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Biographical Dictionary - Coorow, Carnamah, Three Springs


"Nat" Nathaniel William COOKE

Born 20 January 1838 in Perth, Western Australia [199]
Son of John Taylor COOKE and Mary Anne MORGAN [199]
His father worked as a Builder and Contractor and also managed a number of properties in the Northam district [199]
He was born, grew up and resided on his father's Newleyine Farm in Northam [199]
Lived with his parents in a two storey house of brick and mahogany built by his father on Newleyine Farm in Northam [199]
His father acquired a 10,000 acre lease on the Irwin River, and in 1857 sent himself and his younger brother Henry to the Irwin [199]
     They departed on 15 October 1857 with a bullock team loaded with provisions, 1,000 sheep and three saddle horses [199]
     From Northam they travelled via the New Norica Mission, Dandaragan, Yatheroo, Mumbacaan, and then to the coast [199]
     They then followed the coast to the Irwin River, and then up the river where they camped at Mannerer Pool near Mullara Hill [199]
     Arrived at Mannerer Pool on 24 December 1857, by which time they had lost 100 sheep who'd eaten a poisonous plant [199]
     The flock of sheep had developed scab disease, and after dipping them in tobacco water they left them in charge of a shepherd [199]
     On the return journey they took an inland route, as they'd been told if they were good bushmen it could shorten their journey [199]
     During their journey they passed Arrino Spring and Carnamah - a route that later became the overland track to Geraldton [199]
After assisting their father he and his brother returned to the sheep on the Irwin River in March 1858 in time for lambing [199]
     In May 1858 his brother Henry took charge of the sheep at Irwin while he went exploring for pastoral country to the north east [199]
     He went to look at good pastoral country some Aboriginal People had spoken about 60 miles north east of Mount Mulura [199]
     They inspected and traversed the country through what is now Gullewa, Mugamogoo and Yalgoo but took up no land [199]
     A short time later they moved their sheep from the Irwin River to Arrino Spring, and visited them periodically from Northam [199]
In May 1862 explored land to the east looking for pastoral country, and passed Damperwah, Rothsay, Penjalling and Nangagetty [199]
     During the expedition he saw Mount Singleton/Ningham in the distance [199]
     He took up no land himself, but made full particulars of the class of land known to any other settlers who were interested [199]
Married Catherine BIRKETT in Northam in 1864 [15]
Farmer and Grazier of Arrino Station in Arrino 1864-1879 [184]
     In the same year that he and Catherine were married they left Northam and took up residence in Arrino [199]
     Believed to have named his station after the Aboriginal name for nearby springs, believed to mean "many granite hills" [184]
     They resided on Arrino Station in a solid stone house a short distance from Arrino Spring [103]
     During his Fifth Expedition in 1876 the explorer Ernest GILES visited him and his family at Arrino Station [159]
     In 1876 two rooms were constructed in the south-west corner of his homestead's courtyard for a telegraph and post office [103]
     A telegraph office operated on the property from 1876 to 1880, and initially at least it was run by his wife [103] [159]
     He had various large pastoral leases in 1879 in what later became the Arrino and Three Springs districts [111]
     Among his leases was Lease 9672 of 17,500 acres which included the Three Springs, after which the district was later named [111]
While living at Arrino he made excursions and explorations into numerous unknown parts of Western Australia [199]
     Years later Sir John FORREST in his explorations found a trig or cairn on which was cut on the stone "N.W.C. 1864" [199]
     Sir John FORREST is said to have said "will I ever find a place where this man has not been before me?" [199]
     In 1909, Sir John FORREST said "there was no man more entitled to £1,000 per year for what he had done for the country" [199]
Transported 2,290 sheep and some cattle from Geraldton to Roebuck Bay for T. & L. C. Burgess of the Roebuck Pastoral Coy. [199]
     The sheep and cattle were loaded onto the ship Hastingsat Geraldton and offloaded at Cape Villaret in November 1864 [199]
     While in the locality he took advantage and explored the land in and around Cape Villaret [199]
