Western Australia - 1869-1900.
Telegraph lines in the Goldfields Region: Coolgardie - Menzies - Wiluna.

The Goldfields Region is defined, for the purposes of describing the construction of telegraph lines to the Goldfields, as extending:

If you have a feeling that these outlines are a bit rough, look at the boundaries for (say) the East Murchison Goldfield. In part, it has the boundary travelling "south about 24½ miles and passing through the 24 mile post on the Lawlers-Leonora telegraph line".

The small map below represents an area of about 955,000 km2 - 40% bigger than Texas (676,000 km2) and nearly four times the size of the U.K. (242,000 km2). If Western Australia was a country, it would be ranked 30 in terms of size.

The construction of the telegraph lines in the Goldfields region is described on several pages and the developments can be accessed from the following:

1. Southern Cross to Coolgardie.

1.1: To Coolgardie.
1.2: The development of the Cycle Express Companies.
1.3: Improving the operation of the line to Coolgardie;
1.4: Other bits and pieces about the line.


2. Coolgardie to Menzies.

2.1: The Coolgardie - Kunanalling (25 mile).
2.2: From the 25-mile to Black Flag.
2.3: Black Flag to Goongarrie.
2.4: Goongarrie to Menzies.
2.5: Menzies to Mulline.
3. Menzies to Wiluna;

3.1: Start of construction.
3.2 Niagara.
3.3: Kookynie.
3.4: Yerilla.
3.5: Redcastle.
3.6: Mount Malcolm.
3.7: Leonora.
3.8: Diorite King.
3.9: Lawler's.
3.10: Mount Sir Samuel.
3.11: Wiluna.
3.12: Lake Darlot.


4. The Redcastle to Laverton branch.

4.1: Murrin Murrin.
4.2: Mount Margaret.
4.3 Mount Morgan.
4.4: Laverton.
5. The inter-regional link - the line between the Murchison and the Goldfields;

5.1: The mail service.
5.2: Discussion about the end points.
5.3: A possible alternative route.
5.4: Sandstone and Black Range.


6. From Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie and surrounding districts.

6.1: Lines around Kalgoorlie.
6.2: To White Feather (Kanowna).
6.3: To I.O.U. (Bulong) and Kurnalpi.
6.4: To Fimiston.
7. From Coolgardie south to
Norseman, Dundas and Esperance

7.1: Widgimooltha.
7.2: Norseman.
7.3: Dundas.
7.4: Esperance.
8. The 1896 inter-colonial line via Ponton's and Eyre to Eucla.

As described elsewhere, the extension of the telegraph line to Coolgardie was completed on 17 July 1894 and the (temporary) Telegraph Office was opened to the public on 22 July.

An excellent report about the nature of the society and the offerings of activities and facilities especially at Coolgardie was published in the Daily News of 18 November 1895. Most interesting.


2. The line north from Coolgardie to Menzies.

  This map extends north to Wiluna.
This map extends into the Wheatbelt region.   This map extends south to Norseman and Dundas.

At a public speech, the local member for the Yilgarn district, Mr. Moran commented that "on the Estimates were sums for the extension of the telegraph to the Ninety-Mile, which line would ultimately be extended to Menzies and Mount Margaret, which latter place would also soon have its own registrar and court" (Coolgardie Miner 29 January 1895).

The major issue with planning the telegraph line to Menzies related to the question: "Should it start from Coolgardie or from Kalgoorlie?". The newspapers were constantly publishing views supporting one location or the other. All discussions were intertwined with the discussion of the construction of the railway line - which in turn depended on access to water.

First planning of the route for the telegraph lines to the north at least had to consider the possible route for the railway line to the north of Coolgardie. As echoed at a well-attended public meeting at Coolgardie and reported by the Coolgardie Pioneer of 8 April 1896, the route for the railway was to be a direct line to Menzies via Mount Burgess, 25-Mile, Black Flag, 42 mile, Bardoc and Goongarrie. Those people who attended were however concerned about an alternative proposal just emerging in the papers at Kalgoorlie advocating that the railway line should start from that place.

In March 1896, the Government divided the East Coolgardie gold field into two parts:

That change made it more critical for Black Flag to have telegraphic facilities.

The Kalgoorlie Miner of 22 July 1896 was one source for an analysis of the debate about the route for the railway.

Gold discoveries were made quickly and over diverse areas. This evolving diversity mitigated against the formation of a definitive plan for any telegraphic communication network. Hence mines used the telephone to connect with nearby telegraph offices.


Check: Coolgardie-Menzies Railway. Western Australian Goldfields Courier 4 July 1896.

Before continuing, it is interesting to record an adjunct to the telegraph lines published in a quite different and effervescent column in the Tothersider on 28 August 1897:



2.1: The Coolgardie - Kunanalling (25 mile) branch line.

A feature of the area from Coolgardie was the use of distances to name locations - especially from Coolgardie to Menzies. Place names sometimes followed later. So for example, 25 Mile was about 19 miles direct from Coolgardie and was later called Kunanalling.

When announcing the near-completion of the Coolgardie to Menzies telegraph line, the Coolgardie Miner of 9 November 1895 noted that the line to the 25 mile had been completed nearly three weeks previously.

On 22 November 1895, the Western Mail informed its readers that "A Post and Telegraph Office was opened at the 25-Mile on the road from Coolgardie to Menzies at 8 a.m, on Monday (18th)". So the line was on its way. The Daily News of 12 December 1895 announced:

As soon as a further supply of material is received from England, a line will be constructed from Coolgardie to the Ninety-Mile but it is expected that it will be three months before this work can be put in hand. With these extensions of the wire, the business of the field will be very greatly facilitated".

In 1896, there was considerable discussion about the merits of extending the telegraph line - but more importantly the railway line - from Coolgardie. Many argued the better approach was via 25 mile and Black Flag to Menzies. Others argued for the railway line to be constructed to Kalgoorlie and then north through Leonora to Menzies. Some clarification was obtained on 10 April 1895 when the West Australian reported: "Today tenders will be opened for ... the construction of the telegraph lines to the 20-mile, Bardook, Black Flag, Broad Arrow and Menzies". A week later, on 17 April, the same newspaper reported "A large and successful meeting was held at Goongarrie (90-Mlle), when it was decided to support the Coolgardie to Menzies railway as against the Kalgoorlie route".

The Western Australian Goldfields Courier of 12 September 1896 reported that "James Wm. Nicholls, aged 30, who was out working with the telegraph gang which has been duplicating the line to the 25-Mile, was brought in suffering from acute rheumatism, presumably the result of exposure to the chill night winds prevailing just now".

Once the line had been erected, it was also used as a baseline for other measurements. For example, when State Forests were Gazetted in August 1900, the Kunanalling State Forest was "bounded by lines starting from a point situate five miles east of the 16-mile post on the Coolgardie-Kunanalling telegraph line, and extending north to a point east of the 25-mile post on said telegraph line; thence west, passing through said 25 mile post for a distance of 10 miles; thence south to a point west of the said 16-mile post, and east to the starting point (17M.)".


In September 1896, the telegraph line between Coolgardie and 25 mile was duplicated.

An interesting aside is that, in January 1896, a Tender was accepted for the conveyance of the mail between Coonanalion (25-Mile) and the 'Wealth of Nations' once a week by spring vehicle from A. P. MacDonald for £170 per annum.


2.2: From the 25 Mile to Black Flag.

On 1 November 1895, the Western Mail noted "The telegraph people complain that they cannot get the Public Works Department to supply them with the buildings and facilities they require and on the other hand the Works Department allege they cannot learn from the Postal authorities in what their requirements consist. Still it is asserted that the relations between the two departments are not strained.

As an instance of the differences between these two branches of the service, it may be pointed out that the telegraph line has been erected by the Works Department some fifty miles towards Menzies yet the Telegraph Department have not yet entered into possession of the office at the Twenty-five Mile, and the reason given is that the necessary office facilities and fittings have not been provided".

In his visit to the Goldfields in November/December 1895, the Premier, while at Siberia, undertook to extend the telegraph system to Siberia

The Inquirer of 1 May 1896 reported that"A contract has been set for laying out the material for the telegraph line between Coonalion and Bardoc, the contractor being H. Climie. The distance is about 37 miles. It is expected that the construction of the line will commence shortly".

The Western Australian Goldfields Courier of 20 June 1896 commented that "The people at Black Flag and Broad Arrow are still indulging in justifiable grumbling at the present system of mail services. All the mails for these centres are sent via Kalgoorlie and, as a consequence, are always a day behind time and not infrequently two or three ... Under the existing system the people of Black Flag, when desirous of sending a letter to the White Flag (21-Mile) have to send it via Kalgoorlie, although the distance direct is only 11 miles and there is a regular coach running over the route".



2.3: The Black Flag to Goongarrie.

