Sawmills

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MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2018

Research by Gordon Freegard

Eliza Hamblin was born 2nd March 1828 in Birkshire, England and had a studious nature. She was a religious and refined lady whose father was a Baptist Minister from Saxlingham Thorpe, near Norwich, England. In due course she attended a post-graduate school intent on becoming a governess. Eliza became a school teacher, and at the age of 18 had a breakdown in her health owing to over-studying. It was suggested that she take a trip to Western Australia, in an endeavour to improve her health in our warmer climate.  

She became Mistress in the Perth Girl’s School, opposite Government House, in St. Georges Terrace where she remained for 4 years from 1849 – 1852. During this time she met Benjamin Mason. In 1852, when they were both 25, they were married at St. Georges Church, in Perth on 19th June, by the Colonel Chaplain the Rev. J. B. Wittenoon. The witnesses to the marriage were L. Hamblin and M. Speed.

 

BENJAMIN MASON AND HIS WIFE ELIZA,
PROBABLY TAKEN SOON AFTER THEIR MARRIAGE
 IN PERTH C1852   #1

Benjamin Mason was born 24th October 1828. He came to Western Australia from Tasmania, with his parents in 1829 or 1831. His father was Sgt. John Mason of 63rd Regiment and in 1834 he went south to King George Sound where he took up the position as Constable in Charge of the Jail. Benjamin went to Perth Boys School in 1834. Became an apprentice to George Lazenby as a carpenter and developed a great liking for timber. About this time he became a general dealer in Perth, and owned what was described as the "magnificent" building, "Swan Chambers and Sporting Rendezvous", on the north-east corner of Hay and Barrack Streets. There were 12 children from their marriage, 3 who died in infancy. Sons were William, Edward, George, Frank and Benjamin. The Daughters were Sarah (Mrs. Ouston), Mary (Mrs. Newman), Eliza (Mrs. Liddelow), and Judy (Mrs. McDougall).


 

       MRS. ELIZA MASON
 

     
     
     
     

Before he commenced in the timber industry, Benjamin Mason owned property opposite the Perth Town Hall, from the Shamrock Hotel in Hay Street to the corner of Barrack Street, and from there the whole of Barrack to Murray Street, and along Murray Street to opposite the Shamrock Hotel. In 1855 he commenced trading in general merchandise, in premises previously occupied by his mother, next to the Devonshire Arms Hotel. Moving into new premises in 1856 that were specially built for him in 1856. He conducted a large hardware business which was established in 1857, quite successfully and also owned the Devonshire Arms Hotel, which was built by his father. But all the time he yearned for a provation in the gold or timber industries.

Benjamin Mason became a Perth Councilor in 1859.

He had ridden on horseback on numerous occasions to the hills, and the tall timber inspired him. Although he was discouraged by his wife, he could see the huge potential in the timber industry as the colony expanded.

In 1860 Ben Mason commenced in the timber industry with his first timber mill at the corner of Welshpool Road and Lesmurdie Road. This property was later a citrus orchard owned by the Marsden (Marsland) family. Mrs. Marsden (Marsland) was a daughter of Wilfred Spencer of Canning Vale after which Spencer Road was named. She wondered what the trenches were doing there when they took over the property. The following explains that they were from the pit sawing that had taken place there by Ben Mason's Mill.

All the sawing was done by the pit saw method, one sawyer on top with a single handle, and one at the bottom with a tie handle. Pit-sawing was very prevalent at the time. Sheoak shingles, posts and rails were produced with some timber going to make charcoal for use in Perth foundries.

ADVERTISEMENT FROM "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND INDEPENDENT JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND NEWS" DATED 17th DECEMBER 1855

 

         MOVING A LOG TO A WHIM WITH A BULLOCK TEAM   #2

 

         PICTURE SHOWING PIT-SAWING METHOD IN ACTION  #3

Bullocks were used to cart the timber down to the Canning Landing (later known as Mason’s Landing). In those days, there were no such things as roads; there were only tracks ….. and those were where you made them! If a team made a detour around a clump of trees, that was the track used ever afterwards! When surfaced road were built, they followed the bullock tracks ……. And that is why there are still so many bends in the roads even today, with no obvious reason ….. but there was a reason in the days when the tracks were made!

The quality of Jarrah was not well known in those early years. It was called Swan River Mahogany and it was quite some years later that it was recognised and the name "Jarrah" came into general use. Over the next few years samples were sent overseas to promote its qualities as a hardwood, thus eventually establishing a huge export market for the small Colony. Lesmurdie Hill was right at the brink of the Jarrah trees, and the best trees were soon cut out. So in 1862 a shift in camp took them 2 miles further into the jarrah forest. Things were progressing; more fallers were being place on the wages staff; more sawyers were being employed; bullock teams from Kelmscott were hired to clear the loads of sawn timber to the Landing. Barges were used to take the timber from the Landing down to Fremantle. Trouble lay ahead ….. with low tide the barges could only be half filled. If they were filled, the barges would sit on the mud bottom.

          MOVING A LOG TO A WHIM WITH A BULLOCK TEAM   #4

 

Perth Benefit and Investment Loan Society was established in 1862 and Ben Mason was a Director.

In 1863 he tendered for timber to build the North Fremantle Bridge.

With more men working, the best jarrah around the camp began to diminish, and Ben decided to look further afield. Astride his pony, he set out with several objects in view. He wanted plenty of tall jarrahs and in accessible country. It was hard work for the bullock teams hauling huge logs, without having to climb excessively high hills as well. One essential he had in mind was water …… running water and plenty of it.

 

Ben found a spot ….. it had everything, and only a couple more miles inland from his present mill. He found a beautiful brook, cold drinking and sufficient for his requirements. He thought this was the ideal site to shift the mill to and it became known a Bickley Brook

Ben Mason became a Councilor on the Perth City Council  1859, and was elected to the Central Ward in 1864. Appears to have left the Council in either 1865 or 1866..

On April 6th and April 13th 1864 Benjamin Mason acquired a licences to cut timber over an area of 640 acres near the head of the Bickley Brook (also known as “Prince of Wales Gully”) in the locality of Gooseberry Hill, but is now known as Carmel. The licence was for 20 pounds renewably annually. Winding its way from the hills to the Canning River is Bickley Brook that was named after Wallace Bickley, an early pioneer of Kenwick, who was granted 640 acres by the Government in 1842 east of Royal Street and facing the Canning River. The brook flows through his property. Benjamin Mason built a new mill in 1864 to work this timber license, and it was known as Mason’s Mill (along the existing Mason Rd and in the vicinity of the Heritage Rose Gardens).

        WALLACE BICKLEY  #5

 

          VERY EARLY MAP SHOWING LOCATION OF BICKLEY MILL SITE AT LOCATION 75. CLEARLY SHOWS POSITION OF SCHOOL AND TRAMWAYS.  #6

 

PLAN SHOWING LAYOUT OF MASON & BIRD'S TIMBER MILL
Information supplied from various sources

MAP NOT TO SCALE

          Map drawn by GORDON FREEGARD

Copyright : Pickering Brook Heritage Group 2008-2011

 

At this time, the stock of Ben Mason numbered 40 bullocks, 20 horses, whims and jinkers, and 4 barges. About 100 men were employed at the Mill and in the locality. Some as fallers, others as hewers and sawyers, while the blacksmiths and the wheelwrights had their very important jobs to do. There were also saddlers repairing and renewing harnesses for the teams. The blacksmiths had continuous jobs welding links in broken snigging-chains, and making new links and hooks.

