Convict Histories

George Reeve (c1832 – 1901) (Reg. No. 6426)

By Irma Walter, 2021.

Transported to WA

George Reeve arrived in Western Australia onboard the convict ship Norwood (Journey 1) on 9 June 1862. He had been convicted of burglary at the Norwich Assizes in Norfolk on 25 July 1860 and was sentenced to six years’ penal servitude. Due to a previous conviction he was transported to WA.[1] His description was aged 40, married with three children, height 5’6’, with light brown hair, grey eyes, a long face, sallow complexion, medium stout, nose broken. He was received from Chatham Prison.[2] His record in Separate Confinement, at Public Works and during the voyage was ‘Very Good’. He was able to read but not write.[3] His only property was listed as a Manuel of Prayer and a letter.[4]

Following his conviction George’s wife and three children were left behind in desperate straits. At the time of the 1861 Census they were listed as paupers, inmates of the District Union Workhouse of Guiltcross, in Norfolk —

Mary Ann Noble, married, aged 26, born Roydon, Norfolk.

George Noble, son aged 1, born Shelfanger, Norfolk.

Amelia, daughter, aged 4, born Roydon, Norfolk.

Anna, daughter, aged 2, born Shelfanger, Norfolk.

An Australind Connection

After receiving his Ticket of Leave on 17 July 1863, George found employment at Wilgarrup, a new settlement down in the karri forest, about 14 kms north-east of Manjimup. His employer was Charles Rose, one of the adventurous men taking up the challenge of clearing the mighty karri trees and establishing farming properties deep in the Balbarrup area of the South-West in the early 1860s. [Charles Rose was the brother of Robert Henry Rose, a well-established farmer of ‘Parkfield’, at Australind. For a time their mother Elizabeth Rose lived at Wilgarrup with Charles.]

Charles Rose must have considered George Reeve a reliable worker, as he decided to assist him in his quest to bring his family out to Western Australia. In a letter dated 20 February 1865, addressed to the Honorable Frederick Palgrove Barlee Esq., [Colonial Secretary], Mr Rose recommended consideration of Reeve’s plea for Government assistance —


Feby 20th 1865.


A Ticket of leave man, name George Reeve who has been in my employ for eighteen months, & always well conducted, has a wife and three children at home, whom he wishes very much to come out to him, & whom it appears cannot obtain assistance from the Government without the recommendation of His Excellency the Governor. I have enclosed for your inspection papers that were sent me, & should there be any assistance required from the man towards bringing them out I should feel much obliged for His Excellency’s recommendation, as well as your instruction in this matter.

I have the honor to be


Your obdt. Servt,

C. Rose

[To] The Honble F. P. Barlee, Esq.[5]

Charles Rose’s intervention in the case of Reeve’s family brought the desired result. The names of Mary Ann Reeve (32), and her three children, Amelia (9), Anna (7) and George (5), appeared on the Certificate of Final Departure, Passenger Lists of Assisted Emigrants onboard the Robert Morrison, leaving London on 26 November 1865. The ship arrived at Fremantle WA on 7 March 1866, with three cabin and 73 steerage passengers.[6]

Life at Wilgarrup

George received his Conditional Pardon on 9 April 1866 at Bunbury, and his Certificate of Freedom was forwarded to the Resident Magistrate at Bunbury on 22 December 1869.[7] George acquired 40 acres of land near Wilgarrup in the Warren District and built a house for his family. The work was hard, but with his wife’s support George eked out a living, overcoming the disadvantages of poor roads and long distances to travel to sell his produce or buy necessary items for his growing family. The couple went on to have nine children altogether. The following children were born in Western Australia, with their birth place listed variously as Blackwood, Warren or Bilbarrup [sic] —

Emily b.1867

Walter Solomon b.1868

Alfred Charles b.1870

Arthur b. 1872

Harriet b.1873

Ellen Sophia b.1877

Despite the hard work involved in helping with farm work and running the household, Mary managed to tutor her children at home. She became well-known throughout the district as the local midwife. She never refused a call for help, travelling long distances to assist women in their time of need, riding side-saddle on her horse, often through the night. Her generous assistance to the sick and needy has been acknowledged in a number of newspaper articles. She was a shining example to her large family, who grew up to be well-respected members of the local community, always ready to reach out a helping hand. Her husband George, although heavily involved in farm work, was also known as a hospitable host and helpful neighbour.

