Early History of Three Springs
The district of Three Springs received
its name after three freshwater springs situated about one mile north of what
is now the Three Springs townsite. The area of the springs had been
surveyed by Sir John Forrest in 1872, and in his field book he
showed “The Three Springs” on Victoria Location 482. Prior to 1906
pastoralists ran livestock on portions of the district and the only
resident settlers were a few railway workers.
The government had plans for an experimental farm west of the
railway line, but instead threw it open for
selection in 1906 under the name of the Kadathinni Agricultural Area. The first seven men who made an
application for a holding were Walter Browning, John A. Richardson,
Charles F. Thomas, Reuben Carter, Ernest T. C. Klopper, Henry K.
Maley, and Solomon S. Maley.
The first to take up residence on his holding was Reuben Carter, who
arrived with his wife Leah and their son Herbert on Saint Patrick’s
Day in 1906. After making a makeshift home Charles F. Thomas,
his wife Winifred and their six children shifted to their holding on
8 April 1906. Other settlers who followed included Franklin Bros.,
Stephen J. H. Morgan, Henry H. Richardson, William J. Howard, John
G. Wilson, Gilford Haines, James K. Hebiton, Ernest T. C. Klopper,
Solomon S. Maley, Charles C. Maley, and Isaac Wallace.
In 1909 the
Midland Railway Company surveyed and put up for sale a large area
east of the railway line that had previously been leased by Michael
Brown. This resulted in a second influx of settlers including Philip
Lynch, George R. Watson, Arthur D. Glyde, Bastian Bros., Charles H.
Gooch, Henry J. Page, Frederick W. Sluggett, William Oats, Frederick
Hornsby, Franz L. Arndt, Robert A. Caldow, and William Dean.
The first wheat grown in the Kadathinni Agricultural Area was
fifteen acres grown and cut for hay by Charles F. Thomas in 1906.
Rainfall records were inaugurated in 1907 and kept by John L.
The first public body was the Kadathinni Farmers & Progress Association
which was formed in 1908.
Gilford Haines and Charles F. Thomas were the Association’s first
chairman and secretary, and in 1909 were respectively followed by
Stephen J. H. Morgan and Evander W. Franklin. The progress
association did much to
advance the district in which the needs of the new settlement were
many and the amenities few. In 1911 some of its accomplishments were
the construction of the first town dam, the appointment of a
resident police officer (Const. William Walker), and the
appointment of a local Justice of the Peace (James K. Hebiton Snr).
Other local organisations formed included football and race clubs in
1910, and a rifle club in 1915.
Initially there was only a railway siding at Three Springs, with
trains stopping to let down passengers or when called upon to
do so. Trains were stopped by the intending passenger holding up a
red disc in the daytime or a light at night. Following the
district’s advancement and increased settlement the Midland Railway
Company upgraded the siding to a station in 1910, and Arthur S.
Mortimer was transferred to Three Springs to fulfil the duties of
The district made rapid growth for several years. The first school
was a private one on Charles F. Thomas’ farm, the teacher being
Charles Howes, known to the early settlers as “Le Grondeur.” A State
School was opened in the townsite in the latter part of 1908, the first teacher
being Miss Dagmar Koch, who in 1910 was succeeded by Arthur W. V.
Green. A Dominican Convent, including a school, was established in
Three Springs in 1917.
The first shop, which was a newsagency, was opened in 1909 by James
J. Brown and initially conducted by Charles McKay (a Scot known as
“Old Mac”). Later in 1909 a small general store was opened by James
J. M. Groffier and C. Septimus Pizey, trading as Groffier & Pizey.
In the same year “Dave” David Todd opened a blacksmith’s shop. Dave
was an excellent tradesman and helped in no small measure in the
development of the district by making and mending farmers’
requisites in the old horse team days. Also in 1909 Michael
J. Ryan opened a general store in the building later occupied by the
Duffy family. Mick conducted his store successfully for several
years and almost acquired fame by the quaint sign over his door,
which told all and sundry that it was “Mick Ryan’s Unlimited Credit
Store.” Mick spent valuable time explaining to good buyers with no
money that he wanted them to see unlimited credit.
James J. Brown and Stephen Sheridan opened a general store in partnership in
late 1909 or early 1910, which they sold to William Harris in 1911,
who afterwards sold it to James A. Whitelaw. Later again, in 1920,
it was sold to the North Midlands Farmers’ Co-Operative Company
Limited, who used it for their store until having new premises built
in 1941. Amongst the first managers of the Co-Operative store were
Charles E. Wright, John M. Donnes, James K. Hebiton Snr, Norman L.
Skewes, Harold Barnett and Henry W. Smith.
By mid 1910 Mrs Blanche M. Koch had opened a tearooms and boarding house
known as the Three Springs Coffee Palace, which was successfully
operated by herself until 1932 and then by her daughter Mrs Clare
Black. Also during the year 1910 a bakery was established by Isaac
Wallace, and Alfred J. Carlisle opened a photographic studio. In
1911 another store was opened by Thomas J. Berrigan, who also
carried machinery, stock, insurance and other agencies. Edmund K.
