Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this blog post  may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.

Courtesy of The Inquirer & Commercial News.


Wednesday, 5 August 1863 saw the sale of the Western Australian newspaper, The Inquirer and Commercial News at a cost of sixpence. A small newspaper, it’s four pages appear to provide evidence that Perth itself was still in infancy and several decades away from the boom that the gold rush provided. By comparison, many Eastern States’ newspapers at this time had double the amount of pages. Regardless of its size it still performed an important duty: informing the residents of Western Australia of the news of the day.

Quite a substantial amount of the paper is filled with advertising and important notices. It’s not hugely exciting information but it is still something I relish. It allows readers to experience small parts of history that were once commonplace but either now no longer exist or are simply something not seen by the everyday person.




A world vastly different from my own I can’t help but wander into my imagination as I try to visualise what it would’ve been like living in a time when it was important for a hotel to provide…

Good stables, large paddock for bullocks, sheep fold, and every accommodation for horses, cattle, &c,. &c.


Along with the ads, the Commissariat Office (the Government Store) placed tenders in the paper requesting the supply of various articles such as: axes, files, knives, nails, oil, blasting powder, rope, shovels, spades and wire. They also requested tenders for the supply of buttons, glue, frying pans, beeswax as well as 1,000 pairs of boots for the convict prisoners.


Winning tenders were also published in the paper. In this instance, Mr Halliday won the tender for the carpenter’s work at the Pensioner Barracks. The Barracks were completed three years later in 1866.



The Pensioner Barracks in 1905.

My favourite article from within this edition, however, was the report of the return of Henry Maxwell Lefroy (then the Superintendent of the Fremantle Prison) from exploring the area East North East of York which includes today’s towns of Kellerberrin, Merredin, Southern Cross, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

His sole purpose of exploring this area was to find land that would be suitable for agricultural and pastoral purposes and, upon his return, on 1 August 1863 he sent a letter to the Colonial Secretary advising that the expedition had been a success.

Sir. — I have the honor to report to you for His Excellency’s information that the Eastern exploring expedition, under my charge, reached this town [York] yesterday afternoon, all, with the exception of colonial prisoner F. Hall, in excellent health, and having suffered no great privations or fatigue.

It’s hard not to admire these early explorers. Henry Lefroy and his party strode forward into a relatively unknown area supplied with eleven horses and provisions. The area they were exploring severely lacked in water and their return journey reflected this as their provisions ran dangerously low.

In the progress of the expedition it has been necessary to abandon three of the horses, they having become so weak as to be unable to follow, although carrying no loads but an empty riding saddle each. I trust however that all three of these will gradually recover their strength, and at length find their way back to the settled districts. Several of the other horses have also during the middle and latter portion of the expedition been reduced to a very weak state, but have been brought in by easy stages, and little or no loads to carry.

All up the journey (outwards and homewards) was 900 miles (about 1,448 km – to put it into perspective, Karratha is about 1,535 km north of Perth). It was generally without incident and Henry provided favourable reports of the behaviour of all the members; giving special mention to Mr Robinson.

Not to be forgotten (and most likely the reason why the expedition party made it back safely) Henry requested permission to reward the aboriginal native who had accompanied them on their journey.

I would most respectfully request, as a well-merited reward for his services and good conduct throughout the expedition, that His Excellency will permit me to present to the native Kowitch the double barrelled carbine which he has carried during the expedition, with a written permission to him to hold and retain the same, as a reward of his good services in it, together with a portion of the surplus cartridges supplied for our use, and his clothing and bedding, which may now be considered as worn out.

He also kept a journal of the expedition and this was subsequently published in The Inquirer & Commercial News; the first part on 2 September 1863 (read it on Trove –

Henry Maxwell Lefroy was a man with mixed feelings as to his life in Western Australia. He’d originally had no intention of making it his home and only really hoped to increase his riches in the new land so he could go back to England and live comfortably. His hopes changed as his feelings towards Western Australia changed. Western Australia gave him the opportunity to be a useful, productive member of society and he found that this is what he preferred. The above expedition in particular led others to conduct further explorations and resulted in the eventual expansion of agriculture within these areas. When he passed away in 1879 he left behind a legacy of all that he’d done within the Colony.

As I close on this post and step away from the news of 5 August 1863 I finish with one final article. It is only a small sentence within the ‘Local and Domestic Intelligence’ section but it reports one of the most important pieces of news for the early Western Australians. In a town that was almost cut off from the world, news and letters from friends and relatives was often eagerly anticipated.



6 thoughts on “On this day 150 years ago…5 August 1863

  1. torikar says:

    The Guildford Hotel, is this the same sad one that stands gutted on the corner of Gt Eastern Highway and Guildford Road. Wouldn’t it be nice to see it rebuilt and delivered back to it’s previous beauty and elegance. It has such history with the early colony..

    1. Jess says:

      I thought it might’ve been too but it actually turns out that there was more than one ‘Guildford Hotel’ from about 1831. The present hotel (the one that was gutted by fire) was built in 1883 so I assume the one mentioned in the ad was a previous version. I agree torikar, the building needs to be restored and rebuilt to the way it was. Here’s hoping it happens sooner rather than later! Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  2. Ian A says:

    Fantastic article Jess, thanks.

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Ian! Glad you liked it. 🙂

  3. geniaus says:

    You have provided a mirror into the past. Thanks, Jess.

    1. Jess says:

      You’re most welcome. Reading the old newspapers is a wonderful way to delve into history. 🙂

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