History of Mount Barker

by Jean Trigg and Majorie Robertson

This document was originally compiled in 1950 by Jean Trigg and Marjorie Robertson (then school teachers at Mount Barker Primary School) from information they collected from The Archives, Diaries held by local residents, Mt. Barker “Courier”, Minute Books, Adelaide Newspapers, and Old Residents.  They considered that it was by no means a complete record, but that they had done their best with the material available.

The following transcript was from a type-written copy of the original unpublished manuscript which was made available by Don Goldney of the Mount Barker branch of the National Trust of South Australia from documentary material originally collected by Dick Mills and contained in the records of the branch.     [Tony Finnis (Nov/Dec 2014)]


First Ascent of Mount Barker

The Mount was ascended for the first time by white men in early Dec. 1837, when a party of five rode their horses to the summit.  The members of the party were John Morphett (afterwards Sir John), John Barton Hack, Samuel Stephens, John Wade and another man whose name is not recorded.

The object of the trip was to look for a river said to run north to south beyond the Mt. Lofty Ranges and incidentally to track some cattle belonging to Hack that had strayed from the foothills near Adelaide.  They took with them a guide and sufficient provisions for one day.  They reached the river now known as the Onkaparinga, followed it for 3 or 4 miles and crossed it.  Country became more level, soil richer, and they decided to proceed and investigate further.  After leaving the river 6 or 7 miles behind then they saw from an eminence Mount Barker some 4 miles ahead.

From the top of Mt. Barker looking westward they could see the country through which they had travelled “an undulating lightly wooded tract of luxuriously pastured country”.  Looking southward they beheld a gently sloping undulating expanse falling towards the lake.  John Morphett wrote a description on Mt. Barker in a thunderstorm.

A few weeks later (in Dec. 1837) another party consisting of Robert Cock, Pastor William Finlayson, G. Barton and A. Wyatt climbed the Mount while on a journey of discovery from Adelaide to Lake Alexandrina.

The first to make use of the district were the overlanders, who, in 1838, began to arrive in South Australia with livestock from N.S.W.  Finding the country near Mt. Barker well grassed and watered they were glad to keep their herds there for a time to recuperate from the long journey.

Captain Sturt and Capt. John Finnis adopted this course in August, 1838.

By the end of 1838, a number of people were “squatting” in the district, i.e. they occupied stations to which they had no legal title.  Among these were Capt. Finnis, Messrs. J.B. Hack, Fen, Bourchier, Scott, Jones and Milne.

Early History

The Mount was first seen by Captain Charles Sturt during the course of his famous boat journey of 1829/30 down the River Murray.  Sturt sighted it on Feb. 9th 1830, upon entering Lake Alexandrina, but he believed it to be Mount Lofty which Flinders had discovered in 1802 from the deck of H.M.S. “Investigator”.

Mount Barker was next seen in 1831 by Capt. Collett Barker of 39th Regiment who had been sent by the Governor of N.S.W. to examine the east coast of St. Vincent Gulf in the hope of finding some other outlet for the waters of the Murray River than the disappointing one discovered by Sturt.  While engaging on this duty Capt. Barker landed near Port Noarlunga, struck in land along the Mt. Lofty Ranges, and on April 19th, 1831 ascended Mt. Lofty.  Here he gained a view of the Mount which Sturt had confused with Mt. Lofty.  Barker reasoned that just as this feature shut off his view of Lake Alexandrina, so it would prevent Sturt from seeing Mt. Lofty from the lake.

On reading Barker’s report, Sturt admitted his mistake and named the Mount after Capt. Barker. (The native name for Mount Barker according to Teichelmann & Schurmann’s vocabulary was ‘Womma Mu Kurta’, and according to Capt. Francis Davidson’s diary, ‘Yaktanga’).

Eleven days after seeing the Mount, Barker was killed by natives at the Murray mouth.  The frequent statement that he ascended Mt. Barker is incorrect.

First Survey and Land Sales

For two years after the establishment of the Government in South Australia, the district remained unsurveyed and anyone who chose to do so could pasture his herds and flocks in the splendid country without paying rent.

The first survey and sale of land in the district was affected as part of the Mt. Barker Special Survey.  Under Special Survey Regulations the Govt. would, upon receipt of £4,000 survey 15,000 acres in any specified district, laying out the land in 80 acre sections.  Upon completion of the survey, before the public could be allowed to purchase allotments, the person who paid £4,000 and had applied for the survey would choose 4,000 acres.

This was a valuable privilege and made the Special Survey system popular with investors.  The Mt. Barker Special Survey was the first of 40 which were granted in various parts of the colony.  On Jan. 11th, 1839 application was made for this survey by William Hampden Dutton, who, probably attracted by the favourable reports of the overlanders, came from Sydney to S. Aust. arriving on Dec. 26th 1838.  Partners with Mr. Dutton in this venture were Capt. John Finnis and Duncan McFarlane.  (According to John Dunn’s memoirs they were financed by Thomas Walker of Sydney, who became a millionaire in later years).  A few hours after Dutton’s application was lodged at the Land Office, the well known John Barton Hack also tendered £4,000 for a survey in the same locality and he was deeply chagrined to learn that he had been forestalled, for he was squatting on the site of the future Mt. Barker township, and did not appreciate the prospect of having to more on.  Mr. Hack, however, later applied for a special survey of land to the south west, embracing the site of what is now Echunga.

The sections of Mt. Barker Special Survey were laid out under the supervision of F.R. Nixon, who in 1842, erected the windmill west of the town on Windmill Hill.  On Nov. 5th 1839, a plan of the survey was exhibited for public information in the Land Office.  For the selection of their 4,000 acres from sections which embraced the present sites of Mt. Barker, Littlehampton, Hahndorf, Blakiston and Ambleside, Dutton and partners were allowed until Nov. 26th.  The remaining land was open to purchasers at £1 per acre.  In the notice of sale there appears the following intimation, “The rising German Village of Hahndorf which forms part of the Mount Barker property ensures to purchasers a supply of most valuable domestic agricultural labour.”

The German settlers referred to in this notice arrived in S. Aust. On Dec 28th, 1838, in the “Zebra” under the command of Captain Hahn.  They numbered 189 souls and came from Silesia, seeking under the British flag, freedom of worship and those opportunities which a newly established colony seemed to offer.  W. H Dutton apparently visited Capt. Hahn on board the “Zebra” in Holdfast Bay, saw and approved the immigrants and offered with commendable generosity to put them in possession of allotments of land, rent free for 12 months.  Other concessions were also made and the offer was accepted.  The history of the district proves that Dutton’s estimate of these settlers was in every way justified.  Their industry did much in the development of the Mount Barker district.

A Township Planned

In Feb. 1840, Dutton, McFarlane and Finnis announced their intention of laying out the township of Mt. Barker, and of offering for sale the 4,000 acres selected by the syndicate from the Mt. Barker Special Survey.

Their plans were outlined in the following advertisement which appeared in the S.A. Register for Feb. 22nd, 1840.  “The proprietors have selected one 80 acre section, beautifully situated, abundantly watered and commanding a full view of Mt. Barker and the surrounding country, as the site for the township of Mt. Barker.  An experienced surveyor has been instructed to divide the township into 1/2-acre allotments with the necessary reserve for churches and school.  The three 80 acre sections immediately adjoining the township are to be divided into 5-acre allotments, to the purchase of which, preference will be given to owners of ½-acre allotments in the township, who will this have an opportunity of obtaining in addition, as many useful fields as they may desire and the privilege of back runs attached to the sections.  The remaining portion of this fine estate consisting of 43 sections of 80 acres each, all well watered, of the richest soil and chosen with a view to securing to each extensive back runs, will be disposed of singly or together as the purchasers may offer.”

The streets of the town were named after prominent colonists: - Gawler, Morphett, Dutton, Maine, McFarlane, and Finnis being among them.

The first house in the town was a pise dwelling built by Duncan McFarlane on the bank of the creek below the present Roman Catholic Church.

And Township

Captain Sturt, when bringing cattle overland from N.S.W in August 1838, wrote that, in his opinion, the district greatly exceeded in richness any part of Australia he had seen, and even in England he had seldom seen a closer sward or more abundant herbage.

In 1840, when John Dunn passed through the country where the township of Mt. Barker now stands, he thought it the most enchantingly beautiful spot he had ever set foot or eyes upon.  It had the look of a well kept park, there being no undergrowth brambles, briars or thorns.  There were scores of lovely trees beneath which grew a thick carpet of kangaroo grass, while tufted crowtoe flourished among it.

At this time there were no houses on the Mt. Barker township site: Messrs. Hillman, Disher and Chas. Dunn were the only people at Nairne.  Mr. DIsher had a few acres under wheat – the first crop John Dunn had seen in S. Aust.

An entry in Archive Research Notes states that in November 1840, it was estimated that 500 acres were under crop, also that there were about 20,000 sheep and 2,000 head of cattle in the district which was then supplying Adelaide with much of its timber and dairy products.

In 1844, Margaret May, writing to an aunt in England, says “A shoemaker has opened a shop at Mt. Barker, so with a steam mill, a blacksmith, a wheelwright and young ladies’ seminary, we stand a fair chance of having a township near us.  I wish someone had charity enough to name it.  It is so awkward and unimaginative to call it Mt. Barker Township.”

The following description appears in Francis Dutton’s “South Australia” in 1845.  “Visitors to the colony from India and elsewhere who commonly resort to Mt. Barker to be refreshed by its verdant scenery and cooler climate, find large hospitality and English comforts at the abodes which welcome them.  Wheat, barley, oats, maize and potatoes are extensively grown, dairy cows and flocks of sheep are kept, bacon is much cured, and the quality of land substantially fenced for all rural purposes is very considerable.  Attached to this survey and commanding a majestic view is the site of the township.  It is the county town of the District and contains a Courthouse, where a bench of magistrates assembles once a week, a Police station, a School, a Steam Flour Mill, an Inn and some private dwelling places.  The population increases and the stone buildings assume a respectable appearance.  Mr Duncan McFarlane is the principle resident.  His substantial and handsome barn is the most conspicuous erection.”

In the Register – Jan 27th, 1847, appears the following letter to the editor from “a traveller”.  “Mt. Barker township and its immediate neighbourhood, with its Devon-like climate, its picturesque appearance, extensive views, rich land, abundant and excellent water, is not to be equalled in the province.  The last stone of its large Scotch church was laid last week.  Pise walls are giving place to more substantial buildings.  A conspicuous stone tavern is under construction, a grocer’s, a draper’s shop nearing completion.  A Primitive Methodist Church has been contracted for and a house for the minister.  The Rev. Storr is to reside there.  A tanner and currier will be in full swing in two or three months.”

In 1866, (Extract for S.A. Gazetteer)  “There are two flour mills in the township, Dunn & Co.’s and A. Wedd’s.  On the Mt. Barker mineral reserve, nine miles from the township, are several copper mines.  Communications with Adelaide is by Rounsevell’s daily line of mail coaches.  Mt. Barker has a post and money order office, telegraph station, branches of National Bank and S. Aus. Insurance Co., a local court, a public pound, a Forester’s Court, Oddfellow's Lodge, and a volunteer rifle corpsThere is a Church of England, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Church, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Chapels, a literary institute and three hotels.  (Mt. Barker, Oakfield and Gray’s Inn).  There is no regular carrying office, but several carriers ply with horse vans to Adelaide.  The population numbers about 1,000 persons, and the number of dwellings about 150.  Wheat is the common cereal crop, almost every house has its fruit and vegetable garden.  The vine is cultivated more extensively than formerly and produces good wine, but the climate is generally considered too variable to make it other than a precarious vintage.”


Occasionally, though not often, the natives were troublesome.  In March, 1843 for instance, 15 blacks from River Murray tribe attacked Lawson’s station at Mt. Barker.  They bound the shepherd, struck and stunned a little boy with their waddles, and robbed the hut of £50 worth of guns, flour, tea and sugar.

Two months later, complaints were made of a growing tendency among the blacks to plunder houses from which male inhabitants were absent.  The Mt. Barker tribe, which numbered 300 blacks, was concerned in, or about, 1845, in a conflict with the Wellington tribe.  A battle took place on Windmill Hill, and was fought with spears, boomerangs and waddies.  After some hours, a detachment of police arrived and dispersed the warrior.

Margaret May writes of occasional visits paid to “Fairfield” by natives who were shy quiet and never troublesome.  They were grateful for gifts of food or clothing.  The women frequently wore a covering of possum skins sewn together with sinews, while men and children wore only a loin cloth.


The earliest form of transport between Mt. Barker and Adelaide was the bullock dray.  The route lay along the spurs of the hills for the gullies were impassable.  For some years there was no road and the track was too rough and steep for horse drawn vehicles.  In the winter the drays had to be pulled through bogs and as many as twelve bullocks would be yoked as a team.

The journey from Adelaide by bullock dray took at least 2 days and the drivers carried axes for removing felled timber from the track, and spades for freeing the wheels when they sank in the wet soil.  Half a ton was the maximum load carried.

For sometime after settlers arrive in the Mt. Barker District no attempt was made to establish a regular carrying business.  When Joseph May wanted to transport his family and possessions from Adelaide in October 1839, he had to buy his own dray and 4 bullocks.

Mrs. Coleman, who was Lucy May, when interviewed by a reporter from the “Chronicle” in Nov. 1924, gave a graphic description of the hazards of their first journey over the hills, thus, “My father, three brothers and two sisters started off with the first load.  The goods were loaded on our own dray, drawn by four bullocks.  The track taken was straight up what is now known as the Green Hill, but was then called the Big Hill, and on reaching it, my sisters had to alight and half the goods and cases had to be unloaded and carried to the top by members of the party.  It took two hours to get everything to the top, and when they were a few miles further on, the cart at one spot, rolled right over.  They covered about eleven miles the first day.  On the second day, they  accomplished fourteen miles in thirteen hours, with one more upset; nine times during the day they had to fasten logs behind the dray going down hills to prevent it running onto the bullocks.  As the route was so unsafe, my sisters had to walk all the way.  They arrived at their journey’s end at about 11 o’clock on the morning of the third day.”

In 1840 - when John Dunn wanted to visit his brother Charles at Nairne, he could find no transport from Adelaide, so had perforce to walk and accept a drover’s offer to act as a guide in return for assistance in droving.

In 1841 - an attempt was made to establish a regular carrying business by a Mrs. Sturdock, a widow who kept and inn at Nairne.  Her teams were the first which came over the hills and formed the one means of obtaining supplies from Adelaide.  Two men started on Monday with six or eight bullocks in a dray, carrying their blankets and provision with them, and if they accomplished the return trip by the end of the week, their load intact, they were well satisfied.  People still walked to Adelaide.  Provisions only were carried in drays.

