Towns in Western Australia – late 1800s

Where did your ancestors live in the late 1800s? Follows is a list and brief description of the townships in Western Australia as described in 1877.

This information may help those who are tracing the path of their ancestors within Australia. Basic information such as location and the main activities in the district may indicate why an ancestor went to the location.  There is more information on each place available in the source material such as the buildings, businesses and population at each in the 1870s and in many cases, the means of travel to, or communication with, the town.

ALBANY, King George’s Sound, is situated on rising ground on the shores of Princess Royal Harbour, 261 miles SE. of Perth. It is the principal town of the Plantagenet county, and the depot and coaling station of the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s steamers, carrying the Australian mails, for which it has special advantages. The steamers anchor about a mile from the shored Passengers are conveyed by row and sailing-boats. The harbour is one of the finest on the Australian coast and is well protected from winds. A jetty of some length affords facilities for the loading and discharge of small craft. The town is small, and the buildings of no magnitude. Albany is a post town, savings’ bank, and money-order office. The Plantagenet district has under cultivation wheat, barley and oats. The town was founded in 1826.

ARRINO, a telegraph station 222 miles distant from Perth. 

ARTHUR RIVER, a post town and telegraph station 120 miles from Perth. 

AUGUSTA is situated 190 miles SW. of Perth.

AUSTRALIND, a post town and money order office, near the seacoast, in the district of Wellington, 105 miles distant from Perth, S., pleasantly situated on the Leschenault estuary, 7 miles from the port of Bunbury. Auriferous quartz has been found in this neighbourhood. 

BANNISTER, a post-office 67 miles SE. of Perth.

BERKSHIRE VALLEY, a telegraph station 135 miles distant from Perth.

BEVERLEY, a small post town and money order office, on the river Avon, about 85 miles E. of Perth, and 22 miles S. of York. It is the centre of a fertile agricultural district. Farming is now being actively carried on in the district, though the ravages of the red-rust have been very detrimental. 

BLACKWOOD, and Lower Blackwood These are two small proposed town sites, and are at present the centres of a settled population. There is a post-office and money-order office at each place. They lie distant about 170 miles from Perth, S. 

BRIDGETOWN, a small but rapidly increasing post town and money-order office on the Blackwood river, situated about 172 miles S. from Perth, and about 60 miles from Bunbury. It is surrounded by a fertile pastoral country, and bids fair to become a place of importance.

BUNBURY, a post town, telegraph, money order, and Government savings’ bank office, is the principal port of the southern districts, and is picturesquely situated at the mouth of the Leschenault inlet, in which debouch the Preston and Collie rivers with several smaller streams. The harbour, known as Koombanah Bay, is a tolerably safe one, being sheltered from all but the north-westerly winds. A coral reef protects the entrance to the bar and might be made the foundation of a breakwater. Bunbury is distant, by road, about 112 miles from Perth S, by sea from Fremantle it is distant 90 miles, and by road 100 miles. It is the capital of the district of Wellington, and a port for the shipment of timber, sandalwood, horses, and produce. It is the outlet to a considerable tract of productive country and possesses a jetty nearly one-fourth of a mile in length, which affords facilities for the loading and discharge of vessels. The agricultural acres under cultivation are principally for wheat crops.

BUSSELTON, the capital of the agricultural district of the Vasse, lies 30 miles farther S. than Bunbury, and is consequently upwards of 140 miles , from Perth. It is built in the centre of Geographe Bay. A small river runs through the town and loses itself in an estuary. A Ballarat company formed a sawing station here for jarrah wood in 1871. Busselton is a post town, telegraph, and money-order office.

CANNING, a small postal and money-order township, about 10 miles distant from Perth.

CHAMPION BAY. See Geraldton. 

DARDANDUP is a farming settlement composed almost exclusively of Irish families, about 12 miles E. of Bunbury, and 124 miles S. of Perth. It contains a post and money-order office.

DONGARRA, a post-office and telegraph station, 269 miles from Perth. 

FREMANTLE is a municipal and Government savings’ bank town, situated at the mouth of Swan river, 12 miles from Perth S. The harbour accommodation has been decried, but vessels provided with good ground tackle can ride out any gale coming from a northerly direction. These gales are the only ones which effect any damage to the shipping; but as the barometer is an infallible guide during the winter months when they prevail, vessels have ample time to make for an excellent harbour of refuge which is provided at Garden Island, about 12 miles distant. Rottnest Island, is 14 miles W. of Fremantle. A native penal establishment and farm are established on Rottnest Island and the Government salt works. The Swan river is spanned by a fine wooden bridge nearly 1,000 feet long. Fremantle is the principal port of the colony. 

