Sawmills

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SMAILES' MILL  

Research by Gordon Freegard

Sydney Smailes (Syd as he was called) was born in England in 1875. He was third son of James and Lavinia Smailes of Hull, Yorkshire, England. James Smailes was a grain merchant and young Sydney worked in this industry after leaving school. In 1898, however, at the age of 22 he decided to seek fresh fields and sailed for Australia in R.M.S. Ormuz.

At the time the North Eastern Goldfields were attracting men and women from all over the world and Sydney Smailes was one of them. Gold was the lure and the possibility of gaining some of that precious wonderful, but elusive metal was always present. Sydney, however, did not make a fortune in the search for it. He worked at various jobs until a widespread outbrerak of typhoid fever (the scourge of the goldfields at the time caused by poor hygiene and doubtful water) made him decide to leave Kalgoorlie.

He went from there to Albany where he made a living working at casual jobs. He met up with a man named Frank Laverack and they became partners in a venture far from Albany, named Rokewood Orchard in Karragullen.

 

 

SYDNEY (Syd) SMAILES 1896  20 YEARS OLD   #1

 

SYDNEY SMAILES & EDITH HANBURY'S WEDDING     #2    

Left to Right: EFFIE BUTCHER, CAPTAIN THOMAS, Mrs. AMY THOMAS of Ravenswood Hotel, Pinjarra, EDITH SMAILES (Hanbury) GEORGE ARMSTRONG, BERTHA SPENCER, ----, SYDNEY SMAILES, ALICE SPENCER, OLIVE ARMSTRONG, CLEM HANBURY, Mr. SALTER, BEATRICE HANBURY, JESSIE McKAY, FRED HODGERS, FRANCES HODGERS, GEORGE ARMSTROMG (Jnr), Mrs. SALTER, ALBERT SALTER, Minister's Wife & Minister, WALTER BUTCHER, VINCENT SMAILES, CHARLES SPENCER & Child, CHARLES BUTCHER, ALFRED BUTCHER,  --------.

 

While he was on the orchard he met and married Edith Johanna Hanbury in September 1906. To augment finances he did some sleeper cutting and finally left the orchard to go in for contracting to supply sleepers. Large orders of these were required for railways in India and Africa, as the jarrah timber was reputed to be impervious to white ants. So Sydney entered the timber industry where he spent the rest of his working life.

One of his contracts was to supply jarrah piles on which the G.P.O. in Perth is built. The piles were driven in one on another until bed rock was struck - a method of foundation construction since outmoded, but for all that seems to be standing the test of time.

 

 

GROUP CANNING MILLS MEN. SYD SMAILES SITTING IN MIDDLE  #3

 

Sydney's first venture into mechanical milling was a steam driven firewood mill which was set up in 1920 in the Karragullen railway yard. The dry bush wood was carted in drays to the mill and docked into foot blocks which were loaded straight into the waiting railway trucks by means of an elevator. This was the major fuel for heating, cooking etc., at the time.

Having the steam engine, circular saws, spindles and so on led to the establishment of his first mill for the construction of jarrah blocks and sawn jarrah scantling. This mill was established about three mills from Pickering Brook. In 1924 a truck was bought to cart the timber into the railway at Pickering Brook. The truck was a three ton G.M.C., a real leviathan at that time, with 24 inch cast iron wheels, solid rubber tyres, 8 forward gears and 2 reverse. The mill was jokingly referred to as "All Nations Mill" because of the various nationalities of the workers.

In 1927 the mill was shifted into Pickering Brook and erected on the railway, so that the timber could be loaded directly into the railway wagons and so to the port.

SMAILES AND WESTON'S MILL NEXT TO RAILWAY STATION
AT PICKERING BROOK   #4

The G.M.C. was used for log hauling, previously all hauling was done by horse teams and whims. Naturally transport by horses limited the distance logs could be hauled (approximately one mile) but with the innovation of the motor truck hauling this distance was multiplied many times.

 

The mill at Pickering Brook ran until 1931 when the Great Depression caused the closure of many businesses, including the smaller timber mills.

After leaving Rockwood Orchard the Smailes family had lived at Canning Mills in the old manager's house. The mill had ceased operation but a number of families still lived there. The settlement had a hotel, a school and a post office. In 1925 it had been decided that the family should move to town as there was no prospect of work in that small community for Marjorie and Jack, the two eldest children. There were five children altogether, Marjorie and Jack, Lorna, Edward and Bernie. From 1925 to 1930, Syd used to come home on Saturday afternoon and return to the Canning on Sunday night.

