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Yelverton, Henry (1821–1880)

by J. R. Robertson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Henry Yelverton (1821-1880), timber merchant, was born in London, son of Edward Yelverton, jeweller. He intended to study medicine, but at 18 visited America and then joined a whaler which reached the Swan River, Western Australia, in 1845. By 1849 he employed sawyers near Perth and was a cooper in 1853. That year in partnership with Cornish, a Fremantle entrepreneur, he bought the brig Hamlet to transport timber to the eastern colonies. At St George's Anglican Church, Perth, on 7 June he married Mary, daughter of John Marshall, a clerk; they had two sons and nine daughters.

In 1855 Yelverton settled in the Vasse River area near Busselton. At Quindalup in 1858 he built a steam sawmill and developed a trade in ships timbers, railway sleepers, shingles, laths and paving blocks, cut from both jarrah and tuart for export to the eastern colonies, India and Ceylon. He was also interested in a whaling station at near-by Castle Rock, was licensee of the Race Horse Inn at Fremantle, and smuggled tobacco as a side-line. When customs officials interfered he lost heavily, but his local standing was not lowered and 'general commiseration' was expressed for him; the locals stoutly contended that he had done much more for the district than the government ever had. He built his own jetty, roads, bridges and a horse tramway and employed up to 120 ex-convicts in the late 1850s. His fortunes fluctuated rapidly. Bankrupt in September 1862 and in May 1866, he recovered both times and operated until 1880, apparently with slack periods in 1868 and 1872-73.

In 1860, in answer to a government questionnaire, Yelverton stated that his timber operations were on a scale at least ten times greater than any other in the trade. In 1865, when all timber exported from the colony was worth £15,693, the quantity shipped by Yelverton was valued at almost £11,000 and three years later the Perth Gazette called him 'the oldest and most experienced timber merchant in the colony'. In January 1880 he was seriously injured when a huge log fell on him; because of the risk of moving him a hut was built over him. He gradually recovered and was able to walk on crutches but, aged 58, he died suddenly on 1 April.

His son Henry John, born on 6 April 1854 at Fremantle, took over the Quindalup mill. In 1898 when British financiers were showing a keen interest in the Western Australian timber industry, he was bought out by the Imperial Jarrah Wood Corporation, later absorbed into Millars' Karri and Jarrah Co. (1902) Ltd. He remained as manager for a time. From 1901 to 1904 he was M.L.A. for the Sussex electorate, supporting the Liberal government. He died on 14 January 1906 when he was mill-manager at Dardanup.

Select Bibliography

  • Inquirer (Perth), 15 June 1853, 30 Dec 1857, 20 Jan 1858, 30 Nov 1859, 24 Sept 1862, 26 Aug 1863
  • Perth Gazette, 30 Dec 1853, 4 May 1866, 11 Sept 1868
  • West Australian, 13 Apr 1880
  • R. Jennings, The Story of Henry Yelverton of Quindalup (State Library of Western Australia)
  • CSO records (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

J. R. Robertson, 'Yelverton, Henry (1821–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/yelverton-henry-4898/text8197, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 18 November 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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