Ferguson Mill School

By Maidee Smith

The first application for a school at the Mill, which was seven miles east of Cookernup, came from a parent, H. E Franklyn, who suggested that a school should be established on a half-time basis with Cookernup. Millars Timber and Trading Company Manager, H Teasdale-Smith, supported Mr Franklyn's application and in reply, the Education Department said that a school could be established if the settlers provided the building. A letter sent on the 3rd of November, 1902 told the Department that the settlers were willing to do this, that the timber was being given by the Manager of the Mill, and agreed that the Department should not be charged rent for it.

The Minister gave approval to this proposition for education on the 20th November 1902. The building of the school was to commence during the Christmas Holidays and it was hoped the school would be finished for the pupils to begin at Easter 1903.

This was achieved and the school was ready for use on the 29th of March 1903. As the small school at St. John's Brook (a siding on the railway rear Nannup), was about to close, the furniture, equipment and the school teacher were all transferred to Ferguson Mill. All was then ready for the school to begin on the 13th of June 1903 although the water tank had not been erected and the toilets were not finished for another three weeks. The children carried their drinking water from home and presumably ran home if they required the toilet.

There were 13 children old enough to attend the new school.

I. Smith, had three children - Arthur John aged 10, Alex aged 9 and Edie Myrtle aged 7. They lived 7 miles from school at Cookernup and were Church of England.

I. Brittain had one child - William Ephraim aged 6. He was a distance of 8 miles from school at Cookernup and he was Presbyterian.

G.E. Lewis was 8 miles distance from Cookernup school. He had two children - George E.W. aged 4 and Stanley Friday aged 10 and they were Roman Catholic.

H.E. Franklyn was 8 miles distance from school and he had two children - Cedric Walter aged 8 and Marjorie Graeme aged 7 and they were Church of England.

P.F. Lawson was 8 miles distance from Cookernup school and he had 3 children - Ruby Maud aged 10, Peter Anthony aged 7 and Laura Ada aged 5. They were Church of England.

Mrs Hughs had two children - Maud aged 6 and Netra aged 4. They were Church of England.

H. Buck had Vera aged 13 and she was Church of England.

Seven other families had children who were just under age. The information for the department was signed on behalf of the residents by John J Smith, Jas Cain (Mill Manager), C. Dalton-Barchom (Mill Book-keeper), P.J. Lawson, H.E. Franklyn and G.E. Lewis.

The parents were given materials for the school with the help of Mr. M. Ferguson and the schoolroom, which they built, was 25 feet by 18 feet, with four windows and a stove.

The idea at first was for sharing half-time teaching with Hoffman's Mill, but by March of 1903, it was obvious that the school at Hoffman's Mill would require a full-time teacher. The teacher at St John's Brook, Mr W. Folland, would be sent to Ferguson Mill instead of Mrs Shaw going there on a half time basis with Hoffman's. Mr. Folland was notified on the 13th of June 1903 and he opened the school at Ferguson Mill on the 22 June 1903. The rest of the winter must have been very cold in the unlined schoolroom so the teacher requested that a stove be sent for the winter 1904.

It was sent in March in plenty of time for the winter, but also in time for it to be used for a short time. On the 24th June 1904 Messrs. J.M Ferguson and Co., wrote to the Department stating that they intended to close the Mill in about 12 months. The rumour soon got around that the school was to be closed and Mr. Fred Ranson wrote to the Department asking if he could purchase the tank.

The school did close for a time. Mr. Ranson, the head teacher at Cookernup, where the numbers at the school were growing, requested the use of some desks from Ferguson Mill, however, it was thought that the Mill may re-open so the furniture wasn't moved.

In January 1906 Mr. H.E Franklyn wrote to the Department with the news that the Mill was re-opening and there were 12 children requiring schooling. The school re-opened on the 23 January 1906, but must have been closed again by September of that year as Mr. Fred Ranson, the Head teacher at Cookernup, again wrote to the Department asking for the tank from the Ferguson Mill School. The Mill must have been dismantled with no hope of re-opening as Mr. Ranson stated that he would need a quick reply to his request, so that the tank could come down on the railway, as it would only be open for another two weeks and there was no road on which it could be brought down.

All the school equipment and furniture was duly packed onto rail wagons and by the 29th of September 1906 everything from the school had been removed to Mr. Ranson's care at Cookernup.

This railway, the only link with Ferguson Mill, was unique and ran through what is now Logue Brook Dam on its way down from the hills to Cookernup. The rails or tramway were usually made of 3 inch by 4 inch jarrah, on closely placed jarrah sleepers. Remains of this line with a few rusty spikes still in the timber could be found in the bush in 1961. A keen observer can pick up the line of the formation as it goes through farmland east of Cookernup.

The tramway was worked by means of gravitation, with a brakeman riding down on the rakes of timber from the mill, while horses were used to pull back up the hill and return the empty trucks. Horses also worked the bush lines into the forest east of the mill, where the timber was out.

The townsite of Ferguson Mill has been submerged by the waters of Logue Brook Dam since 1963, so that nothing remains to be found of this school site, the homes, which surrounded it, or the mill whose working life gave a reason for its being there at all.



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