Dowerin – 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.

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.

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

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.