Clara Saunders Pt 3: Coolgardie Gold Rush

Coolgardie Camel Train. Year ? From

Teams in charge of Mr Felix Murphy were the first to arrive on the field. He took with him a water tank, horse feed and stores of all description. Finally, piled up with mens’ swags, the men walked behind the teams. Finally, there were very few men left.

After the first few days, it was really a women’s’ town and what wonderful women these pioneers were. Some wept with joy in anticipation of what the future may hold for her man who had already gone out into the unknown to blaze the trail where thousands would in future follow. Others sighed and wondered if success or disaster would overtake her man. They were brave women, the knew the terrible dangers that lay ahead of these men; wild blacks, hunger and thirst. These women who stayed behind carried on and hoped for the best and left their men in almighty god’s hands. There were many sad scenes as mothers, wives and sweethearts wished their loved ones goodbye.

As time went on, men from all parts of Western Australia were making for the new find. Teams with material of every kind and provisions were on the road. Win the influx, including camel teams, Southern Cross is now a thriving town.

When Bailey came in to report his find, there had been rain in the back country, and also a good fall of rain at the Cross. Feed was showing up and the low-lying country was green. A good crop of salt bush was expected, this being the best food for stock; very fattening, and horses and camels do well on it. There will be a fair amount of water in the soaks and wells, and gnamma holes, and if there is not too big a crowd, they will be alright for a while.

Camel drinking from a Gnamma Hole, 1909. Reproduced courtesy of Eastern Goldfields Historical Society. Eastern Goldfields Historical Society number 54/29A TLF resource R5743

Warden Finnerty has returned to Coolgardie. There are many leases applied for. There is a wonderful alluvial patch know as Fly Flat, where a large number of men are on good gold, nuggets of all sizes are being unearthed. There are new finds being reported.

Mrs (Felix) Murphy and her daughter Edith have left for the new find, being the first white women to arrive on the Field now known as Coolgardie, and who were later presented with a gold watch.

Men are returning to the Cross on account of the scarcity of water at 2/- a gallon and fever has broken out on the field.

Provisions are very dear and freight from the Cross is very high. By this time, the Township has been surveyed and four hotel licenses have been granted, and a few women have also arrived (March 1893). Mining men from other States and countries are arriving every day, and big deals are taking place, large sums of money changing hands.

Coolgardie is now becoming a township, mostly hessian buildings with iron roofs, numerous bough sheds, tents, several business places of all kinds are now open. Bill Faahan, later known as the father of Coolgardie, was the first to open his hotel and the men showed their appreciation by quenching their thirst and declared it a great day.

At this time, Mr Even Wisdome, one of the first licenses has returned to Southern Cross to engage staff for his hotel. While in conversation with him about the great Coolgardie and anxious to hear all that was taking place there, he said it was hard to describe the activity that is going on. “My trouble just now is to get help for Mrs Fagan. How about one of you girls coming up?” We looked at each other in surprise and amazement. When Clara said: “I would like to go. Would it be wise?”

“I really need someone older to take charge of the household.”

“I’m quite confident I could do it” remarked Clara. “and I can cook quite well.”

“That’s fine. Consider yourself engaged, and Snell’s coach leaves next Monday. Can you be ready?”

I was very excited, looking forward to my new venture.

(From Clara Saunder’s Reminiscences in Southern Cross)

Part 1

Part 2

#Coolgardie #murphy #wisdome #goldrush

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