Augusta lies in the land of the Wardandi (People of Warden, the Ocean Spirit), one of the fourteen Nyungar tribes that live in the South-West. Their land extends from the coast at Stratham to the sea at Augusta.
The first noted Europeans to have sighted the area were the Dutch in 1622. They named the southwestern tip “t Landt van de Leeuwin” meaning the land of the lioness. It was later explored by Matthew Flinders in 1801 and he renamed it Cape Leeuwin with respect to the Dutch, who had first sighted the rocky headland.
Whalers and Sealers
The area became a popular place for whalers and sealers to collect freshwater and to seek protection from the storms that frequently whipped up off the southern ocean.
The area was officially settled by Europeans in 1830 after the establishment of the Swan River Colony.
New settlers, who had arrived in Fremantle on the “Warrior” on 12th of March, 1830, were hoping to take up land near the Swan River Colony but Lieutenant-Governor James Stirling, knowing that all of the fertile land had already been taken up, persuaded the settlers to move south, to an area near Cape Leeuwin.
Captain Molloy, a small military detachment and about thirty settlers headed south and arrived in an area near the Blackwood River . Among the new settlers from the brig “Emily Taylor” were Captain John Molloy and his wife Georgiana and John, Charles, Vernon & Alfred Bussell (who all became influential in the development of other areas in the south-west).
The site was named Augusta by James Stirling in May 1830, in honour of Princess Augusta Sophia, the second daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte.
With very few of the settlers having a history or background in agriculture, it didn’t take long before they discovered how hard life was on the harsh landscape. Supplies from Perth came infrequent and small relief was found through the Whalers (predominantly American), who came ashore to collect freshwater and trade with the settlers. The settlers would exchange potatoes, meat and vegetables for much-needed oil (for lighting), molasses and tobacco. However, even with the whaler trade, many settlers found the isolation and harshness of the area too much and they left Augusta including the Bussells and Malloys.
The settlers who stayed used the local Aborigines to help clear the local hardwood timber and assist with crops. When the government allowed the arrival of convicts to Western Australia in 1850, many convicts were given tickets-of-leave and sent to Augusta to help the settlers cut timber (Jarrah & Karri ) .
The banks of the Blackwood River were used to house the convicts and guards. The banks were also where timbers were pit sawn before they were loaded onto rafts and floated down to the mouth of the river (as Jarrah does not float).
Despite all this productivity, it would be another twenty years before Augusta would flourish, due to the timber industry and a man named Maurice Coleman Davies. M.C. Davies established sawmills at Coodardup, Karridale, Boranup and Jarrahdene in the late 1870s and almost single-handedly create a market and an efficient industry for Karri and Jarrah hardwoods which was highlighted in the Paris Exhibition in 1878.
By the 1880’s the timber industry was booming and mills, jetties, towns and a railway were built to cope with the demand for Western Australian hardwoods. Timber became Western Australia’s second-largest export, behind wool. By the early 1900s the demand for Karri and Jarrah from the area had declined and the last mill was closed in 1913. After the first World War many returned soldiers took up dairy farming in the area.
Augusta is now a popular holiday resort, with among its attractions being the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and waterwheel, Jewel Cave, Boranup Forest and whale watching tours it also boasts pristine beaches, great fishing and friendly pelicans.