Telegraphic communication was established at Bardoc on Friday 10 July 1896.

During the trip southwards from Goongarrie, the Premier noted the following:

The Premier then left Black Flag for the 25-Mile.


2.3.1: Goongarrie (90 mile).

On 26 August 1895, the Coolgardie Miner reported that:

"From the 90-Mile to Coolgardie, the scrub is being cleared for telegraph poles only. No wheel traffic will be permitted on this part of the track. It is anticipated that the telegraph line, for which tenders are now being called, will be at work in three months time. The actual distance of the line from Coolgardie is 65 miles".

Tenders were called in September 1895 for the supply of telegraph poles from Goongarrie to Menzies - the approximate distance between these two places being 30 miles. In November 1895, the Goongarrie to Menzies road was cleared both for road and telegraph purposes. The Coolgardie Pioneer of 6 November 1895 described the situation as follows:

"The heat in the early part of the week was overpoweringly oppressive. We had no means of registering it, there being no thermometer in the town. But, at the same period, a resident who had returned from Menzies reported that in the warden's office 119 degrees were recorded. Menzies is a warm place, but the Ninety can give it points in some things—why not in temperature?

Things were sultry in Goongarrie just then. The town was "humming". The telegraph gang were bivouacking in the mulga close by and returns from Darlot, most of them "empties" had been dumped on the scene and quickly engaged on the neighbouring mines. The Goongarrie Hotel was packed, inside and out, with speculating tourists and the popping of corks and jingling of cash sounded like the music of far off golden days.

Coolgardie had sent us a contingent of the IshmaelitesIn short 'Arabs". A number - if not the majority - would have been Afghanis who were without peer for their critical work with the camels. whose hand is against every man and we had entertained Barabbas unawares! ...

Daily additions to our population come along in the shape of diggers off luck in quest of work. But the supply is not nearly equal to the demand and notices posted in the town announce that four mines are in want of "good miners". With water 4d. per gallon, and yet another condenser in course of construction, while famine prices for water rule elsewhere, labour should be forthcoming to meet all demands.

The telegraph line is up to the intended site of the local office and the wire, which will connect Goongarrie with the busy world, laid off ready for attachment to the "clicking" apparatus when it comes. These things indicate that Rip Van Winkle is rubbing his eyes and will soon be in to make a noise.

The primitive name "Ninety-Mile" must drop from my notes and give place to the more aboriginal, but withal more opulent and booming name, Goongarrie".

The West Australian of 4 November 1895 added to the above with "The telegraph line towards Menzies from Coolgardie is now erected as far as the Ninety-Mile. The telegraph officials, however, refuse to take over the office at the Twenty-five-Mile because the Works Department have not supplied all the furniture that is considered necessary".

A report in the Perth Inquirer of 26 June 1896 noted "F. C. B. Vosper, who has just returned to Coolgardie from a tour of the Coolgardie goldfields, reports that when he was travelling down the track from Goongarrie he followed the telegraph line, and noticed that it was very much out of repair, many of the poles being down, while many of those standing were canted at all sorts of angles. He also states that a town has grown up at the 42-Mile (Balgarri), with a population of at least 300 persons, who are anxious to have a  Telegraph and Post Office established. The line makes a detour to touch them".


2.4: Goongarrie to Menzies.

The distance from Goongarrie to Menzies was about 30 miles.

On 12 October 1894, the Inquirer carried the following report:

"Mr. Hall has returned from Menzies' Find at the 115-Mile. Hall was first on the spot, although many had been prospecting there. He has pegged out three leases, including a 24-acre block. Next to Menzies' there is also a block of 10 acres 9 chains, and another 24 acres, about one mile to north-west. The reefs are small, but are showing both rough and fine gold, especially on the latter lease"

Two months later, the Southern Times reported "A fairly well known mining engineer and expert (Mr. Fearley) returned to Coolgardie from a visit to Menzies' find yesterday and expresses himself as greatly pleased with the place as a reefing centre. He says that 8 miles of reef carrying good battery stone can be traced on the surface and in some parts the stone is remarkably rich. When the batteries are erected and crushing starts he believes that the results from Menzies' reef will not only surprise the miners in Coolgardie but the whole world".

On 12 January 1895, at a meeting of mine owners and residents of the district then known as Menzies Find moved, amongst other resolutions, "That application be made to have the proposed telegraph line, Coolgardie to 90-Mile, extended to this place (i.e. Memzies)" (Coolgardie Miner).

Menzies demonstrates the rapidity with which developments happened in this region. It was only "discovered" in September 1894. By January 1895, the Progress Committee was already asking for telegraphic facilities and, by March 1895, for a Telegraph Office.


Construction of the line.

The Coolgardie Miner reported:

On 27-28 November 1895, Premier John Forrest visited Menzies where the telegraph line had almost reached. The Daily News commenced their report on page 2 by noting

"We publish in another column today a full account from our special reporter of the reception of the Premier at Menzies. The report was sent by special cyclist from Menzies on Wednesday night and reached Goongarrie (90-Mile) yesterday afternoon, being wired through immediately on receipt by the telegraphic officials at the latter place".

"Our special reporter, wiring from Menzies (through Goongarrie) yesterday states that the completion of the telegraph line to Menzies has been delayed to an inordinate extent. The wire has now been stretched to within two miles of the township.

The greatest difficulty experienced by the contractor is obtaining poles as the Menzies district is absolutely void of suitable timber. The poles have to be secured at and carted from the neighborhood of SiberiaSiberia changed name to Waverley in July 1899. 40 mil40 miles away. Water has been extremely scarce on the track and, as a result of their difficulties, the foreman of the water supply for the district, who had also the supervision of the telegraph extensions, cancelled the contract ten days ago, and is carrying on the work by day labor. The line will be completed with all due despatch. The Post and Telegraph office is in course of erection at Menzies"
(The Daily News 29 November 1895, page 3).

Although the Post & Telegraph Office was, at that time, in the course of construction, no work was possible at the time of the Premier's visit because:

At a Banquet for Sir John Forrest on 29 November at the White House Hotel in Menzies, the Premier noted "Telegraph communication was now nearly completed and, before he reached Perth, he hoped that the wire would be in working order. Nothing now remained to be done but to fix the instruments to enable messages to be sent over the wide world". The Menzies office did open on 4 December 1895.

Sir John had previously remarked in his speech "He had travelled through this country. about 100 miles north of Menzies, in 1869 and named the various mountains, such as Mts. Ida, George, Leonora. Malcolm, Flora, Margaret, Alexander, Bevon and others. He mentioned these facts owing to the great change that had taken place since that time. It was with the utmost difficulty that they could get through the country at that time. What it then took three months to traverse. A great change had taken place. What he then thought a worthless, arid waste was now peopled by a large and enterprising population. Wherever one went now in the northern districts, there were many signs of developments and of the whole country being traversed. He had formed the opinion 10 years ago, that white man would never again see these places but the gold was the inducement, and had brought people from all parts determined to find the precious metal" (Hannan's Herald 3 December 1895).

In January 1896, the Southern Times reported that "Pleasing information was received here yesterday from the Mayor of Coolgardie, who is at present on a visit to Perth, that the Government have ordered a railway survey to be made from Coolgardie to Menzies, the proposed route being via Mount Burgess, 25 and 40 miles to the Black Flag and Goongarrie. The distance will be about 110 miles. Menzies is now one of the important towns on the field and is the centre of a very large and rich district where already several batteries are in course of erection and developments now in progress point to the proposed railway being exceedingly remunerative. Like other parts of this country the railway promises to be very easy of construction as there are practically no engineering difficulties to overcome".

The Inquirer of 3 January 1896 complemented this report:

"Due north from Coolgardie the line has been completed as far as Menzies, a distance of about 100 miles, where the telegraph office was opened on the 3rd of last month. The last ten miles of this line was extremely troublesome, and great difficulty was experienced in getting it completed. Menzies and its district are absolutely timberless, beyond the miserable mulga trees, which are quite unsuitable for telegraph poles, and it was found necessary to cart the timber from Siberia, 40 miles distant. Further extensions of this line will probably be made".


Telegraph operational difficulties.

The Western Mail of 26 June 1896 was one of the first newspapers to publish reportes of the operational difficulties of the Coolgardie-Menzies line:

"The telegraph service between Coolgardie and Menzies is frequently interrupted owing to the present wretched condition of the track. Many poles are lying on the ground and a still greater proportion are canted about at all sorts of angles. This state of things is due to the poles not having been buried deep enough, the result being that the slightest shock has the effect of throwing them out of place".

The Coolgardie Miner of 14 July 1896 emphasised how slow the Government had been in responding to the rapidly changing complexion of the Goldfields region - especially that centered around Menzies:

This (Coolgardie) community is much agitated at the lethargy of the Postmaster-General or whoever is responsible for the mail and telegraph service. At present about four thousand telegrams and a large number of cables are despatched from Menzies monthly. The sale of stamps, money orders and inward cables, telegrams and mails must give a return to the revenue of over £800 per month, a sum more than double the amount required to give a quick and effective service not only to Menzies but to the northern districts.

