Gold is discovered and Coolgardie is born

Published on Tuesday, 8 August 2023 at 10:34:32 AM

Golden Eagle Nugget: Found by J.Larcombe near Coolgardie in 1931

Gold was first found in Coolgardie in September 1892 by explorer / prospector duo William Ford and Arthur Bayley. Staking their claim, Bayley rode back to Southern Cross and reported their find to the resident mining warden John Michael Finnerty with 554 ounces of precious gold in his hands. For the find, Bayley was offered 20 acres of land at “Fly Flat” as the area became known. The later named Bayley’s Reward mine produced over 500,000 ounces of gold over the next 70 years.

The find of gold reported in Southern Cross set off a gold rush and led to the biggest movement of people in Australian history with prospectors full of hopes and dreams from around the globe converging on the area. By the late 1890’s Coolgardie had become the third largest town in Western Australia, following Perth and Fremantle. At the height of the rush in the late 1890’s, there were 15,000 people living in Coolgardie and a further 10,000 people in the surrounding district. By this stage in its growth there were 23 hotels, three breweries, six banks, two stock exchanges, three daily and four weekly newspapers and more than 700 registered mining companies.

Coolgardie’s gold production began to lessen in the early 1900’s and the towns population began to diminish, as those who hoped to find their wealth in gold moved on to newer fields.

In January 1931, James the 17-year-old son of gold prospector Jim Larcombe discovered the Golden Eagle at Larkinville, near Widgiemooltha some 76 kms south of Coolgardie. Weighing in at 1,135 ounces this was the largest nugget that had been found to date in Australian history. Named for its resemblance to a bird, at the time they received an offer of £6000 from a private buyer, but ended up being sold to the Western Australian Government.

Over the years the Coolgardie goldfields have produced more that 2.6 million ounces of gold with several gold mining companies still operating.

This amazing story is one of the many that showcase Coolgardie as a pioneer’s wonderland.

The Coolgardie Visitors Centre is the keeper of these chronicles and houses physical items from the period which bring these stories to life.

Join us as we relocate the Coolgardie Visitors Centre with an official event.

Free entry, networking opportunities & light refreshments provided

For full event details please visit our events calendar here.

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