Potted Histories

Early Days of Wagerup and Yarloop

By E. G. Davis, ‘Harvey-Murray Times’, 1956.

According to information supplied by Mrs. M. A. [Mary Angela] Eastcott on the earliest settlers of Wagerup (formerly spelt Waigerup) and Cookernup, the first settler was John Bancells, who took up 100 acres on Koonarup Brook, now named Bancells’ Brook, in 1870. He did not live on the block until about four or five years later.

The next settlers were Mr. and Mrs. W. J. [William Joseph] Eastcott, who settled on the next block to John Bancells in 1886. Mrs. Eastcott was one of his daughters. At the time there was no railway and only a sand track between Perth and Bunbury.

After the Bancells and Eastcotts, the next settler was Alexander Aitken and his sons Isaac and James. They settled on what is now known as Wagerup Brook in 1890. The rest of the family, two sons and four daughters, arrived from Victoria some time later. In 1893 W. J. [William James] Pusey, his wife and several children, and W. H. [William Henry] Eastcott, his wife and three children, also took up land on Bancells Brook.

When Richard Sholl was Postmaster-General for Western Australia, the mail from Perth to Bunbury was carried in a four-horse coach, driven by John McKernan. The coach was fitted to seat eight or ten passengers, and in addition to carrying letters, carried flour, sugar, possum and other skins, kangaroo tails for soup making, and even kangaroo carcasses, from North Harvey (now Yarloop) to Bunbury.

In 1892 and up to May 1893 when the last coach went through, an elderly man, always known as Mylam, handed out the mail and received all the goods for transport at the old single roofed building on the main road.

Although the railway was not officially opened until September 1893, J. Owen Mitchell of Blackrock, recorded that he went to the line for letters on May 26, 1893.

Among those living in the southern part of Wagerup were P. [Paul] Kau, Tom Garlick and the Bowles brothers, who in addition to farming, repaired machinery for their neighbours.

When the railway was opened with a siding on Waigerup Brook, near Aitken’s farm, it is said that the man who painted the sign on the platform left out the letter “I” in the name and so it became Wagerup.

After inquiring from W. J. Eastcott if there was any good timber in the district, Teesdale Smith, who lived near Albany, sent Harry Smith to see W. J. Eastcott, who showed him the track in the hills about six miles from the railway to what became known as Klondyke. Millars constructed their tram line to the hills on this track. In 1894 most of the land, on which the mill now stands, was owned by T. Garlick on the east side of the line and by A. M. Wickham on the west side.

In 1895, Messers. Smith and Timms who had been operating two small mills, amalgamated with Millar Bros and opened up at Wagerup as Millar Bros.

About this time the postmaster at Bunbury sent a message to Graves Mitchell “I want you to go out and help put the telegraph line into Millars’ office at Wagerup.” The linesman and Graves cleared the line from the Perth-Bunbury road and put the telegraph into Millars’ office where it stands today.

Millars constructed a loop-line from the railway, via what became known as the top yard, to the bush where a great network of tram lines was put down through many miles of the country. This line was known as the yard loop and about 1897 this was abbreviated to Yarloop, which became the name of the mill town and station.

Owen Mitchell in his dairy refers to Wagerup in September 1896, and to Yarloop in April 1897, when Fitzgerald’s circus came to the mill town. This is the earliest reference that can be found for Yarloop.[1]

With the erection of its mill and workshops, Yarloop soon became an important timber centre. About 1900, in addition to the mill store, other businesses included the Palace Hotel, sometimes referred to as the Crystal Palace, a large wooden building with hand mortised frames, near the post office and kept by a Mrs. Jones; James Ballard’s blacksmith shop, James Boyd’s shop, Tim Rogers’ store, William Marriott’s butcher shop and W. J. Rodgers’ billiard saloon.

Dr. Lancaster was the mill doctor and he was followed later by Dr. Moore. Teasdale Smith was the company manager of Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Co. and Reg. Driver was mill manager at Yarloop. G. Tidy was manager at Hoffman Mill and Frank Brady is recorded in the road board book of 1900 as a mill manager, but it is not stated which mill he managed.[2]

It is believed that Waterous Mill was the first to be opened near Yarloop. Of 34 timber workers’ names recorded in the rate book for 1900, only one is still living in Yarloop in 1956. He is a Mr. Anderson, known by his many friends as “Butcher”.

Before any saw mills were established in the district, Harry Hawkins was well known in the South-West as a timber hewer of the early days. There was a lot of timber hewing in the district when the South-West railway was being constructed. The Adams brothers were well known as sawyers before the mill started. Charles and William worked in the saw pits while Joseph, when a lad of 16, hauled logs to the pits with horses.

Before the first school was built at Yarloop, children attended the old Wagerup school on the Perth-Bunbury road. With the rapid growth of the district, a second school was built in 1908, at West Yarloop, near Brockman-road, where Tom Eastcott was teacher.

The Anglican church at Yarloop was built single-handed in 1910 by Rev. Thomas Jackson.[3] It is recorded by Mrs. G. Meredith that when the church was being consecrated by Bishop Goldsmith in November, 1910 the Rev. Jackson collapsed and died in the arms of John Pollard.[4] The church still stands as a monument to its builder and contains a pulpit dedicated to his memory.

Constable Pollard was stationed at what was known as North Harvey in the early days and many years later Constable Nevin was in charge of the whole district with quarters at Yarloop, near the original post office.

In 1921, the timber company, which had become widely known as Millars’ Timber and Trading Co. erected the only horizontal band saw in Australia at Yarloop. The saw was moved to Hoffman in 1923.

[1] Note: Timothy Rogers, General Storekeeper, applied for a Gallon license to operate from his general store at the Yarloop siding in 1896. (Bunbury Herald 1 Sept 1896) Teesdale Smith objected and permission was refused. [Ed.]

[2] Note: FO Brady managed the Yarloop Mills for three and a half years, prior to his departure in December 1899 for Denmark. (Southern Times 12 Dec 1899) [Ed.]

[3] Erratum: West Australian, 30 November 1909, p. 3 – ‘On the 14th inst. the new church was dedicated, and the new rectory blessed, at Yarloop, by the Bishop of Bunbury. Both works have been carried out by Mr. Thomas Jackson, stipendiary reader in charge, with the willing and valuable help of members of the committee and congregation.’

[4] Erratum: Rev. Jackson died of heart failure on 20 November 1910. West Australian, 22 November 1910, p. 5 – ‘The Bishop of Bunbury (the Right Rev. F. Goldsmith) was taking the morning service in All Saints’ Church of England at Yarloop, and the Rev. Thomas Jackson, the minister in charge of the parish, carried the Bishop’s staff into the church. After depositing the staff in its place he moved to his seat and dropped down. When examined life was found to be extinct. The service was immediately abandoned.’