The men at this mill were convicts except for three free men who acted as overseers. All these men were brought out from England to work in the Mill. Of the three free men employed by Mason and Bird, one was R. Stevenson, a saw filer, of some renown on the early mills. He was brought from England, where his “mate” was no less a person than Henry Disston, of American saw-making fame. Henry Disston’s mind was leaning towards immigrating to Western Australia on the same journey that Stevenson made, but at the last moment he decided to go to America. What was America’s gain was certainly Australia’s loss, as the world knows today in the name and fame of Henry Disston and Sons, saw manufacturers.

Some of the men were married and they resided at the Mill with their wives and families in comfortable log huts. Galvanising iron was hardly known in those days, so advantage was taken of building the homes completely out of mill timbers. Even the roofs were covered with shingles made at the Mill. There were about 30 children but no school for them to attend, so a school was placed on the priority list.

The men had to work hard, but they were contented, and when the day’s work was done and the evening meal over, they would have a sing-song to the strains of a flute or concertina. Recitations from Shakespeare and other poets were not beyond the capabilities of some of the workers.

A 10 H.P. Vertical Steam Engine was installed at the Bickley Mill and it ran a 36 inch circular saw. This was a new innovation, and the sawyers had never witnessed one in motion in their lives before. With the engine running the machinery, and more men in employment, timber began to accumulate. Soon there were 1000's of loads in the mill awaiting transport to the Landing. (A load of timber contains 600 super feet, or 50 cubic feet) …… that gives you some idea of the immensity of the timber stock. Besides the sawn timber there were many loads of railway sleepers.

 

          BULLOCK PADDOCK SITE  APRIL 1972  #8

 

         SAWYERS COTTAGES SITE  APRIL 1972  #9

 

         REMAINS OF SNIGGING TRACK APRIL 1972  #10

 

         ENGINE BLOCK SITE  APRIL 1972  #11

 

      REMAINS OF SITE OF BLACKSMITHS SHOP  APRIL 1972  #12

 

 

With the new Mill working at top pressure, there were 10 horse teams of 4 horses each and 10 bullock teams of 8 bullocks each. Close by was a blacksmith's shop, stables, a large hall, some 25 workers cottages together with a small weatherboard home for Ben Mason when he was at the upper station. The animals required constant attention requiring a paddock for the bullocks and stables for the horses. They consumed 4 tons of hay and 65 bushels of barley weekly. Also provisions were necessary for depasturing purposes. The teamsters had a big job in keeping the teams running smoothly. Accidents happened ….. the wagons loaded with timber would get out of control going down hill, and crash into the teams, killing or maiming bullocks and horses.

At the lower station on the Canning River, there were offices, stores, stables for 20 horses, forage room, stockyards, and a large warehouse for stacking the sawn timber. Also moored close by were several "river flats" (a type of barge) for transporting the timber to Fremantle.

Joe Dart, a Crown Prisoner, worked for Benjamin Mason and later for Mason, Bird & Company from 1863 onwards. He worked was the Boss Teamster and also as a boatman. He was acclaimed as the champion “swearer” at the mill! Driving bullocks cultivates the habit …. But someone had to do the job! This trait got Joe into trouble later on.

On recommendation from Mr. Randall, Mason’s boatman, negotiations commenced with the Government in 1864, to take steps to see that the river remained navigable throughout the year.

In 1865 the hills camp now employed 138 men, of who 29 were married, there children numbered 83, all of whom resided at the Station. 50 of the men were sawyers and 12 were cooks. Although 138 men does not sound much of a work force by today's standards, it represented then over 1% of the total male population in Western Australia. To be in the same position today, a company would have to employ tens of thousands of men. The total weekly wages came to about 150 pounds, another 50 pounds was accounted for as expenses on the engine, replacements, tools, etc. The weekly consumption of provisions by the men and their families, was as follows; 1 ½ tons of flour, 1,680 pounds of meat, 1,120 pounds of sugar, 112 pounds of tea, 80 stone of potatoes, 40 pounds of tobacco. The above expenses had to be met weekly, but income was not so regular. Despite the need for capital and the difficulties associated with the transporting of the timber, Ben Mason carried on.

 

During this year Benjamin Mason, from his station at Canning, supplied for exportation 605 loads, besides 495 loads for colonial demand, and now have on hand 400 loads of sleepers waiting for shipment to India, 40 loads for Champion Bay and 480 loads ready at the pits. An order for 60 loads of timber was lost because he could not get it over the Canning shallows within a reasonable time. Frustration as no work had been done the deepening of the Canning as promised earlier.  

One thousand telegraph poles were cut for the South Australian Government and cut timber was supplied for the North Fremantle and the Causeway Bridges in 1865.

1865 The Legislative Council approved the building of a dredging machine capable of improving the navigation of the river. In the meantime as soon as the water becomes warmer, enough convicts would be employed to cleared obstacles from the river and deepen the channel at Canning. Then in 1866 they prepared stakes and wattling.

     CAUSEWAY BRIDGE  #13

        FREMANTLE BRIDGE OVER THE SWAN RIVER  #14

        FREMANTLE BRIDGE OVER THE SWAN RIVER  #73

 

A batch of convicts were brought from England to help make the Canning River navigable, to allow Mason and Bird to push their barges from Cannington to as far as Salter’s Point. On the south-west end of Salter’s Point, the river was deep enough to allow a steamer to tie up to a jetty that was built there. From the jetty up-stream to the Canning, many difficulties had to be contended with. Dredging had to be carried out, and canals cut, and it was for this work that the convicts were required. Mud-brick humpies were built at Shelley Beach to house the convicts. Piles were driven into the mud at short spaces, a 4 x 4  jarrah rod was attached to the top of the piles to keep them straight, and also to allow the bargemen to walk along and pull the barges. A wide board was attached to piles below the water-line, and then the gaps were filled with casuorina saplings and brushwood.

The dredging was carried out by the one-man-power process …… each convict was given a bucket which he had to dip down in the mud, carry it, and tip it over the breakwater of piles and brushwood ….. then repeat the process until the depth of water reached up to his neck. Then it was deep enough to take flat-bottomed barges at high tide.

Between Salter’s Point and Muddy Reach (known as Riverton today), the water was half a mile wide. This made it necessary to build the fence to stop the elements from washing the mud back from whence it came. The dredging commenced right at the fence and extended about 20 feet on the east side. The barges were propelled by long poles, and pushed along until they gained some momentum. To make it easier, a bargeman handling a rope could walk along the 4 x 4 rail pulling the barge. As the fence neared Riverton, and the river narrowed in, it was not necessary to drive piles or rivets to hold the mud back.

  SKETCH OF CONVICT WORKERS DREDGING THE CANNING RIVER  #15

 

       SKETCH OF CONVICT FENCE IN CANNING RIVER AT RIVERTON  #16

     

 

 

 

     

         REMAINS OF THE ORIGINAL TIMBER FENCE BUILT  BY THE CONVICTS  #17

 

Dredging was however still required, at Muddy Reach (Riverton) because the river branched into blind streams, and many a launch picked out what was thought to be the main channel, and proceeded forthwith, only to find if ran into a mud bank and a dead end. The convicts cut a canal from near the Riverton Bridge to half a mile up-stream to allow barges and river-craft to reach Cannington. This has always been referred to as Riley’s Canal, and the name was derived from a family of that name who lived nearby, and worked a market garden.

