Fred Bow

Fred Bow

This article, about local Esperance personality, and the patriarch of the well known Bow family in Esperance, was originally written for the Esperance Tide. What a fascinating character!

Frederick William Bow, the patriarch of Esperance’s Bow family, was born in 1869 in Dorsetshire, England. From an early age, Fred worked on farms, starting when he was five years old and given the task of scaring crows away from a newly sown field of corn. Fred and his older brother Albert got into trouble for falling asleep on the job in the cornfield. Fred left school before his tenth birthday, and went to work milking cows, ploughing fields, and harvesting grain with a scythe.
When he was 18 years old, Fred left England to join his brother Arthur in Queensland. Up until that time, Fred had never spent a night away from his parent’s home. Fred travelled and worked throughout Queensland, learning skills such as clearing scrub, digging potatoes, and also butchering, a skill that would come in handy later in life.
In March 1894, Fred heard about the gold rush that was starting in Coolgardie. He got on board a ship traveling to Fremantle. Once in Fremantle, Fred was warned that there was a drought in Coolgardie, and men were being restricted from travelling to the area due to a lack of drinking water. Undeterred, Fred tried to make his own way to Coolgardie. He made it as far as Northam, where he worked for the Dempster family for three months, undoubtedly hearing about the Dempster’s settlement in Esperance. Fred and his friend George Collins eventually made it to Coolgardie, where they almost died of thirst trying to make it on foot to their new claim 35 miles from town. After some tough negotiations to buy water, they made it to their destination – where their neighbour moved their pegs, stealing half of their claim.
After an unsuccessful attempt at prospecting, Fred found out that there was money to be made transporting goods to the Goldfields, especially the water that was so precious and scarce. Water was being sold at the time for up to one shilling sixpence per gallon. Fred bought his own team of horses, and then in partnership with Harry Eggeling, purchased two more teams. Fred’s brother Albert joined him in the carting business, and the brothers established Bow Brothers general dealers and carrying business. After Albert left to go back to Queensland, Fred carried on carting in the area, eventually owning fifty horses, seven wagons and twelve drays. He carted to every gold mine in the area, as far as the notorious ‘Siberia’ gold mine, 86 miles north west of Kalgoorlie, where an unknown number of men died of thirst in the rush to find gold.
In 1900, Fred applied for, and was granted, a licence to build a hotel in the townsite known as 25 Mile, located 25 miles north west of Coolgardie, that was booming at the time. The town’s name was later changed to Kunanalling. The licence came with a stipulation that the hotel had to be built within 3 months, and the Premier Hotel in Kunanalling was opened in April, 1901. Fred got a manager to run the hotel, and carried on with his carting business in Coolgardie, before branching out into farming when business slowed down. He grew hay crops, and kept sheep, with some success.
Fred’s sister Rosie came out from England to keep house for him, which caused some complications when Fred met a pretty girl from Busselton on a trip to Perth. Rosie had decided that Fred should not marry, so Fred had to get his new girlfriend to send her letters via his friend’s address. In 1905, after a year of corresponding by mail, Fred married Emma ‘Molly’ Barnes. Their first born child, Freddy, died in infancy, and their second born was a girl called Dolly. The Bows would go on to have seven more children.
With business in Coolgardie and Kunanalling starting to wane, tireless Fred started to look for another venture. He settled on Esperance, buying land opposite where Helms Arboretum is now, moving the family to the new property in 1913. Fred sold up his business interests in Coolgardie, and turned his full attention to the farm in Esperance, butchering and supplying meat from his farm to the town. The meat trade was a great success, and Fred purchased a Model T Ford, which was the first car to arrive in Esperance. Around this time, Fred purchased the lease on twenty of the Islands in the Bay from Charles Dempster, which were used to graze sheep on. Fred paid an annual rent of 5 shillings per island. After receiving a bill from the Road Board, he discovered that he had accidently also acquired the lease on the Dempster’s sheep station as well. Fred gave up the lease to the station, but continued grazing sheep on Woody Island, Cull Island and Charlie Island for many years.
In 1926, Fred’s wife Emma went to Perth to visit her mother who was ill. Emma herself took ill while she was in Perth, but she refused to go to the hospital. She had never been to hospital, with a midwife coming to the house for the births of all her children. Soon after, Fred received word that Emma had died. Her youngest child, Myrtle, was just 22 months old. The loss was devastating for the family. In 1932, Fred ‘fell for a second good woman’, and married Esperance woman Capel Hannett. Capel and Fred enjoyed eight years together, until Capel died in 1940.

In 1934, Fred opened a butcher’s shop in town. His sons Arthur ‘Moggy’, Charlie, and Neville ‘Diddy’ ran the shop, and the Bow Brothers butchers was an Esperance household name for many years. Since that time, the Bow family have continued to be a vibrant part of the Esperance community, involved with racing and football, among other pursuits. In 1948, Fred celebrated his 79th birthday at a party with his family and friends. The newspaper coverage at the time mentioned that 79 year old Fred ‘kissed all the ladies and danced the hokey-pokey’. Fred died in 1959 at the age of 90, with many of his descendants still living in Esperance today.

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