Potted Histories

The Changing Face of Harvey District (1909)


This article appeared in the Western Mail, 27 November 1909

It is quite a jump from the Armadale district to Harvey, but in my quest for information concerning the State’s fruit industry, I recently made it, and presently found myself housed, horsed, and piloted by Mr. Roy Hayward, manager for Messrs. Harvey and Hayward, promoters of the Harvey settlement scheme. It does not follow, however, that I am going to talk learnedly about Harvey. As a matter of fact I am not. I am just going to chat, and leave the higher sciences to the essayists and lecturers. To me Harvey is just another place where I saw certain things and recorded them, and where I indulged in a little unbiassed individual thought and speculation.

Without doubt, when the owners of the Korijicup [sic] Estate, of 12,800 acres, cut out 2,700 for settlement in 70-acre fruit blocks, they foresaw possibilities of success. The land looked like producing what it was to be put to – indeed, some of it had already proved good. Up the river, at the head of the settlement, lies the old “Governor Stirling’s homestead.” There are four acres of oranges and four and a half acres of apples there. These trees have not been a failure. Take the five old orange trees just behind the quaint house Governor Stirling built. They are 30 years of age quite, and have been uncared for many of these years. If, as Mr. Hayward declares, they netted £75 from produce seven years ago, and 500 dozen oranges were taken from a single one four years back, we must believe that the citrus fruit theory for Harvey had a pretty good foundation. I shall have more to say of the “old homestead” as I go along. Its   romantic situation, the possible importance of that situation to the Harvey of the future, and the country below Harvey, must not be lightly touched upon. I am not sure that there is not at the “old Stirling home-stead” one of the finest dam sites possible to conceive. In the meantime “Harvey” proper lies before us – 2,700 acres-mapped for subdivision, 2,200 of them sold in 10 acre lots, and, say, half of them under cultivation to citrus fruits mainly.

Holders of “Harvey Proper.”

It would be impossible to picture the routes taken as I have tried to picture other routes. Harvey is a compact settlement, orchard adjoining orchard, or very slightly divided by strips of crops or forest. Also, cutting in and out between the homes of the settlers no real system was used, though Harvey at large was pretty thoroughly ridden over and inspected. Let me then talk first of the people on the land, or who own the land; then of Harvey generally. Within a radius of three miles land is in the following hands, and either orcharded personally or by “manager”:-

Mr. F. Myatt, five acres oranges; G. H. Atkins, six acres  nursery; C. C. Leach, 20 acres oranges; John Handley, some fine peaches; Dr. Williams, 40 acres oranges; B. H. Woodward, one block of oranges; Archline Jenkins, mixed block ; Dr. Harvey, 80 acres oranges;  Miss Main, 10 acres oranges; Horrocks, 10 acres oranges; Rath, 26 acres mixed; John   E. Knowles, 20 acres, mostly oranges; Captain Markham, 7½ acres oranges, 5½ mixed fruits ; W. E. Harper, 10 acres mixed ; K. Gibsone, 5 acres, mostly oranges; Harvey and Hayward, 9 acres oranges and apples; Roy Hayward, 37 acres oranges, 70 acres apples; F. J. Becher, 16 acres of fruit (11 of tip-top oranges) ; Teesdale Smith, 90 acres of mixed orchard in one block; M. E. Ash, 23 acres mixed orchard ; A. T. Smith, 12 acres; F. C. Faulkner, 35 acres oranges, 5  acres apples; Dr. Kennedy, 10 acres oranges; Mrs. Drummond, 10 acres oranges; E. Dormer, 20 acres oranges, 5 acres apples;   Arthur Jenkins, 10 acres oranges; A. Stanford, 20 acres oranges; Hawter, 22 acres nursery. This catalogue, mainly correct, I   think, will serve to show the coming importance of Harvey, and even then the tale is not all told. There are others, and they must not be disappointed that I have not mentioned them; neither, I hope, will those named be angry with me for giving them unsought publicity in the public interest.

Now, let us see – What I Particularly Noted

As we looked at the majority of these places :- (1) That Harvey soil seems to grow pretty much anything put into it, since crops, flowers, and grasses are luxuriant this year. (2) That while there is considerable trouble with woolly aphis, and at times with red scale, there seems to have been absolutely no reason for the “scare” that frightened investors a while back. (3) That the bearing surface of some of the trees is literally amazing, and that the setting this season is remarkably good. (4) That Harvey, as a whole, is a place that must be taken notice of now, since in the very near future it is going to be in the forefront as a shipper of fruits that will take beating.

Some of the Orchards.

I was particularly interested in the little nursery of Mr. Atkins. Mr. Atkins, who has been a nurseryman 15 years, is doing wonders on his six acres. I saw here some one-year-old Dunholm peach trees bearing heavily, for, as a test of the variety, they have been left unpruned.

Mr. John Handley has also some peaches From one acre of 11-year-old trees he sold £40 worth net, though he says, perhaps sarcastically, “This is not a peach country.”

