KANOWNA

 

Kanowna post office & site

 

GPS 30 37 55 S 121 34 52 E

 

 

 

 

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"My husband had been born in Kanowna, and so we weree especially keen to find old landmarks. We searched in vain. I have visited many once flurishing goldmining centres but none, I felt, was so desolate and bereft as Knowona."
From: The Golden Miles by H. H. Wilson.

Kanowna is a goldfields ghost town that once boasted a population of 12,000 with no fewer than 16 hotels and 2 breweries. There is little left to mark the place where the town once stood. It is an excellent example of the fortunes of mining and shows how dramatically a downturn can change a town.

First known as White Feather, the current name is thought to come from the Aboriginal 'gha na na' which means place of no sleep and refers to the rocky ground which is unsuited to a good campsite. It has also been suggested that the name originates with Kanowna Station on Cooper's Creek in South Australia. Another source states that Tom Doyle pegged out a claim that he named Kanowna and this later was to become the name of the town.

Gold was first discovered here in 1893 and the townsite was selected the following year. In 1895 a gold battery was established and a hospital opened. Credit for the discovery of gold here goes to Tom O'Connor and Percy Larkin.

Alluvial gold ran out quickly and by 1896 miners concentrated on sinking shafts in the area. 1897 saw the railway arrive and electricity was available but the gold had already begun to run out.

In July 1898 there was an attempt by a local priest (Father Long) to stop miners drifting away from the town by claiming he had seen a 100 pound nugget. His claim came close to causing a riot when the miners found that it was untrue. From accounts at the time it seems that Father Long was duped into making the statement by local businessmen who were trying to stop miners drifting away from the town. Father Long was beset by guilt over the incident and he died a few months later aged only 27. It was also noted that those suspected of instigating the hoax all 'came to a bad end'.

Another source says that the 'sacred nugget' as it became known was just a practical joke that went too far. The two jokesters had painted the broken curved arm of a cam with gold paint.

One miner, Thomas O'Connor, found gold next to the town cemetery and soon even the cemetery itself had been pegged claims on it.

The post office and railway closed during the 1930s and the school closed in the following decade. The last hotel closed in 1952 and by 1956 the town was no more.

The site of the town lies 22km north east of Kalgoorlie - but there is almost nothing left to look at.

Gold was once again located in west of the original town site in 1989 leading to the development of the Kanowna Belle Gold Mine. The mine officially opened in 1993 and is an open-pit style. In 2009 the mine produced 284,000 ounces of gold. To date the mine has yeilded in excess of 2.5 million ounces.

 

Doyles Hotel - Kanowna
Doyle's Hotel Kanowna.

 

Tall tales and true: Sophisticated Tom

Tom Doyle was a publican in Kanowna and although quite rich was somewhat unsophisticated. When he took his new bride on honeymoon to Melbourne he was asked by the Manager if he required the bridal chamber. Tom replied that his new wife may require the chamber but he was happy to 'piss out the window'.

Back home in Kanowna a dignitary was making a speech when Tom encountered olives in vinegar for the first time. In the middle of the speech Tom jumped up and shouted out that 'someone has pissed in the gooseberries.'

 

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