HISTORY OF HARVEY AND DISTRICT
BY: E G DAVIS - 1955
Last week's instalment of the history of Harvey commenced an article by Jack Lowe, chairman of the Harvey Road Board and member of the Irrigation Committee, who referred to the Silver Anniversary of Irrigation. He continues this week with the period from the early 1900's.
The community affairs of the estate were all handled by the local citrus society of which Mr Frank Becher was chairman from 1904 to 1911; Mr K Gibsone for 1912; Mr R O Hayward for four years, up to 1916; and the late Mr Jack Grieves from March, 1916, covering the opening of the first weir in June of that year, until he died. As the secretary of the society from its inception until 1915, Mr Ken Gibsone worked zealously for the fruition of the scheme to be followed by Mr Tom Myatt, who also acted as secretary of the society during the years that irrigation was in its earliest stages in the State. Other members who interested themselves particularly in the irrigation project were Messrs A Jenkins, Dr Williams, L Prince, G P Charman and G Horrocks.
In 1910 the president of the society, Mr Becher, was delegated to attend a conference of citrus growers in Melbourne and on the voyage found himself a fellow passenger with Sir James Lands. In these days of express trains and aeroplanes, a traveller is lucky to find time more than to say "Good day," to his fellow passengers, but in those days slower travel meant greater opportunities for profitable conversation as well as perhaps other things. Becher, the enthusiastic agriculturist, and Mitchell, the aspiring politician, restless with ambition to hasten the development of his native State, together found ample time and opportunity to discuss the subject nearest to Becher's heart - irrigation. He literally pumped it into his listener's not unattentive ear, and backed up his claim to speak with experience in Mildura. As a result he was given a formal commission by Sir James to visit Mildura before returning to the West, there to see how the place had progressed since he had left and to bring back a full report for the Minister's benefit.
Becher's report was comprehensive and stressed the fact particularly that where from the Murray they had lifted water up to 90 feet, here it would be used for irrigation by gravitation only. The result of the report was that in 1911 the Government undertook a survey of the rivers of the South West to find catchment sites suitable for constructing weirs. That was the first definite step taken by the Government to investigate the possibilities of irrigation in Western Australia. A young man of 21 years, Walter Roland Eckersley, was the engineer commissioned to do the work and he selected three possible sites which became known departmentally as Eckersley Site No 1, 2 and 3. Eckersley Site No 1 is now the present Harvey Weir; Site No 2 was "drowned" by the enlargement of No 1 and No 3 is where Stirling Dam, the second largest in the State, is now being constructed.
Thus irrigation began to seem a possibility, Christie had said in his booklet that it would be "entirely necessary," but he had been proved wrong by one of the earliest settlers whom the booklet had attracted, This was rather an eccentric character named Halor, said to be the son of an Italian count, whose block was subsequently bought by my father. Halor had rigged up an ingenious if somewhat laborious device for drawing water from the river for his trees by means of a liquid manure pump motivated by "horseworks." It was a type of pump used in certain European countries to lift liquid wastes from domestic wells and a horse following a circular route around the pump supplied the necessary lifting power. The remains of the outfit are on the property to this day and as it only ultimately delivered for Halor one fifth of the water it first lifted, it is possibly of more value today as an antique that it was to him then. He must have required water for irrigation badly, especially as it is said that being without the services of a horse he reported to bicycle with the back tyre removed, to which a rope chain was secured. The bicycle was jacked upright and by very vigorous peddling the back wheel operated the pump. The idea is humorous; it certainly was crude and primitive, but it at least had the merit of being a sincere attempt to perform a required service. My father afterwards tried to use it.
Before leaving Mildura in 1897, my father had known Charles Trevatt who had travelled 300 miles overland from the Wimmera wheatlands with his family on a bullock dray to become the first settler at Mildura under Chaffey brothers' scheme. Trevatt had four apricot trees of exceptional quality, named "Blenheim" from which my father budded his own trees before leaving Mildura and brought them to Korijekup with him. He planted them in nursery rows on the block where they now grow, watered them for a time with Halor's contraption, and they are now yielding about 70 tons of fruit a year.
The Government's investigations were now completed and one night in the summer of 1913, 40 to 50 settlers gathered in the local schoolroom to meet the then Minister for Works (Mr W D Johnston), to receive from him the Government's proposal for constructing a dam to conserve water irrigation at the Eckersley No 1 site. Plans were submitted for a weir to cost 34 thousand-pound. The proposition was accepted by the settlers without opposition. Thus was initiated the first irrigation scheme in Western Australia.
