Laverton is the starting point for a 4wd track which leads east to Uluru. The area it travels over is very remote and inhospitable so trips through this region must be carefully planned.
The town itself is somewhat dry and dusty even in what is considered the winter. It is a working town that caters mostly for those involved in the mining operations nearby but
there are some interesting attractions in the area and some travellers are drawn here for the 4x4 trekking adventures that can be had to the east of town.
The Outback Way heads east from Laverton and takes travellers through the heart of Australia to Winton in Queensland.
The Anne Beadell Highway heads across to Coober Pedy in South Australia and the David Carnegie Road leads travellers to the Gunbarrell Highway and
Canning Stock Route. It is little wonder that so many 4x4 enthusiasts use the town as a jumping off point into the 'great unknown'.
Gold was discovered in the 1890s and the town was gazetted in 1900 (another source quotes 1898 but this appears to have been when the first town site was proposed 3
kilometres from the current location.)
The town was originally known as British Flag - the name of the first mine in the area - but it was renamed in honour of
Dr. Charles William Laver, a doctor who
travelled with John Forrest
in 1869. The Aboriginal name for the area was Buckanoo.
Laver was the son of a convict who 'made good'. He was born in 1863 at Chinaman's Creek near Castlemaine, Victoria. He worked as a drover and at one
stage helped bring livestock to the remote Kimberley region. It was while he was there that a prospector gave him a small
gold nugget. This sparked his interest in prospecting and led him to come to W.A. goldfields when the goldrush started.
Laver studied medicine in Britain and was working as a doctor in Coolgardie when he met a group of miners who had just staked
a claim that they called British Flag. They told Laver about the find and he purchased a bicycle and rode 390 kilometres out to the area to see for himself
what was going on. On his first prospecting trip Laver found 600 oz of gold and he then began promoting the find to investors in England.
Although interested in prospecting, Laver was always a doctor first and he never refused treatment to any who needed it, even if they could not pay.
During its early mining period the town had a reputation to equal any of the towns in America's old wild west. It was said at the time that the only person buried
in the local cemetery who had died of natural causes was a six week old baby.
‘Although the Mount Magnet goldfield can lay claim to several thriving townships… …there is not one at the present time, which possesses better prospects
of a prosperous future than Laverton.’ -
Twentieth Century Impressions of W.A. 1901
In 1969 nickel was discovered in the area and the town experienced a re-birth. The name Poseidon is forever linked to the area with a report of 3.65% nickel ore driving
share in the company up from $1.20 to $280. The Windarra project closed down in 1995 and the population fell from about 2000 to 700. In the following decade people continued to
move out of the area leaving only about 300 in town. Since then mining has returned to the area bringing the population back over the 1000 mark.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
This isn't one of our usual 'Tall Tales' but it is dedicated to the memory of young John Aspinall who lost his life on the goldfields.
As we travelled east towards the goldfields we found sign boards along the way that gave excerpts from John Aspinall's diary as he travelled the same ground
back in the 1890s.
John came from New Zealand to the W.A. goldfields with the hope of striking it rich. He made his way out through the wheatbelt staying at places like Boondi Rock
where he wrote : 'Monday 25th March 1895 - We had a wash for the first time in 3 days and it
was indeed a pleasure. It is a common saying that anyone who comes here should bring a waterbag, a can opener and a piece of hoop iron to scrape the dirt off with.'
'Wednesday 27th March 1895 - Early this morning we got to the Government bore in
the middle of the sandplain. The water was brackish (i.e. salty to taste) and
only fit for stock and they don't appear to care much for it.'
Further east he wrote: 'Bullabulling has a very good dam but lately a man was found drowned in it, so no one drinks the water - not that people in this country are very
particular, but the man was suffering from fever.'
In 2014 we drove out to a remote mine site called Hawks Nest and found a lonely grave. Reading the inscription we were sad to find that this was young John's final resting place.
Although we had done the trip in considerably more comfort than John could have ever imagined, we had trodden the same ground and somehow we felt we shared a connection
with this young man who had travelled so far and was to remain forever in this lonely place.
John was killed by a lightning strike and his grave may have been lost forever if it was not for Alf Thompson, a prospector who had stumbled across it and found the
fading inscription -
Sacred to the memory of
late of ... ...Point Otago NZ
Killed by ....ning March 18th 1896
Aged 23 years
Gone but not forgotten
Alf tidied up the forgotten grave and began a personal quest to find out more about the young man whose grave he had located. Eventually he made contact with
John's relatives in New Zealand and found John had left a diary. Alf wrote a book including entries from the diary and the mystery of this particular
goldfields tragedy was solved.
And Some Found Graves: The Goldfields Diary of John Aspinall (Hesperian Press, 1993).
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The Great Beyond Explorers Hall of Fame, Billy Goat Lookout, Heritage trail, Burtville Arch, Discovery Trail, Outback gallery, Mount Morgans, Hawks Nest.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Desert Inn, Old Police buildings,
State : Kalgoorlie
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6440
Local Government : Shire of Laverton
Click on a thumbnail to see full sized picture.