All that remains of Bowgada, a townsite in the northern wheatbelt between Perenjori and Morawa on the Wongan to Mullewa railway line is a small timber sign, the ruins of a house, a shed, some foundations, tanks and several established trees. The town was gazetted as Chubble in 1913 with one journalist commenting that ‘a more unfitting and unmelodious appellation could hardly be found’.[1] The name was changed to Bowgada, to avoid confusion for the Bowgada pastoral station east of Mingenew, in 1914. Bowgada is said to be the Aboriginal name of a local bush, the botanical name of which is Ramulosa.[2]

Settlement began from around 1910 with the arrival of Jim and Harry Campbell in the district. They were ‘young and energetic’ and soon began ringbarking and clearing their land. The railway was open for traffic from 5 April 1915.

Horses were gradually replaced on the farms and in 1924, although there was only one tractor in the district, five farmers now owned cars.[3] Areas under crop increased, cricket and tennis clubs established and a school built. Bowgada was described as a ‘flourishing centre’ in 1927 as it awaited a record crop of 45,000 to 50,000 bags. It had a strong community spirit with a recreation ground and a good cement pitch for the Cricket Club. The annual ball organised by the Primary Producers’ Association was popular and the 1929 a children’s fancy dress and masquerade ball in aid of the Christmas tree was described as ‘the most successful function ever held in the Bowgada district.’[4] In 1935 it was declared that ‘golf was by far the most popular sport’ with the Perenjori Road Board completing nine holes on new links between Bowgada and Perenjori, with a further nine to come. [5]

The 1920s were a time of strong community building. In 1924 Bowgada was described as ‘a growing district’ and after three years of struggle and with the help of local Members of Parliament, the school opened. Speeches at the opening described progress of the farming community from 1910 when Bowgada did not exist and 14 settlers struggled with no transport and lack of water to 1924 when 80 people resided in the district which had seen 14,000 acres ‘fall before the axe and the fire’, with 8000 acres under crop.

The school, with fireplace and tanks and with a ‘picturesque’ school hall was built ‘with the voluntary labour of settlers. It provided enough space for socials and dances, from the first social held in February 1924 welcoming the school teacher Miss Kelly. A Parents and Citizens’ Association was formed and dances in the school hall became monthly events. The school closed in 1941 with the few remaining students bused to Morawa.

In 1924 the Chomley family moved to the district buying land and opening a store and post office. There are some fascinating reflections on the building process and the decision to start a store in an oral history by James Chomley.[6] He remembered arriving in the district and getting bogged in the ‘siding’ and meeting the district’s population ‘the whole six or seven of them’ who arrived to meet the weekly train. Seeing a wagon load of stores, the settlers asked if they could get a bit of flour or sugar.

Of course, everybody was wanting something and the old man thought, well this is no good, I’m going to finish up with nothing. So he thought, well, maybe it would be a good idea. There’s nothing here so I’ll start a store. So he went down to the wagon and served out to everybody that wanted things, and then he and Uncle Reg built a shed made out of salmon gum poles, or gimlet poles, and ti-tree, which was in those days called a bough shed. That was the first store. He put all his store stuff into there and sorted it out and made it into a little bit of a store.

Then they decided that as we were in the township that was – or wasn’t [laughs] – that it would be an idea if Mother took over the position of postmistress and collected the mail and people didn’t have to go out to Gilmores to get it. Mrs Gilmore was delighted to hand it over. So the first store and post office was started off in that bough shed and just beside it there was two tents which was the living and eating quarters.[7]

It later grew into a ‘great big galvanised shed which was divided up with hessian, about seven foot high hessian walls inside.’

Chomley’s Store and Post Office operated to 1929 when the Depression hit and the family moved to their farm east of the Bowgada siding and sold the store to Stephen John Maurice. Maurice had recently arrived from Wales with his wife and son where he had worked as a shop manager. He moved to Carnamah for a few months until he shifted to Bowgada in July 1929 and set about reconstructing what now became known as Maurice’s store. Maurice put up a new building for postal facilities and remained in the district until around 1942. The timber and iron building was destroyed by fire in about 1932 – its foundations remain today.

The siding itself was often bypassed in the 1920s as settlers carted to Koolanooka, partly because of the direction of roads, partly because there was a weighbridge there. In 1929 it was decided to install a weighbridge at Bowgada. In the early 1930s farmers in the Bowgada district agitated for bulk handling facilities for the siding. Deputations to the Premier and other government ministers eventually paid off and in 1936 Bowgada siding was one of those 46 sidings to be equipped with bulk facilities by Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd.

An Agricultural Society was formed in 1926 and the Perenjori Co-operative Co. opened a branch next to Chomley’s store in 1928

They built a store right beside ours, and that was one big room with a wooden floor. Out the back there was a little compartment, two rooms, one for sleeping and big enough for one person to sleep in and then the other side it was just some place where they could cook and eat their meals and that sort of thing. They used to get what they could for breakfast and lunch but they always came to our place for dinner of a night time and had a hot meal of a night time, because there was always a roast or a stew or something hot.

The Bowgada Farmers’ Cooperative Society was formed in 1936.

[1] Western Mail, 3 October 1913


[3] Geraldton Guardian, 12 April 1924

[4] The West Australian, 1 November 1929

[5] Ibid., 8 June 1935

[6] State Library of Western Australia, James Chomley OH 2847

[7] ibid.

Times were tough in the 1930s and the Chomleys walked off their farm in 1939.

In 1949 the population numbered 177. The post office closed in 1974 and yards were dismantled the following year. The population is now around 40.