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    Place Names of South Australia - S


    (Also see Fleurieu Peninsula.)



    For an essay on Aborigines in the Lower South East see under South Australia - Aboriginal Australians.

    Discovery and Settlement


    (Taken from an unpublished manuscript by Geoffrey H. Manning titled "A History of the Lower South East in the 19th Century".)

    Prior to the examination and charting of the coastline of the south-eastern coast of modern-day South Australia by Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders, and the historical meeting of those seafarers in Encounter Bay in April 1802, Lieutenant James Grant in HMS Nelson, en route to the convict colony in New South Wales in December 1800, recorded in the ship's log:

    As for the first white men to see Mount Gambier from the landward side, Major William Mitchell, when on his celebrated expedition, saw what he thought was Mount Gambier from a hill on the banks of the River Wannon and on 19 August 1836, on which day he discovered the Glenelg River and Discovery Bay, he confirmed that observation by climbing a tree on the banks of the Glenelg.

    In far-off England, Thomas Henty, banker and sheep farmer decided that some of his family should emigrate so three of his sons, James, John and Stephen, went out to Western Australia in 1829 taking with them 40 servants, together with horses, cattle and sheep. The settlement was a disappointment to them so they decided to seek greener pastures and, accordingly, removed to Van Diemen's Land in 1831 and it was in that year that Thomas Henty decided to join his sons. Accompanied by his wife and three more sons, Charles, Edward and Frank, he sailed for Australia. An examination of the holding at Swan River convinced him that in seeking a change of locality his boys had done the wise thing, but, of course, this involved a considerable loss of capital.

    In 1833, Edward Henty sailed from Van Diemen's land to examine the South Australian coast where he ventured as far as Port Lincoln and, on his return, called in at Portland Bay where a whaling station was located. The place challenged his attention, but did not appeal to him as an ideal spot to settle. Returning home, a short time later he returned to Portland in a schooner captained by John Hart and, in due time, his father, Thomas Henty, inspected the place and the outcome was that, in 1836, the family decided to seek their fortune there. Buildings were erected and other improvements made, according to historical research by Rev John Blacket in the 1920s, to the extent of some £8,000. It was here that Thomas Henty died in 1839.

    At this time a vast forest wilderness lay between the settled parts of Victoria and South Australia and where the country was of tertiary limestone and, in most parts, covered with sand; thus it was for all practical purposes, a desert. A rough wiry grass, some coarse timber, with an abundance of wild flowers met the eye; but any prospective farmer would have turned despairingly from it. However, where the sand disappeared and the rock showed itself, a greener, richer reward was found for there was soil of the most fertile description. Trees of varied kinds grew in luxuriance and an oasis of beauty arose.

    In 1839, another son, Stephen Henty, went on an exploring trip with two companions in the direction of Mount Gambier, seeking suitable land for pastoral purposes and, finding a little rise in the vicinity of the Valley Lake, he built a hut. In the fullness of time, at the behest of local citizenry, a suitable block of Mount Schank basalt rock was inscribed with the words: "S.G. Henty, 1839, Henty's Hut, 1841" and unveiled at this site. At an address given on the occasion Mr Crouch intimated that Henty had another hut near the modern-day Cave Garden Reserve in the center of the city, and went on to say that the men who assisted him in establishing the run, by driving livestock overland, were Jim Sneyd, Joe Frost, a native of Sydney named McCoy and Paddy Hann, an old soldier, as cook.

    At a later time, writing to the Governor of New South Wales Stephen Henty said:

    Alexander Tolmer mentions the presence of Henty's station in 1844 so it is clear that he was still squatting but, of course, his occupation was tainted with illegality because he held no occupation licence from the authorities in Adelaide. This resulted in him being dispossessed by E.P.S. Sturt by means of a licence issued in his name on 10 April 1845 and he was to say later ?we were subsequently deprived of our cattle stations by the chicanery of some unprincipled individuals in search of sheep stations."

    The first pioneer to really open up the South East was Charles Bonney who, in 1839, in company with nine Europeans and two Aborigines brought 300 cattle, several horses and two bullock drays overland and in the process discovered and named Lake Hawdon, Mount Muirhead and Mount Benson. Water being scarce and the weather intensely hot, the trip was exhausting and on one occasion the party had to kill a calf and drink its blood to assuage their thirsts. Fortunately, the cattle smelt the waters of Lake Albert and made for it.

    In 1854 the residents of the South East made a presentation of £700 to him as an acknowledgement of the successful manner in which he had parcelled out the waste lands of the district in his capacity of Commissioner of Public Works in the first representative South Australian government in 1857. Among those who signed the address to him were Messrs Edward and Robert Leake, John McIntyre, Hastings Cunningham, William Vansittart and George Glen.

    On 2 August 1842 the Southern Australian stated that :

    ?The ?discoverer? was not recorded and it might be inferrred that at that time there was no pastoral settlement in the neighbourhood and even that Messrs Henty had not established themselves at Mount Gambier.

    The first sale of freehold land took place in 1847 when four sections from 1100 to 1103, inclusive were granted to Mr Evelyn P.S. Sturt at £80.1s. per section and he remained in occupation until 1853 when he left to take up the position of Chief Inspector of Police in Melbourne. In the interim period he laid out the town of Gambierton and sold his freehold land, including the infant township, to Hastings Cunningham, while portion of his leased land went to William Mitchell - some of which was to become part of the Moorak Station at a later time under the stewardship of Dr W.J. Browne.

    In April 1844, and predating Mr Sturt's appearance in the district, two brothers, Edward John and Robert Rowland Leake took possession of Glencoe Station where, in the course of a few years, the former died and his brother became the sole proprietor. In 1857 he was elected to the House of Assembly as a member for the seat of Victoria.

    In the same decade, and into the 1850s, pastoral runs were taken up in what was then called the "new country" near the border and settled by squatters who had come either from Victoria to spy out the land, or trekked overland from settled areas contiguous to Adelaide. They were more than pleased with what they saw and many of them and their descendants remained there at the turn of the 20th century, having accumulated great wealth. Among these pioneers were The Arthur brothers at Mount Schank in 1844, Mr Heighway Jones at Lake Cadnite in February 1846 (later to be known as Kybybolite Station), Mr Donald Black at Kongorong in 1846, Mr Alexander Stewart at Mosquito Plains in April 1846, Mr Edward Townsend, who took up the Cadnite Creek Station in March 1847, and Mr Adam Smith at Hynam in July 1847.

    In 1851 a concerned resident of Mount Gambier castigated the government:

    For years the Ninety Mile Desert presented a formidable barrier to free and constant intercourse with Adelaide and, even after the establishment of regular communication by land and sea, the isolation of the border districts continued and local sympathies became more and more estranged until nearly all the country between the River Murray and the eastern boundary bade fair to become thoroughly Victorian at heart, if not in name; for Melbourne was easier of access than Adelaide. Successive governments, too, appeared ignorant of the South East, or unconcerned about its fate, and neglected to give it that prominent consideration to which its producing capabilities entitled it.

    However, it was not wholly to these causes that the delay in furnishing the several populous business centres with connecting lines of railways could be attributed, for in the 1860s both Robe and Port MacDonnell refused persistently to support the government proposal to give them railways inland, but by the early 1880s they were clamorous for what was once offered and declined by them.

    With the advent of 1866 the settlers in the South East were to complain that they derived little benefit from the large fund expended by the colony in bringing out emigrants from England because, after landing at Port Adelaide, they had no reasonable means of reaching the district. Therefore, they asked that a proportion of these new settlers be sent to Port MacDonnell and a depot established for their reception at Mount Gambier. Another grave concern was the want of regular administration of justice by the circuit courts and the absence of a public hospital.

    Further, in 1868, it was said that it had not received a fair share of public expenditure because, up to the close of that year, the Government pocketed from the sale of Crown Lands in the Counties of Grey and Robe, the sum of £703,796, while the total expenditure on roads, bridges and jetties amounted to about £100,000.

    At the same time a petition from merchants, traders and others in Adelaide was presented to parliament; it pointed out that, under existing arrangements with the post office authorities, the mail contractor was required to provide a seat for one passenger in the journey to Mount Gambier and, as a consequence, commercial travellers from Adelaide were obliged, because of this regulation, to return home via Melbourne.

    Therefore, in consequence of the superior travelling facilities in Victoria the trade was virtually closed to South Australia. Accordingly, they requested more frequent mail communication and extended facilities for transit to and from Adelaide by means of more comfortable passenger conveyances, thus being the means of diverting trade, which was then all but exclusively Victorian, to this province.

    The petition said, also, it was considered most unfair that Crown lands in the vicinity should be sold in Adelaide as it entailed great expense on farmers and other would-be purchasers and, further, it facilitated the operation of speculative land-jobbers to the detriment and loss of the agriculturist.

    To the citizens of the South East Adelaide was their metropolis, but in name only for they felt no pride in claiming connection with it and took no interest in its progress. On the contrary, they regarded the capital city with a positively unfriendly eye and viewed it much as an ancient Israelite in Egypt might have viewed some of the splendid architectural monuments erected at his/her expense.

    It was no satisfaction for them to know that its public buildings were a credit to the colonial capital and institutions supported on a most generous scale. Indeed, each new grant of money for such improvements was a source of jealously - a fresh insult to them in their destitution - a fresh occasion for alienating their goodwill - fresh fuel to keep alive the agitation for severance from the colony. Smarting under the feeling of neglect they forgot to do justice and bring charges against their rulers of self-favouritism.

    By the mid-1870s the yeomanry of the South East were a long-suffering class. At the time it was common throughout the colonies of the British Empire that communities, generally speaking, situated a long distance from the seat of government, were invariably misgoverned or ignored. Indeed, within South Australia, the local representatives in Parliament were snubbed alike by Government and Opposition - that which they sought not and did not require was granted and that sought and required was denied.

    One member (John Riddoch) resigned, "feeling the futility of his presence in the House to secure for his electorate that which was necessary for the welfare of his constituents." He, of course, was to be deeply involved in the insidious practice of land ?dummying? and this is discussed in another chapter.

    In a stinging editorial following his resignation the Observer castigated him:

    In a lengthy response written in Melbourne Mr Riddoch said, inter alia:

    Special grievances were the theme of frequent and bitter complaint in preceding years and it spoke ill of the diplomatic capacity and administrative vigour of successive governments that nothing tangible was done to remedy them. If promises went for anything, it was not the want of trying that those at the head of affairs failed to get justice done, for over and over again they pledged themselves to use their utmost endeavours to remove the disabilities under which the residents laboured.

    These demands were reasonable and the inhabitants had good cause to be dissatisfied at the manner in which their claims were neglected. It was shown, conclusively, in respect of the Border Duty question that the existing happy-go-lucky method of transferring goods landwise from one colony to another was eminently unsatisfactory. A few importers of Victorian merchandise, less cautious, or may be less favoured than their neighbours, were made examples of, while the proceedings of others were winked at quietly. This system was grossly unfair to the public and unjustly put the Customs officers open to grave suspicion.

    The vexatious Border question, discussed in another chapter, was of concern for the South Australian squatter because regulations in Victoria in respect of the health of stock were not as rigid as those within their colony and, accordingly, the mere possibility of sheep from this side mingling with those on the other, tended to depreciate the value of the his stock.

    For the three years preceding 1874 about 300 families had shifted their quarters to Victoria where the land laws were more attractive and the prospects for success in agricultural pursuits as least as great as the place they left. Some said that the panacea for this, and all the other woes, was to be found in throwing open to settlement the swamp lands of the district which, they avowed, should be reclaimed. Further, many people thought that they were heavily handicapped by the construction of that monstrous absurdity - the Lacepede and Naracoorte railway line - this was cast in their teeth continually when government aid was sought for public works.

