Southern Cross (W.A.)
Southern Cross is a town in Western Australia, 371 kilometres east of Perth on the Great Eastern Highway.
It was founded by gold prospectors in 1888, and gazetted in 1890. It is the major town and administrative centre of the Shire of Yilgarn At the 2006 census, Southern Cross had a population of 711.
The town of Southern Cross is one of the many towns which run along the Mundaring to Kalgoorlie Goldfields Water Supply Scheme engineered by C. Y. O’Connor.
A succession of gold rushes in the Yilgarn region near Southern Cross in 1887, at Coolgardie in 1892, and at Kalgoorlie in 1893 caused a population explosion in the barren and dry desert centre of Western Australia.
It is named after the Southern Cross constellation, and the town’s most significant streets are named after stars.
Southern Cross is on the standard gauge railway from Perth to Kalgoorlie and beyond. The Prospector and Indian Pacific passenger trains service the town. The former narrow gauge railway reached Southern Cross on 1 July 1894.
Wheatbelt/ Goldmining Town
Located 357 m above sea level and 368 km east of Perth on the Great Eastern Highway, Southern Cross can be seen as either the last town on the edge of the wheatbelt or the first town on the Eastern Goldfields.
Southern Cross¹s importance is based on its status as the first major gold discovery in the huge Eastern Goldfields region.
Indeed, as the authors of The Mile That Midas Touched observed, Southern Cross, because it predates the larger towns to the east, has a special relationship with Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.
The Cross, too, had its heyday, first as a mining town, then as head of the line before the railway was pushed further inland. It was the mother town of Coolgardie, the old Camp, and at least the grandmother of Kalgoorlie and the Golden Mile.
Explorers had passed through the area decades before gold was discovered. H M Lefroy, for example, in his Journal of the Eastern Exploring Expedition (1863) declared that the area had great agricultural potential. The area had also been explored by the indomitable Charles Cooke Hunt (who duly sunk a few wells) and John Forrest.
Some pastoralists had moved into the area by the 1880s but it was really the discoveries of Thomas Risely and Mick Toomey in 1887-88 which established the area as an important goldfield. Risely and Toomey claimed they had been led to their discovery by the Southern Cross and they named the goldfield after the constellation.
There was a small goldrush but it was short-lived (this was an area of reef gold not alluvial gold) because on 17 September 1892 a young Queenslander, Arthur Wellesly Bayley, rode into Southern Cross with 554 oz of gold which he had discovered at Fly Flat (now Coolgardie).
The discovery started the greatest gold rush in West Australian history. Overnight the miners who had flocked to the Southern Cross diggings moved to the more lucrative eastern fields.
The towns growth was dramatic but it was never a boisterous centre like Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie. In 1891 the Eastern Goldfields first courthouse was built. By 1893 it had become a municipality. And in 1894 the railway arrived giving the town fast and reliable access to the coast.
Today the area produces oats, barley, wheat, sheep and gold but the average annual rainfall of 279 mm means that the land is marginal. In recent times the fluctuating price of gold has seen renewed interest in the Southern Cross area with both Broken Hill Metals NL and Golden Valley Mines NL being the main operators in the region.
Things to see:
The main attractions in the area include the Number 6 Pumping Station, the Old Cemetery, Frasers Mine, Hunts Soak, the Court House and the Museum. It is indicative of the area that all the attractions either relate to gold mining or to water supply.
Number 6 Pumping Station
The Number 6 Pumping Station, located about 11 km east of Southern Cross at Ghooli, is one of a series of eight steam pumping stations used to carry water to Kalgoorlie on C. Y. O Connors remarkable water pipeline. Listed by the National Estate the Number 6 Pumping Station was still being used as recently as 1969 when it was replaced by electric pumps.
The Old Cemetery, located at the eastern end of Southern Cross, has been redeveloped by the Southern Cross Historical Society as a Pioneer Memorial. It was only used from 1891-1898 and consequently is an important reminder of the miners and pioneers who first settled this inhospitable area. The high incidence of typhoid on the early goldfield is dramatically recalled on the headstones of many of the miners.
Frasers Mine can be reached by heading west on Orion Street onto the Greenmount Road. It is located over the hill behind the Palace Hotel. Although Thomas Risely and Mick Toomey may have discovered Southern Cross it was Hugh Fraser, an experienced prospector, who pegged out the most important rich lode and it was Frasers Mine which became the centre of the towns continuing growth.
The old headframes, those symbols of early underground gold mining, are still on the lease and, nearby, is the modern open cut mine which is still exploiting the quartz and greenstone fault which Fraser identified as being rich in gold. It is one of the ironies of goldmining that Fraser died penniless. The town mayor paid £20 to have him buried as a citizen rather than a pauper.
7 km north of Southern Cross is Hunts Soak. It is one more of the remarkable daisychain of wells and soaks which provided the whole of south eastern Western Australia with water until OConnor built his pipeline. This soak was built in 1865 and was indirectly responsible for Thomas Risely and Mick Toomey finding gold in the area.
Registrars Office and Court House
The Registrar¹s Office and Court House (now the towns Museum), located in Antares Street, was built in 1891 at the height of the town¹s goldrush. It continued to operate until 1976 when the court was moved to new premises.
It was in this building that Paddy Hannan took out his Miners Right and it was to this building that Arthur Bayley came to register the claim which subsequently became the rich fields at Coolgardie. This was also the location of the first claim on the Lake Dundas (Norseman) goldfields.
Not surprisingly the museum, which is run by the Southern Cross Historical Society, concentrates on the history of mining in the area. It is open from 9.00 am – 12.00 noon and 1.30 pm – 4.00 pm Monday to Saturday and 1.30 pm – 4.00 pm on Sunday.
Like so many Goldfields towns, Southern Cross sprawls. One of the towns most delightful characteristics is that all of the streets, maintaining the stellar associations of the town, are named after constellations. Thus there is Sirius Street, Altair Street, Centaur Street, Orion Street, Spica Street and so on.
The Karalee Reservoir
The Karalee reservoir, rock catchment and aqueduct, a natural rock formation adapted to maximise the catchment, delivery and storage of rainwater, was listed on the State’s Register of Heritage Places in 2001. The reservoir, located about 50km eastwards of Southern Cross, had been essential in railway development to the Goldfields region.