MAURICE COLEMAN DAVIES

1835 - 1913

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maurice Coleman Davies
Maurice Coleman Davies

 

 

Davies was born in London and moved to Tasmania with his family when he was 5 years old.

When the Victorian gold rush began the family moved on to the gold fields in 1851. Later he moved to Melbourne.

By 1856 Maurice had moved to South Australia and had gone into business supplying building materials. This business proved to be successful and when he was contracted to supply timber for the Adelaide to Melbourne railway, he developed an interest in the Western Australian hardwoods, jarrah and karri.

He came to W.A. in 1875 and the following year he bought up a major shareholding in the Rockingham - Jarrahdale timber company. His initial attempts to extract timber from the Collie River area were not successful due to the difficulty of getting logs out.

In 1879 he sought a license to cut timber in the south west but his initial application was rejected. After much persistence Maurice got his lease in 1882 and paid a mere 150 pounds a year to work 46,000 acres.

 

Jetties for exporting the timber were constructed at Flinders and Hamelin bays and over 100 miles of railway line was developed.

By 1890, the mills owned by Davies were exporting over 30% of all the timber produced in W.A.

One of the first problems was getting the almost unknown karri wood accepted in London. Jarrah had been in use for some time and was well respected in hardwood markets but karri was found (in some applications) to be superior to jarrah.

His six sons Robert, Walter, Herbert, Phillip, Arthur and Frank joined the family business and as contractors the family was involved in building jetties at Fremantle, Eucla, Carnarvon as well as structures like the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Alexandra Bridge and of course the development of timber mills at Boranup (1891), Karridale (1884), Jarrahdene (1895), and Coodarup (1882).

The mills run by Davies were quite progressive. The wages earned by employees were low in comparison to other businesses but Davies provided rent free housing, a doctor, clergyman and built a school, a town hall, a hospital, a racecourse and even a library. The company store provided for all the needs of the workforce and there was an agreement that prices would be only 10% above those in Perth to allow for the extra cost of freight.

In 1891 Maurice became a Justice of the Peace and was Chairman of the Augusta Road Board. He retired in 1902 and his sons took over the running of the business.

By the early 1900s there was fierce competition in the timber industry and a number of companies amalgamated in order to stay in business. In 1902 the M. C. Davies Karri and Jarrah Co. Ltd. joined 7 other companies to form the Millars Karri and Jarrah Company.

It was not enough to keep the business going and by 1913 all of Davies' original mills had closed down. Maurice died not long after the last mill was wound up.

The M.C. Davies memorial park was established on the site of the Karridale Mill at Old Karridale. Little else is left to remind us of what Maurice achieved during his time in the south west.

 

Chronology

 

1835 - Born September 24th.

1847 - Moved to New Norfolk.

1851 - Moved to the Victorian gold fields.

1856 - Moved to South Australia and went into the building supply business.

1858 - Married Sarah Salom with whom he had 12 children.

1867 - Became a general commission agent and merchant.

1872 - Part of a successful tender for the construction of a section of the Adelaide to Melbourne railway.

1875 - Came to W.A. .

1876 - Bought a major shareholding in the Rockingham - Jarrahdale timber company.

1876 - Set up a steam sawmill in the Collie Ranges.

1879 - Began timber cutting operations in the Karridale area. (1)

1881 - Helped to form the Kimberley Pastoral Co.

1883 - Owned a tuart mill on the Capel River.

1884 - Purchased Balmaningarra Station in the Kimberley and his family controlled Napier Downs.

1886 - Promoted karri timber at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London.

1890 - Karridale had become the colony's biggest single timber-exporting station.

1891 - Became a justice of the peace.

1897 - Davies went to London to float the business as a public company which was successful and M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Company Ltd. started operating with Maurice as the first Managing Director.

1902 - M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Company Ltd. taken over by Millars Karri and Jarrah Co. Ltd.

1913 - Died May 10th.



(1) One source states that Davies' application to cut timber in the Karridale area was rejected in 1879 and was only granted in 1882.

 

Links to more information:

 

Davies, Maurice Coleman (1835-1913)
M. C. Davies
Davies, Maurice Coleman (1835-1913)

 

 

 

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