Dr. Williams’s place also interested me. I   fasted here one of the most luscious oranges   it has been my fortune to come across, and saw some experiments in tree doctoring. In cases of root disease the doctor digs out the tree altogether, and leaves a huge hole open to sun and air, or he cuts off the roots   of the tree entirely, and puts it back rootless.

One of the very fine blocks is that of Mr. Bernard H. Woodward, the Director of the Western Australian Museum and Art Gallery. This block took the eye of the visiting fruit growers when they inspected Harvey, and it also took mine; but there are so many really fine blocks Harvey way that one cannot too markedly differentiate. Mr. Rath’s orchard is a place to talk about, for instance, but Mr. Rath doesn’t talk. Here were some really beautiful pear trees, nine years old, and full of fine set fruit for this year- Williams, I believe – and some Keiffers also impressed me. They were bearing fruit that should do well for cold storage. Mr. Rath’s lemons and oranges were also   trees to look at and admire, their bearing surface and yield being enormous; and a peach of American variety looked like yielding very heavily.

The bearing capacity of some of the Harvey citrus trees was strongly proved by some late Valencias at Mr. J. E. Knowles’s. These trees, eight years old, were literally loaded with fruit. Mr. Knowles is a good farmer as well as orchardist. He has a magnificent crop of potatoes and a fine crop of oats, fully six feet high and very even.

Messrs. Beaher [sic Becher] and Gibsone, respectively president and secretary of the Citrus Fruit Association of Harvey, have on their separate places some splendid potatoes also-potatoes that deserve to be noticed. Their fruit blocks are good holdings. Mr. Beaher [sic Becher] is manager for a number of absentees, and a very active man, and Mr. Gibsone does not let grass grow under his feet in his pathway.

Harvey Generally.

The uppermost question is, of course, Harvey as a fruit-producing section. Will Harvey be in the future all that it is hoped for it? The man who merely visits a place touches dangerous ground, when he attempts to express an opinion, one must really live and work in a place to know it. But my unbiassed impression is that the Harvey district will make a name in the near future that will surprise even the Harveyites, and a name in the further future still bigger. Riding here, there, and everywhere with Mr, Hayward, absorbing the whole rather than the detail, confused by the detail in fact, but seeing the whole very clearly, the impression that Western Australia has in this private enterprise, the beginnings of a great advance, grow and grow upon me.

A Great Dam.

Standing upon a granite outcropping half a mile up the Harvey River above the old   Stirling homestead, first looking up-stream   into the huge forest-covered basin that narrows to a rocky neck not more than 90 chains wide at the point mentioned, then   down-stream to the broadening levels that   contain the Korijieup holdings, and sweep on into State country, through which passes the main chain of the present settlements, it was not a hard task to construct an imaginary dam, anchored of foundation and naturally buttressed, spanning the neck and holding in check millions upon millions of gallons of water for the use of thousands of settlers. To Mr. Hayward this has been a dream, to the Minister for Agriculture a possibility; to me, with vivid memories of great American ventures, it becomes a probability. The State must do these things some day in order to keep pace with other States, and here methinks is the place to begin.

One has only to look over such immense orchards as that of Mr. Teesdale Smith to hark back in memory to California and to believe orcharding on a large scale possible. In Western Australia one has only to see the effect of good drainage upon certain holdings in the Harvey section to know what irrigation on good drainage might mean here, and one has only to note the general productiveness of the region as it stands to-day to know what might be under a summer watering system such as could be evolved below that mighty dam on the Harvey. The State would have in it an asset worth millions if it should prove feasible.

One has talked big trees and big crops at Harvey, has generalised rather than specialised, and may seem to have missed points   as to drawback to the great possible future of this section. There may be shallowness of land here and there, swampy ground to more elaborately drain, and a number of other things to think of and do, but if drainage and irrigation do not mean tremendous agricultural area for the State outside the Harvey and Hayward holding altogether, just below that possible dam, I am the most mistaken man in Western Australia to-day.

Facts Which Speak.

Facts speak for themselves. The Harvey district can and does produce. We have Mr. Harper getting 350 half-cases from 21 nectarine trees, some of Mr. Rath’s lemons bearing fully 15 cases per tree now, Mr. Knowles with an output of 11 cases of oranges per tree last year, and we cannot fail to see what this kind of production means when Harvey is “at herself.” But it is not all beer and skittles there yet.

The land lacks lime, in some cases adequate drainage, and scale and root diseases are far from unknown. For years to come it must be work, work, and work, and careful attention along brainy lines. Mr. Gibsone found sulphate of iron a fine tonic for the tree, but when he put 6lb. to the tree in June, he lost all his fruit.

Taken all in all, Harvey is one of the most promising sections in the State. I sat on Mr. Hayward’s verandah one night, with the breath of flowers in my nostrils, thinking on all I had seen during the day, and found myself thoroughly hopeful of a great success for the Harvey people at large. Their district is not only a charming one, but possesses unique advantages for the producer.