The history of Norseman and Dundas begins in the 1840's with the exploration of the South Coast by Edward John Eyre, the naming of the Dundas Hills in 1848 by JS Roe, the establishment in 1864-65 of a sheep station in Esperance by the Dempster brothers from Northam, and the crossing in 1871 of John Forrest from Western Australia into South Australia, which between 1871 and 1880, produced the establishment of sheep stations at Mundrabilla, Fraser Range and Balladonia.
Between 1876 and 1878 the construction of the Overland Telegraph (coastal), from Albany to Adelaide took place, and after its completion the Southern Area was linked with the rest of Australia.
In 1890 Mr Moir of Fanny's Creek found traces of alluvial gold whilst searching for new pastures in the Dundas Hills area, however no further exploration took place until Moir returned in 1892, with a prospecting team. Unfortunately no gold was found. During this time, other prospectors had started to explore the area and in 1892 Messrs Mawson and Kirkpatrick discovered gold in the southern end of the Field and named it the "May Bell". Following this Messrs, Bromley, Mawson and Desjarlis, found a rich outcrop of ore, and named it "Great Dundas". In August 1893 the "Dundas Field" was finally proclaimed. The townsite of Dundas was established with the discovery of another two rich outcrops, which were registered under the one name of "Scotia".
In 1894 Laurie Sinclair, whilst prospecting about 4 miles north of Dundas, discovered a rich gold reef which he named "Norseman". This reef was registered by Sinclair and a man named Allsop on the 13th August 1894. Also registered on the same day was a reef called "Mt Barker" by Messrs, Ramsay, Talbot and Goodliffe.
During its first few years Norseman struggled to establish itself due to Dundas being the major township in the area, however due to the Norseman fields being richer than Dundas, it gradually outgrew the later, and in 1895 was declared a town and in 1896 a Municipality.
In 1895 the first Post Office was opened as well as the West Australian Bank followed by the Commercial Bank of Australia. These two banks were forced to close in 1899, due to the depression, but were replaced by the Union Bank of Australia. In September 1895 the first Doctor arrived and during the first twelve months a tent was used as the hospital.
The first newspaper for the area was printed in October 1895 and followed in January 1896 by the first issue of the "Norseman Pioneer". In 1899 the two were forced to amalgamate to form the "Norseman Times", which was circulated bi-weekly. The Norseman Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed in 1898, which brought a water tower and fire hydrants into town.
As Norseman was situated on the edge of the Salt Lakes, water was supplied to town by condensing the lake water. Water was also drawn from Theatre Rocks, Nine Mile Rocks, Kieser's Rocks and Bulldania Rocks. These were rock pools situated east, west and north of the Town. In 1899 a reservoir which held about 3,000,000 gallons of drinking water was completed.
In 1898 there were three churches, the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Wesleyan churches. For sport there was tennis, cricket, croquet and cycling. A recreation area was set aside close to the centre of town.
In 1899 carriage mail was introduced, being carried by Cobb and Co Coaches, as well as the building of the Masonic Hall, which contained a small library. By this time there were five hotels in the town - the "Criterion", the "Commercial", the "Freemason", the "Horseman" and "The Horseman".
In 1901 a brewery and two general stores were built and the magistrate's and wardens court was held on the second Wednesday of the month.
In 1902 another brewery was built with the addition of several batteries, a new dam and two new halls. There were by now five general stores and the recreation area had a bicycle track, cricket pitch and tennis courts. There was also ten miles of water mains to carry water to parts of the municipality.
During this period the Mines were booming, with the hand hauling method of bringing ore to the surface, replaced by a steam hauling plant. Between 1901 and 1903 the population of Norseman declined slightly, due to the discovery of gold five miles north of Norseman. This discovery resulted in the town of Princess Royal. The town was later abandoned in the 1920's.
Norseman was linked up to Coolgardie by the railway in 1909, however the track did not continue to Esperance, so the coaches were still used.
In 1910 a theatre was constructed to seat 600 people, with moving pictures shown by travelling showmen. In 1913 a telephone exchange was introduced and in 1914 golflinks were built on the salt lakes and a racecourse was also constructed.
Around this period the production of gold was decreasing rapidly, due to the war and the overworking of reefs and the working out of nearly all of the major mines. This lead to the population dropping to around 300 by 1920.
A syndicate of local prospectors was formed to find a new gold reef, and in 1926 the "butterfly" was discovered and the Butterfly Mining Company formed. The years 1928-1932 was the period of the Great Depression, however in 1929 the railroad from Norseman to Esperance was completed.
In 1935 Western Mining came to Norseman which began a new era for the town. Money was put into improving the town and by 1936 the pipe-line from Coolgardie was continued to Norseman. The company also gave the town electricity and with the backing of the company the Roads Board began work on footpaths and roads.
In 1953 an Olympic Swimming Pool was constructed and in 1956 the road to Coolgardie was bituminised.
Today Norseman has a transit population of approximately 1800, all roads are bituminised and it has a substantial shopping area. There is one bank, a daily mail service, four churches, a Junior High School, two hotels, three garages and numerous sporting facilities.
Central Norseman Gold Corporation is the major mining company in town and they have numerous mining operations in the Shire. Resolute Samantha is situated outside of the Shire, but many of their employees live in town. Both companies contribute substantially to many sporting and community groups in the Shire, and we hope that they continue to prosper so that our town will grow and develop.
Laurie Sinclair was a Norse-man, a native of the Shetland island, from where his family, parents and six children, immigrated to Australia in December 1863. Prior to his success on the goldfields he worked with the Dempster brothers when they pioneered Esperance. It was after an unsuccessful visit to the Coolgardie goldfield in 1893 that, when returning to Esperance via Dundas, he was told that his brother George and Jack Allsop were prospecting out from Dundas. Laurie located them in the vicinity of Norseman investigating a few specks of alluvial gold in a small gully and joined them in their prospecting endeavour. Laurie tried a ridge and it was here that he discovered the rich reef which became known as the "NORSEMAN". Popular legend has it that after tethering his horse "NORSEMAN" up for the night, Laurie found the next morning a chunk of a gold reef which the horse had pawed up and exposed in the night.
Laurie Sinclair, grateful to his horse, named his find after it and the name of Norseman was also given to the mining town that sprung up as a result of the find. Legend or not, the name of Norseman can be found in mine registration records today.
Sinclair and his partner Allsop sold out to an Adelaide company (Harolds) for 6000 pounds. The partnership was dissolved and Sinclair continued prospecting for some years but made no other valuable strikes. He was never really very well off. When Esperance promised to boom, he built houses largely on credit, with ideas of selling at a profit. Unfortunately, the boom never came in his time and he was never able to cigar the debt.
In his late years, Laurie worked for the Dempster brothers again, carting sheep from one Island of the Archipelago to the other on a specially built scow about 25ft long and able to transport a hundred sheep. After this boat was wrecked near Cape le Grande, Laurie mostly helped his sons with contracting in sinking dams for the stations until his death in 1923. Some of the Sinclair family still live in Esperance and Sinclair is remembered as one of our real pioneers who belonged to, and remained in the district.