Herons Creek Timber Mill was opened in 1915 by Alf Noone. Alf and his brother Ted were from Stroud. Ted was a blacksmith. Noone was in partnership with Mr. Brown and Mr. Amos. Herons Creek timber mill headquarters were at Broadmeadow, but Alf lived at Herons Creek. Log punts were brought up from Bobs Creek wharf. The mill bought property from the Butlers towards Bonny Hills. In the early years of the mill, at least twenty-two bullock teams hauled logs to the mill.
In the 1930 Rufus and Mannie McCarthy worked here, with Rufus driving the log truck. Mannie became a world champion axeman. In 1931 the mill burned down and was rebuilt. George Latham was among those engaged in the reconstruction work. Log haulers included Reg Latham, 'Boo' Kidd, Ted Green, Red Hayes, Mr. Slater.
During the depression gangs of workers were brought in to chop wood, they made 30 shillings for 30 hours. Timber Stories of the Hastings says, “Many of these men married local girls and remained in the area.”
Ken Noone became the manager at Herons Creek before mill was sold to Zinc Co. in 1947. The operation at that time consisted of mills at Herons Creek, Kendall, Port Macquarie, Lorne and Comboyne. Managers in the 1950s included Neville Elliot (mill), Doug Elliot (forests) and Bert Elliot (corporate). In 1951 William Robert Isaacs was killed in an accident at the mill. Fred Adams built six houses for the mill in 1956. In 1956 the company purchased the assets and business of Longworths (Laurieton Pty Ltd). which consisted of mills at Laurieton and Comboyne as well as a retail yard at Punchbowl, a suburb of Sydney.
In the late 1950s a study of sawmilling practice showed that one large sawmill was more efficient and more economical than a series of smaller, scattered mills. Thus, in 1959 and 1960, a new sawmill was built on the site beside the second Herons Creek mill. The new mill gradually took over from the old mill with the old mill eventually being taken away.
Into the 1960s the manager was Len Carragher. Tractor men were Oscar and Alan Murray, Norm Tinkler, loggers Mick Willmen, Todd and Joe Lamb, Bill Boyd. The next manager was Bill Rutter. Zinc Co. sold the mill to Duncans Holdings; it was later sold to Boral. Dean Buttsworth replanted the forest at Butlers.
Charles Fenning wrote “Boral have spent a lot of money on kiln-drying facilities, but it remains very much a labour-intensive mill.” In April 1969 the mill was controversially given approval to use part of the cemetery grounds. In November 1969 there was a woodchop at Herons Creek with the proceeds to benefit St Marys. The mill donated the trophy. In 1982 Graham Barnes was killed in an accident at the mill.
The mill continues operating to this day as the jewel in Boral’s hardwood crown.
Sources: C. Fenning Echoes of the Axe, Timber Stories of the Hastings, Footprints and Foundations, Hastings Shire Gazette. With thanks to Len Carragher.