History of West Australia/John Charles Hills


WHEN Western Australia was passing through her "night of dark doubt," before her days of golden glory had set in, she was not altogether unbefriended, for the ranks of the pioneers were being recruited from time to time from the homes of some of Britain's best families. Though for years Western Australia had the most scornful epithets levelled against her, she lived to see the day when the eyes of the world were attracted to her, and her vast potentialities drew the brawn and brain of many countries. Fortunately, when her halcyon days arrived, she had men within her gates well suited to lead the colony on the primrose path she was in later days to tread. In the early eighties, quite a number of young Englishmen came to Western Australia to try their fortune in the land, and it is well that those who fought for the colony in her darker days should be rewarded in her prosperity-sharing. Certainly those who came in the eighties did not have the arduous uphill fight of the pioneers, still they had the task of carrying on the duties which fall to successive generations.

John Charles Hills was one of the young men who came to Western Australia in the eighties, and, as a perusal of his biography will show, has played an important part in connection with the gold mining industry. He was born at Sheffield in 1861, and received his education at the Royal Grammar School of his native city. When he had spent some years in travel, he came to Western Australia in the year 1885, and at Perth he joined Mr. H. J. Saunders, M.L.C., the present mayor, as confidential clerk in the stock and sharebroking and mining business which Mr. Saunders had opened. The inauguration of this office seems to have been an auspicious move on the part of Mr. Saunders, for with the discovery of Golden Valley an impetus was given to mining, and it proved but the forerunner of many other important fields. At about this time Mr. Hills' interests in the firm were merged into a partnership, and each day saw the volume of business in the office increasing. When Southern Cross was found an epoch in the colony's mining was marked when the Fraser's Gold Mining Company was floated locally into a company, with a capital of £50,000. This was the first mine locally floated in the colony, and the company's business was transacted in the office with which Mr. Hills was associated. He afterwards became secretary to the company, or legal manager. When the world was made fully aware of the great richness of the Coolgardie Goldfields Mr. Saunders and Mr. Hills took a very active part in promoting companies in London, and, as stated elsewhere, Mr. Saunders floated the Western Australian Goldfields Company—the pioneer company of the Coolgardie fields. The favour in which Western Australian stocks were held in London meant a vast amount of business to be transacted by the firm of H. J. Saunders and Co., and the offices had to be enlarged, the clerical staff increased, and the work of the heads of the firm was now tenfold. When Mr. Saunders was in London the whole of the responsibility devolved on Mr. Hills' shoulders, and this meant no light task when the welfare of such companies as the following had to be undertaken:—The West Australian Goldfields Limited, Town Properties of West Australia Limited, Gold Land Corporation Limited, Mona Gold Mine Limited, Florence Gold Mine Limited, Lady Shenton Gold Mine Limited, Fraser's Gold Mine No Liability, North White Feather Consolidated Gold Mine Limited, Yerilla Claims Limited, White Feather Reward Claim Limited, Mawson's Reward Claim Limited, Mount Margaret Reward Claim Limited, Mount Jackson Reward Claim Limited, Hannan's Kalgoorlie Proprietary Limited, and many others. Mr. Hills was appointed secretary of the Lady Shenton mine on its flotation, and it is a noticeable fact that with Fraser's he held the secretarial reins of two of the best companies in Western Australia; the Fraser's mine being the first in the colony to pay a dividend, while the Lady Shenton has proved herself the leading mine in the Menzies district. Mr. Hills retained the secretaryships of these two companies until November, 1895, when he visited England, mainly on business for his firm. Whilst there he arranged a large amount of business, and saw to a deal of the preliminary details of properties with regard to their flotation. Since returning to Perth, some six months later, he has been actively engaged in mining matters, and in the local mining world he plays no small part.

Mr. Hills is literally and figuratively a prominent figure in Western Australian mining affairs. Of pleasing manner, rich in the esteem of many friends, he has won his way in the West through a conscientious capacity for hard work, and none begrudges him the affluence which has come to him.