Wooleen Station was founded in 1886 when Mr. James Sharpe bought the lease of about 90,000 acres at Yewlads Pool from Mr. John Williams. Williams came into possession of the land after it was rejected by the Wittenoom explorers who had mistaken the Wooleen Lake in a dry year as part of the Murchison River. They objected the land as the Wittenooms did not want a stock route running through any property they developed and the De Gray and Gascoyne stock route travelled alongside many parts of the Murchison River.
James Sharpe was of Irish decent and with a partner, David (Bill) Mawhinny, they acquired another 210,000 acres from J.H Monger. They then added another detached block to the North West by swapping country with Billabalong Station. This block was named Irrabiddy after a range of hills.
James and Susan Sharpe’s son, Ben, was seven years old when James moved the family from Northampton to Wooleen in 1887, after waiting for the birth of their third daughter. See page 3 of Walk Trail 2 for a description of their trip and first homestead.
The family continued to live on Wooleen and Ben was sent to continue his education formally in Perth, finishing in 1898. When he returned to the station it was to begin to learn the ropes of station work and management. Ben worked hard with no wages for 7 years but his efforts paid off. He sank wells and fenced the first paddocks on Wooleen with mulga posts. He erected the first windmills with wooden sails.
In 1910 Ben married Minilya Brockman near Balingup and brought his young bride back to the station; however he was no longer inclined to run Wooleen on a shoe string. James Sharpe consented to this and so further fencing and wells were sunk.
At the age of 36 Ben bought Wooleen from his father and in 1918 built the main Wooleen Homestead, as you see today. The home was designed with magnificent proportions and practical in function. Sand for thousands of handmade bricks and great verandahs had to be carted, loaded and mixed by hand as there were no cement mixers. Ben and Minilya had 1 daughter – Margaret, and 4 sons – Robert, David, George and Jock. All the family became shareholders of B.H. Sharpe and Co. As the family grew they bought Mardie Station to the north in the Fortescue district. All of the children went to school in Perth and returned to the station for work with the exception of Jock.
George was manager of Wooleen before World War II, David taking over while George and Robert were on War service. When George and Robert returned, George took over the mechanical side while David remained as manager and in charge of live-stock; and after twelve months Robert went to Mardie Station.
George married Shelia Christine in 1947 and moved to Perth for personal reasons while David married Sheila (Peg) Hancock in 1944. David went through a period of ill health and after losing his only son, Roderick at the age of three, David and Peg left Wooleen. George returned with his wife and two sons, Richard and Christopher.
In 1964 the Wooleen and Mardie business was split; Wooleen became the property of the George Sharpe family trading as Wooleen Pastoral Company and Robert Sharpe retained Mardie and the old name of B.H. Sharpe and Co.
In 1964 a string of bad luck struck the Sharpe family with young Richard dying in a motor cycle accident on his way home from Muresk Agriculture College. George suffered a heart attack and stroke in 1974 and never fully recovered, passing away in 1979. Christopher had replaced his father as manager at Wooleen and tragically died of a massive heart attack at the age of 34 in Geraldton on the 10th December 1984. The end of an era in the district of a fine and respected family came when Peter Burton of Meeberrie purchased Wooleen from Mrs. Sheila Sharpe.
The Burton’s had Wooleen for some 5 years before they decided to put it back on the market. Brett and Helen Pollock (long family friends and employees of the Sharpe’s) then bought the property in 1989 and it still remains in the Pollock name today with David Pollock and partner Frances Jones as managers.
(This history has been summarised from Road to the Murchison by Marion Nixon and R.F.B Lefroy to see a full history of Wooleen and surrounding properties please purchase your copy from the homestead)