In Mr. C. Fisher, who is in charge of the department here, we have a most obliging and painstaking officer, and so are his assistants, but they cannot do impossibilities. The requirements of the fields demand greater facilities and Mr. Sholl should either rise to the occasion of keeping pace with the times or resign his position and allow a better or more suitable man to take his place. The revenue returns from this place show the absolute necessity of greater facilities being given at the earliest possible moment. At present it is rarely we get telegraphic messages from either Perth or Coolgardie on the same day, while intercolonial wires take three, four and five days to get a return.

The great centres of the near future will be Mt. Ida, Mt. Malcolm and Mt. Margaret where magnificent belts of highly auriferous country abound and where large numbers of miners and business men are flocking. Wires should at once be stretched to these parts for, when messages from these places are passing through, the single wire will be so occupied that Menzies people will be in a still worse position. Consequently a duplicate line should at once be put up.

Three coaches are still running weekly and only two mails are sent. On these occasions, the mails are so heavy that passengers are compelled to walk half the distance if the track is anything like bad. The progress of this place demands a daily mail as there are over 1,700 leases taken up and being worked from this centre. The time that is taken up between here and Perth with communications on leases, transfers and other matters is simply intolerable and quite unfair to the public.

A large and influential meeting was held on Friday evening last in St. Alban's Hotel, the Mayor (Mr. Gregory) in the chair, to urge upon the Government the necessity of greater postal and telegraphic facilities being given. Several resolutions were proposed and unanimously carried :

  • "That the meeting impress upon the Minister the urgent necessity of immediately establishing a daily mail service between Coolgardie and Menzies".
  • "That the telegraph system be extended to Mt. Margaret, Mt. Malcolm, and Lawler's".
  • "That the attention of the Minister be drawn to the incomplete system existing in the telegraph service involving delay, loss of time and business and the necessity of having the line duplicated at the earliest possible moment".

The Kalgoorlie Miner reported several developments over a later period:

26 September 1900: (Two members of the newly elected Progress Association) proceeded to Perth by Wednesday's express to bring several local wants before the various Ministers including the establishment of a Post and Telegraph Office and also greater postal facilities which are urgently needed. At the present time our mails are carried 60 miles from Coolgardie by coach whereas if the bags were made up in Kalgoorlie and dispatched via Cane Grass, the mails could be delivered here the same day".

25 December 1900: "The Government have started erecting the telegraph line from Cane Grass to Siberia, Mt. Higgins and Nulline. The Government are to be congratulated on the route selected as it will bring these rising centres in touch with the leading towns of the colony".


2.5: Other telegraph stations.

Several telegraph stations were built in the general area in places where the mines did not last long. Some of these offices were at:


The town was gazetted in 1897 after gold had been discovered in about the mid-1890s. The main mine (Lady Gladys) operated from 1896 to 1911.

In 1899, residents at Mulline requested a telegraph office be opened there. They saw the refusal was about the same time as the Lawler's-Wiluna line was being approved, They claimed Mulline was far more important and interpreted the refusal was because Mulline "has no Smiths, St. Quintons or Forrests interested there. With gubernatorial and ministerial influence, any work may be constructed without reference to cost or any other consideration".

A Telegraph Office opened at Mulline on 9 April 1901 - one of the first telegraph offices opened after Federation.


3. The line from Menzies-Niagara to Wiluna.

Discussion on extending the telegraph line north of Menzies.

In the area to the north of Menzies (the extension of the newly designated North-East Coolgardie Goldfield), several reports proposing an interest to extend mining - and therefore the telegraph lines - further north began to be produced in 1895. For example:

Dorham Doolette (son of George) was "signally successful in a district known as Niagara which is just beyond Menzies, about a hundred miles north-east of Kalgoorlie. They have made a discovery of what are known as the Challenge claims which have lately been floated into a company with a capital of £225,000. No shares were offered to the public; the whole was privately subscribed by Mr. Doolette's friends. Since then, another discovery has been made in the same neighbourhood which promises, according to newspaper accounts, to be of equal value".

In February 1896, a meeting at the Downs' Hotel in Menzies agreed that a league should be formed to advocate for improvements in the area north of Menzies. It was known as the North Coolgardie Goldfields Progress League. "The subjects considered were the immediate extension of the railway from Coolgardie to Menzies and the extension of the telegraph service to Niagara, Mount Margaret and Lake Darlot. Resolutions were adopted urging upon the Government that the lines just mentioned should be extended as soon as possible and also appointing the members of the municipal council (with power to add to their number) a committee to impress upon the Government the necessity for the speedy construction of the lines" (Daily News 6 February 1896).

The first link north to Lawlers appears to have been a bicycle postal service between Lake Darlot and Lawlers. This service commenced operation in 1895. On 16 January 1896, the West Australian, in commenting on the various locations, noted that "We (at Niagara) are also badly in want of the telegraph. One day last week a bicyclist came through with five Special messages, the price of which was £7 each".

On 3 July 1896, the Western Mail reported that:

"The Postmaster-General has called for tenders, through the Menzies Miner, for the conveyance of mails from Niagara to Mt. Margaret. The population of the latter district is now approaching 500 and they are totally without postal facilities, except those afforded by special cyclists who charge 1s. for letters and papers each way. The prompt action of Mr. Sholl is warmly commended ... The material for the telegraph line to Niagara has been delivered on the ground, but cannot be erected, owing to the supply of sockets for the poles running short.

General regret is expressed at the news that Mr. Warden Owen is stricken with typhoid fever. Mr. Owen left Menzies for Perth on special business a fortnight ago.

The Government survey of the railway from Coolgardie to Menzies is completed. The route taken is via 95-Mile, Black Flag, Broad Arrow, Bardoc and Goongarrie, The surveyors declare the total distance is only 102 miles, though by a straight line the distance from Coolgardie is 91 miles. Opinion here unanimously favours the Coolgardie line. The agitation in favour of Kalgoorlie as a starting point is regarded as ridiculous".

The Coolgardie Miner of 16 July 1896 noted:

"The telegraph line, it is understood, is about to be extended from this place to Lawler's. By this being done, it will touch and open up a large district on the route. Mount Malcolm, Station Creek, Diorite King, Wilson's Patch, Great Western, Owen Daly's, Lake Darlot and a lot of other centres will be served by the line going from Niagara, while the line from Menzies would only afford communication to one small place on the route, the rest being mere desert.

The line from Niagara would pay for itself before reaching Lawler's, while the line from Menzies would not return the cost for a long time after completion. I am not briefed for Niagara, nor am I interested in anyway therein, but I know the country between Lawler's and the two places mentioned and, on the principle of the greatest good to the greatest number, the line should undoubtedly be carried on from Niagara, for a large population and a big district will be served that way, while on the route from Menzies the population and district is comparatively small".

A group of visitors, including a leading New Zealand sheep farmer, visited the general area from Menzies to Niagara in July 1886. They commmented that they were surprised there was no telegraph line connecting Niagara to Mount Margaret. While on their travels, they were able to pick up nuggets up to ½ oz in size from the ground they were walking across. On 30 July, the Hannan's Herald observed "A telegram from our Menzies correspondent states: Rich stone is coming in from all the northern parts and Mount Ida, Mount Malcolm and Mount Margaret are looking exceedingly well. The Government should lose no time in pushing on the telegraph line to these parts and open Post Offices as well, there being large numbers of men in each centre".

The main objective of the three week visit by the Premier Sir John Forrest in November/December 1895 was to investigate the problems of a lack of water across the mining landscape, the railways and increased representation in Parliament. In an excellent statement of the policies being discussed and formulated as a result of the visit:

"Sir John, having tested the feeling throughout the district, was certain of his ground and carried the meeting (held at Coolgardie) with him when he asserted that the Government intended to do justice to the fields without any urging on the part of the Goldfields' National League. The Premier pointedly referred to the telegraph difficulty and candidly admitted that the service throughout the fields was inefficient, and he promised that the matter would be looked into.

And more. Sir John, in answer to an humble but intelligent miner in the body of the hall, who had asked that the Premier should 'shake them up down below', said he would do so and the reply elicited hearty cheers. As the Premier has the just reputation of honestly fulfilling his promises, there will be some interest attached to the 'shaking up' process and as to which of the couple of delinquent departmentsMr. Venn, as Director of Public Works, had to resign in early 1896. he will tackle first".
(Daily News 9 December 1895).

