A short history of Perenjori
The name Perenjori is derived from the Aboriginal word “Perangery”, meaning water hole. Sir John Forrest conducted exploration 1869, and surveyed the area in 1896. Gold was discovered in 1894.
Dan Woodall was the first permanent white settler to the region and managed Perangery Station in 1905. In 1906 Matt Farrell first came to Perangery carting goods from Rothsay to Yalgoo and Mount Magnet. He marked trees where he wished to take up land in the area. The four Farrell brothers, Thomas, William, Matthew, George, then took up the land. The Lands Department approved agricultural lots of 1,000 acres, instead of huge pastoral leases granted previously.
The first crops from 1911 to 1913 were sown by hand and used largely for horse feed, home food, hay and seed wheat. When the railway line was officially opened in 1915, the town’s estimated population was 100. Perenjori was officially announced as a town on February 16th 1916.
Over time the spelling of the town and shire changed to Perenjori. Today it is one of the largest agricultural Shires in WA, with a combination of farming, pastoral and mining leases. In 2012 the town hosted a centenary celebration of its history.
To find out more of the history of Perenjori visit the WA State Library and search for Perenjori.
‘Sound of the Cockies, Perenjori: 100 years of stories’
Written by Bill and Jenny Bunbury
Published and launched at the Agricultural Show on the 15th August 2015.
Purchasing is available from the Perenjori Shire and the Perenjori Visitors Centre.
“From Western Australia’s northern Wheatbelt comes tales of courage and resilience from men and women who have lived and farmed in this harsh but beautiful landscape since European settlement. These stories also capture the cultural beliefs and personal histories of local First Australians.
Drawing on historical accounts and interviews with people who have lived or still live in the Shire of Perenjori, ‘Sound of the Cockies, Perenjori: 100 years of stories’, records efforts to keep family farms viable and small towns alive through the tribulations of two world wars, the Great Depression, droughts and rural population decline.
It tells lessons learned and bold experiments to revitalise the shire’s economy through alternative farming practices and by generating new sources of income from mining and land conservation.
But it also tells of deep connection to place and community, an affection that resonates through the stories of all those who have come and gone, and those who never left.”
A short history of Bowgada
All that remains of Bowgada, a townsite in the northern wheatbelt between Perenjori and Morawa on the Wongan to Mullewa railway line is a small timber sign, the ruins of a house, a shed, some foundations, tanks and several established trees. The town was gazetted as Chubble in 1913 with one journalist commenting that ‘a more unfitting and unmelodious appellation could hardly be found’.The name was changed to Bowgada, to avoid confusion for the Bowgada pastoral station east of Mingenew, in 1914. Bowgada is said to be the Aboriginal name of a local bush, the botanical name of which is Ramulosa.
Settlement began from around 1910 with the arrival of Jim and Harry Campbell in the district. They were ‘young and energetic’ and soon began ringbarking and clearing their land. The railway was open for traffic from 5 April 1915.
Horses were gradually replaced on the farms and in 1924, although there was only one tractor in the district, five farmers now owned cars. Areas under crop increased, cricket and tennis clubs established and a school built. Bowgada was described as a ‘flourishing centre’ in 1927 as it awaited a record crop of 45,000 to 50,000 bags. It had a strong community spirit with a recreation ground and a good cement pitch for the Cricket Club. The annual ball organised by the Primary Producers’ Association was popular and the 1929 a children’s fancy dress and masquerade ball in aid of the Christmas tree was described as ‘the most successful function ever held in the Bowgada district.’ In 1935 it was declared that ‘golf was by far the most popular sport’ with the Perenjori Road Board completing nine holes on new links between Bowgada and Perenjori, with a further nine to come.
The 1920s were a time of strong community building. In 1924 Bowgada was described as ‘a growing district’ and after three years of struggle and with the help of local Members of Parliament, the school opened. Speeches at the opening described progress of the farming community from 1910 when Bowgada did not exist and 14 settlers struggled with no transport and lack of water to 1924 when 80 people resided in the district which had seen 14,000 acres ‘fall before the axe and the fire’, with 8000 acres under crop.
The school, with fireplace and tanks and with a ‘picturesque’ school hall was built ‘with the voluntary labour of settlers. It provided enough space for socials and dances, from the first social held in February 1924 welcoming the school teacher Miss Kelly. A Parents and Citizens’ Association was formed and dances in the school hall became monthly events. The school closed in 1941 with the few remaining students bused to Morawa.
