History of West Australia/Chapter 21
1893 TO 1897.
TRUTHFULNESS OF REPORTS—DIFFICULTIES OF NARRATIVE—WATER QUESTION—STAMPEDE FOR COOLGARDIE, 1893—DESULTORY DISCOVERIES—BAYLEY'S—POPULATION—NINETY MILE—MOUNT YOULE—HANNAN'S RUSH—CASHMAN'S—SIBERIA AND DEATHS—QUARTZ AT DUNDAS, SOUTHERN CROSS AND COOLGARDIE—WATER SUPPLY—MURCHISON MINES—NEW TOWNS—CRUSHING—A BONUS—PILBARRA, KIMBERLEY, AND ASHBURTON—1894 DEVELOPMENTS—MOUNT JACKSON, PINNACLES, KURNALPI, I.O.U., ETC.—LONDONDERRY DISCOVERY—WEALTH OF NATIONS—OTHER FINDS—MENZIES—YIELDS AND PRINCIPAL MINES—CUE MUNICIPALITY—RETURNS FOR MURCHISON—CHIEF CLAIMS—NORTHERN GOLDFIELDS RETURNS—DEPARTMENT OF MINES—E. H. WITTENOOM, MINISTER—CHANGES IN MANAGEMENT—NEW GOLDFIELDS PROCLAIMED AND NEW TOWNS—SOUTHERN CROSS RAILWAY OPENED—RAILWAY EXTENSION—COOLGARDIE MUNICIPALITY—MULLEWA RAILWAY COMPLETED, AND EXTENSION—1895 DEVELOPMENTS—WORK ON COOLGARDIE FIELDS, AND DISCOVERIES—LAKE DARLOT—LAKE COWAN—REEFS SUCCESSFULLY EXPLOITED AT MURCHISON AND EASTERN FIELDS—PROCLAMATIONS—NORSEMAN—GOLD YIELD—"BOOM" IN COMPANIES, AND RESULTS—INFLUX OF POPULATION-CLASS OF MEN—DESERT TRACKS—CAMEL CARAVANS—HORSES—BICYCLES—GOLDFIELDS TOWNS—IMPRESSIVE EVIDENCES—EXCITEMENT IN TOWNS—PRICES—DUST STORMS—PROSPECTORS EXPERIENCES—BUSH CAMP LIFE—ROLL UP CALL, AND LYNCH LAW—A SACRED CLAIM—DEATH SCENES—TYPHOID—WATER SUPPLY AGITATION—GOLDFIELDS ACT 1895—1896 EXCITEMENT AND INFLUX—GROWTH OF PERTH AND FREMANTLE—RUSH FOR THE GOLDFIELDS—INCREASE OF POPULATION—WATER CRISIS—GIGANTIC GOLDFIELDS WATER SUPPLY SCHEME—GOLD OUTPUT, 1896—DEVELOPMENTS ON VARIOUS FIELDS—COMPANIES—AGITATION—COOLGARDIE, CUE, AND OTHER RAILWAYS—REMARKABLE EXPANSION IN 1897—STATISTICS—COMPARISONS—POPULATION—OTHER MINERALS—POLITICS—THE GOVERNMENT—FINANCIAL CRISIS IN EASTERN COLONIES—CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS, ELECTIVE COUNCIL—PARLIAMENTS—FINANCES—ABORIGINES BOARD—CHANGES IN MINISTRY—GOVERNOR ROBINSON LEAVES, AND GOVERNOR SMITH ARRIVES—BUDGET, 1895─TARIFF AMENDMENTS-CONGESTION IN TELEGRAPH POSTAL, AND RAILWAY DEPARTMENTS AND AGITATIONS—PUBLIC MEETINGS ON GOLDFIELDS—VISITS OF SIR JOHN FORREST AND MR. WITTENOOM TO GOLDFIELDS, AND RESULTS—MEETINGS IN PERTH AND FREMANTLE—SIR JOHN FORREST AND H. W. VENN—A SENSATION—F. H. PIESSE, COMMISSIONER OF RAILWAYS—REMOVAL OF CONGESTION IN DEPARTMENTS—CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, 1896, AND GOLDFIELDS REPRESENTATION—ELECTIONS, 1897, AND MINISTERIAL CHANGES—FINANCES, 1897—FEDERATION—CELEBRATIONS IN LONDON, AND PATRIOTISM—EXPORT AND IMPORTS—WOOL—HOMESTEADS ACT AND AGRICULTURAL BANK ACT—INDUCEMENTS TO SETTLERS—LAND RETURNS—TIMBER INDUSTRY—GUANO AND PEARL SHELL—PUBLIC WORKS, RAILWAYS, AND HARBOURS—GENERAL—EXPLORATION.
THE Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, the present Secretary for the Colonies, recently expressed the opinion that, given the substantial truthfulness of the reports of gold discoveries, Western Australia would, for many years, be the most prosperous of any part of the British Empire. Gold, he inferred, was the best of beginnings; it attracted enormous accessions of population which, eventually tiring of the uncertain quest for minerals, would obey an inward impulse, settle on the land, build homes, and till the soil.
Australians have been intermittently cast into inordinate emotion by the rumours of discoveries in this colony which, if true, would quickly yield wealth enough to pay off the national debt of the whole world. That the emotion was really existent has been proved by the rapid inflow to Western Australia of people representing every civilised country. News of almost every kind is like the rivulet starting from the mountain top, the farther it goes the more swollen it becomes, and the louder it roars. In news of goldfields, as of any extraordinary wealth, the mind loves to be partial, and pictures gold where there may be only a hot desert waste.
But notwithstanding that the reports concerning Western Australia have been sometimes greatly exaggerated, the actual results of labour, systematically applied, justify the expectations of many cautious men who say that this is one of the richest goldbearing countries in the world. The increasing output, when the physical obstacles are taken into consideration, is tending to prove the correctness of the prediction of the Secretary for the Colonies. After the first disillusion of those who expected to pick up gold under every thicket, to find a yellow slug in every quartz reef, came the resolution to struggle, and attempt, and win. Our goldfields caused Australians, as an entity, to sigh with relief at a time when the outlook was exceedingly gloomy. And the discovery of gold has acted on Western Australian industry as the finding of a cool spring has often done on the prospector suffering from the exquisite pangs of thirst. Men of brain and muscle have vitalised the community, and though these newcomers are still wanderers, they may yet become stationary, and supply that virile quality so much needed where there are great resources to be developed.
In compiling a narrative of the last few years, there is so much of sensationalism in the records that it is difficult to discriminate between the true and the untrue. Indeed, it is almost impossible to obtain thoroughly reliable data of the consecutive remarkable discoveries. The mind has been so constantly and fulsomely occupied by new and startling developments that past events grow dim before the glamour of the present. We do not, therefore, pretend to offer a complete narrative. So as not to mislead anyone in the resources of the goldfields, we append articles contributed by gentlemen whose judgment thereon is widely respected.
The discovery of Coolgardie by Bayley and Ford in August, 1892, transcending in importance all that had preceded it, gave a momentum to prospecting. Men waited in the settled districts until the winter of 1893 would enable them to go into the desert. People in other colonies, New Zealand, and South Africa, were prepared to migrate hither as soon as the reports were confirmed, and it was proved that the wealth of the somnolent and dreary interior was not concentrated in a few acres. During the first weeks of the new year there were but few men at Coolgardie, and these had extreme difficulty in obtaining sufficient water to sustain them. It was believed that this question of water supply would militate against a rapid development of the quartz reefs. It was also thought that it would prevent prospecting in the dry areas, which stretched for hundreds of miles north, east, and south of Bayley's; but men searching for gold seem to live on hope, and endure hardships impossible under any other circumstances. Many of them paid a dread penalty for their hardihood, and subsequent travellers have found their bodies rotting in the bush. It might be said that they went out to seek riches, and in the midst of torture became rich in death.
In January, Warden Finnerty importuned the Government to excavate large tanks on the track to Coolgardie, and at that centre, so as to conserve water during the winter rains. He anticipated that a tremendous rush would soon take place. Showers fell in the eastern districts in March, and within a few days there were nearly 300 men at Coolgardie. The roads from the settled districts, principally from York, were thenceforth dotted here and there with mining pilgrims. The influx continued throughout the year, and increased when fresh finds were recorded. The journey was made with camels, horses, and all sorts of vehicles—waggons, drays, carts, buggies, drags, handcarts, wheelbarrows, and beer barrels. Some men walked from Perth to Coolgardie, over hundreds of miles of abandoned plains, with all their belongings on their backs. How they accomplished the journey in face of the terrible obstacles is difficult to understand. One man manipulated a beer barrel to make it resemble a miniature road roller; he placed his goods on a platform at the top, and himself in the shafts, and pushed the quaint contrivance before him. Others constructed a one wheel cart. The body was roughly put together, and was square as a box. Beneath, a single wheel was fixed; the "swags" were placed in the cart, a man stood at each of the four corners, and pushed or pulled the clumsy thing over the soft sand waste. A few adventurers toiled through sand and heat with ordinary wheelbarrows. Numbers paid teamsters fixed sums to carry their swags, and trudged along in the dust of the waggons. Those who were rich enough purchased or hired vehicles, and they were enviably situated in comparison with the wheelbarrow men. In the inrush, 1,492 persons came to the colony during the three months ending on the 30th June. For some years camels had been largely introduced for use on the goldfields, and in 1893 there were 673 of them in Western Australia. They were of inestimable service in the transport of supplies, or in enabling prospectors to penetrate the arid back country.
In April and May desultory discoveries were made around Coolgardie, and life in the mining camp was electrical. A small find here and there excited the men beyond measure, and one and all hurried away to the locality. A shaft was sunk on Bayley's Reward claim, and men arriving in the district without funds usually obtained employment there as miners, and cautiously saved their wages until they had sufficient to essay prospecting on their own behalf. Camel caravans, and courageous teamsters opened regular carrying businesses between Southern Cross and Coolgardie, while coaches began to run over the desert. Primitive stables were erected near the granite soaks on Hunt's old track, and there the coaching syndicate kept changes of horses. The historical name of Cobb and Co. was painted on these coaches. A few crude buildings were quickly erected at Coolgardie; some of galvanised iron, most of canvas, and some modest shelters were composed of boughs plucked from the bush. By June there were several stores, two butchers, two bakers, two blacksmiths, one chemist, and four hotels in the neighbourhood of Bayley's. Among the storekeepers were Messrs. Vaughan, Murphy, Harris, Counsel, Ryan, Benstead and Co., Mendalstein, and Brown.
Bayley's claim continued to give sensational returns, and pockets of enormous wealth were occasionally come upon by the miners. Perhaps in a single day one man would get in these chambers of gold more than a hundred ounces of the metal. Several hundreds of ounces were obtained from eight dishes raised at a depth of fifteen feet. Enormous prices were offered for the claim, and Bayley and Ford made a fortune when they sold it to Mr. Sylvester Browne. (In October, 1896, Mr. Bayley died in Victoria at the age of thirty-one years.) The leases taken out in the district were more or less tried, and numerous others were applied for in every direction. Rich stone was found in a claim two and a half miles south of Coolgardie, worked by McFarlane and Robinson. The lease was purchased by Sylvester Browne and Co. for a large sum. Good alluvial finds were made, and the field increased in size. Prospectors hid themselves in the silent deserts for weeks and months, and some came back with the news of rich discoveries. By June there were considerably over two thousand men on the Coolgardie goldfield, and within the next month hundreds more arrived. A food famine prevailed, and men went for days without flour or oatmeal. Preserved meats supplied the chief article of diet, and when the caravans of camels or waggons were late in arriving prices of foodstuffs rose to enormous heights. The poor living and the rough conditions were injurious to health, and several men died of typhoid fever. Before she would give up her wealth nature demanded many deaths.
In May a prospector named Frost discovered gold at a place known as the Ninety-Mile, because of its distance from Coolgardie. There was a rush for the locality, and a few men got good returns, while most were quickly discouraged, and went back to Coolgardie and its environment. In June about 100 men were working around Frost's claim. The next rush of any moment was made for Mount Youle, which was reckoned to be fifty miles north-east of Coolgardie. The way thither lay through stunted scrub, and was almost devoid of water. Between fifty and a hundred men with carts and drays hurried off to the site, via Mount Charlotte, but it was soon alleged that the report of rich gold there had been circulated in the interests of storekeepers, who were enabled to sell provisions and equipments at high prices. At any rate those who went so far as Mount Youle returned disconsolate. The restless men were soon moved to go forth again by the report that gold had been found at Lake Lefroy, forty miles south-east of Coolgardie. Small parcels were obtained. With all these announcements of discoveries in different directions over an extensive area of the district the excitement in Coolgardie, and, indeed, in all Western Australia, had become tense, and most ridiculous rumours, sometimes circulated by intoxicated men, gained credence.
The small exodus to Mount Youle led to the second important discovery on the Yilgarn Goldfields, and to the foundation of a mining field which, up to the present, has proved the wealthiest in Western Australia. A few of the men who set forth camped at Mount Charlotte, and among them were "Pat" Hannan and "Tom" Flannagan. There was feed, but no water at this spot, which was at once named Dry Camp, and as the horses could not proceed without a drink, the men remained there for two days searching for native wells or rock soaks. It is said that Hannan returned for water to what had become known as the Nine-Mile Rocks, and that in his absence Flannagan found gold in the neighbourhood. This is believed to have been about the first week in June. After Hannan arrived from the Nine-Mile Flannagan induced him to remain and prospect more fully. The two men searched the surface for alluvial for about a week after the other teams, which practically walked over gold scattered on the ground, had resumed their journey to Mount Youle. In three days Hannan and Flannagan picked up about 100 ozs., but the exact weight is not recorded, for the discoverers did not whisper their secret to every passer-by. The alluvial promised to be the richest yet exploited on the Yilgarn fields. On the 17th June Hannan entered Coolgardie, where a branch registrar's office had been opened, with a parcel of gold, and applied for a reward claim. According to usage applications for leases were posted up at the registrar's office, and anyone could peruse these documents. It was the habit of large numbers of people to daily visit the acting-registrar's tent, to learn whether any new leases had been recorded. Hannan's application was made on a Saturday, and the notice was posted at nine o'clock in the evening. The fact was soon observed by one and another, and before many hours elapsed the news had spread throughout Coolgardie, and the history of the exodus from Southern Cross to Bayley's was repeated. During the night, and from daylight on Sunday, there was a stampede from Coolgardie, the locale of the new find being reckoned to be twenty-five miles E.N.E. The rush continued until there were scarcely fifty men left in the camp. Some lost their way, and arrived at the field days later than they hoped, and some were inadequately equipped for such an emergency.
In a few days stores were opened at Hannan's, the name conferred on the new locality, and men were scattered over the district scanning the surface and digging for alluvial. Leases were pegged out in every direction. Within three days there were nearly 750 men on the field. At first there was a dearth of water, but rain soon fell, and the earth became too moist for dryblowing. To obviate this fires were lighted, and the stuff was burned before being submitted to the process. Some excellent returns were secured, and the new district promised well. There was no sensational quartz such as that at Bayley's, and only alluvial digging was carried on at first. The early diggers were oblivious of the precious reefs which lay near them. In a few weeks many of the men who had left Coolgardie for Hannan's returned to their previous occupations, and the population was about equally divided, one report stating that there were about 1,000 men in each place. New-comers were arriving regularly, and scattered from Coolgardie to Hannan's, and from Lake Lefroy to the Ninety-Mile, branching out, when sufficiently equipped, to prospect. Hannan's was deemed to be the chief alluvial district, but while some searchers were getting rich gold, many were not finding sufficient to subsist them. Hundreds of men went to the fields with only enough money to last them on the journey, and with insufficient food and mining necessaries. Because of the scarcity and high rate of provisions they would have been in very serious straits had it not been for the fine fellowship which existed. Men were constantly being met in the bush who had no money, no food, and no rich claim to sell. They lived on the charity of strangers until they got employment or happened on a little gold. In setting out into a waterless and foodless desert without wherewith to sustain them they acted in a manner which would appear impossible to a sane man. The water in the Government tanks and clay-pans was almost undrinkable. Afghan drivers permitted their camels to pollute these oases. Sickness became more prevalent as the year advanced.
Early in August, two prospectors named Cushman and Lee began to get rich gold from a claim at the Forty-Five Mile, north of Coolgardie. The place received the name of Cushman's, and is contiguous to the present Bardoc district. Within six weeks, it was reported, these two men dollied 1,000 ozs. of gold from their quartz. In the same month, and in September the Hannan's district yielded well. Hannan and Flannagan were believed to be unearthing gold at the rate of 30 ozs. per week from their claim; Egan and party were reported to have dollied 605 ozs. from quartz in six weeks; and Cassidy and his companions, the owners of a lease adjoining Hannan's Reward, were said to be obtaining from 35 to 40 ozs. per week. Excellent finds were made throughout the district, and while numerous men decried the field, numerous others supplied exaggerated reports of its richness. Hannan's was for some time a strong competitor with Coolgardie for first place in the matter of population, but the latter point was the administrative centre, and quickly outdistanced its rival. The former already possessed several hotels, stores, and business men. Although in alluvial neither was a Ballarat, both were considered to be developing satisfactorily.
The next rush was surrounded with melancholy circumstances. In October, Messrs. Frost and Bonner applied for a reward claim in a desolate district named Siberia, supposed to be about 75 miles N.N.W. of Coolgardie. This find was made S.S.W. of the Ninety-Mile, exploited by Frost, and the discoverers showed about 40 ozs. of gold as gleaned from there. A rumour rapidly circulated in Coolgardie and Hannan's that a fabulously wealthy discovery had been made at Siberia, and more than a thousand men set forth in separate parties for the remote district. Coolgardie and Hannan's were almost deserted. The way was dreary in the extreme, and the intervening tract was to all intents waterless. Except to those who had already been to the Ninety-Mile, there was practically no clearly defined route. The great desert was covered with small bush, through which it would appear impossible to go without a compass. Only men of wide experience could safely enter this endless maze of dwarfed vegetation. But the excited miners gave little heed to such considerations, and turned their faces towards Siberia, with only a slight conception of its geographical bearing. Along Hunt's track from Southern Cross to Coolgardie there had been a series of soaks where water could be obtained, but on this route they did not exist. A proportion of the men carried only a small water bag with them, and the results were sure to be disastrous. Those who knew the way got through in safety, and were followed by others. But many were not so fortunate. As their stock of water gave out, they began to separate in the bush, and a few were lost, and soon died of their sufferings. It would not be difficult to picture the slow death; the poignant physical and mental anguish as they wandered in the desert, like rudderless ships; then insanity, and then death. Some tried to reach Coolgardie. At twilight one evening in October a Coolgardie resident observed what appeared to be a strange animal on all fours crawling through the dust towards the town. He approached, and discovered a demented Siberia prospector, repulsive in his agony seeking to reach water.
A few days after the first bands left Coolgardie news arrived that hundreds of men were suffering for want of water and that many had died. Mr. Renou, the Government Superintendent of Water Supply, with commendable promptitude, immediately engaged two teams, loaded them with tanks of water, and sent them up the Ninety-Mile track. One tank was dropped at the twenty-five mile stage and another near the forty-five mile. He also hired sixteen camels and went towards Siberia. At a place named Morowing it is reported that he found hundreds of men camped, and he advised them to immediately return, as there was no water at Siberia or on the track. The camels were divided into parties, and men were sent through the district to warn all prospectors to turn back, and to tell them where tanks had been left. Horsemen were despatched on the same errand. Mr. Renou met another lot of men—about 300—and despite his assurance that the route was waterless, and that no gold was being obtained, some of them persisted in continuing their perilous journey. The promptness of the Superintendent of Water Supply probably saved hundreds of lives. As it was several deaths occurred, but it is impossible to give even an estimate of the number. About ten were accounted for. Those bodies that were found were given decent burial; their names were generally unknown. There is every probability that some still lie uncovered in the awful bush.
The Siberia discovery was in every way disappointing, for very little alluvial gold was at this time obtained there. No other sensation of any importance occurred during 1893. The year had been a trying one, and the men on the eastern desert endured many hardships. Several deaths occurred from typhoid. The excitement caused by the various discoveries served a good purpose in inspiring hope in the diggers. Just when they were quietening down after some general stampede, another discovery was announced, and the emotion began again. Numerous quartz claims were being worked around Coolgardie and in other places. The lease owners at Dundas prospected their properties, and on the 29th August the Dundas Goldfield was proclaimed. The Government Geologist was temporarily appointed warden. The quartz reefs promised well, but did not receive the attention they deserved. The output for Dundas in 1893 was 147 ozs. 19 dwts. 11 grs. of gold, valued at £562 5s. 11d. The mining companies at Southern Cross continued crushing, and the returns, though not sensational, were satisfactory. The population of Southern Cross was affected by the finds in the Coolgardie district. As the chief stage in the long journey to the latter place, the trade of its business men was large. The Government estimated that there were 2,600 men on the Coolgardie Fields during the year, a number which would have been doubtless increased but for the scarcity of water. Yilgarn and its branches produced 75,744 ozs. of gold, valued at £287,829, in 1893—more than the whole production of the colony in 1892.
