Week two of the National Family History Month weekly blog challenge set by Alex Daw takes your ancestor’s occupations as the theme. For me, that has to be farming or shearing – my cousin Billy and I were the first of our family to be neither shearers nor farmers.
The tribe Mirbelieae (Fabacaceae) is endemic to Australia and comprises a major component of the flora in many temperate ecosystems. The 109 species of Gastrolobium R. Br. belong to this tribe and are all native to the south-west of Western Australia, … Furthermore it is one of the largest legume genera in the south-west of Western Australia where it forms a major component of the understorey in many areas, such as sandplains with their accompanying vegetation, which is usually heath or Mallee (shrubby eucalypt woodland). Gastrolobium accumulates monoflouoroacetic acid (the sodium salt of which is also known as the commercial poison, Compound 1080; herein referred to just as flouoroacetate), which makes it highly toxic . Gastrolobium was first discovered to be poisonous by trials carried out in what was then the Swan River Colony (now Western Australia) by Preiss and James Drummond in the late 1830s and early 1840s, At the request of colonists suffering disastrous stock losses, and several species were identified as the most toxic (most notably G. Calycinum and G. axylobiodes; Erickson 1969), although it was not until the 1960s that the toxin present in Gastrolobium was identified (Aplin 1971). Severe stock losses have occurred in the past due to flouoroacetate poisoning, which led to an eradication program, particularly in the wheat belt region of south-western Australia. As a consequence, many species are now rare or threatened with extinction, making Gastrolobium both ecologically and economically important.
What on earth has this do with family history? Well – there is a clue in the following newspaper report of the 1905 Royal Commission on Immigration:
William Thomas Jones, born 4 June 1865 in Kojonup, the son of William Jones and Emily Elizabeth Elverd was my great-grandfather. Initially working as the Telegraph Messenger Boy, at age 15 years he struck out on his own grazing his small mob of sheep across the countryside (earning the sobriquet “Squatter”), offering his services to other farmers and plying his father’s trade as a Blacksmith. I never knew him, although I did know his wife, my great grandmother, so it is interesting to read this first-hand account, written more colourfully than I could:
RECOLLECTIONS OF _KOJONUP PIONEER.
(By “SALAMANDER,” in the “West Australian”.)
Every country town has its most interesting inhabitant; and Kojonup’s most interesting inhabitant we saw as, hot and dusty, we pulled into the township. He was old but wiry, and his step was the springing stride of the bushman. Up the hill he came, chirruping a mob of milkers and flicking the laggards dexterously with a long stock whip.
“It’s a dusty run from Perth,” I said, as he passed. “Aye,” he replied, regarding my diminutive roadster, “she must be thirsty”. However, my need was the greater, and we crossed to the local hostelry. An old, old bar had seen travellers on the great south highway change from horseback to horsepower. His name, we discovered, was Mr William (“Squatter”)’ Jones; we had heard of him miles back, and he seemed equally well-known a hundred miles further along the track. His nickname, born from an early ambition, he had carried for half a century, and he was known by nothing else. Sharp, alert features, piercing eyes and a grizzled beard belied the 70 odd years of one of the pioneers of Kojonup. I had guessed that Kojonup would be full of interesting associations; and I soon discovered that it was. Born at Kojonup, “Squatter” Jones remembers, the time when more than a thousand natives were sometimes to ‘ be seen camping and feasting and corroboreeing in the gulley, just below the township; and when the kangaroos were as “thick as the leaves on the trees” and could be seen sitting and lying and hopping about in great mobs. Emus were just as plentiful. Now fences have driven them to far-off open country.
As he went to school, “Squatter” remembers passing long lines of convicts carting slabs of granite to form the foundation of the present main highway to Albany. He went to a school ‘conducted by Sergeant Loton, one of the small garrison of soldiers stationed at Kojonup. Sometimes Colonel Harvey, the then commandant, would arrive from Perth, and the garrison of about 12 soldiers would parade, in their scarlet jackets and blue trousers, making a very brave show. Nearly all of them were veterans of the Crimean wars or the Indian Mutiny. They included Sergeants Loton, Tunney, Riley and Noonan. When disbanded they were given pensioner grants for their services by Queen Victoria. Most of the” families of this old garrison have died out, except the descendants of Sergeant Tunney, who now possess a fine property at Tunney Town, on the road to Cranbrook.