In 1924 the Chomley family moved to the district buying land and opening a store and post office. There are some fascinating reflections on the building process and the decision to start a store in an oral history by James Chomley. He remembered arriving in the district and getting bogged in the ‘siding’ and meeting the district’s population ‘the whole six or seven of them’ who arrived to meet the weekly train. Seeing a wagon load of stores, the settlers asked if they could get a bit of flour or sugar.
It later grew into a ‘great big galvanised shed which was divided up with hessian, about seven foot high hessian walls inside.’ Chomley’s Store and Post Office operated to 1929 when the Depression hit and the family moved to their farm east of the Bowgada siding and sold the store to Stephen John Maurice. Maurice had recently arrived from Wales with his wife and son where he had worked as a shop manager. He moved to Carnamah for a few months until he shifted to Bowgada in July 1929 and set about reconstructing what now became known as Maurice’s store. Maurice put up a new building for postal facilities and remained in the district until around 1942. The timber and iron building was destroyed by fire in about 1932 – its foundations remain today.
The siding itself was often bypassed in the 1920s as settlers carted to Koolanooka, partly because of the direction of roads, partly because there was a weighbridge there. In 1929 it was decided to install a weighbridge at Bowgada. In the early 1930s farmers in the Bowgada district agitated for bulk handling facilities for the siding. Deputations to the Premier and other government ministers eventually paid off and in 1936 Bowgada siding was one of those 46 sidings to be equipped with bulk facilities by Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd.
A short history of Bunjil
The townsite of Bunjil, located in the northern wheatbelt between Wongan Hills and Mullewa, was created as a result of a decision to establish a railway siding in 1913. It was gazetted in 1914, and the Aboriginal name was suggested by Surveyor Smith, acting District Surveyor. Its meaning is not known. Bunjil Rocks, an ancient rock formation with several gnamma holes and water catchment areas is located south west of the town. It would presumably be interpreted as it is a protected area and an important physical feature that has featured in picnics and community celebrations over many years.
In 1924 Bunjil was described as ‘a lonely little siding about seventeen miles from Perenjori on the Government railway to Geraldton via Goomalling.’ The poem by S.O.J.L entitled Bunjil The Song of a Clearer describes the loneliness of four early clearers in the district, as they sought to denude the area of trees. The difficulties they faced including a lack of water and the blazing heat are well depicted.
Bunjil is said to have Aboriginal origins but is possibly more connected to the Kulin people of Victoria for whom Bunjil is an ancestral being often depicted as an eagle. With consistently good rainfall from 1914, there were signs of prosperity in the district by the late 1920s. Windmills dotted the landscape and ‘good water was always obtainable.’ The population of Bunjil and surrounds totalled 28 in 1935 and possibly peaked at 50 in 1942/43, remaining at 50 five years later. The area was originally selected for sheep but by the late 1920s it was one of the best mixed farming areas in the state. A total of 71,795 bags of wheat were moved through Bunjil in the 1929-30 season. In 1932 Bunjil was one of the sidings chosen for the installation of two grain elevators, each with an engine. In 1936 a silo was erected at the siding for bulk wheat handling – described as ‘one of the largest along this line’ with a capacity of 200,000 bushels.
Waddi Farm owned by FWG Liebe was responsible for much of the growth in wheat crops to the siding in the early 1930s. In 1929 the acreage under crop at the rapidly developing Waddi Farm was 18,000 acres and Liebe was employing 40 clearers at the time to prepare more land.
In 1935 the Bunjil Tennis Court decided to put down a new court to cater for increased membership. The Bunjil Progress Association continued to agitate for a bus to take students to either Caron or Latham and in 1938 the plea was for a badly needed school as the buses would have to travel too far.
The 1930s saw many advertisements for fine agricultural land and much land was opened up and cleared, using the ball and chain to clear 100 acres a day in 1933. The 1930s saw a thriving community building another tennis court to cater for increased membership. The Bunjil Progress Association sought a school for the district and a Caron – Bunjil branch of the Country Women’s Association was established in 1938 and the Caron-Bunjil sub branch of the RSL sub branch was formed in 1948.
In 1945 Arthur Frederick Cannon who ran the store and conducted the post office at Bunjil applied ‘on behalf of a large number of customers’ for a Gallon Licence. He argued that there was no licensed premises for miles around. The application however was unsuccessful due to the small population (only 3) at the siding and the police argument that the requirements of the district did not warrant a licence. Joan Margaret Cannon’s recording in the State Library tells of the time with her husband running the store at Bunjil from 1943 to 1949. She then talks of farming on their property six miles north west of Caron from that time to the 1980s. Other oral histories tell the story of farming in the district.
