M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Timber Company

History

The M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Timber Company, was a timber empire in the South West of WA. It employed hundreds of men, laid over a hundred kilometres of private railway, built its own private ports for exporting of timber and even had it's own currency!

Having migrated to WA in 1875, Maurice Davies was granted a licence to cut timber in 1876. He erected two saw mills on the Collie River. The success of these mills was limited, so he redirected his interest to the karri and jarrah forests near Augusta. He bought shares in the "Rockingham Jarrah Timber Company" and studied its operation. He quickly realised the mills needed to be located near harbours to reduce transport costs. A railway network also needed to be established to service the mills, replacing the bullock teams that struggled in the harsh terrain. In essence the industry had to work efficiently for it to be successful.
He obtained timber rights in 1882. His business prospered, and he built numerous saw mills and over 100 kilometres of railway line to move the timber. Jetties were built in to load ships in Hamelin and Flinders Bays, and the town of Karridale was established to house the hundreds of workers employed by Davies. His business became so successful that by 1890 he was responsible for 32% of all timber exported from WA. Timber demand was so great that it became WA's second largest export, behind wool. The London streets of Pall Mall, Piccadilly and Regent were paved with M.C. Davies karri blocks.

By 1894, all six of his sons were involved in the business, and the name of the business was changed from M.C.Davies to M.C.Davies Company Ltd. The business continued to prosper and expand, but the timber markets expanded even more rapidly, and by 1897 the company no longer had the resources to keep pace with market growth. In that year, Davies went to London to float the business as a public company, under the name M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Company Ltd.

The first train the business purchased was "Kate" in 1895. It worked at Karridale, Yarloop, Jarrahdale and Marrinup until 1917, when it was sold to the Public Works Department and sent to the Wyndham Meat Works. By 1953, it was unused, and in 1963 it was donated to the Margaret River Rotary Club, who preserved it in the park on the way into Margaret River.

1897 to 1902 were difficult years for the company. A lot of competing companies had entered the timber market in WA, and there was fierce competition. Overseas markets were flooded with Jarrah and Karri. In 1902, M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Co. Ltd amalgamated with seven other companies to form the Millars Karri and Jarrah Company, informally known as the Millars Combine. The main Karridale mill was closed in 1900 and the Boranup Mill closed in 1910, and by 1913 all of the M.C.Davies Company mills were closed. The rail line was purchased by the government in 1912 and in 1925 it was extended to Busselton to service the remaining timber industry, the original group settlements, farming and domestic passengers. The line eventually closed in 1957.

Maurice Coleman Davies retired after the formation of the Millers Combine. He died at his home in Perth on 10 May 1913. A memorial park in his honour can be found at Old Karridale. The township of Karridale was reduced to ashes by the huge bushfires of 1961.

During M.C. Davies time in the WA's South-West he was instrumental in establishing sawmills at Coodardup, Karridale, Boranup and Jarrahdene, the town of Karridale, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, the Hamelin Bay and Flinders Bay Jetties, Alexandra Bridge and the extensive railway network that was required to transport the timbers to the ports. He was also the first Chairman of the Augusta Road Board (1891) where he negotiated improved road conditions.

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