Tea at 3/-.
In the distant days of “Squatter’s” memory, the settlers lived mainly by the sale of sandalwood and kangaroo skins. In those days, sandalwood grew thickly in the bush about Kojonup and was worth anything up to £16 per ton. A few of the settlers made small clearings and put in 20 or 30 acres of crop. The grain had to be sent either to York or Bunbury, where the only grist mills were situated. Apparently the flour was never properly sifted, and came back a dirty black color. Those who did not crop were forced to get their flour from the Eastern States. A 200 lb bag of flour cost £3, plus 6/- for cartage. So it paid to put in crops and put up with the bran. The early settlers, according to Mr Jones, had few luxuries. Tea cost 3/- per pound. Most of them used black sugar — probably dried molasses — imported from Russia. Brown granulated sugar was the best to be had in those days — white sugar being apparently ‘ unknown. Only the “toffs” — as “Squatter” put it— could afford jam. For fruit and vegetables they depended on what they could grow.
Later he remembers long lines of men pressing eagerly along the road through Kojonup towards the new El Dorado at Coolgardie. At that time, of course, Albany was the main port and trundled along their gear in the of the State[sic]. Many of them had camels with them. Others pushed most amazing contraptions. Many pushed high piled wheelbarrows. All of them expected to make their fortunes. Distances, apparently, meant nothing in those days. Mr. Jones told us that his aunt, Mrs Norrish, who died some time ago in Kojonup at a very old age, thought nothing of walking across country from Kojonup to Bunbury or down the highroad to Albany, to buy a cow or some goats. She was accompanied only by a native gin. Once she walked all the way to Perth, and thought these journeys just as part of the day’s work. The property had to be stocked, and there were no railways.
When he was a boy of 15, “Squatter’s” mother bought him 16 hoggets. This was the beginning of his career as a sheep farmer. In a few years his flock had increased to 180 head. Then he lost 110 of them in ten days, as the boy who was looking after the sheep allowed them to wander into poison country. At that time there were few fences and the flocks were all shepherded in the bush, largely by natives. However, “Squatter” was not discouraged. Again his flock increased, and at 18 he owned about 200 sheep. The wool at that time was packed in tin boxes and dispatched to London for sale. On one occasion, out of fleeces sent from all parts of the world, Mr. Jones topped the market. He got 6 1/2d per lb. for his wool. At that time all the wool had to be scoured before being dispatched to market. It was an elaborate business. First of all the sheep were driven or thrown into a river, and well soaked. Then they were penned for a night in clean-swept yards. This softened the yolk. Next day they were thoroughly washed in the river, all the dirt and yolk coming out easily after the preliminary soaking. After this the sheep were turned out to graze for a week in clean, dry country and were then shorn. There were no fences in the district then, the sheep all being shepherded, mostly by aborigines under European supervision.
The Poison Menace.
The greatest disadvantage was poison. In those days there was poison everywhere, and shepherding necessitated extreme care. At first the settlers attempted to rid the country of poison by simply cutting down the bushes. They were astounded to discover that by this method several bushes sprang up where only one had grown before. And burning only germinated the seeds; so that with all their efforts they only caused the poison to flourish like the green bay tree. The settlers were in despair. Then “Squatter” discovered the means of ridding the country of this Hydra. Using a mattock, he grubbed the bushes out root and all. And this method finally abolished the poison. Mr Jones alleges that he was the first man in the State to discover this method.
In its early days most of the district was leased to an English syndicate by the Government. They held the land for 20 years, and no one else was able to obtain any land. Then the company sent out a young Englishman to clear and subdivide the land. Not knowing the difference between scrub and poison, he cut down all indiscriminately and lost most of the company’s sheep. The lease was abandoned; and the Government, thinking the country useless for sheep owing to the poison, threw it open for sale. Much of it was bought for as low as 5/- per acre. Then, when the Government found the poison could be grubbed, they bought back much of the land for anything up to 17/- per acre.
