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Post A Western Australia Ghost Town: Gwalia
Created by John Eipper on 04/09/22 6:47 AM

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A Western Australia Ghost Town: Gwalia (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 04/09/22 6:47 am)

I was doing some family genealogical research and came across this large and very interesting branch of the O'Leary family, which appears to have been centered in the town of Mallow, County Cork.  I am sending this note to you because of the connection to Stanford University and Herbert Hoover, explained below.

One couple, Edward Clark (1834-1887) and Mary Ann O'Leary Clark (1835-1918) are an excellent example.  

Mary Ann was born in Cork City, Ireland, and emigrated to Australia, portably disembarking in Adelaide, South Australia.  Edward Clark was a Scot who had been born on the Peninsula of Fife, which is located immediately north of Edinburgh.  They probably met in Adelaide and married there in December, 1856, and spent most of their lives in Bordertown in South Australia, where both of them passed away.  They had a large number of children, just a few of which I have incorporated into our ancestry trees.  

One of their children, whom I just ran across, is Elizabeth Clark (not yet found her husband).  She had been born in 1856 in Bordertown.  She died on May 18, 1940, at the beginning of WWII, when Australia was threatened with a possible Japanese invasion.   This couple and their children lived for a time (not yet determined by my ongoing research) in Gwalia in Western Australia, which was a mining boomtown; underground mining of salt, nickel and gold.  It had the second largest gold mine in Western Australia for a time, just behind the gold mine in Kalgoorie.  

The town of Gwalia is now "essentially" a ghost town.  Former US President Herbert Hoover worked in the mines there as a geologist for a time.  Hoover's extended trip to Kalgoorie and Gwalia is described in this fascinating article:


The "dark and lost places" aspect of Gwalia is described in its Wikipedia entry here:  


Finally, here is the link to the town website, which mentions the Herbert Hoover House and the Gwalia Museum:


JE comments:  Pat, your family research takes you to a fourth continent!  There is an eerie majesty about ghost towns, and Gwalia fits the bill.  I wonder if our colleague in Western Australia, Martin Storey, has visited.  There is a nascent tourism industry there, although the State Hotel (below) looks a bit tired.

There are precious few Eippers spread around the world, but Australia has a large contingent.  My most illustrious Australian "cousin" was the 19th-century Presbyterian missionary Christoph Eipper.  He was as reproductive as he was spiritually productive, with eight children.  I wonder how (or if) we are related:

Christopher Eipper - Wikipedia

State Hotel, Gwalia

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  • An Upcoming Trip to Western Australia's Goldfields (Martin Storey, Australia 04/11/22 7:16 AM)
    Greetings from Western Australia, where we are nearing the end of what has been the warmest summer on record, although not all petroglyphic records have been checked.

    In the North of the state is the "Burrup Peninsula" where rocks are adorned, in a relatively small area, with over a million petroglyphs dating back 45,000 years. It is the largest such collection in the world by far, but not significant enough to be protected as it also happens to be a convenient location to site the logistics bases of extractive industry companies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murujuga ).

    In response to Patrick Mears (April 9th), I have not yet been to Gwalia (apparently an old name for Wales), but I have been meaning to visit the so-called "Goldfields region" of Western Australia for the past 20 years and coincidentally, my family and I are finally doing it soon--indeed we will be departing in a couple of days! And yes, we'll be going to Gwalia, and we have booked to stay a night at the former mine manager's house, designed by and named after Herbert Hoover, and now a bed and breakfast.

    As I understand it, it is also the only inhabited building in town at this time--although things can change quickly in the Wild West. More news in a couple of weeks after I've been there but until then, it is worth spending 4 minutes watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs3Hu7MB4FE .

    While 23-year old engineer Herbert Hoover reached the town by camel, we'll be going there in our family hybrid car, heading east from my home town of Perth, first towards the still very active mining town of Kalgoorlie. There we will visit the "super pit," a large open gold mine. According again to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Pit_gold_mine ), this mine produced more than 14 metric tons of gold in 2019, the latest year mentioned there, and the mine has been in existence for almost 130 years. The latest reported grade (yield) is 1.56 grams of gold per ton of rock and "around 15 million tonnes of rock are moved in any given year, consisting primarily of waste rock." Some things are big outside Texas too!

    I see from https://www.outbackfamilyhistory.com.au/records/record.php?record_id=261 that the lady mentioned by Patrick became Elizabeth Robertson after marrying a William Robertson in her native Bordertown in South Australia. Bordertown is named after its proximity with the state of Victoria, so it is quite a journey that took the Robertson family from their native town to Gwalia.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there was quite a bit more to be found about their life on the internet. The website has a photo of Ms. Robertson's gravestone. She died and rests in Leonora, a mining town about 12 km from and closely related to Gwalia. The two towns were linked in the early 20th century by an electric tramway. This is the northmost point we plan to visit on this trip. The main attraction in that area is Lake Ballard, a salt lake where 51 lifesize Giacometti-style statues of local residents were installed temporarily 20 years ago, but never removed, forming now what the local authorities call the "largest outdoor art gallery on earth."

    We look forward to all this, and lots of audio-books on the road!

    JE comments: Sounds like a splendid road trip, Martin! You know your assignment: a travelogue for WAIS! One of the very few bright spots in this cursed year 2022 is the return of leisure travel.  We have just added four days in Romania to our upcoming Poland trip--any recommendations from WAISers who've visited?

    The image below depicts one of the Lake Ballard statues.  The installation belongs in that strange category of "really hard to get to destination art."  To this group we could add Carhenge (Nebraska) and Prada Marfa (Texas).  You have to admire the Quixotic visions behind them all.

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