Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 6, 1962-1969

John Wellstead the Elder, pioneer settler at Bremer Bay

Robert Stephens

Stephens, Robert 1967, 'John Wellstead the Elder, pioneer settler at Bremer Bay', Early Days, vol. 6, part 6: 21-32.


"The roots of the present lie deep in the past, and because the past is the root of the present, it is still part of the present, and still (in a sense) contemporary.”— (Anonymous).

Private John Wellstead reached Albany in 1840 aboard the ship Runnymede, one of a small detachment of the 51st Regiment (King’s Own Light Infantry). This had come to relieve an earlier detachment recalled to its base at Hobart, whence the Runnymede had sailed. His certificate of discharge records his enlistment at the age of twenty, on the 25th February 1839 in the military depot of Chatham; his birthplace the parish of Rye, county of Sussex; height: five feet 10 inches; fresh complexion, grey eyes, and sandy hair. It was dated 25th February 1845. Five of his six years’ service were spent at Albany, where he was one of a small detail under the command of Lieutenant Egerton-Warburton. The remainder of the detachment, under the command of Captain Bolles [Rolles], moved to its planned headquarters in Perth. (A)

The Albany detail was quartered at the military barracks, a composite building of local stone and brick including a guard room and hospital. Nearby was a commissariat store of similar construction. Both were erected on Albany town lot E4, “reserved for the use of the Secretary of State for War.” Today this lot is portion of Lawley Park, on the northern shore of Princess Royal Harbour, and fronted by Brunswick Road.

Lieutenant Warburton and Private Wellstead were devout members of the Church of England, which had been influenced by the Oxford Movement of 1833.

At the end of September 1843 the total population of Albany and its hinterland numbered 260 (170 males and 90 females). (C). During 1841 Edward John Eyre and his Albany aboriginal guide Wylie were welcomed by the town’s citizens on the completion of their epic overland journey from Fowler’s Bay, South Australia, which, in Albany, drew attention to the pastoral country eastward. (C). The year of Eyre’s arrival saw also the arrival in Albany of George Maxwell, a remarkable man who during the subsequent half century made valuable contributions in many fields, particularly the extension of pastoral settlement in the hinterlands between Albany and Esperance Bay, reminiscent of the hero of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pathfinder, as will later appear. (C).

An equally remarkable man, an early Albany merchant, Thomas


Brooker Shorratt, a zealous member of the Church of England, prior to Wellstead’s arrival, had, at his own expense built an eight-sided lath and plaster building on Albany town lot 50. In it he conducted regular Sunday services in the forms of the Church of England, the first on the 27th December 1835. This building, long since demolished, has passed into history as the octagon church. Earlier, Sir Richard Spencer, R.N., Albany’s Government Resident, had sown the seeds which led to the erection of an Anglican church in Albany. These germinated when in March 1838 the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge made a grant of £100 for that purpose. (B) (D).

A small cell of local citizens then pooled their voluntary labour to clear a site granted by the Government for a church, and to accumulate upon it stone, bricks and timber. In 1840 the Government Resident, George Randall Phillips, a devout Anglican, stimulated this citizens’ committee towards its objective.

When the Chaplain-to-be of the prospective church, the Rev. John Ramsden Wollaston, reached Albany in the middle of 1848 he was agreeably surprised to find the walls of a stone church begun seven years earlier. On receiving advice that Bishop Short of Adelaide would arrive at the end of October to consecrate the building, he inspired the citizens’ committee to hasten their efforts. His journal recorded: “Shouldered our tools yesterday morning and met in excellent spirits, carts, horses, bullocks conveying sand, etc. to level the floor, etc.” .... “In truth more work has been done in two days voluntarily in this way than any paid contractor would have effected in two months.” (E).

It is difficult to imagine that Wellstead had not participated earlier with the citizens’ committee, and more particularly in the work recorded by Wollaston, especially in view of his approaching marriage within its walls just before its consecration which took place on Wednesday 12th November 1848.

