History of Harvey

The Changing Face of Harvey District (1910)

Impressions of Harvey. A Prosperous and Promising Settlement.

This article appeared in the Bunbury Herald, 22 October 1910.

(By a Visitor.)

A trip to the Harvey settlement supplies one of the most improving object lessons it is possible to find along the countryside hereabouts. It was the pleasure of the writer to visit that centre a few weeks back, when, though not seen in their most attractive array, the thousands of citrus and other fruit trees bore a healthy appearance generally, and indications of a wealth of productivity in the days soon to come. The visit was only one of a few hours’ duration, but in company of those who know every inch of the locality, and the quickest way round, a deal could be seen and learned of the settlement in a little while.

The Harvey man is proud of the settlement, and has ample reason and to spare for his self-satisfaction, for there is probably no undertaking which to a greater extent taxes the courage, patience, and resourcefulness of the settler than the founding of an orchard or a citrus, grove, especially when, as in the case of Harvey, room for planting had first to be won by the removal of the forest giants which originally held possession of the rich lands of this estate, while again it can be claimed that no branch of cultivation demands closer application and a wider knowledge of an intricate branch of the science of horticulture than the selection of the trees and the subsequent care of the planting and growth, so necessary to successful citrus culture. They were heroes truly who first tackled the Harvey proposition, and of these many remain, some in the enjoyment of merited prosperity, others within measurable distance of a like desirable attainment.

Writer was fortunate in meeting Mr. Jas. Stewart, the secretary of the Harvey Roads Board, and again in making the acquaintance of Mr. Colin Leitch, who, I had previously been informed, was one of the foremost champions of Harvey, and to whom attached no mean share of the developments which have taken place in the settlement, he having, amongst other things, been one of the stoutest and most persistent advocates of the drainage scheme which has done so much to improve the prospects of Harvey as a fruit producing centre. Apart from working his own little holding, Mr. Leitch manages and cultivates the properties of several absentee owners, and the generally excellent growth and healthy appearance of the trees on the areas under his charge bear high testimony to his capabilities as an orchardist as also to his capacity for hard work. It was stimulating to mark his glowing optimism regarding the future of Harvey, no less than to hark to what little he had to relate of the trials and struggles of the early settlers, for it is a characteristic of such men to look more to the future than to dwell upon past exploits and achievements.

The hurried trip round the settlement was made behind a fine pair of sturdy light draughts, in company with Mr. Stewart, Mr. C. Shenton (manager of the W.A. Bank local branch), Mr. Leitch, and another visitor to Harvey. The subdivision of Harvey was well devised, and its area under cultivation is bounded by a winding section of the Harvey River on the east and trending north-east, on the north by the Yamballup Avenue, cut into on the south by the Uduc-road, and merging to the westwards again into the illimitable bush. The holdings, which vary from a few acres to 40 acres or more, are accessible by a series of ‘streets,’ and run the gamut of the numerals at the present moment as far as 10, starting at number 2 to the west of the railway line. Thus we have the simple nomenclature of second, third, fourth, and so on streets, till the confines of the present occupied subdivision is reached. So many ‘streets’ are apt to suggest to the outsider a popular centre, but apart from an excellent hotel, one or two apparently thriving and wellstocked stores, the roads board offices, the usual blacksmith’s shop, the modest premises of the W.A. Bank, and a few private dwellings clustered in the vicinity of the railway station, the homesteads are comparatively few and at considerable distances apart. There is good reason to believe, however, that many persons who at the moment rank as absentees will come to reside upon their holdings, such intention having already been announced by several owners of properties which have now reached or are rapidly coming into the production stage, then we may with confidence expect to see one of the prettiest, as well as one of the most prosperous, settlements in the rural areas of the South-West.

