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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lane, Zebina Bartholomew (1856–1912)

by Anne Porter

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

This is a shared entry with Zebina Lane

Zebina Lane (1829-1906) and Zebina Bartholomew Lane (1856-1912), mining engineers, were father and son. Zebina senior was born on 5 November 1829 at St Stephens, New Brunswick, Canada, son of Mathew Lane, farmer, and his wife Dorcas, née Lumbard. The family moved to Maine, United States of America, during his infancy. Leaving school at 15 he became an engineer. Then in February 1850 he left New York in a group, sponsored by Cornelius Vanderbilt, which blazed a short direct route through Nicaragua to the Californian goldfields and, surviving Indian attacks and fever, arrived there in May.

After little success at the diggings, Lane and other Canadians joined the Victorian gold rush in 1853 at Bendigo. At Eaglehawk, then Canadian Gully, their luck improved. In 1856 he discovered the rich Lane's reef at Wedderburn, then turned to blacksmithing at Sandhurst (Bendigo). He soon returned to mining for many years in the Huntly, Lauriston and Malmsbury districts. At St Arnaud in 1887, initially opposed by miners and owners, he proved the efficacy of his methods by reviving the run-down Lord Nelson mine which remained profitable through the 1890s. On 18 April 1855 in Melbourne with Anglican rites he had married Mary Kearney, from Galway, Ireland. At St Arnaud Lane became increasingly involved in community and civic affairs; rifle-shooting and brass bands were major interests. After suffering a stroke in 1904 he retired to Caulfield, Melbourne, where he died on 12 April 1906.

The eldest of his five children, Zebina Bartholomew, was born on 27 January 1856 at Moliagul. When 15 he managed a mine at St Arnaud. He then joined the Colonial Smelting Co. at Kyneton, later moving to New Zealand for eight years and visiting California. In Sandhurst, Victoria, on 12 February 1878 he married Euphemia Leslie. Lane arrived at Broken Hill, New South Wales, in 1885 where, determined not to be 'a miner today, mine manager tomorrow and miner the day after', his tough management brought promotion but resulted in confrontation with the miners. In July 1892, during the 'big strike', he was hanged and burned in effigy in Argent Street. As manager of the Block 14 mine he obstructed the inquiry into lead-poisoning in Broken Hill, although his infant daughter had died of the disease in 1890. An active participant in the Mine Managers' Association and in civic affairs, he was mayor in 1889-90; the intersecting Zebina and Lane Streets in Broken Hill were named after him, as, later, were thoroughfares in Kalgoorlie, Boulder and Northbridge, Perth.

In November 1893 Lane visited Coolgardie, Western Australia, and seized opportunities there, floating mining companies including the Great Boulder and the Iron Duke in London in mid-1894. He remained consultant engineer and attorney to the Great Boulder until 1899, but avoided management; his frequent promotional trips to London brought him wealth. He formed the British Westralia syndicate which floated the Great Boulder Perseverance mine in 1895. Later he invested in urban development and the jarrah timber trade, and floated the Collie Proprietary Coalfields Co. By 1901 he had reputedly introduced capital worth over £15 million into Western Australia.

From January 1902 Lane lived in Perth and was elected to the Legislative Council in 1903-08. At first a promising participant in debates, he retreated into silence after criticism from the royal commission into the Great Boulder Perseverance mine in 1904. He left Perth, later acquiring mines in America and the Flowerdale estate at Broadford, Victoria, for his two sons. After abdominal surgery in London in 1910 he quipped, 'I once managed a silver mine, but I am one myself now', referring to the woven silver plate inserted in him. While on his travels he wrote of his experiences for the Perth Sunday Times which he helped J. MacCallum Smith to purchase in 1901. He adopted the title 'Colonel', being honorary colonel of the 1st Battalion of the West Australian Infantry. He was a member of the Perth Club. After more operations he faced major surgery to remove the then unravelling plate and admitted that 'I am putting things in order in case of fire, and for the first time I am funking it'. He did not survive the operation, died in Berlin on 20 October 1912 and was cremated, leaving an estate of about £155,000.

Select Bibliography

  • Twentieth Century Impressions of Western Australia (Perth, 1901)
  • Truthful Thomas, Through the Spy-Glass (Perth, 1905)
  • A. Reid, Those Were the Days (Perth, 1933)
  • Y. S. Palmer, Track of the Years (Melb, 1955)
  • B. Kennedy, Silver, Sin and Sixpenny Ale (Melb, 1978)
  • C. T. Stannage, The People of Perth (Perth, 1979)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1892-93, 4, 1250
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1888 (90)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Western Australia), 1904, 2 (A13), 1905, 1 (3).

Citation details

Anne Porter, 'Lane, Zebina Bartholomew (1856–1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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