In May, 1842 - A. Deacon attempted a weekly service for the conveyance of passengers, parcels and mails to and from Mt. Barker.  His spring cart left Adelaide on Thursday mornings and returned next day.  The fare was 7/6.  Decon did not receive enough support to cover expenses and he abandoned the service after a few unprofitable weeks.

In Jan, 1843 - A Mr. Bell from the Nairne district organised a weekly service.  His dray with goods and passengers on board, left the Victoria Hotel, Hindley Street at 9 o’clock each Tuesday morning.

Mount Barker Road

The lack of a main road was severely felt.  As early as April, 1839, interested persons drew the attention of the Government to the importance of the district, its position on the overland route and the need for a good road.

In Jan. 1841 - work was begun, but it was a laborious and costly piece of engineering for those days, and when, after a few months the Government found it impossible to continue, the principal settlers in the Mt. Barker district decided to go on with the work at their own expense, hoping to recompense themselves to some extent by levying tolls on those who used the highway.

In July. 1841 - the Great Eastern Road Act was passed vesting the road in certain trustees and empowering them to levy tolls, but the proceeds from this source were barely sufficient to meet the upkeep of the small portion already built, and a negligible balance for continuing construction.

In 1844 - therefore, the Government then resumed control and completed the work in the following year.

From 1841-1847 - tolls were levied at a bar placed across the road at Glen Osmond – the old Toll-house still stands there.  The toll system was abolished on Dec. 1st, 1847.

In his memoirs, John Dunn tells of the great difficulties he was confronted with in attempting to transport goods to and from Adelaide before a road was constructed.

When his mill was in good running order, he started a general store for which supplies were brought from Adelaide by bullock dray.

The Onkaparinga River was a great obstruction.   Drays .... [missing sentence due to photocopying]   On one occassion, the driver misjudged the depth of the water and the dray capsized and the goods were washed away.  On another occasion, a Norwegian driver, while he waited for the flooded waters to go down, felled a tree which formed the first bridge across the Onkaparinga.

Goods were often dumped out of drays and lost in transit.  John Barton Hack was at one time carting cheese and other dairy produce to Adelaide, when the dray was overturned and his load scattered on the wayside.  Some cheese rolled into a gully and was not recovered until weeks later.

Again, Mr. Dunn described the almost insurmountable difficulties he met in carting from Port Adelaide to Mt. Barker, a second boiler required for his steam mill.  Twenty-four bullocks and three drivers were employed and they were accompanied by a cart drawn by two strong horses and laden with blocks, pulleys, crab-winches, planks, chains and other aids – all of which were required on several occasions during the journey.

But despite all available equipment, disaster overtook the project, for the axle of the dray stuck in a stump and broke in two, and the boiler rolled down the gully, where it remained for several days until a scheme was devised to shift it.

At about this time (1844-5) the first regular mail service was established between Mt. Barker and Adelaide, the contractor being Mr. Lubach, a publican of Hahndorf.  His daughter walked from Hahndorf to collect the mail, and Mr. Lubach took it on to Adelaide, using two Timor ponies harnessed to a small cart he had brought from Germany.  He did the journey to town the one day and returned the next.  He did this fortnightly.  John Dunn one day met him coming from Adelaide; he had smashed a wheel but in its stead was a long sapling made fast to the shaft, passed under the axel and trailed on the ground behind.  So Her Majesty’s Mail went trotting along as merrily as if nothing was amiss.

In later years and prior to the construction of the Hills Railway, the only regular and rapid means of communication between Hills’ towns and the city was Her Majesty’s Mail which was run first by Rounsevell & Co., then by Cobb & Co. and later by Hill & Co..

The coaching stables were situated where W Jacobs and Co.’s bacon factory now stands.

The railway between Adelaide and Mt. Barker was opened in Nov. 1883, whilst that from Mt. Barker to Strathalbyn was opened in Sept. 1884.

Early Settlers

Duncan McFarlane

Came to S. Aus. From Sydney in company with W. H. Dutton in the brig. “Portland” of 546 tons, arriving on Dec. 26th, 1838.  He retained some of the land acquired by the syndicate, of which he was a member, under the Mt. Barker Special Survey, and for some years he continued to run sheep and cattle.  He built the first house in the district and later it seems, built a butcher’s shop at the end of what is now Kia-Ora Street, and supplied the early settlers with meat.

When he moved to Tatiara in 1845, he sold the butchering business to a man named Greenfields.

John Barton Hack

And his brother Stephen were farming at Western Flat between Mt. Barker and Echunga when the May family arrived at “Fairfield”.  They lent their bullock drays to transport Mrs. May and their young children from Adelaide and gave them hospitality on their first night in the district.  Stephen Hack had told them that he had a fine house so they were surprised that numerous cracks in the walls afforded full view of the landscape beyond.  Barton Hack's barn was the first Meeting House of the Quakers.

A close friendship was formed between the two families.  Margaret May make frequent reference in her letters (1843-45) to Mr. & Mrs. Stephen Hack.  Apparently neither was strong enough physically to stand the rigours and deprivations of pioneering.  Bad times overtook them and they left the district for Adelaide in 1845.

Joseph May

With his wife and eleven children left Gravesend in the ship “Anna Robertson” (448 tons) on May 27th, 1839, and reached Glenelg on Sep. 21st.  Glenelg at this time was merely a signal station, there was no jetty so sailors carried the passengers 30 or 40 yards through the surf.  Neither was there a vehicle available to carry them to Adelaide, so Mr. May and his two elder sons had perforce to walk.  In Adelaide they soon contacted Messrs. Rowland & Flaxman, general agents and secured the necessary bullock wagon to bring the rest of the family to Halifax Street where a house had been rented from them.

On Oct. 17th, 1839, Mr. May, 3 sons and 2 daughters left Adelaide for Mt. Barker to take possession of a farm (80 acres) purchased from Mr. Oscar Lines.  Possessions necessary for the trip and the first settling-in, were loaded on to their own cart drawn by 4 bullocks, and after numerous mishaps the property was reached on the third day.  Mrs. May and the rest of the family and possessions were transported later in October in a bullock-dray lent by John & Stephen Hack, who farmed the adjoining property near Mt. Barker.

In the few days that intervened Mr. May had worked hard to make the existing “huts” habitable for his family – five small slab huts clustered together like a tiny village were their first abode.  Here they began their colonial life – farming, gardening, dairying, all putting their shoulders to the wheel, even the small girls.

Mr. May who had been a chemist in England, had little knowledge of farming though he had always been keenly interested in gardening.  When the plan to emigrate to Australia was first considered he sent his oldest three sons to learn farming with a practical farmer.  Acorns bought from Hertfordshire were planted on the Mt. Barker property, now called “Fairfield” and grew into wonderful trees, the admiration of the district until they were ruthlessly cut down by a later owner.  Many different sorts of fruit as well were as ornamental trees were imported from England and Tasmania, for gardening continued to be Joseph May’s hobby, when he had time to spare from the farm work.

In the year 1845, “Fairfield House” was begun and finished 2 years later.  Built in the old English farmhouse style, two-storied with lattice windows and wide French doors.  It was a stately home in its day and for many years one of the showplaces of the district.  Its hospitality was widely known especially among the Quakers of the colony, for whom it was always a meeting place.

Two sons, Frederick and William, bought the adjoining sections in about 1850, built a house together with a few acres now known as Pine Farm.  Between the two properties on a site adjacent to the road the first Quaker Church was built and a plot of land set aside for a burial ground.  An iron railing enclosing several graves still remains on the site.  (many years later, this old church fell into disrepair and it was bought and demolished by Mr. Stephenson of “Brookbank”.  Two of the old seats are still used at “Brookbank” bedside the croquet lawn).

Their sons and daughters having married and left the district, Mr. & Mrs. May lived alone at Fairfield for some years, until in 1860 Mrs. May died, after which a daughter Mrs. Mackie came from Tasmania to reside with her father until his death in 1878.

The property passed to Mrs. Coleman, another daughter, who occupied it with her growing family for some years.  It was then leased to Dr. Cockburn (after Sir John) for a term, after which it was purchased by Mr. Greenwood, during whose ownership it was burnt tin 1905, and rebuilt as a single story house.  After changing hands several times it is now owned by Mr. Herbig.

Letters written to an aunt in England by Margaret May (a daughter of Joseph May, and afterwards Mrs. Geo. Phillips) during the years 1843-45, present an interesting picture of colonial life.  Although she declares the life on the farm to be “sober, mater-of-fact and unromantic” she gives graphic descriptions of everyday events and such unusual happenings as weddings, picnics, floods and bushfires.  The period covered was one of great hardship for all classes.  All  farmwork was done by hand, and when produce was plentiful it was frequently a drug on the market.  Money was short owning to low prices for wheat, butter and cheese.  A barter system was introduced but it was unsatisfactory.  The slaughtering of an injured bullock by her brothers and the subsequent bartering of meat is mentioned by Miss May as “unfortunately necessary”.

In 1844 - she writes of parrots and cockatoos eating the nectarines in the orchard and complains that although the fruit is very small the family would have enjoyed it.  In a later letter she says that her father has decided to transplant the peach trees to a more protected spot in the garden.  Also in 1844, she writes of the necessity of borrowing flour from a neighbour because of the windmill (Nixon’s on Windmill Hill) could not be worked in a very strong wind for fear of damage occurring to the structure and it refused to work in a light wind, with the result that their wheat was still unground after many weeks of patient waiting on their part.

In August, 1844 - she described the weather as dismally wet, and cold.  The wind penetrates brown paper plastered over cracks between slabs of the house.  It is impossible to keep candles alight so all must retire early.  She looks forward to a proper house, which her father proposes to commence building quite soon.  During this same year she makes frequent reference to the lack of bridges on the way to Adelaide and of damage caused by floods to the existing few.

In Dec. 1844 - she states that her brothers Fred and William have 40 acres of wheat and her father 60 acres, which they will soon being to cut by hand.  Merchants are buying wheat for export at 2/6 per bushel.

In Jan. 1845 - it is recorded, “William fetched some flour today from the steam mill, the first who have had ground there and very well done. The miller makes 47 lbs. flour, 12 lbs. bran to the bushel and charges 1/-, for 20 bushels or more the charge is 10d.  He has more than he can do with only one pair of stones, his wife is his Man Friday and his small son is stoker".

In July, 1845 - Margaret May writes that she visited a neighbour and took a pot of jam as a gift because for over a month they had had neither milk, butter nor cheese.

Captain Francis Davidson

Born Nov. 1799 at Scarborough, England, reached S. Aus. in the “Cleaveland” under command of Capt. Marley in July, 1839.  He purchased 5 sections of land surveyed under the Mt. Barker Special Survey and offered for sale by the Govt., and in March 1840, he left Adelaide with his family for his holding, which he named Blakiston after the family seat in England.

He also held land at the Bremer and sold his first clip of wool in Nov. 1840, at 11d. per lb. in the grease to Mr. Waterhouse.  He grew one of the earliest crops of wheat in the district.  The home he built in the early forties is still a residence and is now owned by Miss Taylor who purchased it together with 30 acres in 1945.

Captain Davidson was appointed a magistrate in 1840.  Both he and his wife were extremely hospitable, and according to his diary, guests entertained at his home at various times included Governor Sir George Grey, Measrs. Disher and Smille (both of Nairne), Duncan Macfarlane, Cleggett, Bull, Nixon and many others of pioneer fame.

Also at their home, Mr. Davidson conducted C. of E. service periodically.  His diary records that on Apr. 22nd, 1845, Colonial Chaplain (Mr. Farrell) came from Adelaide to baptise the children of the district and on May 16th, “Rev. Pollitt married a couple in our parlour, the first marriage in the district.  Their names were Mott and Cratwick”.

On October 3rd, 1846, Mrs. Francis Davidson laid the foundation stones of St. James’ Church, Blakiston.  Both Capt. and Mrs. Davidson were laid to rest in the churchyard of St. James’ and tablets in the church commemorate their memories.

A daughter, Elizabeth Ann, married the Rev. John Gower, for 27 years rector of St. James.  As a wedding gift, Capt. Davidson gave his daughter an 80 acre section of land on which in 1883, Mr. Gower had a house built, into which his family moved from the rectory.  The Rev. Gower died at age 86 in 1930.  His widow continued to reside at Blakiston until in her 90th year she went to Adelaide to live with her daughter, Mrs Ferres.  The property was purchased by Mr. W. A. Robertson.

John Dunn

Was born at Bondleigh, Devon, in 1802 – one of a family of 9 boys and 2 girls.  His father was a small farmer and his mother supplemented the family income by weaving blankets.  The strictest economy had to be exercised to feed and cloth the children and pay rent, tithes, rates and taxes.

He had very little schooling.  His first lessons were received from an old lady who sat a spinning wheel and directed reading and writing lessons for a group of small boys for one penny a week for each boy.  At the age of 10 he was hired out to work for a farmer at the weekly wage of sixpence, for which sum he toiled from daylight till 6 o’clock at night.  His ambition was to be a miller and he was subsequently apprenticed for seven years to the trade, receiving no wages, but food and clothing for his services.  Faithful apprenticeship resulted in his acquiring the management of a steam mill at Bideford at the weekly wage of 15/-.

In his 30th year he married but found that even with the additional earnings from a small dairy at which his wife assisted only small savings could be made.  Three of his brothers had taken up land in the hills in S. Aus. in 1839.  (Charles at Nairne, but later at Charleston which he founded and named, and George at Mt. Torrens where he subsequently laid out and sold the village).  Accounts they wrote of the new colony were so encouraging that John Dunn decided to follow them.

He left England with his wife and children in May 1840 in the “Lysander” and reached Glenelg in September after a voyage of 110 days.  According to the usual practice of the day, he carried his wife and children ashore as well as their worldly possessions.  In Adelaide he rented a small slab building in the parklands, where he established his wife and family before setting out to visit his brother Charles, then farming near Nairne.  No transport was available, but he learned that a drover was leaving for Nairne with a flock of sheep and in return for assistance in droving, would act as a guide.  This he contracted to do.  On the first night they reached Crafers hut, where they were bedded on dry grass in a shed and given rye bread to eat.  They went through Hahndorf and by mistake through the country where the town of Mt. Barker now stands.  He was enchanted with it.

At Nairne, Mr. Disher had a few acres under wheat, the first crop J. Dunn had seen in S. Aus..  After spending a few short days with his brother, he walked back to Adelaide, and for a short time had employment with Messers. Borrow and Goodiar who were building sheds at Port Adelaide, then he decided to purchase an 80 acre section at Hay Valley and erect a mill.  Accompanied by his eight year old son he set out on foot for Hay Valley, carrying his tools on his back.  His first task was to build a shelter, for which he cut reeds from a near-by creek, bunched them together and used them to form walls.  For the roof he used bark and reeds.  A well was sunk and water obtained at 20ft..  Vegetables were planted and two acres put under crop, a man from Balhannah having ploughed the land at £1 per acre.

