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A History of the Shire of Plantagenet
Plantagenet County was explored in 1829 by Surgeon T. B. Wilson R.N., then later by Governor James Stirling and charted by Surveyor Septimus Roe.
The resulting map showed forests and valleys of good land, lakes, swamps, lagoons and rivers. Between the Kent River and the Hay River was ‘Rich and beautiful country’.
Aboriginals knew it well and had thrived on its bounty for countless generations. But the second comers, the differently cultured white immigrants forced out of their own land by poverty and a yearning for a better life, had much to learn — even for survival. The way they learned is the theme of this history; its scope a century and a half of endeavour and achievement.
To preserve the now-remembered and re-create the climate in which the ﬁrst white settlers began their Australian life, the Plant-agenet Shire sought help from the authors, before the old family tales had been forgotten and precious letters and records destroyed.
There is still virgin bush in the Plantagenet and children know the joy of befriending a kangaroo ‘joey’ or a nest-fallen young possum. Some in the outback even remember the pleasure of holding the gentle, banded numbat. There is still sweet scented boronia in the creeks, wild ﬂowers in the bush and freedom to explore. But will these precious things last for ever?
The Australian outback character was moulded by the land as typiﬁed by ‘Old Jack’, a smoke-dried bachelor with a fund of fascinating bush lore, who had spent his life ring-barking and burning-off to make way for cultivation.
Necessity forced the creation of many practical farm inventions, like the Muir’s wooden plough and the Muir’s woolpress, generously lent when requested to grateful neighbours.
The younger women worked outside with their men. Those in the kitchens found new ways of preserving surplus supplies of freshly killed meats and fruits from orchards and gardens. Hospitality was taken for granted.
On good terms with the Aboriginal women, their white sisters learned the secrets of bush herbal remedies. They learned to recognize the edible roots and fruits of the forest.
Transportation and the opening of the Convict Hiring Depot at Albany brought beneﬁts to the settlers. The convict gangs cleared and formed the Perth-Albany road. Educated ticket-of-leave men became tutors to reluctant young scholars, hitherto taught spasmodically by elder brothers or sisters. Others were employed on farms or on such building projects as the Hay River Bridge.
With better roads, adventurous new settlers took upland further aﬁeld. A period of tranquility allowed consolidation. But this was effectively shattered by the traumas of two world wars and a Great Depression. Recovery came with the discovery of ‘trace elements’ and subterranean clovers which revolutionized the management of pastures. The returned soldiers were settled on farms. Sheep and cattle numbers increased rapidly—as well as the need for new farm lands. For this, the bulldozer made clearing easy and innovative and new-type machinery modernized the farmers’ work.
Government-assisted settlement farms became available in Denbarker and Rocky Gully. Other challenges were taken up at Narrikup, Porongurup, Kamballup and South Stirling. A new era had begun.