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Paterson River history

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Paterson's flour mills

flour mill in Paterson

Above: a flour mill in Paterson (photo: Jack Sullivan - NCC Collections).

At various times from 1846 to 1905 two flour mills operated in close proximity to each other on the river in the Commercial Road area of Paterson. In 1846 the Maitland Mercury reported part of the news from Paterson as follows:[1]

STEAM MILL.- Preparations for the erection of a steam mill are in active progress; and under the spirited superintendence of the proprietor, Mr. James Keppie, no doubt the building will soon be in a state of forwardness. When completed, it will be a great convenience to the settlers, and will add to the importance of this township.

However it was not until 1849 that James Keppie advertised that his new steam mill was completed and he was ready to receive grain, with 'charges for grinding, smutting, and dressing, the same as the neighbouring steam mills'.[2]

Further details of mill ownership and operation are sketchy. By late 1852 one of the mills seems to be under the ownership of Mr A. Mather and by February 1853 the business was conducted under the partnership of Adam Mather and Peter Keppie.[3]

By 1869 there were definitely two flour mills in operation[4] and by 1872 apparently both were operated by William Corner.[5] However this was a time when wheat production in the district was declining due to disease, and this decline, combined with flood damage, meant the Paterson flour mills faced a difficult and uncertain future.

In February 1875 Mr A. Hough advertised that he was about to re-start the Paterson steam flour mill after extensive repairs and upgrading.[6] Unfortunately his investment was lost just a few weeks later when both Paterson mills were badly damaged by floods. The Maitland Mercury reported as follows:[7]

The water was about six feet up the third floor of Mr. Wilson's mill, and many tons of wheat and flour therein were destroyed. It was ... also up to the eaves of Mr. Hough's mill, and on the roof of the Wesleyan Chapel... the Mill House, belonging to Mr. Corner, and situated near his upper flour mill, has been washed away. Mr. Corner's lower mill, in the occupation of Mr. Hough, is much damaged; one of the corners of the building being washed away. Mr. Corner's upper mill is considered so much damaged that on the going down of the water it is anticipated it will fall.

It appears that the 1875 flood or a subsequent flood put both mills out of action for several years, and it was not until November 1881 that Mr. Hough had both mills 'in good order for the coming wheat season' with the result that farmers would not be forced to take their wheat to Maitland to be ground 'which they have had to do for the last two or three seasons past'.[8]

It is understood the last mill at Paterson closed in 1905 (confirmation required).

flour mill in Commercial Road area

Above: a flour mill in the Commercial Road area of Paterson. It is probably the same mill as the one in the previous photo (photo: Paterson Historical Society).

Notes

1. Maitland Mercury 29 August 1846 p2.

2. Maitland Mercury 10 March 1849 p3.

3. Maitland Mercury 31 December 1852 and 26 February 1853.

4. Maitland Mercury 7 August 1869 p6.

5. Museum News, vol. 11 no. 3, 2004. Paterson Historical Society.

6. Maitland Mercury 23 February 1875 p3.

7. Maitland Mercury 6 March 1875.

8. Maitland Mercury 26 November 1881 p6.