The district was a focus of land clearing in the 1950s and a range of new methods were used to clear the mallee around Bunjil. Mr A N Davis demonstrated old practices ‘hotted up’ by modern machinery. Davis boasted clearing 1100 acres of mallee country at Bunjil with two tractors, two drivers, two piecers of chain and a log in 12 days. Bunjil remains a wheat farming centre with about 60 residents. It is also a Cooperative Bulk Handling receival site.
A short history of Latham
Latham is a townsite in the northern agricultural region, midway between Wubin and Perenjori, and 309 km north of Perth. It is on the railway between Wongan Hills and Mullewa which opened for service in 1915. When the railway was being planned in 1913 the Public Works Department decided that the site of Latham was appropriate for a townsite. The District Surveyor, S E Smith, agreed after inspecting the area, and nominated two possible names for the townsite, Merriedale and Latham. Latham was selected, and was also used for the name of the proposed railway station from 1913. The townsite was gazetted in 1917.
Latham derives its name from Latham Rock, a large granite rock about 3 km south east of the townsite. The rock was first recorded as Latham Rock in 1909, and honours Mr.F.A.Latham, an early pastoralist/sandalwood cutter of the region who established a watering place and camp for stock being droved through the district.
A gnamma hole, about six feet deep at Latham Rock, now of heritage significance, was an important water source for early settlers. It was also an important gathering place with the first community picnic held here on New Year’s Day 1912. There is an opportunity in any interpretation to highlight the importance of gnamma holes as water sources for Aboriginal people prior to the arrival of early settlers.
By the end of the 1920s there were a number of farmers cropping large areas in the district. Mr Charles Frederick Just, one of the first settlers in the district, selected and took up land in 1909, moving to the district from Wagin. He was fortunate to find two good supplies of water on his land and he settled with his wife and family, building a simple house of stone to replace an early bush timber and hessian structure. He was handicapped from 1910 on by the lack of railway facilities for his crop. By 1929 a number of farmers were cropping large areas and several ran sheep as well. Boring and well sinking were taking place and miles of wire netting for fences was being delivered. Charles Just who by this time ran 1000 acres, died in 1933 and his son Vernon continued farming on the old farm while Eric took up land near Bunjil in 1927.
The bulk wheat bin was opened in November 1936. The population totalled around 250 from the late 1930s to 1949. In the early 1950s the school was overcrowded but times changed and low numbers saw it forced to close in 2015. The town store shut about a decade earlier. The population now numbers around 60 people.
A short history of Caron
Caron railway siding on the Wongan-Mullewa railway and then the township, gazetted in 1921, are assumed to have been named after Carun Spring situated about 26km west. Carun Spring first appeared on plans in 1895, but is incorrectly spelt ‘Caron Spring’ on plans from 1907 to 1955, accounting for the spelling variation retained in the townsite name. Caron is an Aboriginal name of uncertain origin and meaning, but is possibly related to ‘Coron’, a word recorded in Bishop Salvado’s 1851 vocabulary list as meaning ‘hail’ or ‘hailstones’. It is also said that Caron was for a short time called Minjinn, meaning ‘place of the ants.’ Being so like Mingenew, and meaning the same thing, it was then dubbed Caron (pronounced Karonne), meaning place of a different variety of ant.
Caron assumed a central role in the rail transportation network as its good natural water sources made it the essential watering point on the route. A dam was built in 1915 and sealed in 1921, but at times, when the dam was dry, water had to be carted. This was relatively unusual but it happened in 1931 when water for the railway was carted from Buntine and Perenjori.
The siding grew slowly due to the lack of roads which saw farmers cart their grain to Perenjori. Holdings tended to be smaller, but numbers of new settlers grew from the late 1920s. In 1925 a school was established, with the school building being transported from Bilya Rock in March 1925. When it opened it had around 6 students, by the end of 1925 there were 22 students enrolled.
Clubs and activities such as the Caron Social Club, Parents’ and Citizen’s Association, the Red Cross, the Cricket, Football and Golf Clubs brought the community together. In the 1930s the population numbered less than 50, by 1940 it numbered 94 and in 1949 it had grown to 137.
The interpretation at this location would be focused on its significance in rail transportation through the district. Its key role in the provision of coal and water meant that the town was a focal point in the district. The train crews changed at Caron, and the refreshment room and bar built in 1936 were a meeting place until destroyed by fire in 1949. Remains at the town include the former schoolmaster’s house, the coal stage, the railway catchment dam to the south of the town and a large tank stand. There were various difficulties experienced for instance during the War when coal was unavailable and wheat could not be moved. Things were not good at the sidings and at Caron a resident claimed that conditions were a menace to health.