Then work on the mill began, with the small son fetching carrying and holding as required.  It was built round a large tree which gave the necessary support as the building went up and subsequently was cut away bit by bit, until it was at a level required for the base for the mill stones.  The structure was composed entirely of wood, as also was most of the machinery, including huge cog wheels and spindles.  John Dunn describes the time spent in erecting his mill as the hardest eighteen months of his life.

It was the first mill in the district and was put into commission in May, 1842.  The coming of the mill was a great boon to local farmers, who previously could only have their wheat ground by carting it to Adelaide over rough mountain tracks.  Hahndorf farmers’ wives used to take loads of wheat to the mill in wheel-barrows.

Capt. Finnis was chiefly instrumental in persuading Mr. Dunn to start milling in Mt. Barker, and for this purpose Duncan Macfarlane, Dutton and Finnis each gave Mr. Dunn half an acre of land as the site for a mill.  Again Mr. Dunn and his younger son set out to construct a mill, leaving Mrs. Dunn and the smaller children this time to look after farm and dairy at Hay Valley.  The first covering for the mill-stones was a wooden shanty soon replaced by a good stone structure in the building of which Mr. Dunn was assisted by Mr. Rogers of Sandergrove.

The stone was quarried from the hill across the creek near the present railway station.  Mr Dunn burnt his own lime for building, and tanned the ?bolts?  He and his son John worked hard all day and slept in the boiler at night until a three roomed slab dwelling was ready for occupation.  One room of this humble earth ....  [missing due to photocopying] ....  a living room, and later on when the mill was in good running order as a shop.  (The first in the district and run by Mrs. Dunn).  The first church services ever held in the district were also held in this room.

Three months after the mill was begun in No. 1844, the first wheat was ground, this time by steam, the boiler having been imported from England through the agency of Mr. Elder in Adelaide.

The mill worked night and day during the season, Mrs. Dunn and son John taking one shift, 6p.m till midnight.  Surplus wheat grown in the district was purchased and the flour carted by bullock drays to Adelaide and sold to Mr. Elder.  For the first wheat, Mr. Dunn ever bought he paid 2/- per bushel and for the flour he received £5-10s. per ton.  In the year 1846, Mr. Dunn built a solid stone residence near the mill.  This is still known as the Mill House.

From these small beginnings the business grew until Messers. John Dunn & Co. became the largest milling firm in the colony, with 11 mills in operation, employing over 400 men.

In 1865, he built the “Laurels”, a splendid home surrounded by 150 acres of park-like land.  His wife died in 1870 and in 1872 he remarried, his second wife being Miss Williams.

In 1857, he was elected a member of Parliament and continued to represent the district until 1877.  He was a great townsman and benefactor.  The Dunn Memorial Church, a gift from him to the Methodists, Dunn Park with an endowment for upkeep and twelve Salem Cottages given to provide homes for needy women, remain fitting memorials to his greatheartedness.

He died at the “Laurels” in October 1894, at the age of 92.

John Bull

Was one of the earliest settlers in the district.  He farmed land situated between Blakiston and Mt. Barker Junction.  In 1840 he conceived the idea of a mechanical reaper.  He made rough drawings of a crude machine to demonstrate the principal of threshing a standing crop.

A committee was formed in Adelaide to discuss the possibilities of mechanical harvesting of wheat.  This committee offered a prize for the best model of an invention to do this much needed job, and later on in that year, thirteen such models were exhibited.  John Bull’s model was constructed by Walter Paterson of Mt. Barker.  However, the committee did not feel justified in recommending any of the plans for general adoption.  But as John Bull afterwards wrote, “There was one person present, neither on the committee nor an exhibitor, John Ridley, who approved my principal and afterwards adopted it.  A short time before the next harvest in 1843 he constructed a machine which embraced my ideas.”

That machine was John Ridley’s stripper – the machine which would revolutionise the harvesting of wheat in every country in the world – the forerunner of all power-driven grain harvesters.

Joseph Bull

Brother of J. Bull, had a farm near Littlehampton at a spot know as Bulls’ Gully.

Walter Paterson

Who arrive in the colony in Jan. 1839 was first employed by John Barton Hack at Echunga.  He, together with Mr. Lambert, took up land at Wistow, renting it from Messrs. Finnis and Dutton, who agreed as an inducement to settlers, to take their rent in kind, allowing tenants 5/- per bushel for wheat, or if the price went high, the tenants had the privilege of selling at the advanced price and paying their rent in cash.

Paterson is said to have grown the first wheat in the district.  He built John Bull’s model mechanical stripper which was exhibited in Adelaide in 1842.

Paterson descendants at the base of a sundial to mark the last resting place of Helen McGregor, wife of Walter Paterson, who died in 1842 at the age of 28 years.  The property is still held by the Paterson descendants.

John Kain, Higgins, Clancy & Murphy

Were among the first farmers in the district.  They rented one 80 acre section from Mr. Finnis on the Bald Hills.  They cultivated their section and pastured their flocks beyond, which was a concession allowed to early settlers.

Allan Bell’s bullocks conveyed these men and their possessions to Mr. Barker.  They all arrived and started farming at about the same time.

John Frame

Came from Glasgow in 1839 in the ship “Ariadne”.  On arrival in S. Aus. he was first employed digging trenches round the Customs House at Pt. Adelaide, but, descending from a long line of tenant farmers in Scotland, his aim was to acquire land.  He purchased a few acres at Unley and there grew his first crop of wheat.

In 1843 he came to Mount Barker and rented a section of the famous Bald Hills property from Capt. Finnis, but seeing no prospect of being able to buy it, he eventually purchased direct from the Government four sections at the Springs.  These sections have had no owner other than Frames.  In 1847 a fifth section was purchased from pioneer Murphy and on this land was built the homestead which, with additions and alterations through the years, has known five generations of the family – possibly a unique record in the District.

In 1847 John Frame was awarded first prize of 5 guineas for a sample of wheat weighing 66 ¾ lbs, per bushel, also first prize for barley.  These were the earliest awards for grain made by the Adelaide Agricultural and Horticultural Society.

He was also one of the five Mt. Barker farmers who contributed samples of wheat that gained first prize in the Great London Exhibition, in 1851.

The only son of the original owner, also a John Frame was killed in a road accident on Windmill Hill in 1876 at the age of 46.  His son the third John Frame, succeeded to the property (“Burn Bank”) in 1886, on the death of his grandfather, and for 63 years continued to farm it successfully.  He took an active part in affairs of the District.  For many years he was a Councillor and a member of the Agricultural Show Committee, also a life member of that society.

At his death in 1949, in his ninetieth year, the property was passed to his eldest son John L. whose two small sons representatives of the fifth generation, are now growing up in the traditions of the family – the older one bearing the name of John.

Benjamin Gray

Arrived in S. Aus. In the “Resource” in Jan. 1839, and took up residence at Blakiston soon after.  He was a carpenter and possessing ability to draw plans, was appointed architect, clerk of works, contractor and carpenter for the building of St. James’ Church, Blakiston.  He was one of the Trustees of the Church and was also chairman of the Mt. Barker District Council.

Friend Cleggett and his brother, Joseph

Came to the colony from Kent in 1838.  In 1843 they came to Mt. Barker in company with George Wedd and were employed fencing land immediately north of the township.  Instead of wages they received a lease of land with the right to purchase.

Their first crop of wheat was harvested in 1844.  Friend Cleggett later bought land near the Springs while Joseph continued to farm the sections first acquired which is now carried on by his sons and grandsons.

The Paltridge Family

Thomas Paltridge and his wife Mary, a sister of John Dunn, came from Oakhampton, Devon in the Ship “Phoebe” in 1846.  They were accompanied by four sons and two daughters and Julia Collins, finance of the oldest son, Thomas, aged nineteen, who, the night before the family embarked, informed his parents, much to their consternation, that Julia Collins was going with them to Australia – and this without the knowledge of her parents!  The somewhat spoiled only daughter of a well established miller, she promised to be more of a responsibility than a help in the adventure about to be undertaken.  However, the young couple were married soon after their arrival in S. Aus.

From Pt. Adelaide the family travelled by bullock dray and on arrival at Mt. Barker they occupied the three-roomed slab cottage at the mill, which John Dunn had recently vacated for the newly-built Mill House.

During the winter the creek near the mill on several occasions overflowed the banks and the water covered the earth floor of the cottage.  (One of Mrs. McKenzie’s most vivid recollections of her early days in Mt. Barker was having to stand on blocks of wood beside her bed while she dressed.  She was then, as Mary Paltridge, a child of seven.)

After a short time, the family moved to a cottage in Hutchinson Street, beside which the Temperance Hall was later built.  Thomas Paltridge was a bootmaker, and his soon Tom was apprenticed to this trade.  They started business immediately on arrival in Mt. Barker, but had difficulty in securing the leather they required.  They could only get what was wanted by walking to Adelaide to buy it, and invariably carried the load back to Mt. Barker on their backs.  Consequently they decided to tan hides for their own use.  They sank two large barrels in the ground which they used as tanning pits and they stripped the wattle-bark they needed from trees in nearby paddocks.  So they began the Mt. Barker Tannery on the same site as it occupies today.

Thomas Paltridge Snr. died in 1882, at the age of 83.  His wife pre-deceased him by a few months, also at the age of 83 years.

Thomas Paltridge Junior, purchased premises in Gawler Street where boots were made and sold, but the bootmaking soon became a secondary business to the tannery.  To supplement his income, Tom as a young man, walked to Adelaide on Saturday afternoons to play his cornet in the orchestra at the Theatre Royal and walked back on Sunday.  When his first wife died in 1866, he married Lucinda Brady, who with her mother, conducted a school for young ladies in Mt. Barker.

The property known as “Uplands” was later purchased and a delightful home built.  This remained in the family, having been occupied by two sons, Richard a bachelor and Frank with his family, until sold to Sir Wallace Sandford a few years ago.

John Paltridge

A second son of Thomas Senr.  Started a stock and station agency and auctioneering business in Mt. Barker, which at his death, was carried on by his sons Harry and Fred.

William Paltridge

Third son of Thomas Snr.  Married his cousin Elizabeth Dunn, daughter of John Dunn.  As her father refused to consent to the marriage the young couple eloped on horseback.  Reaching the home of a mutual relative at Kensington at daybreak they were married before being overtaken by the irate parent.  They lived in Adelaide until a few years later when they acquired a tract of country at Mt Gambier, where many of their descendants still live.

Mary Paltridge

Married Roderick McKenzie and like her two elder brothers remained in Mt. Barker until her death, at the age of 92 years.  In 1852, when her brothers all went off to Victoria in the great gold rush, Mary Paltridge helped her father plough the paddock where the Littlehampton brick kilns are now worked.  The wheat crop was a heavy one and brought £1 per bushel.  The brothers arrived back penniless, Tom having sold his Wellington boots for £5 to pay his expenses on the way home, and the money obtained for the wheat crop rehabilitated them.

Charles and Thomasina Dunn

Of Bondleigh Devon, parents of John, Charles and Henry Dunn of Mt. Barker, Charleston and Mt. Torrens respectively, and of Mrs. Thomas Paltridge of Mt. Barker, came to S. Aust. In 1947 to spend their last years with their sons and daughters.  They occupied a cottage near the present site of “The Laurels”.  Although they contributed nothing to the development of the colony, they are mentioned here as being possibly the oldest people who over migrated to S. Aus. in the very early days.

Charles died in June 1850 at the age of 80 and Thomasina in April of 1852 at the age of 81.  They were buried in the churchyard of the little Inverbrackie Church near Woodside and when the church and graveyard fell into disrepair, John Dunn and their son, erected a stone to their memories in Blakiston in 1890.

Victor Dumas

Born in England 1806.  Educated at Merchant Tailors’ School and at Cambridge University.  One of the pioneers of the Mt. Barker District, he arrived from Sydney in 1854 and followed the natural bent of his inclinations, namely the profession of teaching.

He was a man of great intelligence, well read and regarded as an authority on times, events and histories.  As a latin scholar he was probably unequalled in the colony.  He established a private school at Mt. Barker.  He died at the age of 76, in 1882.

James Coppin

Came to Mt. Barker in 1856 from Kent.  He was one of the first bricklayers in Littlehampton.  His son, James Alfred and later his grandson Alfred, carried on the business.  Three generations of his descendants still reside in the district.  Mrs Ernest Cleggett is a grand-daughter.

Rodrick Murdoch McKenzie

Born in Nova Scotia.  Came to Aus. in the late 50’s in the sailing ship “Highland Lass” in company with five McKenzie cousins, all of whom were seafaring men, some of them holding master-mariner certificates.

They sailed in their own ship from Nova Scotia, but hired an older and more experienced captain to accompany them to Australia giving him command.  He refused to accept a contract figure for the journey, preferring to be paid by the week.  The McKenzie’s son realised that time was being extended unnecessarily, so when they reached Durban in Sth. Africa, they got the man hopelessly intoxicated and sailed away without him.  At Melbourne Roderick McKenzie had to be taken ashore as he had become very ill.  From Melbourne he eventually came to S. Aust. and the others went on to New Zealand where they received a grant of land and founded a settlement even now referred to as “McKenzie Country”.

To fit themselves for colonial life each member of the party learned a trade before leaving Nova Scotia.  Roderick apprenticed himself to a saddler.  His first employment in S. Aus. was with a saddler in Adelaide, then he came to Mt. Barker in about 1858 to work with Mr. Hooper.  Later he started business on his own account.  He is reputed to have made the best saddles in the colony, but he never was a successful business man.

He married Mary Paltridge who had at the age of 6 years in 1846 arrived in Mt. Barker with her parents.  Their first home was a cottage in Hutchinson Street adjacent to the land that runs parallel to Gawler Street.  They subsequently acquired premises in Gawler Street where, after her husbands death in 1890, Mrs McKenzie continued to conduct a grocery business.  Roderick McKenzie was a foundation member of the Mt. Barker Institute.  His photograph hangs in the Founders’ Room.  He was always an enthusiastic townsman.

Thomas Henry Stephenson

Came to Mt. Barker in 1858, at the age of 21 to join his uncle Samuel Cook, who conducted a general store in part of the White House in Walker Street.  He eventually bought the business but removed to new premises at the corner of Gawler Street and the adjoining White House.  He added the two-story part to the White House which was then used only as a residence.  He later sold the business and commenced farming at “Brookbank” in conjunction with property at the Springs.