In his “Albany Reminiscences,” N. W. McKail records on the authority of John Wellstead “that prior to the Consecration of St. John’s Church the Rev. John Ramsden Wollaston preached in the Octagon Church and conducted Sacraments, including Christenings and Marriages; that the building was set on a fine grove of peppermint trees where before and after Sunday morning Services, current local topics were discussed.” He also recorded: “A quaint old custom in my young days may interest present-day brides. In the absence of any jewellers in Albany, engagement rings were rare. The wedding rings were made by the local blacksmith. He was given a sovereign by the bridegroom and a shilling by the bride. From these he made the ring and took his pay. The bride always walked to the church with her paronts or their nominees and her bridesmaids where they were met by the bridegroom and his best man. After the ceremony


they walked to the location of the wedding breakfast. The bride made her first subsequent appearance by attendance at Church in her wedding dress and veil, accompanied by her husband, bridesmaids and groomsman, all arrayed as at the wedding, the whole party being seated together." (F).

The arrival in mid-1848 of Governor Charles Fitzgerald, R.N., marked the beginning of a new era in Western Australia’s depressed internal economy. His mission was to supervise the introduction of convicts, as requested by Western Australia’s citizens a year or so earlier. Simultaneously the Surveyor General, J. S. Roe, began his long exploration of the inland plateau and its network of rivers which debouched into the Southern Ocean between Cape Riche and Esperance Bay. Their sand-barred mouths had been crossed by Eyre who, through his telescope, had viewed and named the distant peaky Russell Range, planned as the limit of Roe’s exploration. Another straw which flickered in the impending winds of change was the survey of the boundaries of Perth and in the larger country towns of allotments for the military pensioners enrolled as guards on the convict transports, the first of which, the barque Scindian, reached Fremantle on 1st June 1850. (H) (J).

The lots surveyed in Albany for this purpose comprised three garden allotments of ten acres each and one of eleven acres, together with five building lots, the whole of them in the vicinity of Duck Lake. A plan signed by Roe, dated 5/9/1855, locates them at the junction of Albany Highway and the King Road. Allotment No. 121 of eleven acres on the northern side of the King Road bore the name of John Wellstead. Today it carries the offices and storage depot of the Albany Shire Council. In the absence of evidence to the contrary it is assumed that this allotment was the site of its owner’s home subsequent to his marriage. This was celebrated in St. John’s Church on 28th October 1848 and was also the first sacrament of marriage celebrated within its walls. The bride was Amy Fisher Crawford, spinster, aged twenty-two. Wellstead was in business as the town’s cartage contractor, betimes employing any leisure in shepherding his embryo flocks and herds on the town commonage. Old plans show this on the southern side of the present Albany Highway (then Perth Road). It extended from allotment 121 eastward to Middleton Beach, including Lake Sepping, but excluding Strawberry Hill (Western Australia’s first farm) east of Bluff Street which had been granted to Sir Richard Spencer prior to his arrival in 1833.

John Wellstead’s family Bible records the date of birth and Christian names of his family of ten as follows:- Elizabeth 18/11/1851, John 6/1/1854, Susan 14/1/1856, Jane 30/10/1857, Emma 10/1/1860, Ellen 20/11/1861, Robert 1864, Roderick 1866 and Margaret 1869. (A).

There is no clear evidence of their birthplaces (Albany or


Bremer Bay) in the first decade (1851-61) following their parents’ marriage. Tradition has it that those of Albany birth did not exceed the first four.

It has been assumed by the writer that both parents and some of their children made their permanent home at Peppermint Grove, Bremer Bay, during the middle 1850s, and it was at first a wattle and daub thatched structure, occupied until the completion of the substantial stone residence, which is still in use, had been completed. That Wellstead was capable of the erection of both finds support in a brochure published by Mrs. A. Y. Hassell, “Early Memories of Albany." (L). This tells of the existence of the remains of the thatched wattle and daub buildings of the New South Wales regime on its cantonment in what is now Parade Street during 1826-1831. Of these Private Wellstead could have been aware, while of the octagon church he must certainly have been. Of his stone residence at Bremer Bay it could be said he had served his apprenticeship on the building of Albany’s church of St. John.

