Geraldton Guardian (1913)
Our Tenindewa Trip (By C.O.N.)
[This exceptionally well written article is possibly by a Mr. E Constantine. See article July 28th 1917]
We had been falsely accused of holding a poor opinion of the Tenindewa country. We would never ascertain how such an impression existed, as we were not aware that we has said anything derogatory the district. Whenever we spoke of Tenindewa it was from hearsay. as we had never been there. We concluded therefore, if fault there was, that “hearsay” was to blame and we had better go to Tenindewa, and see for ourselves. There was a standing invitation and offer to pilot us round from Mr. H J Stafford, the enthusiastic ex-station master of Geraldton, so none fine morning we set out with a light heart. In the pre-railway days and up to the time it blossomed forth as an agriculture centre, the district was known as Wolya. The old Wolya well was a favourite camping place for weary travellers across the cruel sandplain, on the road to Mullewa and en-route to the Murchison. Contrary to usual practice, the railway department (or whoever named the siding) has since endowed it with a more euphonious name —Tenindewa—how glibly it runs ! We are told it a most beautiful place in Spring, and we shall not be surprised if, in the near future, such a beautiful place with a beautiful name is not the theme of a spring poet.
Tenindewa is almost due east of Geraldton, and as the train crawls 55 miles distant. En-route the train attains at Indarra, eight miles from our destination, a height of 895 feet above sea level. As Geraldton station is only 5 feet higher than the sea, there is some justification for the crawl. Tenindewa itself is 641 feet above sea level , just a little higher than Grants siding (Newmarracarra). Mullewa, ten miles further on is 250 feet higher still. It will be seen how irregular are the gradients on this railway. When Mr. Charles Smith realizes his ambition and is able to take a ticket from Yuna to Mullewa direct there will perhaps, be fewer snorting and puffing locomotives running on the Geraldton-Mullewa section. The train service from Mullewa is fairly convenient, but it is quite the reverse from Mullewa. The residents of the district should take time by the forelock and press for a timetable that will enable them to visit their metropolis , Geraldton, and reach home the same day. When the Mullewa-Wongan-Hills line is taken over by the Department, Mullewa will no doubt be treated as a junction station, and the district timetable arranged accordingly.
On arrival at Tenindewa we alight at the spick and span station, and are heartly greeted by the ex-station master, who looks a typical pioneer—bronzed certainly, but still wiry, and emblematic of his old railway sobriquet. There is the usual assortment of countryside parcels to be gathered up for ourselves and friends, the all important mail to be secured, and we set out behind “Duke” for Mr. Stafford’s homestead, on the banks of the Kockatea Gully, three miles distant, where we were heartily welcomed by Mrs. Stafford and her daughters. Their healthy appearance and their assurances that they enjoyed the “simple life” that falls to the lot of those that go on the land, were happy auguries for the tenor of those notes and eloquent testimony to the climate of Tenindewa. Mr. Stafford’s homestead is comfortable but unpretentious. It is built of iron, and provides ample accommodation for his large family and occasional travellers like ourselves . He jocularly refers to the fact that the original portion was, like the world, built in six days . Mr. and Mrs Stafford wisely deferred the selection of a site for, and the erection of, a permeant building until they had got used to the place. They have now selected the site, and it will not be long before home is laid. After refreshing the out and inner man, we take a stroll whilst our steed “duke” is recuperating for a hard afternoons work.
Enthusiastic though he is as to his prospects, as a wheat grower, it is satisfactorily to note as we emerge from the house that Mr. Stafford has not deserted his old love, and he continues to breed high-class poultry. As is well known, he enjoys a reputation in the poultry world and in the show pens. Hundreds of white leghorn fowls of all ages flit here and there as we pass along the incubator room, which contains two machines. Several foster mothers are distributed on the grassy slope adjoining the house, and it the distance numbers of turkeys are contently picking as they roam. Needless to say, the returns from Mr. Stafford’s poultry yard are satisfactory.
We next come to a fair sized paddock, fenced with Cyclone netting and barbed wire, which has just been completed, and is intended to keep the pigs within bounds., Mr. Stafford having decided to go in for pig breeding, as part of his scheme of mixed farming. Four excellent sows in litter have been secured for a start, and a boar has been ordered from Newmarrcarra [sic]. With an undoubted demand for pork and bacon in the district, there should be money in the business. Although he has only been on the place for four years there is sufficient shed accommodation to keep all the machinery and horse under cover. And there is ample plant for working the property in its present stage , the machinery comprising of two binders, a harvester, a winnower, a chaff cutting plant, driven by a benzine engine, besides vehicles etc.
