“Squatter ” Jones Revisited

Back in 2016, I published an account of my great-grandfather William Thomas “Squatter” Jones. Since then, I started the Diploma of Family History through the University of Tasmania and required to write a 1000 word essay on an ancestor, I chose to revisit “Squatter”. The essay is different from the original Blog story given there were certain ‘academic’ strictures and objectives to be complied with and achieved.

William Thomas Jones was born 4 June 1865 in Kojonup, Western Australia, the only son of a blacksmith, William Jones (1829-1905), and a soldier’s daughter, Emily Elverd (1846-1925), became one of the most prominent citizens in the district.[1]

Various people, including Governor Stirling, traversed this area of Western Australian following the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829 with settlements at Fremantle (and later, Perth) and King George Sound (later Albany). The local Indigenous people, the Bibbulmun group of the Nyoongar people, guided the surveyor Alfred Hillman to a spring, which he recorded as “Kōjōnup”, in February 1837.[2] Debate ensued for many years over the derivation, pronunciation and meaning of the word but it is generally accepted the place name stems from the word for stone-axe: “Kodja”.[3] Kojonup was established as a way station on the route between the settlements at Swan River and King George Sound in 1837 with a detachment of the 21st Regiment, the Royal British Fusiliers, although this first settlement was short-lived.[4]

The 21st Regiment in Western Australia was relieved by the 51st Regiment, resuming the Kojonup station, which in turn was relieved by the 96th (Manchester) Regiment of Foot from Hobart in 1847. Men of the 51st built the stone barracks in 1843-44, a building still standing today. Following the introduction of convicts to Western Australia in 1850, this military role was handed to the Enrolled Pensioner Guard in 1851.[5] Throughout this period, would-be graziers were scouting the country for suitable agricultural and pastoral land, and the first land allocations took place. One of those was Captain John Hassell whose son Albert, managing his father’s holdings at Jerramungup, brought a helper named Jones to the Kojonup District around 1860.[6] The origins of William Jones are somewhat obscure; apparently, he arrived in King George Sound (Albany) at age 16 years and worked for the “old P&O” as a Blacksmith.[7] Family folklore holds that William was a cabin boy and his arrival in Albany must have been around 1852 as this was when the Peninsula and Orient steamship ss Chusan commenced mail carriage from Singapore to Western Australia.[8] William Jones married Emily Elizabeth Elverd at the Registry Office in Albany 25 April 1865, William Thomas Jones being their only child.[9]

Initially working as the Telegraph Messenger Boy, at age fifteen, William Thomas Jones 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.[10] Early in his grazing career, “Squatter” experienced a setback when a shepherd allowed his flock to “wander into poison country” losing 110 of his 180 sheep.[11] From the earliest days, “York Road Poison” and “Box Poison” were a known blight on the grazing country of the South West although their classification and toxicity were not finally determined until 1934.[12] It is recorded, and “Squatter” himself made the claim, that “he had the distinction of being the first settler to solve the problem satisfactorily” through the “tedious task of grubbing” although there is a reason to dispute this.[13] By around 1912, “Squatter” leased or owned freehold some 10 000 acres of land – fenced, cleared, and subdivided into paddocks.[14]

The Kojonup Road Board, the predecessor to today’s Shire Council, was created in 1871, along with 20 other Boards, representing the beginnings of local government in the Colony.[15] “Squatter” Jones, elected in 1892 at the age of 27 years, served on the Road Board for some 22 years.[16] “Squatter” participated in many community organisations, serving on committees or as a patron, including the rifle, turf and football clubs. He was instrumental in the formation of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society where he was a leading exhibitor. Indeed, at the first show in 1897, “Squatter” took out first prize for two fleeces “that would do credit to any show in the colony”.[17] His interests extended to development politics being involved in the establishment of the Kojonup Railway League and the local branch of the Farmers’ and Producers Union of W.A. Almost every community fundraising effort and community aid project was supported not only by “Squatter” but also by his wife, Matilda.

William Thomas Jones and Matilda Mary Treasure, daughter of the convict Edward Treasure, were married in 1886 with seven of their ten children surviving.[18] Successful as “Squatter” is, tragedy is never far away in those times. Two of his children died on successive days in April 1899 from diphtheria. There is a more descriptive account of this sad event:

“My Dad (Jack Bilston) came over from Victoria about the time of the Gold Rush (1893) … people from the East were known as ‘tother-siders’ and met with a cool reception from the WA settlers.

This attitude was broken when one day in 1899 as Dad was walking on the hill (now the cemetery) he saw a man digging a grave. This was Bill (Squatter) Jones … Dad found out that Bill was digging a grave for his own child, so he took the shovel from him and sent the man home; where other children were suffering from diphtheria too.”[19]

Then, in 1900 – the farmers’ greatest fear – his property “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.”[20]

“Squatter” died 30 June 1936 and was buried in the Kojonup Cemetery where “[m]ore than 100 cars joined in the funeral procession, which extended for a mile in length, and over 400 friends and sympathisers gathered at the graveside …”.[21] Perhaps the final word on the rise to prominence of “Squatter’ comes from the reporter “Salamander”:

“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 dextrously with a long stockwhip. … His name we discovered was Mr. William (“Squatter”) Jones; we had heard of him miles back, and seemed equally well known a hundred miles further along the track.”[22]


[1] Birth certificate for William Thomas Jones, born 4 June 1865, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Western Australia, 0008607C/1865.