During the decade which followed the arrival of the first convict transport, the colony’s internal economy, as its sponsors had predicted, substantially improved. This was a result of the yearly increasing convict labour force, coupled with the infusion of British gold necessary for their housing and maintenance; arterial highways were built to link the major country townships with the System’s (as it was known) administrative headquarters in Perth and Fremantle; the salaries of its administrative personnel, and of a company of Royal Engineers, and their Sappers, benefited the economy and in many ways Albany and its near hinterlands participated in the boom. (J).

In retrospect it appears significant that exactly two years after the arrival of the Scindian at Fremantle, the s.s. Australia anchored in Princess Royal Harbour on 1st June 1852. She flew the house flag of the Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company to commence the operation of its contract with the British government for a regular monthly service between England, Sydney and Melbourne via Capetown and Albany. The P. & O. Company’s s.s. Chusan under an exactly similar contract arrived at Albany during the following August. The contracts of both companies stipulated Albany as the first and last Australian port of call. As a cartage contractor, it seems unlikely that Wellstead did not benefit from this arrangement, or from the erection of the convict hiring depot on Albany town lot 41 at Residency Point. Be this as it may, tradition has it that in the beginning, for a short period, he held a contract for the conveyance of the overseas mails from the steamers to Perth monthly via Kojonup, Williams and Crossman River. (C).

The Ides of 1875 proved kindly to John Wellstead and his plans. On 1st January Governor Weld, as his last official act prior to leaving


Western Australia, “planted” the first telegraph pole in a long line of its ilk which were to carry whispering wires 800 miles eastward to Eucla to link Western Australia, with all Australia's eastern capital cities, and via Darwin, to the rest of the civilised world.

Albany made holiday for the occasion and its leading citizens tendered His Excellency a banquet at the Freemasons’ Hotel. Here the local schoolmaster, T. M. Palmer, in humorous vein named some guests in verse—one of them—“Old John Wellstead, a man both old and tough, who thought to wear a blue striped shirt was costume good enough.” 1875 also marked the end of free graze for Western Australia’s pioneer graziers and pastoralists on the northern, eastern and southern fringes of a no-man’s land, generally unmarked by the Survey Department. It marked the end of a chapter for those at Cape Riche and Doubtful Island Bay, and for John Wellstead at Bremer Bay; doubtless all had enjoyed free graze as squatters.

This when a new land ordinance released large areas of virgin grazing and pastoral Crown lands. It provided that within the boundaries of any areas leased the lessee could secure a freehold title by purchase of small areas containing permanent freshwater sources. Its first administrator, with the title of Commissioner of Crown Lands and Assistant Surveyor-General, was John Forrest, who, during his exploration in 1870 eastward to Adelaide, had made himself familiar with the sources and headwaters of the rivers whose blind mouths Eyre in 1841 and his mentor, Roe, had examined in 1841 and 1848 respectively.

The year 1875 also marked the end of a long chapter which began when, in 1627, Pieter Nuyts left his name on the Unknown South Land, northward of the Great Australian Bight. In the Kent and adjacent districts many natural features—mountains, hills, valleys and rivers—bear the names associated with many of their discoveries. They included Lt. Peter Belches, who was responsible for George Maxwell’s arrival in Albany from New South Wales; James Drummond, the colony’s first resident botanist; Baron von Mueller, the father of Australian botany; Henry Rivett Bland; among many others were several who were permanently associated with the Kent and surrounding districts—George Cheyne and his nephews, the Muirs, Moirs and Grahams; Captain John Hassell and his sons, not least John Wellstead. (A) (J).

The Ides dominated and the year 1875 opened a new chapter when a bard appeared in the person of a youthful G. P. Stevens; he had arrived to be on the staff of the first telegraph station east of Albany at Bremer Bay.

