The Case of Frank Griffith

Frank Griffith arrived at Peak Hill in July 1900 after a spell of bad luck prospecting. He obtained employment at the company Peak Hill Goldfields Ltd and started working on the surface before going underground. He planned to recoup his funds before heading out prospecting again.

Peak Hill Gold Mine circa 1900. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (090565PD).

Before starting work underground, he chatted to another miner and showed him some gold he had found at Quinns. The man, seeing a similarity to the specimens at Peak Hill, told him to get rid of it. Frank knew of its origins and was unconcerned. He kept it with him and buried it six inches in the ground at his camp, an act that was common among prospectors.

Almost every prospector had specimens he liked to carry with him, regardless of the risk he ran in keeping them when working for a company.

Mount Magnet Miner and Lennonville Leader (WA : 1896 – 1926); 22 December 1900; Page 2; The Griffith Case
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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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A Difficult Journey Through the Murchison

Travelling in a 1913 Buick from Byro Station to Perth, Mr D’Arcy and Mr Nicholls found themselves in various predicaments in 1917. When they left, it had been raining heavily. The night before, 80 points fell, which greatly altered the dirt roads. Twenty miles out from the station, it began raining again.

Refusing to turn around, the men continued onwards. They reached Narryer and stopped to have some lunch. While there, they were told that 136 points had fallen during the day. After leaving, they found that statement to be true. The road was covered with water. There was no way of knowing where it was exactly, so they had to judge where they were going by the trees.

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Youanmi Quarantines

As the influenza pandemic spread and cases increased in Western Australia, the Youanmi Local Board of Health held a meeting. On 12 June 1919, upon the advice of the Medical Officer, the board members decided to keep the town “free from an outbreak of the scourge.” Youanmi was to be protected, and all arrivals to the district had to undergo seven days quarantine. Furthermore, pickets were to be placed on the road to prevent people from entering.

Youanmi Hotel circa 1911
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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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Cuthbertson Exploration Party

Western Australia – The Coming Colony. – Wanted, a few men, with 250l. each, to join a well-equipped expedition to explore and prospect this new El Dorado, under an experienced Australian explorer; good prospects and profits certain.- Address Cuthbertson. 46. Queen Victoria-street, E.C. [London]

Walter Robert Cuthbertson’s advertisement attracted the interest of ten men: Philip Thomas, Henry James, Alfred Oldham, James Stanford, Robert Muller, Henry Beaumont, John Henderson, Mr W Smythe, Mr H Tarn, and Mr H Walker. Middle-aged, wealthy, and often with backgrounds in mining, they handed over their £250 and signed up for, what sounded like, the adventure of a lifetime.

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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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