Look east from the Premier Mill Hotel, down Clive Street, across the valley of the town, and you can see, on the distant ridge, the last stand of jarrah trees of the South-West forests. This is the beginning of the great plains of the interior of Australia, and today’s trail will pass from the edge of the jarrah, through the southern Wheatbelt and the Mallee, and back again.
But first we travel south, to Katanning’s nearest neighbour, Broomehill, to learn about the beginning of a famous Australian outback journey.
In 1892, just four years after the completion of the Great Southern Railway, word spread of a gold find in Coolgardie. The streets of Albany, Perth and Fremantle were suddenly crowded with miners, merchants, and the rest of the fortune seekers that follow a gold rush. Many of these ‘t’othersiders’, as they were called, rode the rail through Broomehill and Katanning on their way to Beverly and York before beginning the long trek east to Coolgardie. The entrepreneurially minded at every stop along this route could see what a financial boom a shortcut to the goldfields from their town could create – hundreds of paying customers stepping off, needing food and supplies. Several attempts to open a route through the interior failed. A prospector named McIntosh who set out from Katanning in 1892 was never seen again. It was sparse, dry country that even the Aboriginal people travelled infrequently.
John Holland was a local sandalwood cutter and kangaroo shooter, and an experienced bushman. He formed a team with brothers Rudolph and David Krakouer, as well as a young John Carmody, and with the backing of local merchants such as Henry Jones, set off in April 1893 following a party held at the local hall in their honour.