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Biographical Dictionary - Coorow, Carnamah, Three Springs


"Jack" John Watson COLPITTS

Born 13 November 1874 in North Blyth, Northumberland, England [P48]
Son of James Kilgour COLPITTS and Elizabeth TAYLOR [P48]
His father died when he was 10 weeks old and his mother died when he was aged 18 months [P48]
Grew up under the care of his uncle and aunt William COLPITTS and Isabella Hepple WATSON [P48]
He was registered at birth as just John COLPITTS, his uncle and aunt are believed to have added his middle name of WATSON [P48]
Resided with his uncle and aunt at Isabella Pit Houses in Cowpen, Northumberland, England in the 1880s and 1890s [20]
In 1891 was working as an Apprentice Grocer [20] and later served five years in the English Police and Fire Brigade [30: item 3273280]
Served in the British Army in South Africa during the Boer War; and with the South African Mounted Constabulary 1900-1905 [30]
Married Susan Catherine Maria DE BEER (nee BOTHA) C.1905 in South Africa [P48]
Farmer in Orange Free State, South Africa from 1905 until selling his farming interests in 1913 [30]
On returning to England in 1913 he heard about the Winchester settlement of Ready-Made Farms in Western Australia [120: 8-May-1911]
     Without inspection he arranged to purchase one of the farms and cabled for it to immediately be cropped [120: 8-May-1914]
      In London, England he paid a £176/5/0 deposit to purchase 1,082 acres of farmland from the Midland Railway Company [34]
     The 1,082 acres consisted of Lots M913 and M914 of Victoria Location 2023 in Winchester, Western Australia [34]
     255 acres of crop were planted for him in 1913 and produced 1,731 bags of grain, or close to 20 bushels per acre [120: 8-May-1914]
     Departed London, England on the steamship Ashburton bound for Fremantle, Western Australia on 24 September 1913 [203]
     After inspecting the farm in Winchester he decided to purchase Lot M915 instead of M913 [34]
     When he first saw his farm he was "agreeably surprised" and within a few months was "more than satisfied" [120: 8-May-1914]
On 20 December 1913 signed to purchase 962 acres of farmland in Winchester from the Midland Railway Company for £4,588 [27]
     The 962 acres, payable by instalments, were Lots M914 and M915 of Victoria Location 1936 (later reduced to £2,752) [27]
     His farm was part of the Midland Railway Company's Improved Farms Scheme and came partially cleared and fenced [34]
     It also came with a four roomed house [34] which was situated on the main road on Lot M914 near the Winchester townsite [P201]
     A palm was planted at the house and although the house has been demolished the palm is still visible from the Midlands Road [P201]
By mid January 1914 he had settled on his farmland in Winchester with his wife Susan and stepdaughter Cora [10: 20-Jan-1914] [P201]
     It was reported he was "an acquisition to the State, and a few more English farmers of his stamp would be welcomed" [120: 8-May-1911]
Stock and Grain Farmer of Heppleholme Farm in Winchester in 1914 [7: page 23] [30: item 3273280]
     The "Hepple" part of his farm's name Heppleholme is believed to have come from his aunt's middle name [P48]
     Member of the Winchester branch of the Farmers & Settlers' Association - was Secretary in 1914 [10: 23-Jun-1914] [81: 16-Jan-1916]
     Present when a District Council of the Farmers & Settlers' Association was formed in Three Springs on 19 June 1914 [10: 23-Jun-1914]
     Despite Winchester being considered a waterless district, a bore struck water on his farm at 70 feet in July 1914 [86: 21-Jul-1914]
     On 2 December 1914 purchased for £305 an adjoining 678 acres in Winchester from the Midland Railway Company [27]
     The 678 acres was Lot M1045 of Victoria Location 1936, on the west side of the Old Telegraph Road [27] [62]
Travelled to Perth on Friday 25 September 1914  and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 1 November 1914 [10: 29-Sep-1914] [30]
     Embarked from Fremantle, Western Australia for active service abroad on Transport A47 Mashobra on 17 February 1915 [94]
     2nd Lieutenant of the Australian Imperial Force's 10th Light Horse Regiment in Turkey and France during the First World War [30]
     On 31 May 1915 in Dardanelles, Turkey was struck on the back by a bomb which exploded [30: item 3273280]
     The explosion and following fall resulted in him being unconsciousness for a quarter of an hour and paralysed for four days [30]
     Granted leave and returned to England for treatment for a concussed spine; was passed as being medically fit on 8 May 1916 [30]
     On leave in November 1915 he had visited A. J. BARBER, General Manager of the Midland Railway Company in London [34]
     Transferred to the Anzac Provost Corps in 1916 and returned to active duty; left for France in September 1916 [30]
     While on leave from France he visited the Midland Railway Company's head office in London, England on 24 January 1917 [34]
     Promoted to Captain in January 1917 and to Assistant Provost Marshall in July 1917 [30]
     Transferred to the 3rd Division in 1918; promoted to Deputy Assistant Provost Marshall in August and to Major in September [30]
     Granted leave in July 1919 to visit farms throughout Britain to observe agricultural practises [30]
     His wife obviously wasn't informed of his leave, as she expected him to arrive home during the middle of July 1919 [10: 11-Jul-1919]
     Arrived back in Western Australia at Fremantle on the Marathon on 19 December 1919 [30]
     Discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on 12 January 1920; awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War and Victory Medals [30]
     His name appeared on a Roll of Honour for the Moora district, which was prepared by Rev. Frederick W. GUNNING [10: 1-Sep-1916]
Returned to Heppleholme Farm, Winchester which had been run by his wife Susan in his absence [6]
Farmer of Heppleholme Farm in Winchester 1920-1935 [19] [3]
