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Biographical Dictionary - Coorow, Carnamah, Three Springs


"Bill" William HARRIS

Born C.1860 [2] in Stepney, Middelsex, England [30: item 4741341]
Married Mary Jane PRESTON in 1885 in Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia [32]
Farmhand in the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria [152]
Shifted to Three Springs, Western Australia after purchasing Brown & Sheridan's General Store in 1911 [9: 21 & 28-Jul-1911]
     General Storekeeper, Commission Agent and Wine & Spirit Merchant in Three Springs 1911-1914 [6] [9] [10]
     He ran the shop under the name of "The Settler's Emporium" in 1914 [9: 21-Jul-1911]
     Agent for Elder Shenton & Co, Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Co and wheat buyers J. Darling & Sons [10]
     Began weekly advertisements for his business in The Moora Herald and Midland Districts Advocate newspaper in March 1914 [10]
     Advertised his business with the footnote "Before Buying or Selling apply to me for Quotes" [10: 6-Mar-1914, 3-Apr-1914]
     In April 1914 he sold his general store and gallon license in Three Springs to James A. WHITELAW [9: 10-Apr-1914] [10: 17-Apr-1914]
Farmer in Three Springs 1914-1926 [4] [6] [152]
     He began with the 100 acre Victoria Location 3528 and a short time later acquired the 494 acre Victoria Location 5284 [44]
     Rate books listed his second block as 494 acres, although it may have been larger as he quoted it as being 789 acres in 1916 [44] [152]
     During the 1921-22 financial year he acquired 1,992 acres with Lots M832, M833, M836 and M837 of Victoria Location 2020 [44]
     He appears to have purchased the 1,992 acres from Kooara Ltd, who had purchased and owned the land since 1909 [27] [44]
     During the 1922-23 financial year sold his original 594 acres in Victoria Location 3528 and 5284 to Henry J. W. SWEETMAN [44]
Agent / Wheat Buyer in Three Springs for the firm J. Darling & Company in 1915 [9: 17-Mar-1916]
     By mid March 1916 all of the wheat he had purchased on behalf of the company had been railed out of Three Springs and to port [9]
In October 1923 the Agricultural Bank called for tenders for the purchase of half of his 1,992 acres in Three Springs [39: 27-Oct-1923]
     The half was 996 acres in Lots M833 and M836 situated 10 miles east of Three Springs and containing a four-roomed house [39]
     250 acres was good clay soil of salmon, york and jam trees; and 746 acres fair loamy and light clay soil of mallee and tamar [39]
     It contained a 1,200 cubic yard dam, 200 chains of fencing, 125 acres had been cleared and a further 80 acres scrub-rolled [39]
Storekeeper & Newsagent in Three Springs 1926-1928 [4] [6]
     In 1926 he was a General Storekeeper, Newsagent and Commission Agent in Three Springs [4: 9-Oct-1926]
     He was the local agent for H. J. Wigmore & Co (Caterpillar tractors and Shearer farm implements and machinery) [4: 10-Mar-1928]
     His store in Three Springs was telephone number Three Springs-15 [60]
Played for the losing married men in a Married verses Single cricket match held in Three Springs on 4 February 1912 [9: 1-Mar-1912]
He donated £1 to the Moora District Hospital Fund during November 1912 [9: 15-Nov-1912]
In 1914 he nominated to serve on the Upper Irwin Road Board, which was based in Mingenew, but wasn't elected [9: 17-Apr-1914]
Helped organise a Concert & Dance in mid 1911, the proceeds of which went to the building of a local Agricultural Hall [9: 2-Jun-1911]
Played "Prince Imperial" and "Duerbel" on the violin at the Concert & Dance held in Three Springs on 6 June 1914 [10: 12-Jun-1914]
At a Social in Three Springs on 30 July 1914 he played the marches "The Park Crescent" and "Liberty Bell" on the violin [10: 21-Aug-1914]
Helped organise a Patriotic Concert which was held at the Agricultural Hall in Three Springs in November 1914 [10: 13-Nov-1914]
Donated a bag of wheat to be sold at a Basket Social & Dance in Three Springs in aid of the Red Cross on 30 July 1915 [10: 6-Aug-1915]
The bag of wheat was sold, donated back and sold again ten times before being raffled - raising £10/7/- for the Red Cross [10]
Foundation Committee Member of the Three Springs Rifle Club in 1915 [10: 29-Oct-1915]
Attended as a "Policeman" the Plain & Fancy Dress Ball in Three Springs on 19 July 1916 in aid of the Red Cross Society [39: 31-Jul-1916]
Member of the Hall Committee that managed the Agricultural Hall in Three Springs in 1916-17 [10: 20-Jul-1917]