He wrote of the two barren peaks sighted through his telescope aboard H.M.S. Inveatigator by Captain Matthew Flinders in 1801 and named bv him West and East Mount Barren:—“If this was due to first impressions on studying their verdureless peaks and the utter


sterility of the country on which they are based they are aptly named. But nature has provided one of her marvellous compensations. Hiding along one of Wellstead’s bullock dray tracks rising from the Qualup Valley watered by the Gairdner River about two miles distant on the northern slopes of West Mount Barren on its mute to Wellstead’s lambing station on the Fitzgerald River the writer, in the Spring of 1878 found himself surrounded by a galaxy of beautiful blooms swaying gently in the breeze on stems about a chain apart, four or five feet high as though to get as far away as possible from their barren environment. The perfect shape and exquisite colouring of these specimens of nature’s handwork gave the impression that they were the product of years of culture, in rich soil cared by a Master’s Hand. In fact they were thrusting their tender shoots through stony rubble without a vestige of soil. The Qualup Bell as it is named, has great bell-shaped flowers of a delicate greenish yellow colour, splashed and flushed with crimson." (K).

“The decision to erect the first station at Bremer Bay instead of West Mount Barren as at first planned brought its first settler within an hour’s walk of the Telegraph Station 107 miles east of Albany. This proved a boon to the officials who served it. Mr. Wellstead had been a soldier in the military post stationed in Albany in the early eighteen-forties. Following his discharge he had struck out for the first locality along the south-eastern coast where he could establish a home and rear a family of four sons and six daughters. He was a grand old pioneer, equally proficient as a cattle raiser, sheep farmer, builder, carpenter or bootmaker, and withal a devout Christian of the Puritan type who never failed to read a passage from the family Bible after each meal.

“The Telegraph Station was formally opened for traffic with Albany on 8th March 1875. The Superintendent of the lines construction was James Coutes Fleming, who had earlier successfully filled similar posts on the telegraph lines which linked Fremantle, Guildford, Toodyay, Northam, York, Bunbury and Albany with Perth.

“As on these lines, he had initiated the training of his own operators as the lines progressed. At Bremer Bay he found an apt pupil in Miss Mary Wellstead. After having taught her the Morse Code she acted as operator until the appointment of the first permanent Station Master towards the end of 1877.

“This young lady afterwards became Mrs. John Harris, following which she lived in a small house in the Qualup Valley where the late John Wellstead Harris, sometime Harbour Master at Fremantle, was born.’’

Of the telegraph station and staff quarters the same bard recorded:-

“Was situated on rising ground overlooking a fine estuary (now named Wellstead) which lay about half a mile to the north-east of


it. It was teeming with mullet, salmon trout and bream, with innumerable wild fowl of all descriptions thronging its narrow reaches inland. The view from the Station extended over ten miles of plain dotted with clumps of Banksia trees, and occasional small lakes, and abounding in kangaroo and emu. To the south-west, on the slopes of the hills bounding Dillon Bay three miles distant, could be seen the Wellstead Homestead. What more ideal spot in which to domicile three young men whose ages ranged from 16 to 23 could be imagined? There was shooting, hunting and other games in the spare hours by day, and dancing and singing the evenings away in the squatter's kitchen with a group of healthy, hospitable girls after family prayers."

On the 9th December 1877 the Western Australian section of the telegraph line was completed and its through traffic to Adelaide commenced. During its construction its route experienced the largest concentration of Europeans since Pieter Nuyts first recorded its discovery in 1627. Between Bremer Bay and Eucla there were four other similar telegraph stations eastward from the former—Esperance Bay, Israelite Bay and Eyre’s Sand Patch. These isolated stations became the basis of pastoral hinterlands and their coastal homesteads and depots for the storage of all their needs, both inward and outward, transported by the small contracting schooners which maintained regular supplies to the personnel of the telegraph stations. This continued until the opening of the Trans-Australian Railway Line in 1918 when the telegraph line was rerouted to follow its 800-mile long line to Western Australia's eastern boundary.

A headline item “Microwave Will Speed Communications" in the Perth press as this script is being typed exemplifies the truth of the aphorism at its head. Its predecessors a century earlier carried similar headlines, in substance if not in form, prior to and during the construction of its original pioneer "The East-West Telegraph Line 1875-77."