The name of George Reeve, farmer, was listed in various WA Almanacks between 1877 and 1889.[8] Whether he ever retired from farm work is not known. In 1901, a significant year in Australia’s history, George Reeve passed away —

REEVE. — On February 23rd, at his residence, Balbarrup road, George Reeve; aged 74 years and 8 months.[9]

George H Reeve was buried in the Bridgetown Cemetery, where his unmarried daughter Amelia had been buried in 1896. His wife Mary Ann joined them there in 1922.

In 1893 a traveller wrote a series of articles about his travels through the South-West and mentioned visiting the Reeve farm —

…I would have liked a trip down to Brockman’s in the karri country if time had permitted, for I was told all round that Mr. Brockman was a most successful orchardist and gardener, and the like of his fruit and vegetables had never been seen in the whole countryside. People regarded his success as an evidence of the wonderful fertility of the karri soil and its suitability for fruit and vegetable growth. My own slight view of the capabilities of the karri soil leads me to coincide with them. That night I put up at the house of Mr. George Reeves, a mile or two from Balbarrup, who farms about 40 acres of medium quality land with good results, for its crops are sown and reaped and stacked on the old time English system. He has also leased lands, and his three sons also have selections, at which they propose to work. The place is well supplied with water, both from a well and a spring. These people have lived for years on the produce of their own land, making the land pay for their support. Undoubtedly they are the very class, having the reputation of being the hardest working men in the district, whom a railway would benefit, and who would help with the carriage of their produce, to make a railway pay. As it is their output is small, for circumstances do not conduce to extended cultivation. Seventy or eighty miles by road to a market with wheat between three and four shillings a bushel, does not give them inducement to crop on a larger scale.

Mr. Reeves was away with his team at Bunbury to get his own wheat ground for flour for his own use. The only advantage in carting the wheat to the mill was that he would have bran and pollard to bring back with the flour. Otherwise it would pay him better to purchase imported flour in Bunbury. The disability in not getting a market near at hand prevents his growing crops that he would otherwise put in. If he had easy access to buyers he would farm in a more regular way and adopt better methods. His place was left the next day by coach for Bridgetown.[10] [Note: The Bridgetown-Wilgarrup Railway opened in July 1911.]



The residents of the Blackwood district will learn with regret of the passing of Mary Ann Reeve, her death taking place on Saturday morning last at the residence of her son, Mr. Arthur Reeve, of Balbarrup. She passed her 91st milestone on June 6 last. Left to mourn the loss are three daughters and four sons. The deceased, with three children, came to this State from Norfolk (England) and joined her husband in the early days of settlement, the trip out taking 18 weeks. They settled in the Balbarrup district, carving out a home from the forest, which in those days was no light task, for the provisions required had to be brought from Bunbury by road, 80 miles away, either by waggon or pack-horse. For many years their only means of working the soil was with the spade, and for years with this tool they dug and planted 40 acres with wheat, which when harvested was crushed into flour. The posts, rails and slabs required for fencing in their fields were carted on their shoulders to the required places. In this work the late Mrs. Reeve always did her share.

Many people in this district owe their lives to this grand old lady, for in those early days when the nearest doctor was at Bunbury, Mrs. Reeve was called to every sick bed-side. She never tarried for a moment when a call was sent out for help, but saddled a horse and went forward, wet or dry, and very often in the hours of the night, to care for those who were sick. An old resident of Bridgetown stated only a few days ago that he knew of one case in which the late Mrs. Reeve had been called out at midnight and before daylight next morning she had ridden 40 miles to attend at the bed-side of a resident who had been stricken down with sickness.

The Funeral. A large number of residents attended the funeral on Sunday afternoon last, the remains being interred in the Church of England portion of the Bridgetown cemetery, Rev. F. Davis conducting the last rites at the graveside. The pall-bearers were Messrs J. C. Rose, J. Moriarty, Geo. Stephens and H. Blechynden.[11]



Intensely interested in the compilation of the early history of this district and mindful that some move should be made to perpetuate memories of these wonderful Warren pioneers, Mrs. R. Shaw, of Palgarup has written the following tribute to a woman loved and revered by people from Bunbury to the Warren settlement. The tribute is a striking acknowledgment of the Christian-like endeavours of one of our pioneer women who ended her useful life at the age of 93 years —

What a wonderful heritage God gave us in this Warren district of South-West W.A. Hardwood timbers to build our homes and fertile soils to grow our food and which has been proved in the years of settlement, capable of growing almost all foods for our needs. But what the beginning of this settlement meant, nearly 100 years ago “when there came a few men and women from different parts of the world who selected land on which to build their homes? With forests so dense as they were they indeed needed stout hearts and strong backs in this brave venture. With saws, axes, land adze, they fell trees and trimmed slabs for walls and floors and if they possessed a shingle knife they split shingles for the roofs, otherwise they made thatched roofs with rushes. They sought out clay and stones for fireplaces. Also split posts and rails and stubbs for fencing, stubbs (short slabs) were very necessary to keep boody rats out of their crops and gardens. Then they dug small areas of suitable ground for grain crops, burned logs to ashes to serve as fertiliser.