Water was the supreme obstacle on the eastern fields, and complaints were frequently made that the Government had not done its utmost towards providing a supply. Although the yield of gold for the colony in 1893 was set down as 110,890 ozs., valued at £421,381 (nearly double that of 1892), and the revenue from the goldfields was £8,445, the expenditure was only £14,681 (spent out of loan moneys to procure water), and £4,825 for administration and rewards. Account must, however, be taken of the fact that two railways were being constructed to serve the goldfields. Apart from this the Government excavated two tanks of a capacity of 500,000 gallons each, besides smaller ones, at Coolgardie, and others on the Ninety-Mile load; put down bores in the same centre and at Woolgangie; sank shafts at Mount Burges and Hannan's, and improved the soaks at various stages on Hunt's Track. A new road was also formed from Coolgardie to Woolgangie on the way to Southern Cross. A track from Broome Hill to Gnarlbine was cut by Mr. Holland, with only a bushman's compass, at the expense of Broome Hill residents. This feat was a remarkable one.
To some extent the other goldfields of the colony suffered by the prominence which had been given to the Coolgardie district. The returns for the Murchison—21,210 ozs., valued at £80,599—fell short of those of 1892. Many of the searchers for alluvial had migrated to the more sensational field, and many who remained devoted themselves entirely to the testing of the quartz reefs. In the transition period from alluvial to quartz in a goldield's history the returns are bound to be affected. Quartz claims were opened up at various places long distances apart on the Murchison, and numbers of gold mining companies were floated. At the same time alluvial still yielded the largest percentage of the output, and excellent finds were made at Mount Magnet, Austin's Lake, Cue, and Nannine. These discoveries were not advertised with such persistency as were those at Coolgardie, but at the end of 1893 the Murchison was much more stable than the sister field. The two chief centres were Nannine and Cue. The former township was laid out, declared, and excepted from occupation for mining purposes on April, 1893, and the latter on 10th August. One sale of land was held in each town in 1893, and six lots at Nannine were sold for £120, and twenty-one lots at Cue for £520. Mr. E.P. Dowley succeeded Mr. Walter as warden, and in August Mr. C.V. Bagot succeeded Mr. M. Fox as registrar. The warden's office was removed from Nannine to Cue, and the goldfield was declared a magisterial district. Geraldton, as the port for the Murchison, expanded under the influence of a mining population, and because of the railway which was being constructed to Mullewa. Mining pilgrims were constantly entering and leaving the town, and farmers on the Greenough and Irwin obtained a ready market for their hay and other produce. Caravans of waggons and camels journeyed regularly between Geraldton and the chief mining centres, and the way was almost as unattractive as that from Southern Cross to Coolgardie. Carriers made large profits in the transport trade, and horses were called upon to exercise such powers of endurance as cannot be understood by those who know nothing of the tracks, and of the long stretches to be traversed in broiling heat and distressing dust without water.
Crushing operations were begun on some of the Murchison mines. A stamper battery was erected on the Star of the East mine, near Nannine, and machinery was also placed on one or two mines at Cue and Mount Magnet. Good supplies of fresh water for battery purposes were obtained at various parts of the fields, notably at the Star of the East, Day Dawn (near Cue), and New Chum (Mount Magnet) mines. The Government sank wells at Day Dawn, Cue, and on the road between Nannine and Abbot's. In each, good water was secured. Eighty-one gold mining leases were applied for on the Murchison in 1893, and forty business licenses were issued. In the whole colony, 3,919 miners' rights were issued, and 222 mining leases were approved. Such large numbers of leases were forfeited that only fifteen more were held in 1893 than in 1892. In January, 1893, the Government offered a bonus to any person or company who would sink a shaft below the depth of 100 feet in any proclaimed field: £2 10s. per foot for a shaft below 100 feet to 200 feet; and £5 per foot below 200 feet to 300 feet. During the year the sum of £1,734 was paid to eleven claimants—six at Yilgarn, one at Coolgardie (Bayley's, 180 feet), and four on the Murchison field. The Blackbourne, 267 feet, had the deepest shaft at Yilgarn, and the Black Iguana, 174 feet, the deepest on the Murchison.
Prospecting on the Pilbarra, Kimberley, and Ashburton goldfields tended further to prove the gold reefs, but no accession of population was obtained. The Pilbarra output was some £5,000 less than that of 1892, and the Kimberley was £2,000 greater. The figures were:—Pilbarra, 11,698 ozs. 10 dwts. of gold, valued at £44,454 6s.; Kimberley, 1,621 ozs. 13 dwts. 23 grs., valued at £6,162 9s.; and Ashburton, 467 ozs. 14 dwts. 22 grs., valued a £1,777 8s. 8d. The town site of Marble Bar was declared on 20th July, 1893. A severe depression in gold mining took place at Kimberley, and though the district was acknowledged to be rich, no hope was entertained of its progressing in the near future. The Rising Sun, Jubilee, Reform, Brockman King, Phœnix, and Afghan mines ceased work, and in the last quarter of the year not one claim produced any gold. To some extent, the same depression existed at Pilbarra. The General, Stray Shot, Excelsior, Bamboo Queen, Mount Prophecy Leases, and No. 1 S.E. Timbuctoo mines gave some promise. The average of stone crushed was high, but the absence of sufficient capital was seriously felt. Little alluvial excitement took place, excepting for a rush to the Top Well, where 1,000 ozs. were quickly secured. Included in this amount was one nugget of 295 ozs., and three others averaging 100 ozs. each. The mining population of the Pilbarra field was estimated at 450 men, of whom about 250 resided in the neighbourhood of Marble Bar and Bamboo Creek.
The developments on the eastern and Murchison goldfields in 1894 far exceeded those of 1893. Discoveries were made which seemed to offer brilliant prospects of gain. The output jumped from 110,890 ozs. of gold (£421,385) in 1893 to 207,131 ozs. (£787,099) in 1894. In 1893 the population was increased by 6,390 persons, and in 1894 by 17,008 persons, the total in the colony in the latter year being 82,072. Other highly gratifying features were apparent. Railways were opened to Southern Cross and to Mullewa; the area of the goldfields was greatly extended, and was reckoned to be 224,900 square miles; machinery was erected on numerous mines; seventy mining companies were registered in Western Australia, and not less than 100 with a minimal capital of £8,415,000 in London, to work local mines; and the mining industry became so important that it was found necessary to separate its administration from the Lands Office, and to establish a separate department with a separate staff. It is easy to conceive the galvanic effect which these developments had on local affairs. Western Australia was effectually awakened from its old lethargy, and a new and hopeful vitality crept into nearly every branch of industry.
After the hot summer weather of 1893-4 there was a considerable influx of population to the Coolgardie Goldfields. The developments of 1893 had convinced many wavering minds. The year 1894 was one of intense excitement; mining emotion was general and magnetic. It is not possible in one chapter to enter into close detail of all the discoveries that were made and of the rapid opening up of new districts. The first find of any importance was one at Mount Jackson, north of Southern Cross, and N.N.E. of Lake Deborah. On 15th January James Speakman, who registered a protection area, stated that he had obtained good specimens at this place, and that the district deserved a further trial. Another prospector, Wm. Hall, applied for an area, near Speakman's claim, and said that he had obtained 6 or 7 dwts. of gold from as many pounds weight of quartz. A few miners set out for the new district.
During the next few weeks a prospector named Wall discovered a reef, freely showing gold in the stone, at the Forty-Five Mile, near Cashman's find of the previous year. There was a rush from Coolgardie and Hannan's, and numerous leases were pegged out. Next came the news of a discovery at the Pinnacles, in the east. A prospector, in February, conveyed 80 ozs. of gold to Coolgardie, obtained in two weeks. Several hundred men went thither. Late in February, and early in March, rich discoveries were announced at Billy Billy, estimated to be ninety miles in an easterly direction from Coolgardie. In the first week of March about 1,000 ozs. of gold were sent away from the district by escort. The new find lay still further in the barren interior, near that part reached by Hunt and Roe in the sixties. The intervening tract was exceedingly dry, and it is said that several lives were lost in the effort to cross it. One thousand men rapidly congregated at Kurnalpi. Teamsters generally refused to essay such a dangerous journey, and prices were consequently abnormal. Flour cost £5 for a 50 lb bag, and water 2s. a gallon. Many men were lost in the bush. Reefing claims were pegged out in dozens in April, and very valuable nuggets were unearthed. The largest of them weighed from 30 to 260 ozs.
In the latter month old workings, a few miles south of Hannan's, again attracted a rush. This was because a digger picked up a 91 oz. nugget. When the excitement, caused by the discovery of Kurnalpi and the new rush to Hannan's had subsided, another one was noised abroad which at once set the population in a turmoil. This find was made in May at I O U (Boolong). Rumor says that it was due to an accident. Two miners were about to leave for Perth, and one, in directing his companion's attention to a gully where he had obtained colours, proceeded to mark the ground with a stick. In doing so, he turned up a small piece of gold, and the second man, plunging a shovel into the soil on the spot, secured a 70 oz. nugget. Within a few days over 300 men were fossicking in the gully and exploiting its environs. The tracks to the I O U were lined with camels, pack-horses, carts, waggons, and men on foot. Before night between four and five hundred men left Hannan's on 28th May. Some rich patches were worked in the district. Quickly following were rich developments at White Feather, Broad Arrow, Black Flag, Londonderry, Wealth of Nations, Mount Margaret, and Menzies.
In June reports were received of the finding of an immensely rich reef, eleven miles south of Coolgardie. The exact circumstances leading to the discovery are not clear. It would appear that six men—Messrs. Carter, Dawson, Mills, Gardner, Elliott, and Huxley—had for months been prospecting over the goldfields. They had been uniformly unfortunate, and were without money and without prospects. Wearied of their unhappy experiences, they were proposing to leave the goldfields, but decided to first apply for work as miners on wages on a claim at Lake Lefroy. They proceeded to that district, but were again met by disappointment. While disconsolately returning to Coolgardie they set up camp one evening in the bush, and while some prepared the meal, the others prospected round about. Next morning, the 8th May, Mills or Gardner found a quartz specimen under a bush. In a few minutes spades were brought, and a quartz outcrop was disclosed, rivalling even Bayley's in wealth. In one day they dollied 1,000 ozs. out of the stone, and in a few days they had obtained between 4,000 and 5,000 ozs. Every evening they covered the reef with earth to prevent its discovery by anyone who might happen to pass by. It was a golden hole which served to astonish people in every part of the civilised world, and to attract an inrush of hardy men to Western Australia. "Big Ben," the first specimen taken out, weighed 240 lbs. and contained more gold than ore, and was estimated to be worth £3,500. The quartz was literally cemented together with gold, and the sight of the reef was such as has been seldom witnessed in the world's history. The six men worked in secret until it became dangerous to continue any longer, and while some watched the reef, others conveyed the gold to Coolgardie. On 23rd June 4,280 ozs. were lodged at the Union Bank. The lucky finders applied for a lease, for what they named the Londonderry mine. One capitalist offered them £25,000 for a half interest in the claim, and phenomenal sums were offered for all the quartz that could be obtained from one large charge of dynamite. There was a tremendous exodus of men from Coolgardie and Hannan's, and leases were pegged out around the Londonderry. The remaining work done on the reef proved its fabulous wealth, and in September the discoverers sold the claim to the Earl of Fingall for £180,000 and a sixth interest. The latter proceeded to England to put it on the home market. The mouth of the "Golden Hole" was meanwhile sealed, and the place was carefully protected. Lord Fingall floated a company in London with a capital of £700,000. The history of the Londonderry was not happy; first, the claim was "jumped" owing to non-compliance with the mining regulations, and then when the company began operations the rich stone cut out almost immediately. The stone below was of a much lower grade.
For several weeks the Londonderry was successful in absorbing the rapt attention of Western Australians, but in August another find was announced which was largely described as a "mountain of gold." By this time the magnificence, at least, of the eastern goldfields was assured. Those who loved sensations were well catered for, and newspapers all over the world published highly descriptive, readable, but not always reliable, articles on the several finds that had been made. It is only such statements that can influence men to leave one hemisphere for another. For several years prospectors of experience and resource had been travelling to and fro, and up and down the remote deserts of the colony, searching for gold reefs. Their journeys, if undertaken in the interests of geographical science, would have brought them the applause of the multitude. Some of them had traversed the somnolent deserts almost from south to north, and from west to east. Among prospectors of this stamp was Mr. J.G. Dunn. In 1890 Mr. Dunn started on a long prospecting tour, ranging from the Murchison to the Gascoyne district. He subsequently toiled over the deserts leading from Southern Cross, and on one occasion went even as far as the South Australian border. He visited in his curious quest Lake Carey, Lake Barlee, and other distant places. At Mount Weld he had to fire upon a tribe of natives who approached him with warlike demonstrations. His party included his brother and two Afghans, and was equipped with camels. His brother relinquished prospecting after the discovery of the Brilliant reef, south of the Forty-Five Mile. With only two Afghans and the camels, Mr. J.G. Dunn again went out and discovered the True Blue, Sunbeam, and Lone Hand reefs, which were sold at a substantial sum for his syndicate, composed of prominent Western Australians. In July, 1894, Dunn sallied forth from Coolgardie in a north-westerly direction on another tour. He had only gone about twenty-eight miles from the town, when he came to an outcropping reef, five feet high and nine feet thick. Upon breaking the cap he obtained a specimen of quartz weighing 189 lbs., and containing 800 ozs. of gold, valued at £3,000. Gold glistened in the sunlight over the whole lode formation, and Dunn named the reef the Wealth of Nations. Subsequent pilgrims to this shrine described it as a "mountain of gold." Within a short period Dunn obtained about £22,000 worth of gold. Hiding part of this he took the remainder to Coolgardie, leaving an Afghan to guard the claim. The gold was stored in all sorts of places in the accoutrements of the camels, and the mining camp was in its slumbers when he entered Coolgardie. Dunn placed gold valued at £11,200 in the Bank, applied for a lease, and hurried back to the Wealth of Nations. For business reasons he tried to keep the exact locality a secret; within a few hours over five hundred men left Coolgardie to search for the reef. Men in coaches, traps, waggons, on horses, camels, and on foot, followed Dunn and a police constable who accompanied him. When the reef was reached, the surrounding area was rushed by an excited crowd. Leases were pegged out, and diggers turned up the ground in search of alluvial. On one occasion a raid was made on Dunn's reef, and valuable specimens were removed. Dunn returned to Coolgardie with the remainder of his gold, and asked for additional police protection. No other disturbance took place. Some rich alluvial patches were found around the claim, and two nuggets, one weighing 197 ozs. and the other 147 ozs. were unearthed. Within six months the Wealth of Nations reef was sold for £147,000.
This find, following closely upon that of the Londonderry, intensified the general excitement. Within a few days other rich discoveries were announced. One of these was made by a party under David Lindsey, the explorer, at a point N.N.E. of Hannan's, near a reef previously discovered by a prospector named Peake. The stone was beautifully laminated with gold, and considerable metal was dollied out of the quartz. About 250 men gathered in the locality in a few days. Rich nuggets were also found about ten miles north of Broad Arrow, near Bardoc, and at Kurnalpi. In a parcel conveyed to Coolgardie from the latter place, it is said that there was a nugget weighing 432 ozs. Early in the year a reef showing gold was discovered at Mount Margaret, north of Lake Barlee. In August rich specimens obtained in this district were lodged at Coolgardie.
The remaining remarkable discovery in 1894 was made in September. Mr. L.R. Menzie, a prospector of American, African, and New Zealand experience, with Mr. J. E. McDonald as a companion, had been mining and prospecting in the colony for a rich syndicate since 1890. Like Dunn, these two men were equipped with camels, but they had not yet been so fortunate as to discover a Brilliant or even a Sunbeam. Their turn came soon after the discovery of the Wealth of Nations. When the news of that find was announced, they left Perth for Coolgardie, and in August, with a native, an Afghan, and camels, they crossed to Hannan's, and went thence through White Feather, Black Flag, and the Ninety Mile. Going deeper into the lean desert they came to likely-looking country amid thick bush. It is alleged that other prospectors—Browne and party—had already discovered a reef in this neighbourhood. Menzie and McDonald came to a reef in which gold was easily discernible, and there they camped. Along this outcrop they obtained in September, within four weeks of leaving Perth, some valuable specimens in moss-covered quartz. Several heavy slugs of gold were found, and metal ran right through parts of the stone. Gold-bearing quartz was come upon for over a hundred feet along the reef. Mr. Menzie, as an experienced miner, recognised that he had found a highly valuable property, and after pegging out two areas—the Lady Shenton and Florence—he left the Afghan and native in charge of the pegs, and went back with Mr. McDonald to Coolgardie, where he made application for the leases. As usual the interest of the populace was aroused, and the movements of the prospectors were carefully watched. When returning to the locality, which therefrom got the name of Menzies, they were followed by large numbers of people. From the Ninety Mile they were accompanied by over 150 persons, all eager to be the first to reach the scene, so as to peg out leases in the neighbourhood of the reef. Mr. D.M. Hall, on behalf of the Octagon syndicate, had already been apprised of the locality by the prospectors, and he was therefore the first to choose a lease in the immediate vicinity. When Menzie and McDonald with their followers were yet some little distance from the Lady Shenton reef, an Afghan picked up stone showing gold, and members of the crowd at once began to peg out leases. The remainder, however, would not stay, and accompanied the prospectors to Menzies, and pegged out most of the ground in the vicinity; the line of reef was soon ornamented with these bits of wood to a distance of about five miles. The diggers quickly began to test the earth with dry-blowers, and though like many rich reefs there was no true alluvial, yet some splendid specimens were obtained. An offer of £10,000 was made for the Lady Shenton before a pick had been inserted in the claim. While this reef did not contain such beautiful specimens as some of the others, it yet promised a more permanent future.
By these discoveries in 1892-3-4, gold districts had become known which in geographical position and importance bore a resemblance to the constellation after which Southern Cross was named. That town itself formed the pedestal, Coolgardie the centre, Hannan's the apex, Dundas the southern extremity of the cross, and Menzies the northern. Siberia, Mount Margaret, Kurnalpi, Boolong, Broad Arrow, Bardoc, and the other districts formed neighbouring bright stars, which, like the ubiquitous constellation in the heavens, left some doubt as to which should be included in the cross.
No other finds of new districts were made up to the end of the year. The yields from the various parts of the mineral area continued good, and wonderfully rich stone was obtained at the I O U. Since the beginning of the year reefs had been tested and worked in the Coolgardie, Hannan's, and other districts. Bayley's mine gave some phenomenal returns, and rich ore was obtained in several claims in the Coolgardie district. Quartz was being worked at Londonderry, Lake Lefroy, Black Flag, Siberia, Cashman's, and White Feather. At Hannan's, which was now becoming known under the native name of Kalgoorlie, very promising quartz had been struck. The first reef was worked by Mr. Cassidy. The Boulder Gold Mining Company began work in the first half of 1894, and an Otis Crusher was erected. The early history of this magnificent mine was not bright, and it is said that even its promoters were not enamoured with its prospects. It was sold to an English company. Berry Bros., Thornett Bros., and Peet and Espic were among the most active reefers. At Boolong, the Mystery Gold Mining Company's property and the I O U claim were doing useful development work, while at the White Feather important prospecting was being done on the McAuliffe's, Golden Eagle, and Bissenberger's leases. The Hill End, Arrow, Benchmark, Ritanita, Monte Cristo, and Reison and Sons' claims were among the earliest to be opened up at Broad Arrow, and considerable gold was obtained by dollying. Chipper and party and Moncrieff and party at Dead Finish; the Premier, Premier Extended, Royal Sovereign, Westralia, True Blue, Lone Hand, and Sunbeam leases at the Twenty-five Mile; the Bendigo and Coolgardie Company, New Victoria, Westralia, and Mount Burges Company at Mount Burges; Christie's Reward and Cook's lease at Siberia; and Lynch and party, Caledonia, Gulls, W. Hicks, Moss and Lynch, Hawson's, Curt's Blow, Featherstonehaugh's, Birthday, Cashman's, and Otto and Boddington's at the Ninety Mile (Roaring Gimlet or Goongarrie), were the most prominent in their respective districts. Numerous companies had been formed in Western Australia and the Eastern colonies to work the claims, and syndicates of capitalists sent out men to purchase likely-looking properties. It was seen that the eastern goldfields were essentially rich in quartz, and that in the absence of water alluvial of moderate worth could not be made to pay. In 1894 the eastern goldfields (exclusive of Dundas) produced 136,828 ozs. 4 dwts. 4 grs. of gold, valued at £519,947 3s. 9d.
At Dundas, up to the beginning of 1894, gold discoveries had been made along the hills for a distance of over eight miles. The May Bell, May Bell North, May Bell South, Great Dundas, Nos. 1 and 2 Great South Dundas, Florence Ada, Scotia, and the No. 1 South Scotia were the first mines to be systematically prospected. Mr. Woodward, the Government Geologist, formed a high opinion of the field in 1893. The population of this district increased in 1894, and in July excitement was caused when it became known that Mr. L. Sinclair had discovered a reef showing free gold about eighteen miles from Dundas. The stone was reckoned to be worth 50 ozs. to the ton. The new district was named the Norseman. Ramsay Bros. and F. Hassell also found good reefs at this point. The gold production of Dundas in 1894 was 228 ozs. 7 dwts. 12 grs., valued at £867 16s. 6d.