His photograph hangs among the founders of the Mt. Barker Institute.  He was for many years a Justice of the Peace, and a staunch member of the Baptist Church.  He died in 1914 at the age of 77.  His wife, who was Sarah Coleman, died in 1923.  A widowed daughter, Mrs. Fredk, Paltridge still resides at “Brookbank” and three sons own and farm the properties.

Charles Morris Dumas

Son of Victor Dumas, was born in Sydney on Dec. 18th. 1851.  He was educated at his father’s school in Mt. Barker.  At the age of seventeen went to Adelaide to learn the art of printing.

On Apr. 22nd. 1872, he opened his own printing office at Mt. Barker and 8 years later, Oct. 1st. 1880, issued the first number of the ”Courier”.  In 1898 he was elected to the House of Assembly as member for Mt. Barker.  He married Amelie, daughter of John Paltridge in 1883.  There were three sons and two daughters.  John Russell Dumas, a prominent engineer in W. Aus. and Sir Lloyd of Adelaide being second and third sons.  Charles Dumas died in Feb. 1935, at the age of 84.

Louis von Doussa

Born in Adelaide in 1850.  His parents were married at St. James’ Church, Blakiston in May 1847, which marriage was the first solemnised in that church.  He was educated in Adelaide and on the completion of his schooling he was articled to Mr. Bonnar a Lawyer at Strathalbyn.  At the age of 21 he was admitted to the bar, and in the following year 1872 came to Mt. Barker to practise law on his own account.

He married Miss Agnes Bowman of the Finniss.  Always a splendid townsman he did much to further the progress and development of the town.  He was one of the founders of the Institute.  A staunch church man, he was for many years warden of Christ Church and a synodsman.  For 27 years he was Church Advocate for the Diocese of Adelaide.  In 1889 he was elected to the House of Assembly as a member for Mt. Barker, and later to the Legislative Council for the Southern District.  In the Jenkin’s Ministry he was Attorney General and Minister for Education.

He died at Mt. Barker in 1932 at the age of 82.  The practice he established is carried on by a grandson, William von Doussa.  Three generations of descendants are still resident in the district.

Alfred Compton Daw

Youngest son of John Wickham Daw who arrived in S. Aust. in the “Winchester” in 1838 having purchased at first sale of S. Aus. Co. held in London, 1,000 acres of land situated around the suburb now known as St. Mary’s.  He was born at St. Mary’s in April in 1850, and came to Mt. Barker in 1874 when he purchased from Mr. Rundle a butchering business in Gawler Street.  In 1884 he demolished the old building and erected new premises.  He married Clara Elizabeth, daughter of Frederick McKenzie in 1860.

He was always keenly interested in all matters effecting the town and district.  He served on the District Council for many years, as well as on the Institute Committee and Agricultural Show Committee.  He was a promoter of both the Mt. Barker Co-Op. Butter Factory and Mt. Barker Electric Light Co..  A staunch church man, he was a warden of Christ Church for 25 years.  He was also a Justice of the Peace.  He was a keen master and judge of stock, which he bred for his business.

On his dairy farm a mile from the township, subterranean clover was brought to perfection, quite inadvertently by the use of animal manures.  The first substantial quantity of seed put on the market was harvested from 10 acres of this farm.

Retired from business he purchased the White House in Walker Street.  At the age of 74 he died in Dec. 1924.  He was survived by a widow four sons and six daughters.  His widow having recently celebrated her 90th birthday is probably the oldest Mt. Barker born resident.

Amos Howard

(Extracts from The Leader and Mr. Howard’s notes)  -  Born in Hertfordshire in 1848, arrived in S. Aus. by sailing ship “Lightning” in 1876.  In 1888 he was appointed by S. Aus. Government as one of an honorary commission to inspect the soils and climatic conditions of the South East, including the Ninety Mile Desert, with the object of improving its carrying capacity.

In 1889, he settled at Blakiston where he established a nursery specialising in the growth of daffodils, tulips, roses and garden shrubs.  He was destined to identify for the first time in Aus. and to develop for the first time in the world, the only know strain of clover that buries its sees underground.  Soon after in 1889, Mr. Howard found it growing on a property near Mt. Barker Springs and within a few months, he also found isolated plants on his own farm and several others in the district.  Impressed with its peculiar habit of growth and prolific nature of its reproduction, he classed it as rare among plants.  He scraped from the ground a few seeds which he planted in his nursery.  Eventually he had an acre sown with it on light sandy loam.  The acre responded with astonishing growth.

In Mr. Howard’s own notes is recorded, “From the crop of this acre, the seed was carefully saved (the first ever saved) and so convinced was the writer of its value, that packets of the seed were offered through the press (gratis) to anyone interested in the improvement of pastures.  Upwards of 300 packets were thus distributed to New Zealand, South Africa, and all Australian States.”

By hand-hulling with the use of roller sieves, he cleaned the seed and sold it in 1903 in small quantities at 2/- per lb.  The first recorded sale of a substantial quantity was 30lbs. to Adelaide seed merchants, E. & W. Hackett in Jan. 1906 at 2/6 per lb.  At this time it was unknown to any seedsmen in Europe or Aus. as a fodder plant, nor had it been catalogued.  E. & W. Hackett were the first to catalogue it.

In 1916-1817, 5 cwt. of seed was harvested from 10 acres in Mt. Barker and by 1934-1935, the annual crop had risen to nearly 5,000 cwt. harvested from 1,768 acres.  By the discovery of subterranean clover and his meticulous work in putting it on the market, Mr Howard did more for Mt. Barker than one man has even done, and for the South East, he accomplished precisely what the commission, appointed by the Govt. in 1888, set out to do.

Mr. Howard died at Blakiston in March, 1930.  Seven sons and three daughters survived him, of whom one son and the daughters still reside in the century-old home that was originally the “Dublin Castle Inn”.

Robert Barr-Smith

Was born in Scotland on Feb. 23rd, 1824.  He purchased the “Oakfield Hotel” from Lachlan McFarlane and converted it into a summer residence where he and his family spent 6 months of each year.  A great lover of flowers and tree, his garden was the glory of the whole district.

Both Mr. & Mrs. Barr-Smith were philanthropists – there was never a deserving appeal for charity that did not meet with ready response from them.  An instance of their kind though and generosity was given when, in 1887, they paid for forty children from the Wistow school to travel by rail and attend the Jubilee Exhibition in Adelaide.  Such generous acts were numerous, but generally unrecorded.  As a gift to the town, Mr. Barr-Smith had the stage of the Institute enlarged.  To the Church of England, he gave the pipe organ.

Dr. Octavus Weld 

Came to Mt. Barker from Nairne, where he had practiced his profession for some years.  He bought the house in Hutchinson Street that had previously been the Crown Hotel and there he and his family lived for many years.  He was the true kindly family physician, much loved by everyone, but especially by the children of the town.

Interested in the affairs of the district, he left the land now known as Weld Park, as a recreation ground for the townspeople.  By consent of his daughters, this was recently used as a site for homes built by the S. Aus. Housing Trust.

Dr. Weld was survived by four daughters – Miss Weld of New Zealand, Mrs. W.J. Skipper of Brighton, Dr. Eleanor Fletcher (one of the first women doctors of the state), and Miss Nancy Weld, of whom the latter resided in Mt. Barker until 1946.  The home was sold to the R.S.L.

A belfry at St. James’ Church, Blakiston, erected by their daughters, commemorates the memories of Octavus and his wife Ann Weld.

Sarah Williams, nee Teakle

Wife of John Williams.  Sarah Teakle, sister of David Teakle came out from Avening in Gloucestershire in the ship ”Catherine Stuart Forbes” in 1837.  John and Sarah were married in Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide, on 25th December, 1838.  They lived in the Oakbank area and later bought a farming property “Daisy Hills” near Balhannah.  Mr. Williams died on 31st July, 1860, leaving Sarah with eight children.  Living conditions were hard, it is told she wheeled a wheelbarrow from Daisy Hills farm with farm produce to Adelaide and on her return brought back a bag of flour.  When Sarah’s youngest son, John, married, she retired in Mount Barker, living in a house built by her brother David Teakle in the area of Teakletown.  Sarah died on July 7th , 1895, and was buried at Blakiston.  Many descendants are living in the Hills area, including Mr. Harold Williams of “Uplands”, Mt. Barker, a grandson, Mrs. Ivan Ellis a great granddaughter and Mr. Evan Edwards, Oakbank a great grandson.


The first religious services were held under a large tree.  Long ago, in the 40’s Mr. Appleton and his family took up residence near the town, and on the first Sunday morning, he went to look for a church.  Meeting a little girl, he asked if there was such a place.  She said, “Yes Mr. Appleton, a primitive Methodist come sometimes”; he asked where he preached, and his informant pointing, said “He stands up against that tree”.  He also learnt that Rev. J.B. Austin came once a fortnight and preached in a barn near the town.  The most pretentious house in Mt. Barker then was a slab hut with a bark roof.

John Dunn was a religious man, and after moving into his hut, he dug a piece of ground 4 ft. square, where he sowed radish and lettuce seeds.  Then to his son he said, “Let us kneel and pray.”  That small patch of cultivation and that simple prayer were the beginning of farming and religion in the town.

In his memories, John Dunn tells how the primitive Methodist asked for a room to preach in and he offered a room of his hut near the mill.  It only had three rooms, and one was used as a store.  The people filled the hut.  During the service a small girl came in asking for ”a pennyworth of matches and mother will pay you next week” she got her matches.

In 1847, there were seven Wesleyan Churches in South Aus. and Mt. Barker was one of them.

When the mill was built, it was used as a place of worship and Sunday School was also held in it.  Later, a slab church was built in Cameron Street, of red gum posts with an earthen floor and bags for windows.  The first stone church, which is now the Lecture Hall was opened in 1851.  The Rev. J. Hall preached morning and evening, the collection for the day amounting to £44-2-6 (a record even for today).  The Rev. J. Dann, D.D., who was 21 years of age, walked from Adelaide to Mt. Barker to take charge of this church.  The parsonage was built in 1857.

The present fine structure, the Dunn Memorial Church built in 1881, donated to the Mt. Barker Methodists by the late John Dunn, now stands alongside the old church.

A very fine Kindergarten Hall was erected also, and today it houses the Pre-School Kindergarten through the week and Sunday School Kindergarten on Sundays.

The Rev. Mr. & Mrs. Williams have just taken up their residence in the manse, following the tragic death of Rev. Chennell.

The first Presbyterian service was conducted by Rev. Rbt. Haining in 1842 under a gumtree on the banks of the creek, below a house occupied by Duncan McFarlane, near the home of Mr. J. Howard Jnr. at present.  When the town was surveyed in 1840, allotments 83 to 87 were reserved for the Church.  Allotment 83 was sold, 84, 85 held by Presbyterians and 86, 87 held by Anglicans.

A movement was begun to build a church in 1846 by public subscriptions, and in 1847 Presbyterian Church was built by Mr. Rogers of Nairne, although it remained unfinished in 1851.  The slates for the roof, were carted from Willunga by Mr. Hughes, then a boy bullock driver.  In 1847 it was used as a school and later as a bulk store – up to 1857 – although it still had no floor or windows.

The church was placed under the care of a Minister and session at Strathalbyn.

In 1884, the iron roof replaced the slate one, a porch was added, and alterations were made to the interior also, when the centre passage was altered to make two side passages; but the pulpit and rails etc. are part of the original structure.

The first resident Minister was Rev. James Gordon and he and his family resided in Gawler Street, where Heitmann’s Baker Shop is today.  The people set about providing a “Manse”.  Dr. Walker (a seat holder) built the house first used, but he didn’t live in it and the building was purchased from him in July 1859 for £700.  It is now the house of Mr. M. McMahon.  First trustees in 1879 were J.G. Ramsay, Rod McKenzie, J. McKecknie, Alex Lyon, Jas. Milne and Peter Bell.

A Vestry was erected in 1891 and enlarged in 1931.  The Old Manse was sold and a new one erected near the church in 1933.  When Rev. Gordon left, the pulpit was supplied by various ministers until in 1863, the Rev. Alex Law was inducted and remained for 14 years.

The original church was lighted by candles, then lamps, and then later electric lighting was installed.  The small harmonium installed in 1864 was played by Miss Eliza Bell.

In 1872, the congregation was asked to stand during the singing and to sit for prayers, but many of the older folk continued to stand during prayers until the end of their days.

The first reference of a Sunday School is dated Aug. 30th 1866, with Mr. Lyons, Super. followed by R. Ramsay and A.H. Peake afterwards Premier.

Following the Rev. Law’s administrations, we got Rev. J.A. Burns in 1886, Rev. A. Lawson 1893, McIntyre, J. Halfrod, T. Riddle and students.  The late James Slaven acted as an Elder of the church for over 50 years.  At present time of writing, Rev. Schmidt has just vacated the pulpit for pastures new.

Services are held fortnightly, alternating with the Baptist Church and Ministers are supplied by the Home Mission Station under the Onkaparinga Presbytery.

Christ Church

This fine old world looking church was built in 1865 as a daughter church to St. James’ of Blakiston, and it was at first attached to that parish, under the ministry of Rev. Gower.  The church was dedicated by July of that year by Bishop Short and divine service has been held in it continuously ever since.

In the year 1866, Mt. Barker Christ Church became a separate parish with Rev. W.L. Ewband as rector.  The Rectory was built in 1900, during the time of Rev. J. Warren’s ministry.  The Parish Hall being built in 1921 as a memorial to felled soldiers of World War I when Rev. A. Reynolds was in charge of the parish.  During the years that followed, many memorials were added, in memory of faithful worshippers – the bell and belfry, the pulpit and reading desk, the reredos and cross, and a very beautiful stained glass window in memory of the Barr-Smiths.

Present Rector is Rev. H. Woolnough.

Baptist Church

The foundation stone of this church was laid by Mr. John Darling on March 1st, 1874, the architect being Mr. A. Hendry, and the stone used was quarried locally and the bricks made by Mr. Coppin of Littlehampton.  He and his wife were loyal Baptists and up till his death he held the office as Deacon.

[portion missing in photocopy] ..... Mr. Good, when Rev. Silas Mead, M.A. of Flinder’s Street Church was the preacher.  The church was formed that day with 12 members, deacons being Mr. W. Barker, Dr. Hartley Dixon and Mr. A. Hendry.

The first Minister was Rev. E.J. Henderson, followed by Rev. W. Dinnis, Rev. John Price, F.J. Steward, S. Metters, Frisby-Smith, Samuel Bowering, E. Ledger, R. Taylor, A. Parker and S. Bowering for a second time.  He was very musical and a good violinist which helped considerably in building a good choir.  Then came Rev. MuCullough, whose tragic death on Macclesfield Road was greatly mourned by his many friends and faithful flock.  A beautiful Memorial Window dedicated to his memory by the Women’s Guild can be seen at the entrance to the Church.  Rev. S. Paris followed him and then Rev. Keith Steward had charge for 6 years.

