Sawmilling at Villeneuve from 1900 to 1930
From Ron Trim, local historian
The Hancock brothers started in the sawmill business by buying a small sawmill in north Ipswich. The brothers heard about good quality timber around Kilcoy and one of the brothers, Tom, was sent there to investigate the area. Tom bought a large parcel of land from Frank Villeneuve Nicholson’s extensive holdings and it was decided to build a sawmill there. The location chosen was on a hill overlooking the Villeneuve Bridge, on the north side of the Stanley River. At that time the railway was under construction and the mill was built near the railway line for ease of transporting some of the timber back to Ipswich. At this time plywood was beginning to become popular, and the large pine logs were peeled in order to make plywood.
One of the Hancock Brothers’ bullock drivers was Herb Curry. Herb and his brothers had worked for the firm for many years. Herb was regarded as a good worker, and was always looking for ways to improve the business. He recommended that tractors be used, which led Tom Hancock to import a number of Linn tractors from the USA in 1927. These tractors had 100 horsepower petrol engines, with crawler tracks at the rear and steel wheels at the front. Herb used one in his work and improved on it, building a welded steel cage around the cabin. This allowed long logs to be carried on both sides and shorter logs to be carried on the top. In addition he pulled a loaded wagon behind. The introduction of mechanised forms of transport such as this meant that the end of the old bullock days had begun.
Herb Curry and others were hauling logs from the side of Mount Archer, which was about 20 miles from the Hancock Brothers sawmill in Villeneuve. In 1930 the decision was made to close the Villeneuve mill and rebuild it at Mount Mee in order to be closer to the source of the timber. Herb was in charge of the Mount Mee mill and all went well until his son Jack was killed there. Herb Curry handed management of the mill to his son-in-law Dudley Kingston. Kingston operated the Mount Mee mill for some time, and it was later taken over by Mick Simpson.