1829 - 1896

This period begins with the settlement of the Swan River Colony and ends with the settlement of Leonora. It covers the period of early exploration and identifies those people who contributed to the early establishment of Leonora.

Demographic Settlement & Mobility

Exploration & Discovery

An expedition led by John Forrest was undertaken in April 1869, to ascertain the fate of lost explorer Leichardt, twenty years earlier. The journey commenced on 15 April 1869 and they set off in a north-easterly direction reaching and naming Lake Barlee on 25 May. "Sunday, 20th June, 1869. Saw a hill bearing N.81 30'E. mag, about twenty five miles distant, which I named Mt Leonora; and another bearing N.6T'E mag, about twenty five miles distant, which I named Mt George. Intend to proceeding to Mt Leonora tomorrow." The first geological survey of the area was undertaken by Mr C.F.V. Jackson, Assistant Government Geologist, in 1904. Carnegie, who travelled through the Leonora District just prior to the gold rushes in the area. Activity had been established to the north at Lake Darlot and to the east at Mt Margaret. To add to the significance of the proximity of these areas, is the fact that prospectors were travelling from two main centres - the Murchison to the west and Coolgardie to the south, thereby passing over or very near the Mt Leonora area.

Early in 1895, a prospector named Booden who had come over from the Murchison found alluvial gold in a gully below what was later known as the Little Wonder Mine at Diorite King, about 23 miles north-west of Leonora. Having had his camp burned and his provisions stolen, he set off for Cue. Once there, he struck up a partnership with Edward 'Doodah' Sullivan. It was Sullivan who is claimed to have been the first prospector to have found gold near Leonora. After leaving the Little Wonder late in 1895, he found gold about 4 miles north of Leonora and in March 1896 he pegged the Johannesburg Lease. He died later that year, and his grave is marked on the site of his lease near Mt. George.

Sons Of Gwalia

The Sons of Gwalia reef was discovered in April or May 1896 by prospectors Carlson, White and Glendinning, who were backed by the Tobias Brothers, merchants of Coolgardie. The new find was only one of a number of reefs opened up in the Mount Leonora district in that year, but was to prove the most significant. It was a good time to find a major gold deposit. The success of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie had established Western Australia's credentials on international stockmarkets at the very time when economic depression was making gold one of the more attractive avenues for investment, and promoters were scouring the goldfields in search of prospects. Normally, the vendors of mineral deposits face a long struggle to secure capital backing, but Western Australia, in 1896; was seething with capitalists awaiting opportunities.

Another mine which raised great hopes was the Great Tower Hill found by Jim Breen in July 1896. However, results were not up to expectations and after producing nearly 18,000 oz’s in 1906 it rapidly declined, no further mining being done after 1908.