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Dowerin – Tin Dog Story

The past and present and the spirit of Joe Anderson.

Dowerin spent almost 70 years in obscurity. Not many people, apart from those who traded in sandalwood, (these trees grew in abundance) even knew about the town then. Two striking features of the town in the 1800s were deep lakes that spread for miles in winter and thick, dense growth of native trees, shrubs and flowers – later cleared by settlers for agriculture.

This thick vegetation in Dowerin posed a challenge for early pioneers. However, the men who bought land were undaunted by the massive task. 

It could be said the pioneers who left their mark on Dowerin also placed it on the map. Without some of these enterprising settlers, history may have overlooked this West Australian town with the beautiful trees and wildflowers.

One of Dowerin’s most notable pioneers, Joe Anderson, came from Kalgoorlie in 1897 after he heard about a proposed railway line. In the beginning, he worked on clearing other people’s land before buying his own. Unfortunately, a mix-up in names with another pioneer – Johansen – meant that Joe spent a week clearing land that wasn’t even his!

Luckily, the surveyor, Mr King turned out to be a kind soul and gave Joe a letter for the Surveyor General explaining the mistake. Mr. King also asked Joe to return with him to camp and choose whichever block he liked from the map.  Joe chose new land but again it had already been allocated to someone else. He found this out just in time.

It was third time lucky for Joe when the surveyor allocated him land at Thirteen Mile next to Tin Dog Creek, named after the miners who left their bully beef tins on the way to Yilgarn’s goldfields. So determined was Joe to settle in and start work on his land that he left for Perth as soon as Mr King gave him the letter and returned on the same day.

Rusty the Tin Dog

Dowerin’s other famous resident is Rusty the Tin Dog. Rusty, a sculpture, is the brainchild of local high school students who were determined to leave their own mark on the town. In 2004, the students helped brainstorm ideas for the initial sculpture design, sourced funding for the materials and commissioned an artist. The idea behind it is to encourage people to visit Dowerin and a nod to its pioneer past.

Today Rusty the Tin Dog stands proudly in Dowerin, a product of two worlds that existed over 100 years apart. He embodies the survival spirit of the pioneers and the never-give-up spirit of the current Dowerin residents.

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Moondyne Joe

Toodyay’s most infamous character, Joseph Bolitho Johns, aka Moondyne Joe seemed to have been the Artful Dodger of Western Australia. His life resembled a character in a Charles Dickens novel.

The Slater Family

If you want to feel the true spirit of the word ‘pioneer’ then George Slater would be it. Making progress where there was none, George was a man ahead of his time and given to many firsts.

Joe Anderson

One of Dowerin’s most notable pioneers, Joe worked on clearing other people’s land before buying his own. Unfortunately, a mix-up in names meant that Joe spent a week clearing land that wasn’t even his!

John Lindsay

John Lindsay was one of Wyalkatchem’s early pioneers and a key advocate for the bulk handling of wheat. While John knew little about farming when he started off, he was familiar with the Australian bush and hard work.

Jane Adams

It’s not often that women are credited with the pioneering spirit, often painted as silent spectators while the men go off to explore uncharted territory. However, Jane Swain Adams’s name is known with the best of the pioneers.

Alice Cummins

Alice Mary Cummins might have felt completely at home in the 21st century given her progressive upbringing, interest in arts and culture, and an entrepreneurial streak - rarely seen in a woman in the pioneer era.

Uncover Dowerin's unique blend of history and friendly atmosphere