[2] Merle Bignell, First the Spring: A History of the Shire of Kojonup, Nedlands, University of Western Australia Press, 1971, p. 1.

[3] Bignell, First the Spring, p. 1.

[4] Bignell, First the Spring, p. 20.

[5] Bignell, First the Spring, pp 59-60.

[6] Bignell, First the Spring, p. 87.

[7] J.S. Battye (ed.), The Cyclopedia of Western Australia: An Historical and Commercial Review; an Epitome of Progress, The Cyclopedia Company, Perth, 1912, Volume II, p. 768; Rica Ericson, Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914, Volume 3, ‘Free 1850-1868’, Nedlands, University of Western Australia Press, 1979, p. 446

[8] ‘Arrival of the Steamer “Chusan” ‘, Inquirer, 29 September 1852, p. 2; ‘Shipping Intelligence’, Inquirer, 8 December 1852, p. 2.

[9] Marriage certificate for William Jones and Emily Elverd, married 25 April 1865, Registrar’s Office, Albany [Western Australia], Registration No. 127.

[10] Bignell, First the Spring, p. 132 – “ … at the age of fifteen “a wag said with an exaggerated gesture, “There goes the Squatter”. The name caught the fancy of the locals and was to stick with him forever, and it is by this name he is commonly known today.” Ericson, Dictionary of Western Australians, Volume 4, Part 1, p. 446 states that William Jones (1829-1905) became known as “Squatter”; this is incorrect.

[11] Bignell, First the Spring, pp 132-133.

[12] Aplin, T.E.H., “Poison Plants of Western Australia: the toxic species of the genera Gastrolobium and Oxylobium: York Road poison and box poison”, Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Western Australia, Series 4: Vol. 8 No. 5, Article 6, pp 200-206 https//researchlibrary.agri.gov.au/journal_agriculture4/vol8/iss5/6 accessed 14 August 2016.

[13] Battye, The Cyclopedia of Western Australia, p. 769; Bignell, First the Spring, p. 160; ‘Distant Days’, West Australian, 23 January 1935, p. 15; [see] Bignell, First the Spring, p. 181, where the method is attributed to others.

[14] Battye, The Cyclopedia of Western Australia, p. 770.

[15] Bignell, First the Spring, p. 118

[16] Bignell, First the Spring, p. 157; ‘Kojonup Pioneer Passes’, Southern Districts Advocate, n.p.

[17] ‘Kojonup A. and H. Society: The Spring Show’, Albany Advertiser, 6 November 1897, p. 3

[18] Marriage certificate for William Jones and Matilde [Matilda] Treasure, married 21 August 1886, Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages, Western Australia, 0006247W/1886. Rica Ericson (ed.), Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914, Volume 2, “Bond: 1850-1863”, Nedlands, University of Western Australia Press, 1979, p. 541.

[19] ‘Kojonup Historical Society: Helping Your Neighbourhood: A Story from the Past’, Kojonup News, Volume 31 No, 14, 3 August 2012, p. 4 (article written by Barbara Hobbs citing a letter written by Ruby (Bilston), Penna to the historian Merle Bignell – copy in Author’s collection).

[20] ‘Kojonup Notes: Bushfires’, Albany Advertiser, 11 January 1900, n.p.

[21] ‘Kojonup Pioneer Passes: W.T. Jones’, Southern Districts Advocate, 6 July 1936, n.p.

[22] ‘Distant Days: Recollections of Kojonup Pioneer’, West Australian, 23 January 1935, p. 15

Bibliography

Albany Advertiser.

Aplin T.E.H., “Poison Plants of Western Australia: the toxic species of the genera Gastrolobium and Oxylobium: York Road poison and Box poison”, Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Series 4: Vol. 8, No. 5, Article 6, pp 200-206, https//researchlibrary,agri.gov.au/journal_agriculture4/vol8/iss5/6 accessed 14 August 2016.

Battye J.S. (ed.), The Cyclopedia of Western Australia: An Historical and Commercial Review, An Epitome of Progress, The Cyclopedia Company, Perth, 1912, in two volumes.

Bignell, Merle, First the Spring: A history of the Shire of Kojonup, Nedlands, University of Western Australia Press, 1971.

Erickson, Rica (ed.), Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914, Volume 2, “Bond: 1850-1863”, Nedlands, University of Western Australia Press, 1979.

Erickson, Rica (ed.), Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914, Volume 3, “Free: 1850-1868”, Nedlands, University of Western Australia Press, 1979.

Ericson, Rica (ed.), Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914, Volume 4, Part 1, A-K, “The Challenging Years: 1868-1888”, Nedlands, University of Western Australia Press, 1984.

Inquirer

Kojonup News

Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Western Australia.

Southern Districts Advocate

West Australian



About njsresearch6

I have lived in the Northern Territory most of my life, although raised in Western Australia. Memberships include the NT Genealogical Society (Committee), Australian Museum and Gallery Association (NT Chapter Committee), and Chung Wah Society (NT Chinese Museum Coordinator).
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