(C) Don Copley
HEMA Map reference 75/A12
30 57' 15" S 121 09' 52" E
Railway station, Open air museum, The residency, Goldfields exhibition, Bottle & curio museum, Marble Bar Hotel, Ernest Giles grave, Warden's Court, Gaol Tree, Finnerty's House, State Battery, Tommy Talbot Park.
Golden Quest Discovery Trail. Self Drive 965km route through the goldfields.
Buildings of note
Government Buildings, Bayley St. from 1898, Old post office 1895, Old Primary School 1897, RSL building (former Marble Bar Hotel) 1888, Ghost Inn hostel (former Railway hotel)1898, Moran's store 1895, Denver City hotel 1898, YHA hostel 1899, St. Marys 1902, St. Anthony's convent 1898, Masonic hall 1895, Warden Finnerty's residence 1895, Old railway station 1896, State battery 1902.
Calendar of events
August: Races. September: Coolgardie Day, October: National metal detecting championships.
(C) Gladys Clancy
(C) Gladys Clancy
Europeans to explore this area were
H.M. Lefroy and
C.C. Hunt who were
responsible for discovering a series of waterholes that helped open the
inland up to further settlement.
In the early days there was no one of authority on the gold fields and miners had to keep law and order themselves. There were any number of fights and some thefts but compared to the American 'Wild' West the West Australian gold fields were fairly tame. The miners had a way of administering their own justice that was known as the 'roll up'. Any miner with a grievance to settle would begin banging on a tin dish until a number of other miners had gathered to hear his complaints. A jury and Judge would then be selected from the assembled men and the complaint heard. The decision of the Judge regarding punishment was binding and most serious offenders were quickly driven off the gold fields. 'Roll ups' continued to be used to enforce law and order on the fields until about 1903.
"Damn Coolgardie! Damn the track!
Along with a
large number of pubs to cater for thirsty miners there was no lack of
reading material. By 1895 Coolgardie had 7 newspapers, Coolgardie Miner,
Chronicle, Golden Age, Mining Review Courier, Mining Review and T'Othersider.
Not to be outdone Kalgoorlie had the Western Argus, Kalgoorlie Miner, Sunday
sun and at Boulder was the Boulder Star.
In March 1899 the Coolgardie International Mining and Industrial Exhibition was opened and ran until the 1st of July. The exhibition failed to get support from the other colonies (apart from South Australia) but it was well supported locally with over 61,000 people attending over the 4 months it operated.
Electric lights were installed in
June 1896 and piped water arrived in 1903, but
by this time Coolgardie was past its heyday and Kalgoorlie was becoming the
major centre for the area.
In 1913 the first successful locally built aero plane flew from Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie. With the onset of World War One the following year it was all but forgotten.
One thing is
certain, Warden Finnerty was the person responsible for sending telegram No.
3098 to Perth which read: 'Very rich quartz reef... Gold has been picked
up on the surface four miles square in granite, ironstone and greenstone.'
and thus sparked the largest gold rush in the nation's history.
From 1894 a number of different operators set up message services between the goldfield towns based on the humble bicycle. The riders were known as the 'specials' and companies issued their own stamps for items being sent.
This meant that the 'specials' came into competition with the official postal service and a number of threats of legal action saw the small businesses close down.
Some of the riders covered extraordinary distances. Walter Hamblin rode 320 kilometres from Coolgardie to Lake Darlot and then 960 kilometres in 7 days from Coolgardie to Cue. One of the riders, C.H. Bamlet, was even chased by a large pack of dingoes and had to ride for his very life.
Located in the Kangaroo Hills area south west of Coolgardie was a mine site that was first called Golden Hole. (The name later changed to Londonderry.)
Prospectors discovered gold and began excavating a hole that was about a metre deep by two metres long. From that hole they extracted 8,000 ounces of gold.
A number of companies wanted to buy the prospectors out but a condition of sale was that the hole not be blasted to determine if there was any more gold deeper in the ground.
Eventually Lord Fingall consented to this condition and purchased the claim. Soon after work began it became apparent why the prospectors had made this condition, there was virtually no gold deeper down.