Finally, after an 8 month delay, the Kalgoorlie Miner of 29 August 1896 was able to report that "Sir John Forrest said to-day that, after consideration, the Government had finally decided to construct a telegraph line from Lawlers to Niagara, via Yerilla, Pindinnie, Redcastle and Mt. Malcolm". The West Australian of the same date carried a longer report of the announcement:

"The Telegraph Department has finally decided to erect a telegraph line to Lawlers from Niagara via Yerilla, Pindinnie, Red Castle, Mount Malcolm, Cutmore's Mine and Doyle's Well. The line by this route will be about 184 miles in length and will give telegraphic facilities to no less than eight places. It is the intention of the Minister of the Postal and Telegraph Department, Mr. E. H Wittenoom, to have this work started at once".

On 31 October 1896, the Kalgoorlie Miner observed:

"The second telegraph construction party arrived yesterday, under the command of Mr. Giles. Including those brought in by Mr. Brown's party, there are about 40 camels which will be taken to Kurnalpi, to be turned out in charge of attendants till required. The next large work on which the telegraph construction parties will be engaged will be the erection of the Niagara to Lawlers line, the survey of which has been almost completed. Two hundred tons of material for this line have already reached these fields".


3.1: The start of the construction.

The contract for the distribution of telegraph construction material for the line from Menzies to Lawlers via Niagara, Leonora, Mount Margaret, Mount Malcolm and Lake Darlot was awarded to the firm of Faiz and Tagh Mahomet & Co at a cost of £14 8s per ton.

Racism was certainly rife on the fields. The Coolgardie Miner of 10 February 1897 commented:

"The Asiatics are daily superseding the white man in some new line of business (says the "N.C. Herald.") The construction of the  telegraph line from Niagara to Lawlers has been let to Afghans, who have taken advantage of this unwarranted concession to further insult the white man by endeavoring to supersede the teamster. Yesterday the residents of Menzies beheld an unwanted sight in the procession through the main street of nine camels yoked to a waggon, loaded with  telegraph poles for the Lawlers line, so that it appears that even the poor unoffending waggon-horse cannot escape the effects of cheap Asiatic labor".

Coolgardie Miner (17 February 1896): "Mr. David Brown, Inspector of Telegraph Lines, arrived in Coolgardie on Saturday to look after the construction of some of the new lines. Among those to be taken in hand are:

Mr. Brown will personally superintend the wiring of the poles to Dundas, which he expects to be completed within two weeks. The line to Eucla will take about six months to complete, and Mr. Brown thinks that a double in place of a single wire should be erected, which would considerably relieve the pressure".

This news item highlights the amount of activity taking place simultaneously in this one region.

On 30 June 1896, the Hannan's Herald noted "Rich stone is coming in from all the northern parts, and Mount Ida, Mount Malcolm and Mount Margaret are looking exceedingly well. The Government should lose no time in pushing on the telegraph line to these parts, and open Post Offices as well, there being large numbers of men in each centre".

On 8 January 1897, the Menzies Miner reported that "Mr. A. Gunning, Supervisor of Construction in connection with the Post and Telegraph Department, passed through Menzies the other evening enroute for Niagara. Mr. Gunning goes to Niagara to superintend the erection of the telegraph line which is about to be commenced between that place and Lawlers".

A useful overview of the line was given in the Western Australian Goldfields Courier of 30 January 1897:

"The extension of the telegraph line from Niagara to Yerilla is being pushed forward rapidly, the line being cut and the poles set up for about 10 miles. A large quantity of the poles, wire and material are already landed at Niagara.

The surveyed route goes:

  • from Niagara in a easterly direction to Yerilla, a distance of 25 miles, thence north to Pindinni (32 miles), thence to Redcastle, (70 miles).
  • From Redcastle, a branch line goes north-east to Murrin Murrin and Mt. Margaret - a distance of 88 miles by wire from Niagara and 18 from Redcastle.
  • From Redcastle the line is continued north-west to Mt. Malcolm through Bummers Creek.
  • From Mt. Malcolm, the line is surveyed to Mt. George, passing within five miles but not connecting the flourishing township of Mt. Leonora.
  • From Mt. George it passes through the Diorite King, Doyle's Well and Poison Creek and thence on to Lawler's.

The extension covers a distance of some 208 miles. It is anticipated that the line will be opened to Margaret in about three months from date".

On 3 February 1897, the Miners Daily News informed its readers that "Mr. Kunst, Supervisor of Public Works, leaves town Menzies) to-day on business connectcd with the building of the new Post and Telegraph office at Niagara. As the extension of the telegraph line to Lawlers will necessitate the establishment of office accommodation at the towns along the route, Mr. Kunst will, while away, visit several places for that purpose, including Yerilla, Redcastle and probably Mount Malcolm and Mount Margaret". On his return, "Mr. Kunst left Niagara on Monday 8 February), and owing to his bicycle getting out of order and his own indisposition, was not able to reach Menzies without assistance. On reaching the Half-way he sent in to Menzies and Mr. Thos. Webb of the White House Hotel, came out and found him at Smith's condenser unable to proceed any further. Mr. Webb drove him into town, when he sought the advice of Dr. Corlis, who prescribed for him. Mr. Kunst is now much better".


3.2 Niagara.

During his November-December visit to the Goldfields in 1895, Sir John Forrest spent the night of December 1 at Worthington's Hotel in Niagara. In the evening, he addessed "a 'roll-up' meeting of the miners. One of his comments was that he promised (the people of Niagara) that in a very short time, they would have postal and telegraphic facilities". Afterwards, at the Hotel, he met several prospectors, with whom he chatted about Mt. Margaret and the surrounding country - which he had explored in 1879.

The Inquirer of 3 July 1896 anticipated that the telegraph line to Niagara would be open in about a fortnight. The material had been delivered on the ground for the line but the line still could not be erected because the supply of sockets for the poles had run out.

On 31 October 1896, the Kalgoorlie Miner reported that "The second telegraph construction party arrived (in Coolgardie) yesterday, under the command of Mr. Giles. Including those brought in by Mr. Brown's party, there are about 40 camels, which will be taken to Kurnalpi to be turned out in charge of attendants till required. The next large work on which the telegraph construction parties will be engaged will be the erection of the Niagara to Lawlers line, the survey of which has been almost completed. Two hundred tons of material for this line have already reached these fields".

The Kalgoorlie Miner of 9 December 1896 expressed optimism about the developments by noting "preparations are being actively pushed forward with a view to commencing the Niagara-Lawlers telegraph line. There will probably be three constructing parties. The party will at once commence the sinking of telegraph post holes at different points on the route of the proposed line and the erection of poles and wires will be begun as soon as the material is laid out by the contractors who have charge of this branch of the work".

The Perth Inquirer of 1 January 1897 reported "A start has been made with the construction of the telegraph line from Niagara to Lawlers. The material is at Niagara and is now being conveyed along the route".

The Western Mail (also) of 1 January 1897 reported that "indignation is felt at Niagara respecting the action of the Government in accepting the tender of an Afghan firm for carrying telegraph material for the Lawlers telegraph line".

"Niagara was the termination of the telegraph line to the northern goldfield. The line had been surveyed to Mount Margaret via Yerilla and Pindinnie. This extension is being rapidly pushed on, we having met a team of camels carrying material for the line" (Kalgoorlie Miner 15 January 1897).

Bad things happen: on 21 May 1897, the Inquirer reported that "The officials in charge of the newly constructed telegraph line beyond Niagara have reported that on Wednesday the line was destroyed by fire some distance from that town. The blaze must have been a serious one, for the wire was burned through. How the fire originated is not known".


3.3: Kookynie.

Kookynie is located about four miles north-east of Niagara and was not on the main road north. Gold had first been found at Kookynie soon after the Niagara rush by Morgan and Miller. Given the gold mines around Kookynie but not around Niagara, the locals were calling, during 1900, for a Telegraph Office and a school. Indeed, at the Kookynie Progress Meeting of 6 February 1900, "Mr Landaner moved that the secretary be instructed to write to the Postmaster General drawing his attention to the increasing importance of this centre, pointing out the great necessity that exists for reform in the postal arrangements and requesting that the telegraph system be extended to this town and the Post and Telegraph offices at Niagara be transferred to Kookynie". Towards the end of that year, The Menzies Miner of 3 November noted "The people of Kookynie will at an early date be afforded the advantage of connection with the telegraphic system of the colony. In this issue, tenders are invited for the cartage and distribution of 50 tons of telegraph material for the Menzies to Malcolm via Niagara and Kookynie line".

Without prior knowledge, it appears that in mid November 1900, Kookynie received two banks - the Union Bank and the W.A. Bank. They stiill however badly wanted a Post Offic, a Telegraph Office, a Savings Bank and a Money Order Office.

On 16 November 1900, the North Coolgardie Herald published :

"From a business standpoint what Kookynie wants above everything else is that institution, without which irritating delays and petty inconveniences occur in business transactions, for without a Post and Telegraph office, business matters annot be conducted with any degree of facility.

