History of West Australia/S. B. Schlam

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S B Schlam HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

COOLGARDIE had not emerged from the swaddling-clothes stage of civilisation before the rich auriferous district of Menzies was discovered. The hardy prospectors did not hang round the spot where Arthur Bayley made his sensational discovery, but moved ever on. They spread out in all directions, and those who took the Ninety-Mile Road faced a country to exist in which one had to "rough life" in the most literal sense of the term. With indomitable will and courage they went through dreary saltlake country, across mulga scrub and salt-bush plains, and over burning, arid wastes. But the pluck of the sturdy pioneers was rewarded, and soon afterwards, when Leslie Robert Menzie made his rich find in September, 1894, on the spot where the Lady Shenton Mine now stands, the district became famous for the riches Nature had so unstintingly bestowed upon her. Then the township grew both in size and importance, until to-day it is one of the busiest centres of the Western Australian goldfields.

The town of Menzies was fortunate from its inauguration in having in its midst men of keen business acumen and tireless industry. The gentleman whose name heads this biographical sketch has contributed materially to the welfare of Menzies, and in mining circles he has done much to foster local interests by the introduction of capital. In this and other ways he has become a representative man of Menzies.

S.B. Schlam was born on the Bendigo Goldfield, Victoria, in 1806. He started work as a telegraph messenger, at the age of fourteen. Three years later young Schlam—he being then only seventeen—opened up business for himself as a storekeeper in a country town in Victoria. Two years of this kind life sufficed, and he accepted an appointment in the Mines Department of the Victorian Civil Service. After being some considerable time in this branch he was transferred to a responsible position in the Water Supply and Irrigation Department, and during the régime of the Gillies-Deakin Coalition Government he rendered very valuable service to his department. The irrigation and water supply schemes of that Government were broad and comprehensive, and in seeing all these brought to an issue Mr. Schlam played no small part in arranging the departmental work, details, &c.

When Mr. Schlam had been several years in he Victorian Civil Service, he longed for the freer life of the goldfields of the West. Bayley had made his phenomenal find at Coolgardie, but Mr. Schlam had already decided to go to Pilbarra. Though Coolgardie held out strong inducements, he proceeded to Pilbarra, reaching here about the middle of 1893. He did considerable prospecting work on these north-west fields, but Fortune did tap at his tent door. For about fifteen months he worked round and about Pilbarra, and reading and hearing from time to time of the rich eastern goldfields, he went to Melbourne with a fixed object in view. In the Victorian capital he formed a company to assist him in prospecting, after which he returned and went to Menzies. The field had only been a few months in existence, but Mr. Schlam believed in its future. He thoroughly prospected Mulline, and was one of the first in this part of the fields. His luck was not sensational, and early in 1896 he commenced business in Shenton Street, Menzies, as a stock and share broker, mining agent, and mining engineer. With his shrewd business qualities he was not long in making headway, and he very soon became an important factor in the Menzies mining world. He refused the interests of the Menzies people in their own mines, and led off by floating locally the Golden Wonder for £5,000. Branching out more extensively, Mr. Schlam floated a much larger property in the shape of the Menzies Tornado Mine for £43,750—this capital being subscribed in the colonies. His next flotation was the Menzies Kensington, for £25,000, and then followed in succession the Menzies Kensington Main Lode Development Company, for £12,500; the Menzies Kensington East, for £25,000, and the Menzies Kensington West, for £25,000. All these should turn out good properties, and with Mr. Schlam on the directorate of the majority of them it is scarcely necessary to add that they have been well developed.

Mr. Schlam stood for the mayoralty of Menzies in November, 1896, and was only defeated by the retiring mayor (Mr. Harry Gregory) by a very narrow majority. At an extraordinary election in December of that year he was returned by a large majority as a member of the Menzies Council. Naturally enough, he is prominently connected with the Menzies Stock Exchange, and occupies the position of vice-president. He is also a member of the Australian Institute of Mining Engineers. In the many local clubs of a social and athletic nature Mr. Schlam takes a good deal of interest, and has been instrumental in promoting a number of them. He was well known in the world of sport in Victoria, and as an amateur in the art of self-defence he had very few serious rivals. He is president of the A.N.A., Menzies branch.

Mr. Schlam has seen a considerable amount of Western Australia during his sojourn here. He has travelled over its broad acres on camel, with pack-horse, and by bicycle; and for many weary miles on more than one occasion has he carried his "bluey." He is a Fellow of the Geographical Society, Adelaide branch.

Mr. Schlam's energy and resource have acquired for him a very substantial income, and he deserves it. Happy and smiling at all times, he has made innumerable friends in Western Australia.

[Since. this sketch was written Mr. Schlam has been elected Mayor of Menzies.]