Shire of Dundas
190km S of Kalgoorlie-Boulder
A prospector’s horse is credited with the discovery of gold at Norseman.
In August 1894 Laurence Sinclair, astride his horse Hardy Norseman, was returning to Esperance from Coolgardie when he heard that his brother George and another prospector, Jack Allsop, were looking for gold in a sandy gully near the present town site.
Laurie met up with the pair and decided to try his luck on a nearby ridge where he tethered his horse for the night. The next morning he spotted a gold nugget where the animal had disturbed the ground.
Laurie Sinclair and Allsop registered the Norseman Reward claim on 13 August 1894 – the same date as Bob Ramsey, H. Talbot and John Goodliffe registered the nearby Mount Barker claim.
Prospectors rushed to the region and a settlement soon formed which Laurie Sinclair named Norseman, though it is still debated whether it was after his horse or in honour of his own Shetland Islands Nordic roots. Jimberlana and Worinburna are Aboriginal names for the area.
By January 1895 more than 200 miners were working on the goldfield and the town of Norseman was gazetted in May. It was proclaimed a municipality on 17 January 1896.
In the next few years a post office, banks, doctor, courthouse, school, hospital, stores, three hotels and churches were established and in 1899 Cobb & Co began a mail run.
Norseman became the centre of Western Australia’s second richest goldfield, and the Norseman Gold Mine, despite some periods of care and maintenance, is renowned as Australia’s longest continuously operating gold mine.
In 1904 there were 88 leases registered on the field and the following year more than 3,000 people were recorded as living in the district.
But by 1920 most of the mines had closed and the population had dwindled to about 300.
The gold industry revived in the 1930s and in 1935, Western Mining Corporation invested significantly in Norseman’s infrastructure, resulting in new bitumen roads, electricity and an extension of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme to the town.
A School of Mines opened in 1940 and closed in 1970.
Gold mining, along with pastoralism and tourism, still underpins the economy of the Shire of Dundas today, which has a population of about 1,600.
The first gold claims were registered in the Lake Dundas area in July 1892, about three months before Bayley and Ford registered their Coolgardie claim on 17 September 1892.
The Dundas goldfield was proclaimed on 31 August 1893 and the town site laid out near Noganyer (Nucaniu) Soak.
Dundas did not long survive the establishment of richer gold mines at Norseman 24km to the north.
Higginsville, about 58km north of Norseman, was gazetted in 1907. Now a ghost town, Higginsville was originally known as Sunday Soak and was named after Patrick “Paddy” Higgins who found gold in the area in 1905.