Byrne opened a butcher’s shop in 1911, which was conducted by his
elder sons until 1919 when it was taken over by Thomas K. Bickell.
In 1910 Mrs Jane Terry established the Commercial Hotel with a wine
and beer license and in 1911, after extensive alterations, secured a
general publican’s license. The hotel was later conducted by Lewis
R. Hassel, William H. Angove, Nathaniel McKenzie, Randolph Barnhart
(who had new hotel premises built), Vincent P. Tippett, William A.
Duncan, and John J. Thorpe.
Mrs Daisy Starling, wife of the local railway ganger, acted as mail
receiver as early as 1907. A postal service was later given by Mrs
Blanche M. Koch and Miss Claire Koch, the mother and sister of the
first state school teacher. During the latter part of 1910 the first
official post and telegraph office was opened in part of the local
store owned by Brown & Sheridan. Charles H. Nicholson was the first postmaster and filled the position until May 1912, when Charles E.
Luscombe took over and carried on until his retirement in September
1947. About 1913 the post office was moved to a house on Touche Street, formerly occupied by Stephen Sheridan,
business being conducted through a window with a ledge on the front verandah for about four or five years, after which a separate room
for postal business was built on land alongside the house. This
house, also previously used as the postmaster’s quarters, was now
used solely for this purpose. During 1914 telephone facilities were
established with six subscribers, and shortly afterwards private
boxes were installed. After many applications and deputations Three
Springs was granted new official post office premises, which were
opened by Senator Patrick J. Lynch of Three Springs on 12 August
The National Bank of Australasia Limited opened a receiving office
in Three Springs in 1909, and a branch in 1926. Among the branch’s
earliest managers were Maurice A. Buck, Charles S. Macdonald, John
J. Kelleher, R. Keith Whitlock, and Christopher B. Thomas. In 1928
the English, Scottish & Australian (E., S. & A.) Bank established
its first Western Australian country branch at Three Springs. The
local E. S. & A. Bank was managed by Clement L. Evans for three
years and then by Raymond Shaw.
The first town hall, known as the Agricultural Hall, was built by a
contractor named Brock and was opened on 29 June 1912. The opening
ceremony was performed by James Gardiner who was the Midland Railway
Company’s Land Agent and later the Legislative Assembly Member for
Irwin. The hall cost £650, with the Government at that time
subsidising the building of agricultural halls on a pound for pound
basis. The music for the dance which followed the opening ceremony
was provided by Miss Winifred M. Thomas. One speech made at the
function was a toast to “Town and Trade,” proposed by the then
resident school teacher. The speaker emphasised how grateful the
residents were to the business people, who came out into a new area,
risked their money in setting up business and catered for the
settlers’ needs, adding that even if they charged 300% more for
their goods than applied elsewhere the settlers were still grateful
to them for the service they rendered.
In the early days of the settlement a sports meeting known as the
“Three Springs Day” was held on the third Thursday in September,
with Charles F. Thomas as secretary. In 1927 the Three Springs
Agricultural Society was formed and held its first show on 20
September 1928. This fixture took the place of the “Three Springs
Day,” the secretarial duties for the show also initially being
carried out by Charles F. Thomas. Other events in the early years
included the annual race meeting conducted by the Three Springs Race
Club, and a race and sports meeting held each year on Saint
The early settlers of the Roman Catholic Church were cared for by
Rev. Fathers O’Heir, Ahern and Scanlon. A Roman Catholic Church was
built in 1911 and a Dominican Convent opened on 28 January 1917. The
Three Springs Parish was created in 1921, the first Parish Priest
being the Rev. Father Mark L. Hart, who was followed by Rev. Fathers
P. James Tymons, John Flahavan, Michael Lynch, and Bryan Gallagher.
The first resident Methodist Missioner was appointed in 1914 and was
Rev. James W. Bayliss. Rev. Bayliss was succeeded by Horace E. Weavers,
James R. Elms, Henry P. V. Christiansen, Alexander W. James and Thomas Cook.
The spiritual welfare of the Anglican settlers was initially cared
for by the Rev. Ernest Gill of Dongara, a quaint old Anglican
Minister, who made periodical visits as far as Three Springs. Rev.
Gill was succeeded in Dongara by Rev. Walter B. Kenworthy, who also
visited Three Springs. A very keen worker for the local Anglican
church in the early days was Mrs Blanche Koch. In 1928 a rectory was
built in Three Springs and E. Godfrey Jaquet travelled from England
to became the district’s first resident rector. The Anglican Church
of Saint James in Three Springs was licensed on 15 April 1932 by the
Most Rev. Henry F. Le Fanu, the second Archbishop of Perth. The
locally raised funds towards the Church were due largely to the
enthusiasm of Mrs Maude F. James. Following Rev. Jaquet’s departure
the Parish was conducted by Rev. Edward Chard and then Rev. Alfred
The district’s first doctor was Dr James P. McAleer, later the Mayor
of Geraldton, who commenced practice in Three Springs in 1921. In
1924 a cottage hospital was opened in a farmhouse on Charles C.
about one mile west of the town. The cottage
hospital was later moved to another farmhouse about one mile north
east of the town, and also owned by Charles C. Maley. Following Dr
McAleer’s departure Dr Mario A. Mayrhofer faithfully served the
district as resident doctor from mid 1926 until his death in 1950.
