Leonora Gwalia Historical Museum | Our Glorious Past Revealed


[highlight]Historical Information and Pictures [/highlight]

Younger Herbert Hoover as Engineer
Hoover, aged 24,
Kalgoorlie WA, 1898

The Sons of Gwalia Mine was established in 1896 and termed by its Welsh syndicate as the word Gwalia being the Welsh term for Wales. Gwalia is a primitive Latin name for Wales which turn into popularity in Welsh-language poetry in the 19th century. Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States (1929-1933), served as the mine manager in its early days from May to November 1898. This small town can claim to have once been the second main gold mine in Western Australia, the first State hotel and have been the site of the state’s first tramway.

Herbert Hoover (seated on camel), WA Goldfields

The area around Gwalia was first discovered by John Forrest in 1869 but it wasn’t while waiting for 1896 that prospectors, strained to the area by the enormous finds at Southern Cross, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie exposed gold near the existing site of Leonora. That same year the ‘Sons of Gwalia’ reef was discovered by Carlson, White and Glendinning. They worked it for a short-term time before selling out to George Hall for £5000 and earnt his entire savings after one month.

By looking for additional capital, Hall started negotiations with a London firm, Bewick Moreing, who sent very young 23 years old Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer, to the site. Hoover suggested himself as manager of the project and proposed Bewick Moreing for buying the mine, which they did with a cash commitment of £100,000 on 17 November 1897. By suggesting himself as manager of the project, he fruitfully abridged costs at the mine by hiring Italian labor. Gwalia had a momentous Italian community for the rest of its existence.

From the most primitive days, there was extensive competition between Leonora and Gwalia. Leonora was plotted in 1897 and it acquired shops and a variety of services quickly. However, as Gwalia’s mining operations offered the most consistent and reliable work in the area, people started to settle down near the mine first in camps and far ahead in simple, dirt floor cottages that were made with timber frames and covered with ribbed iron.

The Gwalia “Co-Op” Store 1932. This building no longer exists
Opening of Tram Line between Gwalia & Leonora 1903

A ceasefire between the two towns happened in 1903 when a tram service was built between the two settlements. However, by the 1920s Gwalia was viewing signs of doubt and uncertainty. Its presence depends on exclusively on the Sons of Gwalia mine and when 400 men were dismissed, the community was destroyed.

4pm shift change on the Sons of Gwalia Mine, April 24th 1901

After this the fortunes of the town, the mine was defenseless to changes in the price of gold and other external factors. The town literally deceased overnight on 21st December 1963 when the mine closed. The population of around 1500 was condensed to 40 people by early January 1964 and the Gwalia Hotel had been closed.

The famous “Gold Bar Dinner” in the Hoover House Dining Room – 1899 so named for the stack of gold bars sitting on the table (centre foreground). In attendance was the Premier of WA Sir John Forrest, Mr Hill (Herbert Hoover’s successor) and a number of prominent local businessmen.
Hoover House -1912 This picture is of the side entrance to Hoover House where the gift shop is now located. This is situated in what was the Music room when that section of verandah was filled in.
Woodline Trains, 1920 . These trains travelled down the line with a team of men cutting and collecting wood to take back to the mine to fuel the boilers, which powered steam driven equipment & machinery such as the winder.
The Sons of Gwalia Underground Mine, 1921, taken from the site of the current museum lookout
Gwalia Swimming Pool & houses, C1940 This picture shows the Gwalia Swimming Pool, built in. It was the second Public Pool in the State of WA. The pool is now on the very edge of the modern mine Pit. Of the houses in the picture only the white one on the right, (between the pool and Mount Leonora) survives and is an employee residence.

Above & left: Exodus from Gwalia December 1963. There are conflicting dates for the closure, but notification of the closure was given on the 17th December 1963, the mine closed on 21st December, the financial records finish as of New Years Eve 1963 (British accounting systems use a calendar financial year) the last of the workers vacated the closed mine in mid January 1964.

Herbert Hoover’s quotes are as inspiring, motivational, encouraging and outstanding as he himself was. His saying gave the message of optimism, hard work, hope, freedom, children, family and many more.

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