Kojonup Historical Society
Kojonup is a town located approximately 250km south-east of Perth, Western Australia along the Albany Highway.
The name Kojonup is believed to refer to the “Kodja” or stone Axe made by Indigenous Australians from the local stone.
The first official exploration was done by surveyor Alfred Hillman who had been assigned the task of marking a track from King George Sound (Albany) to Perth in 1837. Unable to find water, Hillman was guided to the ‘Spring’ by the local Noongar people in the summer heat of February 1837. Hillman recommended to Governor Stirling that the ‘Spring’ was a good place for an outpost.
In September 1837 Lieutenant Armstrong and his men set up the first military outpost and erected a wooden shelter.
By 1845 this outpost had grown to support a Military Barracks and the stone built barracks replaced the wooden one on the site of the freshwater spring. Today, the barracks still stands on its original site and is one of the oldest buildings in Western Australia.
From 1854 onwards as part of their service, Pensioner Guards were given 10 acres of land and 15 pounds towards establishing their homes and developing their land for agriculture.
Elverd Cottage is a home built by one such guard, William McDonnell. It has been fully restored by the Kojonup Historical Society and is one of only a few remaining in Western Australia.
The appointment in 1865 of a mounted Police Constable marked the phasing out of the military presence at Kojonup. By the late 1860s the military had left and the Barracks became a school and a place for community gatherings, and later a private home before it became the Museum in the early 1970’s.
The town’s first Police Station was built in 1869 using convict labour, however it was demolished a century later. In 1930 a new residence for the officer in charge of the police station was built alongside the police station. In 1938 it survived the town’s worst flood and today it is a private residence.
The first hotel license was granted in 1868 to the Elverd’s Hotel, which then became Semblance of Old England, “The Commonwealth” and is now known as “The Commercial” or “The Bottom Pub”. An abandoned underground cellar still exists from the drive-through and into the shop next door.
This hotel was granted a liquor licence in 1868 which has been held continuously ever since.
In 1897 Kojonup had its first official Post Office in Spring street, which in 1913, became the home for the Pensioner Road School headmaster and is now the headquarters of the Kojonup Historical Society. The new post office on Albany Highway was built in 1913 and is still in use today.
In 1922 the hospital was built and since the mid 1960’s there has been several upgrades to meet the needs of the community.
Between 1863 and 1894 the children were taught at the Barracks and in 1894 a school was built in Pensioner Road and remained in use until the late 1960’s. The present Kojonup District High school had its first classrooms built in the 1960’s and for a time ran in conjunction with the Pensioner Rd school before it was closed. Today, the District High school and St. Bernard’s Catholic School, which was built in 1952, cater for all pupils in the district.
From the 1860’s onwards timber schools were built at several local communities, such as Boscabel and Marleyup.
Ever since the first recorded church service was held at the Barracks, the church has played an important role within the community. Currently there are four denominations: Anglican – first church built 1911, the second built in 1958. The Roman Catholic Church was built in 1913. The Uniting Church – formally the Methodist Church c1927 and the Baptist Congregation.
In February 1837 local indigenous people directed the Surveyor Alfred Hillman and his thirsty men to this permanent spring. This prompted Hillman to recommend this as “a good place” for an outpost. Used by the local indigenous people as a watering place, it also supplied water for early settlers. From the latter half of the twentieth century local groups stabilized the area and built a bridge, reservoir and a park. It is now the central focus of the Kojonup Spring Precinct.