The Golden Mile was once the riches square mile on Earth, the prospectors who discovered the field were Patrick (Paddy) Hannan, Tom Flanagan and Dan Shea. They picked up their first alluvial gold in June 1893 very near to where the current Mt Charlotte shaft is, it was part of low hills some 38km east of Coolgardie, at the time it was only 9 months old.
Paddy Hannan registered his Reward Claim at the Coolgardie’s Wardens Office on June 17 and within three days an estimated 700 men were prospecting on the new field. Those who followed Hannan back to his find pegged as closely as possible to the original claim. A fortnight after the rush two men destined to play a major role in the story of the Golden Mile arrived on the new field – William G Brookman and Sam Pearce, prospectors from South Australia and backed by a small syndicate.
When Brookman and Pearce reached Coolgardie, they found nothing of interest and continued to where Hannan and his friends had made their new find only two weeks before. Though arriving way too late to peg anywhere in the vicinity of Hannan’s Reward Claim so they headed south towards Hannan’s Lake. They came across some low iron-stone hills and rising ground and though it was interesting country and they set up camp and pegged their first lease. Heading to Coolgardie to register that claim and naming in it, Great Boulder in memory of his South Australian claim.
For a time, the men pegged claims and registered continually making round trips, within three weeks from the first pegging the Great Boulder East, the Lake View, the Ivanhoe and the Australia were all pegged for the Adelaide Prospecting Syndicate and were the first of the famous Boulder group of mines.
Before Christmas of 1893 more than 100 leases were registered, most of which were later the important producing portions of the Golden Mile. The ‘Mile’ is generally accepted as being the area between Block 45 and the Star Leases. Though in the beginning water was a major problem with no fresh supply and only salt of brackish water available from the lakes and mine shafts.
In 1895, the fields were in a depressed state, things did not move quickly, and the mines attracted little capital and no notice was being taken of the area from the outside world. Due to two factors, the cutting out of the richest alluvial patches and the lack of conventional quartz in the district. Investors were reluctant to invest their money on anything other than gold bearing quartz and many experts were bought in freely stating the district were fetching good results though were ‘salted’.
Though before long new batteries were erected and returning 15,000 ounces of gold from the Great Boulder and these were the main factors which convinced the outside world that Kalgoorlie field was worth looking at. Overseas investors particularly from London began pouring money to develop leases on the Golden Mile. This injection of capital and the opening of mine after mine, some even gave their investors rich returns and by 1896 the Golden Mile was starting to live up to its name.
In May 1896, a newspaper stated that the Great Boulder had produced over 1 tonne of gold and half had come from Lakeview at the time gold was nearly £4 ($8) an ounce. The town grew rapidly in 1896 and the sound of hammers in the town rivalled that of the battery stamps at the mine. Local newspapers were reporting events in nearly every issue in 1896 – Miner’s working underground at the 200ft level on the Great Boulder in April broke into a face ‘almost yellow’ with gold and pieces of pure metal as large as eggs were picked off the face.
By the end of the first five years the Golden Mile was supporting two towns Kalgoorlie and Boulder, the latter came into being in August 1897, through the necessity of having to move the miner’s shacks and camps from leases to a site closer to their work.
And by the time another five years rolled around the towns had grown into inland cities boasting every comfort and facility. They had electric lights, trams and even an almost unlimited fresh eater supply. This was due to the wonderful richness of the Golden Mile. Old prospectors returning to the fields could hardly believe their eyes!
But what became of the men that started it all? Some faded from the scene, others stayed on in the Goldfields a few stayed rich, others died poor.
Brookman probably made more money as one of the early prospectors of the Golden Mile than any of the others. He became a millionaire and was a big spender, he and his wife spent lavishly and lived up to their wealth. They often made news headlines such as when they reserved a special box for their guests at the Royal Hunt Club at Ascot in England on one of their European Tours. Brookman even become Lord Mayor of Perth for a short period of eight months, beginning in November 1900. But most ironical part the men who first discovered the Golden Mile died of modest circumstances.
Dan Shea continued prospecting until 1904 and retired to Perth where he dies at the age of 71 and was buried at the Karrakatta Cemetery. In recognition of the part he played in the discovery of the Kalgoorlie Boulder field, the Australian Government erected a headstone on his grave.
Little is known of Flanagan after he left Kalgoorlie except that in 1898, he had lost a leg and was short of money in Melbourne. He died and was buried in Bendigo in 1900.
Paddy Hannan prospected around the Menzies district after the gold on his Reward Claim cut out. Later he returned to Victoria for a holiday though the lure of gold brought him back to the West more than once, the last time being in 1910 during the prospecting boom at Bullfinch. Paddy received the same recognition for registering the first claim on the Kalgoorlie field. In 1898 the WA Government gave him a residential allotment in Egan Street, Kalgoorlie. Seeing that his friend Flanagan was given nothing, Hannan shared the proceeds of the sale with his friend.
Paddy spent his final years with his sister in Melbourne and later died there in 1925 at the age of 85. The residents of Kalgoorlie paid for the headstone on his grave. So, ending the life of the man who, registering the first claim in a new area led to the discovery of the richest gold field in the world – The Golden Mile.