The church and Vestry were paid for in 5 years.  Mr. G. Fife Angas helped considerably.

Sunday School was started when the church was first formed, with M. W. Barker as Superintendent.  In 1891 the Sunday School classrooms were built.  Later, more land was purchased and a manse built, a Kindergarten hall was erected in the memory of Mr. & Mrs. W. Barker and Mr. & Mrs. Coots.  At various times during the years, improvements to property and sanctuary have been made through the Women’s Guild which is still carrying on its work of love.

Miss Florence Barker, who died in 1951, at the age of 91 years, was a faithful member of the church all her life and devoted to her church and missionary work.

At the present time there is no minister stationed here, but services are held twice a month.

Catholic Church

The first church of this denomination was built next to the Presbytery on the hillside beyond the Railway Station.  It has since been replaced by the fine new structure near Kia-Ora Street.

Father McElligott is in charge of the Parish at the time of writing.

St. James’ Church, Blakiston

In Captain Francis Davison’s diary is recorded:

June, 29th, 1845 – measured the land given by Mr. George Morphett and Mr. Stokes for a church.

July, 10th, 1845 – a meeting was held at Nairne in reference to the proposed church at Blakiston.  Present – Rev. Pollitt, Messrs. A. McFarlane, John Peter, Benjamin Gray, J. W. Bull, Shepherdson, Goldfinch and Capt. Davidson.  The place for the church was decided upon, and trustees appointed.

Sept, 7th – a meeting was held in our house respecting the final settlement of the Blakiston Church.  Present – Lieut. Dashwood R. N., Rev. J. Pollitt, Messrs. A. McFarlane, Thomas Seymour, John Peter, Henry Peters, Benjamin Gray, Ide, Wilson and others.  Trustees appointed were Lieut. Dashwood, A. McFarlane, Chambers, Thomas Seymour (for his father) and myself.  We agreed to be responsible for £245 for the church, £160 for a parsonage, and £30 for a wall.  The church had to be 44 ft. long by 23 ft.

Oct. 3rd, 1846 – the foundation stone of the Blakiston Church was laid this day be Mrs. Francis Davison.  Each of our children put a small coin, from one shilling to a fourpenny piece, of the reign of her present Majesty, underneath.

April, 28th, 1847 – opening of the Blakiston Church.

St. James’ Church, one of the earliest C. of E. churches in the Colony, served the whole district until 1865, when Christ Church, Mount Barker, was built.

The Rev. J. Pollitt was the first Rector.  Rev. John Gower was later Rector for 27 years.  Benjamin Gray was contractor and builder for the church.


The clay soil in this vicinity is especially suitable for the manufacture of fire-bricks, and all S.A.’s supply is drawn from this area.

Most industries need them for furnaces, foundries, electric power stations, and all metal industries.

A man named Hombin began the first bricklayers near the Littlehampton Railway Station.  This is now the Littlehampton Brick Co., which is a large supplier to the metropolitan area as well as locally.

McDonald has a brickyard on the North-West corner of the present showgrounds.

Coppins has a yard at Littlehampton, while Child’s yard on the road between Littlehampton and Mt. Barker is still operating by the Child’s family.

The quality of the clay was reflected in the bricks.  A house in Gawler Street, where Harrowfield’s now live, is a fine example of good bricks and good workmanship.  When this house was built, about 95-100 years ago, it caused quite a sensation, everyone from far and near came to inspect it …. what was it’s attraction you ask? – why, the new roof, made of galvanised iron, not corrugated as we have today; quite a new idea then.  This roof is still in use today.

The first house was a “pise” one built by Duncan Macfarlane facing the creek, down Kia-Ora Street, near the home of Jack Howard Jnr.  Later, Macfarlane had a butcher shop also and he sold out to Greenfields, who owned all the land from Fleets to McCloys.  He had a large orchard where the R.C. Church is, and all down Kia-Ora Street.  This land was later owned by Mr. Rollison.

Greenfield’s shop was a brick building when Mr. Daw purchased it, and in 1884, he built the present two-storied butcher shop in Gawler Street.

The house on the corner of Morphett Street, which has the letter T built into the walls in bottles, was once a wine shop.

Mr. Waddy, who set up the first printing press in the early sixties, lived in the home near the Methodist Church, of Mr. McCloy.

John Andrews, our first lawyer, lived in “Andrewsville” on the Nairne Road.  It is still standing at the bend on the road.

Salem cottages are a row of ten little 3-roomed places, each with its patch of garden, facing the Tannery buildings.  They were built by Mr. & Mrs. Dunn to house old ladies, who had to pay only 6d. per week rent.  Since electric light and other improvements were made last year, the rent has gone up to 2/6d.  They are administrated by representatives of the three churches.  What a fine idea it was; and would that some more generously-minded people would do likewise.

Where the Savings Bank is, was once the Tinsmith shop of Caleb Potter, a tank maker.  His two sons and daughter carried on the business for many years.

Rossiter’s Boot Factory is now carried on in the premises where Mr. Chapman first had his seed and grain store.  He built Murray & Shoebridge’s present premises, and when he moved there, his old shop became Mr. Dumas’ printing office.  In time he built the present “Courier´office and moved into it

Then the old place became Mr. Fred Stone’s (of Parkendula) auctioneering business.  The Salvation Army next used it, and for some time it was empty.  Then it became a “betting shop”.  Rossiter’s opened it as a factory, and they employ 30 girls making boot-uppers.

The Temperance Hall was built for Mr. Good as a grain store; who also kept the shop and dwelling house, later sold to Mr. W. Barker, 1865.  It has been enlarged several times and was in the Barker family until the death of Mr. Bruce Barker.  Although now owned by D. Bell & Co., it continues under the name of Barker’s.

Mr. F. I. Smith had the first saddler shop opposite the new Tannery buildings.  Mr. Rod. MacKenzie was also a saddler, and he specialised in making “collars”.  Mr Leibing came about 1864, and lived where the Booking Office is.  His shop was where Mr. A. Leibing’s house now stands.  Mr. Leibing carries on the business of harness-maker.

Mr. John Dunn had the first store in a room of his cottage in 1844.

The Presbyterian Church was used as a school before it was finished; later Mr. Henry Hooper (a prominent townsman) and Mr. Brackenridge kept a grain store and a wine shop there up to the year 1856.  (Mr. Brackenridge was the grandfather of Miss Fowler) and lived in a cottage behind Bell’s store.

In Walker Street, are the ruins of a fine Gothic building which was to have been a church.  It was begun for the Independent Congregationalists, by Mr. Cruchett, who was up to then attending the Methodist Church.  Owing to financial difficulties it was never completed.  He later married Miss Smith and joined the Unitarian Church at Shady Grove.

Bollen's Folly

George Bollen, (Pt. Adelaide 1877) was a cooper who worked in the town and studied for a doctor.  His hobby was architecture, and he built Bollen’s Bridge on the Springs Road.

He planned the two- storied building now “Claremont Tea Rooms”.  It was built for a Mrs. Starling, who kept a store in Resurrection Row.  Her daughter married Mr. Rundle, a local butcher.  When the first storey was completed they found they had made no provision for a staircase, so it was added outside.

Dr. Bollen completed his degree in America and returned to the town, where he began building a large square house, overlooking the town.  As it was to be centrally heated, it had no fireplaces or chimneys.

This astounded the good country folk who called it his “folly”, for soon after it was finished his wife died and he left the town.

Later owners have added fireplaces and remodelled it so that it is now a showplace of the district.

Mr. O’Halloran Giles now owns and lives there.


The two-storied house of this name, now the home of Mr. Ian Dean, was built by Mr. Wm. Tonkin.  Mr David Teakle lived in it also, and he owned all the land from the Adelaide road back to Dunn’s Run.

The hillside is always called Teakletown by the older residents.  Mr. Teakle’s son built the home of Mr. Wilson-Smith and “Adlooka”.

Mr Wedd kept a mixed store in the house on the corner opposite the Doctor’s shrubbery, and he also lived in the two-storied house.

Mr. Chapman, who was also a gardener, planted the lovely double pink and white hawthorn trees, as well as the lovely grove of pines of the north.  These were cut down about 1945.

When the Blades family lived in it they called it “Cherrington” and this name has since been given to the street and Garage built when Mr. Humphris owned the property.

Present Buildings


In the very early days of the colony, most of the banking was done in Adelaide.

The District Council used the Union Bank, in 1860 they transferred their business to the National.

As this was of considerable importance the bank decided to open a branch in Barker, and Mr. McGregor was sent to do so.  He conducted business in a room of the shop now occupied by Mr. Bolto.

In 1863, Mr. Gray became its manager, and it was during his time the present building was erected, on land purchased from the Presbyterian Church.

When the Duke of Edinburgh visited Mt. Barker on Nov. 16th 1967, he was entertained by Mr. Gray on the vacant land beside the bank.  Mr Leibing’s father, who lived next to the Gray’s, was asked to make a special mattress for the guests to sleep on.

The present manager, is Mr. Doug. Reed with the staff numbering five.

The Bank of Australasia -  was the next to open, on April 19th, and they used the premises between Peters’ shop and the boot factory.  In 1886 the present building was finished and they moved across the road to it, under the management of Mr. Alex Ross.  The house part was remodelled in 1928.

Some of the early managers were Pascoe, Dye (the father of Barbara May), Moore, Bishop, Fraser and the present manager Mr. H. Fogg, who has the assistance of a staff of six.

The Savings Bank - was at first conducted in the shop next to Mr. H. B. Chapman’s office.  Mr. J.K. Bruce was its first manager in 1912, and Mr. Letchford is the present one.

The fine building which now graces Gawler Street was opened on Sept. 20th, 1940, when Mr. Bridgland was its manager.


In the town’s beginning, hotels supplied a need of the community in that they were used more as a community centre than now; and we read of public meetings and lodges being held in them.

The first one, Gloag’s Inn was kept by John Gloag in Cameron Street, somewhere opposite Mrs. W. Jacob’s home, about 1842 or perhaps earlier.  He also kept the Crown Hotel in Hutchinson Street in 1851, and later this became the home of Dr. Weld and is now the R.S.L clubrooms.

In 1853, Charlie Low kept Low’s Inn, now rebuilt to become Hotel Barker, and in 1855 a Mr. Gray a brewer, built Gray’s Inn, which was kept by Mr. Cornelius.

1860 saw the Globe Hotel built with large brick stables to house the coach horses which were changed here.  it was kept by George Uphill, who later took over the Crown Hotel when Mr. Gloag died.

When Dr. Dean and Dr. Bickle lived in the house they changed its name to “The Acacias”.  At a later date the Smith family changed it again to “Milton House”, and it is known by that name today by its present owner, Mr. W. Duffield Snr..  The fine brick stables and coach-house are there still.

Lachlan MacFarlane kept the “Oakfield Hotel” in 1861, and this was also a calling place for the coach.  Later the property was purchased by Mr. Barr-Smith and extensively added to, to become a private residence called “Auchendarroch”.

In July 1922, it was purchased by the Methodist Church and used as a “Rest Home” for convalescent folk.  During the war years the Air Force took it over for a convalescent depot for their members.

It has since been taken back by the Methodist Church, refurbished and renovated and accommodates from 30-40 guests as well as a large staff.  The beautiful lawns and gardens make it an ideal spot to recuperate in.

The farm surrounds it, and compromises 42 ½ acres, with 30 cows, and is under the capable management of Mr. J. Pope, and as well as the Home, supplies produce to the Memorial Hospital.

Dublin Castle Hotel at Blakiston was opened by Mr. Donoghue and is now Amos Howard’s home.

Richard Cornelius kept the Great Eastern Hotel at Littlehampton.


Like most country hamlets, the first post-office was held in a room of Mr. Shepherdson’s Hut, in 1842.  He built the house now occupied by Mr. Fleet, and lived in it for many years.

Later the building now know as the postal residence was built and used for both.

At one time it was kept by the Misses Gower, sister of Rev. Gower of Blackiston.  They kept the post office and a school in the large room on the ground floor.

Other postmasters have been Rossi, McKenzie and Marrie, and they handed the letters through a window to the people lined up outside.

The present post office was finished in 1914 when Mr. Poore took charge, and he was followed by Mr. Evans and our present postmaster, Mr. J. Davies.

The telegraph facilities were added in 1860, and they have increased with the population.

The full postal staff now numbers 33.

Local Court

Sgt. Swaffer, who arrived in South Aus. in the “Buffalo” was stationed at Mt. Barker.

There being no police stations at the time, he occupied a room at Gloag’s Inn in Cameron Street.

His trooper, George Uphill used a large hollow gumtree as his bedroom.  This tree was at knee height 37 ft. round, and 35’ high.  Later it was used as a Carpenter’s shop, and in 1852, a Mr. Watt and his family purchased the land on which grew, and they sheltered in it until their home was ready.  Unfortunately it has since been cut down.

John Banks Shepherdson was a schoolmaster sent out to organise the Education Dept. of South Aust.  He was 29 years old.  Upon his arrival in Adelaide, 1838, his health broke down and so he began farming at Echunga.

When the township of Barker was laid out he purchased land and built his home there.  He was the first Clerk of the Local Court, held in the old Police Station, now demolished, near the new home of Mounted Constable Day.

After a police station had been erected, Sgt. Searcy was the first policeman to hold office, and Sgt. Collins and Mounted Constable Day are the present ones.

District Council

In Nov. 1849, a meeting was held in Gloag’s Hotel to elect members to act as District Commissioners, whose principal duties were the making and repair of local roads and Licensing Bench.

The District Council was proclaimed by Govt. Act in October 1853, with Mr. Fred May as chairman, D. O’Brien a local solicitor as clerk, salary £25 per year, Messrs. Gray, Frame, Dunn, MacFarlane were all members.

There was much work to be done then as roads and bridges were needed badly as the country was being opened up.

The present Council has an area of 140 sq. miles, which is divided into 9 wards, each represented by one man, except the town ward, which has 2 men.  (Mr. R. Gilbert and Mr. L.A. Matthews)

They are elected by owners or occupiers of property for a term of 2 years.

To obtain money for building roads, lighting the streets, hospital upkeep etc. a rate is levied on all property.

The present Chairman is Mr. Mills, and the Clerk, Mr. A.G. Bowyer.


In 1856, the nucleus of an Institute was formed, by a few local residents who clubbed together and purchased a few books.  These were kept at the house of Mr. Bollen (where the lady hairdresser premises are now) and the public had access to them as well.