    The spirit of separation, which had manifested itself in a tangible form for some years, was not extinguished totally by 1875 and the residents were all but in unison when they declared that, if the ruling powers desired to see the South East remain an integral portion of South Australia, a more liberal policy was needed to guide their actions in the future than had been the case in the past.

    By mid-1887 the Naracoorte to Mount Gambier railway was ready to be opened and its completion was most important, because it not only united previously disjointed local systems into one compact and harmonious whole, but it was to link, permanently, the rich districts of Mount Gambier and Penola to Adelaide. Until then it was much easier for residents in those two towns to travel to Melbourne than Adelaide and, of course, the post was proportionately much quicker with Melbourne. By year's end there was no doubt that the sympathies of the people were largely with Melbourne. This was not their fault, but due in part to their geographical position and to the neglect of the legislature of that part of the colony.

    By the turn of the 20th century, and with the pending federation of the Australian colonies in 1901, the citizens of the South-East were considering the desirability of seceding and becoming part of Victoria and many grievances were aired in support of their desire. Firstly, they stated that if they had a broad gauge railway all the way to Adelaide they could increase the productivity of their holdings, for the loss of time occasioned by the break of gauge at Wolseley, and the double handling, were fatal to much of the perishable products forwarded to the city markets.

    If this was to be denied, they considered that a railway line to Victoria connecting them with Portland would enable them "to transfer our business and our sympathies to Victoria." Indeed, in the late 1890s, a cry for a railway extension from Casterton to Mount Gambier was taken up on the Victorian side, while at the same time Portland was working hard in the same direction and Melbourne merchants were sending their travellers to the district where prices were cut for the purpose of obtaining orders.

    The district was referred to as "The Garden of the South", but it was more than that for it also produced livestock of the finest quality - cattle, horses, sheep and pigs and more time was being devoted to the dairying industry, to say nothing of rabbits. With an assured rainfall of over 20 inches, splendid soil and a good climate, there was no limit to which the stockowner or farmer should fear going, provided they had a guaranteed outlet. Gradually, land holdings became smaller as some of the large pastoral stations were subdivided and intense culture adopted where, previously, only a few sheep were running. County Grey was the largest producer of cheese and potatoes in the colony and second in respect of the growing of oats and in one season about 15,000 lambs were purchased for export.

    The call went out - "Shall we hold what we already have, or let it pass into the hands of others?" In other words, should the trade of the South East be retained by South Australia, which had for more than 60 years been responsible for its public works, or should it be absorbed quietly by Victoria and become a perquisite of Melbourne merchants?

    Federation was to expose, both as a State and traders, the fullest competition on the part of neighbouring rivals. The barriers were to be broken down and, in a commercial sense, the race was to be swift and the battle strong. Fortunately, there was no fear that a united Australia would lose its colonies in the way France lost Alsace and Lorraine but, as far as the trade of the South East was concerned, it was all but certain that unless improved facilities were provided for the encouragement of the flow of traffic westward, the ultimate result would be much the same as if the most fertile province of South Australia had been overrun and appropriated by Victoria. Indeed, merchants the world over found it necessary to employ some of the methods of aggression described by Wordsworth over Rob Roy's grave:

    It was the last line of this rule that encouraged the citizens to enjoin the politicians and others within South Australia to remember the enterprise of men like John Riddoch at Coonawarra, and the confidence he showed in the future of intense culture was fully equalised by the enterprising firms promoting the dairying, livestock and rabbit canning industries. While it must be said that the majority of the impetus for economic growth came from Adelaide, if government cooperation was lacking there was every fear that Victoria would annex the trade created by Adelaide enterprise.

    At Mount Gambier there was "The Mount Gambier Branch of the Portland to Mount Gambier Railway League", while at Portland every effort was employed to see it becoming a reality. Indeed, the construction of a new jetty at this time proved that it was a strong competitor to the trade of the South East and, at about the same time, a memorial containing 700 signatures from Mount Gambier residents was presented to the government in Adelaide seeking the same thing. This project was not to be completed until 1917.

    While the authorities pricked up their ears, the vigorous controversy promoted somnolence and was found to be more congenial than definite action. And what was the sequel? - While the subdivision of large estates had augmented the population, by 1906 trade with Adelaide decreased to the extent of one third and Victorian steamers made regular calls at local ports and this business was highly profitable.

    Thus, the feud between settlers and those in authority in Adelaide continued unabated for many years:

    Ports of the Lower South East

    (Taken from an unpublished manuscript by Geoffrey H. Manning titled A History of the Lower South East in the 19th Century.)

    Also see:
    Place Names - Beachport
    Grey Town
    Port MacDonnell

    In the early 1850s there was only one recognised port on the south-east coastline and there, at Guichen Bay, the whole import and export trade of the district converged. There had been an attempt as settlement previously at Grey Town, on the south end of Rivoli Bay, but it was abandoned and other rival ports were soon to be discovered. Lacepede Bay was found to afford good anchorage and sure shelter in all weathers and was, at once, recognised as a formidable competitor with Guichen Bay for the trade of the country north of Mount Benson and eastwards to the Victorian border.

    By 1860, it had been a matter of regret and annoyance that a large part of the revenue, justly belonging to the colony, was paid into the Victorian treasury from the simple fact of the border country having no seaport on the South Australian side so easily accessible as that of Portland. Suggestions were made for the establishment of an inland Custom House, but they were not acted upon because it was feared that the system would have proved both vexatious and expensive.

    It was also suggested that some arrangement should be made with the Victorian government for the collection of duties on our behalf in the same way as they were received upon goods taken up the River Murray by steamers, but nothing was done upon that subject and the South Australian revenue continued to suffer to the extent of some thousands of pounds annually for the want of available means of collecting its own duties in the south eastern part of the colony.

    About 1855 Captain Bloomfield Douglas, then Harbour Master of South Australia, was impressed with the belief that a safe harbour might be found in the vicinity of Cape Northumberland and he attempted a survey, in company with Captain Freeling and Mr Dashwood. It happened, however, that a gale came up from the south west and he was obliged to abandon the project.

    When Mr Germein was stationed at the MacDonnell lighthouse, Captain Douglas instructed him to examine the coast at the point indicated and his report induced the Trinity Board to request Captain Douglas to visit the place in the Yatala and, in due course, he presented a report, together with a chart of the new harbour. The importance of this port, only 17 miles from Mount Gambier, was considered to be a tremendous advantage to the settlers because at the time they had to obtain their stores from Portland, a distance of 65 miles, the nearest South Australian ports being Rivoli Bay (60 miles) and Guichen Bay ( 85 miles). They also had to pay Victorian duties, which were 18 pence per pound weight and higher on tobacco and one shilling per gallon higher upon spirits than those levied in South Australia. Thus, MacDonnell Bay came into use as a shipping place, if not a port, and the residents soon obtained the construction of a good metalled road to their nearest seaboard.

    With the exception of a few miles of macadam north of Mount Gambier, and near Guichen Bay, no other works of development had been undertaken and so difficult was the communication with Guichen Bay that, until the completion of the road to MacDonnell Bay, Portland in Victoria did considerable trade with Mount Gambier.

    At a Select Committee on the South East Mr James Cooke, a resident of Kingston, extolled the advantages of Lacepede Bay with its wide entrance of 18 miles:

    Mr G.W.Goyder, Surveyor-General, also spoke highly of this location, although other witnesses preferred Guichen Bay which was agreed to be the safest harbour but, unfortunately, ?t a distance from the most fertile parts of the country- It was always a question whether a multiplicity of shipping places - and the constant scattering among them of expenditure which, if concentrated, would be so much more effective - was really beneficial. By May 1869 there were three established sea ports on the coast line of the South East and the fourth at Rivoli Bay, although once abandoned, was revived with the draining of lands in the vicinity and the coming of a railway from Mount Gambier late in the 1870s.

    Another aspect in the development of the colony in its early days was the expenditure incurred on works that could scarcely be expected to be reproductive for many years and the jetties fringing the long coastline of over 2,000 miles amply testified to money both well and ill spent. With a desire to settle people on the land to government wished to give all facilities possible for settlers to get their produce to market and jetties were built often long before there was a population to be served.

    The expense of collection of jetty dues was out of all proportion to the amounts received and, consequently, the government decided in 1889 that the local authorities should have control of all jetties within their boundaries. In this manner about 24 jetties were handed over and, apparently, without any conditions attached. In the 20th century the control was vested in the Harbors Board.

    By the close of the 1870s, many promises had been made by various parliaments that means of communication would be granted, whereby produce could be transported to the nearest, best and natural seaport. For example, in October 1873 the Editor of the Border Watch made the following observation while taking a tilt at the vacillation of the government:

    At this time the regular traffic with all the south eastern ports was carried on chiefly by the Mount Gambier Steamship Company of which Mr J. Watson was chairman - The citizens of the town had formed a steamship company in 1876 and contemplated purchasing a steamer, Emu, from a British manufacturer but, upon its arrival in the colony, her owners "changed their minds" and, although they put the vessel under offer as agreed, it was at such a price that the local company declined to proceed and were obliged to make other arrangements.

    It eventually owned two vessels, Penola and Coorong and they made weekly trips between Adelaide and Melbourne, calling at the south-eastern ports, but running more frequently in the potato season, during which up to 20,000 tons were shipped, together with flour, wattle bark and kangaroo skins. Until about June 1880 the manager, Mr A.S. Wood, resided at Beachport after which he removed to Port Adelaide

    By 1880 Port MacDonnell and Rivoli Bay were rivals, but it almost amounted to a grim joke to see the eternal feud between the two. Indeed, their respective newspaper correspondents to the Mount Gambier newspapers reminded the readers of the Dickensian Eatanswill editors or the Kilkenny cats than anything else witnessed in the South Australian press. However, with the establishment of the railway to Beachport the importance of the other was reduced considerably and this was exacerbated by the want of protection from the ever present south west winds and heavy seas.

    Some of the loyal townspeople made light of this, but it was such a serious drawback it threatened to do much harm to the port as the opening of the railway. Steamers were frequently unable to land cargo or take potatoes on board, unless they called twice at the bay, and some of it had to be taken three times from Mount Gambier before it could be loaded. For example, SS Penola lost 11 days and 8 hours between 20 April and 30 August 1880 through being unable to do her work.

    As long as Kingston was the seaward head of one line, and Beachport the other, there was a considerable traffic and those towns flourished, but when the Mount Gambier to Wolseley railway line was opened the heads became terminals and, robbed of their traffic and the South East shipping, killed. At Port MacDonnell, Beachport and Kingston there were warehouses, offices, sidings and loop lines sufficient to transact half the business that was then being done at Port Adelaide.

    The past government policy of spending about £100,000 on four or five separate ports was a huge blunder and proved detrimental to the profitable working of the district's railways. Had that sum been spent on developing one site there would have been no danger in the South East seceding to Victoria.

    By the turn of the 20th century there existed a general feeling of discontent at the way in which the development of the South East was neglected. In the interior, and particularly around Mount Gambier, its chief cause was the mismanagement of the railways. Near the coast the absence of a port to accommodate vessels of the deepest draught caused great concern because a good deal of the trade gravitated towards Victoria.

    Alternative schemes proposed by Mr Lindon W. Bates, ?a harbour expert?, called for either an expenditure of £1,990,000 at Kingston, £600,000 at Robe or £992,000 at Beachport. The cost of the work was out of the question and in looking around for other means of overcoming the difficulty it was thought that a suggestion made previously by Captain Weir could be considered, namely, the erection of a jetty in Rivoli Bay under the shelter of the reefs.

    Industries of the Lower South East

    (Taken from an unpublished manuscript by Geoffrey H. Manning titled A Social History of the Lower South East.)


