Spearwood is situated in the Aboriginal tribal district of Beeliar and it had always provided its original inhabitants with fresh water, good vegetation and wild fowl. At the time of European settlement the leader of the Beeliar people was Midgegooroo, father of Yagan. Tribe numbers were significantly reduced after European contact because of the dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land and their susceptibility to fatal diseases such as typhoid, influenza and tuberculosis when they were unable to access clean water or an adequate and nutritious supply of food.
Spearwood was named after the Spearwood bush which is a woody, evergreen shrub with perfumed yellow, cream and white blossoms that surveyors noticed was common in the area. In 1897 the name of Spearwood Gardens Estate was given to one of the first subdivisions in the Cockburn district and the new roads of Spearwood Ave (now Rockingham Rd), Troode Rd and Garden Rd were created in the Estate. Ten years later Spearwood was named as a district in postal directories.
Prior to settlement Spearwood was pastoral land and for many years Aboriginal and ticket-of-leave shepherds were its only inhabitants. Pastoral leases then gave way to large freehold estates and settlement started in the area in the 1850s when Alfred Hooker took up Cockburn Sound location No. 97 and Charles Manning purchased adjoining blocks.
The site of the present Phoenix Shopping Centre and other large parcels of land were bought in the 1890s by wealthy pearlers who invested in the area following a bad pearling season in the North West. Investors were followed by settlers who struck it rich on the Goldfields in the 1890s and wanted to turn their hands to working on the land and to take advantage of Spearwood’s close proximity to Fremantle.
In the 1890s George and Catherine Smart were the first of the small land holders to settle in Spearwood when they bought ten acres of land, set up a temporary home on Mell St and planted an orchard and garden. Stay tuned for the next edition for part two: Spearwood in the 1900s
– Luba Kambourakis, Adult Services Librarian. This article first appeared in the April 2012 edition of Cockburn Soundings
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