Prospectors Arthur Bayley and William Ford had success prospecting at Queensland's Croyden goldfield, later they worked at the Southern Cross mines. Bayley and Ford decided to follow the track established by Charles Hunt in the 1860s. On their journey they collected over 500 ounces of alluvial gold. They were not the first to discover gold in the region, but they were the first to survive - near their find were two skeletons and evidence of earlier claim pegs.
Bayley had hoped to claim the Government's 5000 Pound reward for finding a goldfield within 300 miles of a port. Unfortunately the land was judged to be within the Yilgarn district, which included the rich finds of Southern Cross. However the potential of the new find generated a lot of excitement. So much so that Yilgarn magistrate and mining warden JM Finnerty, relocated his office to the new goldfield. Finnerty asked a local Aboriginal man for the name of the area, and he wrote the reply as Coolgardie.
The town of Coolgardie was founded in 1882. Life in the early years was extremely harsh, prospectors had to cope with water shortages as well as outbreaks of typhoid, scurvy and dysentery. Miners devised a way to store perishable food: using an empty kerosene tin with the sides cut out then covered in hessian (for protection from flies), dripping water from a tray on top soaked the hessian which created a cooling effect. This innovation was called a Coolgardie Safe.
At the turn of the century the makeshift humpies of the original mine site were replaced with more solid structures, and Coolgardie became the third largest town in Western Australia with a population of over 16,000. The residence of Warden JM Finnerty, built in 1895, symbolises the rapid development - less than two years before the warden's office was a corrugated iron shed.
Distance from Perth (km): 558