Hutton - J C Hutton Pty Ltd - Zillmere

In the Beginning

Joseph Walsh Lee bought a 73 acre block No. 5 between the present Beams and Zillmere Roads, crossed by Cabbage Tree Creek and later, by the North Coast Railway. Later Pineapple Street was built along the south eastern side of the property.

Marion Eaton notes that Joseph and Jane Lee with their daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth arrived from England in 1863 and the home they built still stands in Zillmere Road, facing the railway line station white high rise with a big bushy tree in front. Joseph Lee became a prominent farmer in the area, growing among other crops, pineapples from which Pineapple Street gets its name. Today the area is the site of large warehouses, Department of Road Transport offices and Licence Testing Centre.

Joseph Lee took up 70 acres which was later bought by J C Hutton
Joseph Lee's 73 acres were strategically sited for future development as an industrial site. The railway came and provided cheap transport, a village developed to supply labour and farms were able to supply raw materials.

Then came J C Hutton

In the 1880s J C Hutton, a ham and bacon business founded by James Carruthers Hutton in 1873 in Preston, Melbourne bought the Lee property and the adjacent area of some 40 acres between it and the railway line. They then built the Ham and Bacon Factory which opened in 1889.

Part of the property continued to produce pineapples, from which the name Pineapple was used as a brand name, and other crops irrigated by waste water from the Bacon works. There was also a dairy farm that employed about six workers and a pig stud where prize pigs were used to service local sows and so improve the local herds.

1896 photo showing the factory and pineapple plantation
This 1896 photo shows the pineapple plantation beside the factory. Photo courtesy of John Oxley Museum.

John Reid - Manager

John Reid (1858-1919) worked for J C Hutton since 1877 and came to Queensland to open a agency of the business in Fortitude Valley in 1882, a branch in Townsville in 1897 and to manage the Zillmere works in 1898. In 1908 the firm became J C Hutton Pty Ltd with Reid as managing director in Queensland. He steered the firm through depression and drought making its "Pineapple" brand and the "Don't Argue" trademark well known in Queensland and overseas especially in East Asia. He actively helped dairy farmers to use good practices so that they raised healthy pigs to supply Hutton's with the raw material for their ham and bacon. A lot of this work was done through the butter and cheese factories of the Siverwood Dairy Factory Co Ltd throughout the Darling Downs with Reid as a director. (Aust Dictionary of Biography)

Hutton's factory
This view of the factory shows the road leading into the works. Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library.

The Effects of Hutton's on the Local Area

The Siverwood Gazette of June 21st 1909 wrote: "Huttons represented a unique pioneering venture in that it produced ham and bacon in a subtropical climate as contrasted with similar firms which are located in the milder climates of the world where the air is dry and cool and the sun has nothing like the intensity found in Queensland."

It was a gamble by Hutton's but it must have paid off since it lasted 75 years in Zillmere and brought prosperity to the local area in the form of many jobs for local men who, in turn, spent much of their wages with local businesses. It also sponsored Cricket teams and a Rifle Club for the employees and rates for the Kedron Shire, later the Brisbane City Council.

The firm was large enough with a throughput of some 3,000 pigs per week to reach peak efficiency and to be comparable with the American producers in the utilisation of by-products. Like the American meat packers Hutton's used everything of the pig except the squeal.

Photograph of the workforce c1924
Hutton's workforce of 1924, most of whom come from the local area. It seems to be a wholly male preserve, but there may have been some women in the office. Photo courtesy of Carr Family.

The Factory Floor from Pig to Bacon

The general progression of production from pig to bacon was from west to east starting at the pig pens on the left side of the photo and progressing to the waiting rail wagons at the eastern end.

(1) The pig run or race - The pigs were herded from the railway siding in the top right corner of the photo along a lane which ran down to, and along the side of, Zillmere Road to the pig pens at the western end of the factory.
(2)The processing began at the killing floor where the pigs were quickly killed and bled
(3) The carcass put into the scalding vat where the hair was removed by the scudding machine
(4) The slaughter men removed the intestines and the carcass was inspected by Government men - intestines to the sausage section.
(5) The carcass was hung and sent to the chiller rooms for overnight storage.
(6) Cutting up the carcass into the various saleable parts.
(7) Put into the curing vats for a period of six weeks.
(8) Washing and drying of the cured bacon and ham.
(9) Hung in the smokehouse overnight - smoke from smouldering sawdust.
(10) Bagged and sent to the railway truck which would come into the factory.
(11) Other departments were the sausage (many different types), lard, liver extract and fertilizer which included anything that could not be otherwise used. Everything except the pig's squeal.

Diagram showing the plan of Hutton's factory at Zillmere
This floor plan shows the various sections of the factory. The production began by unloading the pigs at the rail siding on the top right of the photo or eastern end of the factory and walking them to the other end of the factory, western end, along the Pig Run.