Business people have been agitating now for some fifteen months with the object of having a local office. There is no doubt but that, until there is a Post and Telegraph Office, there can be no bank or Registrar's office. The bank, it is well understood, would have been here long ago were it not that telegraph communication with the large centres cannot be obtained nearer than Niagara. Regarding the Registrar's office, the Warden has promised that, as soon as the Post Office is opened, he will recommend the removal of the registrar from Yerilla to Kookynie.

Tenders have been called for the erection of a telegraph line from Niagara to Malcolm via Kookynie and it, is quite on the boards that our longheaded and far-sighted officials will complete the line before opening an office here. We may, however, be placed in the tantalising position of seeing the line passing through the town without, having the use of it. No doubt we shall be able to follow Paddy's expedient and tie a petition to the Government on the wire in the evening, and look for an answer, well, some time before Christmas!

What, we undoubtedly do want is an assurance from the Government that an office will be opened as soon as the telegraph line is built to Kookynie".

On 21 January 1901, the North Coolgardie Herald reported important information: "Kookynie is shortly to possess a mining registrar's office and Post and Telegraph Office. A few days ago tenders were invited for removing the Warden's office from Yeriila to Kookynie, and now a contract is to be let for removing the Niagara telegraph office to the same centre".

On 25 March 1901, the North Coolgardie Herald published the following update: "The erection of a new Post and Telegraph Office for Kookynie is in full swing. The building in Niagara known as the registrar's office, with quarters for the officials, has been dismantled and removed here. Mr. M. Mackesy, contractor, has the work well in hand. The framing is up and, when completed, the building will contain quarters for the Officials. At the rear of the Post Office are situated the Police quarters and public school. Very shortly the warden's court will be removed from Yerilla and erected opposite the Post Office. At the expiration of three weeks, the bar window will be dispensed with, and a much higher and more suitable one will supplant it".

At the fortnightly meeting of the local municipal Council on 21 May 1906, a letter from the Cosmopolitan Propriety mine was received stating that the mine was unable to continue to provide electric current free and that they would have to charge 10d per unit when their own battery was not fully employed. "The town clerk was instructed to furnish the Postmaster with full particulars of the cost of electric light installation with a view to having the local Post and Telegraph office lit by electric light".

3.4: Yerilla.

The telegraph line was constructed from Niagara across 25 miles easterly to Yerilla . "The first lot of iron posts for the Niagara to Lawlers telegraph line arrived on Tuesday (5 January). When the line is opened here, a great impetus will be given to business and a boon will be conferred on the residents" (North Coolgardie Herald 11 January 1897).

26 January 1897: "Poles for the Mt. Malcolm-Lawlers telegraph line have been laid as far as Yerilla, and it is expected that communication with the latter place will soon be established" (Coolgardie Miner).

Tension and apprehension grew in the township as the Golden Age reported on 12 February 1897 "The telegraph line has now been erected to within seven miles of Yerilla. It is expected to be completed into the town in about two weeks".

On his return to Menzies, Mr. Kunst reported that he will "have a temporary building erected at once as a Telegraph Office and he also intends providing better accommodation for the Registrar instead of the tents which now have to serve him for office and domiciliary purposes".

The North Coolgardie Herald of 18 February 1897 reported the opening of the line as follows:


Wednesday 17 February.

The telegraph line reached here last night. The Progress Committee and the Board of Health sent congratulatory messages to the Hon. E. H. Wittenoom and the Premier in honor of the occasion. Private messages were sent through this afternoon through the courtesy of Mr. Giles the field operator.

Mr. Gunning, who is in charge of the construction party, is to be congratulated on the expeditious manner in which the line has been erected from Niagara".

The telegraph line, having just been completed to Yerilla, was then carried on to 25 miles north to Pindinni and then 70 miles to Redcastle.

On 29 June 1897, the telegraph line between Yerilla and Pindinnie was interrupted.


3.5: Redcastle.

The line from Niagara to Lawlers reached Redcastle about the end of April 1897. A Telegraph Office was opened there on 1 May.

Redcastle then became the juction point for the main line:


3.6: Mount Malcolm.

The main line from Redcastle was constructed north-west to Mount Malcolm via Bummers Creek (about 30 kms north-east of Leonora).

The Australian Advertiser of 31 July 1895 reported that "Rich specimens have been brought in by Birks and party from five miles south of Mount Malcolm. The find was accidentally made by Birks whilst getting timber for the Lady Alice Mine. Twenty ounce nuggets were picked up on the surface. The stone brought in consists of bluish quartz with cement casing and thickly studded with gold. Only a pot hole of five feet was sunk so that no estimate can be formed of the value of the find". Other situations like this emerged with large nuggets being displayed in the Banks. For example, good gold finds were reported by Jas. McDowell and Jas, Ross around the Mt. Malcolm area in November 1895. The Daily News of 16 November 1895 reported the return to Coolgardie of a team which had struck a new find of exceptional richness near Mount Malcolm. It was reported that the nearest water was 40 miles away at Pindinni.

On 7 November 1895, the Coolgardie Miner reported "A Mr. Williams, who discovered Mount Malcolm, was returning on Wednesday last, per bicycle, but the heat and want of water overpowered him and he succumbed on the track, about 15 miles north-east of Menzies".

Late 1895 was also at about the beginning of the time when serious discussions were taking place about the possible route to be taken to link the Murchison goldfields to the northern eastern Goldfields.

At that stage, Mount Malcolm was the centre of a rich field.

On 6 July 1896, the Coolgardie Miner noted that

"Mr. G. W. Hall has been notified by the Postmaster General that the Afghan mailman on the Mount Malcolm mail route has been replaced by a white man. Mr. Hall wrote complaining the mail was conducted by an Afghan and a camel, neither of whom could read EnglishSo tough - especially on the camel who was at a distinct disadvantage. It is possible both were well-educated in Dari but not given a chance because no-one in the Post and Telegraph Office could assess them.".

In April 1897, the line being constructed by the Government had reached Mount Malcolm and it was expected to reach Lawlers in late May. The celebration day was not however for another two months when the Golden Age of 16 June 1897 reported:

"The completion of the telegraph line to Mount Malcolm was effected at 10 o'clock this morning.

The following congratulatory wires were transmitted to the Acting Premier and Postmaster-General in Perth: "The mining and business community of his centre congratulate the Telegraph department on the completion of the telegraph line here and also in the speedy erection of the post-office buildings. The extension of the tri-weekly mail service from Niagara to Mount Malcolm would prove of further benefit and is greatly needed.

Much enthusiasm was displayed by the townspeople and a ball will be held to-night to celebrate the event, any surplus funds to be devoted to the hospital.

The telegraph line will be carried through to Lawlers via Mount Leonora. Great is progress being made, the construction of the wire averages almost a mile daily".


3.7: Leonora.

On 6 March 1897, the Menzies Miner described the nature of the settlements along the route north between Menzies and Lawlers. In part:

"Leonora, distant about 70 miles from Menzies presents the appearance of a thriving and, in the near future, a possibly important rival to Mount Malcolm, distant about 15 miles. There are several good shows in the immediate vicinity of the township in spite of the fact that one fairly big affair was "thrown up" recently by the controlling body. If the district is given direct mail and goods transit communication with Menzies, both places should benefit very materially.

On 24 March 1897, the Miners' Daily reported a request presented to the Mr. Wittenoom as Minister for "a telegraph line to be constructed into the township of Leonora instead of passing by the place two miles distant as at present". This suggestion was strongly supported by a public meeting of the Progress Association in the following month. A preliminary result was noted in the Miners' Daily of 10 May 1897: "The Postmaster-General has written to the Mayor (of Menzies) stating that the Government intend shortly to erect a telegraph office at Mount Leonora".

The Goldfields Morning Chronicle of 3 July 1897 reported that:

"Mr. Gunning, of the telegraph branch, was at Leonora on Monday 21 June to get his bearings for the erection of the telegraph line. The men are within a couple of miles of Leonora, erecting the line from Malcolm to Lawlers and as this town is to be connected by a loop wire, he wanted to get it finished to save coming back. It is intended to run in a couple of miles of wire but the department has neglected to forward the materials and Mr. Gunning is afraid that he will not be able to complete it for a couple of months as he will have to go on to Lawler's and finish the local portion afterwards".

An interesting account given in the Golden Age of 20 September 1897 describes the ball held at the ball on Friday 17th in the Exchange Hotel at Leonora to mark the opening of the cricket season. Dancing started at 9:00pm and was kept up until 4:00 am. (Big nights in the bush!!!). "About ten couples came over from Malcolm, besides some from further north, including many of the men who are erecting the Malcolm-Lawlers telegraph".