    When the plain upon which Adelaide stands was first occupied by European settlers grave doubts were expressed as to whether cereals could ever be grown in so dry and hot a climate, but a few bold experimentalists determined to try and were successful beyond all expectation. Gradually, the pioneer farmers moved southward and south-eastwards to the hilly country about Mount Barker, or beautiful grassy plains at Aldinga, Willunga, etc., where the kangaroo grass stood up to seven feet high - these areas became highly favoured because of the relative attributes of ease of transit and conveyance. Here, for some twenty years, they were very successful until the area became "wheat sick" and exhausted and degenerated into ?dirty hay? fields. Finally, to eke out a living, the few who chose to remain resorted to supporting a few sheep on their ruined paddocks. In later years a similar debacle was to be encountered in the lower South East.

    Thus, happy homesteads were deserted and farmers trekked northward on to larger holdings which they proceeded to despoil upon the same wasteful plan. The flour mills, stores, villages, etc., that were established in consequence of the first highly successful farming, languished, and finally the mills, stores, wheelwrights, smiths and machinery shops closed. In the northern areas the collapse was more sudden because hay growing could not follow so successfully upon the failure of wheat. Indeed, because the wheatgrowers commenced with the multiple ploughs, the stripper, the firestick and finished with the mullenizer, the stump-jumper, and even in some cases when new land was taken up, the bushes were rolled flat, burnt, seed sown on the sandy soil and harrowed in without the use of a plough or any other implement.

    The Press, as the voice of the people, spoke out and many suggestions were made. Customs returns were examined and it was found that the colony was importing many hundreds of thousands of pound worth of merchandise that could be grown, produced and manufactured by its own people - these included olive oil, wine, dried and preserved fruits, bacon, cheese, butter, potatoes. Gradually, the farmers began to find that there was money in the suggestions made in the Press.

    According to Mr Albert Molineux the first wheat grown in South Australia was on a quarter acre block on Montefiore Hill while, later, Captain Robertson grew a successful crop near the Half Way Hotel on the Port Road. However, the identity of the first wheat grower in the colony has been subjected to much debate, for in 1887 the Register reproduced a letter from Mr Allan McLean who claimed to be the first man to "turn the sod". Dissenting comments followed and a correspondent opined that, "The first land turned up was in North Adelaide, in what was then known as Hack's Garden, also a small piece of land on South Terrace and that by the pioneer ploughman, John Watson."

    At first, harvesting was done with a reap hook and sickle and, until the general adoption of the Ridley stripper, the sheaves were stooked in the usual way and threshed out with the aid of fluted rollers made of a log of wood tapered from the thick end to a small point at the other extremity. Another method - and perhaps the most universal - was to tramp the grain out with bullocks after the manner in vogue in Biblical days. The wheat was then put on to a tarpaulin and with shovels it was thrown across the wind against the sheet.

    The reaping machine - or "stripper" as it was called at Mount Gambier was not used universally as it was in the northern farms. More than half the fields were cut down with a mowing machine or sickle and this was due to a variety of causes. In some cases the crops were too heavy for the stripper, the weight of the wheat in the machine entailing too great a draught for the horses in light soil. In others, the fern was too thick, the comb being choked continually by it, thus rendering it impossible to save the grain. Accordingly, very little stripping was done, the mower and binder taking the place of the reaping machine in the field and the steam thresher acted as a substitute for the winnower. By this means the straw and chaff were saved so there was little waste.

    When wheat growing was first attempted in South Australia success was achieved at once, although only European varieties were available, but when the districts with warmer conditions and lower rainfall were cropped it was found that the then known varieties were not altogether suitable. It was soon seen that the liability of attacks of red rust and take-all, and the comparative dryness of the Spring season, demanded different types of wheat if success was to be obtained.

    From Cereal Growing to Diversification in the Lower South East

    The main agricultural settlement in the South East took place in the 1860s within the Mount Gambier district because, close to the base of the Mount, the soil was deepest. For instance, at OB Flat and Yahl there were several paddocks, notably those of Davis Bros. McLean and Johann Lange, that were estimated to yield from 50 to 60 bushels to the acre. Further out the soil became shallower until, outside of a five mile radius, there appeared the old formation of sandy loam, resting upon a limy subsoil.

    It was here that many of the deserted homesteads of those who migrated to the Wimmera from the late 1860s were to be found. These men were, generally, tenants paying in some cases a rental of 18 shillings per acre for the land to large proprietors who obtained it chiefly a £1 per acre in earlier times:

    Other hazards they had to contend with were the ravages of kangaroos and bush fires:

    For the first ten years wheat was grown on the well known colonial system. There then set in grass raising experiments amongst a few and these were followed by such good results that the practice of the keeping of superior sheep (chiefly Lincoln) became general in combination with a smaller quantity of crop culture that included wheat, barley, peas, rye and oats, alternate with potatoes. Along with this there was attention to farm buildings, gardens and orchards and to the breeding of draught stock which placed the agricultural practice of Mount Gambier in advance of any other South Australian district.

    An 1866 census indicated that the population of the County of Grey had doubled within the previous five years and a reference to agricultural returns showed that, while in 1861 the extent of land under wheat was but about 4,000 acres, by 1866 it had been raised to 13,571 acres. The great landowners in the district were W.J.T. Clark, E.J. Leake, J. Ellis and W.J. Browne, each owning upwards of 50,000 acres each.

    However, as recalled previously, the choice land was all in the vicinity of Mount Gambier where the wheat was prepared for market in the fields and drays took it to Captain French's store at MacDonnell Bay under arrangements with the Farmers? Club at five pence per bushel. In all practical respects it was closer to Melbourne than to Adelaide and when people talked about going to town they meant Melbourne. Indeed, the means of access to Adelaide were disgraceful for there were no means of overland conveyance except by the mail cart.

    In 1866 the government attempted to supply labour to the district, but many of the men sent were wholly unfit for farm work and it was agreed, generally, that the labour had been supplied on the principle of relieving the incubus of useless hands in Adelaide, than of meeting the requirements of the Mount Gambier district. The immediate result was an amount of pauperism hitherto unheard of in the district, and a desertion of about 25 families, chiefly freeholders, who sought "better facilities for settling on and obtaining land" while others objected to the high rents imposed by the land owners coupled with an inability to get sufficient land for the employment of their families.

    Then came the potato discovery when it was found, by experimenting, that the only bar to successful potato culture in the district, the frost, could be avoided by planting in November, and that heavy yields of wheat could be obtained by following the potatoes. By 1874 some 1,500 acres were under cultivation with the potato and doubled within twelve months when returns of up to 20 tons per acre were obtained.

    Further, hop gardens became more extensive, the acreage under sown grasses in the Count of Grey exceeded 22, 000 acres (out of 24,000 in the whole colony) and the farmer turned his mind and labour towards other primary industries such as dairy farming, tobacco, fruit and chicory growing, while the Government contemplated forestry on a grand scale.

    By the 1870s farmers chose, generally, to take up new land under the Government's credit system provided the price was not run up by absurd competition among themselves. There were rich, moist land in the South East but, notwithstanding their fertility, it was not held in high favour due, no doubt, to the high rents demanded by the squatters who were the principal land owners and the distance from a port of shipment or railway station for both the freeholder and lessee alike.

    From a social point of view the greatest evil of the colony's liberalised land laws was a tendency to change of homestead which was fostered and encouraged amongst the farmers, young and old. Not only were the young men intent upon going out and getting farms of their own which, of course, was perhaps reasonable and necessary, but many of the older settlers were induced to break up their old homes and seek ?fresh fields and pastures new? in distant parts of the country. It was the wives who suffered most severely by this migration and, of necessity, many years were to pass before they attained the advantage of schools for their children.

    By 1870 the district surrounding Naracoorte could not be called a farming district because only a few colonists tilled the land for it was a fact that the land not taken up was inferior. Indeed, if the few farmers who had selected good land could have taken take up inferior sections, the situation might have been stabilised but, unfortunately, they were all hemmed in by ?dummies?.

    A few miles away at Penola the prosperity and settlement of the neighbourhood with agriculturists was of a steady and permanent character until the passing of the Victorian Land Bill, after which many of the ?best residents? selected land there and, by April 1870, were upon the eve of leaving to settle on it:

    South of Mount Gambier the situation was no better and in the Hundred of Caroline, the most south-easterly Hundred in the colony:

    By April 1870 it was estimated that 400 agriculturist had left, or were leaving their holdings in South Australia, and of these some 240 went to Victoria. The reasons given were that our land system lacked liberality when compared with its neighbour. This grievance was brought forward by both freeholder and tenant farmers. The former, finding that they could rely no longer upon their exhausted land wished to change their location and the latter, having no incentive to remain in possession of impoverished soil at the expiry of their leases, looked out for more favourable terms in more prolific parts of the continent.

    By the close of 1872 the days of exclusive wheat growing were numbered at Mount Gambier because the bulk of the land was sick of wheat, but it could still grow more grass and feed and feed more stock to the acre than in the old days "when it was no uncommon occurrence to lose both sheep and shepherd in the kangaroo grass." Accordingly, the farmer looked towards his sheep, cattle, grass seeds, potatoes and peas to ?make up his bank account.?

    The continuing poor yields of wheat and other cereals in the mid-1880s naturally started a cry among the farming community. In many cases little had been done in fostering dairy products such as butter and cheese, until a tariff passed in 1888 doubled the duties on all these items. Even then it was difficult to get any district to take up the production and all attempts in a direction north of Adelaide met with a luke warm reception. Indeed, the Mount Gambier district was the only part of the colony to institute a factory system.

    By 1890 the question of cultivation of the land was becoming a dead letter and the aim of most settlers was to increase their holdings to about 1,000 acres and run up to a 1,000 sheep and a few head of good cows, the milk from which could be sold readily to the cheese factories. The land required manure for agricultural purposes and breaking the surface without applying it injured the prospects of the country. However, one drawback was "coast disease" and it was necessary to remove flocks inland to more healthy country. The star thistle was also a nuisance and sheep travelling through it got their wool into a poor state:

    In evidence of a reckless manner in which some tried to get a living out of the land one need only to look at the Hundreds of Joyce and the Mosquito Plains in 1890. There farmers, who had been successful in drier districts, settled upon country that was wet for the most part or subject to flooding. Instead of studying the peculiarities of their situation and endeavouring to find out the practices likely to prove applicable to the locality, soil and climate, they acted upon past experience and turned over as much land, indiscriminately chosen, as they could in the time allotted by the terms of their lease or credit provisions. The result in most cases was distressing and were it not that many were enabled to turn to sheep husbandry, the outcome would have been disastrous:

    Before we turn to an analysis of many of the industries that followed the cessation of wheat growing as a commercial venture in the lower South East, mention must be made of the macabre pleasure obtained by the Editor of the Register who, in 1895, said there was 'something pathetic in the spectacle of the South Australian farmers who broke up their homes to go to the Wimmera country having now to repeat the heart-racking operation and seek fresh spheres of activity":

    Shipwrecks and Disasters

    (Taken from an unpublished manuscript by Geoffrey H. Manning titled A Social History of the Lower South East.)

    ( Register, 10 December 1902, p. 4.)

    As long as men go down to the sea in ships there will be wrecks and the South Australian coast has been the scene of a goodly share of Australia's marine tragedies, and down through time almost every year has added to the list. From 1837 to 1924 more than 200 vessels were wrecked, stranded, lost or foundered in our waters and many of their skeletons lie half submerged along various parts of the coast, while many have been scattered by the four winds and the pounding waves. In the early days, as discussed in another chapter, the South East ports were important shipping centres and along the wind swept coast many a trim schooner, barque or brigantine crashed to its doom. The beetling crags of Cape Northumberland and the treacherous waters of Guichen Bay lured a large number of vessels to destruction. Indeed, the reputation of the whole south eastern coat was bad, but those two points were the graveyards of the South Australian deep.

    In June 1845 Captain Underwood started for Rivoli Bay with a cargo of flour in the Victoria and the weather was congenial until he reached Cape Jaffa where it blew with such intense fury that he hove to about 30 miles off the coast and headed northward. But the schooner was of light draft and made considerable drift and, at the end of the second day, the gale had not abated and from the masthead at sunset he saw the breakers of the Cape Jaffa shoals bearing SE about eight miles. He determined to keep away to the NE and round the shoals at a distance.

