Two letters were seen on Ebay, both addressed to Dr. Harold L. Lyon at the Experiment Station, H.S.P.A. (Hawaiian Sugar Plantation Association), P.O. Box 411, Honolulu, T.H., (Territory of Hawaii). Both covers had a pair of the red 1½d KGV Head stamps, the first cancelled BROADWATER/ 30 JE 28/ N.S.W and the second BROADWATER/ 13 AP 29/ N.S.W. (Figures 1 & 2).
The front and reverse gave no clue as to the name of the person who sent the letter, other than it was sent from The Colonial Sugar Refinery Co. Ltd., (main branch) in Sydney. Broadwater is located in north-eastern New South Wales, some 26 km south of Ballina, and 727 km north of Sydney. It is a small town which had a population of 463 in 2006. It is located on the Richmond River and it is characterized by a sugar mill.
In 1880 the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) decided to establish a major sugar mill in the town. The company was so confident that the town’s population would increase tenfold , from about 20 to 200-300 at the time of the mill’s opening in 1881, that they asked for a Post Office to be built. The local school was built in 1855, and the mill quickly established itself as the centre of the community, drawing workers from Coraki, which lies west of the town. Broadwater still relies on the Sugar mill for its economic livelihood. The mill was sold by the CSR in 1978 and it is now owned by the NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative. The town of Broadwater is shown on the map, located at the red arrow (Figure 3).
Dr. Harold Lloyd Lyon (October 14, 1879-May 15, 1957) was born and raised in Minnesota, the fourth child of a family known for being teachers, and he attended the University of Minnesota, where he received his doctoral degree in Botany in 1902. He married another Botanist, Maude Fletcher in 1906 and she would help him in his work. He worked as the temporary head of the University’s Botany Department during his superior’s illness, and he hoped to attain that position, but an outsider was chosen for that position. A month later he was contacted by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) to become their Plant Pathologist (at twice the salary at Minnesota) and he moved to Hawaii in 1907 and continued to work there for the next 50 years.
In 1919, the HSPA bought 124 acres and he was placed in charge of a newly created Department of Botany and Forestation for the Territory of Hawaii. He introduced reforestation to the Island and his work with sugar cane was so valuable that the pineapple growers borrowed him to solve the diseases on their fruit. He organized the first plant pathology Department established in any U.S. Experiment Station, and he developed the Mano Arboretum for botanical studies, as well as a scientific library for botanists. The arboretum was renamed the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum after his death in 1957.
He had been awarded the Medal of Honor of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the highest horticultural award in America. His research included experiments with a plant source for cortisone, and in the 1940's he worked on plant sources for production of alcohol to supplement gasoline. He found that sugar cane was the best source for alcohol production at 444.5 gallons per acre, with sugar beets 287 gallons, potatoes 178 gallons, and corn only produces to-day 88.8 gallons per acre. A picture of Harold L. Lyon is seen in Figure 4.
The sender of the letter from CSR at Broadwater probably was consulting Dr. Harold Lyon in his capacity of being an expert in diseases of sugar cane.