In the history of the Murchison Goldfield in 1894 there was little of absorbing interest. No phenomenal finds were made as on the eastern fields, but considerable machinery was erected on the mines. A large hospital was being built at Cue, and a municipality was proclaimed on 30th May, 1894. A Council was elected in August (Mr. W.H. Gale, mayor), and was required to carry out very arduous duties. The public health on the Murchison was slightly better than that at Coolgardie, although the death-rate was high. A Warden's Court was opened at Yalgoo in August, and a court at Lake Austin was closed. The average of the stone crushed was very encouraging. Thus, from mines at Cue, the first stone crushed at the Lady Mary was 50 tons for 163 ozs. gold; Lady Mary South, 20 tons, 57 ozs.; Cue I. Proprietary, 339 tons, at 2 ozs. 10 dwts. of gold per ton; Rising Sun, 100 tons, 213 ozs.; Commonwealth, 40 tons, 250 ozs.; Golden Stream, 87 tons, at 1 oz. 12 dwts. per ton; Mount Murchison, 12 tons, at 1 oz. 5 dwts. per ton; Maori, 250 tons, at 2 ozs. 2 dwts. per ton; Anglo-Saxon, 50 tons, at 2 ozs. 15 dwts.; Lily, 63 tons, 214 ozs. 15 dwts.; Queen of May, 53 tons, at 1 oz. 16 dwts: per ton; Normanby, 45 tons, at 2 ozs. 10 dwts. per ton; North Cue, 30 tons, at 2 ozs. per ton. In the crushings at Day Dawn, on the Day Dawn Mine, 4,000 tons averaged 16 dwts. of gold per ton; on the Trenton, 50 tons averaged 5 oz. per ton; and on other mines, such as the Emperor, Cue Victory, New Caledonia, Kinsella, Nil Desperandum, Kinsella No. II., excellent stone was treated. The mines at Lake Austin (island and mainland) yielded heavy parcels, obtained by dollying. Up to 1894 the Nannine Mine, at Lake Annean, had crushed 2,200 tons of quartz for 2,263 ozs. of gold; the Royalist, 120 tons for 700 ozs.; and the Victory (from January, 1893, to July, 1894), 4,500 tons for 4,300 ozs. The Star of the East Mine, east of Nannine, was turning out well, and obtained 7,036 ozs. from 2,680 tons; the Garden Gully Company erected machinery on their mine in 1894. The Ophir, Black Iguana, Mount Wranizon, and Mount Wranizon South at Abbott's Find, and the New Chum, New Chum South, Morning Star, and Easter Mines at West Mount Magnet, were the most forward in their respective districts. The alluvial yielded some fair returns on the Murchison in 1894; the total output of gold on these goldfields was 52,946 ozs. 6 dwts. 11 grs., valued at £201,196.
Late in 1894 some very rich stone was obtained near Lake Darlot, east of the Murchison Goldfield. There was a considerable rush of men for this district, and one report says that gold valued at £10,000 was rapidly dollied from the reefs. Lawler's (named after discoverer) became the favourite centre of this new area, while McCaffrey's, a few miles to the north, supplied some rich alluvial.
A few large nuggets were discovered on the Pilbarra Goldfield in 1894. Reefing was pursued with more vigour than in 1893, and the district was so promising that the Government considered the advisability of constructing a railway to Marble Bar. A public meeting at Roebourne advocated such a line with vigour. Several mines in the Pilbarra district were sold to English companies. The return of gold at Pilbarra was 16,254 ozs. 10 dwts., valued at £61,767 2s. The Ashburton output was 285 ozs., valued at £1,084; and the Kimberley, 588 ozs., valued at £2,236. The latter district was even more depressed than in the previous year. The site of Hall's Creek was declared on 23rd November, 1894.
The influx of people to the colony during the year had been phenomenal, and all the principal towns participated in the uprising which took place. Almost every branch of Government administration was greatly expanded; the railway and telegraphic systems became profitable; and the finances grew comparatively larger every succeeding month. The flotation of mining companies in Western Australia and elsewhere, aggregating in capital many millions of pounds, provided a wonderful stimulant to progression. A "boom" had begun, and in the following year it took Australian and numerous English capitalists under its sway. Western Australia reaped the immediate contingent advantages.
The great growth of the goldfields led to changes in the administration. Hitherto the Department of Lands and Surveys, under the supervision of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Mr. Marmion, had to administer the mining industry, but the work became so arduous and extensive that a Department of Mines was constituted. On 1st January, 1894, Mr. H.C. Prinsep became Secretary for Mines, with a staff distinct from that of the Lands Office, and he was set the task of establishing uniform system for the production of mining plans, for the carrying out of mining laws and regulations, and for the dissemination of mining information. Mr. Marmion still had the supervision of this department. Late in the year the work enormously increased, and in December a Minister for Mines was appointed. Mr. E. H. Wittenoom, M.L.C, undertook the control, and, despite tremendous difficulties, he has filled the office tactfully and successfully.
Among the first changes in the management of the eastern fields was the subdivision of the Yilgarn district. On 5th April, 1894, the Coolgardie Goldfield was declared, and the boundaries of the Yilgarn and Dundas fields were amended. Thus, in place of one, and then two wardens for the eastern mineral area, there were now three—one at Southern Cross, one at Dundas, and one at Coolgardie. Mr. J.M. Finnerty left Southern Cross and became warden of the more important Coolgardie Goldfield. Dr. V. Black was appointed warden at Southern Cross, and Mr. A. S. Hicks assumed the duties at Dundas. A Local Court was constituted at Coolgardie on 13th April. Later in the year the area of the Coolgardie Goldfield had so expanded by reason of further discoveries that a new district was proclaimed on 19th September, under the name of the East Coolgardie Goldfield, with Kalgoorlie as its centre. Mr. M.H. Jephson became the first Warden of East Coolgardie. In June there were four Courts on the Murchison—at Cue, Nannine, Austin Island, and Mount Magnet; there were three at Pilbarra—Marble Bar, Bamboo Creek, and Nullagine; and one at Kimberley—Hall's Creek. Wardens' Courts were declared at Kalgoorlie, Kurnalpi, and Goongarrie (Ninety Mile) on 12th September.
The calls upon Mr. Woodward, the Government Geologist, had become so numerous that early in 1894 Mr. S. Göczel was appointed Assistant Government Geologist.
On 1st August Esperance Bay was proclaimed a port of entry. In geographical position it was the port to the Dundas Goldfield. On the previous 15th December the town of Esperance was declared.
The Northam and Southern Cross Railway, so courageously projected by the Forrest Government in 1891, was opened to traffic on 1st July, 1894. All doubts which existed when the bill was before Parliament were now gone, and the bold policy of Sir John Forrest had turned out to be successful to a peculiar degree. In 1891 the Yilgarn district had only about five mines which were developed to any extent, and the goldfield area was small and not altogether phenomenally rich. The population of the goldfield was not then more than three or four hundred souls. It would seem as if the Premier had been gifted with prescient insight, for no more beneficent policy could possibly have been projected. While the railway was building astonishing discoveries had led to the proclamation of a mineral area of about 105,000 square miles, and to the concentration of a population of several thousand persons beyond Southern Cross. The happy inspiration which suggested this railway was calculated, in its materialisation, to give a wonderful spur to mining development. The length of the line was 170 miles, and the contract was let to Mr. J. McDowell, on 7th September, 1892, for £148,137 7s. 1d. The work was completed within five months of the contract time. The line as it gradually drew near to Southern Cross—the gate of the gold region—had proved of service to incoming prospectors, many of whom were able to obtain railway passage over each part of the route as work was completed. The formation was of an easy character throughout, without heavy banks or cuttings. There are 35 bridges and 506 culverts on the line, and the steepest grade is 1 in 60. The districts tapped are Grass Valley (ten miles from Northam), Meckering (twenty-three miles), Cunderdin (thirty-seven miles), Tammin (fifty-two miles), Kellerberrin (sixty-six miles), Doodlekine (seventy-six miles), Hine's Hill (eighty-nine miles, Merredin (102 miles), Burracoppin (116 miles), Twenty-five Mile Rocks (139 miles), and Parker's Road (156 miles).
Sir John Forrest's Cabinet determined to continue the railway through the desert to Coolgardie. The calls for the extension were even more imperative than were those for the line to Southern Cross in 1891. In November, 1894, Parliament sanctioned a bill providing for the new railway, and this important work was begun in 1895. By such means as these the Government and Parliament were seeking to foster the goldfields to their utmost. Extensive public works were being carried out in other parts of the colony, and in 1893 a Loan Bill for £540,000 was authorised for the completion of public works already under construction, and for other improvement and development purposes. In 1894 another Loan Bill was carried,on this occasion for £1,500,000, principally for the construction of railways to the gold fields, the development of goldfields, and for the Fremantle Harbour Scheme. Perth, Southern Cross, Coolgardie, and Kalgoorlie were connected by telegraph in 1894.
By this time a composite population had settled at Coolgardie, and also, in a lesser degree as yet, at Kalgoorlie. Representatives of nearly every trade and profession had gathered in the mining camp near Bayley's Reward claim, and a large town soon sprang up. On 25th August, 1893, the Coolgardie township was declared. The site was surveyed in wide streets, and upon the frontages brick, iron, and wooden houses were built. The sections are 10 x 5 chains, and the allotments each a quarter of an acre. The streets are two chains wide, and derive their names from prominent men—Bayley Street, from the founder of the centre; Hunt and Lindsay Streets, from the explorers; Sylvester Street, from Mr. Sylvester Browne, the mining investor; and Woodward Street, from the Government Geologist. The population was in 1894 sometimes over two and three thousand; but as miners are essentially nomadic the number varied as new discoveries were being made. The health of the town was at first extremely bad. For many months the chief population centred in Bayley Street, which was in places an Augean stable. The intersection of Bayley and Hunt Streets was the general camping ground for teamsters and camels, and in various places lay the decaying debris of the township. The rises and boundaries were also used as camping-grounds, and typhoid fever in the hot months became too frequent. Before a municipality was proclaimed the people formed a Progress Committee of leading residents; and although this body had no official existence it yet did excellent service in seeing that sanitary rules were obeyed. The Committee, on behalf of the centre, petitioned the Government that Coolgardie might be proclaimed a municipality. On 4th July, 1894, two years after Bayley's first discovery, the municipality was proclaimed. Although the municipal year did not begin until the 1st December, the exigencies of the time caused the ratepayers to hold an election immediately. The first Council was composed of Messrs. James Shaw (mayor), A.W. Macdonald, L.P. Askin, A. McKenzie, J. Howard Taylor, A. Leevers, and J.L. Hinde. Mr. J.J. Tucker was the first Town Clerk. The Councillors, and particularly the popular Mayor, applied themselves with restless energy to the work of amelioration. The streets were cleared of all objectionable matter, sanitary laws were applied, and in a short time Coolgardie became a model little town, but, owing to its being practically the centre to all the eastern goldfields, the death-rate was still high. This was caused by miners who sickened in the remote places entering Coolgardie for medical attendance. A public, and several private hospitals were established. The Government erected public buildings in the main streets, and early in the year the Union, Commercial, and West Australian Banks opened branches in Coolgardie. In February thirty-one town lots were sold at an average of £200. One of these blocks was resold in August for over £2,000. Exemptions in the leases were granted in December, and the population decreased for a time.
At Kalgoorlie similar conditions existed, but the population was smaller. A Progress Committee was elected to subserve the interests of the inhabitants. The town was surveyed, and declared on 7th September, 1894, and numerous buildings of a substantial nature were erected. In the laying-out of the town, and in the public spiritedness of the inhabitants, Kalgoorlie resembled Coolgardie in its history. Mr. John Wilson, in May, 1895, became the first mayor. The centres of the other important districts were already developing into towns, and as the circumstances demanded, one and another appointed Progress Committees. Indeed, the goldfields people, from beginning to end, have shown a singular aptitude to manage their own affairs and to obtain a just recognition of their rights. The town site of Kanowna was declared on 14th December, 1894.
On 10th November, 1894, the Geraldton-Mullewa Railway line was completed. The length of the line was fifty-seven miles; the contract was let to Mr. Neil McNeil on 19th March, 1893, for £98,902 8s. 7d. The formation was heavier than the average of railway construction in Western Australia, and included several deep and long cuttings. On 1st September surveys were begun for an extension of this line to Cue, and the Mullewa-Cue (197 miles) Railway Bill was carried in November, 1894. Telegraphic connection was already established. On 2nd March the town of Bundawadra (Day Dawn) was declared, and on the 13th July the town of Mullewa.
During 1895 the mineral area of the goldfields became still larger. For hundreds of miles north and south, and for hundreds of miles east and west, gold was found in quartz and cement and sand. As far as prospectors could carefully search in the deserts eastwards, indications of gold were found, and as far as spinifex deserts would allow them to go northwards there was the same promise. No masses of gold such as those at Bayley's, Londonderry, or Wealth of Nations were come upon, but the finds were not of less value because of it. In January, 1895, there were between two and three thousand men at Kalgoorlie working the alluvial with dry-blowers. Even at so recent a date that district was still the alluvial centre, and when matters were quiet elsewhere, when no remarkable finds were announced from other places, the diggers would gradually return to Kalgoorlie as to their homes. Then when new discoveries were noised abroad, Kalgoorlie alluvial was practically abandoned. Nuggets of considerable weight were picked up here and there in the several districts, while new reefs were found which yielded valuable gold from the dollying process. In February Messrs. Northmore and Doolette obtained gold at a place north-east of Menzies, which received the name of Niagara. In January and in October rich stone was broken between Goongarrie and Siberia, and also south of Siberia. In January, also, discoveries were made near the Twenty-five Mile, on the Hands Across the Sea Reef, as well as at a place north of Kanowna. Hayes Brothers and party were the prospectors of the latter, and they conveyed to Kalgoorlie some 300 lbs. of quartz, estimated to be worth £3,000 sterling. A huge outcrop showing gold was discovered at Mount Catherine, almost midway between Menzies and Mount Margaret. A native difficulty was experienced at this place, and two of the prospectors were arraigned for murder and were acquitted. In June there was a rush to work alluvial near the Forty-Five Mile Tank. Lake Darlot, exploited in 1894, attracted considerable attention early in 1895, and many men went up over the deserts from Coolgardie to this place. One small party, so the report goes, dollied 2,000 ozs. of gold in eight weeks. A few large nuggets were picked up. In March there about 400 men in the district, and in April a train of several score of camels went thither from Coolgardie carrying the equipments of men, some of whom followed on foot. To reach this eastern part of the Murchison fields they had to traverse three dry stages—one of ninety-two, one of fifty-four, and one of sixty miles. Numbers of the camels refused to carry their loads, and had to be turned adrift. Several horses were lost in these stages. The alluvial at McCaffrey's was worked out.
In June reports were circulated of a discovery of importance at Lake Cowan, about seventy-five miles south-east of Coolgardie. It was said that 6,000 ozs. of gold had been obtained in a few weeks. Hundreds of men proceeded to the locality, but after a trying journey they were unable to discover any metal. Upon the return of some of them to Coolgardie a disturbance took place. The populace was enraged, and gathered to the number of nearly a thousand outside the office of the newspaper which had been the principal cause of the stampede and the consequent disappointment. Stones were thrown at the building, windows were broken, and it seemed as if the whole structure would be wrecked. Warden Finnerty addressed the miners, pointing out the futility of a riot, and the men dispersed.
But the most significant items in 1895 had to do with the successful working of reefs, the extraordinary number of mines that were floated in Australia and England, the alterations in the mining regulations, and the general inflation of the colony. Reefs were now more consistently prospected all over the eastern and Murchison fields. At Kalgoorlie the best returns were obtained, and at Cue and Day Dawn the chief machinery was engaged. The Murchison Goldfields became so active that the southern portion was separated from the northern, and named the Yalgoo Goldfield. The mining population of this district was about 750. In 1895 there were seventeen batteries at work around Cue, nine around Nannine, and two at Mt. Magnet. The machinery was valued at £128,111. The East Murchison Goldfield, including Lake Darlot, Mt. Sir Samuel, and certain places on the road from Cue to Lake Carey, was also proclaimed, and a warden was stationed at Lawler, the most central station. The reefs at Mount Sir Samuel were reported to be exceedingly rich. The towns of Austin (31st May) and Mount Magnet (18th January) were declared in 1895. The number of miners engaged on the Murchison Goldfield in 1895 was 2,200. On the Yilgarn Goldfield some excellent development work was carried out. A battery was erected at Parker's Range, and another at Mount Jackson, where about 60 persons had congregated. Of all the goldfields towns, Coolgardie was the centre of attraction. Newcomers, mining agents, professional men, and tradesmen merged there because of its central position. In 1895 there were eleven batteries, a cyanide plant, and twelve other mills at work in the Coolgardie Goldfields district. On the East Coolgardie Goldfield, within a few miles of Kalgoorlie, 700 leases were applied for in one month, and well-defined lodes were proved for miles in a south-easterly direction. The White Feather district was notable for a patch of cement, from which considerable gold was obtained. The North Coolgardie Goldfield was declared on 29th May, 1895, and had Menzies as its administrative centre; Niagara and Edjudina were its other most promising districts. Because of its remoteness the progress of this goldfield was not as pronounced in 1895 as that of more southern fields. The Dundas Goldfield did not even yet receive the attention it merited, although rich corporations began systematic work in some of its mines. Norseman became the favourite centre. The Government in 1895 declared townships at Kurnalpi (25th January), Norseman (24th May), Dundas (24th May), Goongarrie (14th June), Menzies (23rd August), Londonderry (30th August), and Bulong (29th 2ovember). At Kimberley only three mines were in actual operation—Mount Bradley, Ruby Queen, and St. Lawrence. The population was less than 200. The population of the Pilbarra Goldfield was about 1,000, and was divided among such settlements as Marble Bar, Bamboo Creek, Nullagine, Talga, Western Shaw, Croydon, Mallina, Tamboura, and Egina. A few rich alluvial finds were made near Roebourne. The Ashburton Goldfield was almost deserted. A township was declared at Bamboo on 14th June. The total gold output of the colony was 231,513 ozs., valued at £879,748. There was a considerable diminution in the returns from alluvial, hence the yield was not greatly in excess of that of 1894. The eastern goldfields held first place with 125,106 ozs., Murchison fields second with 65,475 ozs., Yilgarn third with 19,747 ozs., Pilbarra fourth with 19,522 ozs.; then came Kimberley, 877 ozs.; Ashburton, 541 ozs.; and Dundas, 242 ozs. There were 19,310 quartz miners in the colony, and 2,150 alluvial. Some 89,861 acres were held under lease, subject to labour conditions, and there were 75 batteries, 831 stampers, 19 other crushing plants, and 4 cyanide plants—two at Murchison, one at Coolgardie, and one at Dundas. The gross receipts in mining revenue amounted to £78,043 7s. 2d., and the net receipts to £77,885 6s. 2d.
The sensational discoveries of 1894 precipitated a "boom" in Western Australian mining stocks of such magnitude as has seldom been approached in Australian history. Perhaps on no previous occasion were so many Australian mines eagerly purchased in London as in 1895. England apparently had more money than she knew what to do with. Western Australia had innumerable quartz reefs, some of which deserved to be developed; others of which were comparatively valueless. There were many promoters of mining companies who could obtain glowing reports concerning this or that claim. The promoter purchased a lease from the prospector, obtained reports upon it, and proceeded to England to sell it. He was received with open arms, was feasted, and gave feasts, and quickly sold his property at an enormous advance on the original price. The purchasers in England (or the vendor himself) floated the concern on the London market at a still greater advance. Through the conduit pipe thus liberally provided millions of English capital flowed monthly. Unfortunately, the mines often suffered, and the promoters (English and Australian) gained exceedingly. The mine was over-capitalised, and would need to be phenomenally rich to pay dividends on the enormous capital. Although it may have been floated for two or three hundred thousand pounds, perhaps only a tenth of the amount was used for development. The sums which entered the pockets of the vendors and other parties were enormous. There could be but one climax to such a system.
Western Australia was not unique in this respect; every quartz field in the world of any pretensions has suffered from such an unhealthy inflation. The system is decidedly bad, and is sometimes fatal to the immediate development of the field. As each month of 1895 progressed, larger and larger flotations took place. Within the first six months about seventy-three Western Australian companies were floated in England at a capital aggregating £7,743,200. In Western Australia and in the Eastern colonies scores of companies were successfully placed on the market within the same period. It was not always necessary to issue a prospectus for the mine; the money was subscribed privately. The flotations increased phenomenally towards the end of the year. The money subscribed in England up to the end of 1895, according to the annum report of the Department of Mines, approached to £50,000,000. Powers of attorney numbering 194 were registered in 1895, and thirty-nine local companies were registered. To a certain extent it might be said that the actual value of a mine was, allowing for all circumstances, not greatly above the price paid the prospector, which ranged from £50 to £15,000; larger sums were, of course, paid for claims showing phenomenally rich stone. The disparity between these amounts and the £25,000 to £100,000 and upwards, at which the companies were capitalised, exhibits the incubus under which the industry was made to labour. But it might also be said that if ten, or even five, per cent, of such mines become dividend-paying the goldfields would yet be perhaps the largest on the globe. In some cases mines of value, giving promise of permanence, must collapse because of the impossibility of their paying interest on the declared capital. In other cases, claims of small value have been floated for enormous sums.