    For an hour the ship forged on under close-reefed topsail when, all at once, he saw a sea rise on the quarter, gaining altitude as it rushed along. He shouted orders to put the helm hard up, but it was too late. The sea burst with a roar like thunder and rolled right over the schooner, capsizing her in an instant and burying all the men beneath its mass.

    Captain Underwood found himself plunged into the water while he was still clinging to the mast, but he quickly let go and came to the surface.. He swam under the lee of the wreck but neither heard or saw any of the crew, but he saw a dinghy floating, nearly full of water:

    He climbed into the boat and both began to bale it out, following which Underwood tore up the middle bottom board and made a shift to steer the boat right before the wind and sea towards the shore. They managed to avoid some rocks and entered calmer water and scrambled ashore where they broke a bough off a tree and made a break wind at the base of it and lay down on the ground. In the morning they slaked their thirst from rain water found in the curled bark of trees. Underwood knew they were cut off from Adelaide by the lakes and the River Murray and that their distance for help from that direction was more than double the distance to Rivoli Bay.

    After reflection it was decided to head south to Rivoli Bay, keeping to the seaboard in the hope of finding limpets and shellfish on the beach. Among the sandhills they came upon a bed of large toadstools which they thought were mushrooms and Underwood described what happened:

    That night as they were about to camp they heard a dog bark for there was a shepherd's hut close by and they were saved but it took them several days to recover from their exhaustion. Later, they returned to the wreck, repaired the dinghy and sailed for Rivoli Bay where they arrived two days later. After resting he bought a horse and in company with a stockman started overland for Adelaide.

    The Jane Lovett, a Yankee schooner bought by Mrs Laura McCarthy for £750, was wrecked in MacDonnell Bay in 1852 while sailing to Adelaide from Melbourne with a cargo of spirits. It was a dark night and Captain Parker thought he had passed Cape Northumberland (these were the days before the light was installed) but the ship struck a reef in the bay and became fixed. In the morning, the mate and four of the crew took a ship's boat and said they would try to get to Melbourne or Adelaide, but nothing was heard of them, so it was presumed they had perished.

    The remainder of the crew elected to walk to the newly formed township of Gambierton but the captain would not leave his ship or cargo and so he was left alone grieving. Tragedy was added to tragedy for, at last when help came, they found the captain had been murdered,. They buried him in the sand dunes but when a small cemetery was opened on top of the cape his bones were removed there, where he lies today within sound of his beloved sea. Two hutkeepers, named Crawford and Stephens, believed to be convicts from either New South Wales or Van Diemen's Land, employed by John McIntyre who held the Mount Schank station, were arrested.

    The Margaret Brock left Melbourne on 20 May 1852 and in the early hours of the 23rd she struck a reef about 12 miles from the shore and south of Guichen Bay. The Captain ordered the boats to be manned immediately and sent as many passengers as possible to the shore in the long boat. Finding that the quarter boat was too small to hold the remaining passengers, seven of them volunteered to remain aboard until it returned from the shore.

    A passenger, P.B. Coglin, continues the story:

    April 1857
    The Sultana, 350 tons, was wrecked on 27 April 1857 and the first mate had charge, the captain of the vessel, having died on the voyage from Hong Kong. While maneuvering the ship into the bay she struck a reef off Cape Lannes and anchors were let down immediately and, finding that she was making water, the mate decided that the only way to save her was to beach her where his passengers (400 Chinese) scrambled ashore without casualty.

    June 1857
    On 25 June 1857 the Dutch barque Koenig Willem II arrived at Guichen Bay with Chinese immigrants and her departure was delayed by bad weather and, on the 30th, during a gale, the 60 fathom chain cut her windlass and, accordingly, the master made sail with the intention of beaching her. As soon as the wreck was perceived at Robe Messrs Ormerod instantly ordered all men in their employ to render assistance, but before the majority of them reached the scene the melancholy result had occurred.

    Soon after the barque struck, a boat was got out from the wreck into which the chief mate and crew entered with the exception of the captain who was left on the wreck, owing to the boat's painter breaking. The boat had proceeded but a short distance when, from the want of oars, she broached too, filled, and her living freight was left to struggle for their lives in the breakers and out of the 25 that left the vessel, only nine were dragged ashore and all of them in a state of partial insensibility.

    Attention was now turned to the captain who was pacing the few feet of the stern left to him. The wrecked vessel had been swept so close to the shore that every sign made by him was distinctly observed and his voice could be heard above the din of the storm, calling for assistance, while on shore about 100 men were utterly unable to render any help.

    The sun went down in a fiery sky, night was drawing on and the majority of the assembled people, with heavy hearts, went home. During the evening various schemes were devised for rescue attempts and Mr John Ormerod guaranteed £50 to a boat's crew at the bay if they succeeded in bringing off the captain. An Encounter Bay Aborigine volunteered, for a consideration, to swim to the wreck with a rope, while a small boat was despatched by Mr Evans, by land, to be launched as soon as practicable.

    However, during the evening it was reported that the captain was safe ashore. Fortuitously, there was a wind shift and he was able to float a cask ashore with a rope attached following which rescuers were able to haul him through the surf. Records vary as to whether 15 or 16 were drowned, but several large coffins were made from the wrecked vessel and the victims buried in the nearby sandhills.

    A collection of manuscripts relative to the wreck of the Admella off Cape Northumberland in 1859 was presented to the Public Library Board by Mr. R.T. Silvester, of Portland, for preservation purposes. The wreck forms one of the most sensational episodes in South Australian history and the story of the heroic rescue of the survivors after a week of terrible suffering will never lose its interest.

    The Admella, a small steamer of 360 tons, had been plying regularly between Port Adelaide and Melbourne for about a year when, on 5 August 1859, she left Port Adelaide for what was to be her last trip with 113 souls on board. At four o'clock next morning, when the vessel was approaching Cape Northumberland, the captain believed himself to be about thirteen miles from land. In reality, however, the ship was close to a dangerous reef, an error of reckoning having risen either from a derangement of the compass or, more probably, from a current which carried the vessel shorewards.

    Suddenly she grated on a reef and, heeling over, lay broadside on to the heavy seas. An effort was made to lower the boats, but two of them were smashed and the third broke adrift. In less than fifteen minutes the Admella broke into three parts and several passengers were washed overboard. At dawn the mainland could be seen about a mile and a half away, but no habitations of any kind wee visible and those on the wreck turned their eyes to seawards for assistance.

    At 8 am the Havilah, a sister ship, steamed by but her passengers, though visible from the Admella, failed to observe the signals of distress improvised by those on the wreck. Two men attempted to gain the shore on pieces of timber, but they were carried out to sea by a current. On the second day the sea was calmer and two seamen, John Leach and Robert Knapman, succeeded in reaching the shore with the assistance of a raft. For a time they lay exhausted on the beach and, after quenching their thirst at a marsh, they hurried to Cape Northumberland.

    The lighthouse keeper rode to Mount Gambier and a telegraph message was sent to Adelaide, following which a rescue party was dispatched in the Corio from Port Adelaide; she arrived at the scene of the tragedy on Thursday. By that time the poor creatures, who had clung to the wreck for five days and nights,. were in a pitiable plight. They were tormented by hunger and thirst and suffered terribly from the cold, for their spray-drenched limbs grew numb under a biting wind. One by one those on the forecastle, chiefly women and children, had been swept off by the boisterous waves.

    A boat's crew dispatched from the Corio found it impossible to approach the wreck owing to heavy seas, but on Friday morning the Lady Bird arrived on the scene bringing the Portland lifeboat and a whaleboat belonging to the Portland Whaling Company following which a rescue attempt proved unsuccessful. Next morning the sea was calmer and an effort was made to effect a rescue in the Admella's lifeboat which had been cast ashore a few days before. Twenty four passengers were saved.

    The Livingstone went aground in Guichen Bay in 1862 and two newspaper reports read as follows:

    In April 1870 a settler named Varcoe at Carpenter Rocks reported to the police and Harbour master that a brig had been wrecked there. She was the Flying Cloud and went aground during a thick fog. Captain Urquhart, his wife and child, and a crew of six Lascars all got safely to land in the boats, while the hull, lying in two halves, were sold subsequently to Mr John Livingstone for five pounds, while a few spare sails and other items of salvage were sold by auction to other purchasers. Her cargo of sugar was a complete loss while two or three bags of the ship's ration sugar were saved by means of the boats which went out to the wreck five times until she broke up.

    The Geltwood, beyond doubt, was wrecked on the night of 14 June 1876 when such a storm as rarely or never has occurred in South Australia, swept through the country, uprooting thousands of trees. All the way from the Coorong to miles beyond the border are these effects of the hurricane visible. At Robe roofs were torn off houses, sheets of iron, planks, buckets and even tables were carried through the air. It was in this awful tempest that the ill-fated Geltwood, a vessel on her first voyage, found herself upon the shore and, after signaling in vain for aid, was driven upon the rocks in the wildest and most exposed portion of our coast...

    The four bodies recovered from the Geltwood wreck and which had been buried on the beach were disinterred, properly coffined and brought to Millicent on 21 June 1877. On reaching there a large number of residents followed them to the cemetery where the Rev Tresise conducted the funeral ceremonies.

    In June 1877, outward bound from Port Adelaide to Sydney with a cargo of flour, the Edith Haviland was wrecked about 10 miles west of Carpenter Rocks and about four miles from where the Geltwood was wrecked a few months earlier. Information was brought into MacDonnell Bay shortly after noon on 20 June that a servant of Captain Gardiner had found a sailor on the beach by the name of Willam Adams who had been wrecked. The unfortunate man was working his way along the coast by means of direction posts that had recently been placed there. He stated that the master, two mates and six men were still on board but that the captain's wife and three children had been drowned.. He himself swam ashore. Happily, the Claude Hamilton was in MacDonnell Bay at the time and after discharging cargo she started by direction of Captain Melville, the Harbour Master, at 2.30 on Wednesday afternoon for the scene of the disaster. Later, in a report emanating from the Marine Board, the master was found guilty of grave neglect

    The wreck of the steamer, Euro, nine miles form Beachport in August 1881, was responsible for the death of one female passenger. The vessel sank in seven fathoms of water less than a mile from the shore and, 20 minutes after striking, was a total loss.

    The Aelous bound from Cape Town for Sydney went ashore on the Agnes Reef off Cape Banks on the morning of 2 September 1894. The crew were ordered to take to boats and they succeeded in landing near Mr Carrison's camp - Mr W. Carrison had guided the party by signals to a safe landing place. The site of the wreck was close to where the Admella was wrecked and where many vessels had come to grief ?the last being the Glen Rosa?.

    The Lurline, a coastal trading vessel, was wrecked near Beachport in November 1898. The captain was at the wheel when those on board felt her graze a rock and in another moment heard a loud thump when the rudder chains gave way. On looking over the side Captain Behn was astounded to see dry land and his cry went out, ?Hold on boys; dry land here.? The seas had evidently caught her just at the right moment and thrown her high up..

    The crew, all told were four in number changed clothes and came ashore when two of them made their way over the sandhills to Beachport where some residents were aroused and proceeded to the scene of the wreck... It was miraculous how the ship had escaped for she came through about a mile of surf and breakers and took the shore in a sandy spot. Fifty yards north or south the coast was solid rock and stood out into the water.

    General Notes

    The Governor's visit to the district is described in the Register,
    27 February 1856, page 2g.
    A vice-regal visit is reported in the Register,
    24 May 1879, page 6b and
    28 May 1879, page 6g.

    A comprehensive and informative editorial on the district is in the Register,
    27 December 1866, page 2f; also see
    18 June 1867, page 3d.

