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2 corrections, most recently by Gonehistorymad - Show corrections

OUR FIRST COLD RUSHtl KIMBERLEY, 1886. Memories of the first gold rush in this State are recalled by the present revival of interest in mining. It was in the March of '86 that the atten tion of the world was more definitely drawn to the discovery of gold in the Kimberleys, and tale after tale is unfolded, revealing the joy, the tra gedy and the romance of the Far North in the wild golden months that followed. Prospectors came from the north, south, east and west -men of all classes and conditions travelling in all manner of ways, but each with the same intent. Two of the earliest pioneers to set tle in these parts tell of how they first came upon the evidence of this wild rush for gold. They had landed, I some months before, at View Hill, on the Cambridge Gulf. 15 miles from the present port of Wyndham. and had selected a site for their home stead 120 miles inland. Hearing that John Forrest (then Surveyor-Gene ral, and later Baron Forrest) had founded a port on the gulf for the pastoralist settlers, they decided to journey out in search of it. They were surprised, after travelling for three days, to strike a beaten trail in what they had thought to be a trackless territory, and shortly to come upon a small company, wending their way with eager steps towards the south. Anxious to learn their intentions and their destination they ques tioned them, but before the inquiries could be satisfied, others following behind, cried out "Move on!" Party after party passed them on their way-waggons, drays, pack horses, one man even propelling his goods in a 'wheelbarrow. Some would venture a hasty explanation, but were always hurried by the. cry, "Move on! Move on!" In the even ing they camped with a small band known to their fellow "diggers" as "The Slap Up Party," being well fitted out for prospecting operations. They learnt from them the glowing stories that were circulating of the plentiful gold to be found in the region of what is now Hall's Creek, and of two men, O'Donnel and Carboyd, who had gone ahead and blazed the trail. On reaching the port of Wyndham, which they had set out to find, we can picture their amazement on discovering a popula tion of some 5000 in a thriving township boasting seven hotels, and finding steamships • and luggers anchored in the Gulf. It had all ap peared in a night, as it were, like the castle in the fairy tale. Here for a few brief months, success, or the hope of success, was paramount. Champagne ran more freely than water, .and goods received were paid in gleaming nuggets. It is on record that £1200 was weighed out and paid in rich alluvial gold for the first cattle sold in Eastern Kim berley. Difficulties and Hardships. In these times, it is hard to realise the difficulties and hardships the early prospectors endured. First there was the problem of landing. Wyndham possessed no jetty in those days; they had therefore to lay planks upon the slippery banks to enable the cargo landed. Many coming from New Zealand had brought magnificent horses, intended for both mounts and packs to carry them on their way. These they were forced to swim ashore, when the tide was full, otherwise they would assuredly have been bogged in the thick, soft mud becoming a prey to the ever watchful alligators lurk ing in the mangroves . Vivid ro mances of reefs with lumps of gold protruding, large enough to hang a hat upon, added fuel to the fire of enthusiasm, and the long, hard trail was followed with unfailing zest. Most of the New Zealand horses, unable to withstand the sudden change of climatic condi tions, died upon the track. Their owners, undaunted by misfortune, continued on foot, burying the pro visions they were unable to carry, lest they were stolen by natives. On. in the merciless glare of the sun. they tramped, and the brown earth by the wayside covers the bones of many who fell upon the way. There were some who endeavoured to shorten their journey by sailing in small crafts from the mouth of the King and Ord rivers. They knew that these ran, roughly, in the direction of the mines, but did not realise that during the dry season the channels were broken by long intermittent stretches of dry river bed. Soon, therefore, they were

forced to return, and set out upon the road, worn now by so many weary feet. The scene of the gold rush, in the Hall's Creek district, is known as the "(Bay of Biscay" country, for it lies in a veritable sea of hills that roll away for miles and miles farther than the eye can see. The King Leopold Ranges stretch in a blue line to the north. In early days wild blacks abounded' in these parts, and many were the lives acounted for by the venemous native spears. Dark forms would creep upon them during the night, and kill them whilst they slept, and many a lonely prospector was clubbed to death in an unwary moment, while working in his shaft. Although numerous women came with their men folk as far as Wynd ham, few ventured into the dangers and privations of the mining dis tricts. One or two, however, of re markable dauntlessness, stand out in the memories of all who witnessed "the golden days." Who could for Sget that most mysterious of women known only as "The Mountain Maid," who came overland from the East with a party of Afghans and their camels? The reason for com ing was never discovered, all that can be told of her being that she lived for some months among the "diggers," in a little shack of her own, and disappeared as strangely and silently as she had come. An other never-to-be-forgotten charac ter was "Mother Dead-Fish," who acquired her name on account of the "grog" she sold, which is said to have hastened many a miner to his grave. She kept a small sheep and goat farm to supply the "diggers" with their meat, and needless to say amassed a considerable amount of money during the rush. This wealth she carried in sovereigns on her per son, and was one morning found dead-murdered without a doubt, and bereft of the gold she had hoarded with such care. Shattered Hopes. In '87 much capital came in from the eastern States to develop the mines. Rich veins of gold were discovered in many of the shafts, but the yield was not sufficient to meet the high cost of transport so far inland. Owing to a heavy royalty existing upon gold at that time, a great deal more was dis covered during the rush than is on record. After a couple of years, the prospectors began gradually to leave the scene of their endeavours, some departing gaily, having at tained the fulfilment of their dreams, but more with shattered hopes and heavy hearts. It is greatly to these men that we owe the opening up of our more famous mines, for many of them came south from Kim. berley and continued their labours in the then practically unknown re gions of Pilbara, Nullagine, and Kalgoorlie. Some, however, clung with undy ing faith to the north. These old   retainers" have dwindled year by year, until to-day only a scattered few remain, "dryblowing" and dig ging in the hills about Hall's Creek,   and the Brockman River. The dis trict, they say, will witness yet another rush, and some day, they firmly believe, reefs will be struck excelling those of Kalgoorlie in their     wealth. To-day the remains of a shack or two, and rusting five and tea-bead batteries lie fallen and desolate by the road. There is evidence still of   the rude habitation of "The Moun tain Maid," about which, mingled with the sadness of its run, lingers something of her mystery and ro mance. Sometimes in the shadow of its crumbling wall those few that re main meet to talk of the .ygor'. years, and of the veiled days to come. "Might be 50 years," they say to one ato-morrow," and with this they re turn to their work, for "hope dies hard."