A few years ago, the Canning Shire Council wrote to the Harbour Trust, requesting permission to remove the piles from the vicinity of Salter’s Point. It was refused, and rightly so when it is considered that these piles pin-point the only channel to this day, that is a guide for launches proceeding to the Canning.

By 1866 there were one hundred men and their families living on the timber mill.

On 18th January 1867 he tendered for the Irwin Jetty for 1,350 pounds. The foreman for the project was Robert Cousins and it took 73 weeks to complete the contract. Benjamin Mason was fine 219 pounds for finishing the contract late.

In this year he also tendered for timber for the roof of the Banquet Room at Government House and supplied timber for houses in Geraldton which was shipped there on the schooners “Geraldton” and “Dongara”.

A new Mill was erected at the Landing on the Canning River in 1867. A 10 H.P. Steam Engine was installed. It worked a vertical frame of four or more saws as required and also a 3 foot circular saw. Charlie McIntosh, who had previously been the engineer on the “Lady Stirling” (the first boat completely made of local timber), was now a freelance. He was called to erect the Mill machinery. In the interim he married Mary Ann Creemer, one of the immigrant girls whom he had piloted from Fremantle to Perth.

The original Grant of 578 acres described as Canning River Location No. 5 came into the possession of Benjamin Mason from 1868 – 1871.

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 3rd AUGUST 1866

 

A house was erected not far from the Landing on Canning River, other homes were also built as well as a bakery and a butcher’s shop. Mr. Mason ran his own store for clothing, groceries and hardware. Six men were employed at the Mill entirely on the saws, while blacksmiths, wheelwrights, teamsters and labourers made up the new Station. Large sheds were erected at the Landing made entirely of wood, even the roofs were made of weatherboards. The idea being to protect the green sawn timber from the rays of the sun and to have on hand a plentiful supply to load into the barges if there were any hold-ups from the hills Mill, or any other emergency. A few raindrops coming through the roof had no detrimental effect on the timber.

 

      PICNIC PARTY AT "THE LANDING"  #18

 

      FRANK MASON'S HOUSE AT "THE LANDING"  #19

 

      FAMILIES BOATING AT "THE LANDING"  #20

 

Pictured above is an early photo of a river scene at the Landing, with a paddle steamer and a number of rowing boats carrying parties of men and women. The river at this point is edged by dense vegetation including eucalypts. Several women in the boats carry parasols and all the men wear boater hats while of the two men near the steamer, one wears a cap and the other a bowler. At the back of the paddle steamer a scalloped canopy has been set up. On the side of what is possibly a paddle wheel cover is painted a fan motif and the word: MELVILLE. The Landing was also called Mason's Landing after Benjamin Mason. It was from here that barges were loaded with timber harvested in the hills and floated down the river to Fremantle for export.

Ben Mason and his boatman Randall contracted by tender for 250 pounds to repair the Convict fence in the river.

1868 Obtained an important contract for 20,000 jarrah railway sleepers for the Indian Railways required by Messrs. Compton Bros., of Calcutta, India.

Benjamin Mason was a shareholder of the Electro Magnetic Telegraph Company from 1869 – 1972.

On 17th March 1869 he tendered to supply timber for the roof of the Town Hall. Governor Weld opened the building in 1871.

       BUILDING PERTH TOWN HALL  #21

 

In the 1950's the original shingles were deemed a fire hazard and had to be replaced imitation shingles made of fireproof corrugated asbestos.
(If only they had known then, what other hazard they were dealing with and where was "Worksafe" then?)

       MR. R. DORRINGTON PERCHES ON A LADDER TO REPLACE THE ORIGINAL SHINGLES OF THE PERTH TOWN HALL       PICTURES IN "THE WEST AUSTRALIAN" DATED 30th JANUARY 1954

 

1869 Installed two steam powered circular saws at Canning Landing also a 12 H.P. steam engine was working at the Carmel Station. He supplied poles for the first Telegraph line between Fremantle and Perth.

School opened at Mason’s Mill on 1st January 1870 with 16 pupils.

The Steam dredge has now been passed as fit for work. It has actually been steamed up and the ladder of buckets has made a few revolutions. Mr. Mason applied to the Government for the free use of the dredge to clear portions of the Canning River, but the request was refused.

Benjamin Mason was having financial worries in 1870. It was one man trying to tame the wilderness. The bigger his business grew, the greater his responsibilities. He started to sell his assets in the central City area, to help continue funding his timber investment which he had great faith in. At last he was forced to seek fresh capital to keep his mills running.

In 1870 negotiations immediately began with the Government for concessions to the timber industry. In return the Company promised to invest 140,000 pounds in the industry, to build 20 miles of 3' 6" gauge metal railway, erect 10 sawmills and employ 2,000 men, to cut 600,000 sleepers for India each year. Local Governments generally were in favor of such a proposal, but it was rejected by the British Government. He advised the Colonial Secretary that he intended to go to Adelaide and Melbourne with a view to obtaining additional capital for his mills, plant and machinery. The trip never eventuated; there was a new light on the horizon in the name of Francis Bird.

In The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times on Friday 20th, 1870, it is reported;
"Perth has been inundated this week with a large number of discharged men from Mr. Mason's Timber Station, and yesterday morning the Police Court was occupied for some hours hearing charges of drunkenness against several of them."

 

 

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 3rd FEBRUARY 1871

 

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 15th MARCH 1871.

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 31st MARCH 1871.

 

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 21st APRIL 1871.

 

        EARLY VIEW OF HAY STREET. BUILDINGS ON THE LEFT WERE OWNED BY BENJAMIN MASON  #22

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 28th APRIL 1871.

 

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 26th MAY 1871.

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 26th MAY 1871.

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 26th MAY  1871.

     
     
     
     

Francis Bird was born of genteel parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Bird, of Pinner Hall, Woodloes, Middlesex, England on 14th November 1845; they were one of the noblest families in England at the time. He received the highest education, served years at University and studied architecture. Usually after one’s education was completed, the gentry in those days would send their sons on a visit to Europe, to broaden their minds, and fit them for the work they would undertake in ordinary life. Francis Bird and a fellow student Henry (Harry) Hetherington, decided that they would like something different to the stereotyped visit to Europe.

They sought out a Shipping Office, and made direct enquiries about other countries – America, Canada, Africa, anywhere as long as it was not Europe. The Shipping Clerk offered the advise that “there was a place called Australia”, and “you’d never know what you’d strike there!” He could not have spoken a truer word ……. he did not tell them that the streets were paved with gold …. or whether the people were white or black, probably he did not know, but his advice was good. He said you’d never know, the rest was up to you. In true Australian spirit, the two students decided they would give if a go and paid their fare.

Francis Bird aged 24, and his friend arrived at Fremantle in the middle of the year 1869 on the sailing ship Bridgetown. They would hire horses and go riding around the country and in the foothills of the Darling Ranges. Firstly for exercise but also to inspect the new “Land of their Adoption”. The tall jarrahs of the forest took his breath away …. he records them as “an architect’s dream”. England, his home country, had its oak, elms, and ash trees, but these Australian giants bewildered him …. He must do something about it. An advertisement in the newspaper, by Benjamin Mason, seeking a partner to assist him with his timber kingdom, was the answer to his dream.

