Shire History

The full history of the Moora district is available in the book "Tracks Through The Midlands" by Maxine Laurie.

In April 1836, George Fletcher Moore discovered and followed the Moore River upstream to a point around Noondagooda. Between 1841 and 1845 the 'Victoria Plains' were discovered, named and subsequently became nearly exclusively used by the shepherds of both the Drummond Family and Captain John Scully. Shepherds had up to 1000 sheep in their flock and moved from one water hole to the next as the grass was eaten out.

In 1842, Captain John Scully, James and Johnson Drummond journeyed 25 miles north of the Drummond out-station at Maurin Pool (now New Norcia) to discover the north area of the Moore River and the Dalaroo Lakes.

The first pastoral lease in the Shire of Moora appears to have been claimed in December 1846 by the Lefroy Brothers for an area of 4000 acres. An application for a 4000 acre lease exactly opposite the north side of Lefroy's lease was made on January 11, 1847 by a Berkshire man, James Clinch, a former shepherd for Lt Slade of Toodyay.

In December 1847, James Clinch reaped the first crop in the district. By 1848 Clinch held 12000 acres of pastoral leasehold, the Lefroy's 20000 acres and Ewan MacIntosh, one of the Scotch partners in a 20000 acre lease held with John and Donald MacPherson, occupied land around Koojan.

In 1850-51 the Government brought down new land regulations which prohibited the cultivation of pastoral lands. This resulted in pastoralists acquiring about 10 acres of land around wells on their property enabling them to build a house and cultivate crops for domestic consumption.

Charles Clinch is believed to have taken up land at 'West End' around 1853. The land originally formed part of the lease held by his brother James.
George B Clark occupied pastoral leases east of the Lefroy's and it is estimated that around 1860 his leases were 'Indara' (Indarrie) 'Goonderabby' and 'Pankie'. About this time James Clinch changed the name of his property from 'Bebano' to 'Berkshire Valley'.

In 1860 the Government introduced land regulations designed to encourage small farmers to buy land. Crown land was reduced in price from (1 to 10/- per acre in lots as small as 40 acres. The larger pastoralists were able to take the greatest advantage of these regulations and by 1868 James Clinch owned some 15 locations, A O'Grady Lefroy - 8 locations, George Clark - 5 locations, the Clune Brothers (east of Clark around Tootra) - 8 locations.

New Norcia Mission through Bishop Salvado purchased the leasehold and freehold of 'Marah' (near Watheroo) in 1868. This property was originally owned by James Oliver who acquired it around 1850. He sold his leases there to Joseph Purser of Bindoon who died in 1867. Bishop Salvado acquired the leases from Purser's estate. The Mission established an outstation at 'Marah' and built a two-story brick house, a large stone walled kitchen, several stone sheds, a large mud brick shed and a stone well.

Others purchasing land in 1870's including John Dix, Richard Broad, George Bishop and Edmund King. Dix came to the Shire in 1865 when he began as a workman for James Clinch. He later purchased 40 acres at 'Burrabidgy' and in the 1870's acquired 100 acres at 'Mambooda'.

Richard Broad had been shepherding in the Shire before 1868, he purchased land at 'Round Hill' which was originally part of the 'Welbin' lease. Broad's letters of around 1870 indicate that the 'Bunneygootha' or 'Bunningootha' Aboriginal tribe inhabited the area and in fact that 'Round Hill' is the English translation of the tribal name. Broad built his homestead in 1872.

In 1867, the mail route to Geraldton was changed from the coast road via Dandaragan to an inland route passing through New Norcia, Walebing, Berkshire Valley, Marah, Coorow, Carnamah and on to Geraldton. The route was designed to cater for the inland settlers and soon mailmen on horseback became an institution of the outback. The survey of the new route was officially completed in 1870 by Alexander Forrest.

The Victoria Plains Road Board was formed in 1871 with boundaries extending from the Indian Ocean to the South Australian border and from Carnamah in the north to Bolgart in the south.

Foundation members of the board were Donald MacPherson (Chairman), Bishop Salvado, JM Butler (Secretary), James Clinch, Jeremiah Clune, Walter Padbury and James Drummond. HB Lefroy (son of AO Lefroy) and Matthew Clune were elected to the Board in 1872 following the resignations of James Drummond and JM Butler. HB Lefroy became Chairman of the Board in 1876.

The Toodyay to Geraldton telegraph line was erected through the Shire in 1873 and a telegraph station was established at the 'Berkshire Valley' homestead where it was operated by Miss Clinch.

In 1883, John Waddington put forward a proposal to build the Midland to Geraldton Railway on the basis that the construction company receive 12000 acres of land for every mile built.

