Menzies Pioneers First Social Gathering 1897 (Western Australia)

First published in The Menzies Miner 25 December 1897

The Menzies Pioneers
Back Row: F. Featherstonhaugh, R. Wells, J. Liston, M. H. Walsh, H. Jersoe
Middle Row: J. A. Schmitt, T. Rudd, V. Schmetzer, H. A. Johns, T. F. Allen T. Horn
Front Row: R. D. Hortop, W. Fawkner, F. Walton, C. Jackman, S. W. Ebsary, H. Mahon, M. J. Thorna

SOME MENZIES PIONEERS OF 1894.
THEIR FIRST SOCIAL GATHERING.
ADVENTURES AND HARDSHIPS.

There has never been so pleasant a gathering as that recently held at Menzies Hotel, which possesses some historic interest. It was a meeting of the Menzies pioneers of 1894 — of the men who reached this field within three months after its discovery, of the hundreds who could legitimately claim participation in this memorable celebration, less than a dozen put in an appearance. The remainder of these brave pioneers are scattered the wide world over — some in New Guinea, others on their way to the banks of the Yukon in far-off Alaska, and others still have taken the last long journey of all. It was, perhaps, the departure for Klondyke of Mr. Charley Jackman (a member of the party who were the real discoverers of Menzies on the 9th September, 1894) that, suggested the almost impromptu gathering held recently. The reunion was in every sense most enjoyable, and the reminiscences of old times — of privations and hardships, of acts of sacrifice and daring — will have an increasing interest for those who shared the successes without incurring the risks undertaken. by the old pioneers. The chair was filled by Mr. H. A. Johns, and there were also present: Mr. Frank Walton, Mr. Charley Jackman, Mr. M. H. Walsh, Mr. Jas. Liston, Mr. S. W. Ebsarv, Mr. R. D. Hortop, Mr. Hans Jersoe, Mr. Thomas Rudd. Mr. Robert Wells, and Mr. Vincent Schmetzer. Mr. H. Mahon, editor of THE MENZIES MINER (the pioneer newspaper) attended by invitation.

The chairman observed that it was a happy custom this of the pioneers meeting at intervals and exchanging reminiscences of old times. The pioneers of Menzies were already scattered over the world, and their places taken by new men. Perhaps they did not complain of being shouldered out, for it was their nature to be ever seeking “fresh fields and pastures new.”‘ Those who remained should, however, meet occasionally and exchange old memories; for since all were proud to recall their part in civilizing this region, the reunions should be both pleasant and instructive. He trusted that this meeting would be the forerunner of many more gatherings of a similar character (applause).

The toasts of “The Queen” and “The Governor” having been honored.

The Chairman requested Mr. Mahon to propose the toast of “The Menzies Pioneers.” Mr Mahon regretted that some one more worthy and with more knowledge of the struggles of the early pioneers had not been selected to propose the toast. It was an affecting theme — all the more affecting as so few remained of the old hands who had won over these wilds to civilization. No one could help feeling a pang of regret that they did not remain to share in the prosperity of which they laid the foundation in the discovery of gold. The first and dominant feeling coming up that dreary track from Coolgardie was that the pioneers mast have been of almost reckless courage. Their bravery was equal, if not superior to, the pluck of those who selected the front line in a battle charge; for, in penetrating this desert, devoid of water and every essential of human existence, they literally and truly took their lives in their hands. Some men held life cheaply; and, in such isolated instances, the undertaking of great risks was easily understood. But to the vast majority of the pioneers life was a precious thin: for they had formed domestic ties, and the happiness of women and little children depended on the prospectors’ success in the far west. Realizing in a faint way the position of these men, he declared that their work was truly heroic. It had the true ring of self-sacrifice, and they would stand in the eyes of the future on a much higher plane than the warrior whose valor was spent in mere conquest. 

The commercial value of the services of the pioneers to West Australia, and indeed to the other colonies, was incalculable. To them this colony owed the addition of a magnificent province, whose auriferous wealth, now being gradually revealed, would yet astonish the world: while in opening up a field for the remunerative employment of the superabundant labor of the eastern colonies, the pioneers had achieved a good that governments and statesmen and political economists had miserably failed to effect. It was a sad reflection that most of the pioneers received only paltry rewards, the riches they disclosed passing to men who shirked the prospector’s perils and to whom his hardships were only a tradition. The circumstances of Mr. Pat Hannan, the discoverer of Kalgoorlie, was an instance of what he referred to. Any government with a proper sense of what the country owed to Mr. Hannan, would have granted him an annuity of at least £500 for the rest of his life (applause). 

