History of the Upper Falls
For Aboriginal people, the watercourses were highways throughout the country. It is therefore likely that the Lesmurdie Falls area would have been on the route for people travelling from the sand plains to the jarrah forest. John Slee and Bill Shaw in "Cala Munnda: a home in the forest" write that "The earliest known records of the Kalamunda area, going back to the 1860's, reveal a complete lack of conflict between the newly-arrived white settlers and the original inhabitants, the Aborigines. This unusually tranquil beginning of white settlement in a part of western Australia was due to the fact that the district was little used as a grazing area. For thousands of years the black inhabitants had speared and eaten whatever edible meat they could find, and naturally this led to much conflict and bloodshed in nearly every other early settlements where grazing was carried on. Because Kalamunda was a timber and fruit growing district, it was thankfully free of the black versus white confrontation that has sadly blotted the early history of most of western Australia."
The area from the Helena, Swan and Canning River to the hills was occupied by Beeloo people , one of the 13 socio-ethnic sub-groups of the Nyoongar. Small groups of the Beeloo moved from the coastal plain to the Darling range during winter, to escape the rains and wind and search for seasonal food. The leader of the Beeloo was named Munday: Munday Brook, which flows into the Victoria Reservoir, bears his name, as does Munday Swamp (near Perth Airport). Munday was a fierce warrior and defender of his people.
The Aboriginal name for the Lesmurdie Falls was Jerrabinyan, which was a name used in many old maps. Later, they were called Manning's Falls or Manning's Gorge. However, the first European land-owner in the area was the explorer Alexander Forrest, brother of the then Premier, John Forrest. Alexander Forrest was granted land as a reward for his extensive exploration of the colony of Western Australia. The land was generally used to pasture beef cattle to supply beef to the miners in the Pilbara (1880s) and Kalgoorlie (1890s). This property included large tracts of the foothills but also the maps show it extended up the hill surrounding the falls. A native reserve at Maamba at the foot of the Darling Scarp was established by Premier John Forrest in the 1890s in a effort to care for dispossessed Aboriginal people. It was in the present-day Forrestfield/Wattle Grove area including what is now Hartfield Park. Daisy Bates (1906) was invited to chronicle the situation of the Aboriginal people there and her descriptions are poignant and heartfelt.
Local families remember the Aboriginal people in the area and their children could count in local language.
The first European settler in the Falls area was John Daniel Manning, who took up a homestead lease of 1,000 acres (including the Falls), adjacent to the original Forrest land in 1908. Again, this was originally for pasturing cattle, though Manning later turned to dairy cattle. He sold the property to Hasson & Co except for 35 acres at Falls Road. There he planted 1,000 fruit trees: citrus, stone fruit and apples. The property was handed down through the family on the death of Mr Manning in 1916. Fruit growing was uneconomic at the time so, after 10 years, the Mannings sold part of the property to the Pagotto family. Barbara Pagotto-Roper recollects that the old Manning house was so damp it was uninhabitable when her parents-in-law bought it. The land where the orchards were planted had to be drained.
In 1903/1904, Miss Kelsall was listed as a property owner (Lot 177 Falls Road) - she acquired Lot 178 in 1915. She was a neighbour of J D Manning, with both their properties straddling Lesmurdie Brook. She had a somewhat fractious relationship with her neighbour, writing to the Darling Range Road Board that "her very disobliging and churlish neighbour, Mr J S Manning, refused to clear his side of the Yule Brook thereby causing flooding on her side. " (Lesmurdie Brook has its headwaters in Walliston and joins Yule Brook in Wattle Grove at the base of the Lesmurdie Falls.)
In the 1950s, Mr Knight lived in the area now known as the Terraces; Miss Ellson also lived in another residence close by. This property was later sold to the Ruland family who built two new houses on the northern side of the creek and lived there until the land was resumed by the Metropolitan Regional Authority. In the late 1940s, Doctor Thornton and his family lived closer to the Falls. Dr Thornton was a GP, operating his practice from a shopfront near the Kalamunda Hotel. His wife and five children operated a café, based at their house. This property was later bought by Val Abbott before being resumed by the Metropolitan Regional Planning Authority in 1973.
......to be continued