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The First Wedding in Coolgardie


On 4th July 1894 Clara SAUNDERS & Arthur WILLIAMS were married by the Rev. Thomas TRESTRAIL at John DE BAUN'S Great Western Hotel in Bayley Street Coolgardie. (now the site of the Coolgardie Motel on the corner of Bayley & Hunt Streets) Clara was seventeen & Arthur was twenty eight years old. Three weeks after the wedding Clara & Arthur set off with all their possessions by wagon to start a Hotel & Billiard saloon at the “Ninety Mile” - Goongarrie.

There were very few young ladies on the Goldfields in those early days and the novelty of the first wedding caught the imagination of all the diggers who rolled into town from all parts of the fields. The hotel where the ceremony was to be performed was crowded to overflowing. With champagne at 25 shillings a bottle, whisky 12/6 and beer 3 shillings it was expensive if you had a big thirst. But there was no lack of liquids, water perhaps, but not red claret which had been brewed down a mine shaft on Fly Flat or whisky from Duncan MacLeods whisky mill at the 90 Mile Road Distillery which after it was bottled & labeled looked like “the Real Stuff” anyway!

The ceremony was performed by Rev Thomas TRESTRAIL, the pioneer minister on the Goldfields witnessed by 500 miners and listened to by hundreds outside, hanging through the windows and crowding the doorways. Regardless of how difficult life on the Fields was, the dresses worn by the Wedding Party did the women credit and was described in unusually apt mining terminology by Smiler HALES in the Coolgardie Miner newspaper :-

The bride wore a rich cream quartz-coloured silk with orange blossom outcrops. Miss HICKEY was dressed in a reddish substance, with sandstone coloured leaders running round the main body, looking so nice that many a digger wished he could get a miners right and apply for a perpetual lease or freehold of this young lady. Mrs FAAHAN wore a pale milk quartz combination, with gold outcrops running across the full breadth of the face. Mrs BURNS appeared in a charming outfit, the main body being blue trimming all down the footwall side, with laminated leaders of dark slate colours. Miss BRENNAN set envious teeth on edge as she waltz round in a slate coloured robe, the principal outcrops being decorated with diorite colored stringers, and other indications of a highly pleasing character. She moved round the room with a native grace which was charming, and which made many a digger wish that, even for once, he owned so good a claim. Miss KENNEDY wore a kaolin coloured silk and was much admired whilst Miss SMITH was arrayed from peg to peg in a slate coloured material relieved at the throat by a white quartzite band. Miss DWYER in a rich limestone coloured creation relieved at the datum points near the neck & shoulders look pretty as a picture” Invited and uninvited guests alike joined in the party and those who did not dance inside with the ladies “tripped the light fantastic toe with their mates outside.” All were in the highest degree satisfied with the opening of the matrimonial market and the wedding was a great success. Many of the dust begrimed & sunburnt diggers swore that as soon as the fickle jade Fortune smiled on the and they could afford the luxury of a wife, provided suitable partners were obtained, they would follow the example of Arthur WILLIAMS and peg out claims of their own & strike good prizes in the Benedict's Sweepstake”

Clara SAUNDERS with her mother & younger sister Susan left Brisbane and arrived in Southern Cross in 1892 age 14 years old. Clara had only been in Southern Cross a few weeks when Arthur BAYLEY arrived in the town with 554 ounces of gold from a new find 120 miles east of the Southern Cross. She worked for her brother-in-law Tom FARREN, who managed the Club Hotel, and looked after Warden John Michael FINNERTY & his young wife Bertha who had taken a suite of rooms at the Hotel.

In May 1893 Clara was offered a job by Evan WISDOM to assist his housekeeper Mrs FAGAN at his Exchange Hotel in Coolgardie. Everyone warned her how bad conditions were and that it was no place for a young girl on her own but with her mothers permission, Clara set off in a coach on the long dusty trip to Coolgardie. She enjoyed the work and was very popular. Mrs FAGAN & Clara tried to do everything they could for the miners sick with dysentery, making barley water & sago, and cutting up towels for face cloths so they could sponge the miners faces to make them more comfortable. Paddy HANNAN arrived in Coolgardie quite ill and as there were no spare guest rooms.

Clara gave up her room to Paddy and nursed him with plain boiled rice and some medicine until he was well. When he left he gave Clara a small nugget of gold, telling her it was the first piece he found on his new lease at what is now known as Kalgoorlie. When Clara was getting married she had the nugget mounted on a gold brooch which she wore on her wedding day for good luck. When Evan WISDOM sold the Exchange Hotel Clara was offered a job by John DE BAUN of the Great Western Hotel in the centre of Bayley St. DE BAUN wanted Clara to run his dining room. It was while working at the Great Western she met Arthur WILLIAMS who ran the billiard room at the same hotel.

After their marriage Clara worked along side Arthur to build their business at the very isolated settlement of Goongarrie, she nursed many prospectors with fever & injuries and also acted as midwife when needed. On 22 May 1896 Clara & Arthur's first child was born, Lilian Mary. A second daughter Violet Catherine was born in December 1897.

They sold their business at the Ninety Mile and moved to Mt Morgans to another hotel. In 1902 Arthur returned to England to visit relatives while Clara stayed at Mt Morgans to run the business. Arthur contracted pneumonia & died. Clara took over the hotel license herself and ran it for seven years, she remarried Joseph LYNCH and had 2 boys John Leo & Edward Joseph. Clara & Joseph sold the hotel and bought new farm land east of Narrogin which Clara helped Joseph clear. In the depression they lost the farm & Clara opened a boarding house in Marvel Loch.

In 1939 her husband died. In 1944 Clara married for the third time to John PATON.Clara died in 1957 of a stroke during an operation for cataracts. She was 80 years old.

During World War 11 the brooch was used for the War effort fundraising. Clara sat a table in the Perth Town Hall and for a small viewing fee would show Paddy HANNAN'S nugget on her brooch. Clara's family still have the brooch as one of their most treasured possessions.

Daughters Of Midas - Norma KING
A Claim to Fame - Tess THOMSON
Battling for Gold - John MARSHALL

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