During the first decade (1865-75), in the absence of written records, it has been presumed that the Wellstead family menage at Peppermint Grove, Bremer Bay, conformed to the usual pattern of the better types of the pastoralists who, with their wives and families, lived on the outer perimeter of the colony’s ever-expanding inland boundary. To those on or near its coastline, like George Cheyne at Cape Riche, John Wellstead at Bremer Bay and the Bussell family at Cattle Chosen in the south-west corner of Western Australia who were served by the small, locally built schooners which serviced the bay whaling depots at Cape Riche, Doubtful Island Bay and others further eastward were a boon. In most cases these tiny vessels were skippered by their owners and free to accept on-the-spot charters from such of the coastal-based pastoralists in need of their services. (D), (F), (G), (K).


During the line's construction two locally-built schooners engaged in the sea carriage of its poles were wrecked on the long line of sea girding clilTs westward of Eucla. Today their names "Catabunup” and "Twilight” are preserved on modern maps by "Twilight Cove” in memory of their final hour of twilight. (A).

Following the opening of the telegraph line some of them or their successors, still master owned and sailed, secured Government contracts for the carriage of freight and personnel to the telegraph stations between Albany and Eucla (listed earlier) and return, with no ban on providing the pastoralists, resident at or near the stations, with similar services. One such was John Wellstead at Bremer Bay. In the latter case tradition has it that they were used for the transport of wool, skins (kangaroo as well as sheep), hides and sandalwood, as well as salted pork and butter, the latter the product of a dairy herd of some eighty cows managed by the resident female members of the Wellstead family. Of the latter no suspicion has obtruded about the congenial happy inter-family relationships earlier quoted from the records of their bard, and will be confirmed later in this monograph.

The Albany Mail in September 1881 recorded "the marriage, on the 4th of that month, in the Anglican Church of Saint John by its Rector, Rev. W. Wardell-Johnson, M.A. (in which the bridegroom’s parents were the first couple to be married) (E) in the presence of a large congregation, of John Wellstead Junior, the eldest son of John Wellstead of Peppermint Grove, Bremer Bay, to Bridget, the third daughter of Robert Muir, Merchant of Albany. After the wedding the bride and bridegroom drove to their future home at Wattle Grove, Bremer Bay.” (A).

Four years later, on 18th August 1885, the Albany Mail recorded the birth "at the Albany residence of John Wellstead, Senior, Rowley Street, Albany, on the eleventh instant [to] the Wife of John Wellstead Junior of Bremer Bay, a son.” (A).

This birth notice confirms the fact that Wellstead Senior and his wife had occupied their new Albany home for some time. This is borne out by another news item in the same Albany newspaper of 25th November 1884. It also confirms that Grandpa Wellstead still trod his Pilgrim Path. It recorded:

We are pleased to see our gay, and respected old squatter Mr. John Wellstead again to the fore with the youngsters of the Town. On such occasions he spends a few pounds on the boys.

“On Friday night his great Race Meeting came off with flat races and greasy pole climbing, which amused the boys, the spectators and himself as well as satisfying his boy competitors when they collected a share of his largesse of a few pounds worth of six and threepenny coins.” (A).


A year later the same paper must have revived happy memories of his life at Peppermint Grove, Bremer Bay. The Albany Mail of 10th November 1885 recorded:

“Mr. John Wellstead Senior reported that on Friday 6th October, a quarter of a mile from the Telegraph Station, Bremer Bay, a strong north-east wind caused the sea-water to bank up on the sand bar at the mouth of the Nicolay River’s exit into Wellstead Inlet. This carried shoals of Mullet on to the bar, where they were left beached when the wind suddenly ceased. The area covered was estimated by the Telegraph Station Master Mr. F. Healy and his Assistant Green to contain 5,000,000 fish, apart from the Mullet in their millions." (A).

