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Buhôt, John (1831–1881)

by C. T. Wood

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

John Buhôt (1831-1881), sugar-boiler, was born in Barbados, son of John Buhôt, merchant, and his wife Elizabeth, née Walcott. In 1861 in London he married Jessie Edith Crane; they had four sons and three daughters. He arrived in Brisbane in the Montmorency on 11 April 1862, and in that month made a little sugar in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. He was employed by Louis Hope who dismissed him and engaged J. W. Strachan, an engineer. In December 1862 Buhôt was engaged for a year by Claudius Whish; though dismissed in October 1863 he was paid for the next two months.

Buhôt won a Queensland Daily Guardian essay competition on sugar and a lively newspaper controversy followed. On 12 July 1864 he presented a memorial to the governor asking for reward, but the colonial treasurer's reply was unfavourable. In September when Hope made three tons of dry sugar and fifteen tons of molasses Buhôt expressed gratification, 'particularly when I learned that such sugar had been manufactured from cane planted by me during the period I was manager'; but he criticized the use of centrifugals in manufacture. In 1872 he petitioned the Legislative Assembly for a reward. In 1874 a select committee chaired by (Sir) Samuel Griffith reported inter alia that Buhôt was the first to make sugar from cane grown in the colony and recommended that he be granted 500 acres (202 ha). Griffith's motion to that effect in the Assembly was defeated 24 to 5, after a debate in which several members criticized Buhôt and the limited nature of the inquiry. He bought fifty-six acres (23 ha) of freehold at Logan Road and was enrolled in the Oxley electorate. On 31 January 1876 he transferred the land to his wife and leased 535 acres (217 ha) in the parish of Redlands where he was enrolled as a lease holder in the Bulimba electorate; he transferred his land on 21 May 1877. He died aged 50 in Brisbane on 11 September 1881.

According to the Logan Witness, 'Upon several occasions Mr. Buhôt has tried to get the Queensland Legislature to acknowledge his efforts but through want of tact and differing from those who took up his cause, every effort was unsuccessful. Some time ago Mr. Buhôt inherited a very fair competency, and he imagined he understood business and went into it, and lost like a man. In private life Mr. Buhôt had many real friends and admirers but it was no uncommon thing for him to abuse them very roundly. He has left a numerous family, and it is to be hoped they will get on, as Buhôt used to say, better without him than with him, for they are all provided for by Mrs. Buhôt's ancestors, who are wealthy planters in Barbados'. A reply came quickly, listing the statements in his memorial and petition, and adding: 'Notwithstanding all these efforts, he, we regret to say, reaped but little personal benefit therefrom, and died leaving his family in anything but comfortable circumstances. By the way, we are requested to correct an error made by the Logan Witness in stating that Mrs. Buhôt has wealthy kinsfolk in Barbados, the fact being that she has no relations or connections in Barbados at all'.

In 1884 Buhôt's widow applied for a gratuity of £500 in recognition of his services to the sugar industry, but she was not successful. His zeal and energy in trying to promote sugar growing was never in doubt, but he came from Barbados, some thirteen degrees from the equator and whether he was justified in asking farmers to grow cane near Brisbane, with its liability to frost, is debatable. A memorial plaque in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens was erected by the sugar industry in 1962.

Select Bibliography

  • C. T. Wood, Sugar Country (Brisb, 1965)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1884, 1, 128
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1874, 903
  • Brisbane Courier, 1862, 1881, 1916
  • Titles and Survey office, records (Queensland State Archives)
  • Whish diaries (State Library of Queensland).

Citation details

C. T. Wood, 'Buhôt, John (1831–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/buhot-john-3107/text4615, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 14 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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