FRANCIS BIRD, PARTNER IN MASON, BIRD & CO, BUILDERS OF THE WOODEN TRAMWAY FROM CARMEL TO MASON'S LANDING ON THE CANNING RIVER  #23

     BENJAMIN MASON'S HOUSE IN CANNINGTON  #24

 

With the small township of Cannington now in the making, in 1871, Benjamin Mason, at the age of 43, decided to bring his family from the city. He built his new house on Albany Road near where the Waverley Hotel use to be. It was close to the Canning Landing from where he exported the timber from his thriving mill in the hills at Carmel, to places as far apart as South Australia, New Zealand and India.

By 1871, Mason’s timber concession had expanded to 100,000 acres, for a term of 14 years, in return for constructing a tramway from the Ranges to the Landing at Cannington.

Ben Mason entered into partnership with the young architect named Francis Bird and commenced trading as Mason Bird & Company. The partnership required Mr. Bird to pay cash for his share in the Company. He cabled his father, and advised him of the proposition, and duly received 25,000 pounds that he placed at the disposal of the new Company.

It was a princely sum, but it did not go far. As soon as Mr. Mason’s creditors heard of the new arrangement, they immediately made claim, and all the money was needed to cover the debts he had accrued. He was now just as badly off as ever, with the exception that most of the back debts had been cleared.

Francis Bird was 24 years of age, while Benjamin Mason was now 42 and with a large family to support. He had struggled on for 9 years, but still had a strong heart and unfailing faith in the timber industry. It just wanted a young man like Francis Bird, with plenty of energy, and great faith in his new venture in a new land, to be allowed a free rein. To a young man, the idea of a bullock team drawing timber all the way from the hills was abhorrent. “Joe Dart’s language” did not improve matters. Francis Bird came from a very religious family, and it was something that was difficult to tolerate, to hear the epithets so commonly used by this and other teamsters.

The original Grant of 578 acres, described as Canning River Location No. 5 was now in the possession of Mr. Francis Bird and family and Mr. Henry Hetherington from 1871 – 1882.

Francis Bird appears to have brought a fresh flow of drive, initiative and knowledge to the firm. Surely there must be an easier way to haul timber, and he set about using his knowledge that he had learnt at College, to better advantage. They must build a Railway, from the Mills Station down to the Landing. With the timber business increasing rapidly, some of the original problems still existed and had not been dealt with. Firstly the getting of the timber to the ships in Fremantle. The trees were felled by hand in the Darling Ranges and then cut into the required dimensions at the Hills Station then place on carts or wagons, They were then driven by horse power over a very rough road for three miles, a portion of which is cut out of the granite rocks on the hill side. Over this length considerable wear and tear takes place. After a descent of 700 feet is accomplished by this manner, the flat plains is reached, and the vehicles have to be dragged for a distance of at least six miles through deep loose sand in the summer and boggy swamps in the winter. Finally reaching the banks of the muddy Canning River. Here the timber is transferred into flat bottomed boats which are the conveyed down the tortuous course of the Swan River to the “bar” which crosses its mouth at Fremantle. From there they pass out into the open water of Gage’s Road in which the ships lie at anchor. This can only be accomplished in fine weather. If it is at all rough then the timber has to be transferred into larger cargo boats, from which it is loaded into the ships. And when it is very rough the whole operation of shipping has to be suspended until the weather is favourable thus great delay and extra costs incurred.

Serious consideration was required to the suggestions they made on 5th January 1871 to build a railway from Fremantle to the Darling Ranges and secondly to clear the “bar” and creating a harbour or jetty facilities for the ships. As Australia was still a “Colony” of England, approval and finance had to come from them. England thought the whole concept was too premature for the young settlement and the expense could not be warranted. So the ideas were sunk.

After this rejection, it was this partnership that built a wooden tramway, following the course trail laid out by Cowle in 1860. It was nine miles long, consisting of 5 ½ miles on level ground, 3 bridges each over 100 feet long. The rails were 5” x 4” laid on edge. These were attached to the sleepers by boring 1 ¼ inch holes, 3 feet apart into which they drove round wood dowels. Iron dog spike were unheard of, at that period, but the wood dowels served the purpose quite satisfactorily. Cost about 300 pound per mile to build. They completed it in January 1872. Mason Mill was then connected to a station on the Canning River known as “Mason’s Landing” from which timber was sent by barge to Fremantle.  Horses were used to pull the huge log “trains” down the escarpment of the Darling Range.

 

MAP DRAWN BY L. TROODE, SHOWING THE  ROUTE OF THE MASON, BIRD & CO TRAMWAY  #25

 

First shipment of jarrah sent to New Zealand in March 1871. They also supplied piles for the North Fremantle Bridge in the same month.

1871 Sale by Auction supplies surplus after completing building of the tramway.

Governor Weld, a one time Premier of New Zealand and founding member of the Weld Club in Perth, and responsible for the forming of Kings Park, was invited to officially open the newly completed wooden tramway on 7th February 1872. A number of distinguished guests were also  invited to witness this auspicious occasion. Arriving at the Landing at eleven o’clock they ascended the hills in three vans drawn by horses along the tramway. On reaching the Timber Station they sat down with 40 to 50 men in specially erected marquee decorated with bunting and Flags, to enjoy a cold lunch provided by the management. Speeches were made by His Excellency, the Hon. the Colonial Secretary, Captain Douglas and others, followed by an inspection of the Company’s work and machinery. The opportunity to examine the school classes on behalf of the Education Department was taken and the result was highly satisfactory. Each child was given a present and a holiday for the rest of the day. The group then returned homewards, arriving at the Landing about 7 o’clock. Much credit was given to Messers. Mason, Bird & Co., for the enterprise and energy they have put into this undertaking and every success was wished upon them.

    GOVERNOR WELD  #26

 

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 29th DECEMBER 1871.

 

The timber for Fremantle was brought by wooden tramway nine miles down to the Canning River and lightered thence to the port. The flat-bottomed lighters continued to be used until steam-powered barges replaced them. These flat-bottomed boats would only sail with a directly following wind. At other times they were poled along like pumps. With poles cut from bush timber, the lightermen used to walk the length of the deck, pushing the large boats, some of which reached 30 tons, through the water. Sometimes the poles stuck in deep mud and, in adverse circumstances, lighters would sometimes take as long to travel from Fremantle to Perth as it took a boat to travel to Mauritius.

      WOODEN TRAMWAY SIMILAR TO ONE BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  #27

 

    WOODEN TRAMWAY SIMILAR TO ONE BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  #28

 

     WOODEN TRAMWAY SIMILAR TO ONE BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  #29

 

   WOODEN TRAMWAY SIMILAR TO ONE BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  
 #30

 

WOODEN TRAMWAY SIMILAR TO ONE BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  #31

 

       WOODEN TRAMWAY SIMILAR TO ONE BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  #32

 

     WOODEN TRAMWAY SIMILAR TO ONE BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  #33

 

     RESCUE OF HORSE FROM ACCIDENT ON TRAMWAY  #34

 

      DRAWING SHOWING HOW THE TRAMWAY WAS ASSEMBLED    #76

The Brakeman on the Mason and Bird line stood on the back of the wagon as it rolled down the hill and he pulled a long lever. This was a crude device with a piece of "blackboy" (grasstree) heart on the end, a tough but spongy material commonly used for brakes on horse drawn vehicles. (Some of the big wagons used on the roads in early times had a blackboy brake operated by a screw on the back of the wagon. The teamster would walk behind the wagon and screw the brake up before starting down a hill). When the wagon came to a steep section of hill the brakeman would unhook the horses and let them walk beside the line while the wagon rolled alone. The horses would have found it impossible to hold back a heavy load white picking their way over the sleepers.