During those years of milling there was always the odd sleeper hewing contract - when Ted left school his first job was on a sleeper hewer's camp. Ted says that he had lived a fairly protected life and transition to living among a group of rough-neck, but honest and hard working men, opened his eyes in many directions.

OLD MANAGERS HOUSE AT CANNING MILLS     #5

 

By this time the economy was beginning to show signs of improvement and in 1933 the mill was moved to Carinyah, a Forest Department station five miles east of Karragullen.

As things improved further, the mill was extended and timber was hauled directly to the metropolitan area by truck. The logs were hauled into the mill by Caterpillar tractor in conjunction with the trucks. Ted's job was on the log hauling.

 

SMAILES' MILL PHOTOGRAPHED FROM OUTSIDE THE OFFICE 1942      #6

 

When the war broke in 1939 the timber industry was designated as a reserved industry, but the youngest member of the Smailes family, Bernie, who was also working on the mill, enlisted with two workmates before this became law.

 

During the war Sydney took in two partners - Tom Cullity and Horrie Curtis - both timber men who were keen to go in for seasoned jarrah which has many uses and is quite valuable. In 1949 Sydney Smailes retired and Millars Timber and Trading Co. bought the mill. Sydney and his wife bought a house in Rockingham where they lived for some years and where any of the family could spend a pleasant Sunday or a holiday by the sea. The five children had all married by this time, so it was a case of taking your turn.

SMAILES' MILL  c1930 
ARTHUR WENDT IN CENTRE OF PHOTO     #7

 

SMAILES' MILL c1936

Back Row L - R: JIM MARCHANT, BERNIE SMAILES, BOB CARTER, WALLY MANSELL, NORM HUTCHINSON, ARTHUR ANDERSON, GEORGE ANDERSON, ERNIE MASON.
 Middle Row L - R: GEORGE GIBBS, GEORDIE FOGGEN, SYD SMAILES, JACK OELON, JACK MARCHANT, TED SMAILES, BILL MIDDLETON
 Front Row L - R: SAM HUNTER, ERIC JOHNSON    #8

 

SMAILES' MILL FROM LOG LANDING.
 Left: MILL WITH SAW FILERS SHED, Middle: OFFICE, Right: TRUCK GARAGE    #9

 

 SMAILES' MILL SHOWING BOILER ROOM AND STEAM ENGINE   #10
 

 

SEASONED JARRAH LEAVING SMAILES' MILL c1936       #11

 

SMAILES' MILL FALLERS USING POWER SAW  #12

 

LOG TRUCK SMAILES' MILL #13

 

SEASONING THE TIMBER AT SMAILES' MILL  C1945       #14

 

SMAILES' MILL CHRISTMAS PARTY 1950
 SCOTTY CURTIS THE CLOWN    #15

 

 WRONG TRUCK USED TO LOAD LOGS AT SMAILES' MILL  #16
 

 

  SMAILES' MILL CHRISTMAS BREAK UP 1954    #17

Back Row L - R : 4 LEN HALL, 8 DES CURTIS, 10 BILL SCARI, 15 LIONEL BROWN, 16 BOBBY McARTHUR, 17 DICK "Dusty" CURTIS (Mill Manager).
 Front Row L- R:  1 JIM BARON, 5 FRANK BROWN (with Dog)
 Sitting: BOBBY NEWTON.

 

PLAN SHOWING LAYOUT OF SMAILES' MILL
Information supplied by Mac & Pam Beard and Graham Armstrong  2008 - 2010

MAP NOT TO SCALE

 

  Map drawn by GORDON FREEGARD

Copyright : Pickering Brook Heritage Group 2008 -2011

 

 BROWN'S CAR AT SMAILES' MILL   
 LEN HALL'S HOUSE AND McARTHUR'S BOARDING HOUSE IN THE BACKGROUND    #18

 

SMAILES' MILL ARMSTRONG'S HOUSE  
 #19

 

The mill workers and their families created their own fun, entertainment and socials. Tennis and cricket were sports played against neighbouring communities. Dances were very popular and were the opportunity to meet and socialise with others in the district. Many relationships and later marriages, resulted from meeting at these events. Pictured below are some very rare photos of a hilarious "Debutantes" Balls held at the Karragullen Hall in 1951 and the old Kelmscott Hall in 1954. Reverse roles was the theme of the nights with some of the mill workers presenting themselves as "Debutantes" and their wives, as their "male" partners. A great fun night was had by all. "Sunnie" Armstrong made his own "drum" set which he played at many socials. His family still has his "drum" set today (2010).