GERALDTON, the chief port of the north, and the capital of the district of Champion Bay, lies on the western coast of the continent, about 300 miles NW. from Perth. The principal exports from this district are wool, copper, and lead. Gold has been found at various times. The climate is very hot. Geraldton is a post town, telegraph, savings’ bank, and money-order office. In the district there were acres of land under cultivation, wheat, barley, and oats being the principal crops.

GINGIN, a small post tow and money order office about 70 miles N. of Perth.

GREENOUGH, a telegraph, savings’ bank, and money-order office and post town in the Champion Bay district, 251 miles from Perth, N., is the centre of an agricultural and corn-growing country.

GUILDFORD, a thriving and pretty little municipal township on the Swan river, situated at the confluence of the rivers Helena and Avon, which are both spanned by good bridges, 9 miles NE. of Perth. There is a post, Government savings’ bank, and money-order office.

KOJONUP, a post-office and telegraph station and money-order office, 160 miles from Perth, SE.

LUDLOW, a post and money-order office, 140 miles from Perth. 

MANDURAH, close to the seacoast, on the Murray estuary, is 50 miles from Perth, S., on the southern road.

MOUNT BARKER, a postal centre and money-order office, 224 miles from Perth. 

NEWCASTLE is a rising inland town and savings’ bank and money-order office, 54 miles NE. from Perth. It is situated on the river Avon, which is here spanned by a good bridge.

NORTHAM, a small town 57 miles NE. of Perth, on the Avon river, which is crossed by two good bridges. A small pensioner force is stationed here. 

NORTHAMPTON, 296 miles N. of Perth, is the post town of the northern mining district of the colony.

PERTH, an episcopal city, and capital of West Australia. It was constituted a city in September 1856. It is situated on the Swan river about 12 miles above Fremantle. Approached from Fremantle by road or water the city presents a striking appearance—a splendid lake-like reach, known as Melville water, washing the base of the slope on which it is built. The site of Perth possesses much natural beauty, and advantage has been taken of the physical formation of the ground in the alignment of their streets and in their width to preserve an attractive character. In the district round Perth there were, in 1874, acres under cultivation planted with vines, and acres devoted to market gardening. [For a more detailed description, please visit the source material].

PINJARRAH, the chief town of the Murray agricultural district, a post, telegraph, Government savings’ bank, and money-order office, 53 miles S. of Perth.

QUINDALUP, 159 miles S. from Perth and 16 miles from Busselton, is the centre of operations of timber industry. It contains a post and money order office and Government schools. 

ROCKINGHAM, a small post and money order office town on the southern road, 25 miles S. from Perth. It is the centre of a fine timber country, which supplies jarrah timber in large quantities.

ROEBURNE, situated on the NW. coast, distant 1,200 miles from Perth in a direct line, is the town site of the famous pearl fisheries. There is a post-office, Government residency and offices. The houses are built principally of wood, and they suffer much in the heavy gales with which the coast is yearly visited. In March 1872, every house in the town was levelled to the ground.

SERPENTINE, a post town and money-order office, on the river of the same name, 28 miles S. of Perth. 

SWAN, a money-order office and post town, with a Government school and Protestant Orphanage Farm, 19 miles from Perth. In the district acres of land are under cultivation, predominantly wheat.

VICTORIA PLAINS, a post town, money order office, and telegraph office, 100 miles from Perth. The district is said to be the best pastoral one in the colony.   

WANERENOOKA, a money-order office, 296 miles from Perth.

WILLIAMS RIVER, a postal centre, money order office, and telegraph station, 100 miles SE. from Perth.

YORK, a municipal town, and post, telegraph. Government savings’ bank, and money-order office. 60 miles E. of Perth. It is prettily located at the foot of Mount Bakewell, on both sides of the Avon river, which is spanned by two good bridges. Nearly half of the area of land under cultivation, occupied mainly by wheat. The principal supply of sandalwood comes from this district. 

Source: The Australian handbook and almanac and shippers’ and importers’ directory.

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