|The Yalgoo Museum in the late afternoon
Tiny historic town with a number of attractive buildings
Located 497 km north of Perth, Yalgoo is a tiny settlement on the road from Geraldton to Mount Magnet. The appeal of the town is that it is genuinely historic. There¹s very little left of this once thriving town and what does remain is old and pretty much untouched. There is an endearing old world charm about the place.
Typically there is some confusion over the origin of the town¹s name with some sources claiming that it is derived from an Aboriginal word yalguru¹ meaning blood¹ thus suggesting that the area was connected with initiation rites. Other sources, however, suggest that the name comes from yalgru¹ meaning bloodwood¹.
Europeans passed through the area as early as 1854 but it wasn¹t until the 1870s that pastoralists moved in with sheep and cattle.
The area was first settled in the early 1890s when prospectors travelled through the region on their way to the Murchison goldrush towns of Cue and Mount Magnet. In 1892 five prospectors - Knight, Parsons, Rice, Moxon and Evans - discovered gold at Yalgoo and established the fabulously rich Emerald Reward Mine on a site which is now just behind the Shire Council offices. Yalgoo was declared a separate goldfield in 1895 and by the following year it had become a thriving town with 7 hotels serving a vast tent city.
The town continued to grow. In 1898 the railway line from Mullewa to Yalgoo was opened. It closed in 1978 but the station (on the south side of town) is still in nearperfect condition.
The town continued to prosper until about 1903 when the gold started to dwindle. In 1908 the Emerald Reward mine was closed down. Since then it has been steadily in decline so that now it is a tiny settlement based around a shire office which administers nearly 3.5 million hectares of country where large sheep stations and speculative mining operations are the major industries.
Yalgoo really has three major attractions. The Court House Museum, the Dominican Chapel of St Hyacinth and Thundarella Station.
People wishing to know more about Yalgoo should refer to Alex Palmer¹s book Yalgoo published by Lap Industries, 18 Chalmers Street, Fremantle (it is available at Thundarella Station) and the Monsignor Hawes Heritage Trail booklet.
Things to see:
The Court House, which was moved from Day Dawn near Cue in 1921, is now a museum with displays of old photographs, lots of gold rush history, the usual displays of old domestic items and some interesting Aboriginal artifacts from the local area.
Dominican Chapel of St Hyacinth
Yalgoo also has one of the most interesting and unusual of all the church buildings constructed by the famous Western Australian architectpriest Monsignor John Hawes. Between 19151939 Hawes designed and helped to build a large number of churches and church buildings in the Central West.
When Hawes arrived in Yalgoo, shortly after he had arrived in Western Australia from Europe, he was overwhelmed by the heat and isolation of the town. In a letter to a friend he described how he just flopped about and struggled to exist¹. At the time Yalgoo was a small gold mining town in decline. In 1920 Hawes designed the wood and stone Dominican Chapel of St Hyacinth for the Dominican Sisters who were working in the town. Not only did Hawes design the building but he regularly travelled by horseback from Mullewa to oversee the construction and to work as a labourer for the local builder.
By any measure this is the most humble of all Hawes¹ churches. Completed in 1922 it is a very simply place of worship although visitors should note Hawes¹ attention to detail on the altar decoration, the windows and the niches for the statues.
|The Dominican Chapel in Yalgoo
Today the chapel has become the major point of interest in the town. This strange little church at the northern end of town is clearly visible from the main road. To enter it the keys must be obtained from the shire office in Shamrock Street near the Museum. The shire office also has the keys for the Museum.
About 80 km south of Yalgoo (midway between Yalgoo and Paynes Find) is Thundarella Station which was established in 1894 and covers an area of 156 000 hectares. Originally owned by the Beaton family it is now owned by the Morriseys who have promoted it as a rare opportunity to experience the Western Australian outback with its wildflowers and rich variety of native fauna.