Menzies has what is arguably the most unpleasant climate of any town in W.A. with the lowest of lows and some of the highest highs.
There isn't a great deal in the town to attract visitors but there are some interesting attractions surrounding the town that make visiting worth while.
Lake Ballard now features 51 metal sculptures created by artist Antony Gormley. The sculptures were apparently inspired by various residents of the town.
There is a very pleasant campsite at Niagara Dam on the Kookynie road and the near ghost town of Kookynie
is an attraction in its own right.
Goongarrie is anotrher interesting (if small) attraction not too far away.
Gold was discovered near Goongarrie by Billy Frost and Jack Bennett in May 1893. It was first known as the Roaring Gimlet of the Ninety Mile and for a while was a prosperous town
with post and telegraph office, two hotels and a number of shops. The town was a stopover for the daily coach from Coolgardie to Menzies.
Eventually, like so many other goldfields towns, when the gold ran out, the people moved on.
A mining town, Menzies was first settled in 1894 (and declared a municipality in December 1895) but has declined to just a small settlement.
It was named after Leslie Robert Menzie (Robert Leslie Menzies is sometimes quoted but is incorrect) who went prospecting in the area with John McDonald
in 1894. Menzie was an American who spent time looking for gold in America, Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The Lady Shenton mine he opened here with
his partners was very successful. Although the town was named after Menzie, the first gold find there was made by James Speakman in 1891. Speakman reported the
find but did not return to the area.
J.J. Brown, C. Kirby and C. Jackman found gold 20 miles north of Ninetymile (Goongarrie). Tehy dug a shaft six feet deep and found a reef bearing good visible gold.
L.R. Menzie and J.E. McDonald with their Aboriginal tracker Jimmy and Cumbra, an Afghan camel driver, were prospecting when Menzie met Brown at the Ninetymile.
Menzie agreed to inspect the shaft, with the idea of purchasing it if it proved suitable.
Running short of water, Menzie travelled to a rock soak eighteen miles east of Ninetymile to replenish his water supply.
On the return trip he strayed too far west and missed Brown's camp. His poor navigation turned out to be a good thing as he stumbled across a rich alluvial gold deposit.
On October 1st 1894, Menzie registered Lease No. 1380 in the name of L.R. Menzie and Sir George Shenton and Lease No. 1381 for L.R. Menzie and R.F. Scholl.
These were to become the Lady Shenton and Florence mines and were very successful. A series of other mines also operated nearby.
'The news of the Menzies (gold) discovery speedily attracted people to the spot, but the earlier comers found themselves very soon in difficulties.
Food supplies ran out, water was not obtainable in any quantity, and consequently much hardship had to be endured.' -
Twentieth Century Impressions of W.A.
The Lady Shenton mine was named after the wife of a major investor (George Shenton) and by 1903 it had produced 132,000 ounces of gold. By 1910 almost all
mining had come to a halt as the gold bearing ore ran out.
The town of Menzies was proclaimed on December 20th 1895 and a town council elected the following year.
In 1896 a typhoid outbreak killed 28 people and in the following 10 years it is believed that over 500 people died just from this one cause. The local cemetery
is one of the larger ones in the goldfields and reading the inscriptions on the headstones (many of which are actually made of metal not stone) gives an
insight into the hardships of the early years.
The local town hall used to have a clock tower with no clock. The original clock was ordered from England but the ship (Orizaba) bringing is across sank near
Rottnest, and no replacement was ever ordered. That was until the year 2000 when one was finally put in place in time for the new year celebrations. (I think
keeping the clock tower empty would have been a little more interesting.) A sizeable amount of cargo from the S.S. Orizaba was salvaged but the clock was never
located. It is just possible that the Menzies clock was sold to another town and has been adorning the clock tower in another part of the state all these years.
At its peak the town had a population of about 10,000, thirteen hotels and two breweries. Although gold ran out quickly the town was able to hold on longer
than most in the area as the railway ended here. It became the staging post and supply depot for other smaller centres further out.
The arrival of the rains from Cyclone Bobby in 1995 turned the usually dry Lake Ballard (50Km west) into the ideal breeding ground for 10,000 banded stilts.
The birds set up house, had their chicks and then one day just flew away never to return. How they knew rains had reached the lake remains one of natures mysteries.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
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Goongarrie National Park. Town hall, Railway station, Old police station, Cemetery, Baker’s oven, Old hotel, Old post office.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Town hall, Railway station, Old ploice station, Old Menzies Hotel, Railway Hotel (Now called Menzies Hotel), Lady Shenton Hotel.
State : Kalgoorlie
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6436
Local Government : Shire of Menzies
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