A local landmark . .
Instructions to intrepid explorer Ensign Dale regarding the road to York dated 5th September 1831 mention Green Mount as a well-known landmark, but who named the hill which gave its name to a Shire locality and why is unknown. The land formed part of Governor Stirling’s 4,000 acre land grant which he named ‘Woodbridge’. After Stirling left the colony it was to be many years before his land was sub-divided into suburban lots.
. . with a convict history
The Swan River was founded as a free colony but labour was in short supply and, after petitions from settlers, Britain sent out convicts in 1850 to build roads and other public works. Greenmount was the site of an early convict station established on the York Road and remained as one of the largest along this road, although others sprang up as the road system in the colony was expanded.
. . and even rock-breaking but
Convicts from the depot worked at a granite quarry at the foot of Greenmount. The ‘convict quarry’, which provided ballast for the Eastern Railway was later taken over by a private company.
. . picnickers replace rock-busters
Trains started running regularly through the Greenmount area in 1884 and stopped at Greenmount to refill water tanks. The Railway Department introduced ‘picnic trains’ which became very popular to take advantage of the unspoiled bushland and scenic views.
. . Blackboy Hill
James Morrison, a land developer, acquired a portion of Stirling’s Woodbridge grant and named it ‘Blackboy Hill’ estate, after the large number of grass trees on this area of the hill. One of the buyers was an Ernest Wood of London who later advertised his lots for sale in April 1914. When war broke out in August that year the Commonwealth Government commandeered Wood’s land to train troops. As a result Blackboy Hill has become a significant site in Australia’s WW1 history, 32 000 members of the first AIF receiving their initial training there. Soldiers from ‘the Hill’ fought gallantly in the Gallipoli Peninsula, on the Western Front and in Palestine. Ten won the Victoria Cross.
After hostilities ceased in 1918 the camp became an isolation hospital for those unlucky enough to contract the ‘Spanish’ Influenza in the epidemic that killed many thousands worldwide. Again at the height of the Great Depression it was reopened to house more than a thousand unemployed single men working for sustenance wages on the development of roads and the picnic areas in what is now John Forrest National Park.
Calls to develop Blackboy Hill for housing were resisted by returned servicemen and part of the site of the ‘birthplace of the AIF’ was set aside for a memorial reserve when Greenmount Primary School was re-located to this site. The memorial today is the site of commemorations to mark significant events in Australia’s WW1 history such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.
State Registered Places in Greenmount:
Blackboy Hill Memorial,
John Forrest National Park,
Katharine Susannah Prichard’s House.
Mosaic ref: 2003.1 and 2009.51/2009.31
Photos below: Advertisement for Hugo Throssell’s ‘Lazy HIT Ranch’ at Greenmount, 1920s and (bottom photo) Machine gunners at Blackboy Hill Training Camp.
Background Photo: Map of the Greenmount area, south of York Road, circa 1895.
Scroll down to see the complete background photograph