In 1917 grew 280 acres of wheat crop on his farm in Three Springs [10: 19-Jun-1917]
Entrant in the Ugly Man Competition held in 1917 to raise money to pay for the gas plant at the Agricultural Hall in Three Springs [10]
     Out of the ten competitors he came fourth, his involvement helping to raise the amount of £42/13/4 [10: 6-Jul-1917]
Successfully applied to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.) in Geraldton on 22 March 1917 [30: item 4741341]
     Left Three Springs and entered into camp with the A.I.F. on 19 June 1917 [10: 22-Jun-1917] [30]
     On enlistment he was recorded 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 186 lbs. with blue eyes and fair hair [30]
     He had previously served four years with the 14th Hussars, and in the A.I.F. was to be appointed to the Miners Corps [30]
     Returned to Three Springs on leave in later July 1917 [10: 3-Aug-1917]
     He was presented with a wristlet watch and wished the best at a Dance held in Three Springs on Friday 20 July 1917 [10: 3-Aug-1917]
     Trained under the Rank of Sapper in the Tunnellers section until being discharged on 10 August 1917, due to being over-age [30]
     When he'd enlisted he'd given a false age that made him approximately eight years younger [2] [30]
Signed the petition and financial guarantee in 1917 for the Midland Railway Company to provide a resident doctor at Three Springs [34]
Member of the Three Springs Tennis Club in 1917-18 [10: 23-Nov-1917]
Entrant in the "Lazy Man Competition" held in Three Springs in 1918 to raise funds for the Red Cross Society [10: 10-May-1918]
Member of the Three Springs Saint Patrick's Day Committee in 1919 and 1920 - was Vice President in 1920 [124]
     Steward of the horse races at the Committee's local Sports Meetings on Saint Patrick's Day in 1918, 1919 and 1920 [124]
     Financially assisted the Three Springs Saint Patrick's Day Committee with donations of 10/- in 1919 and again in 1920 [124]
Attended May BERRIGAN's 21st Birthday held at the Agricultural Hall in Three Springs on Friday 12 September 1919 [9: 19-Sep-1919]
Steward at the Three Springs Picnic Races held in Three Springs on Saint Patrick's Day in 1920 and 1921 [9: 5-Mar-1920, 11-Mar-1921]
Winner of euchre at the Euchre Party & Basket Social in aid of the Church of England Fund in TS on 18 August 1920 [10: 27-Aug-1920]
Wrote a letter to the editor of The Moora Herald and Midland Districts Advocate, which was published on 10 September 1920 [10]
     In his letter he agreed with a previous letter about the indifferent attitude of the Agricultural Hall Committee in Three Springs [10]
     He claimed that the Committee could, with some effort, very easily improve the Hall and reduce its debt [10: 10 & 24-Sep-1920]
     Two weeks later he wrote another "interesting letter," however the newspaper stated it had published enough on the matter [10]
One of the speakers at the social evening tendered to Thomas J. BERRIGAN in Three Springs on Friday 13 October 1922 [9: 20-Oct-1922]
He was reported to have been unwell with a bad case of influenza in September 1928 [4: 22-Sep-1928]
In July 1928 he sold his general storekeeping business in Three Springs to William G. and Alba JORDAN [4: 14-Jul-1928]
Purchased a block of land in the Perenjori townsite in 1928, with the intention of building business premises on it [468: 1-Sep-1928]
By 1929 he had left Three Springs and shifted to Perenjori where he worked as a Storekeeper and Commission Agent [6] [19]
Storekeeper & Commission Agent in Perenjori 1929-1937 [6] [19]
Collided with another car while driving towards Perenjori on the road near the Five Gums on Saturday 19 October 1929 [4]
     Solicitor Neil M. GRAHAM of Carnamah was driving in the opposite direction, and swerved off the road to let him pass [4]
     Unfortunately the sandy roadside caused Mr GRAHAM's car to skid back onto the road side-on, and their vehicles collided [4]
     His car was an almost total wreck however fortunately he escaped with no injuries [4: 26-Oct-1929]
Committee Member and Vice President of the Perenjori Golf Club in 1934 [39: 24-Apr-1934]
Appears to have sold his store in Perenjori to local farmer William PAYNE [61]
Later resided in the Perth suburb of West Midland [2]
He passed away at the age of 76 years in the Perth suburb of Midland Junction [39: 12-Sep-1936]
Father of Dick and Elsie [39: 12-Sep-1936]
Died 10 September 1936; buried at the Midland Cemetery in the Perth suburb of Midland (Anglican, E, 10) [2]