But many Western Australian mines have risen superior to the heaviest burdens, and, with a minimum of working capital originally, have become dividend-paying. The ore from the beginning has been of a high grade, and let there be but sufficient money to defray the cost of machinery and a few months working expenses, and the mine will pay its way. A pleasing feature is found in the number of legitimate wealthy mining corporations which carry on operations in the colony. Many of the leading mine-owners in the old hemisphere have purchased largely in Western Australia. They have not as a rule purchase for flotation purposes, but proceed immediately to prove the property. Gold-mining men of world-wide experience are engaged to supervise the local management of these wealthy corporations, and they encourage development, increase the output, employ labour extensively, circulate capital, and supply an object lesson useful to all who are interested in the industry. Happily, too, many mines were not over-capitalised, and they are generally enjoying a lucrative career. The Western Australian quartz-mining "boom" was useful in attracting capital to the colony, and in advertising its invaluable resources throughout the world. It will long be remembered. As one promoter put it: when the hay was in the field, and the sun shone, he would be foolish who did not gather.
The far-reaching nature of the mining excitement drew men from all over the world in 1895. People immigrated from Africa and America, Great Britain and Europe, China and India, New Zealand and the South Sea Islands, and from mining centres in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia. There was a total of 29,523 immigrants (24,173 males and 5,350 females) in 1895, while the emigration amounted to 11,129, leaving Western Australia the gainer by 18,394 persons. The population of the colony in 1895 was 101,235, made up of 69,727 males and 31,508 females. The immigration in December was greater than that of any preceding month, and totalled 4,540. Most of these people came from the Eastern colonies, which were still greatly depressed. From one point of view the migration was unwelcome to them, and from another it undoubtedly afforded them a great relief. The unemployed difficulty, which in each colony was becoming a serious problem, was largely removed by no voluntary effort of the Governments, and thousands of pounds of money were monthly sent from Western Australia to the families left in their old homes. Nearly every part of the colony gained a certain percentage of the incomers, but the goldfields and Perth and Fremantle were chiefly advantaged.
The standard of the arrivals in 1895 was essentially a high one, and, excepting merchants who remained in Perth and Fremantle, the best hurried to the goldfields. Life on the hungry deserts was so arduous and void of comforts that he was brave and strong who voluntarily bore it. As in Ballarat and Bendigo, the results were usually beneficial to the physical and mental stamina of the men. Most of the prospectors and business men on the gold fields were young or in their prime. They were representative of nearly every class, from the aristocrat and university man through all the professional and commercial grades to the miner and labourer. Most of them were possessed of a little capital, and some were already wealthy. These latter were adventurous spirits whose past habits of life impelled them to a newly-opened gold region to partake of its unequalled excitement, romance, and opportunities. There were also those men of world-wide experience who are best pleased when placed at the world's outposts. Among them were the irrepressible speculators, who exploit a goldfield to purchase new claims from prospectors in order to sell them at a high price to the London capitalist; they play that important part of "booming" an infantile goldfield. The largest proportion of the goldfields people, however, were vigorous young men from the Eastern colonies and from the old settled districts of Western Australia. Many of them are perpetuating the traditions of their fathers on the Victorian goldfields forty years ago. In December, 1895, the population of Coolgardie was about 6,000 persons, of Kalgoorlie district about 3,000, and of all the various goldfields over 20,000.
It may not be out of place to sketch phases of goldfields experiences. To reach Cue or Coolgardie dreary journeys had to be made on foot, in waggons, and in coaches. In 1895 the desert tracks were execrable. Coaches and waggons had cut deep into the soft soil or sand, and the wheels were hurled in dust to a depth of from six to twelve inches, or more. Occasionally this soft covering hid a boulder or stump, and the vehicles were nearly capsized and groaned suspiciously under the strain put upon them. In such a way the journey was sometimes continued for days. Once a conveyance entered the ruts of the track it was difficult to get out of them. Nearly every desert road was wide enough for two vehicles to pass; there were distinctive ruts for the vehicles going and those returning. The mighty desert of Coolgardie was lined with hundreds of conveyances entering or leaving the goldfields towns. At intervals of every few miles, over a stretch of 120 miles, waggons and coaches and carts were passed. Their presence could be detected for miles ahead, and in the rear by the clouds of dust which hung over them like a cloud. This dust settled gently on the travellers, so that in a few minutes they were almost unrecognisable. Alongside the track there was generally a "camel pad," over which swung trains of camels to the number of fifty or a hundred, bearing heavy burden of food, goods, or building materials, &c., for the inhabitants of the desert. In 1895 there were 3,456 camels in the colony. In the first half of 1894 one or two prospecting parties came to Western Australia overland from South Australia, and thenceforward an overland route was taken by numbers of the incoming men. The country traversed under such difficult circumstances by Eyre, Forrest, Giles, and Lindsey has been often crossed since the desert goldfields were exploited, not only by camels, but by teams, by isolated men on foot, and by cyclists. The horses employed on the goldfields proved exceedingly hardy, and performed journeys without water which were previously thought impossible. In the hottest weather they have been known to pull heavy burdens over the sand waste without a drink for thirty and forty hours. When a roadside condenser was reached, their owners sometimes had to pay a pound for a single drink for each of the thirsty beasts. In 1895 there were estimated to be upwards of 600 teams and about 4,000 horses running on the road between Southern Cross and Coolgardie. Along this road there were five Government tanks, with a capacity of 5,300,000 gallons, excavated at a cost of £17,161. Wells were sunk in numbers of places on the eastern fields, and condensers were erected to purify the water obtained from them. At Southern Gross, Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, and other centres, and along the desert tracks, these useful contrivances, glistening bright in the sun, and set in cleared patches of weakly timber, were a common sight. Their owners, at one time and another, have obtained large profits from them; indeed, fortunes have been made out of condensers.
Very large numbers of bicycles were used for transport on the Western Australian goldfields. Mail carrying was often performed by them, and when messages had to be hurriedly delivered, perhaps fifty miles out on the desert, a cyclist was approached in preference to camel or horsemen. Regular bicycle delivery agencies were established in the goldfields towns, and the riders, who obtained (and deservedly so) high remuneration, were required to exhibit powers of endurance equal to those demonstrated by horses and camels. The cyclist thought little of starting from Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie on a hot desert journey of several days' duration. Over the long plains riding was comparatively easy; it was only when a stage of soft sand had to be covered that difficulty was experienced. Perhaps in few places has this latter-day invention proved such an invaluable adjunct to civilisation as in the interior of Western Australia. In October, 1895, a cyclist died on the road between Mount Ida and Coolgardie. Evidently overcome by thirst and exhaustion, he dismounted and started to walk. Two travellers first found his bicycle and followed up his footprints. A few miles away they found his boots, and saw where he had evidently become too weak to walk, and had begun to crawl through the dust on hands and knees. Then some miles away they came to the poor fellow's dead body.
In building the towns the stamina of the goldfields people was abundantly shown. Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Menzies, Cue, Nannine, and the other places were situated hundreds of miles from settled districts. The roads thither were usually dry and difficult to pass. Around them there was sometimes not sufficient building stone to construct a chimney. The wood was suitable only for shingle roofs or walls; and yet these enterprising people had wood and iron and occasionally brick carried over the deserts, and in the midst of desolation they built towns in a few months. The traveller who struggled into the interior was apt to be astonished when he first viewed these towns, and was led to meditate on the resistless energy that they symbolised. The first stage in the life of a goldfields town was canvas, the second iron and wood, the third brick. In 1895-6 the old iron, wood, and canvas shanties began to give way to more imposing structures of brick and stone. In Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, and Cue, in particular, several handsome buildings have been erected at a great cost. Hotels and public offices have been built which would not discredit large cities in old communities. The value of property in some of the towns rose enormously. Land which lay in the midst of a hopeless wilderness in 1892 was in 1895 sold for as high as £50 per foot, and men who in 1890 invested a few hundreds in Coolgardie real estate were receiving an independent income in 1895. In July of the latter year some sixty-six feet of ground in that town were sold for £3,000—upwards of £45 per foot. In September town lots at Kalgoorlie sold at sums ranging from £530 to £390 each, and at White Feather from £159 to £110 each. The Government obtained large sums from these sales. Lots sold by the Government in Kalgoorlie in November, 1896, realised £41,235. Prices of property at Menzies and Kalgoorlie rose exceedingly high in 1896-7. Two fires at Coolgardie in 1895 and one in 1897 did considerable damage, and several large stores were gutted.
The evidences of the splendid energy of the goldfields people were not confined to the towns. Here and there, amid the endless bush, over an area of thousands of square miles, the traveller happened on innumerable mounds of earth tossed by the miners from the quartz claims. The place may seem to be connected with nowhere else. A few tracks lead from it and are soon hidden in the ugly thickets. No one but these busy people can tell where they go. In the heart of the interior deserts, perhaps scores of miles from the nearest settlement, with no pleasant landscape to behold or cool shade to rest beneath, they toil for days and weeks and months, proving and developing the quartz reefs. Expensive machinery, made in England, Europe, America, or other Australian colonies has been laboriously dragged over these depressing bush tracks and erected on the mines. There is much that is impressive and inspiring in the Western Australian goldfields.
The histories of mining camps all over the world were repeated in emotional features, but the miners of Western Australia were peaceably inclined. In the goldfields towns excitement was universal. Under the dynamic influence of gold discovery everyone came under the electric current. The climate in summer was trying, fresh water was scarce, food was not all that could be desired, and the public health was not good, but the all-pervading excitement made the experience bearable, and even enjoyable. The outside capital carried in with the fullness of the roll of the Southern Ocean made the inhabitants of the towns decidedly prosperous-looking. One and all appeared to have money to spend; banquets were an almost daily occurrence, and hotels conducted a thriving trade. Each clerk or artisan, compositor or barber's assistant, seemed to hold interests in prospecting syndicates and mining stocks, which advanced in price sometimes at the rate of one hundred per cent. per week. Each was gladsome and elated with the hope of a rapidly-accumulated fortune. Each spent readily, and gave little thought of the morrow. Men who had previously carefully guarded their expenditure, now seemed to consider that it was impossible to take a meal without champagne. Liquid refreshment of the most modest kind cost a shilling a glass. Articles of diet ranged equally high in price, but the goldfields resident believed that it was not well to be alone, and was anxious to share his good things with others. High prices were in part due to the freightage, and as much as £120 a ton was paid for the transport of goods from Southern Cross to Coolgardie. On the Murchison freightage charges were also abnormal. Occasionally supplies became scarce in different centres because of delay among the teams, and because of the rapid congregation of people after a new discovery. A rush from Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie to an outlying district benefited the storekeepers: they could sell their goods at an advanced rate. As the railways were pushed towards the goldfields prices fell. These are a few quotations:—Heavy boots, £5 a pair; flour, £50 per 50 lb. bag; bread, 2s. 6d. per 2 lb. loaf; water, 5s. per gallon; preserved meat, 2s. 6d. per lb; poultry 15s. each; eggs, 1s. each; cabbages, 7s. each; carrots, 6d. each; asparagus, 8s. per bundle; plums, 2s. 6d. per lb; apples, 3s. per lb; cherries, 7s. 6d. per lb. (sent by mail); strawberries, 1s. per dozen (sent by mail); gooseberries, 1s. per dozen; bananas, 6d. each; oranges, 1s. each; and lemons, 2s. each. An ordinary miner's sieve was sold for £1, and a dish for 15s. Chaff was cleared at £180 per. ton, £5 per bag, and 1s. 6d. per lb. A traveller putting up at a wayside inn was sometimes charged 10s. per horse for feed, and as much, or more, for water.
Dust-storms have been a common summer occurrence. Whirlwinds, or willy-willies, have frequently lifted roofs of houses, and lodged them some distance away. The summer climate is warm, but not necessarily distressing. A day temperature of 110 degrees in the shade is often followed by a cool night. A dust-storm is invariably the forerunner of a cool change. First a lurid cumulus obscures the sky, angry clouds of dust form, and willy-willies rise suspiciously in the direction whence the storm approaches. The day becomes dark, and in a few minutes the goldfields town is hidden as by an impenetrable cloud. It is impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. The dust eddies into the houses, and settles in thin layers on the furniture. Outside, stray papers, with other light material, is caught up by the wind, and describes grotesque and rapid shooting and diving motions, and is finally lost to view. In the midst of the storm a peal of thunder is usually followed by a short but heavy fall of rain. The atmosphere becomes cool and clear, and perhaps within half-an-hour the sun shines through a purified sky, and not a cloud is to be seen anywhere.
If the inhabitants of the centres of population built the towns, the prospectors and miners paved the way for them to do so. The life of these wanderers was not so enjoyable, and their experiences had a rougher edge. Except those who were fortunate enough to discover rich patches of alluvial, or gold-ribbed quartz reefs, they did not have much money to spend. Their days and nights were passed in the silent ugly bush, with nothing but toil and hope to relieve the everlasting monotony. They had constantly to exercise all their ingenuity to obtain sufficient water, and their food had sometimes to be carefully measured to ensure its lasting them until they could obtain more. What food they had was not varied or delectable. A few tins of preserved meat, small parcels of flour, a tin or two of preserved fruits, a little tea and sugar—this was the equipment of the well supplied. The vast expanse of desert, and the eternal stillness around were calculated to give their minds a dolorous turn. Nature under such circumstances often causes the lonely man to descend to the standard of a child. He converses affectionately with dumb animals, and beholds certain trees or parts of his mining equipment with a demonstrative regard. Except for his camels or his horses, he may not not see animal or bird for weeks. His watch, which marks the flight of time with more than human intelligence, and appears to be a sentient thing, becomes a companion to be fondled. To men so situated, the knowledge that they are in the midst of a foodless and waterless region alone can save; the necessity to be wary and active to prevent immolation brings out a resolute will. They may hurry, yet the desert is so long that progress is at best but crawling. These men searching to and fro, plodding wearily, suffering in body and mind, and sustained only by the presentiment that somewhere, sometime, they shall find abundant gold, are the makers of the fields.
In the camps, where a score of men may be engaged in prospecting a gully, or in testing quartz reefs on the ridges, the conditions are more pleasing. But here, also, the absence of new faces, of newspapers, of new ideas, of excitations other than those found in possibilities of striking rich patches, beget a primitive state of mind. They evince an absorbing interest in the simplest occupations. Their fare is limited, and the cooks among them take delight in preparing the Sunday dishes in some guise so as to make the preserved meats and fruits and flour more appetising. Perhaps, in addition to a prospector's outfit, they possess condiments which enable them to manufacture rare feasts of cake. The weekday is occupied with their work; the evening is for the perusal of prints read before, and for conversation upon worked-out topics. Sunday is the brightest day of the week. In the morning, where sufficient water can be obtained, the laundry work is performed, and careful attention is devoted to the preparation of the midday meal. One of the company assumes for the nonce the role of barber, an engrossing occupation which necessitates the attendance of every man in the community, each of whom tenders advice, or makes bland remarks suitable to the occasion. During the afternoon they sleep in their tents, or sit in groups beneath the mulga and "jamwood" trees talking of other countries and times.
In the remote camps, perhaps a hundred miles front the nearest court or police, a modified Lynch law has been recognised. By the unwritten, but not less strong law of common interest and protection, punishment more or less drastic was meted out to offenders. The men were summoned to administer justice by what was known as the "Roll Up" call. When any matter requiring the attendance of the little community arose, a tin dish was beaten by the convener. The clamour sounded loudly in the usually silent bush, and within a few minutes all the diggers and prospectors hurried to the place. They gathered round the convener, who told them of what had befallen. In one instance a silver watch and eight ounces of gold were stolen from the tent of a miner. He sounded the "Roll Up," and placed his case before the assembled men. First, the thief must be discovered. Every man searched the soft sand for footprints leading from the tent. A trail was found and followed through the bush to the tent of one known as "Tommy the Liar." Tommy was enjoying an hour's sleep, and showed resentment when he was awakened and a request was made for his boots. These latter were gingerly given, and were found to be identical with the shape and size of the footprints. Tommy stoutly denied the theft. At the same time he was observed to place his hand between his bunk (bed) and the back of his tent; an examination led to the discovery of the gold just outside his tent. Tommy protested his innocence more loudly than ever, but the miners removed him from his bunk, pulled the tent down over his head, and seized his revolver and knife. While he was watched a council was held. First, the owner of the stolen articles was asked what he wished, but he being a man of peace merely desired that his watch and gold should be returned, and that the offender go free. Some Californian diggers who were present declared that one of Tommy's ears must be cut off. Sentence was delivered in anything but a judicial speech:—Tommy was to be hanged to a tree uutil he told where the watch was hidden. A rope was placed around his neck and pulled uncomfortably tight; Tommy promised to get the watch. With the rope still round his neck he led the way to a hollow tree three miles away; he could not find the watch, and another consultation was held. The owner was requested to value his watch, which he did at the sum of £3 10s. The robber was examined, and under his shirt was found a leather bag containing sovereigns and alluvial gold worth about £150. As a mark of extreme mercy Tommy was allowed to pay the value of the watch, with the privilege, also, of having the money returned when he found that article. He then went away, and next morning produced the watch and was given his money. Another council meeting was held; Tommy was fined an ounce and a-half of gold (sent to the Coolgardie Hospital), and was given half-an-hour to quit the camp. He was not again seen in that neighbourhood.
Occasionally more severe measures were taken, and it is alleged that one hanging did take place. Should an offender refuse to leave the camp when ordered by the council to do so his ears were cropped; he invariably left. The "Roll Up" call was used in cases of alarm against the marauds of blacks, and to settle questions of disagreement between diggers concerning the division of joint gold, or disputes relating to the boundaries of claims. In the camps and in the towns the "Roll Up" was often sounded to call a public meeting to discuss goldfields grievances.
The men in the camps were all liable to be stricken down with fever. There was often an unwritten law for such cases. If it were impossible to take the sick man to a hospital he was tended as carefully as the rude comforts would allow. The claim that he had worked was a sacred spot; every man seemed to consider it his duty to protect it. In order that it should not be surrendered for non-compliance with labour conditions, or entered by another digger, a notice was posted up that the owner was ill. This was all-sufficient. As for the man himself, he was nursed paternally by the different miners, and each one endeavoured to prepare some little delicacy out of the limited store of food. All the luxuries that the camp afforded were placed at his disposal. If he died, his gold was sent to his relatives; the boxes in the neighbourhood were collected, and his old companions made out of them a coffin and buried him beneath some wild cherry or jamwood tree. The claim was awarded to the man who had tended him most during his illness.
Numerous grim and pathetic stories of death have been recorded on the goldfields. In such a dry and deserted region it could not be otherwise. Nearly every old inhabitant of the fields has observed the awful spectacle afforded by men in the last stages of thirst-torture. Travellers through the bush have suddenly come face to face with raving lunatics—men whose intense sufferings have unhinged their reason just prior to the death-agony. Travellers through the bush, also, have found by the wayside the bodies of unknown men bearing the repulsive evidences of the manner by which they met their death. In one case a man, apparently proceeding from Goongarrie to Coolgardie, was found alongside the track, thirty-eight miles from the latter place. By his side lay an open Bible. The passers-by dug a grave upon the roadside, buried the body, and cut four pronged sticks and placed rails over them to mark the four corners of the mound; upon the centre of the grave they laid the Bible, open as found, with a stone upon it to prevent the wind from disturbing it. His name was cut into a piece of board which marked the head of this lonely burial-ground. In 1895 a cyclist passed a stranger entering the waterless tract of ninety miles leading from Norseman to Coolgardie. The man had but a small waterbag, but despite advice he persisted in entering that abandoned stretch. Some time later the cyclist returned and found the naked body; the man in his torture had relieved himself of his clothes as he wandered in search of water, and finally he lay down, burrowed in the earth, tossed the sand over him, and died. The list of these deaths could be pursued indefinitely. We give but one more instance, taken from a Perth newspaper:—"News has been received from Mingenew that the dead body of a man has been found lying alongside the overland telegraph line, five miles from Coorow. Police-constable Simpson went out to the spot and buried the body. The man is unknown. A swag was found alongside the body; also a Bible, across which were laid two sticks to keep it open. Near the corpse was discovered a piece of paper on which the name 'R. Bell' was written. There was no waterbag near the remains, and it is therefore presumed that the unfortunate fellow died from thirst."
Numerous deaths were caused by typhoid fever. In January, February, and March, 1894-5-6, the hospitals, private and public, were crowded out with patients, and among the chief victims were those who were apparently the healthiest and strongest. Men who contracted fever in the back districts had to depend on their own iron frames for recovery. Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, and Cue reckoned many medical men among their populations. After their illness the patients, where able, took a holiday to more pleasing resorts, "glad," probably, as Longfellow said, "to be gone from a land of sand and sickness and sorrow."