Passing through Harvey by train gives but a faint indication of the progress and development of the settlement, but the traveller cannot but be favorably impressed with the several orchards that abut on to the railway line. Chief among these is the property of Mr. A. T. Smith, of Bunbury, where about 13 acres are enclosed, about 12 of which were planted to oranges some 11 years ago, representing one of the first established groves in the settlement. Skirted by the windings of the river on practically two sides, this property is naturally well drained, and besides this advantage possesses great depth of rich chocolate soil, which, added to a wise election of stocks in the first place, and aided by constant cultivation and attention, has resulted in making it one of the show spots on the Harvey. From this limited acreage has already been produced this season a full thousand cases of oranges, which will probably bulk to the fortunate owner between £400 and £500 for the season. Adjoining this grand little patch is a slightly smaller property, also owned by a Bunbury resident, in the person of Mr. A. O. Larsen. This is a valuable little orangery, and during the season just drawing to a close has been one of the most prolific areas on the whole estate. It is well tended, and is of healthy and vigorous growth. Next comes another Bunbury-owned property that of Mr. A. Snell, not nearly so highly developed, but showing signs of emerging to the profit-taking stage. Three splendidly developed properties belonging to Dr. D. E. Williams, late of Bunbury, and now port medical officer at Fremantle, the second the property of Mr. E. W. Dernier, of Bunbury, and the third that of Messrs. Jenkins Bros., abut on to what is known as ‘Fourth-street,’ and are all highly developed. In ‘Fifth’ street, Mr. A. O. Rath’s magnificent orchard, no less than the little flower-embowered residence, provides the show place of this particular locality, being a beautifully ordered property evidently well advanced in the paying stage, and a model of careful, not to say scientific, cultivation. In the next ‘street,’ almost equally commanding, is the property of Mr. J. E. Knowles, though a somewhat smaller area is here under trees. Passing on to the artery next in numerical order my guides point with pride that is only for the district to the 40-acre block of Mr. F. C. Faulkner, where the trees show a high level of excellence and apparently from six to eight years’ growth. Further along two profit-bearing holdings of 20 acres each, belonging to Mr. F. N. Drummond and Dr. Kennedy, are pointed out. They take rank with the best of Harvey. Passing into ‘Eighth’ street, the 25-acre allotment of Mr. C. Cornish, late of Bunbury, is another show place of the locality, remarkable for the vigorous growth and productivity of the trees, from which payable and highly satisfactory returns are already coming in. ‘Ninth’ street brings us to the properties of Mr. H. H. Abrahamson, of Bunbury, and that of Mr. Colin Leitch. I learn that Mr. Abrahamson has recently acquired this property, and here much remains to be done in the way of drainage and possibly replanting before profitable returns can be expected. Dr. Harvey’s property in ‘Tenth’ street comprises 150 acres, of which no fewer than 70 acres are planted to oranges.

In all, I learn there are two thousand acres under fruit trees on this estate, of which about 1700 are planted to oranges. The settlement boasts 17 miles of main drains, and thirty miles or so of subsidiary drains.

Right on the confines of the cultivated area is the holding of Mr. K. Gibsone, where a grove of mandarins, oranges, and mixed fruits were in evidence, while a considerable paddock was being worked on general farming lines. Here the party pulled up, and were hospitably received by the proprietor, whose deep interest in all matters pertaining to the welfare and advancement of the settlement is widely recognised and warmly appreciated. He is of that type of transplanted English yeoman whom one may meet here and there throughout the Commonwealth and who inspire the wish that more of his sturdy kind might be embarked upon our lands and makes one grudge the good fortune of Canada in absorbing to such a large extent the cream of the yeoman of the Motherland. Mr. Gibsone has won through a giant task in clearing and planting and cropping to the reproductive stage, and already sees close at hand the reward of his grit and enterprise in fruitful trees and paying crops. He has been borne up in his battle with nature by the companionship of a graceful and cheerful helpmeet, and heartened to his labors by the presence of three bright little children. The scene at the pretty little homestead was almost Arcadian. When one looks around at the vastness of the waste of forest and scrub, and reflects that there is room for thousands of homes such as this in our South-West corner, one is apt to wonder what is wrong with the ordering of things that so few such should be here, that here and there one such example moves to admiration, perhaps even by reason of the vary rarity of the type in this part of the world.

To visit Harvey and to neglect going to the ‘Homestead’ is an unforgiveable omission, as is also the omission to inspect the orchard of Mr. H. Teesdale Smith, but the confession has to be made that both were only seen and admired at a distance. These properties verge on to the range, and are picturesque as well as seemingly paying propositions, and are respectively worked by Mr. R. O. Hayward, manager of the Harvey estate, and Mr. Johnson.

It is in close proximity to these holdings where exists one of the many natural reservoir sites that occur along the length of the Darling Range. It needs no stretch of fancy to imagine high possibilities from the impounding of the waters of that perennial stream, the Harvey River, and if ever the Government of the State come to recognise the fact that while the development of the wheat belt is of primary importance it should not claim their whole concentrated efforts, and take to heart the object lessons that so many countries are providing us with in the way of successful national schemes of irrigation or reclamation, then Harvey should be one of the first centres to receive attention by reason of the natural adaptability of the locality to a cheap and effective irrigation project. The settlers of Harvey are of the best class, and are not backward in enterprises demanding united action, as witness their drainage scheme, but much remains for them to urge, and the backing up of the river may be a desideratum to press for, though admittedly a far-cry at the moment, and a scheme to which opposition may be expected, for there is and always will be much strife and difference of opinion where rights riparian are involved and direct benefits are claimed for any section as against the indirect blessings to the community at large.

As remarked at the outset, it is impossible to attempt with any hope of successful treatment a description of the Harvey holdings in a scamper of a few hours over the estate. As many days would be needed to satisfactorily accomplish such a task, and then it would be advisable to press in the services of a camera to help in portraying the transformation that has been wrought over two thousand acres where, a little over a dozen years ago, reigned the forest primeval.