland.

He assisted George Raff of the Caboolture Cotton Company with some cane he brought from Cleveland. In 1864, he lectured in Maryborough on the subject of sugar, planted cane for Thos. Petrie, Hon. C. B. Whish, M.L.A (Bio). and was actively associated with practically all the early ventures of sugar cane growing in the southern portion of the Colony of Queensland.

The Select Parliamentary Committee appointed in 1867 found that sugar was first manufactured by John Buhot in 1862. A recommendation was made by this Committee that a grant of 500 acres be made to him for his services to the industry.

John Buhot was manager of the Pearlwell Sugar Mill at Oxley Creek near Brisbane in 1872 and remained there until his contract expired. He was, however, not successful in his business activities.

His home, a large many roomed one with verandahs surrounding it, wooden shingled roof, papered walls and stately in appearance set in spacious grounds ornamented with bunya pine and ornamental trees stood in its original state after he vacated it and a private school was conducted by Miss Thompson.

On the 30th July 1890 it was taken over by the Education Department and became the Mount Pleasant School on Logan Road, Brisbane. The school was carried on as the Dunellan State School for many years afterwards in the original home (with some essential alterations) until it was demolished and the present school (now known as Greenslopes School) had the name changed in 1923.

Buhot's house was built on the highest portion of the area, which has, of course, been extended both on the eastern and western sides. It was situated on the top end of the original Dunellan Estate, which ran from the creek in Juliette Street to the Logan Road. The original area of Buhot's land was 56 acres which he purchased on 9 March 1874.

The passenger list of the ship Montmorency shows the particulars of the arrival in Moreton Bay, Brisbane on 11th April 1862 and on which the names (among others) were:

John Buhot age 31 years nationality English carpenter

Jessie Buhot age 22 years nationality English home duties

Millions of tons of sugar have been produced in Queensland since the day in 1862 when John Buhot first produced his five pounds and a king's ransom would not be enough nowadays to purchase the yearly output.

Historically, there is nothing to perpetuate the name of this worthy pioneer, except it be a ten chain dead ended street (Buhot Street) in an obscure part of the quiet suburb of Geebung, eight miles from the centre of Brisbane or the long row of fig trees which grow on the riverside of Quay Street, Rockhampton and which were planted by him.

No stately column has yet arisen in his honour in the Botanical Reserve which, in modern identification of location would be where the actual event of sugar granulation took place in the vicinity of the Edward Street entrance in the Botanical Gardens.

- Unknown

Sugar cane was grown in the Moreton Bay district long before Qld was permitted to officially inscribe her name on the map of Australia as a separate and independent colony. When Mr. Buhot arrived in 1862, the total population of the new territory was little more than 30,000 and Brisbane was, of course, a very small city.

The infant colony had then recently started on her career. She had already overcome some of the initial difficulties connected with the establishment of a new Government, and was making preparations for increased development in her pastoral and agricultural areas.

In emphasizing the importance to Queensland of cane cultivation and sugar manufacture, Mr. Buhot, who, as stated, has been called the father of the sugar industry in Queensland, showed that intense earnestness of purpose which is essential in all undertakings if success is to be achieved.

By means of numerous letters to the Press, by frequent interviews with public men, and by lectures in Brisbane and elsewhere, he aroused public opinion to a state of enthusiasm on the subject, and many men already on the land were induced to embark on the business of cane planting.

Lands prodigal in fertility were waiting for the plough, and he assured farmers that from the success already won in a number of instances, the new industry would soon be like a young giant awakening from a long sleep.

On account of the practical knowledge and long experience in the West Indies, his services as manager were in request on several of the plantations then in the colony, and in addition to laying out and superintending the first year’s work on Captain Hope’s plantation at Ormiston, he instructed the staff during the first year’s operations on the Caboolture Cotton Company’s estate.

He also laid out and planted the Oaklands estate, the property of the late Hon. C. B. Whish. At various times he was engaged in the Victoria Cotton Company’s estate, the Noyea estate on the Albert River, the Pimpana Sugar Company’s estate on the Pimpana River, and superintended the erection of the company’s mill.

His lectures in Maryborough induced many farmers in the Mary River district to take up sugar lands, and in 1864, he manufactured sugar in the School of Arts in that town. He erected the first central factory on the Mary and operated the works for the first season’s sugar production.

In the early months of 1870, Mr. Buhot contributed to the “Queenslander” several papers on cane planting and sugar making. “Sugar should be made in the field,” he said, “and the planter, not the boiler, should be held responsible for the quality and the quantity of the yield.”

By the mid 1860s, the industry had obtained a footing at Maryborough, Bundaberg, Isis, Mackay, Lower Burdekin, and was afterwards established on the Herbert and Johnstone Rivers, Cairns, and the Bloomfield River.

In 1867, there were nearly 2000 acres of land under cane and six mills were working, while in the following year, 1868, there were about 28 mills in operation, and about 5000 acres under cane. Rapid and eye opening developments then took place in the early 1870s and the industry became well established in the North, particularly in the Mackay and in the Herbert and Johnstone River districts.

The late Hon. C. H. Fitzgerald and John Spiller planted the first sugar cane in Mackay and the first mill (the Alexandra) was erected by Messrs Fitzgerald and Davidson in 1868. Shortly afterwards, the following mills were erected:- Pleystowe, Bramscombe, Nebia, Dumbleton, Pioneer, Foulden and Cassida.

- Nut Quad