The Early Years
Manjimup is located in the south-west corner of Western Australia, approximately 304km south of Perth. The tall timber town was established in 1910 as a result of the railway line which was built to service the thriving timber industry.
The name Manjimup was derived from an Aboriginal word “manjin” the name given for the edible root of a bulrush and “up” meaning place of water, together they mean “edible root of bulrush at watering hole”.
The first European settler in the Manjimup district was a timber cutter, Thomas Muir, in 1856. He was followed by Frank Hall and Charles Rose in 1859. In the 1860s, Hall’s property was passed to J. Mottram who named his homestead Manjimup House.
During the late 1890s and early 1900s, there was an increased demand for quality agricultural land and the focus was placed on the heavily forested areas near the Wilgarrup River.
In 1909 the government proposed to extend the railway from Bridgetown to Wilgarrup with the terminus (station) to be built close to the Manjimup Homestead. The proposed station was named Manjimup and later a townsite which was officially declared in 1910. The district of Manjimup became part of the Government’s Group Settlement Scheme which was implemented in the 1920s. The Western Australian Government set up the scheme with the aim of opening up the sparsely populated and uncleared land of the south-west of the state to migrants from Britain and returning ex-servicemen. Twenty families of group 10 settled in the area near One Tree Bridge . They were known as ‘The Groupies’.Armed with only crosscut saws and axes they were faced with clearing some of the world’s tallest trees. Very few of the groupies had any farming skills and found the work and the conditions unbearable. To make the situation even worse the families lived in temporary huts (provided by the government) until each they had cleared 25 of the allocated 100 acres. The end result was that most of the settlers left, making the Group Settlement Scheme one of Western Australia’s greatest social and financial disasters. The groupies who stayed on were able to make a small living from dairy farming.
One of Australia’s most well-known poets, Adam Lindsay Gordon, settled in the area in 1866. He bought 20ha on the banks of the Donnelly River near One Tree Bridge and then leased another 20,000ha known as Mt Lewen Station. On the leased land he placed 5,000 sheep that he had droved from the port of Bunbury. Like so many other settlers Gordon left disgruntled unable to succeed in the harsh conditions. It was Adam Lindsay Gordon’s shepherd who was the first to discover graphite near the Donnelly River, which started a short-lived mining industry.
The tree towers are one of the areas greatest attractions. These huge lookouts, which are dotted throughout the jarrah and karri forests, were established in the 1930s by the Forests Department as a way of pinpointing the location of a forest fire quickly.
The first lookout tower ‘Big Tree’ was built in 1938 and used for spotting karri fires. Within 14 years eight tree towers were dotted throughout the region. The most well known of these towers is the Diamond Tree Lookout, towering some 51m. The lookout was built in 1941 and was open to the public to climb until recently. Health and safety finally caught on!
Today Manjimup is known as the Jewel of the South West and is a thriving community based around the timber and agriculture industries. Agriculture includes dairy, vegetables (onions, cauliflower, peas and potatoes) fruit growing (cherries and apples) and beef and sheep farming. There are also numerous festivals celebrated throughout the year including the Cherry Harmony Festival.