Compiled by Maidee Smith from records at the Archives, 1981
A petition was sent by parents at Waterous mill town, also known as Waterhouse Mill which was 3½ miles from Hoffman’s Mill, to the Education Department on 17 February 1898, requesting the establishment of a school. The parents considered that it was not suitable to take the children by mill train into school at Hoffman’s. The petition was signed by – Marsland (seven children) Hickmott, Moriaty, Chivers, Cleverly, Meara, Hearne, Rowe, McLachlan, Anderson, Gibson, Carson, Johnston (a widow with one daughter), Baker and Johnston. The Department replied on 25 March 1898 that as these were all mill families, the school should be erected and paid for by the timber company, Millars Karri and Jarrah Forests Limited (Millars). The matter lapsed for a few months. On 6 May 1898, Millars replied to the Department that they were not prepared to fund the school building, but offered to erect it and then rent it to the Education Department. This was the arrangement at both the Hoffman’s Mill and at their Denmark Mill. The Department replied that they paid an ‘exorbitant rent’ to Millars of £75 per year and were not prepared to pay that sort of rent.
Subsequent to the Department’s reply, the parents approached their local Member of Parliament, Mr WJ George MLA, and asked for his help in the matter. Mr George prepared another petition and on 2 August 1898 this was sent to the Department. Nothing further came of this petition and correspondence resumed in January 1899 regarding a school at Waterous.
On 27 January 1899, the manager of Millars offered a room to be used as a school. In March 1899, the Department agreed to this proposal and notified Millars that a teacher would be sent after the Easter holidays. The school was finally opened on the 8 April 1899, and was to be used, rent free, until the end of the year and during the following year.
The teacher in 1900 was Mr Harry Harris and he was complaining the school was being used for dances, without his consent. Due to his complaints, a hall was built at Waterous to be used for meetings and dancing. He remained through 1901 and was replaced in March 1902 by M Moorhouse. Rent was now required for the premises as the previous agreement had finished and Millars asked for £15 per year. At the same time, they were receiving £25 per year for the schoolroom at Mornington, so the terms were not ‘exorbitant’.
As the population grew, the pressure on the small school increased and complaints began about lack of accommodation, not enough desks, some infants being excluded from schooling due to the smallness of the room and so on. These infant children (five of them) were all under six years of age and there was no legal requirement for the schoolteacher to accept them. However, in some small bush schools very small children were often accepted, as they were required to ‘keep the numbers up’ to stop the closure of the school. Such was not the case at Waterous.
The parents again approached their local member, this time Mr M Atkins MLA and a petition about the overcrowding was prepared. This petition was signed by – Gillard, Partur, Thorpe, Thornton, Henry, Truscott, McLachlan, Carroll, McKever, McRory, Keevers, H. Hutchinson, Young, Marduer, Strassbury, Deegan, H Smith, Gleeson, Gardner, Rutherford, Wood, Meara, Waller, Cooke, Pitman, Parker, McLachlan and Stedman. Some names had changed compared to the original petition but it showed an increase of twelve families in the town and the number of children would have been more than that.
During 1902, Mr Moorhouse had to expel Arthur Rutherford from the school but there is no record of the offence he must have committed. When the Department replied to the petition for more rooms, they found ‘no more rooms are necessary yet’, much to the disappointment of the parents. On 20 January 1903 when the school opened for the new school year, the school had a new teacher, P Colbert. The school year commenced with a large number on the roll, 69, of whom 62 came to school on the first day.
The crowded schoolroom was very hot that summer, so a verandah was added along the west side to keep the sun out. This was quite effective, but also resulted in keeping a lot of the light from the room and the teacher complained of the room being badly lit and too dark in the winter months. To rectify this, two windows were added to the east side. These alterations were made in July 1903. The teacher asked for a monitor (assistant) to help with the large number of pupils and his wife was appointed to the position.
During 1904 a request for another monitor was made, and Mrs Gardiner offered to board a young lady if one was sent. Nothing seems to have come of this suggestion. There was also a request for proper blackboards to fit on the walls. At the time, the teacher was using three blackboards on easels, which were always in his way, as there was not much room. A cloth to put on the walls was provided, but was most unsatisfactory. The cloth was not firm enough for this use as the walls were beaded matchboard and did not provide a smooth surface.
A new teacher arrived in March of 1904, James T Draper, and he stayed until the end of the year. At the start of 1905, another teacher arrived, Mr Sulbrick, who also stayed a year. The Department made an inspection of the premises in May of 1906 and pronounced them in ‘good condition’. The teacher then was a single man, Mr DH Ball and he did not require a house, which Millars had offered for the teacher. Mr Ball opened the school for the 1907 year on 28 February.
Other Mill Schools
As the mill town Waterous declined due to diminishing timber stock, Hoffman’s and Nanga Brook began to grow. The school at Hoffman’s Mill began in 1897 and continued to grow with the growth of that mill. The school continued in use until 1962, as the mill itself closed on 21 December 1961, thus ending an era of bush schooling at the timber towns in the area. Nanga Brook was burnt out in the big 1961 Dwellingup fires and was not rebuilt.