Marian, a rural town of 1000 people, is 24 km west of Mackay. Situated in the Pioneer River Valley, it is in the heart of a sugar growing area.
By the late 1870s cane was the dominant industry, and David McEachran owned substantial acreage. In 1883 he built a sugar mill, employing Marian Smith for secretarial work. She was the daughter of local commission agent, and McEachran named the mill and its associated plantation after her. He also engaged a Melbourne builder, David Mitchell, to construct the mill works. Mitchell was accompanied by his 22 year-old daughter, Helen, who married the mill manager, Charles Armstrong. The Armstrongs lived in the mill manager's house until Helen left him with their son. She embarked on an operatic career under the name Nellie Melba. The Melba house (the former mill residence) was acquired by Mirani Shire and re-erected on the river bank, two kilometres from Marian.
The Pioneer Valley railway was opened from Mackay to Mirani (via Marian) in 1885, and Marian primary school was opened the next year. In 1894 the mill failed and the Marian mill estate was subdivided for cane farms. By then there was also a public hall, and local farmers meeting either at the school or the hall organised the building of a new central mill (1895).
Ten years later the post office directory recorded a small town with two stores, a post office, the Railway Hotel, a baker, a saddler and four blacksmiths (mainly for maintenance at the mill and making of cane farm implements). In the late 1940s there were also a cinema, a Catholic church and a convent school.
The Pioneer Valley is subject to massive downpours and occasional dry periods. An early project to even out the climatic vagaries was the construction of the Marian weir on the Pioneer River in 1952. A larger water storage, Kinchant Dam, was built in stages between 1977 and 1986. The town was connected to the Mackay electricity grid in 1954.
In 1966 the mill changed from company ownership to a growers' co-operative, and in 1988 it jointly purchased the Pleystowe mill, 11 km east of Marian. The amalgamated entity became the Mackay Sugar Co-operative.
Marian has grown fairly much with Mirani, the administrative centre of the former Mirani Shire. Until 1990 the population of each was about the same, but by 2001 Mirani's 700 people was about 150 more than Marian's. Each town's sewerage scheme proceeded at the same time (2006), and by then Marian's population had passed Mirani's.
Marian has local shops, a kindergarten, a primary school, a bowling club and the Railway Hotel. Its census populations have been:
H.A. Moore, The Marian story, Marian, Marian Mill Co-operative Society, 1980