     His 1,640 acre farm contained two houses, outbuildings, was entirely sheep-proof fenced and split into ten paddocks [4: 15-Mar-1930]
     In the 1920s and early 1930s had an account with Carnamah blacksmith, wheelwright & motor mechanics Henry Parkin & Son [53]
Signed the petition in February 1923 for the Irwin Licensing Court to grant a hotel license for Carnamah [10: 9-Mar-1923]
He was "once again" an inmate of the No. 11 Repatriation Ward of the Perth Public Hospital during March 1923 [225: 20-Mar-1923]
In 1928 his cousin William R. COLPITTS cropped 430 acres of his Heppleholme Farm on a share-farming arrangement [4: 16-Feb-1929]
     He supplied him with a four roomed house, the land, seed, super, plant and the use of his 14 working horses [4]
     His cousin had to provide the labour, repair all breakages to equipment and employ a stack builder [4]
     Once the crop was harvested he would receive two thirds of the crop and his cousin would receive one third [4]
In early May 1928 his cousin requested he buy a tractor; he hesitantly agreed but told his cousin he had to buy fuel and oil [4]
     At the time his cousin was unable to buy the fuel or oil for the tractor so he purchased it for him [4]
Of the 430 acres of crop planted, 340 acres were stripped for grain which resulted in a total of 996 bags of grain [4]
     His share of the crop, 664 bags, was valued at approximately £400 [4: 16-Feb-1929]
A crossing over the railway or a creek near his farm was known in 1928 as Colpitts' Crossing [4: 26-May-1928]
Pallbearer at the funeral of Winchester farmer John RAFFAN on 9 October 1928 at the Winchester Cemetery [4: 20-Oct-1928]
In mid February 1930 it was reported that he had been ill for ten days and was receiving treatment at the Perth Hospital [225: 12-Feb-1930]
     During this time both he and his wife stayed at  14 Cook Street in West Perth [225: 12-Feb-1930]
In 1930 it was noted that 977 acres of the farm was cleared, 381 of which had been well worked on fallow [4: 15-Mar-1930]
During the Great Depression he went bankrupt and his estate and finances were put under the management of a trustee [86: 20-Feb-1932]
     His trustee was Carnamah accountant John G. HUNTER [86], who absconded with money stolen from his clients [P399]
Advertised a clearing sale for Thursday 20 March 1930 to sale to sell his farm, livestock, machinery and household items [4: 15-Mar-1930]
     Machinery to be sold at the clearing sale included a 25 horsepower Austin tractor, [4: 15-Mar-1930]
     20 horsepower Fordson tractor, 8 foot Sunshine header, 6 foot Sunshine harvester, 6 foot Sunshine binder, [4]
     7 horsepower Sunshine stationary petrol engine,  3 knife Sunshine chaffcutter, 10 disc Sundercut ploughs, [4]
     10 disc Shearer plough, 25 tyne Sunshine cultivator, Barger disc cultivator, 21 disc Mitchell drill and Sunshine harrows [4]
     The clearing sale to sell his farm was obviously unsuccessful, as he remained the owner and occupier of the farm until 1935 [3]
In 1932 his Heppleholme Farm was share-farmed by nearby farmers William ALLEN and James E. ALLEN [P273]
Participant in the Winchester Dingo Hunt of 1932 which resulted in a frequently seen dingo meeting its end [4]
Pallbearer at the funeral of Mrs Janet Allison RAFFAN on 20 February 1932 at the Winchester Cemetery in Carnamah [4: 5-Mar-1932]
Among those who made a donation to the Carnamah Country Women's Association in 1932 to help them buy premises [5: 29-Jul-1932]
Attended the R.S.L. Smoke Social and Friends Night held in Carnamah on Saturday 27 August 1932 [5: 2-Sep-1932]
He was one of 77 ex-servicemen who attended the Sailors & Soldiers Reunion Dinner in Carnamah on 22 October 1932 [86: 29-Oct-1932]
He was known to most around Winchester and Carnamah as "Major Colpitts" [P273] [5: 11-Jan-1935]
His wife Susan passed away in Perth on 16 September 1934 and was buried at the Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth [2] [5: 21-Sep-1934]
Livestock and machinery from her estate were sold by auction on their farm in Winchester on Friday 7 December 1934 [5: 23-Nov-1934]
     Included in the livestock were 810 Merino ewes, 335 Border Leicester Merino cross lambs and 11 Border Leicester lambs [5]
     The machinery sold consisted solely of a 1924 model Oakland car and a Batyphone wireless set with aerial and batteries [5]
Owing to continued ill health he decided to sell his farm and it and sundries were also up for auction on Friday 7 December 1934 [5]
    By this time his 1,640 acre farm had 997 acres cleared and was subdivided into nine sheep-proof paddocks [5]
    The farm was well watered from two wells which were both equipped with windmills and troughs [5]
    In addition to two four roomed jarrah weatherboard houses the farm contained a 12 stall stable, machinery shed and chaff house [5]
Advertised in local newspaper in January 1935 that he wanted a good home for an Airedale bitch and two sheep dogs [5: 11-Jan-1935]
Member of the Carnamah Sub-Branch of the Returned Soldiers League in 1935 [5: 19-Apr-1935]
Attended the R.S.L. Annual General Meeting and Smoke Social at the Carnamah Hall on Saturday 6 April 1935 [5: 12-Apr-1935]
After ceasing his farming operation he left Winchester on Saturday 27 April 1935 and shifted to Perth [5: 3-May-1935]
The sale of his 1,640 acre Heppleholme Farm in Winchester to Rex A. F. SOLLING settled on 29 May 1935 [3] [39: 6-Apr-1935]
     The sale of "his well-improved farm" was transacted through Elder Smith & Co [81: 7-Apr-1935]
For a number of years worked at ANZAC House and resided at the Majestic Hotel in Perth [P201]
Pallbearer at the funeral of Carnamah resident Robert PALFREYMAN on 11 August 1938 at the Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth [4]
Later resided in the Perth suburb of Subiaco [2]
Stepfather of Cora May DE BEER, who was also known as Cora COLPITTS [P201] [19]
Died 12 May 1945 in the Perth suburb of Subiaco; buried Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth WA (Wesleyan, FC, 325) [2] [P48]

