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Charles Cooke Hunt (1833–1868)

by Kim Roberts

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Charles Cooke Hunt (1833-1868), surveyor and explorer, was baptized at Brighton, Sussex, England, son of John George Hunt, auctioneer, and his wife Mary Ann, née Cooke. He seems to have acquired a master's certificate at Liverpool in 1859 and as a navigator arrived in Western Australia about 1863 and lived with an uncle at Newleyine. On 21 October he was appointed junior assistant surveyor to go with Walter Padbury to the country around Nickol Bay. There he explored the coast, entered Port Hedland and discovered the pass, later named after him, between the De Grey and Nickol Bay districts. In 1864 with Governor John Hampton and the York Agricultural Society as patrons he was sent to explore the country 300 miles (483 km) east of York on which H. M. Lefroy had reported hopefully. Hunt named Hampton Plains and traversed much potential grazing land. In 1865 he set out again, intending to clear a track for sheep and cattle and to sink wells along the route, but severe drought forced him back with some wild dogs he had captured to the dismay of local settlers. However, he blazed a tree at a place later named White Hope where gold was discovered in 1919. In 1965 the eastern goldfields branch of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society planted a kurrajong and raised an obelisk with a plaque near the site of Hunt's marked tree. Sir John Kirwan later claimed that rumours in 1865 had Hunt discovering gold but that the government suppressed the news.

In 1866 Hunt was a road surveyor in the Northam district and then returned to the country east of York intent on deepening the wells he had sunk. He was accompanied by four white men and by Tommy Windich (Winditj), an Aboriginal (Noongar) man who later assisted (Sir) John Forrest. Hunt pressed on clearing and sinking wells until he was driven back by ophthalmia and sickness. In 1867 he moved to the Geraldton district as surveyor of roads. He became ill in December, entered hospital in January 1868 and died from heart disease on 1 March aged 35. He was survived by his wife Mary Ann, née Seabrook, whom he had married on 27 December 1864 at Beverley, and by a son Walter (d.1918) and a daughter Emily. His widow married Charles Frederick Edwards on 20 March 1884.

Hunt's diaries and letters are in the Battye Library, Perth. He was a thorough surveyor and excellent draftsman, who never named discoveries after himself. Forrest was reputed to say, 'Will I ever find a place where this man has not been before me'. While the names of Ford and Arthur Bayley were heralded as discoverers of the Coolgardie bonanza, they were probably able to penetrate east of York only with the aid of Hunt's tracks and wells.


Select Bibliography

  • E. Millett, An Australian Parsonage (Lond, 1872)
  • F. A. Law, The History of the Merredin District (Merredin, 1961)
  • C. M. Harris, ‘The Eastern Goldfields Early Explorers, 1863-1866. H. M. Lefroy-C. C. Hunt’, Early Days, 3 (1938-48)
  • Perth Gazette, 13 Mar 1868
  • Governor's dispatches, vols 8-9 (State Library of Western Australia)
  • Survey Department, official letterbook, vol 3 (State Library of Western Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Kim Roberts, 'Hunt, Charles Cooke (1833–1868)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




1 March, 1868 (aged ~ 35)
Western Australia, Australia

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