Ron Richards, Brenda Beacham, Mervyn Beacham, Ian Beacham, Ross Hicks, Jeff Murray and Graham Hicks at the plaque site.

Early settlers’ tragedy is commemorated by plaque

The plaque's story is a reminder of the days when Aboriginal and European relations were at their worst in the colony.
June 6, 2024
Mike Peeters

THE Beacham family recently unveiled a historical plaque at the eastern end of Old York Road in Greenmount in recognition of early settler Reuben Beacham (11) who died tragically near Chippers Leap on February 3, 1832.

Family relative Ross Hicks said the new plaque complemented an earlier plaque on the site which mistakenly listed Reuben’s age as 14, not 11.

“John Chipper and Reuben Beacham were taking a bullock cart from Guildford to York for a Mr Leroux when the tragedy occurred, with Mr Chipper the only survivor,” Mr Hicks said.

He said John Chipper was one of the Swan River settlement’s first colonists, arriving in 1829 as an indentured worker to James Henty, with whom he stayed for approximately two years.

“On meeting some Aboriginals, Chipper mistakenly thought they wanted to exchange a spear for some food, but was stabbed in the arm and back,” Mr Hicks said.

“He then ran down a steep hill away from the cart and escaped by leaping off boulders and running seven miles to safety.

“Young Reuben Beacham attempted to follow Chipper but was speared and died.”

John Chipper’s escape was miraculous due to the ruggedness and isolation of the terrain, and the site of the attack later became known as Chipper’s Leap.

The tragedy was also a reminder to early settlers for years to come of the days when Aboriginal and European relations were at their worst in the colony.

For more information contact the Mundaring and Hills Historical Society.

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