 

 "SUNNIE" ARMSTRONG PLAYING HIS HOMEMADE "DRUM"  SET     #20

 

"DEBUTANTES" BALL 1951

SMAILES' MILL WORKERS, KARRAGULLEN HALL
 Left - Right:   "Miss Leslie Murdie" - FRANK BROWN,     ?   ?    ?     - RON CURTIS,  "Miss Leslie Smith" -  LES SMITH, "Miss Carrie Gullen" - ALEX ARMSTRONG,
 "Miss Carmel Pickering" - MICK BATES,  "Miss Thelma Scott" - SCOTTY CURTIS, "Miss Amy Dale" - MICK CURTIS. 

         Flowergirls - PEARL TELFER & JUDY CURTIS      #21

 

 "DEBUTANTES" WITH FLOWER GIRLS
  "DEBS" BALL, KARRAGULLEN HALL 1951
    #22
 

 

"DEBUTANTES" PARTNERS WITH FLOWER GIRLS
  "DEBS" BALL, KARRAGULLEN HALL 1951
 L - R: NINA GIBBS, ELAINE SMITH, PEGGY CURTIS,      ?     ,
 OLLIE GIBBS,     ?      , KATH CURTIS.#23

 

ALEX ARMSTRONG AND OLIVE ARMSTRONG AT "DEBS" BALL,
 KARRAGULLEN HALL 1951   #24

 

ALEX ARMSTRONG, FRANK BROWN, MICK CURTIS  AT "DEBS" BALL,
 KARRAGULLEN HALL 1951   #25

 

"DEBUTANTES" BALL 22nd May 1954

SMAILES' MILL WORKERS, OLD KELMSCOTT HALL
 "Male" Partners (L - R):  BETTY NEWTON, JANIS PIKE, PEGGY CURTIS, JUNE NEWTON, EUGENE ROSE, DOROTHY BROWN, ELAINE SMITH, OLIVE CURTIS, SALLY CURTIS, IDA CURTIS.
 "Female" Debutantes (L - R):  BILL WESTBROOK, BOB McARTHUR, ERNIE WINCHESTER, LIONEL BROWN, MERVYN ROSE, RON CURTIS, FRED SMITH,  KEITH GRAVENAL,

BOB NEWTON, ALEX ARMSTRONG.
 "Mayor & Mayoress of Kelmscott": Mr. & Mrs. WHYMAN                   Flowergirls:  SANDRA NEWTON & KAREN CURTIS      #26

 

 CHILDREN FROM SMAILES' MILL AND CARINYAH FORESTRY SETTLEMENT ATTENDING A BUSH CHRISTENING AT KARRAGULLEN HALL, NOVEMBER 1948
 First on left: Mrs. ARMSTRONG & Daughter CAROL (4 1/2 years old)    PAM GIBBS (Shading eyes with hand)    #27

 

 SMAILES' MILL CHILDREN  CATCHING GILGIES  
 Left - Right:  CAROL ARMSTRONG, JIM BARON, GRAHAM ARMSTRONG, (Rear)          ?      ,
 (Front)        ?         ,              ?           #28

 

 MILL CHILDREN RIDING IN SAWDUST DRAY 1948.
 GRAHAM & CAROL ARMSTRONG, GRAEME & JUDY CURTIS, "BOXER" THE HORSE  #29
 

 

LARGE JARRAH FELLED BY NIEL WESTON AT  PICKERING BROOK c1950
L - R: GREG WESTON, HARRY HAWKINS, TOMMY ROADS, ARTIE OWEN   #30

Eventually the family became smaller. Bernie was killed in the war, Jack and Rae Smailes moved to Victoria, Marjorie, the eldest daughter, died and her husband married again. So that left only Lorna and her husband, Wal Stevens with their three children, and Ted and Trix with their four to visit the old people.

In 1957 Syd Smailes, pioneer in the timber industry around Karragullen, suffered a stroke. He was Eighty-two. Fortunately he didn't linger very long. Mrs. Smailes survived until 1978 when she died at the marvelous age of 98.

Smailes Mill is just a memory now. There are faint traces in the bush which mark the site where the once prosperous mill stood.

SYD & EDITH SMAILES    #31

     
     
     
     

References:     Article:      Pickering Brook Heritage Group
 
                                    "Roleystone Country Club Chronicle"

                      Images:   1, 4, 5, 31     Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society
                                      2, 3,     Peter Skehan

                                      7, 8. 11, 14, 30    Pickering Brook Heritage Group
                                      6     Ted Smailes
                                      9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29      Graham Armstrong
                                     

 

Copyright : Pickering Brook Heritage Group  Inc. 2008 - 2017