Share prices in the mine collapsed and the mine closed down. Many years later suspicions arose that the prospectors had driven a shaft under the hole, found there was no more gold and then back filled the tunnel and built their camp over the tunnel entrance.
Tall tales & true: The first major mining disaster
In 1897 there was a tragedy at the Mount Charlotte mine when some dynamite caught fire. The practice at the time was to use candles with naked flames and one of these managed to get into a box of dynamite and set it on fire. The explosives did not go off but the miners fearing an explosion started climbing a nearby shaft to get away. The fumes from the burning explosives drifted up around the men as they climbed and although they all reached the surface alive, six of them would die in the next few hours from the fumes they had inhaled. Only one of the men exposed to the fumes survived but a miner who was not exposed and was working at a lower level suffered no ill effects. The truth is if the men had simply moved away from the fumes instead of panicking they would all have lived to tell the tale.
Pearl Divers in the Goldfields.
It was known that Modesto had been working on level 10 and this level was by now completely flooded. His only chance would have been if he had made it to a rise that was being made between level 10 and level 9. To see if he had made it to this rise all the debris had to be cleared from level 9 and the water level had to be lowered.
Rescuers had established he was alive by tapping on a rock wall directly above where Modesto would be if he had survived and they heard tapping in response.
get him out, or pumping out the water would have taken too long and Varischetti would have died
before he could be reached. The mine inspector Joshua Crabbe had an inspired
idea. He was familiar with pearl diving in the North West and made enquiries
about getting divers to rescue the trapped man.
Two divers (Curtis and Thomas Hearne) were found holidaying in Perth and as luck would have it they had
their gear with them. A special train was organised to get them to the
goldfields (taking 13 hours and 10 minutes to arrive) setting a new speed
record which was to last for the next 50 years.
Modesto, thinking he would never escape wrote several notes for those on the surface and in one of these he said:
'Dear Maringoni Guiseppi, I cannot tell you or make you understand how it happened. There is no man that can form an idea of what speed the water was rising at from the time I first noticed it. The water was rising so quickly that in a minute the drive was full, and I made up my mind absolutely that God wanted me in the other world and that he was tired of me. I was prepared to accept death. I wish to tell you to be quick, that I feel as if my bones are dying. Dear mates have pity on myself. I send you my greetings, farewell. I am your miserable friend, farewell. Modesto Varischetti.'
Two miners who had worked as divers (Frank Hughes and a man named Fox) were located and they set to work trying to reach the air pocket. Because of the difficulties of negotiating a submerged mine to total darkness the divers had to make 5 attempts before actually reaching the stranded man. Fox had injured his leg so Hearne agreed to assist Hughes with the rescue.
Luckily a rock
drill had been rigged in the rise and was able to still supply compressed
air so Modesto would not suffocate.
Fear of Finnerty
Magistrate and mining Warden J.M. Finnerty was almost a legend on the goldfields. He was known as hard but fair and was widely respected by the miners.
One one occasion after two men were arrested and there was no where to put them, Finnerty confined them to a tent. Such was their respect for Finnerty (and probably their fear of the consequences if they disobeyed) that they would not leave the tent even though it was a hot day. The day got progressively hotter, and the two men got thirstier and thirstier so they hatched a plan to get some beer without leaving the tent.
When Finnerty checked on the men later in the day he found them both roaring drunk and on enquiring into how they got into that condition without breaking their word to him, Finnerty discovered that they had pulled the tent pegs and walked to the pub under the tent. Rumour has it that he was so amused and impressed with their ingenuity that he let them both go.
Almost a duel
The only fatal duel in the state's history was fought at Fremantle but another duel almost took place at Fly Flat near Coolgardie in the gold rush days.
The trouble was between two Americans. Bill Adams had fought on the Union side during the American Civil War and "General" Bennett had fought for the south. There was bad blood between the two men and eventually a challenge to settle their differences with a duel was made and accepted.
They met at Fly Flat the following day and a large crowd had gathered to watch proceedings. Unknown to the participants, the seconds had only loaded the pistols with blanks. The two men stood back to back and began to step out the allotted 20 paces. Adams turned to find that the "General" was till going, walking off into the bush. Adams fired his pistol into the air and everyone appeared satisfied by the result. It was said afterwards that there were far more casualties during the ensuing celebrations than during the duel.