History of Greenough

History of Greenough, Western AustraliaThe historical town of Greenough is located 400km north of Perth, Western Australia on a coastal plain of rich fertile pastures. The area was first explored by George Grey in 1839 who was looking for more agricultural pastoral lands for expansion of the colony. Grey named the river, Greenough, after his sponsor, Sir George Bellas Greenough (President of the Royal Geographical Society). The town was later to be named after the river.

While The Sun Shines

History of Greenough, Western Australia In 1851 the explorer A.C. Gregory surveyed 30,000 acres (12,140 ha) of land to be taken up by pastoralists. Becoming the northern most settlement, the Greenough Front Flats were settled in 1852. The Hamersley and Co expanded into the area, leasing blocks and taking over pastoral leases from the Colonisation Assurance Corporation. Greenough soon became a successful wheat growing area. By 1858, over 20,000 acres (8,000ha) was occupied by wheat farmers. Though the wheat industry was successful, the settlers worked extremely hard to achieve this. Most of the settlers were poor (some ex-convicts) with many having only a shovel to prepare the fields. The sowing was done by hand, the wheat reaped with a sickle (curved blade with short handle) and the grain threshed (beat grain from husks) with a flail (stick attached to a handle).

The Wrath of Mother Nature

By the 1860's the population had peaked to over 1,000 and buildings and mills were erected. The success of the settlement was short lived however, due mainly to a series of natural disasters and the advancement of the agricultural industry in other parts of the state.

In 1862 the Front Flats were flooded by heavy rains and half the barley crop were destroyed by a hail storm. A drought in 1870 led to many crop failures and placed pressure on settlers to pay their lease rent. In 1872 a cyclone swept through the area causing enormous damage to homes and crops. In 1888, four people lost their lives when the Greenough River burst its banks following a bad flood. Many disheartened farmers left Greenough to try their luck in the newly discovered goldfields of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

Rapid Decline

By the early 1900's wheat production in the area had declined due mainly to the increase scale of production of grain in other regions of the State, which was made possible by the mechanisation of the agricultural industry. The use of machinery, reduced labour (and labour costs) and increased productivity in many rural towns. The farmers that remained in Greenough began producing chaff for feed.

By the 1930's all the mills had closed as they had became obsolete and could no longer compete with the other rural towns that had improved transportation, such as railways and highways. The town eventually fell into ruins and was little more than a ghost town.

Greenough Family Massacre

On February the 21st 1993 the small community of Greenough was rocked by a horrific tragedy, which became known as the Greenough Massacre. Karen MacKenzie and her three children were hacked to death by an axe wielding murderer, William Patrick Mitchell. The crime was one of the worst ever seen in the state and has left a lasting scar on the community. Click here Greenough Family Massacre to find out more details (warning contains graphic details of the crime).

All That Remains

Today the main attraction in Greenough is the historical village of Greenough Hamlet comprising a collection of stone buildings restored by the National Trust WA.

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