As the goldfields became more stable, and therefore important, the difficulties of administration increased. Prior to 1895 the population was essentially nomadic, but with the transitions in the stages of mining districts—from unworked claims to mines, from wildernesses cursorily examined to systematic development, from mining camps to mining towns—the goldfields people began to assert their rights by calling for an amelioration of their condition. Chambers of Mines were formed, and devoted themselves to the interests of the mining industry. The leading magnates sat upon the committees of these institutions. In 1895 an agitation in favour of moving the Government to provide the goldfields with a reliable water-supply began to be heard. With the probable permanence of the quartz reefs such a request necessarily had the determinateness of a demand. So that the industry does not suffer, they said, so that mining districts shall not be abandoned, means must be found to give the people sufficient water to enable them to work. In December, 1895, there were on the eastern goldfields thirteen Government tanks, which cost £28,878, and had a holding capacity of 10,747,000 gallons. As the summer months of 1895-6 approached fears of a water famine were repeatedly expressed. In October the people of Bardoc grumbled persistently, and cried that the district must be abandoned if more water was not obtained. The rain water had already been absorbed, and the condensers were not sufficiently numerous to maintain such a large population as had congregated there. There was a similar fear at Kalgoorlie. In November a cry was raised in each goldfields district. Several men traversing the desert tracts nearly perished of thirst, and one or two succumbed. The Government could not be expected to supply water on every bush road that the prospectors were pleased to take, but in the populated places it was to the interests of the colony that they should concede the demands of the people. The Premier visited the eastern fields in November and December and showed that he was seized of the importance of the water question. In his first speech he explained the difficulties of the situation. Before the Government employed other means of providing a permanent supply, Sir John said, they must be satisfied that sufficient water could not be obtained by boring, or that it was impossible to conserve an ample quantity by the use of catchment dams. Failing such sources, the Government must look to means for conveying water to the goldfields, either from coastal rivers or from other sources. In January and February, 1896, the agitation increased, but before referring to it other items dealing with 1895 must be narrated.
In the first session after his taking office the Minister for Mines, Mr. E. H. Wittenoom, introduced a Goldfields Bill. Development made it necessary that laws and regulations should be passed which were calculated to meet the conditions peculiar to mining in the colony. The Goldfields Act of 1886 had been amended on several occasions, and in 1892 the Mineral Lands Act was carried. The sections of this Act dealt with Mining Licenses, Mining Districts, Business Licenses, Mineral Leases, Licenses and Leases for Coal Mining, Agricultural Lands in Mining Districts, Trespassing and Unauthorised Mining, and Administration. Among its principal provisions was one giving a twenty-one years' mining lease, not exceeding 160 acres, at a rental of 5s. per acre. The maximum of coal mining leases was fixed at 640 acres. An Amending Act in 1892 made it impossible for any Asiatic or African alien to obtain a miner's right, lease, license, or permit on any goldfield. A short Act was passed in 1894 "to amend the law relating to the management of goldfields, and to settle questions as to the validity of the regulations made under The Goldfields Act 1886." Under this a miner could enter upon any land, a mining lease of which had been applied for and which was not held under a miner's right, to within fifty feet of any reef situated thereon, for the purpose of searching for alluvial gold. This provision was made owing to the doubt which had previously existed as to the rights of leaseholders, and to determine such difficult cases as arose upon the discovery of Bayley's, the Londonderry, the Wealth of Nations, and other rich reefs. The 1894 Amending Act also provided for the division of goldfields into districts, in each of which a Court might be constituted for the settlement of actions, suits, claims, demands, disputes, and questions arising wholly or in part within the district, in relation to mining.
The Goldfields Act 1895 was the most complete of any since that of 1886. Warden Gill recast the whole of the previous Goldfields Acts and regulations, and he was assisted by Mr. De Courcy Browne. The new Act was to some extent based on the mining laws of other colonies. Clause XI., to which exception was subsequently taken, provided that a complete record of all leases, claims, transfers, liens, or other dealings should be kept at the office of the mining registrar in each goldfield or district, and that there should also be "kept in the office of the Minister of Mines, in Perth, in respect of each goldfield or district, a register to be called the Register of Gold Mining Leases, wherein shall be registered all leases and applications therefore, and transfers thereof, and of any shares or interests therein respectively, and all liens, charges, and other dealings and transactions relating thereto respectively." No transfer of any lease, or of any share or interest therein, nor any lien, charge, or other dealing or transaction, was effectual to pass any share or interest in any such lease until registered as aforesaid; meaning, in other words, that before a lease was negotiable it must be registered in Perth. Any share or interest in any claim, or other authorised holding or portion of land, was deemed a chattel, and could be encumbered. The privileges conferred by miner's rights were somewhat amended, as experience obtained since 1886 dictated. Gold mining leases were granted for mining purposes; for cutting and constructing water races, drains, dams, reservoirs, roads, or tramways, to be used in connection with such mining; for erecting mining buildings or machinery; for boring, sinking, for pumping or raising water; or for residence thereon in connection with any or all such purposes. Lands were exempted that were dedicated to any public purpose or were reserved; that were freehold; that were held under lease or license, other than pastoral and timber leases or licenses; that were lawfully occupied by holders miner's rights, unless with the consent of the holders thereof; or land that consisted exclusively of alluvial ground, except it had been abandoned, or was suitable for leasing on account of its great depth, its excessive wetness, and the costliness of appliances required for its profitable development. The yearly rent to be reserved in any gold mining lease was set down at 20s. per acre. The lease could be taken for any term not exceeding twenty-one years, and could be renewed at the end of that period; no such lease was to exceed twenty-four acres. Under certain conditions leases could be obtained for land below the surface in any town site or reserve. It was rendered possible to amalgamate adjoining leases. Where it was proved that the labour conditions were not obeyed, the lease was liable to forfeiture. A miner desirous of prospecting could mark off protection areas, but any work other than prospecting rendered such area liable to forfeiture. Every protection area must be worked continuously on every ordinary working day by at least half the number of miners whose names appeared on the notice as the holders of the area. Ordinary alluvial claims had an area for one man of 50 feet by 50 feet, and ordinary quartz claims, for each miner, of 75 feet along the line of reef, with a width of 400 feet. The labour conditions for gold mining leases were not altered, viz., one man for every three acres or part of three acres; provided that no lease was worked by less than two men. In the administration of justice every Warden's Court was given original jurisdiction to hear and determine all actions, suits, claims, demands, disputes, and questions arising wholly or in part within the district, and cognisable by a Court of Law or by a Court of Equity. The Warden could state a special case for the Supreme Court. A Court of Mining Appeal was created, and was to consist of three judges of the Supreme Court sitting together at Perth.
In 1896 there was considerable agitation against certain provisions of this Act, and against certain of the regulations. With the sanction of the Imperial Government a bill was carried through Parliament, in 1895, authorising the erection of a Mint in Perth. Although such an establishment cannot be said to be remunerative, it yet has superior uses, and was calculated to be highly advantageous to the colony. On 23rd September, 1895, Sir John Forrest laid the fouudation-stone of this institution. The central and eastern goldfields were now supervised by mining inspectors. Mr. T. Fowler was appointed Senior Inspector of Mines for the colony, and was stationed on the eastern fields; Mr. F. Reed became Inspector of Mines for the central or Murchison fields, and acting inspectors performed similar duties on other fields. Mr. H. P. Woodward resigned the position of Government Geologist, and Mr. Göczel became Field Geologist to the Government.
The Government hurried forward with goldfields railways. On 18th June, 1895, the contract was let to Messrs. Wilkie Bros. (£64,125) for the construction of the Southern Cross-Coolgardie Railway. The length of this line was a little over 114 miles, and the formation was easy throughout. The contractors laid the rails at the rate, sometimes, of a mile per day. As each section was completed, the line was opened to traffic in the interests of the contractors. On the last day of 1895 the contract for the Mullewa to Cue extension was let. The total length of line was about 196½ miles, and the contract amount was £84,535. Here, also, the construction was expeditiously carried out. During the progress of the Southern Cross to Coolgardie contract, the great developments in mining at Kalgoorlie made it evident that the railway should be extended to that centre. An Act authorising this extension was carried by Parliament in 1895.
The year 1896 opened amid universal excitement in Western Australia, and though, as it proceeded, the mining "boom" diminished, the population increased out of all proportion to that of preceding years. Exemptions were granted on the gold mining leases in December, 1895, and goldfields people scattered over the Australian continent. Perth and Fremantle were so crowded by the holiday-makers, and by the incoming thousands, that it was impossible to obtain accomodation at the hotels and lodging-houses in January and February, 1896. Money circulated with fulsome freedom, and it seemed that depression and straitened circumstances could never again be the lot of Western Australia. But the climax of the "boom" was reached, and the colony settled down to steady and beneficent development and progress.
The influx of new peoples began in January; in that month, and in February, March, and October, the arrivals were enormous. On the 1st February 711 persons landed in the colony by ship, and there were 320 more on the 3rd February. The steamship service with the Eastern colonies had been augmented, and though several large companies were competing for the trade, each with several steamers, they could not supply sufficient berthing room for the applicants. Emigrants from the east to Western Australia often had to wait for weeks before they could obtain passage. Every week the steamers disgorged on the jetties of Western Australia hundreds of men and women bent on taking advantage of the prosperity which had overtaken the colony. In January the arrivals numbered 7,111 (6,285 males, and 826 females), in February 5,774 (5,039 males, and 735 females), and in March 5,831 (4,735 males, and 1,096 females). In the rapid influx canvas villages sprang up around Perth and Fremantle. Piles of luggage lay upon the wharves, at the Customs sheds, railway stations, and in the bush. House accommodation could not be procured, and tents were pitched on the slopes near Perth, around Fremantle, and contiguous to the railway line between the two centres. Many persons did not enjoy even this protection, and slept in the open. The permanent populations of Perth and Fremantle were considerably augmented, and building was pursued with astonishing rigour. New streets were formed, and in a few months were lined with houses; real estate rose at an amazing rate, and allotments that cost a few hundred pounds in 1892 were now sold at more than as many thousands. Land on the river was purchased by speculators, cut up into allotments, and sold at a gratifying profit, and many river residences were erected. New villages appeared around Perth, and along the railway to Fremantle. The bush, which previously had been practically in its native state, was now dotted with wooden cottages and canvas tents. Great patches were cleared and surveyed into towns. After an absence of a few weeks a passenger along this railway was apt to be astonished at the development. At intervals, along the whole route from Fremantle to Perth, were cottages, and those centres were gradually pushed out over the surrounding lands. Magnificent buildings began to raise their heads, and the evidences of progression cogently demonstrated the magnetic power of gold discoveries. The old Perth streets were crowded with busy people. Mechanics, masons, labourers, and domestic servants, although immigrating from the east in great numbers, were not easily procured, and high rates of wages were demanded and paid. There was especially a dearth of masons and domestic servants. The Government introduced a number of the latter from England.
Perth and Fremantle were not alone advantaged by this influx; the eastern goldfields population, particularly Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, and Menzies, was greatly swelled. Here also accommodation could not be found for the incoming thousands. In February Kalgoorlie and Menzies were crowded with strangers. Many applied for miner's rights or for employment on the mines, but it must be said that the general standard of the arrivals of 1896 was not so high as that of previous years. These people were not prospectors and experienced miners. The approaching completion of goldfields railways was calculated to reduce the hardships of life on the interior desert, and hence a percentage of the inflow. The splendid stamina and appearance of the mining people of 1894 was now being leavened by men and women of a lower order. It was even difficult for the leaseholders to obtain sufficient miners to work their properties as required under the labour covenants. The arrivals of 1896, instead of being of the stuff of pioneers, were rather of those who wait until an easy way has been paved. Some resembled the camp followers of victorious armies of olden days. During the Christmas and New Year holidays Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie were thronged with men from the mines in the desert. In February and March Menzies gained an unexpected accession of people. Provisions became scarce, and the town was for days without bread. Flour was sold at £65 per ton. Hitherto there been comparatively few females in the towns, but in 1896 they became a fair percentage of the population. In February Coolgardie was overrun with educated penniless foreigners and Englishmen. They expected to quickly obtain congenial work, but unless they were willing to take positions as miners their careers were precarious. Fever cases were numerous in Coolgardie in March, and the hospitals there and in the other centres were over-crowded. In the same month rain fell over the eastern fields, and the public health soon improved. By the influx of people throughout 1896 the dimensions of the goldfields towns were enlarged. Kalgoorlie now became a serious rival of Coolgardie in matter of population. The monthly returns of immigration into Western Australia in 1896 were: January, 7,111; February, 5,774; March, 5,831; April, 3,277; May, 3,335; June, 2,425; July, 3,331; August, 4,289; September, 4,980; October, 6,122; November, 4,888; and December, 3,852—total, 55,215. The departures numbered 19,266; and the population increased from 101,235 in 1895 to 137,946 in December, 1896.
The agitation concerning the water trouble was continued early in 1896. In January a crisis took place at Woolgangie. No water was to be obtained, and the Government was compelled to run water trains from Northam to that centre, whither the contractors had now laid the new line. The route from Woolgangie to Coolgardie was almost waterless. The Government set works in progress for obtaining water by boring and by conservation in the various districts throughout the eastern goldfields. While these were proceeding Mr. C.Y. O'Connor, the engineer-in-chief, drew up a report upon a gigantic scheme for supplying the Coolgardie Goldfields from reservoirs in the Darling Ranges near Perth. It was a proposal as bold as any ever projected. The original cost of pumping 5,000,000 gallons daily from a reservoir on the Helena River to Coolgardie was set down as £2,500,000. The length of pipe was placed at 330 miles, the diameter of pipe at 80 inches, the velocity of water per second at 2 feet, the net height to which the water had to be pumped at 1,350 feet, the effective horse-power required at 2,716, and the actual horse-power required (being effective horse-power plus 33 per cent.) at 3,612. The pumping engines and sheds were estimated to cost, at £55 per horse-power, the sum of £200,000; the main pipes (including valves, &c.) at Fremantle, 90,000 tons, £1,470,000; the carriage of same from Fremantle, £140,000; the laying and jointing (including excavation and filling in of pipe trench, &c.), £220,000; the reservoirs, £300,000; and the distributing mains (including trenching, laying, and jointing, &c.), 100 miles, £170,000; total, £2,500,000. The working expenses per annum, including interest and sinking fund on total capital cost at six per cent., were set down as £320,000. The cost to the public, on the assumption that 5,000,000 gallons would be sold daily, was estimated at 3s. 6d. per 1000 gallons. It was proposed to pump the water to the top of Mount Burges, near Coolgardie, whence reticulation was to take place. It was believed that water could be delivered cheaper by this method than any other, and also that an ample supply could be obtained on the Darling Ranges.
It would be true to say that the mere boldness of this proposal astonished people throughout the goldfields, and in all parts of the world where it was understood. On the other hand it was conclusive proof to all critics that the Western Australian Government had a supreme confidence in the permanent issue of the gold deposits. While it pleased the people, they seemed to doubt, because of its immensity, whether the scheme was feasible. Mr. O'Connor, while not wishing to advise that the proposal should be furthered, was quite convinced that the work could be undertaken. He was supported by other authorities. The Government, after long and serious debate, decided to introduce an authorising bill to Parliament, and proved that they were even more ready to give the goldfields a water-supply, no matter the cost, than the goldfields people themselves. There were many who advised that large bores should be first put down in different parts of the mineral area to see if artesian water could be obtained, and there were many who held that the scheme should not be accepted until a commission of prominent European and Australian experts had pronounced upon its practicability. When Parliament met in July the Government programme included this great work. It was declared in that sketch of the proposals for the session that the scarcity of water on the Yilgarn and Coolgardie Goldfields had for a long time engaged the anxious attention of the Government, and that after several years' experience, during which the work on the mines had been much impeded for want of water, the question had become so pressing that it could no longer be left undecided. Because of the immense interests involved in the speedy and proper working of the mines, of the many millions of money that had been invested in them, and of the fact that the future prosperity of the colony was so closely bound up in their speedy development, Ministers rather than hesitate, decided to at once undertake to supply sufficient water of a good quality.
When the measure was subsequently introduced slight opposition was shown to it in the Legislative Assembly, and it passed the Legislative Council in September. A proposal was made in the latter Chamber to refer the bill to a Select Committee, but this was defeated by a substantial majority. A Loan Bill, authorising the raising of £2,500,000, was asserted to on 23rd September. A second Loan Bill for £3,500,000 was assented to in October, and was designed for the construction of new goldfields railways and for other extensive public works. Since September, 1896, considerable data has been gathered concerning the Coolgardie Water-Supply Scheme. Reports have been obtained from English experts, and the projection of the enormous work has been consequently held in abeyance. In the meantime the Government has expended large sums of money in supplying water to the various centres, and the old cry has lost its vitality. In the principal mines sufficient water has been generally obtained in the deep shafts for crushing purposes.
The mining developments in 1896 were eminently satisfactory. Slight consideration of the enormous difficulties in water-supply and transport is convincing on this point. The total output of the colony reached 281,265 ozs. 6 dwts. 12 grs., valued at £1,068,808 4s. 8d., and this from a nucleus of 302 ozs., valued at £1,147 12s. in 1886! The returns for the various Coolgardie Goldfields totalled 175,696 ozs.; for Yilgarn, 16,565 ozs. 5 dwts.; for Dundas, 4,350 ozs. 6 dwts.; 6 grs.; for Murchison, 71,282 ozs. 13 dwts. 17 grs.; for Ashburton, 669 ozs. 3 dwts. 9 grs.; for Pilbarra, 11,810 ozs. 2 dwts. 4 grs.; and for Kimberley, 891 ozs. 17 dwts. 6 grs. The output of the East Coolgardie Goldfield was considerably above that of any other eastern field; from May to December inclusive the production amounted to 85,287 ozs. 1 dwt. 7 grs. By far the largest portion of this total was obtained at Kalgoorlie, where the mines were proving of phenomenal richness in depth. The amount of capital invested in this district was greater than that in others, and development work was furthered with more pertinacity. Menzies received renewed attention, and the reefs were exploited with excellent results. Some excitement was caused at Mount Magnet when it was known that large parcels of gold had been dollied from the stone. The North-East Coolgardie Goldfield was proclaimed on 19th February, 1896. The developments at Pilbarra led to the proclamation of a new goldfield—West Pilbarra—in that territory. New reefs were discovered by prospectors in various places in the eastern and Murchison fields, and it is highly probable, owing to the great extent of the goldbearing country, and the impossibility of rapidly exploiting it, that many more rich gold districts will be established in the future. In 1896 quartz-crushing machinery to the value of £364,706 was imported into Western Australia. During the year great interest was aroused in the report of gold discoveries on the Darling Ranges. It was announced that Mr. G. H. Lovett, in conjunction with Mr. L. R. Menzie, was possessed of a rich reef showing free gold at Dandalup. There was a temporary rush to the district, and a report from Mr. T. Fowler, Senior Inspector of Mines, was obtained by the Government. As a result a small goldfield was proclaimed. The district has since been disappointing.
Numbers of Western Australian companies were registered in England in 1896 ("in February," says one report, "forty-one companies were capitalised up to £7,432,500") but the intensity of the "boom" was spent in later months, and it became difficult to obtain money for local mining on the London market. This was to be expected. The price of Western Australian stocks fell to quite an alarming extent on the Australian and London exchanges, and considerable sums of money were lost by speculators. The quick cessation of the inflow of capital crippled the goldfields resources. Happily, except that many deserving new claims have to go begging for purchasers, the mining industry has not been seriously hampered by the stoppage, and the anomaly of a falling market side by side with a gratifying increase of gold output has been observed. There is no doubt that the new temerity of capitalists in investing in Western Australian stocks induced the mining people to bestir themselves more than ever; the results have been abundantly shown in 1897. The torpor in the money market was regrettable and inevitable, but not insuperable. While it protracted the opening up of new mines, it did not affect those already in operation, and upon the latter has been cast the onus of proving to the world that Western Australia is, beyond comparison, rich in gold. And, because of their assured wealth, the goldfields have risen superior to the temporary depression.
Clause XI. of the Goldfields Act 1895 was energetically condemned by the goldfields people in 1896. They asserted that the necessity to refer the issue of transfers and leases to Perth caused needless delay, inconvenience and expense. Time, they said, was the chief factor in a contract; and delay in getting a lease transferred might cause a transaction to fall through owing to some change in the market. In January, a deputation composed of prominent mining men, placed these views before Mr. Wittenoom. Several meetings were held at Coolgardie and elsewhere, and another delegation waited on Mr. Wittenoom in March. Strong exception was taken to the labour covenants attached to leases. It was declared that these were unnecessarily stringent. The cry in this regard was not confined to Western Australia. Capitalists in London interested in local ventures also agitated. Amendments to the Act and regulations were made in 1896-7, and gave satisfaction to the agitators.
