Between 1864–66 Charles Cooke Hunt was commissioned by the local colonial government, at the urging of the York Agricultural Society and others, to led expeditions east of York to discover, map and develop water sources that would ensure a reliable supply to as far as the Hampton Plains. He was also tasked with assessing the country for its pastoral potential and, although abandoned fairly early, finding a route through to the eastern colonies.
Between 17 January and 25 September 1865 Hunt was in the field with a party of probation prisoners and Pensioner Guards constructing the first of the series of wells from York to the Hampton Plains during what is known as his Wells and Tracks Expedition. Many of the wells constructed by Hunt’s party were known and used by the local aboriginals. Hunt often traded mirrors, knives and tommyhawks to entice them to show him the location of these water sources. Some were improved by being shored up or having the catchment area enlarged. His major wells were fine examples of the stonemason’s art, using local stone that often had to carted considerable distances.
Hunt cleared a track 500 kilometres to the east of York. He established a series of 26 wells, dams, tanks, soaks and other seasonally reliable water holes that ensured a safe and reliable route to the Hampton Plains to near current day Kambalda, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, until C.Y. O’Connor's pipeline was completed in 1903. Parties of probationary convicts and their Pensioner Guards built the wells and soaks. Hunt would journey ahead of his construction team to look for more potential wells. He often came upon native wells that he named and for which he recorded the location although he chose not to develop them as the water yield was either insufficient or not reliable enough to be included in his track.
Bayley and Ford, and Paddy Hannan were able to find gold at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in 1892 and 1893 respectively because they followed the track that Hunt had cut 30 years earlier – and what become known as Hunt's Track.
Hunt's Track is significant to Western Australia’s heritage generally, not just its exploration history. It allowed:
- Prospectors and, later, pastoralists to travel into the Western Australian interior.
- The routing of the Perth to Kalgoorlie pipeline.
- The establishment of the telegraph line to Kalgoorlie.
- The construction of the first stage of the transcontinental railway.
Today, Hunt's Track has been preserved and commemorated as the York to Goldfields Heritage Trail. Some of Hunt’s Well have stood the test of time and are in very good condition. At least 10 have disappeared altogether while others are in a state of disrepair.
The photograph on the right was taken in February 2015. For photographs dating back to June 1981, an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
C.C. Hunt first recorded the name for this locality, derived from nearby Youndegin Hill, in March 1864. He considered it to be an important stop and used it regularly.
The photograph on the right was taken in February 2015. For photographs dating back to September 1981 (including the nearby Tammin Tank), an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
The restored well at Tammin (known as Hunt’s Well) is more than likely a well that was constructed in the 1890s gold rush era. The existing well bears no relationship to the measurements of the well as stated by Hunt.
The ‘Hunt’s Well’ is located south of the wheatbelt town of Tammin on the Goldfields Road.
The photograph on the right was taken in December 1995. For photographs dating back to September 1981, an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
The well was dug by pioneer pastoralist Chas Massingham 40 chains (800 metres) from the summit of a quartz hill in a southerly bearing gully a short distance from the spring. Sometime between 1981 and 1991 the well was filled in to allow construction of a dam.
The signpost for Naraline Well on Goldfields Road marks a well constructed by Perry in the 1920s.
Marranobbing Well and Spring
The photograph on the right was taken in December 1995. For photographs dating back to September 1981 (including Marranobbing Spring, Marranobbing Tank and Marranobbing Dam), an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
There is no specific evidence in any of Hunt’s diaries that his team developed the native well at Mooranoppin although the amount of time spent there and the number of times it was used as a stopping place when Hunt or the party had to fall back would suggest that it was.
The photograph on the right was taken in February 2015. For photographs dating back to September 1981, an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
The current Doodlakine Well is about a metre deep, very small and lined with stone. It is more than likely not the work of Hunt’s parties, probably being stoned up during the gold rush of the 1890s. It may be that the original collapsed well is located nearby or that the current well was built over Hunt’s well.
The photograph on the right was taken in June 1992. For more photographs, an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
Hunt's team opened out the native well at the western base of Metchering Rock in February 1865. Hunt decided the hard, compact sides made it unnecessary to stone line it.
The stone lined well existing today was most likely constructed in the 1890s.
Totadgin Well and Dam
The photograph on the right was taken in February 2015. For photographs dating back to September 1981, photographs of Totadgin Dam, an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
In early 1865 Hunt’s party of probation prisoners constructed a well at Totadgin.
A few weeks later the team improved the well.
Merredin Peak Dam
The photograph on the right was taken in September 1981. For more photographs, an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
The photograph on the right was taken in December 1995. For more photographs, an assessment of the well and further information, click here.
Burracoppin was one of Hunt’s major depots near the start of his track, his 10th camp east of York on his 1865 Wells and Tracks Expedition.
Hunt’s Well is just south of the town.
In February 1865 Hunt's team opened out the native well but were unable to build a stone well until logistical issues were resolved.
Hunt's party worked on the track and the well in early 1865.
The well was finished on 26 March 1865. It is on the southern side of the rock.
C.C. Hunt was at Keokanie, a native water source, from 17-22 March 1865. He listed it as Camp No.13 and made it his depot while his men built the well and he explored the country to the east.
Kodjerning Well is near a low lying rock by the same name within a few metres of the road and is fenced and signposted.
Hunt used Kookoordine as one of his major depots.
On 30 March 1865 he recorded,
‘bulk of party engaged at Kookoordine and beyond, sinking wells’.
This photograph was taken in April 2016. For more details of Koorarawalyee Well, click here.
Granite Hill Well
Gnarlbine Soak was a very important water source for Aboriginal people. The first European to discover the soak was explorer Henry Lefroy in 1863. C.C. Hunt visited it in August 1864 and developed the soak into a well in 1865.