I should state here that by this time Sir James Mitchell's party had passed from power and it was the Government of John Scadden, in which Mr Phillip Collier was Minister for Water Supplies, that finally authorised commencement of the work. The first Rights in Water and Irrigation Bill had been submitted to Parliament in 1912 but had been defeated in the Upper House on the very vexed question of riparian rights – a question which still bristles with difficulties and jealous guardianship by the holders. The Bill was reintroduced in 1914 and passed. A year later, in November, 1915, the actual work in connection with the laying of concrete in the main weir commenced and the last batch was placed in position on June 22, 1916. The water first overflowed the crest on July 16, 1916, 24 days after the official opening. The storage capacity of this first weir was 520,000,000 gallons, later increased by the raising of the wall to its present capacity of 2,270,000,000 gallons. Water was first allowed to flow down the channels to the settlement early in December 1915, with the main object of consolidating the banks. The settlers then made a request for the privilege of using the water which otherwise would have had to be diverted into the drains and run to waste. The result was that about 500 acres were irrigated from the normal summer flow of the river.
In submitting his report on these matters to the Under-Secretary for Water Supplies, Sewerage and Drainage at the end of 1916, the engineer for agricultural areas (Mr Hugh Oldham), our old friend from Mildura, said:
"With the advent of the coming irrigation season at Harvey, the era of irrigation may be claimed to have commenced and it is expected that the results at the centre will justify an extension of the practice of irrigation to many other localities in the South West, where the local conditions are favourable."
Looking around us today we see how prophetic were these words.
This week the author of our history recalls the Harvey townsite of forty years ago. Younger readers will be surprised at the changes that have occurred over such a short period. Further reference is also made to the dairying industry.
Forty years ago, Harvey's main street, Uduc Road, was rather different to what it is today. On the south side, starting from the railway crossing, were Murray Wilson's brick store, with the West Australian Bank in a wooden building next door; Jack Grieves' butcher shop and house, then almost the same as they are now; the brick building, then the Harvey Road Board office; Hayward's bulk store which was back from the road where Miss Mincham's shop stands today. Then there was vacant land to George Horrock's house on the corner of Uduc Road and Young Street, where Murray Wilson lived. On the north side of Uduc Road, near the corner of Young Street, was the newly built Agricultural Hall, with the original wooden hall, then known as the Lesser Hall, next door. The rest of the north side was bush to "Dad" Roesner's timber yard and house. The timber yard site is now occupied by the Harvey Co-operative store, but the house next door is still as it was 40 years ago.
There was one house on the south side of Gibbs Street and the school and headmaster's house on the other side. In Hayward Street was Shanahan's boarding house, which included the second building (still standing) erected in the town and made of galvanised corrugation iron; F Driscoll's grocery store; Bob Alexander's saddlers' shop; Bert Driscoll's drapery shop; Arthur Roesner's blacksmith shop; a small shop, now the bootmaker's and barber's; Harvey House next door and then Phil Ward's wooden house back from the Uduc Road corner, where Wal's shop is today.
In 1918, Hugh Tullock surveyed Long Swamp, near Herbert Road, and the Wokalup River which became the Harvey River Diversion. He also took levels of the Harvey River between Government Road and Riverdale Road, Cookernup. Through silting up, the bed of the river was above the surrounding country. Steve Mitchell had a contract to make levels with the silt and did the work with bullock tam and scoop.
The first orchardist to change to dairying was Duncan Campbell. He grubbed out his orange trees and planted grass. James McFarlane opened Harvey's first cream factory at Campbell's and later built a cream depot on the corner of Herbert Road and Newell Street.
The Soldier Settlement Scheme started at this period and a great number of cows were brought into the district when most of the returned soldiers started dairying. William Johnston was the Agricultural Bank's first local inspector, under a Mr St Barbe Moore, stationed at Bunbury. The 800 acre paddock between Herbert and Uduc Roads, Greenpools and Plain Paddock, came into the scheme of settlement.
The new farmers started producing butterfat which was railed to Bunbury to the Bunbury Butter Factory or to McFarlane's in Perth. The farmers found that table cream was more profitable than butterfat, and the Returned Servicemen's League formed a co-operative company with C H Spurge as manager. As dairying grew the idea of supplying whole milk to Perth was discussed and a Mr Pye met some of the local business people and dairymen. Efforts to start a whole milk depot were made, but nothing until 1925, when George Birkbeck, a Swanbourne milk retailer, held a meeting in the RSL Co-op Company's shop in Hayward Street. He told the meeting that dairy farmers could get 1/- a gallon for all the milk they could produce.
It was decided to form a local company and erect a cooling plant and a co-operative was formed with Mr Birkbeck as manager and Eric Davis as secretary. R A Johnson and E McKean were two of the first directors and Lionel Clifton was share salesman. A block of land was bought in Uduc Road, a cooling plant was erected and the first whole milk was received on December 1, 1925, and railed to Perth. Another cooling depot was built by a Mr McKenzie, of Fremantle, in Hayward Street, and was later taken over by the Pascomi Company. The Harvey Co-operative Dairy Company carried on for some time and with the other company operating, sent large quantities of whole milk to the metropolitan area. After Mr Birkbeck broke away from the Harvey company he built a depot at Yarloop. Finally, the company sold out to Pascomi.
