Just 25 miles north of Coolgardie are the scant remains of an old mining town.
Gold was first discovered here in 1892 by James Speakman and his friends, but they decided to go travelling before offically staking the claim. In the meantime, another man, Bill Adams, re-pegged the claim and had already registered it with Warden Finnerty by the time the boys got back. Despite trying to win the claim back, Adam’s won.
An alternative story tells of Alex Forrest and James Dunn who supposedly found the site in 1893 while chasing down some runaway horses. After spotting some alluvial gold and collecting samples, news quickly spread of their find, inspiring an exodus to the site. What started as a smattering of tents around a new dam (courtesy of John Forrest) became a full fledged town just one year later.
Originally named 25 miles due to its distance from Coolgardie. It was later renamed Kunanalling from the Aboriginal name for ‘the place of the eagle hawk’. By 1898 as the population reached nearly 500, the town grew substantially and soon boasted a modest number of conveniences, including seven shops.
The Premier Mine
The mine at the centre of this ghost town is The Premier Mine, the site of which is just to the north-east. Pegged on lease No. 4, it’s associated with several early prospectors. The first manager was Billy Frost, and a modern plant was installed quite soon after along with the sinking of its first shaft.
The lack of water became a major issue, especially as the nearby dam could only hold 2 million gallons and the very salty underground water was unsuitable for use in the plant. In 1899 wood, another key component in the mining industry, was also in short supply, adding significantly to the operations costs. By 1895 nearly 400 men were working at the site. The plant was extended and a new twenty-five headed stamps was installed; five of these heads were made available for local prospectors to use.
Within the first year 10,000 oz of gold (283 kg) was returned and workings had reached 100 feet (30m) in depth. The shaft eventually reached the 300 foot level (91m) and assay values were very promising, but costs were proving too high. The company directors in Melbourne replaced Frost with Cornishman Captain Benny Bryant who arrived in 1899. With his wealth of experience and knowledge gold production increased significantly, with the extraction rate around 99.7% and producing 12 oz to the ton.
Premier Mine continued to expand and with the use of new extraction methods production increased again to 25 oz to the ton. The lack of water was a prevailing issue and as the Kalgoorlie mines were getting into full swing, wood availability further decreased. Captain Bryant resigned in 1902, unable to cope with the pressure to reduce overheads. He was replaced by Fred L Thomas, an experienced miner from South Africa. Unfortunately, his efforts were also in vain and on the 26th July 1903 the mine was shut.
Miners are notoriously a thirsty bunch, and it certainly didn’t take long for pubs to surface in the new town. First was The Royal, followed by Friedlander’s ‘Twenty-Five Mile Hotel’. Alcohol was however exceedingly expensive, especially for a location so remote as this.
Coolgardie entrepreneur Fred ‘Cousin Jack’ Bow saw the hole in the Kunanalling market and after buying out both smaller pubs, built a brand-new hotel. Using his own substantial wagon business Bow could guarantee the supply of much cheaper alcohol to the hotel and it opened on the 1st of April in 1901 with much fanfare. It’s ten flashy rooms, huge parlour and billiards room were a real beauty, especially as they came equipped with electricity courtesy of Premier Mine.
Unfortunately, despite its initial success, the closure of the mine was a fatal blow to the town. The Premier Hotel did continue on under different managers; between 1922-26 it was run by ‘Gran’ Kelly who was not only one of the first people in Australia to serve counter meals, but also added homemade icecream to the Sunday menu. By 1931 all of the government buildings had been taken down and carted off. While some ventures did continue on their own leases around the town, its great boom came to an end. This lasted until 1942, at which point the last person left Kunanalling.
The remains of the hotel sit alongside the Coolgardie North road and is available for anyone to visit. The hotel has taken quite a lot of damage from vandals over the years, so please keep you distance from its fragile walls.
There are a number of open mine shafts in the area, some signposted, some not.