A few years of ups and downs followed when a fresh start was made through the efforts of a few influential residents.  Mr. W. Chapman undertook the duties of librarian, and the books were transferred to a room on his premises.  So popular did it now become that it soon outgrew its home, and a move was made for more commodious premises.

In 1874, a committee was formed of people interested in educational matters to negotiate for a site to erect a permanent building.  The land they bought was the “Pound” opposite the Hotel Barker.  This was removed to the Lower end of the “Triangle”.  The committee set to work and collected £500, the Govt. voted £800 on the usual conditions, and within six months, the foundation stone was laid.  What a Gala gay that was, Dec. 11th, 1874.  A holiday was declared, the quiet town was gay with flags and thronged with people.  The children marched from the Showgrounds to the home of Mr. Dunn who supplied them with refreshments before they marched back to the street.  Lodge members in full regalia, marched from the Oakfield Hotel headed by Schrader’s band.

Prayers were offered first; then the foundation stone was laid by Mr. Hardy (with a silver trowel which has since been handed back to the Committee by Mr. Hardy’s family).  Under the stone were placed some coins, newspapers of the day, and a sample of prize wheat from the last Mt. Barker Show.  The visitors were tendered a dinner at the Hotel Barker.

When the building was opened, a great Fete was held in it, and proved very successful financially.  The first building had to be enlarged at a later date, and a movable gallery was added.  This has since been removed.

The Library in time also became somewhat cramped, so in 1933 a larger room was built for it (the present Library) with an upstairs room for meetings.  This room is called the Founder’s Room, and it contains a gallery of photos of the original committee connected with its foundation – Mr. W. Barker, T.H. Stephenson, R. McKenzie, L. van Doussa, C. Dumas, Dr. O. Weld, Richardson, Th. Paltridge, Hon. J.G. Ramsay, Hon John Dunn.

The library, at present, in charge of Mrs. Newman.

Elocutionary competitions were held in 1906, Literary and Debating Society 1917-22.  Dramatic and Choral Societies also flourished at times, while the Oddfellow, Rechabite and Druid lodges hold meetings there regularly.  The Masonic Lodge now has its own building on the site of the old West Church.

The town has housed quite a few authors of note: -

Maude Jean Franc (Miss Conygreve) 16 novels

Mrs. Doudy (2) “Growing to the light” and “Dawn” (Mr. V. Oborn’s house)

Mrs. Phil. Sommerville, “Not only in stone” (lived Maynard’s house)

Miss E. McKecknie, “Criss-cross” (granddaughter of an early settler)

Dorothy Langsford, “Coo-ee” (Methodist parsonage)

J. W. Bull’s Reminiscences (near the Junction)

Connie Saunders (Thompson) who wrote short stories, and won a prize for her poetry in the Centenary Competitions.  She lived in the Ramsay’s house when they moved out to Eden Park, which they built.  It is now the Salvation Army Boy’s Home.


When the land had been surveyed, it was soon settled by people with young families, and they, of course, were in need of an education.  There was no Public School as we know it today, so anyone who had some knowledge of the three r’s could set up a school, and they did.  Seeing that the women were far more anxious for their children to be taught, often they themselves started the school.  Margaret May, in her letters written about 1844, tells of the growth of the newtown, and of a Ladies’ seminary being opened in Gawler Street by Misses McGowan.

When the late Mrs. McKenzie (Grandmother of the Daws, Millers, and Thrings) came here as a small child of 7 years, she attended a school held in the then unfinished Presbyterian Church (1847) and kept by Mr. J.J. Bonnar.  His brother, Henry Bonnar came out as a tutor to the family of Mr. Walter Peterson.  He afterwards kept a school in a hut in Gawler Street, at the rear of Thompson’s shop.  Miss Fowler’s father as a lad of 6 or 7 years attended this school.

When St. James’ Schoolhouse was built at Blakiston, 1846, many scholars walked over to it from Barker every day.  No school buses then.

Miss Fickin had a school for “young ladies” in the R.S.L. clubrooms, where the late Mrs. Richard Daniels and 2 misses Bell (from Dalmeny Park) were educated.  She transferred it to at a later date when Mr. J.W. Walkom was amongst her pupils.

The wife of a local lawyer Mrs. Walker had a school for very young pupils, and Mrs. Daw who is now 90, attended it as her first school.

Miss Henderson had a few boarders in the preschool at “Milton House” for a short time, and though somewhat confusing, reports seem to suggest that it was taken over by Mrs. and Miss Brady, in the cottage next door, where Mr Crowle now lives.  The hat pegs were still there on the wall, when Mrs. Rice lived in the cottage.

The Rev. Alex Law had a “Boy’s Academy”, these are his own words in the old Presbyterian Manse, over the Railway line, near the station.

Misses Gower held classes in the old Post Office, Mrs. Taylor in “White House”, Mrs. Harrison at “Cherrington” and one of her pupils was the late Mrs. Walter Bell; she also held a school in Gawler Street at one time.  Miss Conygreve and her sister kept a school in Hutchinson Street, Miss Stewart in the old Dumas home, Miss Tyrie in “Claremount”, Miss DeMole in Harrowfield’s house at first – later she moved to Miss Hughes.

The underground rooms of the Lecture Hall was the site of Miss Doolette’s school, and the late Mr. Bruce Barker and Mr. Joe Pope learnt their A.B.C from her.  She joined the Education Department when the primary school was built.  Mrs. May had a school here also, and she taught girls.  When the public school was opened many of the private schools continued teaching girls, or as they were then styled “young ladies” and small boys.  The Misses Bonnin and Cruickshanks continued on in the Lecture Hall and Mrs. Bruce Barker, Mrs. H. Bell and other local ladies were educated by them.

A cottage on the creek below the primary school; and a two-storied building demolished in 1950 were used by Mr. & Mrs. Victor Dumas for boys and girls. (Miss Fanny Daniels who is in her 90th year attended here).  She says one school was for boys and one for girls.  Mr. Dumas was the best Latin scholar in the Colony.  His schools dated from 1854-1867.

There was of course, no higher education such as our High Schools give; but the arts were not altogether neglected, for Mrs. Price, who lived in the Mill House opposite the Tannery, saw to it that her pupils excelled in music, painting, drawing and dancing.  Many girls “finished” with her, and Mrs. Daw was one of them.  She also taught music at the Hahndorf College and late Pro. Reimann (of Conservatorium fame) was once a pupil of hers.  Her daughter, Mrs. K. Witcombe, carried on her music teaching; and no doubt many of her old pupils will be pleased to know she is still hale and hearty at 86 years.  Her two granddaughters are well know teachers in Adelaide.  Miss Morris also taught English and Mythology to advanced students in “Milton House”.

The District Council approached the Government to build a school where the Post Office now stands, but this was not agreeable to them.  Then the late Mr. Dunn offered the land for the same purpose but to no avail.  As the town was growing and prospering the Government at last decided to do so, and an acre of land was purchased on the Adelaide Road from Mr. W. Gray, for 100 guineas in 1876.  On this land was erected a 4 roomed school, to house 250 pupils, and also a dwelling house.  When it was opened by Mr Walters in 1877, Sept. 14th, it had an enrolment of 163, and today its enrolment is 240.  Another room was added in 1950, but the two large rooms have been divided and only 6 are used as classrooms.

Head masters have been: -

Mr. T.L. Walter, Mr. P.W. Joines, John Prisk, B.S. Roach, Ed. Kennedy, S.W. Jackman, J. Pryor, P. Bowering, R. Pearson, A.G. McElroy, and H. Hudson.

The first school committee was elected in 1916, and the Welfare club in 1935.  Both these societies have the wefare of the school and scholars as their main objectives; and to them belongs the honour of providing books, pictures, playground equipment and other amenities.

In 1921, an Honor Roll was unveiled by the Minister of Education (Sir George Ritchie) and it contained the names of 24 fallen heroes.  The narrow windows in the original building were not conducive to light, and so in 1922, the premises were remodelled and today large window space allows the maximum of light and ventilation.

Since the first Southern Schools Exhibition in 1931, was such an outstanding success, several others have been held here, and but for the War intervening, would probably be held today; instead the Music Festival of 1950 took its place and proved as inspiring as education.

High School

The continuation classes held at the Primary School under Mr. J.E. Smith in July 1908, with an enrolment of 27, being 15 boys and 12 girls was the beginning of our present High School.  By the next year these classes had grown to 43, with Miss Stolz assisting and in 1914 they removed to the new building which had been erected on the Adelaide Road, to the south.

Succeeding headmasters have been: -

J.E. Smith, B.Sc. 1908-33

Richards, B.A. 1933-36

L. Carthew, B.A. 1937-38

G.F. Purser, B.Sc. 1939-43

L. May, Bsc, D. Ed. 1944-

In 1938, a bus service was inaugurated to bring children from the surrounding towns daily, and an Assembly Room was also opened.  Agricultural classes were started and a new block of rooms were completed in 1946.

The present school has an enrolment of 184 students with 11 teachers, and about 16 rooms.  The very active school Committee (Rev. Woolnough Pres., Mr. J. Power Sec.) and the Parent and Friends’ Assoc. (Mrs. L. May Pres., Mrs. J. Power Sec.) assist the school in any way they can, chiefly by raising money for sports equipment, pictures, library necessities.

The playing area has recently been levelled to make a full size oval, and with the 3 tennis courts now in use, although large enough today, will no doubt not be so for very long.

The subjects taught vary from Agric. Science, Arts, Commercial, Needlework, Domestic, to Musical Appreciation.  Regular sports matches are played with the surrounding high schools.

Outstanding scholars who have passed through the school are: -

T. Ashhurst, Rhodes Scholar 1922

R. Hills, Brauer, Cornish, - Medicine

S. Kessell – Forestry

W. Von Doussa – Law Science (8 men)

S. Woods, P. Craton – Arts

F. Murphy, Editor of Melbourne “Times”

B. Shumacher, - Public Service Commissioner


About the year 1900 the Roman Catholics purchased the property of J. Hill, called “Cro Nest” on the hills overlooking the town from the east.  Here they established a boarding school, which has grown with the years, and so has been enlarged several times.

It is carried on by the Sisters, under the name of St. Scholastica’s College.

Pre-School Kindergarten

The Pre-school Kindergarten was begun in 1951 in the Methodist Kindergarten Hall, under the charge of Mrs. R.S. Coggins, and assisted by Miss Stone.

About 30 under 5’s attended each morning.

An energetic Committee raise funds to furnish equipment and to pay its teachers. (Pres. Mr. D. Maynard, Sec. Mrs. D. Read).


Up till the late 60’s there was no doctor resident in the town, and what a relief it was to the inhabitants when Dr. Chalmers settled in what we call the R.S.L. Clubhouse.  Before then, sick folk had to rely on neighbourly help, as it was almost impossible to visit the city for medical aid.  Dr. Weld and Dr. Forster followed him in the home in Hutchinson Street, whilst Drs. Dean and Bickle lived at “Arcacia”.  Later Dr. Hickle purchased land, which had once been leased as a “market place”, and built a new home there “St. Leonards”.  Since then quite a number of doctors have lived in it; Drs. Blaxland, Hamilton, Scott, Smeaton, Wunderly, Bartram and now D. Fridmore.

In 1918, pneumonic flu was bad, and it was necessary to isolate very many patients.  There being no hospital in the town, an empty house, built by Mr. T. Paltridge, was used for this purpose, with two nurses and domestic help to look after them.  As the house was for sale, Dr. Wunderly approached Mrs. Barr-Smith for financial aid, to purchase it as a memorial to soldiers of World War I.  She generously gave the required amount of £1,350, and the townspeople subscribed a further sum to furnish it.  As Miss Thomas was closing her hospital at Nairne, they were able to purchase quite a lot of equipment from her.  The first Board consisted of Mr. G. Jacobs (chairman), J. Thomas, J. Pope, J. Frame, A. D. Wilkinson, E.J. Ellie (sec.).

Later a kitchen and nurses’ quarters were added for £200, then water was laid on, from the Windmill, and a new wing was also added.  The Women’s Auxiliary was formed in Aug. 1927 – Mrs. Davidson (sec.), Mrs. Bartram (Pres.) and ever since, they have done much to add to the comfort of patients and nurses, as well as supply valuable equipment to the building.  In 1929, a nursery and night nurses’ rooms were built, mainly through their efforts.  Now funds are being sought to build a Maternity Wing as a Memorial to the men who fell in World War II and it is pleasing to see so much support coming from the surrounding district as well as from the town.

The first cemetery was where we now have “Resurrection Row” of houses (hence their name).  Being too much in the heart of the township, they were then removed to the “Triangle”, not more than 30 or 50 graves in all.  The Triangle site was used up to 1850, when the graves were again shifted to the present cemetery and the area planted with pine trees.  Band concrete were held under them, and children had a playground there as well.  Quite recently they were cut down, and the area planted with flowers and lawns.  The children’s playground was shifted nearer to the creek and the croquet lawns.


When the first settlers viewed the country around Mount Barker, they were impressed by the fertility of the soil, and the large area of huge trees.  These were mainly red and blue gums.

In the year 1839, a carpenter named Jobling, built a house for himself at Wistow, shingled with wood cut out from his paddocks.  This later became the home of “Slavens” and it stood for many years.  In 1857, he made the pulpit and pews now in the Presbyterian Church, out of local timber.

In 1870, Carl Buermann set up a cabinet-maker and turned out much of the excellent furniture still in use throughout the district.  His son Charles, married Eva Paltridge and carried on his business for many years.  His daughters now carry on the shop, selling crockery and hardware.

About this time, Alex Hendry built the Baptist Church, and Bill Murray and James Milne, were also carpenters.  Mr. Milne put in the floors and windows of the Presbyterian Church.  At a later date he added the porch.  His two sons carried on for many years.  Amongst other early builders, who were responsible for some of the fine homes in the district were Mr. Hedges and L. Carr.

Later ones were Mr. J.W. Walkom and E. Trigg.  Anderson Bros. owned a saw mill near the showgrounds and they cut sleepers for the railway line then being built.

Teams of from 10 to 12 bullocks would draw a jinker with large solid wooden wheels, some few miles out to the hillside where the trees were felled.  It was a slow journey as the pace was set by the bullocks, and often a whole day would be required for one trip.  These bullocks wore iron shoes to aid them in the rough going, and it required considerable skill to “cue” them as the bullocks had first to be roped and felled.

Many of the Anderson family reside in the town today, although the mill has been gone for many years.  Mr. Roy Paterson has recently started a new on the Adelaide Road at the Littlehampton turnoff.

Heavy Industries

Walter Paterson started the first foundry, making wagons and farming implements.  J.W. Bull, a farmer who lived near the Junction Railway Station, when inspecting his over-ripe wheat one Christmas day, brushed his hand sharply through the heads of wheat, and stumbled on the new idea of reaping a crop – by machine.

