Katanning is a large service centre for the northern areas of the Great Southern region of Western Australia.
There are several suggestions relating to the meaning of the town name. One theory is that it originates from the Aboriginal word
'Kartannin', meaning big meeting place. Another, states that the name is made up of the words 'kart' meaning head man and 'annin' meaning
meeting place. Another theory suggests that the name was derived from an Aboriginal woman, Kate Anning and other suggestions are that the
name may mean 'clear pool of sweet water' or 'spiders on your back'. It would appear that the real meaning has been lost in time.
The Katanning sale yards operate each Wednesday starting at 8:30am. On average 1 million sheep pass through here each year. That gives a
pretty clear picture of the augricultural nature of the surrounding area.
Earthquakes in the wheat belt seem to happen with some regularity and on October 10th 2007 a quake occurred not far south of town.
It was a magnitude 4.8 and was the biggest quake for 40 years.
The first Europeans to explore the area were a party led by James Stirling
in 1835 on an expedition from Perth to Albany.
Sandalwood cutters are known to have moved through the area in the 1870s but settlement did not come until the development of a railway from
Perth to Albany.
Development of the town first began with the coming of the railway in 1889.
Initially it was a private town developed by the Western Australian Land Company. The government purchased the railway and town site in
1896 and the town was formally gazetted in 1898.
Katanning has the honour of being the first inland town to have street lights and a public library and was one of the first to have a
public swimming pool.
The town developed at a site where the railway from Perth eventually joined the section coming north from Albany. Frederick Piesse had been
following the railway in a specially constructed mobile store and now decided to build a permanent shop at the place where the rail lines
Later in 1891 Piesse built the Roller Flour Mill and farmers began to crop wheat in the area. The mill was eventually turned into a museum
then a later restoration project undertaken by Dome has turned the building into a 22 room hotel.
Piesse had a hand in the construction of many of the early buildings and as he also owned the local brickworks, he managed to do rather
well out of it. He even donated 10,000 bricks to the construction of the imposing town hall which was completed in 1896.
Prior to the opening of the town hall church services were held in the local hotel (Chipper's). This obviously didn't go un-noticed as
it was even reported in the Sydney Bulletin. Locals breathed a sigh of relief when the town hall opened a couple of weeks after the
story broke and services were moved to a more sober location.
In 1897 a fire broke out in the hotel burning it to the ground. The cause is thought to have been a lit candle catching curtains alight.
A baby left in the hotel by its mother who was working over the road was killed in the fire.
St Andrews Church was opened by Mrs Piesse (surprise surprise) in 1898 after her husband had donated 40,000 bricks.
To house himself and his family Piesse constructed a seven bedroom mansion called 'Kobeelya' in 1902. The building contained a billiard
room, ballroom and had hot and cold running water.
F.C. Piesse had some very old fashioned ideas about people's station in life and could be quite autocratic, but his love for Katanning
and his tireless efforts to develop the town are what stand out most about his life.
He died in 1912 and his funeral was a fitting tribute to someone who had given so much to the town over the years. Some time later a
statue was erected to commemorate his life and his dedication to the establishment and betterment of the town.
The Piesse family was a large one and was to influence a great deal of the development not only around Katanning but north to Wagin
and Piesseville south of Narrogin.
A mosque was constructed by the newly arrived Islamic community in 1980 after they relocated from Christmas Island in 1974.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
Do not disturb
In the early 1900s there was an acute labour shortage in the area and farm labourers were beginning to wake up to the fact that they could demand
A story is told of one desperate farmer searching the local hotels for workers only to be told time and again that 25 shillings a week was not enough.
He was so desperate he kept on returning to the hotels only to find that workers had posted a sign stating that they would not work for less than 30
shillings a week. He even found one labourer asleep on his belly with a note pinned to his back saying 'Don't wake me up under 35s a week.'
Road Board scandal.
In April 1922 a vast number of financial records for the local Road Board dating from June 1919 vanished from the Board's offices.
The Assistant Secretary was arrested but when the case was heard in Perth it was dismissed for lack of evidence.
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Saleyards, Old Mill Museum, Police Pools Memorial, All ages playground, Mosque, 1930s garage, Kobeelya, Heritage rose garden,
Mini steam train (2nd and 4th Sunday of the month), Piesse historical winery, Herald print museum, Lions Park, Heart park, Lake Ewlyamartup.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Old Mill Museum, Mosque, King George hostel 1910, Roller flour mill 1891.
State : Wagin
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6317
Local Government : Shire of Katanning
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