    Farms are described in the Register,
    8 December 1869, page 2e (supp.).

    A comprehensive series of articles conclude on 22 May 1869, page 2h in the Advertiser.

    The reminiscences of H.M. Addison, a surveyor of the 1860s, are in The News,
    3 September 1936, page 14g.

    "The South-East Fifty Years Ago" is in the Observer,
    10 and 24 March 1928, pages 55a and 69a.

    Notes on a visit to the South-East are in the Register,
    1 and 4 April 1871, pages 6c;
    some comments made by the reporter are taken to task by Mr Archibald Cooke - see
    19 April 1871, page 5d and
    1 January 1876, page 6b.

    "A Tour in the South-East District" is in the Advertiser,
    13 and 15 April 1872, pages 2d and 2e.

    A sea trip to the South-East and a description of towns and districts is reported in the Register,
    20 March 1873, page 2a (supp.) and
    2 April 1873, page 2a.

    The Lower South-East is described in the Register,
    3 and 11 February 1875, pages 6c and 7a,
    12 March 1875, page 5f.

    "A Trip to the South-East" is in the Advertiser,
    11, 12 and 14 October 1875, pages 5f, 5d and 5b.

    "A Holiday Trip to the South-East" is in the Chronicle,
    8 February 1879, page 5c.

    The Register of 4 May 1880, page 6c has an article headed "Jottings From a Holiday Note Book" -
    it discusses coastal towns and physical features.

    The area is also discussed in some detail in a series of articles in the Register in 1880 - see
    19 and 26 July, pages 5d and 5f,
    2, 9, 13, 17, 24 and 31 August, pages 5f, 5e, 5f, 5d, 5g and 5e,
    14 and 28 September, pages 5g and 5f,
    12, 23 and 27 October, pages 5f, 5g and 5f,
    6, 17 and 24 November, pages 6b, 6a and 6b,
    6, 20 and 29 December 1880, pages 6d, 5f and 5b.
    Also see Register,
    13 January 1881, page 5e. Also see
    10, 30 and 31 January 1883, pages 5g, 1a (supp.) and 1a (supp.),
    5, 10 and 15 February 1883, pages 5g, 1e (supp.) and 5g,
    19, 21, 23, 24, 27, 28 and 30 January 1885, pages 6e, 5e, 6a, 5h, 5g, 6c and 6a.

    "South-Eastern Jottings" is in the Advertiser,
    29 June 1885, page 6a.

    Land and places abutting the railway line from Adelaide are described in the Register,
    15 and 16 February 1886, pages 6a and 6b.

    "By Rail, Road, River and Rocks in the South-East" is in the Express,
    9 June 1886, page 6d.

    "A Trip Through the South-East" is in the Chronicle,
    26 May 1888, page 22f.

    "The Dairying District of SA" is in the Register,
    11 December 1888, page 7c.
    The conveyance of dairy produce to Adelaide is discussed on
    24 January 1893, page 4g and
    6 February 1893, page 5a.
    Also see South Australia.

    Dairy Farming in the 19th Century

    (Taken from an unpublished manuscript by Gepffrey H. Manning titled "A Social History of the Lower South East in the 19th Century".)

    For many years dairying was carried on what was called a "cockatoo scale" until the lectures and writing of Mr Hugh Walpole, who was dispatched by Mr Fowler of Adelaide, roused the people of the South East into a knowledge of the advantages of cooperative dairying and he can be described as the father of factory butter and cheese making in the district. He demonstrated in a scientific, yet intelligible way, the capabilities of limestone pasturages and peaty country for dairying, and in many ways lent invaluable aid to the establishment of one of the most important industries in the colony. Strange to say he was, with all his undoubted theoretical knowledge of dairying, a poor practical manager and left the South East for Victoria, where he died in the early 1890s.

    He established the pioneer factory near Umpherston's Caves in the 1880s but it was not as successful as some that came later. It was the first in the field of manufacture on the American factory principle and to show the farmers that a good living could be made for the greatest part of the year. There were two other small factories in the district the one at Compton being managed by Mr Spurge. Pig breeding was combined with these operations producing about 130 lbs of cheese daily.

    The dairy factory at OB Flat was started in a small way by Mr Parriss in a primitive building and, as the owner modestly remarked, was "decidedly flat and required improving in many ways," and it was concluded that a man who could toil away almost single-handed, and with such primitive buildings and appliances turn out a weekly average in the 1888 season of 1,300 lbs of good factory cheese, deserved to succeed. He had a splendid herd of cows and purchased additional supplies of milk from local farmers at four pence a gallon.

    At Lucieton, the Tantanoola factory was operated by the afore mentioned Mr Walpole and he purchased 400 gallons of milk daily from surrounding farmers. The first consignment of cheese was received and opened on Thursday, 16 December 1886 at the rooms of Messrs Sandford & Co., Currie Street, in the presence of the city merchants and leading grocers.

    In January 1887 a meeting of farmers was held in the Murrimbum school house, five miles from Millicent by those interested in the formation of a cheese factory company, when a number of questions were asked of Mr Walpole. The factory was established in the same year under the management of Mr J. Legg and it became the largest and most complete establishment erected on the factory system in the colony, processing about 800 gallons of milk daily. Five miles beyond Millicent towards Mount Muirhead the Millicent Dairy Company's factory was managed by a Mr Noble.

    The Boobec Bacon Factory was alone in the district and did business principally with the Adelaide market on an extensive scale. In the early days when pigs were scarce their buyers crossed the border for a supply, but this changed following the arrival of cheese factories when waste products were utilised in pig farming.

    Early in 1886 complaints were received in regard to the facilities provided for the transport of dairy produce from the South-East and reports were requested from the station masters at Millicent, Tantanoola, Mount Gambier and Penola. It was alleged that butter from Penola became tainted because it was put in the same refrigerator as fish, but the Central Agricultural Bureau dismissed the suggestion because only one application had been made for Penola produce to be refrigerated.

    Potato growing

    "A Midsummer Run Through the South-East - The Potato Supply" is in the Advertiser,
    25 January 1889, page 5d,
    "Industrial Occupations" on
    29 January 1889, page 5e,
    "Resources of the District" on
    5 February 1889, page 5e,
    "Operations of the Land Board" on
    12 February 1889, page 6a.

    During 1872 Messrs Fidler & Webb imported from England a few pounds of a new variety of potato named 'sutton's red skin Flourball? and it was said that it had proved to be free from disease, kept well and had splendid cooking qualities and in the 1874 season it proved to be an excellent cropper in the Mount Gambier district when it was estimated that 12,000 tons were raised in the district out of which 9,000 tons were exported bringing to the community about £30,000. It was found by experiment that the only bar to successful potato culture, the frost, could be avoided by planting in November. Indeed, one acre of potatoes was reckoned as six acres of wheat under the cultivation clauses of the Lands Act and many of the farmers took advantage of this and put potatoes in instead of cereals.

    By 1885 nearly all vacant allotments facing the principal streets grew potatoes and the owners got out of the tubers a great deal more than the rates they had to pay but, by 1889, the industry was considered to be a speculative enterprise because for one owner of the soil, who put in his own crop, there were at least 20 growers who did not own a foot of land on which the "farinaceous beautues were brought to fruition".

    For example, Dr Browne at Moorak rented certain paddocks for the potato season at about £3 per acre. Some gentlemen speculators secured this land and got it cropped at about £1 an acre - then took the risks of the season and stood by and awaited results. They might have expected a good price but, as in many seasons past, the plants were cut down by frost compelling them to quit their meagre crop to the local distillery at a little more than what they paid for putting the seed in the ground.

    About 830 acres of the Moorak estate were leased by some 20 growers whose holdings were from 20 acres upwards, the following being the principal ones: G. Janeway, A.B. Sinclair, W. Berkerfield, W. Bailey, V. Stuckey, D. McArthur, S. Earl, Pegler, W.H. Renfrey, T. Williams, J. McNamee, R. Wallace, Edwards, J. Sinclair, W. Peel and O'Neill. The holdings at Yahl amounted to about 800 acres and were worked by Messrs Ruwoldt, W. Hay, C. Blune, T.H. Williams, John Lange, D. Buchanan, Joseph Lange, Norman, senior, Messrs Hill, W. Umpherstone, Lehmann, C. MacArthur, A. Smith, Kannenberg, J. Umpherstone, W. Mitchell and Nitschke.

    OB Flat growers occupied 400 acres and they were G. Norman, Davis brothers, A.C. Spehr, G. Coutts, J. Smith, Laube, W. Spehr, O. Spehr, A. McLean, P. Hay, J. Parvis and J. Schinkel. At Compton there were 250 acres held by J. Frew, T.H. Williams, J. Hay, J. Powell, Honan, Sasinowsky, J. MacFarlane and Collins, while at Square Mile there were Vorwerk brothers, Unger, and Patzel brothers

    Another class of grower was the working speculator who secured a piece of land and with the aid of, perhaps, his sons, got in his crop and either sent it to market himself or sold it in the ground to local buyers. The buyers again were two classes - the trading dealer who supplied the Adelaide market regularly, or the speculative dealer who gave a certain sum per acre for the whole crop, took the risk of the yield and stipulated for delivery in bags at the railway station in the quantities required. He sent either truckloads to the Adelaide merchant or to the agent who auctioned them weekly.

    In 1885 there was a glut in the market and loads taken down to Port MacDonnell for shipment were actually cast into the sea because the Adelaide agents required a cheque to be forwarded in advance to cover any costs of sales that would not cover the expense of sending them to the metropolitan market. The principal potato fields were at Moorak, OB Flat, Yahl, Compton and Square Mile. At Millicent there were only about 300 acres, grown principally on the ridges thrown up from the drains

    In the 1880s the land in the potato districts of Yahl and OB Flat was worth about £40 per acre, while some nearer the town changed hands for a higher price but it was evident that the grower was plagued with seasonal difficulties:

    This situation was remedied when Messrs Bagot and Krichauff pressed Parliament for amendments to the relevant Act of parlliament following which local growers congratulated them "in pressing it on to a safe conclusion in 1885."

    "The Industries of the South-East" is in the Register,
    12 August 1889, page 7c.

    A cycling holiday in the South-East is described in the Register,
    19 February 1890, page 6g.

    "Our South-East Country" is in the Register,
    7 and 20 May 1891, pages 6f and 7a.

    "The South-East - Its Industrial Resources" is in the Chronicle,
    31 December 1892, page 5g.

    "A Visit to the South-East" is in the Register,
    4, 10 and 11 January 1893, pages 5h, 6c and 6d,
    "The South-East Revisited" on
    28 September 1908, page 4h,
    "A Venetian South-East" on
    9 August 1909, page 3g,
    "The South-East - Some Impressions" on
    15 and 25 March 1911, pages 8d and 8a.
    The obituary of Mrs Elizabeth Plunkett appears on
    18 September 1925, page 9e.

    "Birds of the South-East" is in the Register,
    6 March 1906, page 7f.

    "Verdant South-East" is in the Advertiser,
    21 October 1911, page 23f,
    4 and 11 November 1911, pages 17d and 23f.

    "Memories of the South-East in the Late 1860s" is in the Register,
    19 and 28 September 1925, pages 10f and 10f,
    3, 16, 21 and 31 October 1925, pages 7d, 7a, 7e and 15g,
    4, 12, 21 and 27 November 1925, pages 15e, 11e, 12g and 10h,
    2, 10, 15 and 24 December 1925, pages 15d, 13g, 18d and 10f.

    "Easter Holiday Tour" is in the Register on
    27 April 1926, page 11a,
    "Early Days in the South-East", the reminiscences of Mrs Kate Cumming, on
    28 April 1926, page 12b,
    1 May 1926, page 7g.

    Articles on the district are in the Advertiser,
    2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 September 1927, pages 14b, 10a, 16e, 14a, 14h, and 14c.