Some very nasty accidents unfortunately did happen and a number of horses were killed when the system got out of control.

 

      REMAINS OF ORIGINAL WOODEN TRAMWAY
 BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  APRIL  1972  #35

 

         REMAINS OF ORIGINAL WOODEN TRAMWAY
 BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY   APRIL 1972   #36

 

     
     

     REMAINS OF ORIGINAL WOODEN TRAMWAY
 BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY   #37

 

      REMAINS OF ORIGINAL WOODEN TRAMWAY
 BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  1974  #38

     
     

      REMAINS OF ORIGINAL WOODEN TRAMWAY
 BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  #39

        REMAINS OF ORIGINAL WOODEN TRAMWAY
 BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  1972   #40

     
     

        REMAINS OF ORIGINAL WOODEN TRAMWAY
 BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY  #41

 

      REMAINS OF ORIGINAL WOODEN TRAMWAY
 BUILT BY MASON, BIRD & COMPANY   #42

     
     

    MORE  RECENT  PICTURE OF THE REMAINS OF THE ORIGINAL TRAMWAY    #70

 

      MORE  RECENT  PICTURE OF THE REMAINS OF THE ORIGINAL TRAMWAY    #71

 

 

     MORE  RECENT  PICTURE OF THE REMAINS OF THE ORIGINAL TRAMWAY    #72

 

     FORMER LUNATIC ASYLUM NOW FREMANTLE ARTS CENTRE (2011)   #43

Tender was accepted from Mason, Bird & Company by the Colonial Secretary’s Office on 25th April to supply timber for the Lunatic Asylum at Fremantle. On 4th June a tender was accepted for supply of 23,000 Shea Oak Shingles to be delivered to the Jetty at Fremantle.

Francis Bird married Augusta Maud Earnshaw, a daughter of Mr. David Fothergill Earnshaw, one of the earliest pioneers of the Blackwood district, from Busselton in 1871. Like the Bird family, the Earnshaws were a well-educated and highly respected family. They settled near the Canning Landing also and built a new home called “Woodloes” in 1874. It must have been one of the few architect-designed homes in the Colony. It is almost certain to have been built by some of the men in Ben Mason’s employment, incorporating some of the finest jarrah produced at the mill. These are probably the reasons why it still stands today as the oldest, practically unaltered, colonial home in Canning. Her sister Blanche was the school mistress at Kenwick School.

Francis Bird attended to the official and financial side of the Mill partnership, his time being mostly spent at the Landing, while Benjamin Mason attended to the workings of the Mill at Bickley. Should a death take place amongst the Mill hands, or a member of their families, it was Mr. Bird who conducted and read the Burial Service. On one occasion, he had the rather unenvious duty to bury one of his own babes of his marriage. The burial took place in his own front garden. This may seem strange to us in our enlightened times, but in the Canning many burials took place on private property in that period. Fifteen children were born to Francis and Augusta Bird but only nine survived. They were Frank, Noel, Mary, Harold, Bruce, Walter, Eric, Arthur and Ivan. A lot of the information in this History of Mason, Bird and Company was gathered together and written by Charles McIntosh and his father Arthur McIntosh was also born at the Landing about this time, within a stone’s throw from the Bird homestead. He often played with Noel and Mary Bird (or “Mabs” as she was called). Noel (he used his second name) when he grew up, was Collector of Customs at Fremantle for H.M.Government.

 

At the Hills Station Francis Bird had his own cottage, where he conducted his business and also entertained visitors. A school and a Recreation and Dance Hall were also built. And as at the Landing, the Mill Store provided food and clothing for the Mill families. It was a self-contained community, and everyone was happy. In the Dance Hall waltzing competitions were held, and prizes for the “best Dressed Lady”. Mrs. Wallis was the dentre’s dressmaker and as the ladies would vie with each other to be the best dressed, it became quite a lucrative occupation for the dressmaker. Her husband worked at the Mill and they had 5 children.

Benjamin Finney absconded from Mason, Bird & Company in April 1874 and was brought before the Court in breach of the “ticket-of-leave” regulations and was sentenced to 6 months hard labor.

Besides having the champion “swearer”, Joe Dart, in the camp, they also had a champion “runner", Walter George Trew. Running competitions at that time consisted of “time” races. Half hour go-as-you-please. One hour, 12 hours, and up to 36 hours go-as-you-please. You could sit down if you felt done, you could run on, you could walk at times, and the runner who covered the most miles was declared the winner. Walter Trew won everything, running, log-chopping, either marathon or underhand on the starting blocks, they were all the same to Walter. To win the World’s Championship he defeated a man named Day, who came from Ireland. What better training could one have, than to swing an axe all day? Walter also played the first games for the newly formed Canning Cricket and Football Clubs.

Walter moved to Sawyers Valley about 1895 and passed away the day before Christmas, in 1930. His daughter's Muriel, who recently turned 100 (2018) and younger sister, Lilian, were very proud of their father's athletic achievements.

The Bickley Station was a happy camp. The nearest inhabitants to them were at Guildford or at Cannington. They made their own fun, they raised their families, and their children were taught in the camp. Thirty homes were built, and they could be termed a flourishing community.

 

WALTER GEORGE TREW 1930         #80

 

      #44

   FREMANTLE JETTY 1870. THE THEN ONLY JETTY (IN THE CENTRE) WAS BUILT ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE RIVER WELL BACK FROM THE MOUTH.  #45

   FREMANTLE JETTY 1870. THE THEN ONLY JETTY (IN THE CENTRE) WAS BUILT ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE RIVER WELL BACK FROM THE MOUTH.   #46

 

On the formation of the Canning Roads Board, Francis Bird at 26 years old, was elected Chairman of the Board.

The Mason, Bird & Company won  the tender to supply the timber for building the first Government Railway from Geraldton to Northampton.

A tender was also accepted for The Company to build the first section of the Ocean Jetty from Anglesea Point at Fremantle in 1873 for 6,263 pounds. The Ocean Jetty, was later known as the Long Jetty, ran in a South-Westerley direction from Anglesea Point and was completed by Mason, Bird and Company in 1873. Four years later the final section, which carried the structure in a Westerley direction, to a total of 2,830 feet, was built by R. O. Law and M. Price in 1887. 

 

     FIRST TRAIN ARRIVE IN NORTHAMPTON  #47

   FREMANTLE LONG JETTY 1890c     #48

 

The Jetty was little used after the opening of the River Harbour in 1897, and after being closed to traffic and used only as a promenade for some years, it was doomed for demolition in 1921.

     LOADING SHIPS AT THE FREMANTLE JETTY 1890c   #49

 

      GOODS AWAITING LOADING AT THE FREMANTLE JETTY 1890c  #50

 

 

     FREMANTLE LONG JETTY 1896  #51

 

Richard Weston (possibly also spelt Western) was employed by Mason, Bird & Company as a wheelwright for many years and later transferred to Canning Mill. The first child born to Richard and Mary Weston died when only 2 days old. A memorial with jarrah railing surrounds the grave of little Francis Weston, born 17th January 1876, died 19th January 1876. The grave is still in excellent preservation today, having been carefully tended by relatives of the Weston family. If was recognised and officially added to the Heritage Sites by the Heritage Council of Western Australia in 2009.