The opening of the Coolgardie Railway on 23rd March, 1896, was calculated to appreciably affect the destinies of the goldfields by reducing the cost of living an production. The ceremony was performed by the new Governor, Sir Gerald Smith, attended by members of the Ministry and of Parliament, and by the chief people of the colony. The occasion was made almost a national one, and Coolgardie residents were profuse in their hospitality. Banquets and other festivities were tendered, and important speeches were delivered by the Governor, the Premier, and other gentlemen. On 8th September the line from Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie was declared open by the Governor, and the occasion was celebrated amid demonstrations similar to those at Coolgardie in March. The railway from Mullewa to Cue was rapidly creeping nearer to its destination. The Government carried in 1896 bills authorising the construction of railways from Kalgoorlie to Menzies, from Kalgoorlie to Kanowna, and from Cue to Nannine. Residents of Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Dundas and Esperance advocated with considerable energy the projection of a railway from Esperance via Dundas to Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie. It was declared that Esperance Bay was the nearest, and therefore the natural, port to the eastern gold region. The mines at Dundas were opening up so satisfactorily that the district was considered to have superior claims to a railway. The town of Esperance had become active, and steamers regularly traded thither. Teams carried supplies north to Dundas. The Government has not yet deemed this railway advisable.
In 1897 the iron rails were laid over old tracks of prospectors. The eastern goldfields began to be cut out in every direction, and the stillness of the desert is now awakened by the shriek of the steam engine. Railway connection is extending from Kalgoorlie to Kanowna and from Kalgoorlie to Menzies. By such energy and determined enterprise the goldfields will be thoroughly tested. The railway from Mullewa to Cue was opened to traffic by Sir John Forrest on 20th April, 1897, and the whole system is being extended as the year progresses.
Every month of 1897 in the mines has been a history in itself. Mine after mine is being brought into active crushing operations, and the growth of the output has astonished even those who know most about the industry. More advance has been made each four weeks than previously took place in as many months. The best of the companies so easily floated have been erecting machinery, and in very few instances have the results been unsatisfactory. Several companies at Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, the Murchison, and other fields have paid dividends. In 1897 the Great Boulder has paid to its sharebolders £160,000—nearly equal to the capital of the company, and the Lake View has paid £125,000. Much excitement was caused at Kalgoorlie early in the year by the discovery of tellurides in depth. In the Great Boulder in March a deposit of pure gold in the form of a sponge was discovered at the 200 feet level, and in the course of a few hours gold weighing 70 lbs. was taken out. Twenty-seven mines at Kalgoorlie in 1897 (June to September) have yielded an average of 3 oz. 0 dwts. 3 grs. of gold to the ton. From these 112,139¾ tons of quartz were crushed up to September, returning 337,209¼ ozs. of gold. The Golden Horseshoe has given (1,112 tons) 4 ozs. 5 dwts. 18 grs. to the ton; Great Boulder Main Reef (2,480 tons), 3 ozs. 1 dwt. 23 grs.; Great Boulder Proprietary (41,241 tons), 3 ozs. 8 dwts. 23 grs.; Hannan's Crœsus (203½ tons), 4 ozs.; Lake View Consols (22,680 tons), 2 ozs. 19 dwts. 22 grs.; Australian Associated Gold Mines (3,081 tons), 3 ozs. 11 dwts. 11 grs.; Hannan's Brown Hill (4,137½} tons), 6 oz. 2 dwts. 8 grs.; Ivanhoe (13,049 tons), 2 ozs. 9 dwts. 4grs. One lot of thirty-three tons from the Kalgurlie claim yielded 17 ozs. 0 dwts. 15 to the ton. We have not the opportunity of perusing similar returns from other districts. In Kalgoorlie, however, the chief developments have been made.
The mingled output of gold for Western Australia from January to November, 1897, is 602,671 ozs., as against 281,265 ozs. in 1896. That of all the preceeding years of gold production (1886-1896) totalled only 967,626 ozs. 8 dwts. 15 grs. The wonderful and unparalleled development is thus exemplified; and it must be observed that these returns for 1897 were invariably from quartz taken from mines situated hundreds of miles from the seaboard, in the midst of deserts, and surrounded by numerous physical disabilities. Nor must it be overlooked that the gold wealth of Western Australia is but at the beginning of development, and that new quartz mines are constantly coming into operation.
Notwithstanding all her difficulties Western Australia is rapidly entering into competition with contemporary goldfields. Comparisons are supremely to her advantage. Over ten times as much gold was exported from this colony in the first eleven years of its export as from South Africa during the similar period in the history of that country. The following returns are taken from the Annual Report of the Collector of Customs for 1896:—
|Western Australia||Cape Colony and Natal|
But Western Australia can give South Africa eight additional years and still hold the advantage—eleven years against nineteen:—
|South African Gold Exports.|
|11 years (1871 to 1881) ...||£342,828|
|Total value of Exports for first 19 years ...||£3,228,527|
The returns for Australasia for the three years ending 1896 (Customs Report) are:—
|New South Wales ...||324,787||360,165||296,072|
|Western Australia ...||207,131||231,513||281,265|
|New Zealand ...||221,615||293,491||236,722|
|South Australia ...||35,844||47,343||29,004|
It will be seen that in 1896 Western Australia was yet considerably behind Victoria and Queensland, but her output for 1897 is sure to be beyond that of Queensland in 1896. There is more than a likelihood that Western Australia in 1898 will have an output larger than that of any other Australasian colony: In the months of October and November, 1897, she had reached the totals of Victoria and Queensland for he same months. The return for Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, from January to November (inclusive), 1897, are:—
|Western Australia ...||602,671|
The population of the colony is still on the increase. In June, 1896 it was estimated 122,420 persons; in December, 1896, 137,946, and in June, 1897, at 157,791 persons—made up of 110,456 males and 47,335 females, or 86,900 adult males and 27,700 adult females.
Gold does not supply the only source of mineral wealth. The deposits of coal on the Collie River are considered to be exceedingly promising, and large leases have been taken out there by rich corporations. In 1893-4 some 1,000 tons of coal were raised. To test its quality a trial was made with it on the railways. The Locomotive Inspector reported in 1894 that it burnt freely with an intense heat, and was a rapid steam-producer when perfect combustion was taking place. He considered that it would be possible with similar coal to cope with all the traffic on the railways. Government and Parliament decided to build a railway to the field, and pending its construction development work has remained in abeyance. Considerable tin was extracted from the Greenbushes Tinfield, and copper from near Roebourne and the Murchison. Jasper, diamonds, and other sources of wealth are believed to exist. The mineral exports (other than gold) have been:—
|1893 ...||£606 ...||11,134 ...||—|
|1894 ...||— ...||15,274 ...||—|
|1895 ...||12,952 ...||9,703 ...||—|
|1896 ...||100 ...||4,338 ...||£15,041|
Because of the expansion in every branch of local industry, caused by the growing wealth of the goldfields and the introduction of outside capital, Parliament had to consider important measures that the changed circumstances called for. Members of the Government endeavoured to meet the prosperous advances more than halfway. They introduced useful bills that were calculated to encourage settlement on the land: they amended the constitution; they built railways and telegraphs; they gave facilities to the numerous new centres; and they sought to ameliorate the condition of all classes. Their term of office has extended over the most important period in the history of the colony, and the rapid transitions have demanded an unusual amount of administrative courage in so small a community. The policy of Sir John Forrest in the first responsible Parliament, in 1891, has been consistently followed to the present, and though many changes have taken place in his Cabinet, he still holds his high office, and retains to a remarkable degree the confidence of the people of Western Australia. Even his strongest opponents, after considering his services to the colony and several felicific measures he has sponsored, agree that he merits this public regard. Several circumstances have arisen which have caused momentary irritation, but after great exertion and the expenditure of capital they have been swept away.
In the speeches delivered before Parliament by Ministers and by private members in 1893, congratulatory references were made to the increasing prosperity of the colony due to the goldfields. The crisis in the banking institutions in the Eastern colonies did not seriously affect Western Australia, and in the end, perhaps, assisted her. Two of the banks which closed their doors had branches in this colony, but their business was successfully rearranged, and they resumed active operations. For a time these financial crises caused inconvenience and injuriously affected trade; but nothing could then stay the flood of prosperity which was rolling over Western Australia. Indeed, this colony gained by the depression in other parts of the continent. On the other hand, it must be said that local developments came at an opportune moment, and Western Australian prosperity was reflected to some extent over nearly the whole of Australia.
The action of the Legislative Council in 1892 in refusing to accept the Constitution Act Amendment Bill brought upon it not a little abuse from all sections of the community. The antipathy to the constitution of that Chamber became very marked. A nominated Upper House, composed with only one or two exceptions of the landed and high conservative type of politicians, was bound sooner or later to come into collision with the sentiments and views of a self-governing community that was being affected by a phenomenal progress in industry. Progress demanded changes; a nominated and highly conservative Council could not always bring itself to sanction those changes. Progress then demanded an amendment of the constitution, and anathematised an Upper House whose members had to possess a substantial property qualification. In December, 1892, the population of Western Australia numbered 58,674; but before December, 1898, it had reached 65,064—beyond the limit necessary to enable the people to elect their representatives to the Legislative Council. The Government in 1893 reintroduced their Constitution Amendment Bill, and on 17th July Sir John Forrest moved the second reading. The Legislative Assembly passed the measure with some expedition, and for the second time submitted it to the mercy of the Legislative Council. Members of that Chamber made some important amendments to the bill, especially in regard to the proportional representation in the Upper House under the elective system as provided for by the Government measure. They tried to reduce the number of members for Perth and Fremantle, and seemed to affirm, as a newspaper writer put it, that "land, and sand, and sheep, and kangaroos must have Parliamentary representation; and that population and property, education and intelligence must take a back seat." The Legislative Assembly would not agree to the amendments made by the Council. A conference of five members of each Chamber was held, and after a two hours' discussion adjourned without coming to a decision. By what might be termed "sharp practice" the Constitution Amendment Bill passed the Upper House on the same evening. The voting had previously been evenly balanced, and while one of the opponents was absent an amendment was moved to the motion to adopt the report of the conference, and, in effect, said that the Council did not insist upon the amendments in question in the bill. This was carried by majority of one, and the measure was virtually passed as drafted by the Government.
The Constitution Act Amendment Act 1893 was assented to on 13th October, 1893. It provided for the constitution of a Legislative Council, to consist of twenty members to be elected by seven Electoral Provinces. Each of the following seven Provinces were to return three members:—
The Metropolitan Province, comprising Perth, East Perth, and West Perth Electoral Districts.
The West Province, comprising Fremantle, North Fremantle, and South Fremantle Electoral Districts.
The North Province, comprising East Kimberley, West Kimberley, Roebourne, De Grey, Pilbarra, and Ashburton Electoral Districts.
The Central Province, comprising Gascoyne, Murchison, Nannine, Geraldton, Greenough, and Irwin Electoral Districts.
The East Province, comprising Moore, Swan, Toodyay, Northam, York, Beverley, and Yilgarn Electoral Districts.
The South-West Province, comprising Murray, Wellington, Bunbury, Nelson, and Sussex Electoral Districts.
The South-East Province, comprising Williams, Plantagenet and Albany Electoral Districts.
Any man having resided in Western Australia for two years was capable of being elected to the Legislative Council, provided that he was thirty years of age, was not subject to any legal incapacity, and was a natural born subject of Her Majesty, or had been naturalised for five years and had resided in the colony during that period. The property qualification to which strong exception had been taken when the Constitution Bill was before the House of Commons was thus abolished. The seat of the senior member for the time being for each province was to be vacated at the end of two years, and also on completion of each succeeding period of two years. Seniority was determined by the date of election, but in the event two or more being elected for a province upon the same day, the member who polled the smallest number of votes must retire; in the event of equality of votes, or of an unopposed return, seniority was to be determined by the alphabetical precedence of surnames, and, if necessary, of Christian names. The right to vote to the election of the Legislative Council was given to every man over twenty-one years of age who was a natural born or naturalised subject of Her Majesty, and was not subject to any legal incapacity. He must have possessed a freehold estate in his Province of the clear value £100 for twelve months before registration; or have been a householder occupying for twelve months a dwelling-house of the clear annual value of £25; or have owned a leasehold estate in his province valued at £25 for eighteen months, and with not less than eighteen months to run; or have held for twelve months a lease or license from the Crown to depasture, occupy, cultivate, or mine upon Crown lands within the province at a rental of not less than £10 per annum; or have his name on the electoral list of any municipality or road board district in respect of property within the province of the annual rateable value of not less than £25. No aboriginal native of Australia, Asia, or Africa was entitled to be registered on the roll to either the Council or Assembly except in respect of a freehold qualification, and no elector possessed of more than one qualification within a province was entitled to be registered more than once for that province in the Council.
The constitution of the Legislative Assembly was amended to provide for the election of thirty-three representatives, instead of thirty as previously. The change was principally designed to give representation to the goldfields, and Pilbarra, Nannine, and Yilgarn were added to the constituencies under the Constitution Act 1889. The boundaries of other electoral districts were altered. It was thus possible for the goldfields people to elect three members to the Assembly. Any man who had resided in the colony for twelve months could be elected to the Assembly provided that he was twenty-one years of age, was a natural born or naturalised subject of Her Majesty, and was not subject to any legal incapacity. As in the Legislative Council, the property qualification was abolished. Every man could vote for the Assembly who was twenty-one years of age, and had resided in his electoral district for six months. But he must own freehold valued at £50; or be a householder occupying any house, warehouse, counting house, office, shop, or other building valued at £10 per annum; or be possessed of a leasehold of the annual value of £10; or have held for six months a lease or a license from the Crown to depasture, occupy, cultivate, or mine upon Crown lands within the district at a rental of not less than £5 per annum. Concerning the powers of the two Houses, it was provided that the Legislative Council could return any bill which according to law must originate in the Legislative Assembly, to the Lower House, with a message requesting the remission or amendment of any items or provisions therein.
As no provision was made in this new Act for the compilation of Electoral Rolls prior to the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly, a special session of Parliament was held in December, 1893, and made the necessary order. Both Houses were dissolved and general elections to the Assembly were held in June, 1894, and to the Council in July. The new Legislative Assembly consisted of G. Leake, S. Burt, C. Harper, Sir John Forrest (unopposed), A.R. Richardson (unopposed), W.E. Marmion, E. Solomon (unopposed), W.S. Pearse, R.F. Shell (unopposed), G. T. Simpson, W. Traylan, (Chairman of Committees), S.J. Phillips (unopposed), F. Connor (unopposed), A. Forrest, H.B. Lefroy (unopposed), E.F. Darlot (unopposed), W. Patterson, Sir J.G. Lee-Steere (Speaker, unopposed), G. Throssell, F. Illingworth, G. Randell, W. James, B.C. Wood, H. F. Keep (unopposed), A.Y. Hassell (unopposed), H. Sholl (unopposed), J. Cookworthy, W.T. Loton (unopposed), D.B. Clarkson (unopposed), H.W. Venn (unopposed), F.H. Piesse, F.C. Monger (unopposed), and C.J. Moran. Messrs. Keep, Moran, and Illingworth were the goldfields representatives.
The new Legislative Council consisted of Sir G. Shenton (knighted 1893), S.H. Parker, H.J. Saunders, D.K. Congdon, E.W. Davies, T.H. Marshall, J.E. Richardson, F.M. Stone, E. Robinson, E.F. Wittenoom, E.G. Henty, H. McKernan, C.E. Dempster, R.G. Burges, R.W. Hardey, J.W. Hackett, E. McLarty, J.C. Foulkes, F.T. Crowder, S.J. Haynes, and C.A. Piesse.
The extended franchise had made very little difference in the standard of men elected to the Assembly, but in the Council the elective principle had brought together a body of legislators more obedient to the new trend of events. The politics of a stagnating colony were no longer admissible or convenient. Laws were required which would foster the new life in industry, and which were suitable to the almost unique circumstances of the colony. At the same time, considerable caution was necessary to prevent the country from going too fast. To discriminate between the two ways was the difficulty; perhaps in cases Parliament did not go far enough, and perhaps in cases it went too far. The finances were rapidly improving under the influence of the development in trade and industry and the increase in population. The old financial year was reckoned as from January to December, but in 1893 this order was changed, and to suit Parliament the public accounts were balanced on the 30th June of every year. The first six months of 1893 yielded a revenue of £298,101, and called for an expenditure of £335,891. The Premier estimated the revenue for the ensuing year at £589,500. and the expenditure at £651,962. In July, 1894, when he delivered his budget speech he was able to inform Parliament that the revenue had reached £681,245, nearly £100,000 above the estimates, while the expenditure was only £656,356, or little more than £100,000 beyond his estimate. This result was eminently satisfactory. The session of 1894 was largely devoted to public works measures, and especially to the sanctioning of railways to the goldfields as proposed by the Government. Two amendments were sought to be made to the constitution, and one of them was successful. This referred to the privileges of members of Parliament and of the police force in cases of penalties, actions, or other legal proceedings. The second referred to the Aborigines Protection Board, which was under the control of the Governor, and was independent of the Legislature altogether. The Government, now that the revenue exceeded £500,000, had to vote annual sums to this Board larger than the fixed sum of £5,000. It seemed anomalous under responsible government that money should be voted under circumstances where the responsible ministers had no control over its allocation. Sir John Forrest contended that it was not in accordance with the constitution that there should be any other power in the community than the Government. The Board applied its annual vote to relieving sick and infirm natives, to donating blankets and food to natives in various parts of the colony, to assisting native institutions, and to the education of native and half-caste children. Inspectors were appointed, who were required to travel to all parts of the colony, with the object of protecting the aboriginal population. In 1893, resolutions were passed in Parliament inimical to the constitution of the Board, and in 1894 a bill was carried which provided for the abolition of that institution on 1st January, 1895. The Royal assent to this amendment of the constitution was not given. Numerous despatches passed between the Government and the Secretary for the Colonies in 1893 and succeeding years. As the revenue increased, the sum to be paid the Board became altogether larger than its needs demanded, or than it could apply. Thus, in 1897, the rate which the Government is compelled to pay is likely to amount to nearly £30,000 per annum. It is more than probable that the existence of the Board will be terminated before the end of the year.
In December, 1894, two changes in the Ministry took place. Mr. V. E. Marmion, for private reasons, resigned the portfolio of Commissioner of Crown Lands, and he was succeeded by A.R. Richardson, M.L.A. Mr. Marmion had been before the public in Parliament continuously since the introduction or representative government in 1870. During that period he had associated himself with the more progressive spirits in politics. As a responsible minister his administration of the Lands Department, combined with mining matters, helped to maintain the regard which he was previously held. On 4th July, 1896, Mr. Marmion died at Fremantle, at the age of fifty-one years. He was a native of that seaside town, where he first entered public life when twenty-three years of age as a member of the Town Trust, and which he represented under representative and responsible government. His demise called forth expressions of regret from every inhabited part of the colony.
In November, 1894, Sir John Forrest proposed, and afterwards carried out, rearrangement of ministerial offices. By this change he took the departments of Colonial Treasurer and Secretary, Mr. Burt retained the Attorney-Generalship, Mr. Venn, the office of Commissioner of Railways and Director of Public Works, Mr. Marmion, and then Mr. Richardson, that of Commissioner of Crown Lands, and he offered Mr. Parker, who hitherto had performed the duties of Colonial Secretary, the Mines and Education Departments. Mr. Parker preferred to relinquish his connection with the Ministry, mainly because of disagreement with the premier, and be forthwith retired. Mr. E.W. Wittenoom assumed control of Mines and Education. Mr. S.H. Parker, in that change so general in Australian politics, became a frank critic of the Government, and in 1896-97 circumstances brought him into direct opposition. In Australia where rapid development is constantly reversing the conditions, men who work together with a single purpose in one year are in hearty opposition a few years later.
The situation of the Government in 1895-6-7 was not so uneventful as previously. This was not altogether due to any fault in the Ministers, but was caused by the enormous influx of people. The volume of business increased to such an unexpected extent that the railway traffic became congested, and the telegraph and postal departments could not cope with the severe strain so suddenly put upon them. In March, 1895, Sir Wm. Robinson finally severed his active connection with the colony, and proceeded to England. His third term of office as Governor had increased the personal regard in which he was held by the community. When in the Old Country he was a very hearty and generous appraiser of Western Australia, and he advocated her interests up to the time of his death, in 1897. Chief-Justice Onslow, who was knighted in 1895, was Acting Administrator until the arrival, in December, 1895, of Colonel Sir Gerard Smith, formerly member of the House of Commons. Sir Gerard still retains his dignified office.
The budget speech of the Treasurer, Sir John Forrest, in August, 1895, contained several gratifying announcements. His estimate of revenue for the financial year 1894-5 was exceeded by £252,290, and amounted to the substantial sum of £1,125,940. The actual expenditure—£936,728—on the other hand, was £17,737 less than the estimate. There was a credit balance in hand of £277,232. The Customs yielded the main proportion of the revenue with £513,508, and the Railways and Trams the next largest item, £295,733. Sir John adverted with peculiar pleasure to the growth in affairs. Said he:—"From having been unknown and isolated as a colony, we have became known all over the world. From having been the least important and least known of all the Australian colonies, we have now certainly outrun one, at any rate, of those colonies; so that we are not now either the least important or least known of the colonies in the Australian group." Sir John referred to Tasmania, and he pointed out that in 1890 the revenue of the little southern island nearly doubled that of Western Australia, but in 1895 the Western Australian revenue nearly doubled that of Tasmania. Truly, the years of responsible government had been full years.
