The First Death at Paynesville

In February 1899, the Leighton brothers were progressing with the erection of the Tremayne Mill at Paynesville. To get the mill running, they needed more water and, thus, it was necessary to deepen the water shaft of the Lady Maude mine. Three shifts were put on to carry out the work. 

Locality Plan showing Paynesville. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S2168- cons5698 1354).

On Saturday, 11 February 1899, Ernest Harbordt was working the night shift in the water shaft with his mate, Edmund Lowrie. Ernest was at the bottom of the shaft, while Edmund stood at the top on the brace. 

At about 1 am, Ernest sent up a bucket. Not long after, Edmund heard something fall and then a splash in the water. He looked down and noticed that the candle at the bottom had extinguished. He called out to Ernest, asking if he was okay. When he received no response, he yelled for help. 

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Mahomet’s Treasure

Abdallah Mahomet arrived in Western Australia in the 1840s and, by the late 1860s, had relocated to Geraldton. An early settler in the area, he lived on a piece of land two miles south of the town, surrounded by sand dunes and possessing its own underground water source.

The Government allotted to him for the period of his natural life about ten acres of ground, a small portion of which he regularly cultivated…

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954); 4 August 1880; Page 1; Country Letters

Making use of the plentiful water on his property, he took to growing vegetables, fruit, and flowers. Carrying two baskets at the end of a long pole, he regularly walked into town and offered his produce for sale.

As he grew older, he became known to everyone as Old Mahomet, and the area where he lived was called Mahomets Flats. Alcohol, however, was a problem in his life.

On 24 July 1880, 70 year old Mahomet left his home at 7 am, aiming to reach Geraldton between the hours of 8 am and 9 am. He went there on a specific errand but refused to state what it was until he got back.

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