RICHARD & MARY WESTON AND CHILDREN
L -R: FRANCIS JOHN (Second child to be named Francis),
 CHRISTINA MARY & HENRY JOSEPH   #52

EARLY PHOTO OF  BABY FRANCIS WESTON'S GRAVE   #53

During disastrous bush fires in March 1961, two dwellings were burnt to the ground within 3 miles of this grave. Truly God watches over this little babe, surrounded by giant jarrahs and in the middle of the forest. The fires burnt from limb to limb, while the little wood grave lies serene and unscarred, while the flames roared overhead. Richard Weston became the first family to acquire land at Pickering Brook and commenced an orchard on the property know as "Rosedale”.

 

MARILYN ROLLINGS (nee Weston) & HERITAGE MINISTER JOHN CASTRILLI AT HERITAGE LISTING OF GRAVE 2009   #54

 

     BABY FRANCIS WESTON'S GRAVE  APRIL 1972    #55

 

       BABY FRANCIS WESTON'S GRAVE   APRIL 1972    #56

 

Mason decided to install another 15 H.P. steam engine at the hills station. They expected to take out 20,000 feet of timber per day. Mr. Wanless from Rockingham, used his Steam Traction Engine to make two trips to Mason’s Landing on the Canning to bring the two boilers for the mill. Each of the boilers weighed 10 tons. All other machinery was carted by teams.

With the children growing up, Mrs. Bird professed a desire to visit the Bickley Mill, which up to then she had only heard of by word of mouth. A day was arranged and everything prepared for the occasion. Mrs. Bird was a natural blonde, and was revered by all who had ever come into contact with her. The mills hands vied with each other as to who would work the big saw on that memorable day, who would fell a jarrah, who would wait on the table, or who would drive the team to and from the Mill. To them it was equal to the visit of a Queen, and they meant to do the honours fitting such an occasion.

Joe Dart was informed that he would not have permission to handle the team that day. Mr. Bird stated that he could not allow his wife and children to be subjected to the terrible epithets that would flow from his mouth. Joe was crestfallen, this day of all days, and this must happen! Joe was the champion teamster, and Mr. Bird could see that he was hurt inwardly. He did not want to be too server, so he called Dart and offered to make a bet with him. Even doing this was lowering his own dignity. But he bet Dart a gallon of rum, if he could load a wagon nearby awaiting to carry stores to Bickley, without swearing. Joe was on his merits, this was to be a real test. He knew he could do it, it was not the rum he was thinking about, he could buy that any day. But to drive Mrs. Bird on his wagon, this could only happen once in a lifetime. The bet was on, Joe started. He had about 50 cases to load, not a word out of place, and he was doing fine. Joe had plenty sympathisers who would like to see him make the grade, Six more, five more, four, three, two, and with the last case leaving his hands he turned triumphantly to Mr. Bird, and using a swear word he said, “I told you Boss, I could do it!” He though he had won the bet, and did not realise that with his exclamation and excitement, he had used an epithet that cost him the privilege. Mr. Bird was a humane man; he knew what it had cost Joe Dart to load all but one case without swearing, so he decided to let him drive the team after all.

Next morning, all was in readiness to make the trip to the hills. The horses were groomed and the harness polished, the party were made as comfortable as could be under the circumstances. They were ready to move off. Joe, in his Sunday best, shook the reins, and with a call to Ginger and Darky to come on, expected some response. Nothing happened. The two horses turned their heads slowly, and as much as to say, “Who is the "Siss" driving us today?” It is not recorded just how they reached the Mill and back, but apparently Joe did use his persuasive powers to some avail, and the Hills visit was completed without further incident.   

The timber trade was never in a prosperous position. Timber was plentiful. It was a case of too much timber and not enough finances, Knowing the position, the big buyers from India and South Africa, and not the least, our own buyers in the Eastern States, put the squeeze on, and bargained for lower prices. Small mills throughout the South-West were amalgamating to enable them to bridge their financial difficulties. Big mills were following suit. Mason & Bird were feeling the pinch. Big sleeper orders were available from India. No Mill was able to accept the orders in their entirety. The orders were split up. Yelverton of the Vasse accepted a portion, Mason & Bird took a share, and other smaller Mills took what they could absorb.

At this time, a visitor arrived from India, Mr. D. Richmond, the Chief Engineer of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, Bombay, India. He was representing the Company on a buying trip to Western Australia. The hand of friendship was extended to him at every turn. Mason & Bird’s Mill was the largest operating in the State and Mr. Richmond was afforded every opportunity to inspect the Mill, its machinery and its workings. He marveled at the work that had been put into this venture. He was shown country away back in the hills, jarrah on all sides, enough for 100 years.

After his inspection had been completed, he reported to his Company in India. He wrote to Mr. Mason and requested him to select a suitable block of, say, 200 so miles, which is the area that the Company would require. Should the Government grant this concession, it is understood that the Indian Company would lay the Railways needed to carry both passengers as well as timber.

The Executive Member in Council, and the Governor, was quite in accord with the terms of the Agreement presented by Mr. Richmond. They however did not have the last say. Western Australia was a Crown Colony, and the petition was subjected to approval by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in London. Mr. Richmond had returned to India, and there was no evidence that his proposals would be favourably considered there. Both sides were reluctant to commit themselves to such an undertaking, and the proposition was gradually dropped, it was a great disappointment to Mr. Bird, and only added to the burden he and his partner were trying to carry.

Mason & Bird carried on, but not getting any richer, competition was getting keener and finances were always strained. They say it was the last straw that broke the donkey’s back ….. a shipment of timber going to India from their Mill, was sunk in a storm. It was not insured, as insurance was unheard of in those days …. It caused a collapse in the partnership of Mason & Bird.

1873 18th June  Notice of dissolvement of partnership between Bird and Mason

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE PERTH GAZETTE AND WEST AUSTRALIAN TIMES"
 DATED 27th JUNE 1873.

 

Stephen McKeown, formerly employed by the Mason, Bird & Company, was drowned in the Canning River near the “Landing” in September 1875.

Mason & Bird supplied timber for the Chapman River Bridge in 1876.

1876 18th December the enterprising timber merchants, Messrs. Mason, Bird, & Co., are making capital progress at their works. The timber yard at the Hill Station abound with huge logs, and an average of six bullock teams are daily employed in hauling to the mill.

In 1877 , in conjunction with G. & R. Wills and Co., of Adelaide, Mr. Bird advocated the construction of a railway from Perth to York on the land grant system, but the British Government with-held its sanction on the grounds that the scheme was premature. Mr. Bird then relinquished control of the sawmills and settled in Perth to practice his profession as an architect. He lost his investment and although Ben Mason persistently continued on by himself, he unfortunately eventually also lost all his fine property in Perth.

In 1883 and 1884 he was Chief Government Architect. He was then and later a strong advocate for the construction of a harbour at Fremantle, the only port of call for trading vessels in the colony then being Albany. Mr. John Forrest, later Lord Forrest, was then Surveyor-General and he opposed the proposal, contending that Gage Roads was sufficient anchorage for all shipping then calling.

1877 18th September The Company discharged a great many men because of a shortage of orders. They also had large stacks of building timber on hand.

1877 23rd October. Whereas Melbourne companies had received large concessions, Ben Mason and others who opened up this important industry, had been left to their own resources unaided and unrewarded. Living in tolerable comfort was a population of 27 men, 18 women and 24 children. The children are growing up wild and untaught.

