History of West Australia/John William Fimister

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WHAT can be more natural than the desire for unimpeded control? A man grows tired of the same monotonous surroundings, and of his own thankless task to please a feverish, pettish public. Competition—a huge spirit-crushing engine—makes many thoughtful minds revert to an insatiable longing for simplicity, for that pristine equality which characterised the happy life-span of our ancestors. Free nomadic life, with its peaceful harmonious reign, seems to be the only panacea for all our socialistic grievances and disputes. Many whose reflections point thus should be tolerably happy in the existence of the goldfields, where the completest approximation to the golden past reigns undisturbed. Here there is pleasure, excitement, and liberty, with a rich harvest for the willing reaper. He who once enters on his unconventional peace-unbroken life, bids a hearty adieu to his former surroundings.

Mr. Fimister is one who had attained his fair share of success in the commercial world, but had forsaken its iron bonds for the open fields of Westralia, where his own physical and mental gifts obtained for him their true deserts. He was born in Malmsbury, Victoria, in 1867. After leaving school he apprenticed himself to a carriage-building firm, and on becoming master of the craft he pursued his skilled avocation in the North-East district of Victoria for many years. His mechanical abilities, coupled with his industrious attachment to business, had been instrumental in extending his business reputation. With a sincere desire to please his patrons, he laboured with uncommon zeal to produce articles of workmanship whose superiority of finish and design would more than compensate for his expense in energy. At last he grew weary of his skilled handicraft, and his efforts groaned under their superimposed burdens. Bright visions of vast deserts with embosomed gold were relieving hopes. He had taken an active and eager interest in the exploits and achievements of goldfield heroes, and had closely noticed the wide scope the fields offered for energy and fortitude.

In 1890 he announced his intended departure to his friends and patrons, who conveyed their deepest feelings of regret by more than mere external words. With a multitude of earnest wishes for his fortune he sailed for Western Australia in that same year. On his arrival he proceeded to the Murchison, which at that early period showed signs of auriferous productivity. Within that territory he visited Nannine and the Horseshoe Bend, at the head of the Gascoyne. He remained on these fields for two years, during which period he had traversed most of the province, and had prospected with appreciable success. He left for Perth in 1892, and from there picked his way to Southern Cross. It was while he was at that place that the late Arthur Bayley came into Southern Cross, bearing the news of his rich find in Coolgardie. In a moment all Southern Cross was a scene of activity and bewildering excitement. The news had spread like wildfire over the town; miners came thronging in from far and near, and all fed joyously on the auspicious tidings. Parties were immediately formed; preparations and equipments were completed for he expedition with incredible celerity. Mr. Fimister joined in the first rush, which set out on Sunday. He and his mates had furnished themselves with horses to accelerate speed, and sustained enthusiasm among the jolly company enlightened the dreariness of the route.

On their arrival at Coolgardie they immediately set to work, and pegged out a lease between Bayley's Reward and the present township. The alluvial seemed to possess inviting appearances on this area, so they steeped their energies and physical labours in the exercise of their infallible unearthing implements, and brought to the light of day and the interior of their "sporaned" belt the precious yellow dust. Satisfied with their alluvial successes they now cast their eyes round for the more dignified stately reef.

They were pleased at their swollen "shammy"-bag results after their hard period of incessant labour. Yet not a little had to be parted with for their daily necessaries. Water was scarce, and its price consequently enormous. Two shillings and sixpence a gallon was paid by Mr. Fimister for the precious unfiltered liquid. News reached him shortly after this that the Murchison was flourishing again. His great belief in the auriferous wealth of the Murchison induced him to seek its areas once more. On his way thither news reached him of a probable rush to the Horseshoe Bend. But devious and circuitous paths, slow and tedious progress on the long-distant march, were cruel obstacles to his early arrival. When he arrived there, with feelings of mixed chagrin and vexation, he found that the rush had died away, and that his long and toilsome march had been undertaken for nothing. Seeing that it was futile to remain any longer he retraced his steps to Coolgardie.

He had just reached his destination when news of the Hannan's rush fell with unmeasured delight on his welcome ears. He adapted himself to the situation, bought a considerable supply of stores, and set out for Hannan's. He erected a store in Hannan's Street, and at once commenced business. This new departure was very successful financially, and from a modest unpretentious "taberna" we see the evolution of a large, capacious, and flourishing general store. The growth of his business has kept pace with the expansion of the town, and such a progression may well indicate its present proportional dimensions.

In the administration of public affairs Mr. Fimister has been an ardent worker. He was elected a member of the first council, which sat for a period of eighteen months, and resigned his seat in November, 1896. His municipal service must be characterised as one of devotionate attention to the interests and material welfare of the town. Apart from his own commercial business, he is extensively interested in mining. He is associated with many syndicates and companies. Enterprising, yet cautious, he has been prosperous in his several ventures.

He is a man of pleasant temperament, with a keen social disposition. He is widely known in Kalgoorlie and the goldfields generally, and is worthy of that popularity which accrues to his name.