Mr. Jones bought up land, bit by bit, in the district, and recently divided his fine property of 12,000 acres between his four sons. He has always been associated with the progress of the district, and for more than 30 years was a member of the Kojonup Road Board. He was also the first man in the district to own a motor car. This was a “Lizzie”, bought in 1911. Now there are more than 300 cars and trucks in the road board district.
“I can remember the time,” said Mr. Jones in conclusion, “when one of the police troopers used to take his boy to school with a chain round his neck, so he wouldn’t play truant; and there were times when you could buy a flock of sheep for a gallon of rum. So we have progressed!”
By 1905 at age 40 years, Squatter’s holdings were 11 000 acres but even so in that year he still contracted to JCG Foulkes, Member of the Legislative Assembly, to “superintend improvements in the way of fencing, clearing, ringbarking and the dam sinking on the 6,000-acre block, close to Kojonup, that he recently purchased”. Squatter’s empire was founded on Ongerup farm originally granted to his paternal grandfather William Elverd who had come to Western Australia in 1840 with the 51st (Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) Regiment. Elverd later became a Police Constable and posted to Kojonup around 1862. Anna Maria (Norrish) Treasure, Squatter’s mother-in-law, purchased Ongerup around 1887 and in that year her 17-year old son Elworthy, and Squatter’s brother-in-law, was accidentally shot and killed with a rifle owned by “a labourer named Elverd”. This was possibly Robert Elverd – Squatter’s uncle. It is around this time that Squatter takes over Ongerup farm.
Successful as Squatter is – he is the biggest landowner in the district, a member of the Roads Board and founder of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society – tragedy is never far away in those times. Two of his children die on successive days in April 1899 from diphtheria. Then, in the following year – the farmers’ greatest fear – Ongerup suffers a devastating bushfire. “Scores of miles of feed have been destroyed. Mr W.T. Jones has been the greatest sufferer. He lost a splendid crop of over 30 acres of wheat equal to close on 14 bushels, and his homestead and hay at Ongerup were saved only by a miracle.” However, a worse disaster almost became the family that day.
Mrs House is my second great grandmother Anna Maria Norrish who married William House following the death of her husband Edward Treasure; Mrs Jones is my great grandmother Matilda Mary Treasure (and Squatter’s wife) and the baby is William John Jones – my grandfather.
Gastrolobium Calycinum Image – https://australianseed.com/shop/item/gastrolobium-calycinum accessed 14 August 2016.
Ongerup c. 1912 – The Cyclopedia of Western Australia in Two Volumes, Battye JS (Editor), Perth, 1912.. Vol. 2 p. 771 (Photograph by W.E. Elston)
Ongerup 2016 – Government of Western Australia. Heritage Council, tmpB39A, 2016
William Thomas and William Henry Jones – Authors Collection
Chandler GT, Crisp MD, Cayzer LW and Bayer RJ Monograph of Gastrolobium (Fabaceae: Mirbelieae) in Australian Systematic Botany, Vol.15, 2002, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, p.619.
Report of the Royal Commission on Immigration, Western Australian Government, 1905, Perth.
1905 ‘THE CRY FOR POPULATION.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 – 1954), 31 March, p. 5. , viewed 13 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25378267
1935 ‘DISTANT DAYS.’ The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 – 1954), 23 January, p. 15. , viewed 12 Sep 2010, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32843724
1905 ‘KOJONUP NOTES.’ Western Mail (Perth, WA: 1885 – 1954), 7 January, p. 7. , viewed 13 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37803272
1887 ‘THE LATE GUN ACCIDENT AT KOJONUP.’ The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 – 1954), 3 November, p. 2. , viewed 23 Oct 2010, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3114560
1900 ‘Kojonup Notes: Bush Fires.’ Albany Advertiser (WA: 1897 – 1950), 11 January, p. 4. , viewed 19 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69896951
The Cyclopedia of Western Australia in Two Volumes, Battye JS (Editor), Perth, 1912. Pp 768-773
Bignell, Merle First The Spring: A History of the Shire of Kojonup, Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press, 1971