A Brief History
A short history of the establishment of Beacon, written by Marilyn Dunne.
Originally published in the book “Beacon – the beginning”, pages 6-9.
The Untouched Land
Forests of Salmon Gum, Gimlet, Mallee, Sandalwood, Quandong and a myriad number of undergrowth plants stood undisturbed.
Through thousands of years the seasons made their changes and the landscape remained untouched.
People from the Kalamia and Badamia tribes passed through the area from time to time. They left behind rock paintings on the granite outcrops. They left sacred stone arrangements in culturally important meeting places and they left behind their stone tools.
Rocks used as tools by indigenous aboriginals moving nomadically through the district from water hole to water hole.
These rocks were found in close proximity to a soakage.
Photo – Marilyn Dunne.
In the middle of the eighteen hundreds, new immigrants from around the world arrived in Western Australia to make a new life and their fortune. They soon began to penetrate the inland parts of this new country. Gradually, intrepid explorers pushed further and further east and north from the coastal settlements.
In 1836 John Septimus Roe passed with his exploration party about 30kms south of Beacon as he headed back towards Cadoux and the coast.
In 1846 The Gregory brothers – Augustus Charles, Francis Thomas and Henry Churchman, left from Mount Jackson and headed west in a fairly direct line to Mt Churchman, north of Beacon, before turning in a northerly direction to continue their travels.
In 1854 Robert Austin took his exploration party from Mount Marshall via Danjinning, Wandaning, Yalburning and on to Mt Churchman before continuing on towards the north.
In 1864 Barnard Clarkson, Charles Harper and Lionel Lukin came from Mount Jackson to Donkey Soak before veering south through Wialki and on to Mount Marshall.
In 1869 John Forrest passed through on his search for Ludwig Leichhardt, partly following Austin’s route north from Waddouring to Yetelling, Cartubing, Inkanyinning, Beebynyinning, Danjinning, Datjoin, Yalburning, Gnaragnunging, Billiburning and on through to Mount Churchman (Geelabbing).
In 1875 William Ernest Giles came from the east to Mount Churchman then headed in a south easterly direction, crossing Remlap Station as they returned towards the coast.
The only sign these exploring parties left behind were blazed tree trunks or stone cairns atop the granite rocks.
Explorers cut their identification marks into trees and posts along the way to indicate their route.
This scar is cut into a Kurrajong tree.
Photo – Meg Hele.
A cairn erected on a granite outcrop by explorers passing through Beacon in the 1800’s.
Photo – Meg Hele.
And so although none of these groups may have trodden exactly where Beacon is now situated, their discoveries ultimately led to the gradual arrival of white man. It was on the strength of the reports from the exploring parties that the next wave of human endeavour began.
By the end of the eighteen hundreds sandalwood had become a valuable commodity in the world, attracting sandalwood cutters from afar. These tough and hardy men forged tracks through the bush to reach the sandalwood in the forests.
Water was essential for their survival, as it was for their horses and camels and other stock. They found the granite rocks with water in the gnamma holes and so began the sandalwood tracks criss-crossing the country from rock hole to rock hole.
These tracks became the first form of roads for subsequent travellers. In the end, a huge quantity of sandalwood was exported from this area. As sandalwood does not regenerate readily they left their mark on the landscape.
Prospectors and Pastoralists
Gold prospectors also traversed the area seeking their fortunes further north and east in the goldfields of W.A. Lonely graves are a reminder of the harsh conditions they must have endured.
Pastoralists ventured out with their stock, carving out portions of the land in large parcels. Some of these hardy and optimistic people established quite sturdy settlements. The remains of buildings and gardens, old tennis courts, chimneys, windmills and wells, are still faintly visible. But overall they didn’t leave a lasting mark on the landscape.
And then it was the arrival of the farmers. Bencubbin was settled in the early nineteen hundreds and from there, people pushed further north, taking up land not previously claimed.
There were people already settling as far north as what is now known as Askew’s Lake (on the Beacon Bencubbin Road,) but nothing further past that where the land was still in its virgin state.
There were no roads other than the sandalwooder’s tracks, no railway, and no buildings. Just the bush in all its untouched glory.
The type of vegetation pictured is typical of the natural bush on the red clay soils of Beacon.
New settlers had to clear this timber using only an axe.
Photo – Marilyn Dunne.
A Community Forms
But man is encouraged to go forward and so they did. More and more settlers began to take up blocks of land and a community began to form.
Social gatherings were arranged and Warkutting Soak became an important meeting place. These gatherings brought about the formation of the North Bencubbin Progress Association.
Meetings were later held at “The dip” (junction of Back Beacon Road and Burakin Wialki Rd) where some consideration was given to establishing a town site. This site may have looked appealing as the salt salmon gums (Salicola) were beautiful big trees lining the ancient riverbed and many early settlers chose to make their base among such trees. As it turns out it is a very good thing the town site was chosen further east where it is today.
Beacon is gazetted
From these early meetings, it is very likely that the Progress Association alerted the government to the needs of the settlers. By the late nineteen twenties, government dams and tanks were built to alleviate the water shortage.
A train line was on its way from Amery via Kulja and was completed to Beacon by 1931. But before the train service was available, a gentleman from Bencubbin with an old truck and a good head for business had begun a weekly delivery of essential stores to the settlers.
Mr R.E.Rowlands provided this welcome service and soon realised that a shop was necessary. He chose a site and built the first little shed from corrugated iron in what was to become Lindsay Street. This little building was used to conduct business as a general store and other agencies along with the Post Office.
Beacon was now a settlement and other buildings followed in quick succession. Beacon was officially gazetted as a town in 1932, ten years after the first settler, George Shemeld set up his camp on “Bendiga.”
The first store built in Beacon in late 1920’s by R.E.Rowlands from Bencubbin.
This building stood for 50 years serving as a General Store and Post Office.
Photo – Mt Marshall Shire Archives.