In the same edition, frustrating news: "Mr Gunning and party, who have completed the erection of the telegraph wire to Lawler's, arrived during the past week to complete the loop-line to Leonora, a distance of two and a-half miles and, as usual, the department has sent short measure of wire by two miles and so we will be delayed another three weeks or a month waiting for the extra wire".


3.8: Diorite King.

On 6 March 1897, the Menzies Miner described the nature of the settlements along the route north between Menzies and Lawlers. In part:

From Leonora to the Diorite King mine and numerous other adjacent claims, the distance is about 20 miles by the route I followed, the district traveled through being certainly worth of careful prospecting. The Diorite King Mine is managed by Mr. J. J. Williams a shrewd and discerning man, who is striving hard to obtain for his district the consideration in merits from the postal and other government Departments. The mine employs a number of hands as, besides the ordinary mine work, the company possesses its own saw-mill, a couple of water shafts, a hotel and has also men engaged in making adobe or sundried bricks.

It is Manager William's laudable intention to establish a townsite on the surveyed telegraph route to Lawlers. His own residence and the general office for the mine, the hotel, a water shaft and other works are situated near the 59 mile peg from Lawlers and, as the surrounding district possesses many claims and prospecting shows, it is therefore not surprising that efforts are being made (in the form of a petition to the Minister) to induce the Post and Telegraph Department to establish a weekly mail to Lawlers from Menzies via Leonora.

The site referred to above would make an admirable position for a Post Office as it is a convenient centre for the Diorite King, Vice Regent, Calcutta, Little Wonder, Young Australia, King of the Hills, Derby, Middlesex, Grattan and numerous other mines and prospecting camps. The district is at present only served with a fortnightly mail from Niagara a needlessly roundabout route, as the Menzies-Leonora track is not only shorter but also allows for the last named rapidly increasing mining centre receiving well-merited and highly necessary increased postal facilities".

The 1897 survey's recommendations referenced above stated the telegraph line would pass from Mt. George through the Diorite King, Doyle's Well and Poison Creek. "J. J. Williams applied for a P.O. and Telegraph Office at a site two miles beyond Diorite King because there was a thriving settlement there and his own arrangements for mails, cyclist, etc., ran him into £5 per week. Government are now calling for tenders for a station at Doyle's Well - 16 miles futher on - because there is no settlement there and because the P.O. won't serve anything but a solitary pub - The WA way of How Not to Do it. The telegraph wire passes right through Diorite King" (The Tothersider 17 April 1897).

On 1 June 1897, the Goldfields Morning Chronicle reported that "The contractors for the Post and Telegraph Office at Bummer's Creek) have now been at work about a fortnight, and the building will shortly be ready for business. The quicker these matters are pushed forward the better. The mails, now amounting to five or six large bags full, are altogether too much to expect any private firm to cope with". This statement may have been journalistic overstatement because no Telegraph Office appears to have opened at Bummer's Creek. A Receiver of Mail BagsThe Mail Bags for the Colony were made from canvas and all were sewn up by the female prisoners in Perth. did operate from 1 December 1897 to 30 November 1898.

On 23 July 1897, the Western Mail was able to report:

"Telegraphic communication was on July 15 established with Diorite King township. The first message despatched thence was to the Postmaster-General, Mr. R. A. Sholl, and was as follows:

" Diorite King residents congratulate you on the opening of telegraph office and trust that it will be the means of advancing the prosperity of the district and colony generally.
(Signed) J. WILLIAMS".

To this Mr. Sholl sent the following reply:"I reciprocate the congratulations of yourself and residents of Diorite King, and trust that the establishment of telegraphic communication to your important centre with the outside world will lead to increased prosperity. I wish your district every success".

As was usual, there was a good celebration to be had "at the King". Indeed a double!!! "The Diorite King battery started crushing on the 8th inst. and the telegraph line has been opened to Diorite King. The two events were celebrated contemporaneously, a holiday being given to the men at the mine and a mild shivoo being indulged in by the residents generally" (The Tothersider 17 July 1897).

A month later - on 28 August - the Western Australian Goldfields Courier printed a positive review of developments at Diorite King:

"A township of some pretensions has sprung up in the vicinity of the Diorite King mine near Mount Leonora. It is remote only in distance, for the telegraph is now an established feature and furthermore the Government are quite satisfied that the office is a paying concern - the business done being chiefly in cables. The township has just been marked out by Surveyor Manning and about 20 blocks are under occupation, and building is going on apace. The Diorite King Mines have just erected a fine brick office, with a bungalow roof and an assay room at the back. This, with the Kurrajong Hotel and the baker's shop, comprises the brick portion of the buildings. The Post Office is the usual iron structure and the other architectural features consist of hessian shanties and tents".

The Post and Telegraph Office at Diorite King closed on 31 May 1901.


3.9: Lawlers.

The Perth Daily News of 17 March 1897 reported that "A fire occurred at Lawlers last week by which a number of the camel stores belonging to Messrs. Faiz and Tagh Mahomet were burned to tho ground. The damage is estimated at £1,500".

On 6 April 1897, the Murchison Times reported:

"Mr. PeateHe was the Manager of Mseers. Faiz and Tagh Mahomet. and Faiz Mahomet arrived in Cue last Friday overland from Coolgardie via Menzies, Niagara, Mount Masterton, the Diorite King and Lawlers. The trip occupied 15 days and was a very enjoyable one, good weather being experienced throughout the trip with the exception of a very heavy hailstorm which they experienced at the Diorite King mine. The hailstones were of unusual size some being as large as pigeon's eggs.

The country is looking very much the better for the recent rains which have fallen out East, patches of green feed being met with in a great many places. A general depression seems to exist in all the places passed through due, in a great measure, to the numerous exemptions which have been granted.

The contract for the distribution of the telegraph material for the line from Niagara to Lawlers, which is being carried out by the firm of Messrs. Faiz and Taig Mahomet will, Mr. Peate informs us, be completed in a few days. The construction of the line which is being carried out by the Government is completed as far as Mount Malcolm and should be in Lawlers in about a month. The store owned by this firm, which was recently burned down at Lawlers will, Mr. Peate informs us, be rebuilt as soon as the necessary arrangements have been made for the conveyance of the material.

Mr. Peate and Faiz Mahomet will be leaving for Geraldton early this week, but will return to Cue to be present at the railway opening demonstration after which they propose to proceed to Lawlers to open up the new premises".

As with all developments and progress, it is ultimately people that matter. The Coolgardie Miner of 17 April 1897 reflected that sentiment in its evaluation of the new line to Lawlers:

"The recent extension of the telegraph line to Lawler's and other places has led to a considerable increase of business at the Menzies telegraph office and it is now found that all the energies of eight operators are required to cope with the new and existent business passing through the office (says the Menzies " Miner "). Fortunately the recent additions to the establishment afford the public as well as the operators ample room to transact business in the most expeditious way but, owing to the unsatisfactory condition of the line between Menzies and Coolgardie, comparatively long delays are often experienced. The local Press suffers particularly from this defect, as important messages are sometimes delayed in transmission. The Menzies officials in no way seem responsible for the vexatious delays that occur, but it is no uncommon thing for a message from Perth to Menzies to take four or five hours in reaching its destination. Those who have recently travelled along the telegraph route between here and Coolgardie will be surprised — not at delays occurring but at messages getting through at all. More linemen are needed now the long promised extensions are being made and, until the Government moves in this matter, Mr. Fisher and his staff will not have a fair opportunity of displaying their capabilities".

On 21 April, the Goldfields Morning Chronicle reported on progress of the line to Lawlers - with a date line of 13 April at Lawlers:

"The material for the Niagara - Lawlers telegraph line has begun to arrive. A number of poles and a quantity of wire was delivered at the local post-office on Sunday, and the brackets, insulators and remaining part of the material is expected early next week. The constraction party are still about 100 miles from Lawlers and at the present rate of progress will not finish their work for four or five months at the earliest. This line is anxiously looked for at Lawlers and, in the interests of the public, the Telegraph Department should put on more men and expedite the work".

Reports suggested that the slow progress made to close the gap was due to the hardness of the ground: "The balance of the telegraph line material has not yet reached here. Mr. A. C. Gunning, supervisor of construction, came along the surveyed route, and reached town on Friday. He does not hold out much hope of seeing the line finished before September next owing to the very hard nature of the country. Shooting the holes will have to be done for almost the whole length of the way, and this will keep the party back some weeks longer than was originally anticipated".

On 22 July 1897, the Murchison Times reported "With the completion of the telegraph line, the (Lawler's) district will be almost within the bounds of civilisation. Men have now been put on from this end to meet those coming into Doyles Well, so there is a probability of the line being completed sooner than has latterly been reckoned".