1877 7th December Tender accepted to supply and deliver 12 loads of jarrah timber for the Lacepede Islands, for 47 pounds and 10 shillings.

1878 15th January Miss Mason taught children at the Canning Landing Government School.

1878 30th June Mr. Bird’s father, Mr. George Bird died in Middlesex, England.

A battle was ensuing about the route a railway line from Fremantle to Guildford, should take. Some pushing for it to run north of the river while others, including those in the timber industry were preferring it to travel south of the river through Cannington and then to Guildford. The final decision was to run it north along the river to Guildford leaving the industries south of the river unsupported. This was another big disappointment to Benjamin Mason and really added to his transportation problems.

     SOLDIERS CROSSING THE WOODEN FREMANTLE RAILWAY BRIDGE   #74

 

    FIRST TRAIN LEAVES FREMANTLE FOR GUILDFORD  #57

  GOVERNOR WELD DIGS FIRST SOD TO START THE BUILDING OF THE PERTH RAILWAY STATION   #58

 

    EARLY POSTCARD PICTURE OF FREMANTLE SHOWING RAILWAY STATION AND LINE ON LEFT, ROUNDHOUSE ON RIGHT    #75

        FREMANTLE BRIDGE WITH NEW RAILWAY BRIDGE ADDED ALONGASIDE  #59

 

1879 26th April Annual examination of the 30 children now attending the Canning Landing Government School. Concern was expressed about the lack of department support given to this school which operated from a single room kindly supplied by Mason, Bird, & Co.

With the advent of the new Railway to Guildford, all transport on the Canning River from the Canning Landing ceased. The Mill closed down. The building that housed the bakery was many years, was utilised as a schoolroom when the school building at Kenwick was burnt in a fire. Headmistress was Miss Blanch Earnshaw (a sister of Mrs. Bird) and she, together with the children would walk the 2 ½ miles there and back each day. The story goes that the children in those days were just like any of the school children of today, sometimes good and sometimes unruly ….  But at the Landing they had a cure-all! Troublesome children were placed in the old baker’s oven for an hour, to give them time to repent. It was pitch dark inside, and this certainly acted as a deterrent to those requiring corporal punishment.

       THE HOUSE AT MASON'S LANDING THAT WAS USED AS A BAKERY AND SCHOOL  #60

 

The Canning Mills were then being formed in 1880, a few miles to the south-east. Bird & Mason decided to sell the machinery to them ….. meaning the workers then had another job to transfer to.

Mr. Bird set up business in the city as an architect in 1881. Later he retired to live his last years in comfort with his family at the “Old Farm”, Strawberry Hill, Albany.

Like so many pioneers before him, Ben Mason’s Business collapsed due to lack of capital, transport difficulties causing the venture to a close in 1882.  However, Mason and Bird made a significant contribution to the development of the early timber industry and the growth of the Kalamunda district. In the 1880’s he was putting his technical knowledge to good use with the Public Works Department.

On 14th April 1882 James Morrison put up for auction the Canning Timber Mill and Woodloes Estate lately work by Messrs Mason, Bird and Company, but received no bids however he was confident that they would be sold by private treaty within a week.

1882 28th April Notice of Sale by Private Contract by Joseph Shaw.

The original Grant of 578 acres, described as Canning River Location No. 5 was now in the possession of Mr. Joseph Shaw from 1882 – 1886.  In November 1882 the Canning Timber Station was now in the hands of Mr. Joseph Shaw who obtained control of the timber concession also. A new licence was issued to him for 42 years from the 1st January 1883. It has been put into a thorough state of repair and is doing good work. A great many hands are now employed at the station.

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE WEST AUSTRALIAN" ON 27th JUNE 1882

 

Joseph Shaw was declared bankrupt on 28th November 1883, and on January 31st 1884 all his property was advertised for sale by private contract. If not sold it would be put up for auction at a later date yet to be announced. Reason given in the advert was that Mr. Shaw would be returning the Europe about September next, "for family reasons." The list of properties was extensive including The Canning Timber Station, The Woodloes Estate, several Lots in Cannington, Shaw's 14 acres Orange Orchard including 3 cottages, 275 acres at Mongers Lake, Lot in Beaufort Street with newly built cottage, 4 lots totaling 16 acres of prime gardening land in Perth central, 3 1/2 acres with cottage and other building in Perth central, 4 lots totaling 16 acres with good house in East Perth, 5 lots with Cottages in Brown Street, a lot on Beaufort Street, 3 lots with frontages to St. Georges Terrace Central Perth, a lot on the corner of hay Street and St. Georges Terrace, House and 7 acres at Newcastle (Toodyay), portion of lot in Pier Street, 3 lots with 2 good cottages in Marquis Street, and a freehold estate at Wanneroo of 1500 acres including house and out-buildings.

On Saturday 28th June 1884 a small article in "The West Australia" announced that Mr. Jos. Shaw had let his Timber Station presumably to Mr. F. Stevens.

February 20th 1885 auction of lands of the insolvent estate of Joseph Shaw, which included the Canning property known as Woodloes and was the residence of Mr. F. Stevens.

 

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE WEST AUSTRALIAN"
 ON 24th SEPTEMBER 1885

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE WEST AUSTRALIAN"
 ON 24th SEPTEMBER 1885

ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE WEST AUSTRALIAN"
 ON 24th SEPTEMBER 1885

     
     
     
     

MYSTERY TRAMLINES

Above is the Auction advertisements for the sale of Mason & Birds Mill and associated equipment and property. However a mystery has surfaced because attached to these auction notices was a surveyors report on the preparation of a new surveyed tramway to the new site for the mill near "Bakers or Barkers Swamp". It raises the question as to whether this was ever actually built or was it just a proposal?  The maps obtained from the Battye Library clearly show two tramways heading south from the original tramway. Both these tramways pass either side of the site that was finally selected by Edward Keane and Lionel White for Canning Mills once Keane gained control of the "Shaw Concession". This little mystery needs further investigation at a later date.

It is assumed that it was a proposal for future development of the Timber Concession but was never built owing to financial problems incurred by the owners but was used as a selling point at the time of the auction.

 

     THE MYSTERY TRAMWAYS SHOWN ON A VERY EARLY MAP
 WHICH CLEARLY SHOWS THE TIMBER CONCESSION IN THE NAME OF "SHAW".    #68

 

      THESE MYSTERY TRAMWAYS SUPERIMPOSED IN "RED" ON A MORE RECENT MAP
 SHOWING HOW FAR THEY WENT INTO THE FOREST FROM THE ORIGINAL TRAMWAY     #69

 

Further investigation into these mystery tramways raises the point that they must have had other tramways further in the area to bring logs back to the mill site. Earlier maps have now been uncovered that show a number of things. The first map clearly shows the original old mill site at what is now the corner of Welshpool Road East and Lesmurdie Road. Once the timber was cut out of this area they had to move the mill further east to the Bickley Valley to find more timber to mill.

VERY EARLY MAP SHOWING THE TWO MILL SITES     #77            

 

A number of other uncovered early maps show a tramway heading east towards Pickering Brook. This tramway finished in the valley just behind the now Pickering Brook Primary School. There are several places along this tramway that prove it did exactly exist. After following along the front of the Owen property it cut across Canning Road near Glenisla Road heading up over the hill passing at the north end of the Pickering Brook Sports Club, crossing Westons Road straight through the next valley and up to the start of McCorkill Road. The dirt section at the beginning of McCorkill Road lines up exactly on the maps of where the tramway went. It then continued down the next valley to Lot 260 behind the school. Various property boundry lines also line up exactly with this route.This is an exciting find.