In 1926 a meeting was held to have a new official hospital built.
The building committee consisted of Dr Mario A. Mayrhofer
(chairman), Keith S. Glyde, Sydney C. Gooch, Albert R. Strutton and
James K. Hebiton (secretary). The North Midlands District Hospital
was opened four years later on 27 June 1930. The building cost
£4,410, of which £2,204 was subsidised by the Government. The
locally raised portion was obtained mainly through subscriptions, the
largest of £200 coming from the North Midlands Farmers’
Co-Operative Company Limited. In 1937 nurse's quarters were built
alongside the hospital.
In 1929 an electric light and power station was established in the
Three Springs townsite by Henry Parkin & Son of Carnamah. The power
station was later conducted by William A. Rogers, Leslie J. Carter,
and Arthur H. Dargin. The station received a concession from
the Three Springs Road Board conditional to it providing certain
services, such as lighting street lights at night and providing a
full day of power one day a week for domestic ironing purposes.
As a wheat growing district Three Springs soon proved its worth. In
1931-32 the Three Springs district obtained the highest average
yield for the State, and this achievement was commemorated by a
dinner arranged by the wheat growers of the district and held in the
Commercial Hotel on 26 August 1932. At a World Grain Exhibition held
in Canada in 1933 two prizes were won by Three Springs farmers in
Evander W. Franklin and James K. Hebiton Snr.
Initially Three Springs was part of the Upper Irwin Road Board,
which was based at Mingenew and in 1919 was renamed the Mingenew
Road Board. Three Springs farmers Charles C. Maley, Francis J. Morgan and Frederick E. S.
James all served terms representing the district as
members on the Upper Irwin / Mingenew Road Board. In 1923 the
southern portion of the Mingenew Road Board, spanning from Three
Springs to Gunyidi, became the Carnamah District Road Board.
Archibald Bastian and Frederick E. S. James were the Foundation
Members for Three Springs on the Carnamah District Road Board, and
Frederick E. S. James was Chairman of the Board in 1925 and 1926.
Others who represented Three Springs on the Carnamah District Road
Board were Nathaniel McKenzie, Edmund K. Byrne and Evander W.
Franklin. In 1929 a Road Board was formed at Three Springs
consisting of Three Springs, Arrino and Dudawa. The inaugural
members of the Three Springs Road Board were Edward Hunt (chairman),
Edmund K. Byrne, William D. S. Smith, Albert I. Broad, William
Mutter, Charles F. Thomas Snr and Henry J. W. Sweetman. Following a
change in the Local Government Act the Three Springs Road Board
became the Three Springs Shire Council in 1961.
● The Three Springs Database
● Three Springs General
Midland Times: 1942 news in 2012
Blog Post - The Story of Bulk Wheat Handling
The above history is based on the "History of Three Springs" that appeared in the Souvenir
Booklet from the opening of the Three Springs Road Board
Hall on 21 June 1949. The history had been provided by James K. Hebiton Snr, Evander W. Franklin, Charles F.
Thomas Jnr, and Charles E. Luscombe. The booklet was published by
the Three Springs-Arrino Sub-Branch of the R.S.L. and has been
re-produced in an edited format with their kind permission. Edited,
revised and expanded in 2006 by Andrew S. Bowman.
The photographs on this page are from the Three Springs Historical
Society. They are part of the
Three Springs Centenary Collection
which was put together by Judy Mutter for the district's centenary
Plan of the Kadathinni Agricultural Area
Leah & Reuben Carter
Photo courtesy of Mrs Lois B. Lucas
Charles F. & Winifred Thomas
Photo courtesy of Robert W. Hunt
Inaugural Three Springs Football Team in 1909
Photo courtesy of the Shire of Three Springs
Three Springs Railway Station in 1917
Photo courtesy of Robert W. Hunt
Agricultural Hall in Three Springs
Photo courtesy of
Anthony E. C. & Geraldine L. Thomas
Hay cutting on Carter's farm in 1909
Photo courtesy of Mrs Lois B. Lucas
Butcher's Shop in Slaughter Street C.1917
Photo courtesy of Clifford K. Bickell
Invite to Commemoration Dinner to celebrate
Three Springs obtaining the highest average
in WA for the 1931-32 season
First Three Springs Hospital
Inset: Matron Toohey and Dr James P. McAleer
Photos respectively courtesy of
Mrs Marie T. Sears,
Mrs Fay M. McKinnon and Anthony J. McAleer
Three Springs District Road Board offices
Photo courtesy of I. Cochrane
Cover of Three Springs Road Board District
Bush Fire Brigade 1933-34 Rules & Regulations
Harvesting in 1956 on Golden West
Photo courtesy of Mrs Rhonda R. Stokes