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Arthur Wellesley Bayley (1865–1896)

Intelligence was received in Perth yesterday of the death of Mr. Arthur Bayley, who, with his partner Mr. Ford, discovered Coolgardie. Mr. Bayley, who was about 31 years of age, died on Thursday at the Avenel Station, in Victoria, of which colony he was a native. It was in October, 1892, that Bayley and Ford made the find which entitled them to Bayley's Reward claim, and which was the beginning of the now world-wide known Coolgardie. Both were prospectors, and both comparatively young men when the discovery was made, Bayley being about 27 and his companion about 10 years his senior. Ford was the domestic partner in the firm; he watched the camp and field while Bayley was getting supplies from Southern Cross. The people of that township knew Bayley, and Bayley alone. That fact accounts for the beginning of the predominance of Bayley's name in regard to Coolgardie. It would heighten the interest of the story connected with the discovery could it be said that the find was made when the party had reached the last extremity of their supplies. Such, however, was not the case. As prospectors the party was exceptionally well off. Two years before Bayley had won over 1,000oz. from a claim at Nannine, in the Murchison district, where he had as "mate" not Ford, but a man named Taylor.

"I first met Ford" remarked Bayley to an interviewer in 1894, "at Croydon, and four years ago accidentally chanced on him in Southern Cross. He remained at the Cross while I went up as far as Roebourne. I was not the first at Nannine. The pioneers were McPherson and Peterkin, who were there four or five weeks before I arrived; and in spite of this, the West Australian Government gave the reward to another man. This fellow had accidentally left the colony but hearing of the reward he returned from New South Wales to Perth, and with the assistance of a member of Parliament he got the reward, on the ground that he found gold on the Murchison 12 months before. McPherson and Peterkin and our party worked the field four months before reporting it. After selling our gold I separated from Taylor, and again met Ford at Perth. We joined there, and proceeded to Mount Kenneth, about 250 miles N.E. of Perth. Having arrived there, we lost our horses through poison, and had to walk back to Newcastle. The farmers and others on the way enjoyed themselves considerably at our expense. We got to Newcastle at last bought a fresh turn-out, and started for the Marring country, where some little gold had been got by a man named Speakman. But the place was poor, and we found the fellows rushing back. We put in a couple of months knocking about the country, but did no good. About June, 1892, we got to Southern Cross, where we obtained enough stores to last seven or eight weeks. I must say we were getting pretty full of it about this time. Still we decided to start again; we struck out about 14 miles north of Hunt's track, which we knew nothing about at the time, not having a map of the country. However, we struck the track (which was very indistinct; it was marked 30 years ago) after going 30 or 40 miles, and we also found that David Lindsay and his camels had been along a part of it. We soon lost Lindsay's tracks, and after getting close to Coolgardie, we turned back for want of water, and made for the Gnarlbine Rock, where we stayed for two days. When the time was up, we struck out North-east for some country we had seen before, and which we wanted to prospect again. But we never got there. The country from Gnarlbine we found very boggy, and we could not do more than twelve miles a day. Presently we struck a native well — Coolgardie — about half a mile from where we afterwards got the first gold. This was about the third or fourth week after we left Southern Cross. The native well of which I speak is just a hole in the rock, and will hold 700 or 800 gallons of water when full. As soon as we saw the country we decided to put in a few weeks prospecting it. The place was covered with grass, and we let the horses out to graze while we went 'specking’ across the flats before breakfast. The first find was made by Ford, who picked up a half-ounce nugget at a place which he called Fly Flat. Later on we got a 7-ounce piece at the same place. After that we started picking up the gold all the time, getting about 200oz. in five or six weeks."

Some years ago Bayley afforded the following interesting details of the finding of the reward claim:

"One morning before breakfast, while going after horses, I picked up a half ounce nugget on the surface, and before dinner we obtained about 20oz by the same means. That spot was about 200 yards from the present Reward Claim. In about a month by specking, and a little dry blowing, our gold consisted of about 200oz. After a month our rations ran out, and we made tracks for Southern Cross to replenish. We did not report the find, but went back to the old workings, and on a Sunday afternoon, while fossicking around, we struck the reef. That evening we picked up about 5ooz. of gold, and on Monday pegged out a prospecting area on the reef. That morning a party of three men came on the scene. They had followed us from Southern Cross. That day we obtained 300oz. gold from the cap of the reef. The party who had followed us stole about 200oz. from our claim, so we had to report it for that purpose. I went into Southern Cross carrying 554oz which I showed to the Warden on September 17. The field was then declared open.

"After another two days we had collected another lot of gold amounting to 528oz. I conveyed that to Southern Cross, and a fortnight after returning to the field had to make another trip there, escorting 642oz. All we found was right on the surface, and all we did was to knock the stuff out and dolly it with pestle and mortar. There were 6cwt of tailings left. After the gold referred to had been extracted from the quantity of stuff, we obtained a further amount of 278oz. Prices ranged from £8 18s. 6d. to £3 19s. 6d. We got a little over 2,000oz. of gold altogether out of the claim. We only had a five-acre lease of the reward claim. We sold the latter to Sylvester Browne. The lease was jumped but we won the case. Mr. Browne paid £6000 but we retained an interest of one-sixth. My mate (Ford) and I hold 4,000 shares between us. I am certain there is a tremendous future before the mine."

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'Bayley, Arthur Wellesley (1865–1896)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

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