The Sawmill of the
Colonial Hardwood Company

Operated by Ralph Abrahams, Wolf Cohen and Gilbert Follett at Wisemans Ferry 

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The Colonial Hardwood Company operated a sawmill at Wisemans Ferry, NSW, for a brief period in 1896.

Our research suggests that this sawmill, and a very similar enterprise run by the Sydney Wood Block Paving Company, may both have been linked to the early history of Bailey's Mill on Dillons Creek.

The Colonial Hardwood Company

This company's registered address was 1 Jersey Chambers, 334 George Street, Sydney.

The grand seal of the Colonial Hardwood Company that was attached to company paperwork

Above: the impressive seal of the Colonial Hardwood Company that was used on the company Agreement document, dated 17 April 1896.

According to company paperwork held in the NSW State Archives, the Colonial Hardwood Company Limited was established on 18 March 1896 to "take over as a going concern the business of a timber and hardwood merchant and general storekeeper now carried on at Wisemans Ferry and in Sydney by Ralph Abrahams and Wolf Cohen".

The shareholders, five of whom were related to Wolf Cohen, were listed on the company Articles of Association:

-- Wolf Cohen,
-- Clara Cohen (wife of Wolf Cohen),
-- Eve Abrahams (daughter of Wolf Cohen, and wife of Ralph Abrahams),
-- Gilbert Follett,
-- Leon Lazarus Cohen (son of Wolf Cohen),
-- Ralph Abrahams, and
-- James P ? Greig, clerk.

The shareholders of the Colonial Hardwood Company of Sydney and Wisemans Ferry in 1896

Above: the shareholder details listed in the Articles of Association document of the Colonial Hardwood Company in 1896.  

Wolf Cohen (1825-1905) was born in Sheffield, UK. He married Clara Jacobs in Birmingham in 1851. They had three children in UK, and then two more in Australia.

Wolf Cohen appears to have emigrated to Australia on his own, arriving in Melbourne in 1860. Clara and the three eldest children, Rosa, Eva and Edward, were recorded in the 1861 UK census, living in Sheffield. Clara's occupation was a "pawnbroker mistress". Clara and the children joined Wolf in Australia in 1862. Their next son, Leon Lazarus Cohen, was born in Victoria in 1870. Wolf Cohen was described as a timber merchant in 1896.

Ralph Abrahams (1857-1934) was born in Melbourne, Victoria. He married Eve Cohen (the daughter of Wolf Cohen) in Albury, NSW, in 1882. Ralph Abrahams was described as a timber merchant in 1896.

Gilbert Follett (1846-1914) was born in Devon, UK. He married Lydia Bennett French in about 1867 in UK. Their daughter, Catherine Lowe Follett was born in Devonshire in 1870. Gilbert, Lydia and Catherine Follett were recorded in the 1881 UK census, living in Devon. Gilbert's occupation was recorded as "Foreman, Sawmills". Gilbert Follett came to Australia as an assisted immigrant, arriving in Queensland on the Quetta in 1888. He was accompanied by "Mrs Follett" and "Eva Follett".

Gilbert Follett was the manager of a sawmill in Wisemans Ferry in 1896, when the business was taken over by the Colonial Hardwood Company. His previous experience as a foreman of a sawmill in UK would have given him good qualifications for this position. In 1898, Gilbert Follett's daughter, Catherine Lowe Follett, married John Galpine (a former owner of the Sydney Wood Block Paving Co).

The Colonial Hardwood Company Mill

We have found no record of this mill's precise location so far, other than that it operated in Wisemans Ferry.

The land where the Colonial Hardwood Company sawmill stood in Wisemans Ferry was described in the company's 1896 Memorandum of Agreement document as a "leasehold hereditament".

We have only found four advertisements by the Colonial Hardwood Company in the Trove newspaper archive, all in 1896:

-- in April, sleeper-getters were wanted for the company; [1]
-- in June, a benchman was wanted for their Wisemans Ferry sawmill; [2]
-- in August, bullock or horse teams were wanted to draw logs on the Hawkesbury; [3] and
-- in September, bullock teams were wanted to draw logs. [4]

In 1896 the Colonial Hardwood Company advertised for a benchman for their sawmill at Wisemans Ferry NSW

Above: On 20 June 1896, The Colonial Hardwood Company advertised in The Daily Telegraph for a benchman for their sawmills at Wisemans Ferry.

The Colonial Hardwood Company appears to have quickly failed. On 29 November 1899, Leon L. Cohen sent a statement to the Registrar General's Department stating that "the Company has been defunct for years."

Possible links between the Sydney Wood Block Paving Co and the Colonial Hardwood Co

-- Both operations included a sawmill and a general store.

-- The Sydney Wood Block Paving Co's sawmill stood on leasehold land; and the Colonial Hardwood Co's property was also described as a leasehold.

-- Finally, the wedding of John Galpine and Catherine Follett in 1898 suggests a family link between two sawmill companies: John Galpine was an owner of the Sydney Wood Block Paving Company sawmill from 1894 to 1895; and Catherine's father, Gilbert, was the manager of the Colonial Hardwood Company sawmill in 1896.

Our background research suggests that the sawmills of these two companies may have successively been run on the site where Bailey's Mill later stood, on land that was originally granted to James Singleton.

Do you know any further details about
the Colonial Hardwood Company sawmill?

Please Contact us.

Researched by Anne and Les Dollin


1. The Daily Telegraph, 27 April 1896.
2. The Daily Telegraph, 20 June 1896.
3. Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 1 August 1896.
4. Goulburn Herald, 28 September 1896.

Further Reading on Mills at Wisemans Ferry
The Wisemans Ferry MillsTidal flour mill at Laybury Creek MillBailey's sawmillThe Sydney Wood Block Paving Company sawmillOtto Olson's sawmill