The flourishing state of the finances led to a slight clamour for a reduction in the duties. A Joint Commission of both Houses of Parliament suggested amendments. and the Government carried a measure which was assented to on 4th October, 1893. In the tables of specific duties this provided for a tariff of 10s. per gallon on spirits; 1s. 3d. per gallon on ale, beer, and stout in wood, and 1s. 6d. in bottles; and of 10s. per gallon on sparkling wine, and 6s. 6d. on still wine. Flour was customed at £1 10s. per ton; wheat, at 6d. per bushel; oats, at 4d. per bushel; chaff and hay, at £1 10s. per ton; bran, pollard, and potatoes, at £1 per ton; butter, at 2d. per lb.; eggs, at 2d. per dozen; salt, at £1 per ton; sugar, at 4s. per cwt.; tea, at 4d. per lb.; manufactured tobacco, at 3s. per lb.; unmanufactured at 2s.; and cigars and cigarettes, at 6s. per lb. A tax of £2 each was placed on camels, and £1 on dogs. Men's leather boots (invoiced at or under 10s. per pair) were customed at 10s. per pair, and women's boots (invoiced at or under 6s. per pair) were customed at 10s. per dozen. A duty of 5 per cent., according to value was placed on bags and sacks, boilers, machinery and parts, carriage and cart makers' materials, and steel fencing wire; of 10 per cent. on blankets, rugs and shawls, boots, shoes and slippers (children's), calicoes in the piece, carpetings, clocks and watches, enamelled ware of all kinds, fresh fruits, hats and caps, muslins of all kinds (in the piece), textile piece goods not containing silk, shirts, collars and cuffs, poultry and other birds, and vegetables (preserved); of 15 per cent. on bicycles, boots, including shoes and slippers, copperware of all kinds, cutlery, drapery, made up dresses and shirts, preserved fruits, galvanised ironware, glassware, haberdashery, harness and saddlery, ironmongery, hosiery, lace goods, mantles, medicines (patent) of all kinds, millinery, musical instruments of all kinds, potted hams, chicken, tongues or other meats, silks, satins, velvets, and plush (in piece); and of 20 per cent. on bricks, carriages, carts and waggons, cordials (not spirituous), furniture (household and cabinetware), jewellery of all kinds, plate (silver and gold), saddles (riding), sandalwood oil, soap, timber (worked), and tinware of all kinds. Among the articles admitted free of duty were books (printed, of all kinds), coal and coke, patent fuel, fire engines, iron and steel (bar, rod, pig, plate, hoop, and sheet), plants, printing paper for newspapers, vine cuttings, immigrants' baggage and effects (including only wearing apparel and other personal effects that had been worn or were in use by persons arriving in the colony), also implements, instruments, and tools of trade, occupation, or employments of such persons, and household effects not exceeding £50 in value. Sir John Forrest in his speech upon the second reading of this Tariff Bill, said he did not think anyone could call it a free trade or protection tariff; it was a revenue tariff with a good savouring of protection in many particulars. Members of the Commission, which proposed to reduce the duties upon certain daily requirements of families, and to increase those on articles of luxury, objected that the Government had not given due consideration to their recommendations. The Government carried a Repeal Bill in 1895, and placed coffee (raw), arrowroot, sugar and molasses, tea, bags, sacks, and other goods on the free list. In 1896 another Act was assented to, which abolished the duty on agricultural, horticultural (not garden rollers), and viticultural implements and machinery, and parts of the same, asbestos, boilers (steam and parts), carriage and cart makers' materials, cyanide, electrical machinery, engines (steam) and parts, furniture-makers' materials, hose of all kinds, machinery and parts, mining machinery of all kinds, and parts thereof, telegraph and telephone materials, including instruments, timber in short lengths for case-making, tin (ingot stream, strip, and foil), wire cloth, gauges, and screens for quartz-crushing, and wire rope. There was an agitation or a reduction in duties in 1897.
In 1894 Mr. G. Randell, M.L.A., was appointed leader of the Opposition, but he resigned this position in 1895, and Mr. G. Leake, M.L.A., succeeded him. A Want of Confidence motion was introduced in July by Mr. Leake, who attacked the Government on the Educational question. After a warm debate, and a vigorous speech by Sir John Forrest, during which he signified his willingness to deal with the question, he motion was withdrawn. An Educational Act Amendment Bill was introduced and carried, and provided for a more advanced system of education. A bill was also passed terminating the ecclesiastical grant.
The goldfields people were not satisfied with the budget speech, and they complained that their part of the colony was not receiving its fair share of public expenditure. Since the beginning of the year they had evinced a spirit of agitation. Gold-diggers and miners, and the general business men who serve them, are essentially democratic in their views. And with their democracy there is a strong cosmopolitan strain. They are frank, and they are fearless. The policy of most communities is not progressive enough for them. There are always men of superior talent among them, and men who have the power to lead, which, according to a recent utterance of Lord Rosebery, is something greater than talent. The men on the goldfields were decidedly more democratic than those in most parts of the colony. They agitated restlessly in the latter part of 1895, and in 1896. A Goldfields League was formed, mainly to obtain the redress of grievances. Objection was taken not only to the public expenditure on the goldfields, but to the administration of certain Government departments, to the mining law, and slightly to the presence of Afghans on the fields.
The Telegraph Department was not able to transmit within a reasonable time all the messages lodged at the offices. Business on the goldfields and in Perth and Fremantle had become exceedingly important, and was fraught with large issues. A delay in the transmission of telegrams was often fatal, and caused substantial losses to the interested parties. In 1895 it was found that the telegraphic system could not manage the business entrusted to it. Transactions involving considerable capital had sometimes either to be suspended or broken off because of the difficulty of obtaining quick communication with London or the Eastern colonies. The line from Albany to Eucla collapsed at inopportune times, and on more than one occasion the line from Coolgardie to Perth failed. The goldfields people blamed the Government, and made fierce accusations against the permanent heads of the Post and Telegraph Departments. They held public meetings, formed deputations, and wrote bitterly in the press. As the year 1895 advanced, the state of affairs became more complicated, and telegrams received at the usual rates at Coolgardie were sometimes sent to Perth by mail. Business of the nature of that arising on the goldfields was bound to suffer severely under such circumstances. Mr. Wittenoom, who had charge of the Telegraph Department, proposed to construct a duplicate line from Coolgardie to South Australia, and the permanent heads sought to render the existing system as reliable as possible. New telegraph operators were employed, but, owing to the exigencies of administration, could not obviate the block. The Government proposed to Parliament in June that a telegraph line be laid from Coolgardie via Dundas to Eucla to duplicate with the Albany system, and £25,000 was set apart in the estimates for this purpose.
There was also a congestion in the railway traffic. The rolling stock in possession of the department was quite inadequate to meet the demands upon the railways. The delays that took place in the transhipment of goods added to the irritation existing on the goldfields and in Perth and Fremantle. Considerable sums had been expended on the improvement of the old lines of railway, and the estimates of 1895 provided for a further sum of £80,000 for improvements and rolling stock on open railways. At the same time £30,000 was set apart for the development of the goldfields and mineral resources, and £47,861 for water-supply, besides a substantial sum for the extension of the telegraph system and for postal conveniences on the goldfields. To the goldfields people these sums appeared inadequate, and they increased their agitation for more consideration. The Government was not in a happy position. Settlement was extending over such a large and inaccessible area that to supply the more remote districts with all they desired was almost impossible. At the same time it is but just to say again that in pursuance of their vigorous policy since taking office they were as courageous as any cautious, yet enterprising, politician could expect. The goldfields people were too liable to expect that in the centre of an arid wilderness they should receive many of the conveniences of the metropolis. In their agitations they were justified, for it is by such means that grievances are best made known and are declared with weight; and in all agitations, as Parliamentary oppositions, a certain amount of exaggeration is to be expected, and in certain circumstances is even permissible.
As soon as Parliament assented to the construction of the telegraph line from Coolgardie to Eucla the Government forwarded the indent for material to London, and Mr. Wittenoom made arrangements for placing a duplicate wire on the line between Perth and Kalgoorlie. But before these reliefs could be afforded the congestion was intensified. Opprobrium was heaped on the Postal Department. There were long delays in the delivery of correspondence in the metropolis as well as on the goldfields. This was excusable in the latter centres where the original buildings had rapidly become too small to meet the requirements. The Government was erecting new structures in various places, but in the meantime the difficulties were increasing, and there was no room to accommodate a large staff. The mail service on the goldfields prior to the construction of railways was carried out under contract with coaching firms, and here too the goldfields people found cause for complaint. The Postmaster-General increased the number of officers under his control by hundreds, and even then objectionable delays were announced. The expansion in business in the three departments—telegraphic, railway, and postal—was such that it seemed impossible to keep pace with it.
On the 8th October, 1895, a large indignation meeting at Coolgardie, presided over by Mayor Shaw, protested against the delays in the Post and Telegraph Departments, and adverted to the state of the water-supply. The Government was accused of inactivity and of being incapable of managing the affairs of the colony. Reference on this and other occasions was made to the very slight representation which the mineral industry had in Parliament. The goldfields population, variously estimated at from twenty-five to forty thousand people, possessed only three representatives, a number that was undoubtedly inadequate. A large public meeting, presided over by Mayor J. Wilson, was held at Kalgoorlie, on 5th October, and gave special prominence to this question. But some speakers declared that, instead of asking for increased representation, the goldfields people should agitate for separation from the rest of the colony. It was held by one advocate of this extreme measure that people entering Western Australia from other Australian colonies, and from various parts of the British Empire, were classed as disfranchised aliens; another said that 40,000 people on the goldfields were governed by 10,000 in the old settled districts. The condition of the Post and Telegraph Departments was condemned in scathing terms, and bitter reference was made to the small sums spent by the Government on the goldfields in comparison to the large sums received from them. Another public meeting at Coolgardie on 16th October again condemned the administration of the three congested departments, and the failure of the Government to keep promises which the speakers said had been made. Mayor Shaw took the opportunity to oppose the separation proposal.
Mr. Wittenoom, in reply to protests sent by committees appointed at these meetings, admitted that there was insufficient accommodation in the post and telegraph offices on the fields, but he pointed out that the Public Works Department was pushing on with new buildings so as to enable the business to be conducted with more expedition and system. Ministerial visits had previously been made to the goldfields centres, and in November and December Sir John Forrest toured to several parts of the eastern fields. Wherever he went he received a hearty and demonstrative welcome. He was tendered numerous banquets, was deputationised, and driven hither and thither with great ceremony. In these ways the goldfields people at once did honour to the Premier of the colony, and gave him the opportunity of testing the worth of their grievances. Sir John visited the Government buildings, the sources of water-supply, and some of the mines. He addressed private and public, large and small, gatherings at various places, and toured to Kalgoorlie, Broad Arrow, Bardoc, Goongarrie, Siberia, Menzies, Niagara, and other districts. He was greatly impressed with the developments which had taken place; he took no exception to the manner in which requests were put before him; he observed the carcases of dead animals in the sources from which water was sometimes obtained; he promised that the Government would do all in its power to assist the miners and provide a water-supply, even if it had to be conducted from the coast; he undertook that registration on the electoral rolls should be facilitated throughout the fields, and he hinted that the Government felt disposed to grant the goldfields people additional representatives in Parliament. Sir John's tact and vigorous speeches pleased the goldfields people, while the importance of the mineral country and the splendid work done by the inhabitants clinched and stamped the views of the Premier. The tour was a great political success.
While the Premier was making this visit to the eastern goldfields the Minister for Mines was touring the central or Murchison fields. He inspected mines, received deputations, and enquired into grievances at Yalgoo, Melville, Mount Magnet, the Island, the Mainland (Austin's), Cue, Day Dawn, Cuddingwarra, and Nannine. Everywhere he went he was received with testimonies of respect for his important office, and everywhere he was pleased with the steady progress which had been made since a previous visit. He also announced that the Government was determined to do its best for the goldfields.
So far as the purely local grievances on the goldfields were concerned, the Government immediately set to work to fulfil the promises made by the Premier on his trip, and provision was made for water conservation in numerous centres. But the block on the railways and in the post and telegraph departments could not be so easily grappled with. The railway congestion assumed more serious proportions; messages received for transmission by telegraph were sometimes sent in hundreds by mail; and the postal delivery was uncertain, and isolated letters were at times delivered weeks behind time. The cry concerning these annoyances became louder in Perth and Fremantle and on the fields. The system followed in the Postal Department was severely criticised, and the permanent heads were referred to in more bitter terms than before. The Public Works Department was hurrying forward the erection of the duplicate telegraph wires. In the railways, the Minister was condemned, and the whole blame for the block was laid at his door. Little allowance was made for the unparalleled nature of the circumstances. There was a block, and the people had to find someone to blame. The rolling stock was altogether too limited to meet the traffic, and the public seemed to expect that new rolling stock should be and could be obtained in a few weeks. They did not appear to recognise that before such orders could be supplied many months must elapse. When arguments of this nature were advanced by responsible authorities the public, retorted that a business man, taking account of the probable eventuation of such an influx of people, and consequent increase of trade, would have ordered months beforehand so as to be ready for the emergency. The Government was in anything but a pleasant predicament, and was assailed with relentless persistency.
In the second week of January, 1896, when the inflow of people was at its height, a meeting of merchants and shipping agents at Fremantle declared that the lack of system displayed by the Railway Department had resulted in the complete disorganisation of traffic. Perishable goods were destroyed on the wharves; railway trucks were loaded indiscriminately—potatoes and onions at the bottom, with machinery on the top; boxes of butter were exposed to the hot sun, so that their contents melted and spread over the wharves. During the next few weeks the outcry was exciting. The Morning Herald, at Perth, a survival of the historical Inquirer, attacked the Government, and published page after page of complaints. On the 19th February an important meeting of merchants and other citizens was held in the Perth Town Hall. The Mayor, Mr H.J. Saunders, M.L.C., presided, and the meeting was addressed by Messrs. F. Wilson, G. Leake, M.L.A., Illinworth, M.L.A., Coombes, Stubbs, Mills, Haynes, Read, and others. The administration of the Railway, and Post and Telegraph Departments was denounced. Mr. Wilson elected to blame the Ministers rather than the subordinates, and he first attacked the Premier, who, he said, had cut down a requisition for more rolling stock sent in by the Railway Department. Then he turned to the Commissioner of Railways, whom he pictured as sitting on two stools. On the one side there was the autocratic Engineer-in-Chief, and on the other a Ministry whom he permitted to cut down his estimates until the whole railway system was in jeopardy. Other speakers waxed facetious on reports of the Telegraph Department, which blamed breakdowns on the overland telegraph line to "climatic conditions." This line had now been erected for many years, and was in need of repairs. Storms on the southern coast were apt to impair its efficiency. The postal system was also animadverted on. The meeting aimed at making a strong impeachment against the Government. The West Australian newspaper declared that neither the public nor the departments appeared able to make useful suggestions likely to relieve the congestion. Another meeting at Fremantle followed, and was addressed by leading residents in a moderate and sensible tone.
Sir John Forrest replied to the strictures of the Perth meeting in his usual vigorous terms. He regretted that his critics did not take the trouble to acquaint themselves with the facts, and said that since the introduction of the Loan Bill of 1894 (upon which the requisition referred to by Mr. Wilson was made), wherein the sum of £174,000 was provided for rolling stock for both opened and new lines of railway, he had no recollection whatever of having refused to provide funds for additional rolling stock. But he believed that the difficulties would be quickly removed, and pointed out that orders then out for rolling stock were valued at upwards of £300,000 over and above the money available by vote of Parliament. Mr. Venn, the Commissioner of Railways, indignant at the criticisms passed upon his administration, and considering that certain of the Premier's remarks inferentially reflected on him and his department, wrote the latter concerning the whole difficulty, and prematurely handed his memorandum to the newspapers for publication. In this missive he proceeded to lay the blame on the Premier. He affirmed that it had never been his desire to cover or clear his own personality at the expense of the Government as a body, and he regretted that the same rigid loyalty had not always been shown to himself. A generous and fair statement from the Premier, he asserted, would have satisfied the public and the Legislature, and saved him from misrepresentation. He contended that though personally assailed by the press for want of foresight in not providing rolling stock to meet the growing demands of the traffic, however unfair the criticism had been, he had defended the Government and its actions at the expense of himself as Commissioner of Railways. He declared that in 1894 the department asked for £200,000 worth of stock for open lines, and £130,000 for lines proposed to be constructed, sums which the Premier had said he was unable to grant, because be was not prepared to ask Parliament for a larger loan than £1,500,000. He reminded Sir John that the Engineer-in-Chief had called upon him personally and urged that the items should be increased. Then he continues :—"I have no hesitation in saying that had the Government at the time seen their way clear to have met the wishes of the department, and had Parliament voted the money, our present difficulties would not have arisen; there can be no doubt of that."
The position had now got beyond the hands of the people, and was personal between Sir John Forrest and Mr. Venn. The public had complained, and the complaint was effective. For some days the dissatisfied merchants viewed with surprise the new turn which events had taken, and they awaited the result. Sir John Forrest considered that it would be impossible that he and Mr. Venn should remain any longer in office together, and asked the latter by letter for his resignation. In this document the Premier expressed regret at having to sever his political connection with the Commissioner of Railways, and thanked him for his past services. Mr. Venn wished to make a written statement to the Cabinet from documents in the Department, and he did not send his resignation as desired. Sir John again wrote Mr. Venn, stating that his position in refusing to send in his resignation was untenable and unconstitutional, and asked him a second time to resign. Mr. Venn refused to waver from his previous decision, and proceeded to his country residence. Sir John telegraphed him to Jarrahdale, again expressed regret at his decision, and informed him that the Cabinet was in accord in making an appeal that further trouble might avoided by the Commissioner's resignation. To this Mr. Venn curtly replied, "Death rather than dishonour." Two days later, on 9th March, Sir John intimated to the Minister that he did not wish to take any action that might be considered unkind or unfriendly, but that unless he received a reply that evening he would feel himself at liberty to take any step that might seem necessary. Mr. Venn did not receive this memorandum until late at night and after the time signified by Sir John within which he desired a reply. He at once informed the Premier that it was impossible for him make any statement that night, and that he would do so next morning. Sir John, however, not receiving this letter up to nine o'clock (the hour he had stated), gave information to the press which made it impossible to delay further. In the same evening he transmitted a memorandum to Mr. Venn, which read :—"I am directed by His Excellency the Governor to inform you that, acting on my advice, he has dismissed you from the post of Commissioner of Railways and Director of Public Works, and from membership of the Executive Council. His Excellency, in communicating his pleasure in this matter, has been pleased to state that he regrets exceedingly that circumstances have arisen which had necessitated this action, and expressed very great surprise that, being aware the necessity of cohesion among members of a Government in best interests of a colony, you should desire, after having been several times invited to tender your resignation, to remain in office. His Excellency feels that, under the circumstances, he has no other alternative but accept the advice given him, and therefore to approve of your dismissal from office."
Mr. Venn bowed to the decision, but stated that he had yet to learn what offence he had committed to justify his dismissal from the Executive Council. He objected to the haste that had been shown, and subsequently affirmed that he had intended to resign immediately after setting his case before the Cabinet. Considerable discussion took place as to the merits of Sir John Forrest's and Mr. Venn's disagreement, and regret was expressed that it had proceeded to such lengths. Important questions as to constitutional procedure and precedent were opened up.
The vacant portfolio was not one at this time to be coveted. To receive the animadversions of an outspoken public when one is toiling night and day to satisfy them in not enviable. After some difficulty in finding a successor to Mr. Venn, Sir John Forrest prevailed upon Mr. F.H. Piesse, the member of the House Assembly for the Williams constituency, to essay the onerous task. Mr. Piesse for some time was unable to cope with the traffic, but as rolling stock, which had already been ordered, came to hand during the year the congestion was relieved, and was finally removed altogether. Numerous additions were made to the staff, and experienced railway officials were imported from England. The administration has been systematised, and the railways are now capable of meeting the demands upon them. In 1896 also the grievances concerning the post and telegraph services were removed. The duplicate wires to the eastern goldfields were connected, the line from Coolgardie to Dundas and Eucla was expeditiously completed, and lines to several goldfields centres were erected. The post and telegraph buildings were improved, or new ones were raised, and the internal working of these public departments was organised so as to facilitate business. There had been additional complaints from the goldfields, and great inconvenience had been caused, but what with railway construction, water-supply, and other conferments, the Government endeavoured to remove justifiable grounds for complaint.
The demand of the goldfields for increased political representation did not abate, and when Parliament met in July, 1896, the Government programme set forth that a bill would be introduced to create new constituencies. Sir John was fulfilling the promises made during his tour in 1895 to the eastern mineral fields. A new Constitution Act Amendment Bill was passed by both Houses, and was assented to on 8th October. Under it three additional members were given to the Legislative Council, and eleven to the Legislative Assembly. A new electoral division—the North-East Provinces—was constituted in the Legislative Council, and comprised the Coolgardie, East Coolgardie, North Coolgardie, North-East Coolgardie, Dundas, and Yilgarn electoral districts. The Murchison fields were included in the Central Province. The new electoral division was entitled to return three members. The Legislative Assembly, with the additional representation afforded, was now to consist of forty-four members, and forty-four electoral districts. The Nannine constituency, constituted under the Constitution Amendment Act 1893, was abolished, and was included in other districts. Perth and Fremantle were given three new members; the new districts being North Perth, Canning and East Fremantle. The new goldfields districts were Coolgardie, East Coolgardie, North Coolgardie, North-East Coolgardie, Central Murchison, North Murchison, South Murchison, and Yalgoo. One other important amendment to the principal Act made it possible to add a new portfolio to the Cabinet, making six principal executive officers of the Government, and a provision was inscribed to provide for six ministerial salaries, aggregating £6,200.
