History of West Australia/Henry Gregory


Henry Gregory HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

CARLYLE remarked that "biography is by nature the most "universally profitable and universally pleasant of all things." Western Australia has of recent years been prolific in bringing the best out of men, and especially on the goldfields. Places which only a few years ago knew no footprint of man other than those of the intrepid explorer and the aboriginal, and were given up to the sway of silence, now resound with life. All this has been accomplished by men of fixity of purpose, who were not afraid to risk their lives in order to win a standing place of respect among mankind.

The progress of Menzies has been closely linked with the name of Mr. Henry Gregory, M.L.A., who was born at Kyneton, Victoria, in 1860. He had scarcely completed his education when, at the age of sixteen, he proceeded to the town of Rochester, and opened a general store there. Making an auspicious beginning, he carried on the business for many years until 1892, when, hearing of Bayley's great find at Coolgardie, he sold out, with the intention of proceeding west. Unfortunately, he guaranteed a contractor who was completing some large contracts, and lost every penny he possessed. He had a stout heart, and though his worldly possessions were swept away, he resolved to begin life anew in a fresh land. Sailing for Western Australia from Melbourne, he reached Albany in October, 1894. Here his characteristic grit or pluck asserted itself, and he started to tramp for Coolgardie via Dundas. A party of hardy spirits undertook the trip with Mr. Gregory, and they prospected on the way. The success attending Mr. Gregory's efforts was not of a dazzling nature, and would have disheartened one who had not his courage and will-power. On this dreary pilgrimage, which lasted four months, the party found only 4s. 6d. worth of gold. But Mr. Gregory had come to a new land to succeed, and succeed he would. He followed mining in and around Coolgardie for a few weeks, and then went to Kalgoorlie; and later on started in business as a general storekeeper at the Ninety Mile, on the road to Menzies. His house was a well-known place of call for both miners and teamsters requiring provisions. In December, 1894, he sold out his interests, and proceeded to Menzies, where he started in business, erecting the first house in the centre. Twelve months later Mr. Gregory leased his business, and opened as a stock and share broker. From the date of his arrival in Menzies, he invested largely in real estate and mining in the district. He threw in his lot with Menzies, wholly and solely, and took a prominent part in her affairs. He was one of the first to take a hand in fostering her in municipal ways. A Progress Committee, of which he was a member, was formed in April, 1895, and in the following June Menzies was raised to the dignity of a Council, and Mr. Gregory was made the first chairman without opposition. In May, 1896, Menzies was made a municipality, with nine councillors and a mayor, and to this latter position Mr. Gregory aspired, and was returned, and he was again returned on coming up for election some months later. To the various public movements in Menzies Mr. Gregory has always lent a helping hand. He has been chairman of the Menzies Hospital Committee ever since its inauguration, and he was one of the first to urge the Government to establish the local hospital. There are many other laudable institutions with which he is closely identified.

In December, 1896, Mr. Gregory was gazetted a Justice of the Peace for the North Coolgardie Goldfield. When North Coolgardie was made a separate constituency under the Redistribution of Seats Act, Mr. Gregory offered himself as a candidate for the suffrages of the people, and he was returned by a very substantial majority. It was a fitting compliment to pay to one who had worked so worthily for the chief district in the electorate.

Mr. Gregory, when he came to Western Australia, had to break entirely fresh ground, and he did it, strong in the determination that it should yield him the reward which must come from assiduity, honest hard work, and an unswerving purpose. His work has its reflex in the pages of Menzies progress, and than him there is no more justly popular citizen within the district.