The seed was sown broadcast by hands from a bag carried in front of the body, then rolled by a small log with a chain attached drawn also by hand. When the crop was ready for harvesting it was cut with a scythe or sickle, gathered and thrashed with a flail then winnowed or sifted with the help of the wind to separate grain and chaff. The grain was then put into bags and carried each side of the horse to the nearest mill to be ground into flour. The nearest at first, Bunbury, where they could then buy clothing and other goods to bring back on the return journey, and to last some months.

In all these stages of home-building and the production, the settlers wives, and womenfolk gave their assistance as well as their household duties. The best straws were picked out and pressed under logs to be plaited into hats, while most wearing apparel was made by hand, sewing machines were a rare luxury in a home. Then domestic conveniences were very primitive. A camp oven was used for baking, later some husbands were able to build ovens of clay stones or bricks. Wash tubs were usually a barrel cut in half, and an iron boiler served several purposes. An iron bar across the top of the fireplace with chains hanging down for oven, boiler and pots to be attached by hooks over the fire for cooking purposes.

“WONDERFUL COURAGE” These brave pioneer mothers had wonderful courage unselfishness and patience indeed, and the homes were usually some distances apart, to add loneliness to their hardships and anxieties. Much more must this have been felt when the families were increasing. The nearest doctor was in Bunbury about 100 miles away and no hospitals to receive them. And this is where I appeal to the women of this district. Other settlers began to arrive here, and one who was to be “an Angel of Mercy” in the person of the late Mrs. Mary Ann Reeve, came to reside, at Balbarrup. And what a great comfort she must have been to the expectant mothers so widely scattered in this vast bush. This “Florence Nightingale” did not carry a lamp but she had a horse on which was used a man’s saddle, and a folded rug or blanket fastened on to it to enable her to ride sidesaddle. The distances she had to travel may have been from one, ten, twenty or forty miles—rain, frost or heat—for the “stork” does not study time or weather to announce his pending arrival. It may have been Nannup, Balingup or Lower Warren. Visualise if you can a call from Balingup. Most of you know that road today. Somewhere about 35 or 38 miles away. A messenger rides up to Mrs. Reeve’s residence on horseback, the foam of sweat dripping from the horse necessitating one of the boys to walk the animal about to cool off and prevent it getting a chill, while Mrs. Reeve gets ready. She is soon mounted on her horse and away, passing “Wilgarup,” (five miles) next “Hill Farm” (11 miles) the only homesteads between her home and Bridgetown which is three miles further.

HORSEBACK TO BALINGUP From there on to Balingup another 16 miles, there may have been two more homesteads on that stretch but no Greenbushes town then. Arriving at the home of her patient she is almost certain to have to commence duty immediately, without thought of resting until she could pronounce mother and baby both well. Then it was not only a matter of nursing the mother and baby in those days, unless some of the family were grown up. There would be bread to make and bake, meals to prepare, washing for the family and maybe attend to young children as well. However, I understand, thanks be to God for healthy women, simple living and capable nursing, Mrs. Reeve who became affectionately known as “Doctor,” never lost a case. She stood for all that a maternity ward means today, doctor, nurse and attendant. The remuneration would not be very great but that did not matter. This wonderful old lady was helping a mother through the “Valley of the Shadow” and was ready to help when called to any bed of sickness to help others in time of need.

Household remedies were simple and not plentiful. Linseed or marsh-mallow poultices, hoarhound tea or other herb teas, for various illnesses, and the universal Perry Davis’s pain killer for both internal and external pains and ailments. When necessary to give vaccination Dr. Sampson or Dr. Lovegrove from Bunbury, would ride out to Balbarrup where those gathered were vaccinated. Any cases that did not “take” Mrs. Reeve was able to make another application of lymph from a young calf.

RAISED EIGHT CHILDREN As well as attending to other settlers in sickness and midwifery, Mrs. Reeves had her own family of eight and her home to care for. Two of her sons, Mr. Alfred Reeve and Mr. Arthur Reeve are still with us on their homesteads at Balbarrup, respected and worthy settlers. After her day’s work Mrs. Reeve would teach her children what school lessons she could while she plaited the straw to make their hats. She was a very gentle, interesting Christian old lady. Coming from England she was very proud to talk of her home and people. She gave up nursing about 1908 and lived quietly, reaching the grand old age of 93 years, and passed peacefully away July 1, 1922, and so the Long Day closed. We pay homage to all those brave pioneer women who went through those early stages of settlement to make this district what it is today. We feel sure that, particularly this wonderful angel of mercy, who meant so much to those mothers in isolated places, is deserving of a fitting and lasting memorial.