From the Progress Report of the Royal Commission on the
               Agricultural Industries of Western Australia on the Wheat-Growing Portion of the South-West Division of the State
Saturday 16 December 1916 at Three Springs
"WILLIAM HARRIS, Farmer, Three Springs, sworn and examined:
     I have been farming here for three years. I have had previous experience in New South Wales and Victoria as a farm labourer, and I have also been storekeeping. I hold 789 acres on one farm and 100 acres on another, Government land. The purchase price is 16s. Of the 789 acres 540 was first class and the rest hills, that cannot be cultivated. The other 100 acres is all good. The big block is seven miles from the railway and the small block is six miles from the railway. I cleared 330 acres on the 789 acre block and on the other I cleared 30 acres, and the balance is all knocked down. The main block is fenced with six wires, except one end. It will take two and a half miles to complete. The 100 acre block is all fenced. The water supply is very poor in a well, 152 feet deep. It is drying up now and I have to cart water. It cost £228 to equip it. I am a married man with two children. I have a four-roomed wood and iron house, no stables, no machinery shed. I could not get any iron. I put £600 into it and borrowed £685 from the Agricultural Bank and I owe about £700 to the Industries Assistance Board. There is a second mortgage of £600 to the creditors. That was the consideration I offered for the place when I turned the store business over to them. That has nothing to do with the cost of working the farm. I have not had any advice or assistance from any departmental experts, and I have not heard of any of my neighbours being assisted by them.
     I have 280 acres under crop, but no fallow. To an extent I believe in fallow if I had the area. If I could clear another 300 acres, it would be profitable to fallow part of it every year. This year it was a failure. Last year was the first crop I had. I got 16 bushels off 206 acres. The rest was cut for hay. I do not think it will go more than 14 bushels this year. September played up with it. Mid-season wheat is the best for here with a portion of the crop put in with an early growing wheat. My early wheat it Bunyip this year and is going 20 bushels. Darch's Imperial only averaged nine bushels this year. I use 50lbs. of seed to the acre and in one place 80lbs., according to the land. The increase made as much as six bushels difference. It is the same seed and put in at the same time. The one crop goes 10 and the other 16 or 17 bushels. Last year I put in super on some of the land and got nothing. I could make 300 acres of crop pay on 14 bushels to the acre. To pay actual expenses of putting in and taking off would be from eight to nine bushels. I used to buy wheat for Darling  for two seasons and a lot of my purchase would represent a 20-bushel yield. I have a 10-furrow disc plough myself and I think bulk handling would pay if we could use the same bags over and over again. I am a free trader and, therefore, believe that everything should come in free and most certainly farmers' machinery. The farmer has no protection as regards his grain and has to compete with the world and yet he has to pay heavy duty on his necessary machinery.
     Last year I suffered a little from rust, but I cut my crop for hay and thus saved it. The land costs too much to experiment with for a start. Last year I paid wages 35s. a week and this year it is 40s. a week and keep. Last year the man U had was not worth 10s. a week. They work on an average of about eight or nine hours a day. No man should hold less than 1,000 to 1,500 acres in this district and none of the land is any good until it is cleared, yet all the time the farmer has to pay rent on the whole area, although through being unable to clear some of it, it must remain for a long time quite useless to him. If a man could get an advance to clear six or seven hundred acres and ring the remainder, he could start off from the jump and get an average good crop early. Where the land is poor, like mine, he should be able to take up more of it. I cannot crop more than 60 per cent of my land. The Government will not reduce the price of land, or extend the terms of payments. This is not satisfactory, because I am paying 16s. for land that is not worth 2s. 6d. It is simply worthless rocky hills. I bought it from a man who had already taken it up. A man should be able to do 300 to 350 acres [of crop] himself annually, and co-operation [among farmers] would be an advantage. This was started when the Farmers and Settlers' Association started and was known as the Farmers and Settlers' Progress Association. They were going to deal one particular firm, but the scheme fell through owing to its being turned into a political association, and so many of us pulled out. The land laws are reasonable, but, in my case, I have had to make three applications for three different loans for £685. Each of these loans cost me time and trouble and I had in each instance to pay a separate sum for the mortgage, but speaking generally, I think the land laws are satisfactory. If a man takes up a large quantity of land and finds some of it worthless, some official should be appointed to value it. I now land which was sold for 10s. an acre that I would give £2 an acre for, so there seems to be no system about it. I am seven miles further out than that, and yet my land is not worth anything, although I pay a higher price for it. I am not complaining, but something should be done with the land that we cannot make any use of.
     If the amount you owe the Industries Assistance Board was funded and you had 10 years for repayment, do you think you would be able to stand on your own feet? Yes, if the Board would hand me 45 per cent, or 50 per cent of my wheat and take the balance I could finance myself right through. If the Government supplies ewes to the right men it would be an excellent policy. I have not sufficient land to carry more than 100 breeding ewes, but it would give me meat and keep my ground clean, and give me a little wool and the increase for sale. I have started pigs. I have seven now, bought with the little money that I got from the Board. I have asked repeatedly for £16 for wire netting to fence them in with. The ground I sold last year, if I had had pigs on it, I could have made worth 5s. 6d. a bushel. The land inspector here is Mr. Wilson. The board has given me practically all that I wanted, but it has been a struggle to get it. I have no wagon, but I have 60 or 70 bags of wheat in the paddock and no means of getting them in. I want to show you a pinion weighing 1¾ lbs., which is not worth more than 3s. 6d. at the outside. I required one and sent down below for it. They charged me 9s. 6d. Here is another article worth not more than 1d., a key for which they charged 1s. 3d., and none of them fit. I bought them from H. J. Wigmore & Co. I would suggest that some inquiries should be made as to why farmers should be charged such ridiculously high prices."

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

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