In 1865 explored past the coal seam onto the north branch of the Irwin River and through to Cocateer, Yewin and Chingawah [199]
     During this expedition he saw the Sturt Desert Pea for the first time, and afterwards returned to his home at Arrino [199]
     Later in 1865 left in search of pastoral country and passed Dampawah, Rothsay, Pingalling, Wanjajetty and Mount Kenneth [199]
     From Mount Kenneth he then went north east for 150 miles to a large marsh opposite the high hill Mount Holmes [199]
     He then travelled towards Mount Magnet and passed Mugammuga and Karrogabby on his return to Arrino [199]
In 1872 he and his brother Henry established cattle station Mount SingletonStation / Ninghan Station at Mount Singleton [199]
     During one of his visits to the station he explored to the north east and passed Lake Moore and Lake Barlee near Menzies [199]
     On the way back to the station he passed Lake Giles, Mount Churchman and good salt bush country but which lacked water [199]
     He was reported to have been "the first white man to settle the Mount Kenneth and Ninghan country" [120: 8-Feb-1940]
     Later sold his Nighan Station to Henry and Cecil FOSS[120: 8-Feb-1940]
In 1878 travelled to the Murchison River to examine the class of land and to check on sheep he had at Ilgabeddee [199]
     From Geraldton he travelled to Tibraddon and then up the Greenough River passing Yewin, Nocawarra and Mt. Mathon [199]
     Went via Mount Hall, to the sheep at Ilgabeddee, and then to Mount Gould, Mount Fraser and Mount La Bouchette [199]
     From there he went as straight as possible to travel to his and his brother's Mount Singleton Station, and then home to Arrino [199]
He established Coodernough Station near Mount Kenneth, which he sold to Alfred J. CLINCH in 1878 or 1879 [120: 8-Feb-1940]
     Alfred J. CLINCH abandoned the station in 1881 and lost 1,200 sheep after it was besieged by local Aboriginal People [120]
In 1879 sold his freehold, leasehold and pastoral interests in Arrino, Three Springs and Mount Singleton [199]
Travelled to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia in 1880 to attend the International Exhibition, and with plans to settle in New Zealand [199]
     Finding no openings to his satisfaction he briefly settled with his wife and children at Glenelg in South Australia [199]
     Returned to Western Australia, however periodically visited his wife and children in South Australia [199]
Took an exploration trip to the north west of Western Australia and in 1881 selected land 65 miles east of Roebourne [199]
     Established Mallina Station 65 miles east of Roebourne, which he stocked with 4,000 sheep and the necessary horses [199]
     He named the station Mallina after a pool within the Peawah River, which the local Aboriginal People called Mallina [184] [199]
Also in 1881 he and Arthur GROUSE travelled to the coast, starting at Inthanoona which was 75 miles from Roebourne [199]
     With five horses they travelled to De Grey Station, Innerdong, along the 90 Mile Beach, to Wallal and then Newine [199]
Later in 1881 he and Edmund KEENAN travelled from Mallina to Coongan River, where he took up good pastoral country [199]
     During the expedition he discovered the marble bar that crossed the Coongan River and named the place Marble Bar [199]
     Also named a small lake Keenan's Pool (later known as Round Hole) and named a hill Mount Solitary (now Mount Edgar) [199]
While looking for some of his sheep in 1881 he discovered copper and established the Whim Creek Copper Mine [199]
In 1882 himself, Sam CAMPBELL and an Aboriginal named Sam originally from Arrino set off on an exploration of the unknown [199]
     They left from Mallina and passed the Turner River, Shaw River and saw the Hamersley Ranges in the distance [199]
     Named Emu Spring and twice crossed the Nullagine River, the second crossing being where the Nullagine townsite later stood [199]
When on a business trip to Roebourne he revealed that he believed the country around Nullagine was gold bearing [199]
      He suggested they form a syndicate and send a prospector to the Nullagine River, but the locals laughed at the idea [199]
In 1884 he traversed more unexplored country, and carved his initials and the year on a tree at the mouth of Christmas Creek [199]
Also in 1884 shifted his wife and children from South Australia to Woodlandshomestead near Fremantle, Western Australia [199]
