PUMPHREY'S BRIDGE

 

 

Pumphreys Bridge - Western Australia

 

GPS 32 39 44 S 116 54 18 E

 

 

 

 

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27 kilometres south of Wandering is Pumphrey's Bridge. Here in the late 1800s, William and Catherine Pumphrey cleared land and made a home for themselves. Their story is one of hardship and adversity, as is the story of their children.

It is worth repeating here as an illustration of how difficult life was and how circumstances changed quickly when times were tough.

William and Catherine arrived from England in 1854. They had 4 children in all, 3 sons and one daughter.

Living first at Pinjarra, then Marradong (near Boddington), the family ended up clearing land for a farm at the present site of Pumphrey's Bridge - known then as Hotham Crossing.

William and his wife worked hard on the land. They also leased other land in the area and it looked like they were building a secure future for their family but William's wife died from an asthma attack in 1885 at the age of 58.

William stayed on working the property until he was in his early 60s at which time he retired to Pinjarra to live with his (by now) married daughter Eliza. Strangely he did not hand the property over to his eldest son John until William had reached the ripe old age of 71.

John had been away working in other areas until he married at the age of 34 and returned to Pumphrey's Bridge with his 15 year old bride Isabella in 1888.

Later the same year Isabella gave birth to a boy, but sadly the baby died shortly afterwards. Four years later she gave birth to a girl who also died.

In 1894 she gave birth to another son (John Jr.) who did survive, and then in 1897 she had a daughter (Frances).

In 1899 a passing traveller found the two children cold and hungry hanging around the homestead waiting for Isabella to 'wake up'. Their mother had been dead for some time and with their father away droving the children had been lucky indeed that someone had chanced to come along and find them as they were just 5 and 2 years old.

When John Sr. returned to find his wife dead he could not cope with the children. There was no one to look after them at the homestead and he had to leave again to find work.

His son was given up to a home and his daughter went to live with a nearby neighbour. John Sr. lived on, on his own until 1908 when he died in Pinjarra from the effects of pneumonia. He was just 54 years old.

Two years later his father (William) died from heart failure at the age of 84.

John Jr. fought in the First World War and lived until 1950. Like his father he died young, only 56 years old.

Frances lived on until 1976 but never returned to Pumphrey's Bridge. After a succession of owners over the years the old house fell into disrepair but in 1989 it was purchased and refurbished, a project that took until 1994.

Despite all William's hard work, the property only stayed in the family for just over 50 years. A series of unlucky events combined to change the fortunes of his family but at least the house still survives as a link with the past and as a tribute to the pioneering spirit.

The grave of Catherine Pumphrey is not the only lonely grave site near Wandering. There are at least a dozen others known to exist alongside roads and buildings in the area.

Today there is a CWA building, tennis courts and other recreational facilities by the river. The area by the CWA building is a popular overnight rest area for caravanners and motorhomers.

A former resident of Pumphrey's Bridge (Shirley Wilson) sent us the following information:

"The Watts family bought the property and families lived there. During the 1940's there was a school at the Pumphrey's old house. Students from surrounding farms rode bicycles along the gravel roads to and from school. To my recollection Miss Dorothy Falls was teacher and then she moved on to marry, then came Miss Elsa Richards who later married local farmer Harrold Marshall. I was one of the Watts family who owned the property and was sent to school at age 4 1/2 to help keep the school open. Unfortunately within a few months we were bus'd through to Pingelly school. The old house was also done up when my brother Norm Watts married Val McGarrigal from Popanyinning; they lived there a few years."

 

 


 

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