A general election to the Assembly was completed in May, 1897, but before this took place Mr. A.R. Richardson resigned the portfolio of Commissioner of Crown Lands in the Cabinet, and relinquished politics. Mr. Richardson was essentially a hard-working and conscientious Minister. He was succeeded by Mr. Throssell, M.L.A., a landowner of considerable experience, who has already evinced much courage in his administration, and has infused new vitality into the Lands Department. A few weeks later, Mr. H.B. Lefroy was appointed the sixth Minister, and was given control of the Education Department; later still, Mr. S. Burt, Q.C., whose services to Western Australian politics have been very great, retired from the Attorney-General's Office, Mr. R.W. Pennefather succeeded him.
The Legislative Assembly of 1897 consisted of:—
|Ashburton||S. Burt||Irwin||S.J. Phillips|
|York||F.C. Monger||De Grey||E.T. Hooley|
|East Kimberley||F. Connor||Northam||G. Throssell|
|West Kimberley||A. Forrest||Murchison||S. Mitchell|
|Bunbury||J. Forrest||Gascoyne||G.Y. Hubble|
|Plantagenet||A.Y. Hassell||Nelson||J.G. Lee-Steere|
|Wellington||H.W. Venn||Albany||G. Leake|
|Roebourne||H.W. Sholl||Fremantle||J.J. Higham|
|Williams||F. Piesse||South Fremantle||E. Solomon|
|Toodyay||T. F. Quinlan||East Fremantle||J.J. Holmes|
|Beverley||C. Harper||North Fremantle||C.J. Doherty|
|Greenough||R.W. Pennefather||East Coolgardie||C.J. Moran|
|Murray||W.J. George||North-East Coolgardie||F.C.B. Vosper|
|Sussex||E.C.B. Locke||Coolgardie||A.E. Morgans|
|Guildford||N.R. Ewing||North Coolgardie||H. Gregory|
|Canning||F. Wilson||Dundas||J.R. Conolly|
|Perth||L. Hall||Geraldton||G.T. Simpson|
|East Perth||W.H. James||Yalgoo||F. Wallace|
|West Perth||B.C. Wood||Yilgarn||W. Oates|
|North Perth||C.H. Oldham||Central Murchison||F. Illingworth|
|Moore||H.B. Lefroy||North Murchison||H. Kenny|
|Pilbarra||— Kingsmill||South Murchison||C.H. Rason|
The most sensational event in these elections was the defeat by five votes of S.H. Parker, Q.C., in the Perth constituency. In July, 1896, H. Briggs was elected to the Legislative Council, vice E.W. Davies resigned; other elections to the Council in that month were:—South-West Province, W.S. Spencer; East Province, Howard Taylor; Central Province, R.S. Haynes; North Province, —. McKay. In May, 1897, G. Randall was elected to fill a vacancy in the Metropolitan Province.
At the end of the financial year, in, June, 1896, the statement of revenue and expenditure was enormously above that of 1895. The revenue amounted to £2,440,390, and the expenditure to £2,362,003. The Treasurer, Sir John Forrest then estimated the revenue for the ensuing year at £2,425,000, and the expenditure at £2,720,390, but on 30th June, 1897, these figures were exceeded, and the revenue reached £2,842,751, and the expenditure £2,839,453. The principal excess was in the Customs receipts, which amounted to £1,087,257. There was a credit balance in the Treasury of £315,362. These figures, when compared with those in the first Budget speech delivered under Responsible Government, are earnest of the prodigious development of the colony. In 1891 the revenue was:—£497,670, and the expenditure was £435,622; in 1897 the revenue was £2,842,751, and the expenditure was £2,839,453. Even since 1895 the revenue had increased by over £1,000,000 sterling. The public indebtedness of the colony in June, 1897, after giving credit for the sinking fund invested, which amounted to £205,637, was £7,105,177. A comparison (Budget speech) in this respect with other colonies is interesting. The public debt of New South Wales is 61 millions, equal to £46 per head of population; of Victoria, 47 millions, equal to £41 per head; of Queensland, 32 millions, equal to £67 per head; of South Australia, 24 millions, equal to £69 per head; of Tasmania, eight millions, equal to £50 per head; and of Western Australia, seven millions, equal to about £45 per head. The ratio of public debt to the annual revenue shows Western Australia, in what Sir John Forrest rightly terms, "a magnificent position." In 1897 the revenue of Western Australia exceeded that of her old-time rival South Australia. In 1896 the revenue per head of population in Western Australia was £19 17s. 5d., comparable with £9 18s. 6¾d. in 1891; in 1896 the expenditure per head was £19 4s. 8d., and in 1891, £8 13s. 9½d.
On 13th March, 1897, Sir John Forrest, Sir J.G. Lee-Steere, Messrs. G. Leake, F.H. Piesse, J.W. Hackett, W.T. Loton, W.H. James, A.Y. Hassell, R.F. Sholl, and Howard Taylor were chosen to represent Western Australia, at a Federation Convention which met at Adelaide, South Australia, on the 22nd March. In recent years the federal sentiment had been growing in the Eastern colonies. The Convention of 1891 was useful from an educational point of view, but it did not arouse the enthusiasm necessary to bring about a federation of Australia. While the possibility of such a desirable consummation was not lost sight of, no decisive steps could be immediately taken. In 1893 the Federal Council met at Hobart, Tasmania, and was attended by Sir John Forrest and Sir J.G. Lee-Steere, as representatives for Western Australia. Several matters of inter-colonial policy were discussed, and the desirability of a general federation was adverted to. It was considered advisable to add to the weight of the Council by increasing the number of representatives for each colony to five, and different Australian Parliaments subsequently carried an address to Her Majesty, praying that this might be done. The Royal assent was obtained in 1894, and at the next meeting of the Council, at Hobart in January, 1895, five members attended on behalf of the colonies interested. A conference of Premiers was held, and regarded Federation as the most "pressing question in Australian politics." Messrs. Turner and Kingston, the Premiers of Victoria and South Australia respectively, were authorised to prepare a Draft Bill as a preliminary to Federation. The popularity of the movement grew in that and the succeeding year, and it was determined to hold another Convention, and Adelaide was chosen as the meeting-place. All the Australian colonies, with the exception of Queensland, were represented at this gathering by ten members, who (excepting Western Australia) were elected (under an Enabling Act) by the people. Sir John Forrest and other local delegates had attended a meeting of the Federal Council in January, 1897, and they had hardly returned to the colony than they were required to proceed to South Australia. C.C. Kingston, the Premier of South Australia, was appointed President of the Adelaide Convention. It was generally conceded that Federation was desirable, and resolutions were debated and a bill was drafted. The Convention finally adjourned to meet again later in the year. It is proposed that the bill to be prepared by the Convention shall be referred to the direct vote of the people.
Sir John Forrest, as Premier, represented Western Australia at the Record Reign Celebrations of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, in London, in June, 1897. In common with the other Premiers, he was made a Privy Councillor, and had other high dignities conferred upon him. The anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the Throne sixty years before, when this colony was but eight years old, was productive of a remarkable outburst of patriotism throughout Western Australia. From the first local people have been essentially patriotic, but the uniqueness of this occasion called out the latent enthusiasm to an unparalleled extent. Large sums money were spent in suitable decorations by the Government, while private persons expended many thousands of pounds in doing honour to Her Majesty. Perth had the appearance of a fairy city. There is reason to claim that no deeper or more heartfelt loyalty o the Throne was testified in all the British Empire than in Western Australia, and the honours showered upon Sir John Forrest in London were appreciated by the people.
The export and import returns for 1893-6 were:—
From these figures it will be seen that trade was greatly increased. In 1897 the disparity between the exports and imports will be greatly reduced, in that the export of gold alone will be considerably larger than the total exports of the colony in 1896. The position in 1898 is likely to be still better. The total export of 1891 was £799,466, so that in 1896 there was an increase of £850,760.
The export of wool for the four years was:—
In 1893 there were 2,220,642 sheep, 173,747 cattle, 45,747 horses, 26,233 pigs, and 673 camels in the Colony, and in 1896 there were 2,248,976 sheep, 199,793 cattle, 57,527 horses, 31,154 pigs, and 3,984 camels. With the growth of population the profits of pastoralists and farmers in live stock increased by reason of a market within their own borders. In 1893 pastoral leases and licenses aggregating 92,579,943 acres were held, and in 1890, 83,194,509 acres. The total amount of land revenue received rose from 10s. 1d. in 1893 to £159,808 14s. 4d. in 1896.
In 1893-4 measures of paramount importance to Western Australia were agreed to by Parliament, and were in furtherance of the strong views of Sir John Forrest on the land question. Western Australia was rapidly gaining population, and in order to encourage land settlement the Forrest Government, with the sanction of Parliament, offered anyone, upon certain conditions, a homestead farm 160 acres free of charge. In addition to this attraction to the incoming crowds other special opportunities have been afforded, which are calculated to establish a "bold peasantry" on the soil. It is certain that Sir John Forrest and his Ministers, and especially the present Commissioner of Crown Lands, Mr. Throssell, in agreeing with Mr. Chamberlain, will do their utmost to keep the gold-seekers in the colony after they tire of the uncertain quest for that metal.
Under the Land Regulations of 1887 liberal inducements were offered agriculturists, horticulturists, and pastoralists to take up land, but in 1898 the Homesteads Act, and in 1895 the Agricultural Bank Act went far beyond what certain members then deemed ever possible. The colony has excellent stretches of pastoral lands, and lands eminently suited for horticulture and agriculture. In the two last it would be true to say that a great deal has yet to be learned in respect of the potentialities of the soil, and, in horticulture especially, there are large areas which should be adorned with vineyards and orchards (see "Settler's Guide and Farmer's Handbook. 1897"). Even though the colony was established sixty-eight years ago, it can be said that, because of lack of markets and other circumstances (adverted in our narrative), the agricultural lands have not been adequately tested. There are immense stretches of country, covered with a wilderness of bush, suitable for both agriculture and horticulture. At the same time there are millions of people in the Old World to whom these lands would prove magnificent heirlooms. The problem is to discover how to bring the two forces together. The Western Australian Government offer the land, and surely the people would be willing to go out upon it if they knew the way.
The Homesteads Act 1893 provided that homestead areas might be proclaimed in the South-West, Eastern or Eucla divisions, within forty miles of a railway. Any "person being the sole head of a family, or being a male who has attained the age of eighteen years, and who is not already the owner of land within the colony exceeding in area 100 acres, may select a homestead farm of 160 acres in an area set apart for that purpose" ("MacDevitt's Handbook of Western Australia"). Applicants holding and residing on land not exceeding 100 acres, might, however, select such homestead from land adjoining that already held by him, and residence on the land already held by him might be deemed a compliance with the conditions of residence upon the homestead. The selector was required to take possession in person of the homestead farm within six months, and he must reside upon it at least six months during each of the first five years. Illness, death or other sufficient cause would dispense with the condition of residence. Within the first two years the selector must expend £30 on the erection of a house; or in clearing and cropping; or in planting two acres of orchard or vineyard. Within the first five years he must fence, quarter and clear and crop at least one-eighth, and within the first seven years he must clear and crop at least quarter, and fence in the whole of his homestead. If these conditions be complied with, the selector became entitled to a grant in fee-simple of the homestead at the end of seven years; non-compliance with the conditions entailed forfeiture. When the selector had resided for one-year on the homestead, and had fulfilled all the other conditions, he might obtain the fee-simple within the seven years on payment of 5s. per acre. The interest of the selector could not be seized or taken in execution before he had obtained his Crown grant. When the selector became entitled to his grant he could assign, transfer, or mortgage his homestead. The selector was not confined to his homestead, but might apply for additional land under the ordinary regulations.
Village sites in connection with homestead areas might be proclaimed, and were to consist of allotments of one acre each. The selector of a homestead farm could select one village allotment without payment, and when he was entitled to a Crown grant for his homestead farm he was also entitled to a grant for the allotment. In cases where they desired to live together, so as to obtain a church or school, it was permissible, on the petition of ten selectors of village allotments, that residence of such allotments should be deemed as residence on the homestead farms belonging to them.
Homestead leases were obtainable under this Act. Lands for such purposes might be proclaimed, and were to be of Class 2, and Class 3. Leases were granted for thirty years, after which, when the required conditions were fulfilled, the lessee obtained a grant in fee-simple. In Class 2 the area of such a lease was to be not less than 1,000 nor more than 3,000 acres; the rent was to be 2d. per acre for the first fifteen years, and 3d. per acre during the remaining years. In Class 3 the area was to be not less than 1,000 nor more than 5,000 acres; the rent was to be 1d. per acre for the first fifteen, and 2d. per acre for second fifteen years of the lease. Homestead leases might be obtained by any person of the age of eighteen years; no more than one homestead lease could be held by one person. The lessee must pay half the cost of survey, but could do so in five equal annual instalments; he, or some person on his behalf, must take possession within the first six months, and must reside on the lease for nine months every year for the first five years. The lessee must fence in one-half the area within the first two years and the whole within the first four years, and must keep the fence in repair. From the sixth to the fifteenth year, both inclusive, he must expend annually 8d. per acre on improvements on Class 2, and 5d. per acre on Class 3 lands. Failure in fulfilling any of these conditions entailed forfeiture. If he paid his rent, half the cost of survey, erected required fences, maintained exterior fences, expended on improvements a sum equal to the total rent payable for the last twenty-five years of the lease, and complied with the conditions of residence, the lessee might obtain a Crown grant immediately "on payment a sum amounting to the difference between the total amount of rent already paid and the value of the land calculated at 6s. 3d. an acre if of Class 2, and 3s. 9d. an acre if of Class 3." When the homestead lease had been fenced and resided on for five years by the lessee or his deputy he might transfer the whole thereof to any person not already a homestead lessee.
The Homestead Act offered a farm to the man wishing to settle on the land, and the Agricultural Bank Act 1894 advanced him money. Under the latter Act a bank might be established and maintained for the purpose of "promoting the occupation, cultivation, and improvement of the agricultural lands of the colony." The funds necessary for carrying on the bank were to be raised by the sale of mortgage bonds, or by other moneys provided by Parliament. The Colonial Treasurer was to issue the bonds, which were not to exceed in the aggregate £100,000, bearing interest not exceeding £5 per centum per annum. The manager of the Agricultural Bank might make advances to farmers or other cultivators of the soil on the security of their holding in fee simple, or under special occupation lease or conditional purchase from the Crown, or on a homestead farm. The money lent was not to bear interest exceeding six per cent., and was to be applied for the purpose of making improvements on unimproved holdings, or adding to improvements already made on holdings. Advances were not to exceed one-half of the fair estimated value of the improvements proposed to be made, and no advance or advances to any one person must exceed £400. When the manager approved of applications he must recommend them to the Governor; the advances were to be paid by instalments as the improvements proceeded. The repayment of advances were to be secured to the manager by deed or instrument of mortgage, and, in case of holdings other than in fee-simple, by transfer to the manager of the lease or other document of title. "Improvements" for the purposes of the Act meant clearing, cultivating, or ringbarking. Five years after issue of the loan the borrower must begin to repay it at the rate of one-fiftieth of the principal sum half-yearly. Should any half-yearly payment principal or interest be unpaid within twenty-one days after due date the manager might enter and distrain on the land charged. The clause relating to advances was subsequently amended, and permitted a person to borrow up to three-fourths of the fair value of improvements, and provided for advances up to £800.
The advantages of this institution are self-evident. In 1894 Mr. W. Patterson, M.L.A., resigned his seat in Parliament, and became Manager of the Agricultural Bank. His knowledge on land matters specially fitted him for the duties. The bank has utilised £52,425 out of the £100,000 allocated as its capital. In 1894 some 11,583 acres were taken up for homestead farms; in 1895, 13,894 acres; in 1896, 30,704 acres; and up to September, 1897, 61,069 acres. Homestead leases were not applied for with much eagerness until 1897. At the end of 1896 six of these leases, aggregating 7,843 acres, were in existence, and in September, 1897, the figures had risen to forty-nine leases representing 66,147 acres. Indeed the selections in 1897 greatly exceeded those of previous years, demonstrating a revival of interest in agricultural matters. There was considerable influx of farmers from the Eastern colonies to the South-West Division lands in Western Australia. The future of the agricultural industry is now brighter than it has been for years past. The Government has reduced the cost of transit for cultural and pastoral produce on the railways. In 1893 there were 83,714 acres under crop including wheat 42,673 acres, hay 29,590 acres, vines 1,643 acres, and orchards and yards 2,040 acres. The average yield of wheat was 12 2-10th bushels per acre. The total area under crop for the year ending 28th February, 1897, was 111,738¼ acres, including 31,488½ under wheat, 69,436½ under hay, and 2,294 acres under vines. The average yield of wheat per acre was 7.75 bushels.
The export of timber was valued at:—In 1893, £33,888; 1894, £74,804; in 1895, £88,146; and in 1896, £116,420. The export of sandalwood was valued at, in 1893, £32,160; in 1894, £23,430; in 1895, £30,863; and in 1896, £65,800. The timber industry is increasing, and certain companies employ each from 200 to 400 men in the forests. Notwithstanding that this is an old industry the excellence of the hardwoods are only now becoming generally recognised. Western Australia has immense wealth centred in her forests, and the industry is considered by many to be second only to gold in importance. Mr. J. Ednie-Brown, F.L.S., F.R.H.S. (Conservator of Forests for Western Australia), gives the total area of the principal forest surface of the colony as:—
|Jarrah (with blackbutt and red gum) ...||8,000,000|
|York Gum, Yate, Sandalwood and Jam ...||4,000,000|
The estimated quantity of matured timber on Crown lands is 62,300,000 loads, which is said to be worth to the country 60s. per load. By deducting one-third for waste in sawing, the value of marketable timber is given, in round numbers, at £124,000,000. Mr. Ednie-Brown remarks of the timber industry in his report: "I have not been privileged to deal with anything so full of possibilities towards permanent national wealth as this is." For wood-paving, dock and jetty construction, and all works requiring durability in timber, the "hardwoods of Western Australia stand unrivalled in the world" ("Customs Report").
The exports of guano and pearl shell were:—
|1893 ...||£30,000 ...||£57,487 ...||£1,257 ...||£7,052|
|1894 ...||25,000 ...||35,222 ...||2,306 ...||3,919|
|1895 ...||20,000 ...||26,156 ...||1,142 ...||—|
|1896 ...||20,000 ...||30,131 ...||53 ...||4,506|
The Fremantle Harbour Works gradually drew towards completion, and on 4th May, 1897, the steamer Sultan, drawing 1 ft. of water, steamed into the inner harbour between the moles, and anchored at a new jetty. The value of this important work is inestimable. The Government and Parliament, alive to the value of assisting the maritime trade, authorised extensive improvements at all the ports of the colony. Fremantle, Bunbury, Vasse, Albany, Esperance, Geraldton, Onslow, Carnarvon, Cossack, Fortescue River, Ashburton, Derby, Broome, Wyndham, and other smaller ports were vastly advantaged by improved wharves, landing facilities, or by dredging. A new lighthouse was erected on Rottnest Island, another on Babbage Island, and another at Cape Leeuwin. The harbour at Bunbury is being improved by the construction of moles. Dredging operations have been carried out in the Swan and Canning Rivers. In the hot summer months of 1896-7, the health of Perth was not good, and it has been decided to conduct large sanitation works there, so that the capital might be one of the healthiest cities in Australia. The water-supply of Perth, Fremantle, and other places has been or is being improved.
There is little more to add. The churches have greatly extended their sphere of influence, and on the goldfields and in remote pastoral districts religious buildings have been founded. There were a few instances of native depredations. Among deaths are those of the Right Rev. H. Parry, Anglican Bishop of Perth, on 15th November, 1895; L. De Hamel, ex-M.L.C. and M.L.A., on the 26th November, 1891; G. W. Leake, on 3rd October, 1895; and Anthony O'Grady Lefroy, C.M.G., F.R.G.S., on 1st January, 1897. The Right Rev. H. Parry was succeeded by Bishop Reilly. The careers of Mr. Leake, and Mr. Lefroy were distinguished; each had occupied high crucial appointments, and had conferred lasting benefits on the colony.
The various prospectors for gold carried on useful exploration work, and threw new light on the dark interior. Pastoralists and surveyors in the north country extended the known lands of the colony, and numerous private persons traversed long areas of unexplored lands. In 1896, Mr. Arthur Mason discovered well-grassed lands north-west of Eucla. In June, 1896, Mr. S. G. Hübbe arrived at Menzies, after passing over an immense area of unknown country from Oodnadatta, in South Australia. Mr. Calvert sent out two expeditions into the Western Australian deserts, one in 1893, and one in 1896-7. Of the latter expedition, led by Mr. Wells, two of the explorers were lost under exceedingly melancholy circumstances. Five parties went out to search for them at different times, and finally their bodies were found in the north-west desert. The story is one of the most pathetic in the annals of Australian exploration.