Sam Mison

Sam Mison was the foreman at Huttons for many years. He was asked in 1933 to write an account of his time there. The original letter written to E J Skelton, is held by the John Oxley Library.
With reference to your letter of 4th instant, in connection with my association with J C Hutton & Company and the bacon industry, I may state that the remark in your letter regarding my slaughtering of over a million pigs is quite correct. I am writing you a letter in connection with the bacon industry and portion of my life's work so as you may be able to obtain a few extracts for what you require.

I was born in Gibraltar in 1869 and landed in Queensland six years later. After settling in Queensland my parents were engaged in brick making at Lutwyche, my first job was carting bricks to the Boys and Girls Grammar School and Boggo Road goal. When business was slack in the brick business, I had my first experience in slaughtering at the old co-operative slaughter yard (or otherwise known as Mooney's) at the Grange. One day I was asked if I would like a job in J C Huttons then situated in the Valley and I accepted a position of washing bacon and hams. These were a few dressed pigs treated in those days which came from local farmers but most of the work was green bacon received from Melbourne and New Zealand. The late Mr John Reid then bought a piece of land at Zillmere from a Mr John Lee where the bacon factory now stands. This would be about May 1889.

I commenced slaughtering when the Zillmere factory opened and carried on for over two years when I left and went north as far as Bourketown. At this place I made bricks for the Bourketown works, but did not stay long and returned to Brisbane obtaining a position with the Hollander Meat Curing Company, owned by William Dobbyn. Owing to the machinery breaking down I was again out of employment and Mr John Reid hearing of this sent word and asked me if I would care to return to Zillmere factory which I did in March 1894 and I have been employed there permanently ever since.

In those days of course the method of scalding was far different to the present day when a man would kill a number of pigs and fill the scalds, then help at scalding which was done by hand and he would take a full day to get through the number, the machines now do in a couple of hours.

I remember one day Mr Reid telling me that it was a wonder that I was not ashamed to look a pig in the face as I had killed one 1,000,000 since I commenced slaughtering. If you kill from 50,000 to 70,000 a year and I was doing so for over 25 years you will see that his statement was quite correct.

After the death of Mr Frank Weston in 1915 who was then foreman of works I was entrusted with that position which I now hold.

I can remember when the farmers from the Dayboro district would leave home the night before in their German wagons to arrive at the factory in the morning to get all their pigs killed.

I am very pleased to see the government taking an interest in the pig raising line, as I think the new Berkshire Boar will be an asset to the industry as I am in favour of this breed if it is the correct shape. I am of the opinion that the large white breed will not cut too well however I will not condemn it at this stage but I think it has too long a neck and a flat shoulder. When you cut the shoulder off, you will find it is nearly as long as the middle and very flat, and not enough lean to compensate for the fat, anyway, it is very pleasing to know we have someone who is willing to spend a few pounds for the betterment of this industry.

We have had some good pigs crossed between Burke boar and Closter, spot sow, and of course if the breeder is not careful and does not select a broad long sow in any breed he going to get what I term a slab side.

There is one thing I always like to impress upon farmers and that is the accumulation of filth in the sties, as some day you may get a disease that will wipe out the whole breed. You may remember a few years back when Mr Denham ( the Premier) advocated for better sanitary with regard to cream and milk such as erection of out-houses for milk cans and separators and inspectors to periodically visit the various farms which I think should be done in regards to pig- raising. The mode of transport at the present day is a great help to the farmer as the old days of the German wagon transport took home to cart the milk and cream and also the pigs to market.

I remember a story I was once told about the Inspector and the German wagon. Some farmers in a certain district met at the Chapel every Sunday and one was telling the other about a cow he had which had which had developed a bad cough and his friend said, well, when the Inspector comes around next week you could ask him what he thought was wrong. However next time they met, his friend inquired what the Inspector had said, and he told him he could not think of the name of the disease, but he had to kill the cow and burn it or every cow may get the same complaint. In the meantime his wife happened to come along and he asked her the name of the sickness the cow had and she said it sounded like "Two bucking horses".

Most farmers are not careful enough in handling of pigs as you would be surprised at the number of bruised pigs that are received. There are about 6 flitches bruised out of every hundred and if you average each at 24 lbs and the price is reduced at 1d per pound which is a low estimate, this means 2/- per flitch and the same number of bruised hams are received, which if averaged at 12 lbs each would be a loss of 1/- each. When you take the average killing of 1000 per week this would make a loss of nearly ₤1000 per annum for bruises alone.

Only recently I had a pig, and the marks on the body distinctly showed that it had been belted with a Gothic top paling and the hams mostly appear to having been bruised by being kicked with the boot.

I do not intend to say much more at present but will write you again in the near future when I will give you a little of what I would like to say regarding feeding.
Hoping you will be able to extract a little of what you require from the preceding paragraphs as I am of the same opinion as yourself in thinking, it is all for a good cause.
With kind regards,
Yours faithfully

Sam Mison

Sam Mison bought this house at 500 Robinson Road Aspley in September 1905.