The Harvey, Serpentine and Murray Rivers all empty into a large sheltered body of water known as the Peel/Harvey Estuary. Mandurah stretches along the coast
between the estuary and the sea.
A great deal of development has occurred in the area in recent years, yet the natural beauty of the waterways remains unspoiled. Houseboats can be
rented and the area is well known for large catches of Blue Manna (or Blue Swimmer) crabs in early summer.
Housing developments along man made canals make the area most attractive, and despite the fact that Perth is 80km north, many people commute between
the two to work. Development continues unabated in this area and we can only hope that the area won't be completely ruined as a result.
A simple formula for working out how to ruin a nice place is: Paradise lost = paradise + too many people.
Unfortunately since we first wrote this page, development in Mandurah has exploded exponentially. Housing developments along the coast have mushroomed south
and there are only pockets of the quiet peaceful setting that used to exist along the estuary.
Although we can only comment on what we have seen ourselves, it appears as though the numbers of crabs appearing in the estuary has sharply declined since
the late 1990s. Sand flats where there were once hundreds of crabs now seem to be empty in peak season. This would appear to be directly related to the numbers
of people moving in to the area and the huge numbers of crabs being removed from the system.
The same also appears to be true of prawn and mullet numbers in the waterways.
The Dawsville Cut, put through some years ago to help flush the estuary out, was a success for a short time and marine life in the estuary seemed to recover for a
while. From our own observations, we believe that too much pressure is being put on the estuary and that total bans on crabbing and netting may need to be put in
place before the damage is irreversible.
The area was explored by boat in 1829 and was first settled in 1830 by Thomas Peel.
A site called Peel was set aside for development which never eventuated. Named after an Aboriginal word, 'mandjar' which may mean meeting place, or watering place.
(One source also quotes 'trading place' as a possible meaning.)
Thomas Peel held land in the area, some of which he surrendered to the government in 1855 to cover monies owing. Later it was found that this land was in fact
held by a Fremantle resident G.C. Knight. How Peel managed to surrender land that he didn't hold title to isn't explained.
George Mackenzie was speared and killed on July 17 1830 and due to the ferocity of the local Aborigines, a garrison of 15 soldiers under the command of Lt.
Erskine had been established by the end of 1830. The following year the local tribe launched an attack on the barracks that was driven off. Attacks continued and
in 1832 Private George Budge was speared and Sgt. Wood attacked and wounded.
Attacks continued in the area until the battle of Pinjarra after which things settled down considerably.
In the 1870s a fish canning factory was established by C.E. Broadhurst and it was successful enough for a second factory to start up in 1880.
In 1878 the ship James Service struck a reef off Mandurah and was lost with all hands.
The area was slow to develop and by 1898 there were only about 160 residents. By 1950 a Road Board had been established only to be disbanded and re-formed
From 1963 population growth became more pronounced and in 1987, the Shire of Mandurah became the Town of Mandurah. Expansion was so rapid at
the time that it took only three more years for the town to become a city.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
Bushranger or explorer?
One of the early pioneering families were the Halls, after which Halls Head is now named. In general they were a hard working honest family but one of their number
fell afoul of the law by stealing cattle.
Frank Hall was the son of a well respected man (Henry Hall) in the Vasse
area. The youngest of 8 children, Frank was one of the first European children born in the colony. He spent his childhood mixing with aboriginal children learning
not only their language but a great deal of their bushcraft.
In his 20s Frank moved south to the Manjimup area and eventually leased land for a cattle station that was called Manginup (or Manjinnup) .
He got to know the area very well and when his cattle were ready for market he would drive them to Busselton.
All went well for a couple of years until Constable Finlay paid a visit to the Blackwood area where he discovered that stock had been going missing. On his return to
Busselton he investigated further, finding some hides that matched the descriptions of the missing cattle. On a local businessman's property the constable found live
stolen cattle, recently delivered by Frank Hall. Hall was arrested at the Commercial Hotel and committed for trial.
A muster of cattle on Hall's Manjimup property uncovered 80 cattle that had been re-branded and had their ear marks altered.
Just a week after his arrest Hall managed to escape while being taken outside for exercise. He fled to the bush and started life as a 'bushranger'. A 100 Pound
reward was put on his head but Hall managed to keep out of the hands of the law.
A newspaper of the day derided the attempts of the police to catch Hall and wrote:
'Hall has never been heard of since his escape. Notwithstanding the reward which has been offered for his apprehension, the array of police, the number of
natives, the little army of spies, all anxious to have a share in the reward, not the slightest trace of him has been found, no clue to his whereabouts, and the
police are as much abroad with respect to his movements and place of concealment as they were the first day he started. . . For aught they know to the contrary
he may be out of the colony. . .'
Hall proved to be a better bushman than the police and with the help of friends he managed to stay one step ahead of the law. He moved from the Vasse area to
York but eventually the life of a bushranger lost its appeal and he went to see his business fried, Yelverton, who accompanied Frank back to
Vasse to surrender to the troopers.
On the day he surrendered there was no one on duty (apparently they were all out searching for Hall) and he was asked to wait while the Sergeant was found
and the keys to the lock-up located.
He may have regretted his surrender when he was slapped with a 15 year sentence but his abilities as a bushman were to prove useful again later.
There was an outcry against the harsh sentence with the Perth Gazette leading the commentary:
'If it was inflicted at all it should be upon that class of criminal who are now large stock holders and who have been until lately, notorious cattle and horse stealers.'
H.M. Lefroy (Superintendent of Convicts) was also a noted explorer and when
Hall's bush skills came to his attention he selected Hall to accompany him on the 1863 journey through the area where Bruce Rock stands. Lefroy
later wrote of Hall:
'His well known bush experience and familiarity with the natives, and his general cleverness and smartness has induced me to solicit His Excellency's permission to take
him with me in the capacity of convict servant, which request His Excellency was pleased to accede to...'
In his official report on the expedition, Lefroy commended Hall for his performance and appealed for remission on the long sentence Hall was serving. Because Hall had
stolen from rich land owners the appeal was dismissed and Hall was returned to gaol to complete his sentence.
Eventually Hall was pardoned in 1871 having served 11 of his 15 year sentence. Hall moved north to the Geraldton and the
Shark Bay areas. He married in 1882 and died just 4 years later in Northampton. His widow survived until 1950.
Although popularly referred to as a bushranger, Hall never robbed a bank or held up a stage coach. He was a highly skilled bushman and a 'cattle duffer' who made the
great mistake of stealing from the wrong people.