Barton's Mill

Bush Landing 1 Mile From Pickering Brook, Near Carilla School Site

The name “Barton” has stuck to first one mill then another in the area ever since. Alexander Barton was the foreman at Baxter and Prince’s No. 1 Mill at Donnybrook in the period up to at least 1901. From 1903 to 1905 he was foreman with Millars at Denmark. After that he was cutting timber for Millars and shifted along the Canning Mills bush line until in 1907 Barton set up a small mill about 3km east of Pickering Brook at the back of the Carilla Hall. Millars had bought this mill by July 1909, which was referred to from then on as Barton’s Mill. After a change of site or two, the mill was burnt down in 1924 and another mill was erected 14km east of Pickering Brook.


John Alexander Barton died on July 13th, 1908 aged 42 at Barton’s Mill. He was struck on the head by a join in a belt driving the saws, and was brought down to Harry Catchpole’s house on a stretcher. Mrs. Catchpole and Mrs. W. Hewison were making lunch, but he was dead when they got him there. Although there is another record the states he may have died from heart trouble.

When Millars took over the operations of the mill, and it was moved and became No. 4, two miles east of the original mill site. They appointed Alfred Cook as mill foreman under the management of Ernest Thompson, an ex-officer of the company’s Hoffman and Denmark mills. On Thompson’s death in 1931 cook became manager, remaining there till he succeeded F. L. Brady at Jarrahdale on his retirement in 1935. “Alf” Cook was a typical Australian. He had an enviable memory for faces, facts and fancies associated with men and mills in the West.

Copyright: Pickering Brook Heritage Group 2008 - 2016

Plan Showing Layout of Barton's Mill C1925 Information Supplied by Rose Giumelli, Mac & Pam Beard, & Irene White 2009

The original construction of Barton’s Mill was an open-sided building with a tin roof supported by bush poles, probably 60 feet (18 metres) by 100 feet (30 metres). It was burnt down in 1924 and rebuilt by Millars. In 1978 Joe Brown was talking about his father, the teamster Johnny Brown explaining that the No. 1 (Carilla) and No. 2 (in the Kingsmill Road area) were true saw mills. There were other “mills” numbered from one to six which were in fact log landings. A mill was built by a man called McKenzie and was placed next to No. 6 log landing and became known as “McKenzie’s Mill”.

The W.A.G.R. took over the railway from Pickering Brook to Canning Mills on 17th November 1910 and a new extension was added to Karragullen on 5th August 1912, following the route of one of the old bush tramlines. Until then, Millers locomotives were housed at the old Canning Timber Station and the locomotive workshop continued to operate, except for major repairs which were sent to Yarloop. After that they were based at Barton’s Mill.

An extensive bush railway extended south-east from Barton’s mill towards the Brookton Highway and Mount Dale and eventually totaled about 86 km. The longest spur was about 31 km from the mill to the forest. The mill closed during the World War 11 and was dismantled early in 1944, when the mill site became the Barton’s Mill Prison settlement. The rails were recovered later that year.

One of the Drivers employed at Barton’s Mill in the early days was Harry Catchpole, who drove locos for 26 years. Catchpole was born at White’s Mill, Mount Helena, in January 1892 and went to Canning Mills area in 1912 to begin falling for Dave Anderson, a contractor who used a steam traction engine to pull logs to Barton’s Mill. The steam traction engine was a jack-of-all-workhorses – a slow, cumbersome steam-driven leviathan with big steel wheels, capable of hauling heavy logs through the bush or of being used as a stationary engine to drive circular saws, as indeed was the case at Canning Mills. Anderson also used horses and whims, his teamster in the early days being a man called Johnny Brown. Syd Smailes was another contractor with a team of horses.

Before Harry Catchpole got his loco certificate in 1913 he was a fireman, stoking the boilers with the wood which, costing the company almost nothing, provided a plentiful and cheap source of power. Arthur Jones was his driver. Just after he got his certificate, Catchpole went off to the war, was gassed in the trenches along with so many of his contempories, and the gas, partly destroyed an optic nerve, causing him to go blind later in life.

People at these mill towns made their own entertainment with dances held regularly. Events like sports days were very popular with Ladie’s and Men’s races highly competitive. However the major highlights were the log chops which allowed these skilled workmen to show their skills. Competitors were invited from neighbouring mills and these meetings were held on a regular basis. Most mills had facilities where Cricket and Tennis could also be played.


Just prior to the biggest strike in the timber industry following an award which the men strongly protested against – it reduced their basic wage by sixpence and lowered a few margins. This mill was able to weather the storm that a strike of 12 weeks brought about.

References: Article: Pickering Brook Heritage Group
Cala Munnda A Home in the Forest – John Slee & Bill Shaw
Rails through the Bush – Adrian Gunzberg & Jeff Austin

Images: 1 Cala Munnda A Home in the Forest – John Slee & Bill Shaw
2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17. 18 Pam Beard
4, 5, 16 Tom Price
8, 9, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41 Pickering Brook Heritage Group
15 Stephanie O’Meagher
19, 20, 21, 35 Irene White
30 Lyn Poletti
31 E. Yates (Sunday Times Sun 13th April 1924)
32, 33, 34 City of Armadale Library
36 Bethnay Pilling