Mr. Stafford’s horse flesh was unfortunately seriously depleted during the year by the death of two draught mares whilst foaling. The two were valued at 100 pounds [$200.00] “Its all in the game” philosophically comments our guide, as we inspect the working teams . We did not see the sheep. The present flock is quite a recent acquisition, and having a strain of Shropshire, had inconsiderably walked through the fence, and sampled the crop. Fortunately they were discovered before much damage was done, and placed in a distant paddock.
As we wished to see something of the district that afternoon, we now returned to the house , and harnessed up for a 20 mile drive around the host’s and neighboring crops.
Next morning we travelled through some excellent grazing paddocks belonging to Mr. Stafford. In some places along the creek there is a good deal of saltbush growing, which is excellent feed for sheep, and is being largely cultivated for that purpose in America.
We happened across the camp of Mr. Crommelin, a new settler, who has taken up 800 acres, adjoining Mr. Stafford’s holding. Mr. Crommelin only began work on Aug. 29 of this year, since when he has single-handed [sic] erected a comfortable camp and cleared 40 acres of his land. He intends having 100 acres under crop next year.
We spent half-an-hour at the homestead of Mr. H.W Johnston, who hails from Greenough, and has spent some time in the Murchison. He has a very comfortable three roomed cottage, and has about 35 acres under crop, the varieties being Federation, Alpha, and Bunyip. His return will be about 15 bushels to the acre. Mr. Johnstone only began work in January of this year. He is satisfied he will do well on the 980 acres he has taken up. After sampling some dainty cakes and a cup of tea, hospitably proferred [sic] by Mrs. Johnstone, a Northampton lady, we continued our journey.
The next holding visited was that of Mr. Palmer, a new arrival from England. This gentleman was a journalist and a schoolteacher in the Old Country, but anyone seeing him as we did, in the act of chopping down a big York Gum tree, would scarcely imagine that he had been used to any other than laborious work. So well is Mr. Palmer satisfied with his prospects in this new country, that he has sent home for his wife and family to join him, and they are due to arrive shortly. He has 50 acres of Timber cut down and the land ready for cropping, and with the assistance of his sons hopes to have another 200 acres ready by seeding time.
In the afternoon we set out in a westerly direction, and after crossing some good sandplain country, came to the holding of Mr. Hunter, who we were informed, has 700 acres under crop and expects an average yield of 15 bushels. The variety is principally Federation. We passed through Mr. Frank Green’s paddocks, where there is a splendid field of 120 acres of Alpha which should go at least 20 bushels to the acre. This property is overseered [sic] by Mr. Shaw, an experienced farmer.
Mr. M. F. Troy’s holding adjoins. It consists mostly of York Gum country, timber that will provide excellent exercise for the legislator farmer between sessions of Parliament, and an agreeable change from the unpleasant duty of calling unruly politicians to order. There are 120 acres of growing crop on this holding, Federation and Bunyip, and the yield should be around 4 bags to the acre.
Strange to say, the last crop seen, that of Mr. Maloney, of Walkaway was the best we had come across during our two days of travelling. The road crosses the cultivated field and there was just room for the sulky to pass through without damaging the crop. For the full width of the paddock the ripening heads of wheat were on a level with the seat of the sulky. It was crop that would that would take beating anywhere, being thick and even. The harvester had been around a few times just previous to our visit, and the yield was at the rate of 29 bushels to the acre. As this was from the outer fringe, which had suffered the usual damage from parrots and kangaroos, we would be safe in saying it was a 30 bushel crop. The varieties were Crossbred 73 and Comeback.
We were not able to visit all the farms in the Tenindewa District, but were able to gather a few particulars about some of the crops we did not see. Mr. A Meadowcroft has about 300 acres under crop, Mr. Valentine and Dunkin, 400 acres; whilst Messrs. Routledge and Willis (a Law-lers [sic] firm) have also a fair acreage.
Altogether there are about 3000 acres to be harvested at Tenindewa, and as the average yield will be about five bags to the acre, the district’s contribution to the wheat yield of the State will be 15,000 bags. Not bad for country that was a sheep walk five years ago. The wheat growing properties of the land have been proved this season, the rainfall having been up to the average, and as more land is cleared and the farmers are able to go in for fallow there should be no failure of crops even in a bad year.