Southern Cross was once much more important and full of life than it is today.
At one time it was the centre of gold mining activity but as finds were made further east, it slipped back into being more of a sleepy backwater.
Other townsites in the Shire include Bodallin, Bullfinch, Ghooli, Koolyanobbing, Marvel Loch, Moorine Rock
Mining and agriculture co-exist in this area and gold, gypsum, salt and iron are mined while grain, wool, sheep, cattle and pigs are farmed.
The unusually named Koolyanobbing (which is said to be an Aboriginal word meaning place of big rocks) was first discovered by Henry Dowd in 1887.
Dowd didn't think much of the area but buried a bottle with some notes on his discovery near what is now known as Dowd Hill. The bottle was located in 1963 and the note
is kept at the Yilgarn Museum.
Today it is not so much gold that is mined in the area but iron ore. Portman / Koolyanobbing Iron sends the ore to Esperance by rail. One
of the earliest industries in the area, sandalwood cutting, is still in existance and contributes several million dollars annually to the economy.
It could be said that Southern Coross is both the last of the wheat belt towns and the first of the mining towns.
Visitors will notice that the streets of Southern Cross and many other mining towns are exceptionally wide. This developed because of the need to turn around camel and bullock teams in the streets.
Many of the streets of Southern Cross are names, like the town, after stellar constellations.
An expedition led by H. Lefroy
passed through this area in 1863 and a year later Charles Hunt
led an exploratory party through. Later
came through as well. None were aware of the gold that was to open the area up years later.
There are reports that during one of Hunt’s journeys through the area, three convicts that were being used to do labouring work digging wells found
gold nuggets. One of the convicts, a Russian known as Serge, talked the other two into stealing horses and supplies and making a break to South Australia. The group got
away only to be quickly re-captured and the gold find was hushed up.
This may seem strange when the colony badly needed the source of revenue that gold would produce, but the escape came shortly after the ‘Wildman’
debacle (see Broome for more on this) and the Government was afraid that a gold find would draw badly needed labour away from farms and businesses in more settled areas.
It has been a gold mining area since 1888 when Thomas Riseley and M. Toomey established mining leases in the area. Southern Cross is either the last
town in the wheat belt of the first town in the goldfields.
The name is said to have been given to the area in 1888 by prospectors Riseley & Toomey who found their way to the site using the Southern Cross
constellation to navigate. Risley later wrote:
'Myself, Toomey and Charlie Crossland, started out from our camp at Barcoyton. After prospecting the belt for some days our water gave out. Our blackboy
whom I call Wheelbarrow, said he knew plenty of Gabby (water) at Koorkoordine. When we got to Koorkoordine we found one of Huntıs dry wells, just as dry as we were. We
decided to start back through the night and return to our camp, distance about 40 miles, and we travelled by the Southern Cross - taken to stars to the north - thanks to
Charlie Crosslandıs knowledge of the stars. Or our bones would be bleaching in the scrub now, as we were two days without water at this time. We had to remain at our
camp until rains came, then myself and Mick Toomey set out again. We discovered gold four miles from Koorkoordine. I named the place Southern Cross.'
By 1891 the town had a courthouse, a magistrate arrived the following year as did the telegraph line. Initially there was no building to house the
telegraph office so the Telegraphist set up in the street with just un umbrella to shelter under. A building was soon erected and it went on to become the police station.
The first Road Board was established on March 2nd 1892 and in 1893 Southern Cross was declared a municipality (one source says August 1892). The
railway arrived in 1894 and the town maintained a steady growth rate.
In the book 'The Mile That Midas Touched' the author comments that:
'The Cross, too, had its heyday, first as a mining town, then as "head of the line" before the railway was pushed further inland. It was the "mother town"
of Coolgardie, "the old Camp", and at least the grandmother of Kalgoorlie and the Golden Mile.'
The town’s fortunes fluctuated with the price of gold and with the comings and goings of droughts. The population in town fluctuated wildly from year to
year but the number present in the shire seemed to remain fairly constant. By 1897 the Southern Cross goldfield had produced at least 62,000 ounces of gold.
Farming started to take over from mining and in 1927 land was made available for ‘dusted miners’ men who had lung complaints and could no longer
The scheme, like so many others, was not properly administered and men who had no knowledge of farming suddenly found themselves dumped on a piece land
and expected to make a go of it.
At first there was some success with 1930-31 producing bumper crops but the Great Depression hit and overnight prices collapsed. The wheat was owned by
the Agricultural Bank and farmers were prosecuted if they tried to sell the wheat themselves. Some did and were convicted and others simply walked off the land. A very few
persevered and one or two of them went on to prosper.
Despite the difficulties the first Agricultural Show was held in 1932.
As Coolgardie and then Kalgoorlie ‘took off’ Southern Cross became a mere stop on the
line and in the early 1930s the town was almost deserted. It was at this time (1931) that arsonists struck and several buildings in the town were burned down.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
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Yilgarn museum, Bicentennial monument, Hunt’s Soak, Number six pumping station, Cemetery, Fraser's Mine, Court house,
Frog Rock and dam, Karalee Rock. Vultee Vengeance crash site, Government Dam, Lake Koorkoordine, New Zealand Gully Dam, Maori Lass Mine, Turkey Hill,
Kokerbin Rock, Baladjie Rock.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
State : Eyre
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6426
Local Government : Shire of Yilgarn
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