Rumours flew over missing man

1896 – There was great suspicion about Kalgoorlie when James Moore went missing for a day.

He had acted as accountant/confidential clerk for local auctioneer J Miller and Co for two months and had gained the confidence of his employers.

James Moore’s headstone in the Kalgoorlie cemetery is still legible. Image: Sharyn Moodie

However, he was missing, and so were the keys to the business safe. Moreover, he was known to be in depressed spirits.

Moore had told a friend at 7am that he was going for a walk, as was his custom.

But when he had not returned with the keys by the opening of business, unease arose.

Mr Miller reported his absence to the police, and a search began.

Four o’clock that afternoon their questions received a sad answer.

Moore was at the bottom of the shaft of the Hidden Treasure mine, “quite dead”, in the words of the Kalgoorlie Miner the next day.

“He had fallen a depth of 100 feet, and there were indications that he had been killed almost instantaneously.

“The body was frightfully mangled, the legs being broken and the skull fractured.

And to add to the horror of his discovery, a long whipsnake emerged from Moore’s shirt as his body was prepared for retrieval.

 Later that night Mr Miller was able to open his safe, having retrieved the key from the dead man’s pocket.

“We are assured that everything was correct to a penny-piece. To the relatives and friends of the late Mr Moore, this fact will be of some consolation,” it was announced in the Kalgoorlie Miner

Moore, a Victorian barrister and solicitor, had come to Kalgoorlie 18 months ago to join his brother  Robert. The pair worked together at the Hidden Treasure lease, and James had helped sink the shift in which he lost his life.

The brothers had since sold the Hidden Treasure and were working another mine, the Treasure Trove.

 The successful sale of that property was due to be completed the next day, and it was said Mr Moore was a good deal worried over the sale, and had lately seemed rather despondent.

The inquest held soon after considered Moore’s state of mind and his drinking habits.

He was said to be a little upset by a mistake he had made at work, having lost some paperwork worth about 21 pounds.

The jury heard he was not a heavy drinker and was not known to be ‘excitable’ after alcohol.

Furthermore, a man who met and talked to Moore as he walked out to the mine swore he was perfectly sober.

Moore’s brother Robert said James was prone to dizziness, and he thought his brother must have fallen down the shaft in that state. He felt his brother was the last man he  would have thought of to commit suicide.

No-one will ever know what really happened.

Moore, 31, left  a wife and child, who were living in Melbourne.

Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

SOURCES: Kalgoorlie Miner Thursday 7 May 1896 p 2

Coolgardie Pioneer Wednesday 13 May 1896 p 18

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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