    "The Early Pioneers - Recollections of a Government Surveyor" is in the Register,
    3, 20, 24 and 28 March 1928, pages 7g, 3a, 5a and 9a.

    "South-East is Caravan Country" is in the Advertiser,
    26 January 1934, page 14e.

    Snake Gully - Springton
    Place Names



    "A Journey to the South-East With Sheep in 1859", by Clement Giles, is in the Observer,
    14 June 1924, page 47a.

    "The South-East Mail Robbery" is in the Observer,
    13 February 1858, page 4b,
    "Bushranging in the South-East" is in the Chronicle,
    2 April 1859, page 2e.

    "Squatting in the South-East" is in the Register,
    10 October 1864, page 3e.
    For an essay on SE squatters see under South Australia - Miscellany - Squatters and Pastoralists.

    Kangaroo hunting is described in the Register,
    21 November 1864, page 3b.

    "The Grievances of the South East" is in the Register,
    13 September 1865, page 2g,
    "The Claims of the South East" on
    5 May 1866, page 2e.

    "The Route to the South-East" is in the Chronicle,
    13 July 1867, page 3a.

    A description of a sheep dip on Mr Riddoch's property, Yallum, is in the Register,
    20 October 1868, page 2h; also see
    27 October 1868, page 3d.

    Flax Growing in the South East

    In 1864 an experiment in flax growing was conducted by a Mr Gardiner, "at Dr Wehl's' when he sowed one pound of flax seed when the yield was about 101 pounds of seed, while the straw was of good quality. A few years later Dr Wehl commented that he had cultivated flax in the past but discontinued it because of the lack of a colonial market:

    At a meeting at Robe in June 1872 it was resolved that it was desirable to "bring under crop from 10 to 15 acres of f lax as an experiment" and for this purpose a a company was formed. Accordingly, the Robe people applied to the government for the use of land between Baker Range and Clay Wells where about 40 acres were planted in late 1872.

    At the same time at Mount Gambier the local agricultural society wrote to the secretary of the Chamber of Manufactures for a supply of seed which was distributed by the firm of Fidler & Webb. However, by 1874 the Adelaide distributor was informed that a 775lb. consignment of seed was " very dirty" and the farmers were loth to pay for it and, further, a conclusion had been rerached that there was no economic future in the growing of flax because of persistent attacks by grubs.
    (Border Watch, 5 February 1864, 20 June 1868 15 & 19 June 1872, 21 February 1874.)

    An editorial "Adelaide and the South-East" is in the Register,
    22 June 1869, page 2d; also see
    1 July 1869, page 3c and
    10 September 1869, page 2d.

    "How to Secure the Trade of the South-East" is in the Register on 6 October 1869, page 3a.

    "Drainage Works in the South-East" is in the Register,
    23 June 1869, page 2e,
    9 May 1871, page 6f,
    29 June 1871, page 5a,
    23 September 1871, page 5a,
    22 and 25 February 1873, pages 2c and 2g,
    11 March 1873, page 2g,
    Farmers Weekly Messenger,
    5 February 1875, page 10a,
    20 January 1877, page 6a,
    21 August 1877, page 4c and
    "Draining the South-East" on
    1 December 1902, page 6d.
    Photographs are in the Chronicle,
    20 January 1917, page 30.

    Draining the Wet Lands

    (Taken from an unpublished manuscript by Geoffrey H. Manning titled A Social History of the Lower South East in the 19th Century.)

    A colourful story is behind the decision to construct a drainage system in the South East and for more than 60 years after it commenced it was a pool of discord and, as late as 1932, public meetings of protest were called. At this time it was said that the residents there were in doubt as to whether the district belonged to Victoria or South Australia, but to them drainage was as necessary to their part of the colony as water was to the northern districts and they believed that incalculable benefit could be bestowed on the country by works carried out by the government.

    A chain of sandhills extended along the coast with only one break between Port MacDonnell and Robe and that was at Rivoli Bay. The land was higher and bolder to the north than on the south and, from the existence of an island and reefs, was considered to be a more likely place to afford shelter to vessels. Accordingly, parliament fixed it as a site for a port. Adjoining them was a chain of lakes forming the lowest series of flats into which the district was divided. These lakes were generally salt on the seaward side from the percolation of the ocean through the sandhills, and fresh to landward, owing to extensive fresh water springs discharging into them continually.

    About 1865, before the drainage of the flats commenced, it was contemplated to drain these lakes in a manner similar to those drained in England and Holland. The scheme would have been perfectly feasible in several places, but it was found that the bottom consisited, generally, of pipe clay or soft limestone which, when drained, would have had little value for agricultural purposes.

    It was during the famous zigzagging Ministerial tour of 1864 that the Hon. W. Milne conceived the bold project of forming an outlet for the immense accumulations of water by which the marshy country was maintained. The Surveyor-General reported that the idea was not only practicable but easy of accomplishment, Nature having provided peculiar facilities for the drainage of the country.

    The plan to drain the whole of the South East is credited to different minds. The late Mr W.A. Crouch had a general store at Rivoli Bay South - named Grey Town - then a thriving port with jetties, hotel and great shipping stores; he is often called the "father of the scheme". In the early 1860s Mr G.W. Goyder, Surveyor General, took it up warmly and Mr W. Milne, the Commissioner of Crown Lands, was the political sponsor and saw it through parliament. In the course of preliminary discussions it was suggested that the drains should be made to serve the purpose of canals, thus giving water communication, with the assistance of the Coorong, from Mount Gambier to the Murray.

    At that time, from Salt Creek southward the area of the South-East was equal to 7,600 square miles and in every wet season one half of it was under water. The depth of the water varied from one to six feet and some of it was never dry, while many swamps extended from four to six miles. It was argued, therefore, that any drain sufficient to carry off that immense body of water must, practically, be navigable. Further, it was concluded that, to perfectly drain the district and lead the water to its natural outlet, it would be necessary:

    On this subject, of course, there were dissenters and Mr R.D. Hanson decidely opposed the suggestion of forming canals and, with regard to the value of the drainage scheme, he stated that 250 square miles of country was likely to be benefited by the works currently in progress, while Rev J.E. Tenison Woods at Penola declared that the reclaimed land would be highly valuable.

    A surveyor, H.M. Addison has left us with a vivid description of the wet lands prior to drainage:

    The approved scheme consisted of two parts; one to drain the northern end of the district withopenings at Maria Creek to discharge into the sea, and the other at Salt Creek to be utilised as an outlet into the Coorong, after emptying the vast Marcollat Swamp. The second part of the scheme dealt with the water of the lower south east and the main chaneels were, according to the plan, to be navigable and, had the ideal been reached, Millicent would have been its own port. The northern scheme was, after a small cutting at Maria Creek, practically abandoned for half a century.

    Objections to the scheme were raised at once and the grounds of dissent were:

    The last of these objections, reading like the fiery prophesy of a fanatic, was one that actually came off because the deep peat soils at Rendelsham did get alight and burned for about 12 years until they were exhausted in their pipe clay beds.

    The first experiments proved satisfactory and a sum of £5,000 was placed on the Estimates - in the succeeding session the legislature was less generous - only £2,000 being appropriated, but their parsimony, as was proved later, was no bar to the progress of the operations.

    The southern scheme began in 1863 and, in October of that year, the cutting at Narrow Neck into Lake Frome commenced. The channel was 528 feet long, 12 feet wide and 4 feet deep and carried a great body of water through, but had to be enlarged at a later time.

    The first camps were like a gold rush for their miscellaneous collection of humanity. Miners from the goldfields, the unemoployed from the city, stranded professional men, sharpers, actors and human flotsam and jetsam crowded into the the hitherto uninhabited lands looking for high wages.

    Before the close of 1865 the work was well in progress and the scores of farmers, who had been induced by the sanguine representations of the Surveyor-General to cast, even at that early period, covetous eyes towards the country as being a "Land of Goshen" in disguise, were assured that very soon their desires would be realised. Indeed, at first, the land was deemed to be a failure and agitation arose for a reduction of price.

    The Catt Surrender Act was then passed and this permitted those who had not paid for their land to surrender it for reoffer following which most "surrenderers" got their land back at reduced prices.As for the working conditions of the labourers one of them opined that:

    During 1867 there was a great dearth of employment and the government, in their extremity, shipped scores of clamorous applicants to Rivoli Bay, where an occupation was found readily for them at Milne and English Gap and the descriptively named Pinchgut Gap which was delayed by shortage of provisions. The scheme was deemed sufficiently advanced by 1871 to offer the town and farm lands for auction and the sale was held on 7 December 1871 when the farm land was sold under the Strangways Act (Dutch auction). Each lot was put up at £6 per acre and, if not sold, offered at a reduction until it reached the irreducible minimum of £2 per acre.

    In 1872, the House of Assembly appointed a Select Committee to visit the district and report on reclaimed land following the completion of certain drainage works. Embarking on the SS Penola, Captain Snewin proceeded to Guichen Bay, arriving some 18 hours later when he anchored about half a mile from the jetty. Later, the party was taken by teams and vehicles to the drainage works:

    At the same time a humorous anecdote relating to Afghan labourers was abroad:

    As for settlers on reclaimed land at Pompoon Swamp an opinion was ventured that:

    In 1875 several farmers on drained lands in the Millicent district were charged by the police for burning peat on their properties in contravention of the Bush Fires Act. Following representations being made to the government that, if this was to be prohibited during the dry weather, it would be a great hardship to the residents of drained lands and entail them in heavy losses. They contended that no damge could result from the practice provided reasonable precautions were taken by the burners, as peat burned slowly and without a flame. Accordingly, in its wisdom, the government instructed the police not to interfere with the offenders, holding that it did not come within the definition of "stubble, hay or grass" as stated in the Act.

    In 1876 the vessel Lightning arrived at Port Adelaide and the plight of some of the passengers, who were dismissed from working on the drainage scheme because they were unable to cope with the labour, was debated in public by the alleged offended parties and the drainage contractors:

    The contractors responded a few days later:

    In a lengthy editorial on the subject the Border Watch concluded that it was "perfectly monstrous... when 30 new arrivals, who had never handled a pick and shovel, were dispatched to cut drains in the South East; most of them without blankets and some of them in carpet slippers."

    As for the disgruntled men some of them arrived at Mount Gambier and were found board and lodgings by Mr Varley for two nights following which they were supplied with blankets and sent to look for work, three of the eight being successful. They were mostly young men; one, a school master, could not do manual labour and they all complained that they had been misled as to the character of work they were coming to. A second batch arrived a few days later in a sorry plight, having neither money or blankets and an opinion was passed that it was absurd to send mechanics and factory hands to work in drains.

    At the same time one of the contractors had another matter to bring before the public in respect of a wine shanty at Hanging Rock::

    Later, in 1876, Mr Boucaut was of the opinion, after inspecting the country from the north end of Lake Hawdon towards Lacepede Bay, that artificial drainage would certainly improve the land but, except for some exceedingly rich patches south of Lacepede Bay, it would only be fit for pastoral purposes. By this time 24,691 acres of land had been reclaimed and the average price obtained was £2.17s, the highest price being £8-0-6d and every one looked forward to it as an agricultural El Dorado that was to rescue the infant townships from the depression that had enveloped the settler. However, much of the reclaimed land was unsuitable for wheat growing although County Grey, in which much of the drained land lay, yielded in 1876 a high average crop of wheat and showed an increased area under cultivation of 7,000 acres.

    In 1879, a laudable attempt was made to reclaim thousands of acres of swampy land lying useless in the Hundreds of Robertson and Naracoorte but, owing to local opposition, and some misunderstanding, the Bill was shelved. The proposal was to drain Bool Lagoon, Garey's Swamp and other land and make them fit for agriculture and pastoral purposes. About 18,000 acres would have been reclaimed and surplus water would have been taken off an area five times greater in size.