The proposal was a direct threat to the pastoral leasehold tenures of most sellers in the Victoria Plains. Bishop Salvado successfully prevented the line from passing through the Mission at New Norcia before the Government fixed the route and signed the agreement with the London based Midland Railway Company in 1886. Construction of the line began in 1887 but was halted because of the Company's financial difficulties. The railhead reached Moora in 1893 and by 1894, the first train ran from Midland to Walkaway.

The Midland Railway Company took up much of their land concessions in the Victoria Plains district and therefore the coming of the railway eroded the rights of pastoralists but opened the door to agriculturalists.

In 1895 George Henry Holmes bought 'Elsternwick' which later sold in 1908 to John Stuart who renamed it 'Ranfurly Park'. This property was estimated to extend over 9000 acres. Around 1910, Holmes purchased properties owned by Henry and William McNamara and amalgamated them to form 'Oakfields'. Holmes was a partner with TR James in the building of the Commercial Hotel in 1908.

Alexander McKinley purchased 'Moore Park' in 1896 and later bought land on the eastern side of the Koojan-Moora Road which is now operated by his grandsons.
The 'Indarrie' school was opened during the 1890's to cater for the children in the Walebing - Bindi area. A public cemetery was located at Walebing in 1890 but many burials continued to be held at the New Norcia Mission Cemetery owing to the large numbers of Irish Catholic in the district's population.

The Walebing Post Office was built in 1896 of stone quarried on a nearby site. It was built as a repeater station for improved communications between Perth and Geraldton to update the earlier system built in 1873 which was a farm house to farm station manned by occupying settlers.

The first appointed operator was Mr RE Thomas. In 1898 Mr & Mrs F White were appointed to the new station after serving at the Post Office at Berkshire Valley and elsewhere. Mrs White was an experienced telegraphist. Her husband's duties wee to maintain the equipment at the Post Office and service the line from Toodyay to Carnamah. There was no telegraph office in Moora until much later. With the advent of the railway, the old Geraldton Road became little used and in 1894 the Walebing to Moora Road was surveyed by HB Lefroy.

The townsite of Moora was gazetted on April 12, 1895. The name Moora is believed to have been an adaptation of an Aboriginal name for a well about 3/4 of a mile due west of the Moora Post Office - Moira Well. Around 1900 the town consisted of a galvanised iron hotel, a small store and post office (1896) a police station (1897) and a courthouse, which also served as a school for 10 students. Nedd Rudd made all the town streets.

Moora remained a small settlement for a number of years until the land sales of the Midland Railway Company's concessions in the Koojan area stimulated it's growth.
In 1906 some 80 applications were received for lots in the Koojan - Moora district ranging in size from 100 to 1000 acres. The land sales attracted men from the Goldfields and the Eastern States of Australia, many of whom had previous farming experience and who brought capital and ideas to the area.

Harry Seymour bought land at Cowalcarra in 1903. He later became the first pioneer of the Miling area when he took up land there in 1906.

The rural expansion and development was soon reflected in the growth of the town, which in 1907 supported a weekly newspaper 'The Midlands Advocate', storekeepers, machinery merchants, a doctor, banks, a land agent and houses. Townspeople were demanding more facilities and pressing for the Victoria Plains Road Board Office to be located in Moora. Moora was being referred to as the 'Capital of the Plains'.

In 1908 the Minister for Public Works proposed that Moora be included in the Shire of Dandaragan. The townspeople were against this proposal and unexpectedly backed PD Ferguson, a West Ward representative on the Victoria Plains Road Board and long time promoter of a Moora Road Board.

As a result the Moora Road Board was gazetted on December 11, 1908. At the first election in January 1909, HB Lefroy was elected Chairman, with the Board consisting of MT Padbury, P Dix, JR Hooper, JS Huggin, S Sheridan and PD Ferguson (also Hon Secretary).

By 1910 it appears that the Moora Shire had become an established agricultural area. Battye comments in 'The Cyclopaedia of WA' in 1913 that Moora was the centre of an important pastoral and agricultural district where the land was ideal for grazing and cereal growing. It seems clearly established by this time that farmers in the Moora area were producers of both wheat and wool.

In the era after 1910, the Road Board began the making of roads with bullock drays and horse drawn graders. The first motor vehicles arrived in Moora in 1912 but it was not until 1926 that the first motor trucks appeared. The Moora Road Board Hall was opened in 1913. In 1925 the Toodyay to Miling Railway was completed.
The water supply came to Moora townsite in 1933 and was officially opened on November 15. Roads were bituminised in the Moora townsite during the 1930's.
In the post World War II years, the Moora - Miling Road was sealed and many settlers came to the district under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme thereby reinforcing the agricultural base which is so strongly characteristic of the Shire of Moora.