Otto Olson's Steam Sawmill at Wisemans Ferry

aka Hawkesbury Sawmill, Wiseman's Ferry Saw Mills, Hawkesbury Butter Factory

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In 1908, the enterprising Otto Olson erected a butter factory near Wisemans Ferry, NSW. To efficiently occupy his staff while he encouraged local dairies to take up contracts with his new butter factory, Otto Olson built an extensive steam sawmill beside the butter factory.

The sawmill had a breaking down frame that could cut slabs from large logs. These slabs were then passed onto the circular saw benches. A tramway was installed to haul logs from the jetty to the sawmill, and this tramway was also used to transport loads of cream and butter for the factory. [1]

Above: Otto Olson's Butter Factory with the crowd on the opening day in 1908. The tramway used to carry logs to the sawmill, and butter and cream for the factory, can be seen in the foreground.   Source: Australian Town and Country Journal, 22 July 1908, page 26, archived in Trove.

Above: an advertisement for Otto Olson's Wiseman's Ferry Saw Mills.
Source: the Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 27 June 1908.

The factory and saw mill were located on two acres of land previously owned by Mr T. A. W. Wilson, opposite Wisemans Ferry, between the mouths of the Macdonald River and Webbs Creek. [1] By an interesting coincidence, Olson's 1908 Butter Factory was built on a stretch of the Hawkesbury River that was called "Milkmaid Reach" – see map below. According to the website, this part of the river was known as Milkmaid Reach as early as 1803.

Above: the location of Otto Olson's Butter Factory and Sawmill (arrow) between the mouths of the Macdonald River and Webbs Creek, opposite Wisemans Ferry. The land labelled "A. C. Richardson (just above the arrow) previously belonged to T. A. W. Wilson. Image based on the 1964 map of the Parish of Wonga, National Library of Australia.

A grand opening for the "Hawkesbury Butter Factory" was held on 14 July 1908. About 300 people gathered to see Mr Brinsley Hall, MLA, open the factory and to see the machinery set in motion. Over 60 people had already contracted to send all their cream to the factory for three years, and the machinery was capable of producing 10 tons of butter per week. [1, 2] For a detailed description of the butter factory machinery, see reference [1].

Otto Olson said that his goal was to encourage the local suppliers to convert the Hawkesbury Butter Factory into a co-operative business. He had previously opened a butter factory at Cessnock, NSW, and this was soon successfully running as a co-operative. [1]

In later years, road transport took local cream to be processed at Wyong. The butter factory became a butcher's shop for many years but now is a private residence. [3]

Another fascinating sawmill at Wisemans Ferry at during this period was known as Bailey's Mill. This mill was powered, in earlier years, by tidal water flows on the Hawkesbury River. Ian Webb wrote a detailed account of this rare sawmill, which we have been given permission to reproduce, in full, in the following eBook:

To read the full story of Bill Bailey's Saw Mill at Wisemans Ferry,
download our free PDF:

Bailey's Mill – a Rare Australian Tidal Sawmill

Free eBook about Bill Bailey's Mill at Wisemans Ferry, NSW

Ian Webb's report, that is based on the recollections of Herb O'Neil, is reproduced with kind permission of the Dharug & Lower Hawkesbury Historical Society.


1. Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 18 July 1908.
2. The Daily Telegraph, 15 July 1908.
3. Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historical Society (2002) The Ferry, the Branch, the Creek. Revised edition. Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historical Society, Wisemans Ferry, NSW.

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