Possibly to have the feeling of some success, there was a celebration when a telegram could be sent from within the Lawler's goldfield boundary: "The telegraph line from the same place (Menzies) has already crossed the border of this goldfield, the first wire despatched from the district being forwarded by Warden Clifton from Doyle's Well, congratulating the Ministry upon the success of the undertaking and it is confidently expected that, before the end of the month, the connection with the town will be established" (Murchison Times 17 August 1887).

Finally, on 31 August 1897, the Coolgardie Miner conveyed the long awaited news:

"Mr. W. H. McGregor, the Postmaster at Lawlers, wired the Postmaster-General yesterday that the telegraph line between Niagara and Lawlers had been completed and that the office connection had been fixed at 6 o'clock on Saturday afternoon (28th). The wire also stated that the line was working satisfactorily and that the inhabitants were gratified at the completion of the work".

Finally, as reported in the Murchison Times on 7 September 1897:

"On Saturday, 28th August, an important event, in connection with the East Murchison Goldfields, was celebrated, when telegraphic communication with this town was finally accomplished.

Mr. Gunning, the officer in charge of the construction, assisted by Messrs. Grundy and Knucky, with a large staff of employees, have been for some considerable time engaged on the work of connecting and their position has been by no means a sinecure for, although the time for completion estimated by Mr. Sholl has been exceeded, taking into consideration the fact of the heavy and difficult country which the line traverses and the great difficulty of transportation in regard to supplies, etc., it undoubtedly reflects the greatest of credit upon the officer in charge and also upon his staff in general, for the workmanship, ability and energy which they have displayed in accomplishing such an arduous task in so short a time.

Upon the last piece of work being finished, the telegraphic and construction staff, and public in general, were invited by the business people of Lawlers to assemble in front of the capacious verandah of the Post Office for the purpose of drinking success to Lawlers etc. Warden Clifton occupied the chair and the first toast proposed was the health of the Queen which was most enthusiastically received. Mr. Bellford, the local photographer, getting a splendid view. Several other toasts were then proposed and responded to merrily, after which Warden Clifton proposed "The Telegraphic and Construction Staff" coupled with the names of Messrs. Gunning, Macgregor and Knuckey. The toast was received with vociferous cheering.

An hour or so was passed in this pleasant manner, when festivities were postponed until Mr. Forbes, manager of the Rose Hotel banquetted the telegraphic party at the hotel. This again was a tremendous success. During the evening,a cricket match was arranged between the civil service — telegraph party and Government officials — and Lawlers. Calcuttas were sold on the match and this greatly enhanced the interest in the game. The match was played on Sunday afternoon, resulting in a win for Lawlers by 60 runs".

Mr. Gunning reiterated that the country he had come through was as hard as it could possibly be. Mr Richard Knuckey had been the Foreman for the task and, at the reception, reiterated the difficulty by saying "that during his 27 years experience of telegraph line construction, he had never seen such a belt of hard country as exists between Lawler's and Niagara". Quiet a comment from this magnificent man because he was one of the leading forces in constructing the Overland Telegraph Line.

An important overview of the Warden's Report on the operations at Lawlers, Mt. Sir Samuel, Lake Darlot and Wiluna is given in the West Australian of 22 February 1900.

Some time later - in March 1905 - the Postmaster-General decided against establishing a telegraph line to Black Range from either Lawlers or Mount Magnet.

As an aside, in April 1898, the West Australian informed its readers that "The enterprising proprietors of Cobb and Co.'s coach lines announce that they have made arrangements whereby passengers can book straight through from Lawlers to Perth. The route takes in Diorite King, Leonora, Mount Malcolm, Tampa, Niagara, Menzies, Goongarrie, Bardoc, Broad Arrow, Paddington, Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie".


3.10: Mount Sir Samuel.

 "Mr. Clarence Brown has telegraphed from Cue to the secretary of his syndicate in Perth, Mr. W. F. Clifton, that he had made application for nine leases, near Mount Sir Samuel, containing 170 acres, every lease carrying payable gold on the surface and that there are 10 different reefs on it, all showing gold visible to the naked eye. Mr. Brown also stated that he was coming to Perth, bringing samples of the reefs with him. Mount Sir Samuel is situated about 200 miles east of Cue and 250 miles north of Coolgardie".
(Geraldton Express 18 October 1895).

In April 1899, John Dunn - the well known prospector and explorer who had dicovered the Weath of Nations mine - and his brother Thomas returned to Coolgardie after completing a prospecting tour north of Leonora. He pegged out some claims between Lawler's and Mount Sir Samuel with the object of prospecting there. At Coolgardie he needed camels and supplies. He intended to return via Boorabbin where he throught there were also significant prospects a reasonable distance to the north.

In the same month, the Governor made a visit to the Murchison. After three days in Cue, he travelled to Menzies via Tickanarra, Nannine, Abbotts, Peak Hill, Lake Way and Lawlers.

In early June 1900, tenders were advertised in the Gazette for the erection of Post Offices at Mt Sir Samuel and Wiluna - as well as a Police Station at Wiluna. In July, the lowest tender for the two Post Offices and the Police station had been sub,itted by Messrs. Crooks and Brooker.

The Post and Telegraph Office opened at Mount Sir Samuel on 1 October 1900.


3.11: Wiluna (Lake Way).

On 21 October 1898, the Western Mail described the situation in Lake Way was follows:

"The residents of Lake Way are very indignant at the Government for, as they contend, refusing to do anything for the Wiluna township. At present there is only a fortnightly mail to the place which has no Post Office, no police, no telegraph or money-order facilities. They also complain that the Wiluna blocks were sold at Lawlers".

The lack or difficulty with communication with Lake Way was certainly a good feature for the Government because, as someone once said: "Out of sight, ....".

The Governor, in his speech to open the fourth Session of the Third Parliament on 21 June 1899, noted that "It has been the object of my Government to extend the postal and telegraph system to every place of importance in the colony and that object has thus far been accomplished. The expansion of our goldfields, however, necessitates that the work shall be almost continuous and my Ministers propose to give increased postal facilities and to extend the telegraph:

Tenders were called in October 1899 for a wide range if postal routes. The routes included:

These routes and others showed the connections which then existed between places in the far north of the Goldfields region as well as between those places and the Mid-West region (especially Miunt Magnet).

In the Legislative Assembly on November 1899, there was a discussion on the cost of constructing telegraph lines. In a discussion with Mr. Kingsmill, the Colonial Treasurer noted that in 1900, the Government would not construct new lines anywhere except on the goldfields. Hence the allocation of £850 in the Estimates. If lines were to cost more than that amount, they would be funded under loan. Then followed:

Mr. KINGSMILL had heard that a telegraph line is going to be constructed that will cost £10,000.

The COLONIAL TREASURER : Which is that?

Mr. GREGORY: Lake Way to Mount Sir Samuel.

The COLONIAL TREASURER : It will not cost so much as that - say £5,000.

It was estimated that the Lawler's - Mount Sir Samuel - Lake Way (Wiluna) telegraph line would be for the convenience of 200-300 people and it would pass through a district where it was considered (by opponents to the line) that a fortnightly mail service would be quite sufficient.

In the Assembly of 17 December 1899, mention was made of the Government's intention to erect a telegraph line from Mt. Sir Samuel to Wiluna. Then, on 22 February 1900, came news that Parliament had approved the construction of a telegraph line from Lawlers to Wiluna. Almost immediately, advertisements appeared in the Gazette seeking tenders for the cartage and distribution of 150 tons of telegraph material along that route.

The next major event reported was on 19 March 1900 in the Western Mail:

From: Western Mail 10 March 1900, p. 46

"Our illustration was taken at the railway station, Mount Magnet, as the camel team was on the point of leaving with the camp equipment for Lawlers.

After reaching Lawlers, the team will be used for carting the telegraph material from Lawlers to Lake Way line, a distance of 120 miles. The camels take very kindly to this style of work, and are as tractable and easily driven as bullocks. They should be particularly serviceable on this road of long, dry, and sandy stages.

Amongst the spectators is Mr. William Cant (the fourth man from the left of the picture). This old gentleman was a member of the Austin Exploration Party (1854). He subsequently visited the district in the two following years but until recently, when he paid a visit to his son, he has not since seen the place. He is now 80 years old, well and hearty, and still clings to the hope that the Government will recognise his party as the first to discover gold in Western Australia.

One of the construction party was superstitious. He pointed out that the party numbered thirteen, the animals thirteen and they were making a start on a Friday".

About 16 June 1900, advertisements again appeared in the Gazette and various newspapers but this time calling for "Tenders to be received at the Public Works office, Perth, up to noon on Tuesday, the 3rd July, 1900, for the erection of post offices at  Wiluna (Lake Way) and Mt. Sir Samuel, and a police station at Wiluna". On 3 July, Crooks and Brooker were announced as having submitted the lowest tender for the construction of the Police Station and the Post Office at Wiluna.

The next development reported in the newspapers was in the West Australian for 8 November 1900:

"The Premier on Wednesday received two telegrams of congratulation on the opening of the recently-constructed telegraph line to Wiluna.

