On This Day - 21 May 1907 Charles Rasp

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21 May 1907 Charles Rasp

Charles Rasp, the founder of Broken Hill, died suddenly on 21 May 1907.

Rasp emigrated from Germany to Victoria in 1869 at the age of 23 years. Although a chemical technologist, he sought work on outback stations. It was while working on Mount Gipp station in New South Wales in 1883 that Rasp found pieces of ore that proved to contain silver and lead. In partnership with others he took out leases for 120 hectares of land and, although the first returns were disappointing, Rasp persisted, adding more land to the lease holdings. In 1885 a company was floated which was called the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. By late that year, he was a wealthy man, for in the first full year of operation the BHP Company made a profit of almost £100,000.

In July 1886 he married Agnes, a waitress in a Rundle Street coffee shop, whom he met while he was in Adelaide to have some ore assayed. They built their home 'Willyama' at Medindie. While Agnes enjoyed the position which wealth brought and liked to entertain lavishly, Rasp remained a quiet and studious man. He continued his interest in mining becoming director of some companies and holding shares in other mining ventures.

After her husband's death in 1907 Agnes went to Europe where, after an adventurous time, she remarried in 1914. Her new husband was killed in World War I and she returned to Adelaide as Baroness von Ledwitz. She became a recluse at 'Willyama' until her death in 1936, a mentally disturbed old woman.

Judith Brown, Town Life in Pioneer South Australia, Rigby, Adelaide, 1980, pp. 69-76.

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