He made rough drawings of a reaper and got Mr. Paterson to make one for him.  It worked, but was not 100% perfect. (so he didn’t get the prize offered for some such machine).  Parts of this early machine can be seen today, incorporated in the memorial to Helen Paterson, wife of Walter, which is on the Wistow Road about 1 ½ miles from the town of Mt. Barker.  It is a “sundial”.

In 1844, he took over Nixon’s Mill on the top of “Windmill Hill” and sold his foundry to R. Ramsey, 1850.  Ramsey’s foundry employed about 50 men, and was on the property were Miss Hughes lives in Commercial Rd.  They made wooden-ploughs, the first stump-jump plough, and a “sheafer”, the first of its kind.  Its idea was picked up by Mr Ramsay on a visit to England.  This business was carried on by his son, Hon. J.G. Ramsay, and extended to Adelaide and as far north as Clare, but was closed down in 1890, on the death of J.G. Ramsay, who was burnt while travelling in a train from Terowie.  At first the family lived in the house on Commercial Road, but later on he built Eden Park, and lived out there.  This is now the Salvation Army Boys’ Homes.

Ramsay had a rival in ploughmaking, one Billy Williams, whose shop was on the corner of Adelaide Road, facing the Echunga Road.  Many of his ploughs were used by champion ploughman, who contested in annual ploughing matches.

He was also good at cueing bullocks.  His business was purchased by Ramsay and he left for Mt. Gambier.

Dutch Bros. had an engineering business on the Adelaide Road, where the council now have a depot.  They specialised in Windmills and grew lovely tulips as befits their name.  They made an early thresher which sold at £27 and in 1905 they designed and built the first clover-seed huller.  They made a pea-harvester also for John Frame Sen. from his design.  Charles Dutch arrived in Barker in 1850, when there were only three BRICK houses here.  He married a Miss Rundle and his business was carried on by his sons Isaac and William, until about 1940.

James Pearce father of Sir George, was a blacksmith who lived in the cottage facing Adelaide Road now owned by W.A. Robertson next door to Mr. J. Pope’s.  Harry Freeman, Dick Andews, Donald Cameron and Andrew Wylie all had blacksmiths shops.  Ben Daniels had a shop, where his daughter who is 90 years old, now lives.  His son Richard moved to the corner where Gilbert’s Garage is, and later his two sons Frank and Dick had a large shop opposite the Rectory for many years.  They became interested in clover and make a threshing machine which aided the clover-seed industry enormously.

Mr. Salmon, who had worked for Ramsay’s, when it closed down started business at Donald Cameron’s shop, over the creek below the Bowling Green.  Later he moved next to Daniel’s shop and Mr Cornelius made the wooden frames for his machines.  Mr Cornelius was a wheel-wright.  Salmon built a large foundry near the railway station and carried on for some years.  Later he sold out, and the building was removed.

The foundry of Mt. Barker Products was started by Mr. A. Malycha in 1950, on Alexandrina Road.

Unfortunately, the shortage of iron and brass is curtailing their output of fittings, although they hold contacts for the Housing Trust which is very active here at present, about 50 homes having been built recently.


The local tannery, started by the Paltridge family, in the early days of the town, has employed a great number of local men in its time.

When the Paltridges, who were bootmakers, found it impossible to buy leather, they decided to make their own.  Wattle bark was collected on their property and cut up with a hatchet, later a horse-powered mill was used to grind it.

A blacksmith named Merrifield helped them by making tools, and a Scot, Mr. Searcy who was a currier, supervised the work.  In a few months they were turning out 3 hides a week.  Now the output is nearer 1300 a week.

In October, 1907, the buildings were burnt down and later rebuilt, but as time went on they were added to bit by bit.

Johnston Sons Pty., bought the business in 1948, just before it was burnt down the second time.  A larger and more modern structure has replaced the old one.


Butter Factory and Jacobs Ltd.

As dairying was one of the earliest occupations followed by the new settlers, they had to walk to the city to sell their surplus at first.  Later in the 1890’s, a group of local men formed a Co-Operative Butter Factory, and started it near the station.

This butter gained Australian wide reputation, and was even sent to Western Australia.  The price of milk dropped to as low as 2 ½d. per gallon, and the factory decided to close down.  It was idle for some years, when Jacob Bros. who had been curing bacon at Nairne for some years, decided to buy it, and transfer their business to Mt. Barker.  This factory now slaughters from 400 to 500 pigs weekly, and supplies small goods to all the states.

With the spread of subterranean clover, land which once carried one cow, can now pasture 20, and where one sheep ran, now it’s 40.  This enabled farmers to increase their herds, and milk output, so that with the advent of the milking machines, 8,000 gall. of milk is supplied daily to the factory.  Half of this is pasteurised and sent to Adelaide while enough butter to supply the local market is made, and cheese is exported to India, China and Malaya.

Because of the abundance of clover and red and blue gums, the keeping of bees is quite a profitable business.  Most bee-farmers are satisfied with an average yield of 4 to 5 tins of honey per hive.  A local farmer gathers as much as 9 tins per hive.

Potatoes are growing on the large scale and the irrigating of them for the summer crop was first proved by the Pope Bros.  They average 18 tons per acre.

Onions are also a paying crop, although the planting of them is a very backbreaking occupation.  Even poor ground, when used with super-phosphates will yield 40 tons per acre.

Agricultural Society

As far back as 1847, the Society was functioning here.  Plowing matches were held annually on the neighbouring farms, either at Woodside, Nairne or Mt. Barker, and they usually started at 9 o’clock, finished about 4, when a dinner would be held at one of the local hotels and the prizes handed out.  The earliest records mention the name of John Frame as being President and an exhibitor.

The show itself was held, at first, in the same way, until the land was purchased at Mt. Barker, and they held their show every year from about 1860.

Before the purchase of the present grounds, it was sometimes held in Mr. Gloag’s garden, (where the house of C. Fry stands today) and also behind Claremont Tea Rooms.

Prizes were offered for farming implements because the work by hand was far too slow; also for other inventions, and Mr Nitschke (in 1856) exhibited a “fire engine” he had made.

A number of entries in the early shows are worthy of notice, such items as glue, leather, silk, wine, fruit, bonedust; stock was added later and was paraded down the street, there being no “ring” then.

When the new grounds and pavilion were used, some fine collections of fruit and vegetables were tabled.

During the War years, the Annual show was held in abeyance but in 1947, two shows were held, one in Autumn and one Spring.  They were both popular, but eventually it was decided to transfer the March one to November, when the stock (which is always a renown feature) is at its best.

Show were also followed by a dinner at the local inn in the olden days, but this has now given place to the “Official luncheon”.

Present Show President is Mr. L.B. Dean, while Mr. M. Cameron is the Secretary.


The Mt. Barker Electric Supply Co. was founded on Aug. 23rd, 1922. when the provisional officers elected were Messers. A.C. Daw, H.B. Chapman, Bruce Barker, A.D. Wilkinson, and Dr. Bartram, with Mr. Alf Monks as Secretary.

At their factory, W. Jacobs & Co. generated the supply of electricity required for the town.

On June 14th, 1923, four hundred people assembled at the intersection of Gawler and Hutchinson Streets to see Mr. Bruce Barker, Chariman of Directors, throw the master switch controlling the new electric lighting system.

At the time of the formation of the company the total capital was 10,000 shares valued at £1 per share.

When the power was released, apart from 25 street lights and 3 in Littlehampton, there were 170 private consumers ready to be switched on.

In 1926, the company was bought out by the Adelaide Electric Supply Co..

Hunt Club

In the “Courier” of 1887, a vivid picture is given of the “Pink Coats”, who conducted a run from Auchendarrock to Parkindula and Eden Park.

Misses Annie and Lizzie Stone of Parkindula were there and they rode sidesaddle.

Of late years the colourful scene is re-enacted each June under the invitation of Mr. Jack Walsh of “The Laurels”.

Red Cross

During the War Years the Red Cross Society functioned to supply medical aid and comforts to the sick of the services.

The monthly house to house collections, as well as the weekly shop in Gawler Street, was their main source of revenue.  Since then they have continued to carry on in a quiet way, having one fund raising effort each year.

The Relatives’ Assoc. have also functioned since the war, their main objective being to assist the retuned men and women and their dependants.  They meet each month in the R.S.L. clubrooms, under the Pres. Mrs Don Woolaston, Sec. Mrs. H. Carr.


A meeting was called by Mr. H. Williams and Mr. H. Possingham in March of 1938, at the National Bank, when the need for an ambulance in the District was stressed.

Dr. Pridmore suggested that those people present form a Committee to suggest ways and means of raising the necessary amount to purchase one.

A concert and a dance started the fund, then a direct appeal was sent out to all the district per medium of the “Courier”.

So successful were the functions arranged, that by 1940, the Ambulance was handed over to the District Council.

It was staffed by voluntary helpers, and is now housed in a fine brick building along with the Fire Brigade, and has been a blessing to thousands.

Mothers and Babies Health Assoc.

In October of 1938, Mrs. Bruce Barker convened a meeting of mothers who were addressed by Lady Mawson (Pres. Of the M.B.H.A. of Adelaide) on the aims and objects of the Assoc.  It was then decided to form a local branch, Mrs. J.J. Showbridge (Pres.) and Mrs. N. Cook (Sec.)

Meetings are held monthly, but the sister visits the clinic fortnightly.

For a while meetings were held in the rear of the Presbyterian Church, but later they moved to the C.W.A. Rest Room, where they are still held.

Quarterly meetings are usually held on the lawn of different mother’s homes, which enables the children to be present, yet happily out of the way.

Many fund raising functions are held, chiefly the street stall and the sale of badges, but this very financial body have invested their surplus funds in War Loans.

Present President is Mrs. Alcock, Secretary Mrs. Trengove.


A meeting to consider the formation of a branch of C.W.A. was called by Mrs. Lorrimer whose husband was manager of the Bank of Aust.

The branch was formed and the first meetings held in Dec. 1935 when Mrs. Fred Shepard was elected President and Mrs. Lorriemer Secretary.  Meetings were held in the Methodist Lecture Hall under, largely though the generosity of Misses Annie and Diana Paterson, the Rest Rooms were built in 1936.

Miss Annie Paterson laid the foundation stone and later when finished, Lady Duncan declared the building opened.

Later Presidents were Mesdames Barker, Dean, Langrehr and Robertson.  Members of C.W.A. have worked and contributed generously to all local charities, especially the Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.

They display a friendly interest in the New Australians at Woodside Camp as well as exchange visits with neighbouring branches.  Handicrafts prove a very popular section and these are of a high standard.

Caledonian Society

In November of 1938, a group of 30 people, all from the “Land of cakes”, met in the Presbyterian Church Hall, to hear a talk by Mr. Duncan Menzies, on the aims and meaning of this Society.

That grand old Scot, Mr. J. Slaven was elected the first Chief, with Mr. Gibson as secretary.

Just as this Society was flourishing, and gaining the support of a large section of Scottish descendants the war intervened and meetings were held in abeyance till 1948, when it was reformed under the direction of Mr. H. Possingham, who has just installed as Chief for the third year.  He is assisted by Miss Adey as Sec. and the Association has 100 members.

At present they are working to form a local Pipe Band, and through the generosity of Mr. H. Hay and K. Bell they have a set of pipes and a set of drums.  The main need at present, is plenty of wind.

What with such celebrations as Burn’s Night, St. Andrew’s Day, Hallowe’en and the ever popular Highland Ball when all the Tartans are in evidence, there is no lack of interest by young or old.

Boys' and Girls' Club

Way back in the 1920’s, when the Boy Scouts ceased to meet, a Boys’ Club was begun in the Parish Hall by Mr. J. Dyer, a teacher of Eden Park Boys’ Home for physical exercises.  The club proved very popular and a second club was formed for the girls.

Through the generosity of the late Mr. L. Von Doussa, a club House was erected near the oval in 1927 and the Club has made rapid progress and has proved of great value to the health of the young people.

At various times the Von Doussa Club House, for that is its real title, has housed the Badminton Club, the weekly dance club, and the R.S.L. frequently held socials and dinners in it.  These have proved a source of revenue also as much valuable equipment has been purchased, for club use; a piano being one essential, mats and bars also.

Directors have been, for boys; Mr. D. Dyer, Donoghue, Mr. Ellis, P. Bowering. D. Dyer, G. Palmer, and Mr. K. Thompson.

The girls started under the capable leadership of Miss T. Jacobs, Miss Neagle, A. Smith and now Miss K. Wiese.  Classes were started in 1950 for senior “girls” who were so impressed with the work done by their daughters that they decided to join up and form a class.

The first patron was Mr. L. Von Doussa and the present one is Dr. Downing, present secretary is W. Duffield.

At the annual demonstration, when both clubs give their best, the Institute is not large enough to accommodate everyone.

Sporting Bodies

The list of Sporting bodies in the town at present shows that there is no lack of something to do on Saturdays.

It consists of: -

Football Clubs, A and B teams

Cricket, Blue and White teams

Rifle Club and Miniature Club

Cycling Club

Homing Club

Table Tennis (Winter) and 4 tennis clubs (summer)

Basketball (5 teams)




Volunteer Fire Brigade

The disastrous fire of January, 1939, which swept the northern portion of the District Council district of Mount Barker and threatened the area practically on all adjoining borders created within the public a spirit of fire consciousness.  The knapsack spray had proved to be vastly superior to the green bough and wet bag.  Hand pressure pumps from 44-gallon drums and small tanks conveyed on motor trucks had maintained water supplies and fought the fires on the accessibly country and in many instances, saved homesteads.

City engineering firms commercialising on the bush fire ravage, marketed portable engine pumps, freely demonstrating such in the vulnerable areas.  Local Councils purchased knapsacks, tanks, drums, pumps and other bush fire fighting equipment freely, and from the disastrous loss occasioned by the 1939 fires, emerged the State-wide reorganisation of fire fighting services in which Mount Barker fully co-operated.

At the outbreak of the war in 1939, the District was organised for bush fire control, but with entry of Japan into World War II, began the birth of the Mount Barker Volunteer Fire Brigade.  In February, 1942, a local A.R.P.A organisation was established in which Mr. Jack Walsh, District Fire Supervisor was appointed Chief Fire Officer.  The dark days of the Pacific War aroused the fire fighting services of the local A.R.P. to the necessity for equipment and from a Council grant a small portable engine and pump was built for used from drums, static points or rainwater tanks, should the necessity arise.  The late Mr. T.G. Symonds, Messers. Simper and Gilbert were responsible for this first fire fighting unit.  No sooner was this outfit built than the Local Hospital caught fire and the newly purchased outfit, at midnight on a cold frosty night, with members of the recently formed brigade, were responsible for an excellent save.

