This Western Australian Post Card is ‘nothing to write home about’ but it serves to introduce the King Solomon Gold Mine, Coolgardie as well as the Clarke brothers. The postcard is poorly addressed to – De Stonly (?) Esq, King Solomon G. M., Coolgardie and the printed brown ‘Postage One Half Penny’ stamp of Western Australia is cancelled with a fine unframed duplex COOLGARDIE/ 2/ AU 18/ 1899/ WESTERN AUSTRALIA, with the W.A. obliterator over the stamp. The receiver of the card was never identified, and the message on the reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

To date, I have not seen a worthwhile history of the mine, other than: The King Solomon Mine is a gold deposit, just off the Great Eastern Highway in south Western Australia, situated about 520km east of Perth and close proximity to Coolgardie. The mine is at an altitude of about 418 metres above sea level. It is often cited as King Solomon’s Gold Mine(s), perhaps causing confusion with the mythical ancient mine, and with gold mines of the same name in other countries. Its proximity to a myriad of goldmines in the Coolgardie area is clearly shown in the map shown as Figure 2.

The Clarke brothers were involved with the King Solomon goldmine as metallurgists:

Robert Clarke was born on 28 June/10 July 1877 in Losevo near Moscow, Russia to Thomas Plummer Clarke, an English mechanical engineer, and his wife Frances Stelfox. He was baptised at the Anglican Church in Moscow in 1878. He was 8 years old when the Clarke family arrived in NZ and he spent a few months at Avondale School and then in September 1886 was enrolled at the Onehunga Primary School and remained there till February 1890. He obtained a scholarship to Auckland Grammar School which he attended between 1890 and 1892. After school he did three years bush work then he spent two years studying at the Thames School of Mines. In 1897, he received his certificate as a battery superintendent and also as an assayer of bullion for the Customs Department. In 1899, he was battery superintendent at the Waitekauri Battery.

Robert Clarke left New Zealand in November 1899 for Western Australia and he never came back to New Zealand. When his brother, William George Clarke, returned from the Boer War he went to join Robert in Western Australia. Unfortunately the two brothers were attracted to the same young woman, a schoolteacher at the gold-mining town of Burbanks, to the south of Coolgardie. Robert left Western Australia for the USA about the same time as his brother William George married the teacher (Elizabeth Annie Douglas) on 28 December 1905. Robert was living at Denver Colorado between at least 1920 and 1928 and his last known address was: Robert Clarke, Mining Engineer, 911 Foster Building, Denver Colorado, USA.

After his discharge from the New Zealand Army in August 1901, William George Clarke came to Western Australia in the early days of the gold-mining industry, looking to join up with his brother Robert. By 1904, both he and his brother Robert were employed as metallurgists on the King Solomon gold mine near Coolgardie. The Legislative Assembly Roll for Coolgardie, 1904 includes the entries: 84 Clarke, Robert, M, King Solomon GM, Metallurgist; 87 Clarke, William Geo., M, King Solomon GM, Metallurgist.

Nothing is known about the relationship between the two brothers after Robert’s departure, however it should be noted that William George named his fourth child, and only son, Robert Douglas Clarke, and presumably the “Robert” for his brother. By about 1915 mining had declined at Burbanks and William George Clarke moved with his family to Kalgoorlie, where he served on the Kalgoorlie Municipal Council between 1922 and 1926. In Kalgoorlie he worked as a metallurgist on several major goldmines, and in 1928 he was appointed Research Metallurgist at the Western Australian School of Mines (Kalgoorlie) where he remained until his death in 1941. A picture of William George Clarke (top LH corner) can be seen with the Mayor, Councillors and Town Clerk, of Kalgoorlie Municipality, 1922-26 as well as a close-up of William when he was conducting metallurgical research, are seen as Figures 3 & 4.

William Clarke retired from the School of Mines soon after 4 December 1940. He died in Perth on 4 March 1941. His obituary (from the Kalgoorlie Miner) reads:

“Mr W G Clarke, research metallurgist at the School of Mines, died on Sunday at the age of 62. The late Mr Clarke, who came to this State in the early days of the Eastern Goldfields, acted as metallurgist on the main Lode at Coolgardie, and on the Ivanhoe and Boulder Perseverance mines on the Golden Mile before joining the staff of the School of Mines, where he assisted in many important metallurgical experiments, perhaps the most outstanding of which was the adaptation of flotation methods to refractory ores in this State. A keen rifleman, Mr Clarke was President of the Eastern Goldfields District Rifle Club and captained the State team which defeated the British rifle team in 1938. In addition to being a member of the council and executive committee of the National Rifle Association, he was also an Honorary Life Member. He was President of the South African Veteran’s Association, at Kalgoorlie”. 

This item is of interest and relevance as an example of a share certificate for the King Solomon’s Gold Mines, Limited for the cost of £95,000, sold to Joseph George Bolland Elliot of London, U.K. on 29 November 1897 (Figure 5).

Addendum ( January 2011):  The following account of the King Solomon Mine was found at  the “Twentieth century impressions  of Western Australia Perth, WA, Hesperion Press, 2000 (Fccsim Ed.):  The King Solomon’s gold mines were included in the first hundred claims pegged on the Coolgardiegoldfield, and are situated on the old Hannan’s-road.  A shaft was put down about 100 feet, a loose formation being met with excellent results.  Interests were acquired by local people, and an effort was made to float the concern.  Failing to acquire secure capital in the eastern colonies, the owners erected a two-stamp mill with which to test the mine, and returns obtained were sufficiently satisfactory to justify the investment of foreign capital.  The present company secured the mine and placed Mr. E, de Stouts, the manager in charge.  The original holding consisted of 2 leases and others were subsequently added , the total area now held was 71 acres.  New reefs of gold were found and the value of the mine was greatly improved.  A main mine shaft was sunk to a depth of 550 feet.  A second reef was discovered and the quartz ore carried free gold and galena with very little pyrites.  A cyanide plant of a capacity of 40 tons of tailings per 24 hours is in the course of erection.

The King Solomon’s Gold-Mining Co. in 1899 purchased the Union Jack mine a short distance away, and this was worked in conjunction with the present leases.  There was no information concerning the metallurgists, the Clarke brothers, but there was a picture of the King Solomon’s Mine (Figure 5).

Categories: Family History, Mining, Science