From The Sunday Times newspaper, Sunday 21 March 1920:
Soldiers and Sailors - Our Boys at Home and Abroad
"Recently returned, Major J. Watson Colpitts, one of the first, if not the first, to enlist in the Tenth Light Horse. Leaving Australia with the original regiment, the Major, after serving on Gallipoli, where he was severely wounded, went to France. He spent 12 months with the First Anzac Corps and two and a half years with the Third Division. He was altogether five years and five months abroad. He has just spent a fortnight in hospital, but is now himself again and has resumed his civilian occupation of a farmer at Winchester on the Midland railway."

From The Mirror newspaper, Saturday 1 June 1935:
Pertinent Paragraphs
"Joining the 10th Light Horse in September, 1914, as a trooper and serving in the A.I.F. till March of 1920, J. W. Colpitts came home with the rank of major, holder of three Great War medals and three times mentioned in despatches. With the famous 10th he served in Egypt and Gallipoli and for three years he was with the 1st Anzac Corps in France under General Birdwood and with the 3rd Australian Division under General Monash. Prior to the Great War he had had an active and adventurous life. For five years, 1894-9, he was with the English police and fire brigade. Then he served through the South African War, joining ae a trooper and ending up as sergeant-major. For a time be was in the South African mounted constabulary and in due course was promoted to Chief Detective Superintendent for the Orange River Colony. After farming for some time in South Africa, he returned to England and later in 1913 took up land at Winchester. W.A. This week Major Colpitts decided to continue his active and adventurous life and joined the staff of Alfred R. Sleep, the well-known private inquiry agent."

From The Sunday Times newspaper, Sunday 12 July 1936:
Personality Parade - Intimate Impressions of People from All Parts
"A most interesting personality is the fine, upstanding Major J. W. Colpitts, a soldier of two wars - the Boer affair and the stunt more recently promoted by Kaiser Bill. Major Colpitts is living in Perth after 23 years on the land at Winchester, with a break on service overseas, and before that was engaged in agricultural pursuits in South Africa. He is one of the finest horsemen in Australia, and may be remembered at the time when the Tenth Light Horse gave a gymkhana at Claremont prior to embarking for Egypt, the Major giving a demonstration of horse-handling seldom equalled outside the circus ring. Major Colpitts is a gentleman with a rich experience of all agricultural and stock-raising activities, and in the easy, quiet, manner which distinguishes him can interest any audience at any time on almost any subject."

Reference:  Carnamah Historical Society & Museum and North Midlands Project, 'John Watson Colpitts' in Biographical Dictionary of Coorow, Carnamah and Three Springs, retrieved 25 June 2024 from [reference list]

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