The first of these, which was from Warden Clifton, was as follows: Congratulate you on the opening of the telegraph line to Wiluna, which will be of immense benefit to this important district, which warrants the immediate erection of permanent offices. The residents are very pleased to have communication with the outside world."

The second telegram was from the chairman of the Wiluna Progress Committee and was in the following terms: 'The Progress Committee, on behalf of the people of Lake Way, are pleased to announce that the telegraph line is now open to Wiluna and they tender their sincere thanks for the same to the Premier and Government of Western Australia".


3.12: Lake Darlot.

From about the beginning of 1895, good gold discoveries were being made around Lake Darlot (and 60 miles to the north) - especially at the Pride of Darlot, the A1, the Florence and the Lady Catherine mines. At the Lady Catherine, for example, there were thousands of tons of good payable stone in sight!! Many hopeful diggers (about 100 in early May) left the Murchison around Cue to try their luck - together with the 1,000 estimated to have been at Lake Darlot in April. In May 1895, a camel train owned by Mr, Thomson started "for the new rush". Gold was found in significant quantity up to 50 miles from Lake Darlot but the scarcity of water made it suicidal for men to rush to the country.


4. The Redcastle - Mount Margaret - Laverton Branch.



The Governor, in his speech to open the fourth Session of the Third Parliament on 21 June 1899, noted that "It has been the object of my Government to extend the postal and telegraph system to every place of importance in the colony and that object has thus far been accomplished. The expansion of our goldfields, however, necessitates that the work shall be almost continuous and my Ministers propose to give increased postal facilities and to extend the telegraph:

In this general area was the Crown of Nations mine. One of the major shareholders was Alex Forrest, the brother of the Premier Sir John Forrest. The mine was located about 45 miles from Mount Malcolm, 25 miles north-west of Mt Morgan and about 45 miles from Mount Leonora. A detailed description of the area is published elsewhere. That description reveals a similarity in the geology from at least that area north through to Lake Darlot and Wiluna.


4.1: Murrin Murrin.

Murrin Murrin was about 20 miles north-east of Mount Malcolm. Despite the establishment of a few mines nearby (e.g. the Mount Malcolm Propriety and the Golden Prince) and a large amount of water close to the surface, Murrin Murrin had no Telegraph Office and the town was not on the line to Lawlers. Redcastle and Mount Malcolm were the nearest offices on the telegraph line. Residents had to conduct their business at Mount Malcolm.

In the first meeting of the Progress Committee on 29 April 1897 was argued that Murrin Murrin should have been the location the junction of the telegraph branches - to Mount Malcolm and Laverton - in place of Redcastle - a place with not a third of the population.

Finally Murrin Murrin took the place of Redcastle on the line from Yerilla then branching to Mount Malcolm and Laverton. A Telegraph Office was opened there on 29 March 1898.


4.2: Mount Margaret

A Telegraph Office was opened at Mount Margaret in May 1897. Mount Margaret declined significantly about 1898. The Post and Telegraph Office was to be relocated to Mount Morgan when the line was completed. The closing date was finally 7 September 1899 - about one month after the telegraph line had reached Mount Morgan.

In July 1899, Constable Hoy, the Police Officer in charge of Mount Margaret received instructions to relocate to Laverton. The Warden's Court was also removed to Laverton in September and business was conducted in temporary premises opposite Logan's Store. The monthly Court was not held in September but postponed to October in light of the pressure of business. Nevertheless the Warden did go to Laverton in September to make arrangements for temporary premises for his court. While there he conducted a charge of inciting to commit murder in connection with the recent fatal shooting affray. He did not return to Malcolm until Wednesday. It was intended that the court should be postponed for a week only, but Mr. Spence received a wire from the Warden this morning notifying the more extended period of postponement.

"It will only be a few weeks when Mt Margaret will have reverted to the blacks, as the contract for the construction of the telegraph line from here to Mt Morgan and Laverton is in course of progress".

The Coolgardie Miner published the following GOOD BYE message on Saturday 16 September 1899:

"Margaret 'Mercury'

Good-bye, Margaret! The best of friends must part. We don't care if we never meet you again under the present conditions.

Our reason, in aborigines' vernacular —'Mt Margaret tumble down, Laverton jumps'.

Saturday's issue of the Mercury will be the last to be produced under the present title and in the town from which it has been published since its inception over two years ago. We cannot truly say that we are seeking fresh fields, as, owing to the low ebb at which Mt Margaret has arrived, and the altered condition of things generally, a removal to Laverton, only a few miles further north, has occurred to us as being a wise step to adopt.

It is, of course, almost necessary to alter the name of our paper in order prevent complications, and the name of our journal will be the 'Laverton Mercury.'


4.3: Mount Morgan

Mount Morgan was regarded as being on the outskirts of Laverton. On 13 July 1899, the North Coolgardie Herald reported "The telegraph line will shortly be connected with Mt Morgan and a Post and Telegraph Office established".

The West Australian of 11 August 1899 reported:

"The Premier yesterday received two telegrams congratulating him on the extension of the telegraph system of the colony to the Mt. Morgan district.

  1. One of these messages, sent by Mr. G. W. Hall of Mt. Malcolm, stated "Congratulations on the inauguration of telegraph line. Mt. Morgan, British Flag and the adjacent district join in this".
  2. The other telegram was from Mr. M. P. Morgans, manager of the Westralia Mt. Morgan mine, and was in the following terms: "Telegraphic communication completed to-day. Accept our thanks for extending this facility to our distant town".

On the completion of the telegraph line to Mount Morgan, the Mount Margaret Post and Telegraph Office was closed - on 7 September 1899.


4.4: Laverton (British Flag).

Laverton is about 20 miles north-east of Mount Morgans ad about 25 miles from Mt. Margaret. Gold was discovered in 1896 but the town was moved before being surveyed in 1899 and gazetted in July 1900.

During a visit to the area at the beginning of April 1899, the Premier promised that the telegraph line would soon be extended to the British Flag. The North Coolgardie Herald of 29 April 1899 reported "an effort is now being made to have better postal facilities, and a telegraphic service from Margaret or Mt Morgans to Laverton. In the initial stages it would appear wiser to advocate a telephone system. This would entail upon the Government only the expense of erecting the wires between each place because local residents could easily be found willing to take charge of the telephone room and post-office. If, after an experiment, it was found that the business warranted the establishment of a Government post-office, the Government would be almost sure to provide money for that purpose".

On 17 May, the Herald noted "Laverton is to get its telegraph line after all". On 17 June 1899, the Malcolm Chronicle observed "Government Gazette" sometimes makes mistakes. A notice appears in the last issue of that interesting organ inviting tenders for the cartage and distribution of about 40 tons of material for the Mt Magnet-British Flag telegraph line. What has Mt Magnet got to do with the contract? Mt. Margaret is most probably intended".

In August, a tri-weekly mail service between Malcolm and Laverton commenced. Then the West Australian of 13 September 1899 reported;

"The Premier has received a telegram from Mr. Campbell Shaw of the British Flag district, congratulating the Government on the provision of postal and telegraphic facilities at Laverton. Mr. Shaw's message was in the following terms:

"Laverton, September 12th.

Please receive the congratulations of the residents of British Flag district on the prompt and now complete extension of the postal and telegraphic service to Laverton which will be quite a boon to this large and progressive goldfield.".

The telegraph system through Mount Morgan to Laverton did not however work well - partly because of the demand for it and partly because of under-staffing. The Coolgardie Herald of 21 November 1899 reported the following:

"A recent arrival from Mt Margaret says the township is now a thing of the past, practically all the buildings having been removed to Mt Morgan.

The traveller says the postal and telegraphic arrangements are very far from perfect, there being just a repetition of what used to happen in Coolgardie in the early days, the lesson taught then having apparently been forgotten and the old order of things reverted to. This is due to the offices being undermanned, the unfortunate servants of the department in that district being worked to death. The telegraph line is only available about twice a day.

As an illustration of this, a wire was despatched from Menzies to Laverton, announcing the departure from Menzies of a gentleman for Laverton. In due course, he arrived at Laverton and had the pleasure of collecting the wire in the company of the addressee - which was hardly what was intended".


The Western Mail of 25 December 1902 described the town as follows:

"Trade and business are conducted in the usual one-storey premises, while the post and telegraph offices, Warden's Court, and police station are designed and built according to the goldfields style. There are two breweries, and the output of beer, which is excellent in quality, is not equal to the demand in the town and district. The racecourse, about a mile and a half from the town, is a natural course, and is considered to be the best on the fields. The recreation ground is nearer the centre of population, and it is well adapted for cricket and football, but the reserve has not been fenced in yet, a work which is o be undertaken in the near future. There are several churches, corps of the Salvation Army, and a State school".