Shire History

In October 1836 the Surveyor General, John Septimus Roe, led an expedition to the east of the Avon Valley, in a search for pastoral land. One of his camps was located a few miles north of the present town of Koorda. Water was found only in the rock and gnamma holes and the soaks at granite hills. Roe contacted few natives, and gave few aboriginal names.

Hardy settlers of the Avon Valley started sending flocks and herds out to make use of grasses and water found beside the lakes and the granite out-crops, and a nomadic pastoral industry developed. Seekers of sandalwood made more tracks, and by the 1860's a few pastoral homesteads were set up at favoured places.

Apart from the extension of pastoral holdings into the district in the 1880’s, no further development occurred until the premiership of Sir John Forrest in the 1890’s, when several Acts of Parliament were passed that were designed to facilitate the populating of vast regions of the inland plateau with “bold peasantry”.

Generally a settler would be granted a free homestead block of 160 acres plus a conditional purchase block to make a total of 1,000 acres (445.5 hectares). The majority of early Koorda residents took up land on this basis, which required them to reside on their properties, install fences and make other improvements.

Koorda’s pioneers were thus part of the sweeping development of wheat farming across agriculturally marginal areas of the State. The early isolation and lack of skills, capital and equipment encouraged people to turn to neighbors for assistance, a characteristic which has led to a strong sense of community in the Koorda district.

Clearing and ploughing, often facing an uphill battle against climate and discomfort, Koorda’s pioneers in the early years of this century established the foundations of what was to become a flourishing wheat and sheep producing region.

In 1907 Joseph Martin and John Henry Cooke set up camp on land at the southern boundary of what is now the Koorda Shire, and in the following year settlement spread to the north and east of the Cowcowing lakes. In 1911 the first drought was experienced, and the government recruited waterboring parties from amongst the settlers: some of the wells which they sank and timbered can still be seen in the area.

The railway north and east from Wyalkatchem was gazetted in 1917 to serve the farmers settling in the area; a siding named Koorda, being at a central point, automatically became the district's name. In the same year a large dam was sunk at Koorda to meet the water requirements of the area.

A colorful personality of Koorda's early days was James McCallum-Smith, a Scot who came via the Victorian gold diggings to Kalgoorlie, where he founded a newspaper. In the years before World War 1 he took up large tracts of land in W.A., including many thousands of acres in and around Koorda, naming the present Drumin Farm after a property in Scotland. McCallum-Smith became the proprietor of the "Sunday Times" newspaper in Perth at about the same time, and this combination of financial interests led to his making "Koorda Sausages" famous throughout the State because of his extensive advertising.

Railway Workers CampThe township sprang up around the railway workers' camp, then came the General Store, Post Office, Blacksmith, Butcher, Baker and Greengrocer, and then a hostel to accommodate the seasonal workers who were mainly handlers of bagged wheat. In 1917 the settlers built themselves a Hall, (now our Pioneer Memorial Hall), extending it in 1924. The Koorda Road Board, inaugurated in 1928, used the extension for their office until their own building was completed in Railway Street, which now serves as the C.W.A. Community Centre.

On 17th May, 1929, the Amery, Burakin, Kulja railway line and the Kalannie extension were opened by the Premier, Phillip Collier. A township sprang into being at Kulja with amazing rapidity, and from there the line continued to Bonnie Rock, passing through Mollerin in the summer of 1931, to be opened on 27th April that year.

Although the early townships of Dukin, Kulja and Mollerin have now disappeared, there are still wheat bins at Kulja and Mollerin to serve these productive wheat growing areas.

In Koorda a new larger railway dam and a town dam were sunk in 1935/36 by sustenance workers - the unemployed in the depression days. 1958 saw the opening of the new Koorda Memorial Hall and the extension of the Comprehensive Water Scheme to Koorda. In 1962 the Bowling Club was opened, and the following six years saw the Swimming Pool brought into use, the Drive-in theatre opened, the State Energy Commission taking over the supply of electricity to the town, and the Silver Chain Nursing Post was established.

Subsequently the new Police Station and Courthouse were built as the center for Police and R.T.A. Administration. During 1975 the new Shire administration building was erected, and was officially opened on 19th March, 1976. 1978 saw the Golden Jubilee of Local Government in Koorda, and this is commemorated by the Memorial Stone in the Lions Park.

Many street names in the town commemorate the early settlers of the area. Throughout the shire you will get a feel of the history of the families that have settled and /or made a contribution to the region. Many of the original settlers families still reside within the region.