    The plans were drawn up by Mr T. Hindley, and the proposal to form a company favourably received, about half the required capital of £50,000 being subscribed readily. The government gave its sanction to the scheme and all went merrily for a time until opposition came from farmers around Lake Ormerod, for they had commonage rights and objected to being disturbed by the drainage company, or anybody else. They petitioned Parliament and, with support forthcoming from the squatters, the Bill was shelved, but revived in the 20th century:

    By 1880 £167,000 had been spent on the project and the total of drained lands taken up on credit was 57,176 acres and sold at an average price of £3-0-10d per acre, but not including lands last reclaimed in the Narrow Neck and German Flat areas. It was a most singular fact that about one third of the selectors in the last named areas were the very people who burned their fingers in taking up the first of the drained lands and the explanation for this was quite curious. They took up the new lands with the deliberate intention of giving their present exhausted farms a rest, and then throwing up whichever selection proved the least profitable.

    Those who knew the country best never thought the land under the permanent swamps would grow wheat. But it grew grasses so luxuriant that those who took it up for pastoral purposes were more than satisfied with their bargain, although the price paid was a stiff one. The experience of one settler might be considered of interest:

    However, in other areas the prospects were much brighter such as in the vicinity of reclaimed land near Millicent:

    But again, a dissenter was present in the form of a farmer, Mr W. Foster, who spoke disparagingly of reclaimed land in the vicinity of Millicent:

    But this economic progress was not accomplished without accusations of mismanagement by the government:

    "Picturesque History of South-East Drainage" is in The Mail,
    25 June 1932, page 16e.

    Farms are described in the Register,
    8 December 1869 (supp.), page 2e.
    A suggestion to establish an experimental farm is canvassed on
    17 January 1870, page 3b.
    See Place Names - Millicent.

    "Communication in the South-East, Land, etc" is in the Register,
    6 July 1870, page 6e.

    An informative letter headed "Opening of the South-East District" is in the Register,
    9 December 1870, page 5d.

    "Harbours in the South-East" is in the Register,
    19 April 1871, page 5d - see essay above.

    "The South-East and its Requirements" is in the Observer,
    6 June 1874, page 4e.

    "South-East Farming" is in the Chronicle,
    5 April 1879, page 5b.

    "Rabbit Parties in the South-East" is in the Advertiser,
    7 December 1882, page 5g,
    "Rabbits in the South-East" on
    15 June 1886, page 6d.
    "South-Eastern Frozen Rabbit Trade" in the Observer,
    28 April 1900, page 2d.

    "The South-East New Caves" is in the Express,
    21 July 1885, page 3f.
    Also see Place Names - Naracoorte.

    Forestry in the district is reported upon in the Register,
    21 April 1885, page 5h.
    "South-East Forests - Great Future Predicted" is in the Register,
    15 December 1925, page 11a.

    Forestry in the South East

    (Taken from an unpublished manuscript by Geoffrey H. Manning titled A Social History of the Lower South East in the 19th Century.)

    South Australia was the pioneer State among the Australian group to undertake the work of government afforestation - a subject on which the people generally exhibited a strange apathy, notwithstanding its vital importance to the whole population. As late as the 1870s colonists were allowed to slash about the woods to their heart's content and, until the early 1880s, there was no effort made to protect our few forests and, accordingly, most wanton destruction occurred.

    Upon payment of a small sum any person could be licensed to cut as much timber as he pleased, to leave as much refuse as he liked. It was illegal to light fires in the open air except under stringent regulations, but it was common practice with settlers in scrub and timbered country to ?have a good burn? whenever the weather was dry and warm enough. The effect of all this was that all young trees were killed and the old ones gradually destroyed.

    Mr. F.E.H.W. Krichauff rendered a distinct service to posterity when, on 7 September 1870, in the House of Assembly, he moved for reports on the best size of reserves for forest purposes, where they should be made, the best and most economical means of preserving the native timber on them, and of planting and replanting the reserves as permanent state forests. All other states were endowed by Nature, but this colony was, to a large extent, covered with stunted eucalyptus and other species of little or no commercial value, interspersed with comparatively small areas of good quality red gum, blue gum and stringy bark.

    Reports were called for and, on 10 November 1875, a forestry board was appointed while, in 1876, Mr J. Curnow was nominated as nurseryman at Wirrabara and Mr C. Beale at Mount Gambier.

    At the same time arrangements were made to bring Mr J.E. Brown from England as our first Conservator of Forests. He arrived in 1878 and, within 10 years, there were 32 reserves extending from Mount Gambier to Quorn and varying in size from 160 to 50,000 acres, while six million trees had been planted on them and 300 men employed. Some plantings had taken place during the two years preceding his arrival and it was then that Pinus Radiata was first suggested as a possible commercial species. Mr E. Smith, a nurseryman, was one of the first to realise its commercial value and he, no doubt, was impressed by a specimen seen in the Botanic Gardens.

    To South Australia is due the credit of demonstrating the commercial possibilities of Pinus insignis, or Monterey pine, and, it is interesting to note, that in 1878 forty acres were planted at Wirrabara Forest and, in 1881, thirty acres at Mount Gambier. From that time on pine forests were developed and milling commenced first at Wirrabara in 1902 on a 25 year stand. This mill operated continually from that date until it was closed in 1935, all available stands of millable timber having been cut out.

    It was not until 1910 that the full value of Pinus radiata was realised, chiefly because of its quick growing qualities. From that time the annual planting of that species increased until about 1924 when private enterprise became interested. Subsequently, a Royal Commission found that Pinus radiata could supply about 65 per cent of Australia's softwood requirements and that South Australia could plant, with safety, 3,000 acres of that timber annually, "of which about 2,500 acres should be in the South East."

    In the South East the prevailing indigenous trees near the coast were Banksia marginata, Casuarina quadreivalis and several species of Melaleuca - all indicative of poor and swampy soil. Some of the ridges were covered with stringybark and the margins of the running swamps had a few redgums, but as a rule the banksias (honeysuckles) were the principal trees. As the higher lands were reached, especially towards Naracoorte, between there and Mount Gambier, and from that line up to Border Town, there were a great number of gum trees of various kinds and of good height and girth.

    On the extensive sheep runs, which were nearly all enclosed with sheep-proof fences, the landscape was parklike with numerous trees growing a short distance apart and very little undergrowth to interfere with the grass. Over some hundreds of square miles beyond Mount Gambier near Dismal Swamp, the tall, straight-stemmed, noble gums had been killed, probably by some beetle, and, strange to say, there were no seedlings came up to take their places.

    There were innumerable tall blackwoods and a considerable number of black wattles. The soil was sandy to a depth of about two feet and here, as well as an immense area around Mount Gambier, the bracken fern grew thickly to a height of three feet or more, preventing the growth of grass and all useful herbage. The sparse population, combined with the fact that nearly the whole of the South east had been "gobbled up" by a few sheep farmers resulted beneficially so far as the preservation of timber was concerned.

    In September 1873 Mr Goyder, accompanied by Mr Smith, a nurseryman of Adelaide, made an inspection of the Lake Reserve, including the Botanic Garden Reserve, with a view of selecting a spot to plant forest trees. At this time he selected a place for a nursery and, during his return to Adelaide, visited Mount McIntyre and Mount Burr where he selected sites for a second and third reserve.

    The forest reserves near Mount Gambier were sown with more than 200,000 trees in the last few years of the 1870s and were principally eucalyptus, pine, catalpa, planes, elms and oaks, while the forest reserves at Millicent and Mount Burr were in an embryonic state. In 1885 there were about 46,000 acres of land reserved for forest culture in the South East - Mount Gambier, 250; Mount Burr, 14,742; Mt Muirhead Flat, 573; Glen Roy Flat, 8,150; Mundulla, 1,020; Border Town, 8,150; Cave Range, 5.345; Penola, 8,769; Mount McIntyre, 5,966.

    The Mount Gambier reserve was situated on the southern slope of the extinct volcano, including the Leg of Mutton Lake and a nice sheltered valley where the nursery propagated indigenous and exotic trees. In 1884 1,000 plants were put out; they were Pinus insignus with a few eucalyptus and only 700 survived. The following year the whole reserve was planted with about 63,000 eucalypts of various kinds, 11,000 oaks, 8,000 pines and a miscellaneous lot of catalpas, planes, Queensland box, ash, cork elms, etc. The ravages of opossums, hares, wallabies and kangaroos necessitated regular plantings each year to offset the losses.

    The forest was in charge of Mr Charles Reade, well known formerly as a gardener to Mr G.S. Fowler. His residence was perched on the top of a rise above the lake and regular visitors were members of the local gun club seeking permission to hunt game and animals within the forest and, considering that in one year Mr Reade killed 300 opossums, 200 hares and 50 kangaroos they "?lways had a fair chance for sport".

    The Mount Burr Reserve contained valuable forests, chiefly stringybark, and a thick undergrowth of shrubs, etc. in which kangaroos and wallabies were abundant. They were very destructive to the young trees, especially the golden wattles, that grew readily from seeds thrown on the ground.

    The Mount McIntyre reserve included some excellent land upon which covetous eyes were laid by some who seemed to think that every piece of good land in the colony ought to be sold to the farmers. It contained some 6,000 acres and its little nursery was hemmed in by a rabbit proof fence which, however, was put up so loosely in parts that no "bunny with the least enterprise" would be deterred for a second by it from forcing his way into the toothsome little trees.

    A large proportion of this reserve was a natural habitat of red gum and the growth of this tree was encouraged by the system of natural regeneration. In suitable spots it was intended to form small plantations of exotics, protected by a vermin fence of wire netting four feet high. Here, in excess of 16,000 trees raised in the Mount Gambier nursery were planted including, Pinus austriaca, oaks, cork elms, poplars, Catalpa species, etc., and about 70 per cent survived. The great drawback was the want of thorough drainage and it was expected that a main drain being constructed through the reserve as a part of Mr Goyder's plans to drain the Millicent and Mt McIntyre flats would alleviate the situation.
    Also see South Australia - Industries - Rural, Primary and Secondary - Forestry.

    "By Rail, Road, River and Rocks in the South-East" is in the Register,
    5 June 1886, page 7f.

    Information on cheese factories is in the Advertiser,
    3 January 1887, page 7d.
    "The Dairying District of SA" is in the Register,
    11 December 1888, page 7c.
    Also see South Australia - Industries - Rural, Primary and Secondary - Dairying.

    A letter headed "A Voice from the South-East - Disgust and Secession" is in the Advertiser,
    3 April 1888, page 6e.

    "Agriculture and Horticulture in the South-East" is in the Register,
    16 December 1889, page 6d,
    5 April 1890, page 6b.

    "Resources of the District" is in the Express,
    5 February 1889, page 3d.
    "Industries of the South-East" is in the Observer,
    17 August 1889, page 9b.

    "On the Wheel in the South-East" is in the Register,
    19 February 1890, page 6g.
    "Popular Cycling Tours" is in the Register,
    24 December 1897, page 6c,
    "The South-East - A Cyclist's Paradise" in the Chronicle,
    13 April 1901, page 39.

    "Our Inheritance in the South-East" is in the Register,
    2 July 1892 (supp.), page 1a,
    23 July 1892 (supp.), page 1a.

    "The South-East - Its Industrial Resources" is in the Advertiser,
    16 January 1893, page 7a.

    "Storms in South-East - A Fall of Frogs" is in the Chronicle,
    10 March 1894, page 22g.

    "The Bunyip of the South-East" is in the Register,
    6 October 1893, page 5c,
    7 October 1893, page 31e.

    "In Search of Oil" is in the Observer,
    27 February 1896, page 30d,
    14 March 1896, page 14e.
    "Oil in the South-East" is in the Register on
    27 and 28 June 1921, pages 5f and 4f,
    1, 2, 4, 7, 13 and 19 July 1921, pages 3f, 10a, 3f-g, 8h, 3d and 6e,
    18 April 1924, page 3a,
    "Oil Prospects - Remote in South-East" on
    24 February 1926, page 6a.
    Also see Place Names - Coorong and South Australia - Mining - Petroleum.

