James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

William Parry Owen (cntd.)

William does not appear on the inventory of settlers of 30 June 1929 but by the late 1930s the Owens had been farming 'holding 1495' in ‘Group 114’ (Map) for several years. It was one of the extreme south eastern settlements. It had been established in 1924 on the Styx River, near the south coast and south of the highly productive area called the wheatbelt. In the Western Australia Museum is an account by a man who came out to Group 114 from England as a boy with his family: "The huge trees were to be felled to make way for farming. It was very hard work & most of the group 114 gave up & came into Albany to find work." For centuries this forested area had been home to Aboriginal people and the infrastructure for the early settlers was barely adequate. Denmark is roughly midway between Nornalup in the west and the port city of Albany in the east (see Modern map). Since 1908 there had been a railway line from Denmark to Albany. Further line extensions helped the burgeoning local dairy, agriculture, timber and fishing industries. The fact that it took almost three years to complete the 34-mile stretch of line from Denmark to Nornalup testifies to the difficulty of the terrain in that area; when it opened in 1929 its twice-weekly service transformed the lives of the approximately 900 people in 15 group settlements along its route.

The Owen property was described as, ‘situate 9 miles north of Kent River Siding, being Hay Location 1495'. It would have been a few miles north of that Denmark-Nornalup railway line and almost 25 miles from Denmark. It totalled 163 acres but one undated inventory stated that only 31 acres had been cleared or part-cleared, of which 25 acres were sown to pasture; there was a well (there was also a creek) for water, a house, a shed and dairy and a horse but no cows, cattle or pigs at that time. William's '30 Year (Improvements) Advance' for the property was £1653 on which he was expected to pay interest of £314 In addition there was an 8 to 10 Year Advance of £119 for 'stock and plant' (click here to see the standard list of 'plants' (equipment) they would have been given). When the property was put up for sale in 1938 only one hundred acres of their land was still unworkable; two thirds of that had been partially cleared but the rest was still forested. The trees had been ‘ring barked’ or girdled which was a method of killing them off by removing a ring of bark from each tree; it was a slow process but less hard work than the alternative of using a hand saw. The property then boasted a 4-roomed house and the farm had a cowshed, a hayshed, a dairy and another shed, which might have been where their pigs, a boar and a sow, were housed. It is known they had a potato patch - the soil suited potatoes - and presumably they would have had a small dairy herd.  >>