Mount Farmer Mystery

27 September 1854
“…we buried [Charles Farmer] at sunset, sewn up in his blanket, with his saddle for a pillow, on to which we lowered him gently in a horse-rug. I read the beautiful service of our Church for the burial of the dead over him, after which we fired our guns, and retired in silence.”

T.D. was working for a contractor at Twin Peaks Station in the Murchison at the start of July 1907. He was repairing a fence with the help of an older bushman, who liked to yarn as he worked. As they went about their work, it was inevitable that talk would turn to gold. The bushman casually mentioned that there was “a rich thing that he knew of at a place called Mount Farmer.

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The Countess of Bumbinoo

In 1894, a traveller to the Murchison goldfields would board a train at Geraldton headed for Mullewa. They were likely one of many passengers, from the well-dressed new chum to the experienced prospector, all with the same purpose in mind: gold. 

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Wild Rose’s Revenge

In order to raise money for a new building for the Independent Order of Good Templars, a Wild Flower Show and Art and Industrial Exhibition was held in the Miners’ Institute at Day Dawn. On 9, 10, 11, and 12 September 1903, people exhibited their artwork, needlework, baking, musical talents, writing, floristry, and collections in the hope of winning a prize. While it was not part of advertising, there was also a beauty show.

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O’Driscoll’s Loss

As was the case for many people, it was the goldfields that drew John O’Driscoll to the shores of Western Australia. He was born in about 1865 in Loveland, Ohio, USA. The son of an Irish immigrant, he arrived in Australia in 1889. By 1899, he had moved west and established himself on the Murchison goldfields as a storekeeper.

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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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Sister May

Typhoid fever is still very prevalent in the colony. Last week 129 cases with 10 deaths were reported, as against 75 cases and eight deaths for the corresponding period of last year.

Coolgardie Miner (WA : 1894 – 1911); 22 April 1896; Page 5; Typhoid Fever

On 17 April 1896, Sister May, a trained nurse, arrived in Fremantle via the steamship Adelaide. She was born in Bridgewater, Victoria, in 1874, and at age 17, she commenced training to become a nurse at Inglewood Hospital in Victoria. After a year, she moved to Melbourne before leaving for Western Australia in 1896.

Sister May

Two days after her arrival, the Reverend Rowe inducted her into the Sisters of the People. The Sisters of the People was an organisation formed in the 1890s in conjunction with the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Their purpose was to provide nursing services to the sick who could not afford medical help. Often, they went to rural areas. After her induction, Sister May went where she was needed the most and proceeded to Cue.

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Cue’s Decorated Bicycle Competition

But, as if to make up for the loss of the gum, nature has carpeted the Murchison with wild flowers. The sand in spring time bursts into flower – pink, yellow, and white – in one wave of colour through the land. There are some delicate orchids, but the everlasting is the flower of the Murchison.

The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA : 1894 – 1925); 28 September 1897; Page 4; The Murchison
Everlastings in the Murchison
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Pushball in the West

Invented by Moses Crane in 1894 in Newton, Massachusetts, pushball first came to the attention of Western Australians with a small article printed in The Inquirer and Commercial News in 1896. Despite briefly referencing the sport, it was not reported on in any great depth until 1902 when it was described as a game “untrammelled by vexatious rules.

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The Elvira Mystery

Two years before the murder at Mount Magnet, the Elvira mine, located north east of Coolgardie and near the Red Bluff, had been sitting abandoned for over a year. On 9 June 1896, Joseph Sorensen lodged an application and was granted a lease over the site.

Red Bluff at Coolgardie circa 1901. Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia.

Work began immediately. Joseph started clearing the mine out and on 11 August he was working on the north shaft. Having sent up dozens of buckets during the course of the work, he moved a slab of wood and came across earth mixed with stones. He began picking it away and as he did so, a skull rolled out.

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The Women’s Rush

Shenton Street in Menzies circa 1906

Following the discovery of the Golden Eagle nugget at Larkinville on 15 January 1931, gold was at the forefront in the minds of Western Australians. Reminiscent of earlier gold rush years, some men left their jobs to travel to the field in the hope they would strike it rich. Gold was the hot topic of the day and everyone kept their eyes peeled, including the women of Menzies.

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