The foregoing mention of the Nicolay River could have revived pleasant memories of the Reverend C. G. Nicolay in the mind of “Bremer Bay’s old squatter” John Wellstead, if the cleric had been true to his ordination vows (of which no evidence has obtruded to the contrary). It was because of it that he held the post of chaplain at the Fremantle prison. He was dual professioned and visited Bremer Bay and its environs as a trained geologist (possibly with a view of participation in an archaeological expedition to examine the ruins of earlier civilisations popular at that time). Be that as it may, it was as a geologist he was commissioned by the Western Australian Government to examine the coal seams reported by Surveyor-General Roe during his eastward exploration to the Russell Range in 1848. The reason of course the regular monthly visits to Albany of the English mail steamers. It may or may not be fortunate that John Wellstead kept neither a diary nor preserved his personal correspondence as did the Bussell family of Western Australia; later so skilfully edited by the late Professor Shann, published in his classic historical Bussell biography Cattle Chosen. So far as is known, the Reverend Nicolay lacked his bard and of necessity appears herein as a geologist, reporting on the coal seams mentioned inter alia.:

“I sent for Mr. John Wellstead to point out exactly the spots where Mr. Roe had procured the ‘coal’—he, however, failed to recognise the exact spot where Mr. Roe had penetrated into the seams discovered by him." In spite of this, Nicolay’s report continued, “he dug, but could not locate any coal.” (C).

The Albany municipal rate book for 1890 lists John Wellstead’s Rowley Street residence as Albany town lot No. 442 in its north ward. (C).

While the planned motif of this biographical sketch is John Wellstead Senior an exception seems justified in favour of Bridget, the wife of his eldest son, whose first-born child previously mentioned was born in his grandfather’s home, Rowley Street, Albany. This to remove a blind spot in an earlier portion of this monograph. It is preserved in a local press report of her remarks, in reminiscent


mood, at a family party during 1957 on the occasion of her 92nd birthday. She mentioned the replacement of the small schooners mentioned earlier by small steamers, the s.s. Ferret and s.s. Eucla: “when resident in the old Peppermint Grove Wellstead home at Bremer Bay, on the commencement of a visit to Albany she had to board s.s. Eucla in a small row-boat. This occurred during a strong south-easterly blow” (similar, doubtless to the five million mullet episode recorded earlier); "she was left clinging to a rope ladder whilst boarding and seeing her basket of wearing apparel disappear in the sea." (C).

John Wellstead died in his Rowley Street home on 13th February 1896 aged 77 and was buried the following day in the now aptly named Memorial Park Cemetery (Albany town lot 51), Middleton Road. As he would have liked, in view of what follows, his mortal remains continued their association with so many, who, in the days of their flesh, had been his associates during the 56 years of his life following the arrival of the Runnymede in 1840. In Raphael Clint’s first survey of the new Albany to be on the northern shore of Princess Royal Harbour following Doctor Collie’s arrival as its first Government Resident early in 1831, its cemetery, on Town Lot 51 Middleton Road was on virgin bush land in the town’s Suburban Commonage mentioned earlier; Albany Town Lot 50 upon which Thomas Brooker Sherratt had built his octagon church overlooking the cantonment of the New South Wales regime. (A), (C).

In 1840, the year of Wellstead’s arrival, Surveyor-General Roe, whilst surveying the northern areas of the Plantagenet County, amongst others possibly Lieutenant Egerton Warburton’s locations of what is St. Werburgh’s, Mount Barker, visited Albany to attend to the re-interment of Doctor Collie’s remains in the official cemetery on town lot 51, Middleton Road. In this Roe acted in his capacity as Collie’s Executor. Being a devout Anglican, no doubt it followed that church’s forms. The service was attended by Governor Hutt and by Albany’s leading citizens. Eight years later the Anglican section of the Middleton Road cemetery was consecrated when, on the 28th of October 1848 the Anglican Bishop of Adelaide, attended by its first curate, the Reverend J. R. Wollaston, M.A., also consecrated St. John’s Church. (C), (E).

The latter long afterwards being in the van of John Wellstead’s early contemporaries already mentioned earlier, others of whom were Captain John Hassell, Andrew Muir, Robert Muir and Alexander Moir.

Three years prior to his death the founder of Western Australia’s Wellstead clan made his will dated 1893. Its contents were consistent with the man and his manner of proving things honest in the sight of all men. The will provided for the appointment of his four sons John, George, Robert and Allen as his executors and trustees.


