Remembering Andrew Leon 1840-1920

Jul 7, 2020

CADCAI is a proud supporter of the Hap Wah Project which recently erected a memorial headstone on the previously unmarked grave of Andrew Leon and Mary Leon at Cairns Cemetery. The unofficial unveiling of the headstone on 27 June 2020 celebrated the 100th anniversary of Andrew’s passing.  CADCAI acknowledges and thanks Julia Volkmar OAM for her valuable work and generous contribution to this research project. 

Andrew Leon was an important Cairns pioneer and community leader in the late 19th century. It is not known when Andrew first came to Queensland but he was in Bowen in 1866, baptised in 1868 and married an Irish woman Mary Piggott in St Mary’s Catholic Church in 1869.  The family followed the gold trail to Ravenswood, Millchester, and then Cooktown where he managed various Chinese enterprises including Sun Yee Lee & Co in 1875.

When Cairns opened as a port in 1876, Leon was one of the first Chinese to arrive.  Having taken the oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria to become a British subject in the Colony, Leon was able to purchase property and make significant agricultural acquisitions for the Hap Wah Co. He established and managed the 1,250 acre Hap Wah Plantation and Pioneer Mill between 1878 and 1882  – the first sugar plantation and mill in the Cairns District. The plantation also grew the first cotton ​export​ from the area ​in 1882​, the same year as their first sugar export. The other significant purchase by Leon in 1886 was an allotment in Cairns Chinatown which the Chungshan Lit Sung Goong temple was built and opened in 1887. 

 Leon was a Trustee for the temple. Having served the community as court interpreter from the 1870s through his elder years and assisting his countryman by interpreting on other matters, Leon was among the most highly respected men in both the European and Chinese communities of Cairns during the 1880 and 1890s.












Cairns & District Chinese
Association Inc

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