He was sure the Menzies pioneers would lend assistance in forcing the government to do justice to Mr. Hannan: for it was the Bayleys, Hannans, Browns and Jackmans that had really exalted Westralia into a state of solvency. In conclusion he hoped these reunions of pioneers would become periodical, so that the fame of these benefactors of the colony might be kept fresh in the memory of those who enjoyed the wealth to which the pioneers had pointed the way. 

The toast was drunk in silence.

Mr. Frank Walton, who was first called on to respond, said he left Coolgardie for Menzies on the 1st October, 1894, the day on which Mr. L. R. Menzie made application for the Shenton and Florence leases. He came to the 25-Mile the first day; and just after passing the 42-Mile on the second day he was overtaken by Messrs. Menzie, McDonald and Fraser. He had heard previous to this from parties coming from the 90-Mile, who had been searching for it, that nobody could find the place of Menzie’s discovery. However, he got on his riding camel and followed Menzie up, overtaking him at the Cane Grass Swamp. He there met Jack Brown, one of the original prospectors of the Pioneer Group who was on his way into Coolgardie, who told him that Menzie had made application for his (Brown’s) ground. Brown advised him to follow Menzies up. When he arrived at the 90-Mile he came up with 40 to 50 people who were watching Menzie, who was staying at Williams’ Hotel. They watched his camels all night (though he did not water them till late), and made a start about 8 next morning.

 A Camel Train Passing Through Menzies for Lawlers

The parties travelled across the 90-Mile lake, and at the time there must have been 70 people in company with Menzie. From 90-Mile the crowd came to the 8-Mile (from Menzies) where they camped that night. The next day they started for the new find, and arrived at the Pioneer hill at about 10 o’clock. There they saw a man on top of the hill who proved to be Billy Ivory. They could sight nothing from the hill except scrub (laughter) so they came on to the big blow and camped on the present site of the Golden Age shaft, from which they scoured around to discover the Shenton. Menzie and McDonald had in the meantime gone back to the Ladas near the Golden Age. While they were there an Afghan employed by Brown, Jackman and Kirby, came up with some quartz in his hands and said he had found Menzie’s camp. The whole crowd made a rush up in the direction from where he came, up to the place the Afghan spoke of. All hands started out to peg alluvial claims, he should have said that when they came to the Golden Age they saw the pegs driven in by Hall and Daly on the Shenton south, but nobody could then make out whose pegs they were. Harry Rees and George Gregory were the two men who pegged out the Golden Age. He arrived here on the 6th October and found amongst others Mr Ebsary dryblowing near the site of the present Shenton shaft. This was the story of his journey to Menzies. (Applause). 

Advertisements

Mr. Jackman said that his party arrived on the 9th September, 1894, and after prospecting a little on the Pioneer group, went out towards Mt. Ida from which they very soon returned. It was Kirby who picked up the first gold at Menzies. His party bad met Menzie at the 90-Mile, and he came out at their invitation. Their lease had not been applied for at this time, and when Menzie, having inspected this property, went a mile to the west and proceeded to the 90-mile without returning, they thought he was going to apply for their property. He had, of course, meanwhile discovered the Shenton. The first he and his mates knew of the discovery was by the appearance of Rudd, Green and Ivory.

The Chairman humorosly recalled some of the straits to which the early-comers were driven for stores. Mr. Walton was very generous, but he sometimes ran out, and to his certain knowledge Frank’s camels were for full five weeks expected every day to arrive from Southern Cross (laughter).

Mr. Walton : Old Harry was in charge of them (laughter).

Mr. Ebsary, in responding, recounted his experiences in detail. He was in the Coolgardie warden’s office on the day Menzie’s leases were being applied for. On the following day, in company with two mates (who, though old prospectors, were in feeble health) he started for the new find, which was reported to be 30 miles due north of the 90-Mile. A few days before (his horses were cheap, but the news of the find enhanced their value, and the party was obliged to pay £10 to £12 for some very indifferent animals. He was the only sound man out of the party, one member having had scurvy and the other a bad leg (laughter). Leaving Coolgardie about 9 o’clock at night, they reached within three miles of Goongarrie some days after. They bought some new water bags at Gregory’s and started to cross the lake. There was a condenser on the edge of the lake, so they filled the water bags, passed over the lake into the sand hills beyond and on into the bush. One of his mates, being an old bushman, was given the lead; and fancying that Menzie’s find was more to the east he kept in that direction. By night one of the horses bad knocked up completely and would not shift a yard; so they took the bags off it and distributed them amongst the others, though they were already heavily laden. They had only one riding horse left between them. He wanted to shoot the horse that had been left behind, but his oldest mate refused, saying, “You will never have any luck if you do (laughter). I shot a horse seven years ago, and. had no luck since.” Therefore the horse was left to shift as best it could. 

