Despite being one of the State’s earliest settlements, Northam was slow to develop. The few pioneers that took up land grants were scattered throughout the district. After 30 years the townsite was scarcely developed; it was still covered by bush, had few inhabitants and fewer permanent buildings.
James Lever Ainsworth arrived in 1860 to turn a small wattle and daub cottage into the town’s general store. Its opening was a milestone for Northam as people no longer needed to travel all the way to York or Toodyay for groceries and equipment.