He and a trustworthy Aboriginal named Sam explored and named landmarks they discovered in an expedition in 1886 [199]
     They passed through Inthanoona, Sherlock River, Mount Florence, Mount Macpherson, Chookawallie Pool and Oakover [199]
     He named Ethel Creek after his eldest daughter, Roy Hill after his youngest son, and Mount Lewin after his eldest son [199]
     Also named Mount Sam after his Aboriginal employee and friend Sam (later renamed Mount Cooke by Frank HANN) [199]
Took up 400,000 acres of land which he named Roy Hill Station, and which he later sold to MCKAY Bros [199]
On a visit to his family at Woodlands, Fremantle he showed gold he'd found to Sir Malcolm FRASER and Sir John FORREST [199]
He was commissioned by Alexander FORREST to search for a stock route heading southward from the Kimberleys for £1000 [199]
     Departed Fremantle on the S. S. Perth on 7 July 1887, however the ship was shipwrecked at Point Cloates and sunk [199]
     He and others on board all escaped however his equipment, diaries, maps, plots and sketches went down with the ship [199]
He and his son Lewin went prospecting for gold under very harsh conditions in 1888 [199]
     On 19 June 1888 they discovered "payable gold" in Nullagine and pegged their claim which included a Reward Claim [199]
     A few days after finding gold they had to leave as they were starved out of food, clothes, boots, horseshoes and other items [199]
     On arrival in Roebourne they learnt two other finds of gold had been reported a day or two before, so they only received £250 [199]
     When they returned to Nullagine they discovered that their pegs had been moved to someone else's advantage [199]
     The townsite of Nullagine was gazetted in 1899 at the very spot where he had years earlier crossed the Nullagine River [184]
For a number of years he was a Farmer and Grazier on pastoral leaseholds at Marah and Ethel Creek [199]
     He had to give up his farming and pastoral interests owing to an accident while marking and branding livestock [199]
     For a number of years he spent the summer months at Pinjarra and the winter months in Perth [199]
After selling his pastoral interests he entered into the mining industry on the Pilbara goldfield [198]
     In 1901 he was part owner of the Klondyke Boulder and had  interests in the Kitchener and Lucknow mines at Lalla Rookh [198]
He was considered a "lone hand explorer" having on numerous occasions ventured unaccompanied into the great unknown [199]
     He traversed places that no white man had put foot on before, and among Aboriginal People who had never seen a white man [199]
     He gained the trust, respect and friendship of the Aboriginal People, and was able to make himself understood in their language[199]
     Often encountered Aboriginal People who had never seen him, but who had received particulars about him from another tribe [199]
     He himself on one occasion remarked "I never spilt blood, I never broke a promise and I never cohabited with their women" [199]
     "And add to this, I did not fear them, or at least had the courage to make them think I did not" [199]
Died 17 March 1922 in Geraldton, Western Australia [199]
His grand-nephew Edwin L. LUKIN of Wandina Station, Mullewa was the lessee of Grianaig Farm, Carnamah in 1936 [5: 20-Nov-1936]

From The Geraldton Guardian newspaper, Saturday 18 March 1922:
Death of a Pioneer
"One of the oldest residents of Western Australia and a pioneer of the Irwin district died in Geraldton yesterday in the person of Nathaniel William Cooke, at the advanced age of 84. The death occurred at the residence of his son, Mr. N. W. Cooke, of the Ways and Works Department, who lives in Eleanor-street. The veteran had been ill for about two years. He took up Arrino Station on the Midland line, and resided there for many years. The funeral took place yesterday in the Anglican Cemetery, Geraldton, the Rev. H. Vine conducted the service, and Mr. G. Lester supervising the arrangements. Amongst those present was Mr. L. C. Burges, Sen., who was associated with the deceased in the first shipment of sheep to Roebuck Bay and several other incidents of the pioneer days."

Reference:  Carnamah Historical Society & Museum and North Midlands Project, 'Nathaniel William Cooke' in Biographical Dictionary of Coorow, Carnamah and Three Springs, retrieved 4 July 2022 from [reference list]

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