EARLY c1900 MAP SHOWING TRAMWAY     #78            

 

ANOTHER EARLY MAP SHOWING TRAMWAY     #79            

 

NEWER MAP OF THE TRAMWAY AREA     #80            

 

MODERN MAP OF TRAMWAY AREA     #81            

 

TRAMWAY ROUTE HIGHLIGHTED  Note: How it follows property boundries     #82           

 

Unfortunately today there is nothing left of this tramline but maybe some relics may come to light in the future.

 

1885 2nd May Western Australia now has 10 municipalities; an excellent high school and 91 primary schools; 34 district road boards, and about 700 miles of made roads; 58 post offices; 41 flour mills, of which 20 are worked by steam power; 13 steam sawmills; 11 lighthouses; 6 companies of rifle volunteers; 10 hospitals; 8 asylums and charitable institutions, 3 of them for aboriginal natives; 15 savings banks, with 4370 depositors; 12 friendly societies; and 4 banks, with branches in the provincial towns

On 1st October 1885 at the Mechanics Institute, a large crowd gathered for the Auction of the Canning Timber Station, formerly owned by Mr. Joseph Shaw. It will be auctioned without reserve by Messrs. Waldeck Smith & Co., of Fremantle. The purchaser was to receive in addition a concession for 38 years of the sole right of cutting timber over an area of 100,000 acres of forest land, several hundred acres in fee simple, a number of building, nine miles of tramway, a large plant consisting of engines, boilers, timber cutting machinery, tools, etc., forming on of the most valuable and important properties ever offered to public competition in Western Australia. Mr. James Morrison’s valuation of the concession only in cut timber was 7,860 pounds, while another authority set down the worth of the whole property at 25,000 pounds.

   THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE BUILDING IN HAY STREET  #61

 

The station and its belongings were knocked down to Mr. Ernest Howard for 5,900 pounds.

It’s near proximity to Perth and Fremantle, the immense stores of timber yet hardly touched, the excellent quality of that timber, the long term of the concession together with the worth of the freehold land, and the plant included in the bargain purchase price, made it a very safe one. It was also talk of extending the new racecourse railway up to the hills, and eventually making it accessible for the timber concessions.

ARTICLE IN "THE WEST AUSTRALIAN"
 ON 3rd OCTOBER 1885

 

1886 Leasees Stevens and Atkins of Canning Timber Station

A Mr. Cousins left the Old Perth Boys School and went to the Canning Saw mill, near Pickering Brook. He was employed by Stevens and Atkins, who ran the mill in the late eighties, as storeman, book-keeper and timber tallyman.

1890 6th June Petition to make Mr. W. F. Stevens a bankrupt issued by Mr. J. A. Shaw. The amount claimed is 115 pounds 14 shilling and 2 pence.

1890 18th July A meeting of the creditors of Mr. W. F. Stevens was held in the Supreme Court. It was agreed to allow the debtor twelve months time to pay in full, the debtor in the meantime to transfer his estate to Mr. H. H. Holman, who was appointed trustee.  

After this the Canning Mills fell into the hands of Mr. W. F. Stevens and Mr. J. Shaw, who also lost everything. The next they were owned by Mr. E. Keane, who carried on successfully for a time, but it was then passed into the hands of an English Company and went on flourishing under the management of Mr. Frank Wilson.

 

Ben Mason did not live long enough to see the fruits of his labour ripen. He died at his home in Cannington in 1893 on the 15th November and is buried with his wife at the East Perth Cemetery.

1903 1st January Mrs. Ben Mason died aged 75 years leaving a family of five sons and four daughters.

     BENJAMIN MASON'S GRAVE   #62

 

           THE WILL OF BENJAMIN MASON

 

  MRS. BENJAMIN MASON AND HER CHILDREN
 Back Row  (L - R);  SARAH, WILLIAM, MARY, EDWARD, ELIZA, GEORGE.
 Front Row (L -R);  FRANK, MRS. MASON, LUCY, BENJAMIN Jnr.    #63

Willaim Mason spent many years as Secretary of the Canning Roads Board. Frank started a Dairy at the rear of the old homestead of his parents, right opposite what is now the Carousel Shopping Centre.

   THE WILL OF EIZA MASON

 

1937 24th May Mr. Francis Bird died at his residence, the Old Farm, Strawberry Hill, Albany, after a long illness. He was in his 91st year. He had given his best, and served his adopted country well, had reared a large family, and the name Bird will always be remembered wherever timber is mentioned.

   FRANCIS BIRD'S GRAVE AT ALBANY CEMETERY  #64

 

    FRANCIS BIRD'S GRAVE AT ALBANY CEMETERY   #65

 

Our late Governor, Lord Dunrossil, who had endeared himself to many of us by his friendly, easy manner, and his admiration for our Australian trait of “giving it a go”, whatever the task, had a great feeling for the land. There was so much of it to see, and some of that feeling came out when, viewing the bustling cities dotting our coasts, he was heard to remark that if the early pioneers had been privileged to see all this, “They would feel that all their fatigue and perils had been richly rewarded”.

Could Lord Dunrossil have chosen, I think he could have chosen no finer representatives of the early pioneers, than Francis Bird and Benjamin Mason.

It is a fitting tribute to these Pioneers that the “Landing” has been made into a Reserve and a suitable Memorial erected to tell future generations a little of its history.

   THE MASON FAMILY TAKEN ON 24th APRIL 1988
 Left to Right;     HILDA (78) & BENJAMIN (86) MASON ,    RETA (84) & ARTHUR (84) MASON,    DOROTHY (81) WAGNER (Nee MASON),    HAMBLIN MASON (nearly 90).   #66

 

“Woodloes House” fell into a state of disrepair till the early 1970’s when its restoration was undertaken by the City of Canning. Funds from a variety of sources were used to complete the project and Woodloes was opened to the public as a museum in 1978. It is the showpiece of the Canning District Historical Society Inc and is maintained by them. It is open for viewing and for hire for weddings and other functions by arrangement.

 

    WOODLOES HOUSE, CANNINGTON PHOTOGRAPHED DECEMBER 2010   #67

 

 

References:     Article:      Pickering Brook Heritage Group
                                     "History of the Canning" Charlie McIntosh

                      Images:   1, 25, 76  Cala Munnda A Home in the Forest - John Slee & Bill Shaw
                                     2, 3, 4,27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 49, 51  National Library of Australia
                                     5, 13, 14, 18, 21, 22, 26, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 57, 58, 59, 61    Western Mail
 
                                    6, 80, 81, 82   Pickering Brook Heritage Group
                                     8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 35, 36, 40  David Hickson, Cannington Historical Society
                                     15, 16, 19, 20, 23, 24, 37, 55, 56, 60, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66 Riverton Library
                                     17, 43   Flickr
                                     31    Western Australian Library
                                     38, 38  John Slee
                                     41, 42, 52, 53 , 70, 71, 72  Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society
                                     54    Marilyn Rollings
                                     67   Gordon Freegard
                                     68, 69    Battye Library
                                     73, 74, 75   John Linton
                                     77, 78, 79    State Records Office
                                     80    Gail Pascoe

 

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