Kathleen Valley
Satellite image of Kathleen Valley Ruins

No one seems quite sure who Kathleen was but it seems she was the inspiration for a little settlement nearly 50km north of Leinster on the Murchison goldfields of Western Australia.

Kathleen Valley is also the name of a nearby grazing property and in all likelihood the station probably holds the key to the mystery of Kathleen's identity. The pastoralists beat the miners into the Murchison by a considerable number of years. Gold was discovered in a valley near Kathleen Valley Station in 1897.

The settlement was known as Kathleen Valley until it was gazetted in 1900, when an inspector in the Department of Lands and Surveys, finding the full name disparate, dropped the 'Valley' to make the place plain Kathleen.

The Kathleen Valley Hotel vied for business with the Yellow Aster Hotel, which was named for one of the better producing mines in the district. A butchery and the Kathleen Store supplemented locals with meat and vittles

In later years a copper discovery meant both gold and copper were wrought from the same ground. Kathleen went the way of many Murchison goldfields and withered into the semi-arid landscape after the easily won gold had dried up and the World Wars consumed the lives of many of the local men. Modern mining techniques have seen renewed interest in the Kathleen Valley area.

The remains of eight graves can be seen in the old cemetery with a single headstone remembering Edward Coffey who died in 1906 aged 44. The remaining graves are occupied solely by men with anglo-saxon names, save for one Norwegian and one person of unknown extraction.

Perilous Experiences Of A Mailman

There is no doubt that live on the federation goldfields was extremely tough but spare a though for those that serviced these tiny outback settlements in the middle of nowhere.

A 1900 edition of the West Australian newspaper reported on the calamities and 'perilous experiences of a mailman' doing the rounds of the East Murchison goldfields:

"The Postmaster-General…gives particulars of the phenomenal rain which has fallen in the Murchison during the present month:- As you would gather from my wires of previous dates, the late rains have turned the whole country into a fearful state of bog and slush, and the mailmen are having very hard work indeed to keep the mails running at all. Rains commenced on the 2nd and continued until the 5th of the month…and continued to do so until all low-lying parts were in a soft oozy state.

The fall has been much heavier north of Lawlers, and the mailman on the Lake Way line had a very perilous and trying trip. He left Lawlers on the 7th instant at 8.30am. with light buck board and four horses, and managed to reach Mount Sir Samuel Lakes at evening. Attempting to cross the lake the buggy got firmly stuck, and had to be left for the night. The buggy was pulled out backwards on Sunday, and a big detour of the lake had to be made before the mailman reached Mount Sir Samuel townsite at 11a.m. the same day. Leaving there at 4p.m. he arrived at Kathleen Valley the same night walking through water in most places waist-high and leading the horses.

He left Kathleen Valley on Monday at daylight and walked through mud and water almost the whole way to Cork Tree. He camped there for the night, and pushed on at daybreak the next morning, arriving at Lake Way the same night. It rained the whole way from the time of leaving Lawlers, and the ground seemed to be getting worse than ever. He remained at Lake Way that night and left at 1 o'clock on Wednesday. It took seven hours to cover the first seven miles, and as it was then dark he camped at Butcher's Camp for the night. Early on Thursday morning he found the first creek was running at a terrific pace, and half a mile wide, whilst the depth was unknown. He waited for some hours until the water was running less swlftly, and he then swam the horses across, losing everything except the mails. Pack - saddle, -'oilskin, overcoat, spare clothing, and all provisions were swept away.

Having crossed, he camped to rest himself and the horses. He had no food until McKenzie survey camp was reached on Saturday night. This camp is about 40 miles from the lake. He arrived at Kathleen Valley on Sunday night, Mount Sir Samuel Monday afternoon, and Lawlers on Tuesday at 6.30 pm. The country was inundated for miles, and horses had to be led for fully two-thirds of the journey, the water on the flats being waist high."

Lawlers to Kathleen Valley is a distance of about 64km

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