Augusta and Surrounds

Three years after the settlement at Albany the Swan River Colony (Perth) was established and a year later, in 1830, the Augusta settlement was formed with the arrival of the Molloy, Bussell, Chapman, Layman and Turner families and their employees and families. The name Augusta was chosen after the daughter of King George III of England.

The new settlers found the first few years very difficult as they embarked on a process of trial and error in imposing European agricultural techniques on a very different land. They had to learn to work with new soils, different climate and had limited labour and machinery to contend with.

The unfavorable conditions at Augusta including isolation, lack of government assistance, no transportation, poor soils and the difficulty of clearing karri country saw the failure of this settlement which could not sustain itself. By 1864 it was reported that only four families remained.

A number of the original pioneering families moved to Vasse, which later became Busselton and in 1849 the Turners also moved back to the Swan River colony.

Agricultural pursuits in the new location of Vasse were marginally more successful and it was closer to the colony's capital. Some families also became involved in the whaling industry to supplement their incomes.

The land here was found to be suitable for grazing and since there was strong demand for dairy products from the Swan River Colony, Vasse began to fill the demand. Geographe Bay offered safe anchorage which provided easier access to the market of the Swan River Colony. The Busselton Jetty was constructed in 1865 to service the growing agricultural and timber export markets. The timber industry boomed once the jetty was in place and the Vasse settlement thrived.

During this period relations between the settlers and the local Wardandi tribe began to deteriorate. Initially the new arrivals were assisted by the local indigenous people who helped them find fresh water but by 1837 the settlers began to complain.

In June 1837 nine Aboriginal people from the Wardandi tribe were killed after they slaughtered a cow for food. The following month, the local Constable Elijah Dawson was speared in his cottage. It appears that relations continued to worsen. George Layman was killed in 1841, and seven Aboriginal people were shot whilst the military searched for his attacker. An Aboriginal leader Gaware was shot two weeks later. There is some conjecture that the attack on Layman wasn't unprovoked as he had taken the wife of his attacker into his home as a maid.

It is understandable that tensions were high at the Vasse settlement as this area provided better pastures for the English settlers but was also prime hunting ground for the local Wardandi people who were quickly displaced as European style agriculture took over.

Further south the timber industry had begun to grow and in 1881 Mr MC Davies built a mill at Cooldardup along with jetties in Flinders and Hamelin Bays (near Augusta). A rail line was built to supply timber to the jetties. In 1882 the Cooldardup mill was dismantled and a new one built at Karridale. The town of Karridale grew around this mill and another mill was soon built at Boranup. At its peak the town of Karridale was home to over 300 men and their families.

The enterprising MC Davies along with a Mr Wishart tendered to erect the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and three cottages in 1895. Construction commenced in December that year with the foundation stone being laid by Sir John Forrest. Davies and Wishart also constructed the water wheel to supply the lighthouse with water - this was done at their own cost. Construction of the lighthouse took one year and it was commissioned on the 10 December 1896.

By 1910 the district's timber industry had begun to decline and the Karridale and Boranup mills were closed. The timber industry continued from Busselton and didn't begin to decline there until the 1960's.

At the same time that Augusta was being settled by pioneering families an expedition, led by Governor James Stirling, was navigating up the Collie River to the Darling Range, the members of which claimed large land grants. Stirling himself claimed more than 20,000 acres. A camp was developed at the new town site of Port Leschenault (Bunbury) and a military regiment was dispatched to protect, the yet to arrive, settlers.

However no settlers arrived and the soldiers were sent to Augusta. Port Leschenault was renamed Bunbury in 1836 in honour of Lieutenant Bunbury, the first European to trek there, overland from Pinjarra. Bunbury's first settlers, the Scott family, did not arrive until 1838. From its slow beginnings Bunbury was boosted by the arrival of convict labour, between 1851 and 1868. The demand for goods increased, the workforce was expanded and the economy stimulated. A boom in timber cutting for the construction of railways and the goldrush in nearby Donnybrook took Bunbury from being a small colony outpost to a town by 1900. The Port of Bunbury became the region's main export channel and saw the closure of the Busselton port in 1972.

The Manjimup region was first settled in 1856 near the present town site of Manjimup and it grew from a strong agriculture and timber past. The Manjimup district including the towns of Quinninup, and Pemberton are famous for their dense karri forest and were some of the first towns to receive settlers under the Group Settlement Scheme that began in 1920. Nearby Northcliffe was established for the sole purpose of this scheme.

The timber industry began to boom between 1910 and 1920 and saw growth in the smaller mill towns such as Quinninup, which is 30 kilometres south of Manjimup. Pemberton also really came into being with the establishment of its first saw mill in 1913, although it was first settled in the 1880's.

Just north of Manjimup, Bridgetown was first settled in 1857 by the pioneering family of Hester and John Blechynden. The township of Bridgetown was built on land owned by the Blechynden's and was gazetted in 1868, making it one of the oldest towns in the region.

In 1861 convicts formed and maintained the section of road from Donnybrook to Bridgetown, opening up the region and encouraging more settlers.

The Bridgetown settlement thrived with the agricultural industry well established and flourishing by 1885. The town was a prime producer of sheep, cattle, dairy products, timber, fruit and nuts. The apple industry began around 1905 when the first commercial orchards came to maturity, this product in its own right helped put Bridgetown on the agricultural map.

1889 saw the railway line extended down to Bridgetown further boosting the town's prosperity as new markets were opened up, particularly for fruit and timber.

The early prosperity of Bridgetown is reflected in its historic buildings many of which have been lovingly restored. The entire town now has historic town status and is protected by the National Trust.

The small township of Balingup to the north of Bridgetown was first settled in 1859 by Walter Padbury, whose historic homestead, Ferndale, still stands on the Nannup Road. Balingup benefited from the road between Bunbury and Bridgetown and a coaching inn was established in 1864. This inn is still standing and now operates as a bed and breakfast.

Balingup's orchard industry began in 1895 with the arrival of a Swiss nurseryman called Jacob Hawter. Hawter established what was then the largest orchard in the state. By 1933 dairy farming had become the major agricultural industry and a cheese factory was established (still standing). However the lack of suitable land for irrigation saw the farms become uncompetitive and the cheese factory was closed in 1977.

The first metal producing mine in Western Australia was built in nearby Greenbushes in 1888. The mine is still in production and is the world's largest tantalum producer. Another town built on the back of the mining industry was Collie.

First explored in 1829 by Dr Alexander Collie RN the area was originally thought to be good for grazing and timber production but the discovery of coal in 1883 changed this direction. The town was formally gazetted in 1896 and grew to become a vitally important town; supplying the state with coal which was the main resource for power generation in railways, shipping and for electricity.

The timber industry also prospered with some mills such as Lyall's Mill supporting communities into the 1950s, until its closure and subsequent move to the present site of the Sotico Mill in Collie. To the west of Collie, Worsley, was once a thriving timber mill town. The town peaked in 1902 with a population of over 1500 but this beagn to decline by the mid 1920's. The town had all but disappeared by the mid 1950s.

Surrounding areas such as Cardiff, Collie Burn and Shotts were built around the early underground coal mines. Like the old timber mills, most of these towns are now either abandoned or are home to those looking for a quiet rural lifestyle.

The 1950's saw settlers move further inland from the earliest settlements at Augusta and Vasse. One of these new areas was called the Lower Blackwood and later became Nannup. The Lower Blackwood was the point where people heading further inland to their farms on the Warren and Donnelly rivers crossed the mighty Blackwood River. This isolated settlement grew gradually as timber mill workers and farmers moved into the district.

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