Martin’s Sawmill, 1885

SAFCA Stratford Freshwater Community Association

Felling a crowsfoot elm, Atherton Tableland.
Photographer: Alfred Atkinson.
Image: Cairns Historical Society (90/125).

William Ingham established the first sawmill in the district at Trinity Inlet in May 1877 and the following year cedar cutters were working in the Barron valley. The logs were hauled to the river, floated to rafting grounds and then rafted into Cairns to be shipped out. By the early 1880s boats were being used to transport the cut timber to Cairns.

The first timber mill in Stratford, 1886.

In 1885 Edward Martin & Son of Bundaberg decided to erect a mill on the banks of the Barron at Stratford to supply timber for the construction of the Cairns Range Railway. The sawmill plant, which was powered by two 16hp steam engines and could cut 20,000 feet of timber a week, was delivered here on the ketch Cooma.

The Union Saw & Planing Mill began operating in early 1886. Martin continued to expand his business; in 1887 he purchased a bigger boiler which took 42 bullocks to haul over the Brinsmead Gap, in 1888 he purchased the schooner, Freddy, to transport timber to southern ports and in 1890 he built the Union Timber Yard on Sachs Street in Chinatown (now Grafton Street) as a Cairns outlet for timber milled on the Barron.

SAFCA Stratford Freshwater Community Association

Cairns Post, 1888.

The loss of the Ada

On Monday 17 March 1884 an open boat, the Ada, went missing on its way from the Barron to Cairns. The boat had been loaded with 1,000 super feet of timber at the Barron River and there were two men on board, one of whom was Walter Collinson. The pilot made a search of the area and the police searched the beaches to Double Island but nothing was found. The boat was later found submerged half a mile out from the mouth of the Barron, but no bodies were found.

The Stratford Heritage Trail is an initiative of the
Stratford & Freshwater Community Association