Mount Magnet
Collage of Mount Magnet.

The 'Catholic Diocese of Geraldton' obviously thought Mount Magnet was going to be a problematic settlement as they had established the parish by 1894 followed by the building of a church four years later. The colonial churches were quick to try and establish a foothold in the West Australian goldfields and if they weren't saving the souls of drunk and belligerent prospectors then they were baptising the local indigenous population. Some of the early Catholic buildings in the Murchison region have unique architectural qualities.

Robert Austin was an English surveyor who arrived at Australind in 1840. He too suffered a 'baptism of fire' when he set out to explore the Murchison and Gascoyne regions in 1854. Several of the horses died after eating poisonous plants and many of the party had to proceed on foot. One of his men accidentally shot himself, suffering for eight days before finally dying and water became scarce as the party headed further north. Their predicament came to a head when the remaining horses had gone two days without water and the men escaped the heat by stripping naked and burying themselves in the sand. They were forced to drink their own urine and that of the horses. Austin had captured a local aboriginal who had also been surviving on his own urine and he persuaded Austin to abandon the mission. They backtracked some 59km to the last waterhole and then, giving up, returned to Port Gregory.

Perhaps the most significant revelation for Austin was discovering a hill rich in magnetic ironstone that affected his compass. He named it Mount Magnet and duly reported that the landscape should hold vast amounts of gold.

No one caught on to his report and it wasn't until the Murchison pastoral industry was in full swing 34 years later that a two ounce nugget was uncovered by accident. Naturally the claim started a boom that returned an average of one thousand ounces a month for the first year.

At her height Mount Magnet boasted two newspapers and fourteen hotels with thirty mines operating around the town. The railway was pushed through from Meekatharra, eventually branching to Sandstone.

Hill 50 is the best known mine in the Mount Magnet area and since its inception in 1891 has produced 5.6 million ounces of gold. Between 1955 and 1961 Hill 50 was Australia's most profitable mine.

The original hill named by Robert Austin as 'Mount Magnet' has had it's aboriginal name reinstated and is now known as 'Warramboo' Hill. Other points of interest around town are views of the open cut mines and a rock cluster known as 'The Granites'.


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