Lily Bank

Samuel Cochrane

Samuel Cochrane had been in the Cairns area since it was first declared a settlement in 1876. He purchased a block of land in Smithfield township during the first land sales in the north. These sales were conducted by Robert Taylor Hartley, Second Officer of Custom during April and May 1877. In August 1877 Cochrane loaded eleven teams of bullocks and took them over the Smithfield range as soon as the new dray road opened (Jones p.98).

Selectors first took up land in the Barron valley in March 1878.

  • W H Kelly selected 45 acres on Freshwater Creek
  • Louis Kopp took up land adjoining Smithfield town
  • Mr Smith selected land running from Smithfield town to the foot of the range
  • Samuel Cochrane selected a block of land he called Lily Bank.

Samuel Cochrane became the first settler to take up land in what is now Stratford when he purchased 110 acres on 27 March 1878. He named the block Lily Bank and grew maize, English potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Cochrane Street, Stratford is named after him.

Cochrane built a homestead at Lily Bank in 1878. In 1884 he advertised eight tons of potatoes for sale in the Cairns Post (26 June 1884). The potatoes were available for sale locally and Cochrane hoped this would be the commencement of a regular supply.

SAFCA Stratford Freshwater Community Association

Side of view of Lilybank, Stratford, 1920,home of AJ Draper
Image: Cairns Historical Society

A J Draper

In 1889 A J Draper bought Lily Bank. He developed a horse-stud, grew pineapples and bananas and sold citrus saplings. The Drapers were very hospitable, holding many functions in their beautiful garden.

Alexander Frederick John Draper (1863-1928), the eldest of seventeen children, was just 21 years old when he arrived in Cairns in 1884 to take up the position of manager of the Bank of Australasia. Draper became a prominent figure in Cairns with a reputation for being outspoken. He was Mayor of Cairns Town Council in 1892-93, 1896-97, 1902, 1918 and 1924-27, Secretary of the Barron Divisional Board in 1893-1919, helped to found the Cairns Stock Exchange, chairman of directors of Mulgrave Sugar Mill, foundation chairman of the Queensland Sugar Producers Association 1907, foundation chairman of the Cairns Cane Growers Association 1911, chairman of the Barron Hydro-electric Board and had an interest in the Cairns Chronicle and Cairns Post. At his funeral in 1928 he was described as the ‘Father of Cairns’.

Draper and his wife, Mary Georgina, had one son and six daughters, all six girls being born at Lily Bank. Draper’s only son was killed in an accident on the road outside Lily Bank. Henry Draper picked up a discarded gun cartridge and it detonated while he was playing with it. Mrs Draper rushed the injured boy to Dr Koch in Cairns, but he died shortly afterwards. Henry was only four years old.

A child aged 4 years, the son of Mr A J Draper of Lily Bank met with a sad end yesterday afternoon. By some unfortunate means the poor little fellow had come into possession of a gun cartridge; and playing with it and knocking it about and so on, the thing exploded. The explosion sadly damaged the little man.
Cairns Post, 1 August 1891.

SAFCA Stratford Freshwater Community Association

A J Draper
Image: The Cairns jubilee: official historical souvenir, 1926.
Compiled by S.H. Martin

Land sale at Lily Bank, 1887.

Advertised by John Macnamara’s Real Property Sale Rooms, Abbott Street, Cairns.

Remember that Lily Bank is the sanatorium resort. Consumption, heart disease and lung and nervous disorders vanish in the balmy atmosphere. This truly beautiful spot, acknowledged as such by everyone who visits the locality will eventually become the summer resort of the busy hives of workers escaping from the toil and heat attending those whose duties keep them in the town of Cairns itself. The winding Barron with all its stillness and picturesqueness, passes within 150 yards of the gentle slope on which Lily Bank is situated.

Lily Bank is beautiful and Sam Cochrane Esq, who owns this Heavenly spot, is only parting with a portion of it owing to the number of enquiries from people to be allowed to build here.

Cairns as a large city will be impossible to live in on account of the marshes at the back of it, but Lily Bank, whose breezy heights of health wil burst forth with floral beauties of which the horticultural gardens of the world might be proud; and the rural rusticity of the primeval bush will soon be no more; but in its place will rear their civilised heads, the residences of health givers and health seekers.

The beauty of its grassy knolls, watered by the refreshing dew of mountain purity, renders the locality free from unsanitary and debilitating condition of populous and low-lying districts.

The investment in Lily Bank is a perpetual lottery, with a certainty of prizes and whoever becomes owner of any paer of this estate, will, in a few short years Bless the day he was born.

The Cairns Post, 14 May 1887.

Mr Greenwood

Draper sold Lily Bank to Mr H Greenwood and in August 1927 the original house was destroyed by fire. Greenwood rebuilt the house and later sold it to Mr Hardwick.

Mr Hardwick

Hardwick bought Lilybank from Greenwood and began growing cane. The establishment of sugar mills at Gordonvale, Hambledon and Pyramid had encouraged cane farming in north, which was bolstered when CSR took over the Hambledon Mill in 1897.

Although cane had been sent for crushing via Queensland Rail, being loaded at Stratford Siding, the building of the cane tramway to Redlynch Depot in 1925 improved access and further encouraged the move to cane growing. By 1928 only 8.5% of Barron Valley cane was being transported by Queensland Rail and by 1931 all the crush went on the tramway through Redlynch Depot.

