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History of the old Oak Tree in Fred Jacoby Park

The damage to the old Oak Tree in Fred Jacoby Park caused by the storm on Tuesday 16 January is a time to reflect on the history of this park. The stately old tree had seen many changes over its 150+ years.  It is not known who planted the acorn, or exactly when, but in living memory it always stood tall and proud, admired and loved by many.

Felled due to storm damage 24th January 2024

Delving into the history of the Fred Jacoby Park and the oak tree it is known that the locality was first taken up in 1834 by James Drummond the Swan Rivers Colony’s first botanist who, along with naming many local plants, was known for discovering Gastrlobium calycinum or York Road Poison.

He had intended to develop a vineyard, but this venture proved unsuccessful, and he moved to Toodyay.

In 1884 Walter and Thomas Jecks developed an orchard and vineyard which was sold to Frederick and Mathieson Jacoby in 1896, and then owned solely by Fred in 1899. Fred and Mathieison Jacoby were prominent figures in the development of Mundaring from the 1890s onwards.  They bought several properties in the Mundaring area and built the first stage of the Mundaring Weir Hotel in 1898 when the building of the dam wall commenced.

Fred and Agnes Jacoby

The Jacoby Family History records the Fred “grew fruit trees, vegetables and daffodils, and also reared pigs and poultry for use at the Weir Hotel where he lived with his family for many years”.

When Fred Jacoby died in 1954 the parcel of land named ‘Portagabra’ comprising a cottage on about 28 acres (12 hectares) was bequeathed to his daughter Mrs Elfrida Devenish who in 1956 donated it to the Conservator of Forests to be known as Fred Jacoby Park, as a memorial arboretum for the purpose of education and recreation.

Shortly before Elfrida Devenish died in 1984 she and her husband made a final visit to the park to meet the forestry department staff who now cared for the park. They were driven up to the hills and expressed wonder at the changes which have taken place along the way. “When you are driving in today’s traffic you don’t get a chance to see what’s going on along the way”, he said. Mr Devenish added that it took 4 ½ hours and numerous punctures to make his first trip by car.

Elfrida and Richard Devenish visiting the park in later years


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