Frog in a Hole

Harry Ainsworth had done it all. He’d struck gold at Lake Austin, made his fortune, moved into a grand house in Geraldton and in 1895 became Mayor. By the 1900s he’d lost everything. Hoping to recover some of his fortune, he returned to Lake Austin and once more began searching for gold. What he didn’t expect to find was a frog.

Lake Austin with The Mainland in the middle. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 9022.M95H2).
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A Lonely Death

While searching for timber about two miles north of the Darlot Road and opposite the 19-mile well, Edward ‘Old Ned’ Ashbury and his mate, Mr Scott, stumbled across the skeletal remains of a man. They returned to Lawlers and, on 5 May 1901, Edward reported what they had found to Sergeant George Pilkington.

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The East Murchison Goldfields – where the remains were found. Lawlers is highlighted in red. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

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Robbery at Day Dawn

Finally, after a busy day on Monday, 19 November 1906, the afternoon was quiet at the Day Dawn branch of the Western Australian Bank. The manager, Charles Jago, was the only person on the premises and was starting to close up when a man walked through the door at about 3 pm. He handed over a £10 note and asked for change. Charles turned away to get the change from the safe and when he turned back he found himself looking down the barrel of a revolver.

If you speak or move a step I’ll blow your —– light out.

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The Yalgoo Bomber

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William Meleng

As he was acting as the Clerk of Courts and Mining Registrar in addition to his normal workload as Postmaster for the town of Yalgoo, William Meleng decided that he had better start the day early. At 5:30 am on Friday, 13 February 1903, he arrived at the post office and began the task of sorting through the mail.

A package wrapped untidily in a piece of Sunday newspaper caught his attention. He removed the newspaper and found within it a cylindrical parcel which was neatly wrapped and sealed thickly with gum at both ends. The elegant handwriting (thought to be a woman’s) indicated that the intended recipient was ‘Mr S. W. Lowndes, storekeeper, Yalgoo‘.

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II – A Suspect Emerges

This blog post follows on from Part I – Murder at Mount Magnet

While we are not privy to the inner workings of John Ward’s mind, it appears he had been doing a lot of thinking. He saw and heard something in early November 1898 and had been mulling on it ever since the dismembered body parts were found in the Rose Pearl. He probably always intended to keep what he knew to himself however during a visit to Pierce’s Miners Club at 10pm on 9 January 1899 (and likely after a few drinks) he soon loosened his tongue. In the presence of Mr Pierce, Mrs Pierce, Miss Pierce, a boy named Pierce, Donald Hay and Henry Baldwin, John Ward commenced talking about the Mount Magnet murder.

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Mount Magnet circa 1900. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

At 1am on Saturday, 5 November 1898 John Ward was in Mount Magnet and was at his camp near the Railway Station when he heard a noise. He went to his door and looked across the road to see two men fighting in front of a French brothel. One was going through the fence while the other was leaning against it. John then heard three groans and all was quiet.

His mate, Louis Maddalena, was sharing his camp. Louis became curious as to what was going on however John told him not to bother getting up as “it was usual to hear rows at that place.” They both went back to sleep and John stated that during the day he went across the road to the spot where the fight had taken place and saw blood both inside and outside the fence.

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I – Murder at Mount Magnet

The following blog post contains descriptions which may be distressing to some people. Readers are advised to proceed with caution.

Note: many different names were used to identify the mine featured in this blog post. For continuity, I have opted to use what appeared to be the most commonly used name, the Rose Pearl.

For six months the mine known as the Rose Pearl sat dormant on the outskirts of the town of Mount Magnet. The company that owned it was being restructured and more time was needed to arrange for work to begin again. Until that happened the mine shafts were covered to prevent accidents and the Rose Pearl was essentially abandoned.

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The Rose Pearl Mine in comparison to the location of Mount Magnet. Courtesy of Google Earth. With thanks to the Department of Mines and Petroleum for details with regards to the location.

John Pringle had been the mining manager before the closure and as time lapsed on the exemption granted to the owners it became apparent that the likelihood of the mine operating again was slim. By mid-November Mr Malcolm Reid was interested in taking over a couple of the leases and lodged an application to do so. Wanting to view the mine for himself, he approached Mr Pringle asking if he would be willing to show him over the lease.

Early in the morning on Sunday, 27 November 1898, Mr Pringle and Mr Reid travelled north from Mount Magnet to the Rose Pearl mine and descended the ladder of the shaft known as ‘Big Ben’. They were about halfway when Mr Reid noticed a terrible smell. It intensified as they continued down the ladder to the bottom of the shaft (110 feet). Finding it overwhelming, Mr Reid lit his pipe.

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The Lost Tin of Gold

A ten ton crushing is going through the little 3-head mill on the Lake Way lease from the Black Swan in a day or two. This parcel is bound to yield well, and I will leave further comment until the mill has had its say.

The mill had its say and the crushing yielded 97 ounces of smelted (heating the ore so that only the metal remained) gold. The partners of the mine, Ephraim Walsh and Jack Wallace, would have been pleased. From Lake Way (near Wiluna) Mr Charles Milton (a Commission Agent) brought the gold to Lawlers for transportation to Cue under Police escort.

Gold Escort
An example of a gold escort circa 1901. This escort was in Mulline.

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Death at Lake Austin

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following blog post may contain images and names of deceased persons.

On 26 November 1930 Hughie King departed Austin Downs Station (his place of employment) and headed southeast towards Lake Austin. Foxes were a nuisance in the area and, as part of his job, he went hunting to try and curb the pest.

It was the end of spring and the steady approach of summer was making itself known. The weather was hot. Lake Austin (a system of mostly water-less salt lakes) shimmered in the unforgiving sun. The grass was long in places and perhaps it was the heat which drew Hughie to a small gum tree at the southeast part of the lakes. Perhaps it was something else entirely; an indescribable intuitive feeling. He approached the tree and there, beneath the limited shade and partially covered by grass and sand, were the skeletal remains of two people. Understandably spooked by the grim vision before him, Hughie did not choose to hang around and immediately took off.

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