History of West Australia/John Howard Taylor

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John Howard Taylor HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

WHEN the gold era of Western Australia was inaugurated in the eighties, men from various shores came thronging in to develop her promising resources. The spectacle of their subsequent work was stirringly impressive. There, over far distant deserts, where had reigned the sombre silence and death-like hush of centuries, where far in the shimmering, heated horizon was one unchanging stretch of desolate waste, slumbering idly beneath a torrid sun, the hardy band of bold adventurers forced their way. With pick and spade, and joyous clatter, they made the earth disgorge her costly treasures. An astonished, half-credulous world read of the greatness of their finds, and the trumpet was sounded for the onward march.

Just as in the construction of some noble palace or piazza mind and body designed and executed, so here science, skill, and physical rigour did each their ample share. Prospectors and miners of muscular strength and inexhaustible energy went scouring for material, and quarried it, while talent drew out the plans, and designed the architecture.

John Howard Taylor figures prominently among the many skilled mechanics who devoted themselves to the rearing of this structure. He has contributed an able share in the work of development, and was born in London in 1861, and underwent an extensive intellectual training both in England and Germany. Not choosing to embark on a professional career, he turned to the excitement and busy hum of commercial life. After finishing his schooling, he entered a stock and sharebroker's office in London. For a considerable time he followed these mercantile pursuits, till he thought himself fully qualified to take a place in the race of competition. He resolved to exercise his acquirements in the enticing fields of South Africa, and accordingly sailed for that fast-rising colony, now attracting the interest of the British public. Several reasons conspired to shorten his stay in the "Kaffir Circus." In the beginning of 1890 he left for Western Australia, and soon after his arrival he joined in the Ashburton rush. For four months he engaged in mining pursuits in the north-west territories with moderate success. Then there was an interval of mining inactivity. No reports of any importance, no results of any magnitude, enticed peaceful squatters and settlers from their rural homes. Meanwhile, Mr. Taylor confined his attention to farming pursuits in the southern districts.

In January, 1891, he walked from Northern to Southern Cross, and took a situation on one of the mines as surface trucker. Though actively employed in this capacity, he yet kept his eyes open as to the method of general operations. This physical labour was not barren of beneficial effects on his subsequent career. After two months hard manual exercise, he renewed his acquaintance with his intimate and familiar, though lately neglected, friends —stocks. In March of the same year he made his commercial debût in this colony at Southern Cross. Moreover, he was the pioneer stock and sharebroker on the Yilgarn Goldfields.

When Arthur Bayley arrived in Southern Cross in September, 1892, with the news of his rich discovery, Mr. Taylor was still in Southern Cross, but unable to share the enthusiastic excitement consequent on Bayley's report. A somewhat severe attack of rheumatism, which had seized on him some time before prevented his joining in the immediate general rush. His indisposition was unfortunate at such a time, and he naturally felt a little disappointed at missing so excellent a chance. Still, though unable to go himself, he invested some capital in a prospecting party, which went out to the scene of Bayley's find, and pegged out the Kelly's lease, next to Bayley's Reward. On his complete recovery from the enfeebling attacks of rheumatism, Mr. Taylor set out for Coolgardie in the following June. Having carefully surveyed the surrounding areas, he felt satisfied with the general appearances of the place, and resolved to return for a more minute search as soon as circumstances in Southern Cross would permit. In October he re-visited Coolgardie, and travelled over distant parts of the fields, carefully prospecting likely spots. Recognising from his own observations that Coolgardie was a field of immense possibilities in auriferous productivity, he finally left Southern Cross in April, 1894, for that centre, to conduct a broking business.

This transference of his commercial sphere was a fortunate one. He had not been long in Coolgardie before his reputation and his clientele went up by leaps and bounds. Mine after mine was floated with amazing rapidity, and speculators and investors came streaming in to catch the booming tide at its flow. Many of those with capital to invest repaired eagerly to Mr. Taylor's office, and bought shares, which rose amazingly, and the office was besieged with groups of anxious speculators. Mr. Howard Taylor has always evinced the greatest interest in public matters. When such an official as a town clerk was an unknown factor in Coolgardie, he stepped into the breach, and assumed the role of municipal secretary. When the town received municipal government, he stood for the first election as a candidate, and was returned to the council. He held that position till November, 1896, when pressure of political duties forced him to retire. During his period of officialdom great changes were effected. Many a weary hour did he sit in the council-room attending to the citizens' interests, framing municipal legislation and constructing the framework of the constitution. Subsequent legislators, who can patch on fleshy parts at will, cannot but think highly of the skill and abilities of those early pioneer councillors who inaugurated symmetry and harmony.

On the 3rd of August, 1896, Mr. Taylor was elected to the Legislative Council for the Eastern Province—a constituency whose territorial dimensions of 240,000 square miles are perhaps exceeded by no other in the world. As the responsible representative of this immense division, he has fulfilled his political duties so satisfactorily that the people's former confidence in his capabilities is strengthened.

He is one of the foundation members of the Coolgardie Masonic Lodge, and was the first secretary of and prime mover in the establishment of the Chamber of Mines in Coolgardie, an institution which since its inception has proved of value to the goldfields' interests. He acts as director for many mines, and owns large mining interests throughout the goldfields. Mr. Taylor's influence and weight, combined with his wide knowledge of the fields, and the mining industry in general, have rendered him a highly successful representative of mining interests in the Legislative Council. As a politician, the bare mention of his name carries with it the manifestations of esteem.

Since the above sketch was written, Mr Howard Taylor was one of the several delegates who represented Western Australia at the historical Federation Convention of 1897 in Adelaide.