    "Garden of the Colony" is in the Express,
    6 January 1899, page 4b,
    "Garden of the State" in the Register,
    26 November 1902, page 5d; also see
    15 December 1902, page 6h,
    30 March 1903, page 6e.

    "The South-East - Its Products" is in the Chronicle,
    29 June 1901, page 21b,
    "The South-East - Where Is It? Whose Will It Be" on
    13 July 1901, page 26b.

    "Should We Hold the South-East - A Question for Taxpayers" is in the Register,
    13, 15 17, 20, 22, 27, 29, 30 and 31 January 1902, pages 6d, 6g, 6a, 6c, 6a, 6c, 6e, 6a and 4d-6a, 5 February 1902, page 7h,
    18 July 1902, page 4d,
    10 and 13 September 1902, pages 8a and 10e,
    12 July 1905, pages 4d-7a,
    26 January 1906, page 5d. Also see
    8 July 1914, pages 8c-13g.

    "South-East Trade" is in the Advertiser,
    27 August 1902, page 5h,
    "Closer Settlement in the South-East" on
    26 April 1904, page 7c,
    "What Is It Doing for the South-East" in the Chronicle,
    28 May 1904, page 34c.

    "Racing in the South-East" is in the Advertiser,
    28 June 1904, page 9a.
    Also see South Australia - Sport - Racing.

    A fox hunt is described in the Register,
    10 February 1903, page 7i (See South Australia - Sport - Fox Hunting).

    "Stage Notes From the South-East" on
    21 October 1905, page 4d,
    "The Garden of the South" on
    4 November 1911, page 8d.

    "South-East Industry - Oatmeal and Leather" is in the Advertiser,
    10 January 1906, page 9b,
    "The Outlet for Trade" on
    12 January 1906, page 6d,
    "The Future of the South-East" in the Chronicle,
    20 January 1906, page 39.

    "Rabbits, Old Age and Other Things" is in the Register,
    9 July 1914, page 11a.

    "Shall We Hold the South-East" is in the Register,
    8 July 1914, pages 8c-13h.

    "Shall We Lose a Province" is in the Advertiser,

    10, 12 and 13 April 1916, pages 9a, 7a and 5a.

    "South-East Racing in the Early Days" is in the Observer,
    22 March 1924, page 24b.

    "South-East - Need for Development" is in the Advertiser,
    2, 3 and 30 December 1929, pages 10f, 9b and 6e.

    "South-East Development" is in the Advertiser,
    12 July 1937, page 18d.

    Snake Gully - Springton
    Place Names



    Also see South Australia.

    Coaching Days in the Lower South East


    In the early days of South Australia an "overlander" was a hero in the eyes of less adventurous people who stayed at home and "kept shop" in Adelaide and contiguous villages. It was true that pioneers had ventured as far as Echunga, Mount Pleasant and other places in the "bush" The overlanders' slouched cabbage tree hats, leather belts, long stock whips and leather "strapped" and "seated" trousers, the black "cutty" pipe and, above all, their long hair, unkempt beards and bronzes faces, distinguished them from the smug, clean shaved, white-neckclothed merchants, clerks, artisans and others who, at that time, followed the absurd fashions of the old country. What a change occurred by the close of the 19th century.

    Within the colony of South Australia in the 1840s the creaking bullock dray was the sole transport available and by the turn of the century many colonists, in the prime of life, could remember the days when railways and sleeping cars were unknown and where:

    When the diggings started at Bendigo in 1852 a great number of South Australian rushed off by the overland tracks. Some used horses but the majority took bullocks and drays. To reach the El Dorado more quickly a number took the track through the Long Desert or as it was then called the Ninety Mile Desert, beginning about 10 miles east of Wellington on the River Murray and ending near Border Town. Between the river and the commencement of the desert was an open space known as Cooke's Plains consisting of fairly good arable soil and at the edge of the desert was the "Twelve-mile" where water and the first camp, or halting place, was made. Beyond this, at intervals, were wells and swampy springs. To travel from Adelaide to Wellington in four days was considered exemplary and from there to Border Town a bullock driver was happy if he got through within another five, whilst a good many took from a fortnight to three weeks to travel between Adelaide and Bordertown.

    Reminiscing in 1898 a colonist proclaimed that:

    By the close of the 19th century the largest and oldest surviving establishment of its kind in Australia was Hill & Company, whose Adelaide headquarters were in Pirie Street and originally opened by William Rounsevell in 1844:

    Some of the "staging posts" could only be described as primitive, one being described as follows:

    One of the longest and most difficult of the many lines was that of Adelaide to Port MacDonnell, a distance of some 600 km (about 350 miles). Accordingly, it was little wonder that some people "could not muster the courage to undertake the journey more than once in a dozen years", for by the time they reached their destination "every bone in their body must have been shaken." It was no light responsibility to be the driver of a team of six or eight horses attached to a crowded coach through the Adelaide hills and across the swampy wastes of the Coorong and the lower south east.

    Coaching in the South East

    For a resident of Adelaide the South East was as remote as a foreign country. Indeed, in the early days one could not help feeling that Melbourne, rather than Adelaide, held the greater influence. It was, however, a lone land for it was about two day's hard travelling from either metropolis. The mails took 48 hours by coach and anyone who made the journey was not anxious to repeat it.

    An alternative means of transport was available by sea. The traveller, therefore, had a choice of evils; he could be tossed about by either sea or land and neither could be recommended, for on land there were only ordinary bush tracks, in the wet season up to the axles in water in many places; and on sea a small steamer of about 250 tons, when exposed to the long wash along the coast was able to dance about with great liveliness and vigour.

    In 1852 the Government stopped the mail runs; they were renewed partially in the following year, but it went "no further than McIntosh's", leaving the township at Guichen Bay completely cut off and it was said with a grim foreboding of events to come for many decades:

    In 1866 the Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Tenison Woods, who had been domiciled in the Penola district for a decade or more, feared that unless important and extensive alterations were made to mail arrangements and passenger convenience the south eastern district would become in all but name a Victorian Province:

    In the early days most people dealt with Adelaide for it then took from five to six days to communicate with that place and the same with Melbourne but, in 1860, they got communication with Melbourne in three days and at about the same time MacDonnell Bay had opened up. From that time Melbourne was all but exclusive as a place of business:

    In evidence at committee of enquity, Mr J. D. Sutherland stated that most of the residents were Victorians; their family connections were there and business relations were carried on with Portland and Hamilton. There were no inducements held out by Adelaide business people or by the Government of SA. Dr Browne of Moorak agreed and said that his labour was almost entirely from Victoria.

    In the summer of 1867 a trip by mail coach from Adelaide to Mount Gambier was described in the following terms:

    However, contrary to this apparent uneventful excursion, the horrors of south eastern roads were vividly impressed on those who travelled along the mail routes of the 1860s during the winter months. A breakdown was no rare occurrence but, in June 1869, one incident was particularly aggravating. The mail from Adelaide was doing the night stages between Lacepede Bay and Naracoorte when it was overtaken by a succession of storms of rain that "rendered the swampy tracks still more swampy and the dreary prospect still more dreary":

    The mail coach, with four or five horses, would be loaded with passenger and luggage and commence ploughing its way through mud and water and an occasional sandy or limestone ridge. It was impossible to keep the timetable and, consequently, night travelling was unavoidable. The driver was required to be a patient, careful, even-tempered and resourceful man with a thorough knowledge of the track.

    Stopping places were few and far between; the pace was slow and, owing to the rolling and lurching of the coach, an experience akin to seasickness was not unknown among the passengers. In some watercourses the water at crossing places would, on occasions, be over the floor of the coach, but those parts of the track most dreaded were the "gluepots", a succession of deep holes full of sticky pipeclay mud and, here and there, a broken pole had to be replaced sometimes. Sleep for the passengers was out of the question and the discomfort had to be endured in silent misery:

    I had been informed that the road along the Coorong was frightfully rough going over boulders for miles, the stone being up to nearly two feet in height... I occasionally got a nasty bump on the back of my head through the top rail of the coach coming violently forward whenever we went into a rut across the track. The most disagreeable thing on the whole journey was the flights of 'midges', as the driver called them, which every now and then assailed us in myriads.

    These did not sting, though they made a noise like the singing of mosquitoes, but they were so thick I could catch a dozen by simply making a grasp through the air, and they settled in hundreds on my hair, got into my eyes, nose and ears and made me generally miserable. I tried to wrap my head in a pocket handkerchief, but was very glad to get it untied again, for they began to crowd in thicker than before. The other nuisance proceeded from the carcasses of 3,000 sheep scattered along the road, portion of a huge flock of 10,000 which was being most indiscreetly travelled in one mob. There was scarcely any feed for the poor animals and water was even more scarce and the driver is reported to have been unacquainted with the locality and drove the famished animals past the wells.

    Let us accompany an apprehensive passenger on a coach trip to Naracoorte via Kingston in 1875:

    In the coaching days, four and a half days were consumed in the transmission of mails from Adelaide to the South East; later it was shortened to about 45 hours and, following the opening of the railway in 1887, the distance could be traversed in about a fourth of that time. By 1887 there was no doubt that the sympathies of the people were largely with Melbourne. This was not their fault, but due, in part, to their geographical position and the neglect of the legislature of that part of the colony.


    When the first combustion engines snorted so fearlessly upon our roads in the early 1900s few people saw in the nauseous clouds of vapour a future network of bitumen roads in South Australia crowded with motor cars. The saving of time and money made possible by motor transport became so apparent as the years rolled by the horse was gradually relegated to the background. Hill & Co ceased to run coaches in about May 1921 when the mail coach to Gumeracha was withdrawn from service.

    Possibly the last man to drive a coach in South Australia was Mr Frank Adams who spent 50 years working for John Hill & Co and Fewster & Co and in May 1932 he was to be seen constantly on the streets of Adelaide driving an old landau for Duncan & Fraser Ltd to direct attention to new and old methods of transport.

    General Notes

    "Mail Coaches in the Old Days" is in the Observer,
    10 and 31 March 1928, pages 55b and 17c.
    The bogging of a mail coach and its aftermath is reported in the Register,
    28 September 1868, page 2f; also see
    11 June 1869, page 2e.

    Information on a proposed railway is in the Register,
    28 November 1865, page 2c,
    8 and 28 October 1867, pages 3a and 2d.
    See notes Mount Gambier, Kingston and Penola.

    The "South-East Railway Scheme" is discussed in the Register,
    25 and 26 August 1868, pages 2h and 2d. Also see
    3, 6, 10 and 27 December 1869, pages 2e, 3d, 2b and 3d;
    1, 3, 8, 11 and 26 January 1870, pages 6e-f, 5e, 6a, 7a-b and 4d;
    4 and 12 February 1870, pages 5f and 6b,
    3 October 1872, page 4e.

    An amusing letter entitled "Letter from Mother Adelaide to her S-E Daughter" is in the Register, 29 August 1868, page 3d;
    it alludes to the railway problem; also see
    21 December 1868, page 2d.

    The bogging of a mail coach and its aftermath is reported in the Register,
    28 September 1868, page 2f; also see
    11 June 1869, page 2e.

    Internal communication in the South-East is reported on in the Register,
    26 April 1871, page 6b, while a mail coach trip between Kingston and Naracoorte is described on
    14 August 1872, page 5c.

    A report on ports is in the Register,
    3 July 1873, page 6c.

    A coach trip from Adelaide is described in the Register,
    9, 10, 13 and 30 January 1883, pages pages 7a, 5g, 1a (supp.) and 1a (supp.).

    "Broaden the Gauge - The Isolation of the South-East" is in the Register,
    7 July 1914, page 8g.

    Snake Gully - Springton