SUITABLE MEMORIAL There are still many of the “babies” living around that Mrs. Reeve assisted into the world. Will they meet together and call up later settlers to work out and plan a memorial suitable and worthy of one of the finest country women our district has had. For suggestion, a maternity ward, a bed or with the coming of a regional hospital, an hygienic dormitory for the babies, attached to the maternity wing, where relatives and visitors can see the babies in their pretty cosy bassinettes through the glass, without disturbing them. Similar to the one St. John of God’s Hospital, Bunbury. With the wonderful advances and progress of this district of which Manjimup is the centre, it should not be too much to ask for this tribute, My own mother was another such nurse in Victoria 60 years ago, but with more settled conditions, and knowing what it meant to go long distances under similar conditions, has given me the desire to write about the wonderful work done by this

Mother, Teacher, Nurse and “Doctor” —MARY ANN REEVE.[12]

An obituary to one of George Reeve’s sons, Arthur, gives more details of the family and their contributions to the local community


The death occurred over the weekend of Mr. Arthur Reeve at the age of 81 years. He was born at Balbarrup, a few miles from Manjimup, son of George and Mary Ann Reeves.

The latter was one of the district’s most romantic figures. Her death at the age of 93 years ended a long and humanitarian career as a midwife, long before there was a doctor to serve the surrounding districts. Winter and summer she would ride horseback as far as 40 miles, see a young mother settled in with her new babe, then return home to help her husband run the farm, do the numerous home chores and educate her large family. The late Mr. Reeves was always credited with driving the district’s first ambulance, double-seater four wheel buggy, and countless times he had been taken from his ploughing to harness up his pair to transport an injured person to receive attention. Only last year Mr. Reeve was honoured on his birthday with a monster barbecue (when a whole beast was grilled on the spit) when friends from all over the district gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday. At this it was recalled how Mr. Reeve had been born at Balbarrup on February 29, 1872, and his quiet, unassuming nature had made him a well-known friend to residents of the Manjimup district. With the coming of the railway line in 1909 and the invasion of the sleeper cutters, new residents gradually arrived in Wilgarup, now known as Palgarup. It was at this time that Mr. Reeve’s double-seated four-wheeler buggy and splendid pair of roans became well known in the district as the local “ambulance.”

The sharp axes and tools used by the fallers seemed to be a constant danger and Mr. Reeves never knew how far he would get in ploughing or harvesting before he would get a call to transfer his horses to the buggy and to take some patient or patients to hospital. The only doctor in the district between Palgarup and Big Brook (Pemberton) and the State mill was a Dr. Chapman. When Dr. Chapman enlisted for the 1914-18 war, the only doctor between Pemberton and Donnybrook was a Dr. Dean at Bridgetown. Other than the mail vehicle three times a week and the train twice a week from Bridgetown, the only transport consisted of the sleeper drays.

Mr. and Mrs. Reeves were a constant help to their neighbours and newcomers to the district. Being used to the long trips to Bridgetown, and even Bunbury, for stores, they were never short of supplies, and were only too pleased to share what they had with other families when they ran short. January 21, 1921, to July 1, 1922, were sad months for Mr. Reeve. During these tragic 18 months his splendid young wife, his eldest daughter (who was 21), and his aged mother (93) passed away—a loss that was felt throughout the district. Mr. Reeve was one of nature’s true gentlemen who had only kindness and hospitality to offer his wide circle of friends. His only visit outside the State was a trip to New Zealand. He was always keen on the study of astronomy, his limited education given only by his mother preventing him from making a possible career of the subject. He is survived by a son Les and two daughters Mesdames M. Flemming and P. Barker. His remains were interred at Bridgetown on Tuesday last.[13]


[1] England and Wales Criminal Registers,

[2] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R22)

[3] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R24 – R25)

[4] Convict Establishment, Miscellaneous, Prisoners Property Book (V14)

[5] The setting out of the letter has been modified to suit the website.

[6] Inquirer, 21 March 1866.

[7] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R22)

[8] Carnamah Historical Museum,

[9] Bunbury Herald, 14 March 1901.

[10] Australian Advertiser, Albany, 10 April 1893.

[11] South Western Times, 8 July 1922.

[12] Manjimup and Warren Times, 17 April 1946.

[13] Manjimup and Warren Times, 2 December 1953.