By this time most of the orange trees had been pulled out and orchards converted to pastures. In 1930, J Franklin and A H Jefferies started a condensed milk factory in Herbert Road. This was later taken over by the South West Co-op Dairy Farmers Ltd, originally the Bunbury Butter Company. They built a large factory in Roy Street, which was opened in October, 1929, and finally all the various sections, milk depot, butter factory and condensory were combined in Harvey under the one roof.
With the growth of dairying in the district it became obvious that the original Harvey Weir was not large enough. At the end of summer the use of water was restricted because there was not enough to go round. The Premier, Mr Phillip Collier, was invited to a public dinner in Harvey. After the dinner, Jack Lowe put the case for a larger weir, which convinced everyone present, especially the Premier. Jack Lowe said "that money spent on the larger scheme would be a good investment and that by greater production the whole State would benefit."
It was obvious from the Premier's reply that Jack Lowe's excellent reasoning had been completely successful and a short time later the Collier Government agreed to construct the new weir. Before it was possible to carry out their promise, there was a change of Government, and Sir James Mitchell, the new Premier, turned the first sod at a ceremony held at the southern end of the new wall.
Harvey got its weir with a large increase in the irrigation area. The area was further extended with the completion of Stirling Dam in 1947.
This week's instalment of the "History of the Harvey District" tells of the various public Societies formed. Inevitably the earliest organisation existed mainly for the farming community, but as the district developed Progress Associations were formed and carried out much useful work.
The first known association formed in the district was the Brunswick Farmers' Association in 1893. It was instrumental in getting the district's first agricultural hall built by the Government in 1894.
Over the years Harvey has had many organisations.
The Harvey Agricultural Alliance held its first committee meeting in July, 1894. The idea of the alliance was brought to the district by W E Ash and he was the first president and acting secretary. One aim of the alliance was to get Government experts to lecture and in the same year A Despeissis, MRAC, Government viticulturist, gave a lecture in Harvey.
The first officers when their rules were printed were Thomas Hayward, jnr., president; W J Sutton, vice-president; G Clifton, treasurer; J Knowles, jnr., secretary. The committee was M W Clifton, J Knowles, snr, O C Rath, A Sheehan and G Guppy.
A split was caused by an alteration of the constitution, which allowed, other than farmers to become members and, it was said, by the election of a new president. In October, 1898, Ash formed another association, the Farmers' Club, which held its first meeting in February, 1899, with James Butler chairman and G Clifton secretary.
Sometimes the two associations held their meetings in the hall on the same night, the alliance using the lesser hall and the club using the dressing room.
The alliance rules were strict, members being proposed and seconded at one meeting and balloted for at the next, with one black ball in five to exclude. Annual meetings were held in February. On one occasion the meeting was held on March 1, and to put things in order a special leap year was introduced, out of the usual order, so the meeting could be officially held on February 29.
In 1904, the alliance and the farmers' club combined when the Harvey Citrus Society was formed. This society held its first show on August 19, 1904, when the official luncheon was served on the verandah of George Horrocks' home opposite the hall. A photo of this function hangs in the Harvey road Board's boardroom.
Others who were active in the affairs of these three organisations included Isaac Lowe, Frank Becher, Roy Hayward, Jack Grieves, Jack Lowe and William Johnston as presidents. Secretaries included Seymour Palmer, Ken Gibsone and Tom Myatt. Their names are recorded here because, unfortunately, the old minute books were destroyed by fire many years ago.
From these three organisations, the Harvey Agricultural Society was formed at a meeting in the old wooden hall in November, 1919. With L Prince as chairman, the meeting was attended by about 50 people.
The first officers were Jack Lowe, president; R M Wilson and A E Stanford, vice-president; T A G Myatt, secretary; G B Clayton, treasurer.
Councillors elected were T Stack, J M Johnson, R A Johnson, C Stanford, L Prince, E T Sharp, W Clifton, C Gibbs, J A Stewart and R Hanks, with W E Harper as auditor.
Most of the important matters affecting the welfare of the district were sponsored by the society. Some of these were the provision of a commonage, reductions in irrigation rates, a better telephone service and the building of an Anzac Memorial in the form of a public library.
At the society's first annual meeting in 1921, Roy Eckersley outlined a scheme for providing the town with electricity from the Harvey Weir. Because the scheme would only provide power for eight months of the year it was considered impracticable and the society decided to support the Collie Power Scheme.