The house next door to Lily Bank, 73 Kamerunga, was the manager’s house for the cane farm. It was brought down from Port Douglas on a barge in 1933.

Lilybank Bed & Breakfast.

In 1992 Lilybank was opened as a B&B guest house.

SAFCA Stratford Freshwater Community Association

Alexander Frederick John Draper (1863 – 1928)

Information from:

Birth: 5 April 1863, Williamstown, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Death: 21 March 1928, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: auctioneer / businessman / commission agent / company director / employers’ organiser / local government councillor / local government head / newspaper owner / sugar cane farmer / sugar refiner

Alexander Frederick John Draper (1863-1928), businessman and politician, was born on 5 April 1863 at Williamstown, Victoria, eldest of seventeen children of Henry John Mollett Draper, pilot, and his wife Eileen, née Young. At 16 he entered the Bank of Australasia and served in country towns of New South Wales and Victoria. He was transferred in 1884 to Townsville, Queensland, then to Charters Towers. When he settled at Cairns as manager, his ability, energy and interest in local affairs soon became apparent in the railway league, hospital committee, fire brigade, whose board he frequently chaired, progress association and sporting bodies. He was also a captain of volunteers. He married Georgina Mary Capron at Williamstown on 9 April 1885.

Recognizing the agricultural and mineral potential of the Cairns district, Queensland, Draper left the bank that year. In 1884 he became one of the first shippers of bananas, which were grown by immigrant Chinese, and which during the 1890s were the economic mainstay of Cairns. More than any other European, he maintained close connexions with the industry until its virtual demise about 1913. With W. D. Hobson and others, he bought the ill-fated Hop Wah sugar plantation in 1886. The partnership was dissolved when the plantation continued to fail and Draper set up on his own as an auctioneer and commission agent. A. J. Draper & Co. financed many local farmers.

He supported the conservative candidate R. A. Kingsford at both the divisional board elections of 1885 and the Legislative Assembly elections of 1888. Elected next year to the Cairns Town Council, he rapidly became prominent, served as mayor in 1892-93, 1896-97, 1902, 1918, and 1924-27, and resigned from the council only when defeated for the mayoralty in April 1927. His insistence on economy in the 1890s was not entirely popular; his outspokenness made political enemies, and because of close Chinese friendships he was often labelled pro-Chinese. Secretary also of the Barron Divisional Board in 1893-1919, he helped to found the Cairns Stock Exchange and chaired both the board of enquiry into hydro-electricity and the Patriotic League.

Though urged to enter Federal politics, Draper stayed in Cairns because he believed in the importance of local issues and because of his extensive business interests. In January 1885 he and Hobson had founded the Cairns Chronicle supporting Sir Thomas McIlwraith. Draper’s brother Edwin (d.1901) was involved, as editor, in a horsewhipping, a libel action and much besides. In 1893, partly as a result of the depression, Draper was briefly in voluntary liquidation and lost control of the Chronicle, but he recovered rapidly and never again looked back. By the turn of the century, he had interests in mining and an increasing involvement in the sugar industry.

The Mulgrave mill was the first central sugar-mill established in the district under the Sugar Works Guarantee Act of 1893. In 1897 Draper was appointed chairman of directors and was largely responsible for heavy borrowing to extend the mill’s facilities. When loan interest payments proved burdensome, the shareholders threatened revolt but good results in 1899 restored Draper’s reputation and he remained a director until his death. He himself grew cane at Babinda, encouraged others and actively campaigned for a mill which was established there in 1911.

Threats to the future of Pacific island labour at the turn of the century caused widespread apprehension among sugar-planters and Draper was among those urging its continuation. He admitted later that his fears had not been realized. Nevertheless, the first twenty years of the century were an uneasy period for planters. Draper was foundation chairman of both the Queensland Sugar Producers’ Association (1907) and the Cairns Cane Growers’ Association (1911), formed to combat labour problems. The latter was partly a response to increasing strength and militancy of the unions; consistently an anti-unionist, Draper was anathema to the labour movement. His interest in the Cairns Post, revived by E. Draper & Co. in 1895, led to the establishment about 1900 of the Labour-oriented Cairns Times, eventually taken over directly by the unions. During the strike of 1925 he was member of a committee to organize the loading of sugar by farmers in defiance of striking wharf labourers, and headed the procession of farmers through Cairns to the wharf; the incident possibly helped to lose him the mayoralty.

Thereafter, Draper abandoned politics but remained active in the sugar industry. During a trip to Brisbane to attend meetings of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association and the Cane Growers’ Council, he died of vascular disease on 21 March 1928, survived by his wife and six daughters. He was buried at Cairns and left an estate valued for probate at £49,989.

Cairns Post Pty Ltd, The Life of A. J. Draper (Cairns, 1931);
Dorothy Jones, Trinity Phoenix (Cairns, 1976);
Australian Sugar Journal, July 1976, p 196; liquidation files, SCT/11/W8/1893 (Queensland State Archives).
Catherine May, ‘Draper, Alexander Frederick John (1863 – 1928)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, Melbourne University Press, 1981, pp 341-342.

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