Esperance history, farmer to give a historical talk at Esperance Museum

The Esperance Bay Historical Society is exploring the history of Esperance agriculture from the mid 1950s onwards. 

Pioneering farmer and former MP for Roe Geoff Grewar will present a free historical talk at the Esperance Museum on Tuesday, June 5 at 10:00am. 

Mr Grewar was transferred to Esperance in 1956 through the Department of Agriculture.

“I was transferred here when an American syndicate was engaged with the government to develop 1.5 million acres of Esperance,” he said. 

“My role was to carry out research into the development of the land. which was extremely poor soil by world standards and then to extend our results of the research station’s findings to farmers.” 

Mr Grewar supplied his findings to farmers for free and said his role was to encourage them to use the best techniques that were available.

He said past American developers had ignored local research as they viewed Australians as “primitive”.

“They went off and did their own thing and stuffed the whole lot up,” he said. 

“A lot of them went broke and lost their investors which were mostly film stars.

“They left and the few hung who hung on weren't very successful and they sold their interest to another American group, American Factors.

“They were sugar cane growers based in Hawaii and they established a very successful operation here.”

Mr Grewar said Esperance in the late 1950s and early 1960s was an “incredible town”.

“It served as the holiday interest of the Goldfields plus a small community of farmers,” he said

“It was a holiday town, there were thousands of people here camping on the beaches.

“At the same time the American influence was starting to have an impact, it was a mixture of old and new.”

Mr Grewar said Esperance boomed in the 1800s when it served as the port for the Goldfields until Premier John Forrest declared Fremantle would be the port for the Goldfields and built a railway line.

“That killed Esperance, the town virtually died,” he said.

“There was just a few shops and hotels and that was it.

“But with the Americans and private businesses, buildings sprung up everywhere and roads were developed.

“It had been a centre and then it lost all it’s industry and was falling apart, the American influence brought it back.”

Mr Grewar said he would speak at the Museum to give his impressions on Esperance ‘as it was’ and explain what was happening.

He said some remnants of Esperance from when he first arrived are still in existence but a lot of historical architecture was lost.

“Many buildings were destroyed by people who thought they should’ve been replaced when they should never have been replaced,” he said.

Mr Grewar believed Esperance’s future would still be mainly dependent on agriculture. 

A gold coin donation morning tea will also be held following Mr Grewar’s talk.