Following the granting of probate following his death his real and personal estate, the former consisted of large areas of freehold and leasehold land in the Plantagenet and Kent land divisions; the latter a complete plant for their effectual working, such as working horses, wagons, carts, drays, ploughs and accessories; livestock comprising cattle, sheep and pigs, with the exception of the Rowley Street home and its furnishings in which his widow was bequeathed a life interest, the whole of the estate, both real and personal were bequeathed to his executors (his four sons) to quote from the will—“it being my dying wish and desire that my four sons shall work amicably together for their mutual benefit.” In addition to her life tenancy of the Rowley Street home, the widow was granted an annuity of £50 per year. Of his married daughters the will recorded his “dying wish that my unmarried daughters during their spinsterhood be maintained on the respective farms of their four Trustee brothers free of all expense.” In 1898, John, the eldest of the four Trustee brothers, legally entailed his bequested freeholds at Peppermint Grove, Bremer Bay, to provide for his father’s “dying wish.” During the same year 1898, Wise’s Post Office Directory listed the residents at Bremer Bay, in addition to the telegraph station staff, as the four Trustee Wellstead brothers, John, George, Robert and Roderick. The same Directory in its 1900 issue listed the same inhabitants. A quarter of a century later the Directory in its 1923-24 edition proved that the dissolution of the family group had commenced when it listed only John Wellstead and his two sons Fred and Charles amongst Bremer’s residents. Today, 1967, descendants of its pioneer soldier settler are distributed over the Plantagenet and Kent counties perpetuating his farming and grazing activities and his name, as does a new township in the vicinity of Cape Riche. (A).


This life story of a Western Australian pioneer, like those of several of his early Albany contemporaries of the early 1840s, is to be read before a meeting of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society. Its permanent preservation for posterity in the Society’s Annual Journal and Proceedings records the labour of some of the pioneer settlers of the southern portion of our Western Australian heritage.

This however with one material exception. The writer’s earlier stories were patterned on the late Professor Shann’s Western Australian biography Cattle Chosen, published in 1926, based as stated in its preface, on diaries and outward and inward letters by the several children of the Bussell family group who pioneered a virgin area in Western Australia’s south-western corner.

Because of the fact that John Wellstead left neither diary, account book nor any examples of his letters, either inward or outward, the story of his purposeful, useful life, if it was to be written


at all, must be sought from independent outside sources. That it has been written proves that its subject was a really outstanding personality.

Before completing this epilogue by an anonymous quotation, its writer asks its readers’ tolerance by an admission that from Preface to Epilogue it is—

"Ragged, perchance; most faulty incomplete, dropped stitches and frayed edges here and there. Too much of this and not enough of that.

"Men carve their own monuments in the works they accomplish. History cannot be written as it happens. It cannot be seen and judged and spoken of only in the cold perspective of the after years. Perhaps in years to come, someone would be able to speak of the things that were happening today, someone who had not been through them. They who lived through them could not find the words to describe them, nor generally the time.”


(A) Wellstead Family Papers. Very few.

(B) Sir Richard Spencer’s Family Papers.

(C) Sundry Official Publications Western Australian State Archives. Votes and Proceedings Western Australian Legislative Council. Perth Gazette. Albany and nearby County Newspapers. Government Gazettes. Albany Municipality Rate Books. Western Australian Post Office Directories of relative years.

(D) Thomas Brooker Sherratt Family Papers.

(E) Reverend J. R. Wollaston Family Papers.

(F) John McKail, Albany Merchant, "Albany Residences” published in the Western Mail January 27th 1927 et seq., 15 weekly instalments.

(G) Captain J. J. Sales, "Albany Memories” published in the Western Mail March 1936.

(H) "Waterless Horizons.” Life of E. J. Eyre (Uren and Stephens).

(J) Dr. Battye’s History of Western Australia.

(K) The East-West Telegraph 1875-77 by G. P. Stevens. "Journal and Proceedings Royal Western Australian Historical Society, Vol. 2, Part 13, 1933.

(L) “Early Memories of Albany,” booklet by Mrs. A. Y. Hassell, published by the Albany Advertiser.

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