1851 Where We Learn About Convict No 232

From Australia’s Jewish Past:

1851 coolgardie


First published in J-Wire March 17, 2021

Unrest was growing throughout Eastern Europe and Jews were heading to America and England. For many, the only way to survive – just like Fagin in Oliver Twist – was petty crime and they found themselves bound across the seas to Australia to help build the colony.

One such “criminal” was Theodore Krakouer, who arrived as Convict No 232 at the Swan River in West Australia. Together with his mate, Elias Lapidus, they were both sentenced to 15 years for stealing clothes and money. Their papers were stamped with “state of mind”- as being hopeful. Not totally free – Theodore was given a Ticket of Leave meaning he could work and report to the authorities at the end of each day. During this time Theodore married Brina Israel, a free settler together with her sister Esther who married Elias.

With news of activity in Coolgardie’s WA’s Goldfields, there was naturally an exodus from the community in Fremantle to try one’s luck. Two of Theodore’s sons, Rudolph and David knew there was no direct route to the Goldfields, and set about cutting one across the end of the railway line at Broomehill. 

The expedition became the news of the day, with the whole town farewelling Rudolph and his party at the Broomehill Cricket Club the night before the expedition left. Rudolph, who financed the expedition, was more interested in the development of Broomehill.

14 April 1893, saw Rudolph and David, together with two locals, John Holland and John Carmody set off to cut a route from Broomehill across to the Goldfields – a distance of 302 km southeast of Perth. They had five ponies, a light dray, a 100 gallon (450 litres) water tank and provisions for five to six months, and a small compass. The Krakouer brothers and Holland reached Coolgardie two months later, having surveyed and cleared over 500 km of unexplored country, aiming to find the main water supply for the goldfields at a place called Gnarlbine Rock. Having reached Bayley’s Find at Fly Flat on 18 June, they had cut the longest road ever made in one stretch in West Australia. The track shortened the journey by a fortnight.

Some 18,000 fortune seekers soon were using the track and teams laden with goods, general stores with mining equipment made regular use of the track until the railway from Perth with the Eastern Goldfields at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

However, John Holland sought recognition for their results with no mention of the Krakouer brothers. In time, the boys’ older brother Abraham, attempted to recover the £393 spent by his younger brother on the expedition but was rudely rebuffed by the WA Government. Even two geographic features, that have been named in honour of the brothers – Krakouer Rocks and Lake Krakouer were later renamed, on what became known as Holland’s Track.

In the end, the role of Rudolph Krakouer in the development of the mining industry in WA was relegated to a footnote in WA history. The Krakouer brothers went on to found a string of hotels from Collie to Norseman. More significantly, they married local indigenous women, starting a dynasty of football players of Jewish-Aboriginal descent. Perhaps this is the most fitting legacy from that one enterprising convict who arrived in Fremantle 175 years ago.

The Football Dynasty included Phil and Jim Krakour, who were two of the best Indigenous North Melbourne players of all time.

From Australia's Jewish Past is written by Ruth Lilian OAM for AJHS and published weekly in J-Wire. ​