That night they struck a green patch: but the horses, wanting water, refused to eat a bit. They then turned to their water bags to find that all but a pint had oozed away (laughter). There was not much to divide (laughter). Next day his  mate in charge wanted to cut across towards the Niagara waters, which they had found in September, 1893, when coming in from Mt. Margaret. It was a scorching hot day, and he could see that they would never get there. With two disabled mates, and horses knocked up. He could see that the outlook was only middling (laughter). However, they trudged along at the rate of two miles an hour until 10 o’clock, when horses and men showed signs of knocking up. A consultation followed when it was agreed that, they should push on towards Niagara. He said, “It must be about here that rock hole we struck last September.” His mates were against his looking for the hole, but he saw it was their only chance. He left them to look for the place, and was doubtful of finding it. as he had only been there once before, when he came to it from the north-west. However, he managed to find it amongst some cliffs that he recognised. To his surprise it contained some 70 gallons of water. Having had a drink he started off after his mates, cut their tracks and soon overtook them. They would scarcely believe the good news. They then filled their bags and started to find Menzies. 

His mates persisted in going into the ranges to the east, and they spent some days looking for the place there. However, they changed their course to southwest, cut the 90-Mile pad and followed it almost to Jackman’s, arriving on the 6th October. They overtook Frank Walton’s camels taking goods to his store. The Afghan in charge offered to take them to the rush, but his mate said that if he never found the place he would not be taken there by an Afghan (laughter). His party got the first alluvial claim at the Shenton, right alongside the underlie shaft. They got a few pennyweights, and later a 4oz piece, and he was supposed to have done well (laughter). Then he “specked” a few pieces on the Lady Sherry before they got the reef, and some on the Crusoe. Then he and Mr. Hortop found themselves at Granite Creek, where “tucker ” gave out, and they had to make a dash for civilization.

One of the First Coaches to Arrive at Menzies

Mr. Jersoe recalled some of the difficulties of himself and his partner, Mr. H. Gregory, in establishing the first hotel at Menzies. In crossing the lake his horse got bogged several times, and it was only by unloading that he was enabled to ultimately get over it. Afterwards he got on pretty well. At Brown’s Hill he met Mr. Fetherstonhaugh, who was prospecting there, and at 9 that night struck Harvey’s camp. Shouting out to the occupants for information the latter asked, “Are you black or white?” (Laughter). On arrival he saw Mr. Whitfield, who had permission from the Warden to peg out a town site.

Mr. Walsh: He got permission from Innes, registrar at the 90-Mile.

Mr Jersoe: The township was pegged out, and he put in pegs on the site, of the present post office. They were removed by Warden Gill who thought that site too good for an hotel (laughter). He had great struggles in getting timber, instancing several breakdowns and broken axles. The first load of “grog” arrived with Mr. Gregory in March, and from then they had a very busy time (laughter). The first Saturday night they were pretty nearly played out at 12 o’clock and he proceeded to make his bed on the floor. Gregory lying on the counter. The door was burst open, and in the whole crowd came again (laughter). Then, after a few drinks, they started to fight, and one man was thrown through the window (laughter). Another was knocked through the hessian into the street (laughter), others fell through the hessian into the passages. So that night they had an open place to sleep in (laughter). 

The Chairman: You had an “open house” (laughter).

Mr. Jersoe: One other Saturday , night they had similar wild experiences. One man was thrown into the tank of water — the only water at the hotel at the time (laughter). Afterwards (concluded the speaker) we got more civilized, and things went on nicely. 

Mr. Walsh (who was the first postmaster at Menzies) also gave some reminiscences by request. He left Coolgardie in company with 13 others, two of whom — Messrs Wells and Schmetzer — were present to man the Crusoe lease for the Octagon Syndicate. At that time there was no water between the Twenty-Five and the Cane Grass, but they expected to get some near the Carnage, where the Octagon Syndicate were working a lease. This, however, was exhausted by Heffernan and his camels, and his party had to push on in blazing hot sun for the Cane Grass, where they arrived on 13th October. After some rough experience in crossing the lake, they reached Menzies about the end of October. From mining he went into store-keeping, and when the new town site was selected by Warden Gill,he shifted from the Crusoe to the corner of Shenton and Brown streets, which was the first pegged out on the new site. His experiences as postmaster reminded him greatly of an eight-o’clock rash (laughter). However, the town went ahead much more rapidly than many expected, and they hoped it would make equal progress when the railway came. Those who had gone through the Christmas of 1894 must have a very vivid recollection of the three weeks famine — when everybody was borrowing until practically there was no food left, in the place. He was rather fortunate in living at Mr S. R. Wilson’s camp. They had saved up a tin of mince mutton for Christmas Day; but as Daly and Matthews arrived just as they were about to sit down to it that tine did not go very far as a Christmas dinner (laughter).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.