Whilst the outbreak was fresh in the public mind an appeal was launched for funds to purchase a vehicle to permanently hold the equipment in readiness, with a supply of water, and in October, 1943, a Bedford truck of £120 value was equipped for Town and District fire fighting.

The advent of the gas-producer on country roads proved disastrous to landowners, 38 fires were attended in the first summer and the value of a completely equipped unit carrying its own water supply, its own power driven pumps, and a trained crew, was proved beyond doubt.

Twelve months later in August, 1944, a further appeal to the public yielded sufficient public donations for the Mount Barker Brigade to purchase a new lease-lend Chevrolet truck, which, when fully equipped represented £1,023 expenditure of public subscribed monies.

Members of the Brigade in conjunction with local tradesmen worked Saturday afternoons and public holidays and erected a combined Fire Brigade Station and Ambulance Headquarters in which the units were housed.  The relatives of the late Mr. T.G. Symonds provided a siren with a five mile coverage call, and the Brigade went from strength to strength answering local and far distant calls for assistance when fire threatened.

The good work performed by the Brigade through the years received a sudden jolt on the 21st February, 1948, when, in attempting to cut off an outbreak the unit was trapped by fire and scrub and blinding smoke and heat.  The crew members had to abandon their vehicle and rush for safety.  Years of work and the pride of the members and the public was reduced to a salvage value of £125 in a few minutes, and the future of the Brigade was again in jeopardy.

A further appeal to the public was magnificently met, and in a very short while donations poured in, enabling one of the most modern fire fighting vehicles in S.A. to be placed on the road, which today, has a value of £3,000.  This unit was built and designed by Mr. H.F. Gierke of Mount Barker.

A further light patrol adds to the strength of the Brigade permitting two fires to be tackled simultaneously, on its flanks, of the one outbreak, and to this equipment must be added a Beresford Stock Trailer Pump, issued by the Emergency Fire Services.  This latter unit will pour 150 gallons of water per minute, from water mains, dams, underground tanks or like supplies, and has been used by members to good advantage both in bush and factory fire fighting.

In 1947, the S.A. government took steps to unite the various country fire brigades into a State-wide organisation, known as the Emergency Fire Service under the direction of Mr. T. Meaney and later Mr. F. Kerr.  This organisation was divided into 7 areas; Mt. Barker being in Area 1 which extends South of Adelaide through the hills districts to Victor Harbour, including Kangaroo Island.

A State-wide hose and trailer pump competition was organised, the Government making available a valuable cup to be held by the successful Brigade for 12 months, and 5 replica cups to be presented and retained by the crew of the winning teams.  Elimination contests are held annually in each of the 7 areas to determine which Brigade will represent their respective area at the final contest, which for the past 3 years has been held at the Wayville Showgrounds, during the September Royal Show.

The Mt. Barker crew under the leadership of Mr. F. Hart won this competition in 1948 and 1949 and has been again qualified to represent Area 1 at the 1951 Jubilee Competition.

Today, Mount Barker claims to have the best equipped fire fighting organisation in S.A., its total equipment, including wireless transceivers for communication and a modern hose trailer, presented to the Brigade by Mr. R.C.P. Darley, has a value of £5,000.  It has saved thousands upon thousands of acres of property within this District and those adjoining, and many of these saves were effected during the blackest portion of the Pacific was when national production meant everything to the Nation,

The Mount Barker Fire Brigade was offspring from the National Peril of 1941-45, it was most ably assisted by Mr. F. Simper as President for many years, later to be followed by the present office holder, Mr. D. Daniel.  Messrs. Walsh, Gilbert and H.F. Clerke have been the successive captains, whilst the secretarial duties have been shared by Messrs. A.G. Bowyer and K. Stephenson, (present office holder).

An excellent, keen, enthusiastic band of 30 members has welded this fire fighting team into one of the State’s most respected Fire Brigades, and likewise, into one of Mount Barker’s most publicly spirited organisations.


Mrs. Maud Davis (Mitchell)

60 years of age, says Albert Road south of Mt. Barker township has grown considerably in the past 50 years.

In the year 1883, when Joseph Mitchell with his wife and two children moved from the Springs, it was just a track for the bullock teams, bounded by scrub and furze hedges.

The half acre he had purchased on the corner of Alexandrina and Albert Roads, was cleared by him and his wife, with a little help from his father, Jacob, of Bugle Ranges.

Having found it, he built his house and moved into it in 1884, calling it “Pioneer Cottage”.  His daughter is living there today and the house is sound and staunch still.

Mr. Mitchell having completed his home, opened a small store, now the flourishing Extension Store stands opposite it, having been built for Mr. Hugh Jones, about 1923.

The second house to be built in Albert Road was Mr. Thomas Webber’s.  He moved from Jubilee, Wistow in 1884 and built the cottage now owned by his grand-daughters, Miss Elsie and Myrtle Davis.  Mr. Webber and his two sons were masons and built a large number of houses in the town from that time.

The third house built about the same time was for William Noah Hedges, who carried on an extensive business as carpenter and joinery works.  He married Elizabeth Patterson, daughter of John of “Green Hills”, Wistow.  There were three other daughters, Jessie (a nurse), Annie, foundation member of the C.W.A. (Mt. Barker) and she laid the foundation stone of the beautiful Rest Room, of which we are justly proud; and Diana was a clever artist. John carried on the farm after his father’s death.  They have all passed on now.  Mr. Hedges moved to Western Aust. where he entered Parliament and was M.H.R. until his death.  His wife pre-deceased him.

Since these homes were built 60 years ago, the one-time bullock track has been transformed by nice modern homes and beautiful gardens, till today, it resembles a city suburb.

Mr. J. Pope

The early pioneers in carrying were Alfred Champion, Robert Peake and his son, Reuben Pope and his son Charles and his sons also.

Charles Pope, with Hoad Bros. of Mannum carted large cylinders for the first Railway Bridge over the River Murray from Port Adelaide.  The roads were unmade and extra horses would have to be used, at various places to help the load over the steep parts.

Blacksmith-shops were as thick as peas along the route as there was always a shoe to be replaced or a broken harness to be repaired.

One cold wet night they went into a boarding-house for tea, and ordered steak, which they thoroughly enjoyed, but were not so pleased afterwards when they learnt that it was kangaroo meat.

Another time, when passing through Strathalbyn in the early frosty morning they espied a butcher shop open, and purchased some sausages.  A few miles further on they decided to have breakfast and having no pan they were cooked on a shovel, but with plenty of hot billy tea they were the “the best meal he ever tasted”.

Mr. Jo. Pope tells of many instances when the teams were bogged and another team would try to get them out.  Once when stuck in the sand, it took seventeen horses to pull them out.

In the early days of Broken Hill, Mount Barker supplied iron and limestone flux to smelt the ore at Dry Creek and Port Adelaide.  Mr. Charles Pope had half a dozen teams carting from quarries in the district, as well as Meadows and Macclefield, to the railway station.

The drivers of the teams would get up at 4 o’clock in the morning, feed their own horses, clean them down, breakfast and leave home at 6a.m., work until 6p.m. carting feed their horses again and call it a day.  They had no Saturdays for sport then.

To feed such a large number of horses required a large stock of hay, so standing crops were brought.  Six men with scythes would go out in a line cutting a strip 36 feet wide, then it was raked up with a wooden rake, cocked up and later carted home on a dray with a high frame.  When the mower and horse-rake were first used, many farmers refused to use them because they could cut 2” lower with the land scythe.  Later a mower cut and laid sheaves in rows, which the men tied with bands of hay.  The first stack of sheaved hay in the district was owned by Mr. Pope, but it was destroyed by fire in 1888.

Mr John Dunn imported a binder which used wire, but it was not a success and later twine was used.  Farmers cropped and cropped their land with wheat until it became exhausted and they were obliged to look for sidelines, cows, sheep, pigs or other crops.

The coming of subterranean clover and the use of super, which was imported from England by Mr. Charles Pope, 1897, were of great help in restoring the fertility to this land.  Some farmers refused to use it, saying that it would poison the land in a year or two.  His two sons C.B. and J. Pope (of Pope Bros.) tried it out on their land, and won the prize offered by Elder Smith & Co. at the Adelaide Show for the best collection of farm products, grown on one farm, for three years in successions, 1908, 9, and 10.

They also pioneered potato growing in this district, using the dry farming method and had 45 acres of them which averaged 7 tons per acre.  They also experimented for the Dept. of Agriculture by plowing in green peas before planting potatoes, and reaped 160 tons of potatoes off 18 acres by this method.

At the local show, 65 years ago, one of the main features was a collection of farm products grown on one farm, Mr. W.A. Wilson, Thomas Jones and Pope Bros.  All won awards at various times.  These collections were an eye-opener to visitors, and were always much admired.

The day the railway was opened to Barker, was a great own for the kiddies when they were all given free rides to Balhannah and back, as well as a big picnic on the hill behind the Convent.  But it was also the “exit” of Hill & Co.’s coaches.

Harry Paltridge

A son of Mr. John Paltridge, he was born in the town in 1855, and entered his father’s business of auctioneering and surveying.  Their office was situated where Bell & Co.’s store is, and their sales were held weekly in the yards behind the Hotel Barker.

As a young man he joined a “Voluntary Fire-Reel” and also was an officer in the Voluntary Defence Comp., with which was combined a Rifle Club.

He lived in the old Paltridge home in Hutchinson Street, but later moved with his family to “Adlooka”.  His daughter (Mrs. H. Bell) still resides in the town.

Richard Daniels

Was born in Adelaide 1853, but was educated at the school of Mr. Dumas.  His father, Benjamin, came out in 1851 and was an early blacksmith at Mt. Barker.  His son Richard found plenty of time to carry on the business and plenty of opportunities to devote his time and energy to the advancement of the town as well.

He served as a Justice of the Peace, and as a Councillor, as well as Vice-Pres. of the Band of Hope and local Bible Society.  He was also very interested in the Agricultural Society of which he was a life member.

Of his work with the Friendly Societies he was a Worshipful Mater of the Freemasons, whilst he also passed through all the chairs of the Oddfellows, of which he was a Trustee.  For several years he occupied the position of superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School as well as being a Trustee of the Church for 50 years.

In 1877, he married Susan, daughter of J.L.R. Hamlyn, a very old resident of the Springs’ district.  His two sons and grandsons reside in the town today.

John George Thomas

Was born in the town in 1864, his father having come from N.S.W. in the 50’s.  John was educated locally and served his indenture to the printing trade.  Later he turned to farming and wattle growing.

For many years he held a seat on the Council, and was a prominent member of the I.O.O.F., M.U..

Henry Monk, J.P.

Was born at Shady Grove, and his parents came out in the ship “Delhi”, 1839.  Henry was educated at Blakiston and Hahndorf, after which he engaged in farming at Black Rook.

Later he returned to Barker and had a chaff-cutting business with his farm.  He was the proprietor at the time, also, of the Great Eastern Hotel.

Disposing of both these businesses, he engaged in bacon-curing.  This business was carried on by his son until taken over by Froggitt-Jones Pty. Ltd..

Mr. Monks was for many years on the Council of Mt. Barker, holding the position of Chairman twice.  He was also a keen lodge man.  His descendants are still living in the district.

Allan Bell

Of Dalmeny Park, situated at the foot of the Mount, was born in England, and came to S. Aus. in 1839, in the ship “Lady Bute”.  His son, also Allan became a farmer on the River Murray.  Later, the property passed into the hands of Mr. John Darling and Sir. J. Penn Boucart.

When it was sold Mr. Allan Bell Jnr. purchased it and later he grew prize wheat which was awarded the World’s prize in London and Paris, 1851.  The estate also held a high reputation for its cattle.  Members of his family are still residing at Mt. Barker.

Bruce Barker

Was born at the home of his maternal grand-parents, Mr. & Mrs. Allan Bell of Dalmeny Park, on Nov. 11th, 1879.

His parental grandparents purchased the store of Mr. Bond in 1865.  After his death, it was carried on under his wife’s name, and with the help of his daughter, Miss Florance Barker.

When Mrs. Barker died, Bruce who was in Adelaide, returned to manage the business for his aunt.  In 1923, he purchased it, and after extensive alterations and additions, carried it on under the name of Baker's, till his death, when it was purchased by D. Bell & Co., who, however, still carry on under the name of Barker.

Mr. Barker was associated with and interested in practically every public or sporting body ever established in the town during his residence.  For 30 years he was Sec. of the Baptist Church and an ardent worker for it.  He was keenly interested in Literature and Debating Societies.

It was largely due to his efforts that electricity was first introduced to the town, and he was Chairman of the first Electric Light Supply Co. before it was taken over by the Adelaide Co..

He was a keen bowler, having won the championship on two occasions, and also a keen football supporter.  A man interested in any scheme for the advancement of the town, saw him a prime mover in the Progress Association, Housing Committee, Welcome Home (of which he was Chairman), the Institute and Hospital, all benefited by his untiring emery and generous donations.

He married Miss Lucy Stephenson, 1905, and she and her daughters and grandchildren still reside in the town.

John Howards Snr.

Our local hairdresser was born in the town in 1880.  His grandparents, Lucy and John Morris lived in a house where the new Dry-cleaning premises have been built.  His grandfather was a pit-sawer, and worked for Anderson’s Mill, sawing the trees into logs, ready for the bullock teams to cart to the mill.

John Howard and his 3 sons have all been keenly interested in sports, particularly bowls and tennis.  He was also a warden of the Anglican Church for 25 years.

J. Pope

Was born at Mt. Barker in 1878.  He is the son of Charles, and grandson of Reuben Pope.  As a young lad he worked with his father, but later he and his brother farmed on land out on the Macclesfield Road.  For the last 29 years he has managed the Rest Home Farm and resides opposite it on the Adelaide Road. He has always been interested in the Methodist Church, being a Trustee for 48 years and of late years (14), also Superintendent of the Sunday School.

As a local preacher, he has visited all the neighbouring churches, and is I expect, one of, if not the most, well-known persons in the town today.  He has been a local preacher for 47 years.

Since he has been on the Committee of the Show for 30 years and the Agricultural Bureau for 25 years, there is little he does not know about these Societies.

For 31 years, he has given good and faithful service to the Memorial Hospital, being one of the foundation members and he is also Chairman of the House Committee.  What time he has left from all these duties is taken up with bowls (15 years) in the daytime and Lodge at night.  He is a staunch Rechabite and has been so for 64 years.  Such a record as this will be hard to beat, and when you see his smiling face and twinkling eyes, it is hard to realize the man who holds these records is 73 years and still going strong.