The state of Western Australia is less than 200 years old, being proclaimed in 1829. The area of the state is around 1 million square miles and is fully one third of the whole country. Indeed many other countries would fit inside WA with plenty of spare space.
WA struggled to survive the first decades, and arguably it was the discovery of gold in the late 1890s and the foresight of the premier Sir John Forest that cemented the future. Even today WA is sparsely populated with only 2.3 million people, and most of those living in the capital, Perth. But in 1890 the population was indeed tiny.
But the state had already expanded and by 1879 a railway was built 450km northwards to Geraldton. Then, in the decades between 1890 and 1910 a new line was built towards Meekatharra. This line travelled eastwards first to Mount Magnet before turning north to Meekatharra, where it was finally opened in 1909, before eventually going further east to Wiluna.
The line between Geraldton and Wiluna was abandoned by 1974. In the early days the trip to Wiluna by steam train took nearly a week as the train travelled the remote and lonely areas of the outback.
But steam trains need water and usually every 20miles or so there is a siding and a railway dam. Sometimes these places become small towns supported by the railway workers and the trains. When the trains go, so do the people and the towns quietly disappear into the bush once again.
One such town was Wurgarga, about 80 kilometres east of Mullewa.
In 1932 a railway dam at Wurarga was enlarged and workers discovered the remains of three coffins, two of which had disintegrated. The third was still largely intact and attached was a small plate with the name J Wiseman and the date 6th July 1912. He was buried there some 20 years prior, and he was the most recent deposit. The remains of all three were reburied nearby.
There is another sad grave somewhere out there, for in 1897 a one day old baby was buried at Wurarga. The baby was buried at the “ballast pit” which is obviously a railway site. No remains were ever found.
In 2009, I decided to look for the graves. After walking around the dam structure and the water catchment area with all its channels that are carved into the hard earth, an old vehicle long abandoned in the scrub some distance away attracted my attention and luckily a bit further into the bush, beneath a tree I discovered the grave sites.
These old graves sites in the vast outback are extraordinarily hard to find. The bush is just so vast and descriptions often very vague, but it is still important to remind ourselves in this modern age that the privations of a bygone era are mere inconveniences today.