Boom leads to establishment of Esperance resident magistrate

In 1894 a resident magistrate house was built next to the Esperance Post and Telegraph Office on Lot 18 Dempster Street.
In 1894 a resident magistrate house was built next to the Esperance Post and Telegraph Office on Lot 18 Dempster Street.

In 1893 the small settlement on the coastal plain of Esperance Bay was declared a township. Among the thousands of people that were arriving daily were government officials appointed to establish the town's legal and administrative matters.

The town in the midst of a gold rush had grown steadily due to the government reforms in place to make greater use of the tracts of land available for agriculture.

In the midst of the great gold rush and land boom Esperance was in its hay day.

A resident magistrate was established in Esperance to carry out civil duties and the principal business of conducting local court, the court of Petty Sessions, the Licensing court and the Electoral Registrar as well as the registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

All these functions were eventually passed to other government agents and by 1910 most resident magistrates positions were effectively abolished.

In 1894 Henry Bostock, Manager at the Dempster Brother's Station and town Magistrate supervised the formal arrangements with the State Education Office for a state school to be built in Dempster Street.

In 1895 the school opened with an enrolment of 50 children. In 1894 a resident magistrate house was built next to the Esperance Post and Telegraph Office on Lot 18 Dempster Street. This was the site of the Esperance Telegraph repeater station the government building built in 1875. The small repeater station building adjoined the residency and was put in use as the laundry.

The first medical resident magistrate in Esperance was Doctor Ernest S. Black who established the local health board.

The outbreak of Typhoid in the late 1800's hastened the movement to establish a hospital at Esperance Bay. A deputation from the townspeople delivered by Doctor Black resident magistrate and resulted in a two ward hospital built on the corner of Hicks and Windich Street.

An application was presented seeking two wayside licenses for fermented and spirituous liquor which was not encouraged and the course of action taken was to prolong the granting of the liquor licenses.

The applications were refused in the June 1896 licensing Court before Dr Black (RM). The two applicants re-applied and both gained wayside licenses in December the same year. In 1896 Henry J Jenkins opened his premises on the 25th December and AJM Saville across the road from the Jenkins Gibson Soak Hotel.

In 1896 school numbers grew considerably and calls for more room prompted Dr Black (RM) to send a telegram. He had advocated for a possible exchange of school sites further away from the business centre of town.

When the reply came from the Minister of Education it read "extra building in hand". The Mayor of Esperance Thomas Edwards received confirmation from the Minister of Education stating that the government would possibly favourably consider the exchange of the then school for a Council site.

The school in Dempster Street closed on the 10th September 1897 and on the 13th September 1897 a new three roomed state school was opened with an address from Mayor Burton and Dr Black (RM) to the children followed by Dr Black declaring the school open.

At the Bicycle Race Athletics Sports Day held on the 26th December 1896 after the singing of "Australia" speeches were made by Doctor Ernest Black (RM) in the company of Mayor Burton, Warden Arthur Hicks and others including Mr J R Connolly, Mr W Canning the government Surveyor, ex-Mayor Thomas Edwards, Councillors Stan Hosie and John Coleman.

Dr Black was an active citizen in the town endeared to many; he ably assisted in the formation of many sporting associations and was declared President of the Horticultural Society when it formed in May 1897. He was President of the Esperance Bay Turf Club during the 1897 and 1898 racing season.

When the Cricket Association was formed in August 1896 Doctor Black became the President. In 1897 the Esperance cricket team "Civil Service" played the crew of the HM Waterwitch who under Commander JW Coombe were surveying the Esperance Harbour.

Dr Ernest Black left Esperance on the 12th May 1899 on the SS Flinders proceeding to Perth to take charge of a medical department.

He was replaced by Dr Farmer JP who was the health officer and on call when a measles epidemic hit Esperance in August 1898. It is likely that Doctor Farmer attended the seriously injured pastoralist Campbell Taylor on Federation voting day.

As the population declined the Esperance hospital was closed and the building was sold and re located to William Street.

The Resident Magistrate's residence was also used as a relief hospital until the Wellard Hospital arrived.

The building once home to resident magistrates, doctors and their families was demolished in 1965.