History of Mount Barker and District by Annie Jones

The following is a transcription of some hand-written notes/document by Annie Jones in August 1977 and reproduced here with permission from Don Goldney and the Mount Barker Branch NTSA.             [ transcribed - Annette Oien NTSA, October 2014 ]


Old Identities

George Bollan;   Walter Paterson;   Friend Cleggett – wife Hannah;   Joe Cleggett;   Captain William Harper;   George Snell;   Thomas Bonython;   Thomas Kitto;   Thomas Hill;   Thomas Lawson;   Allan Bell;   John Dunn;   Fred Cay;   John Frame;   George Cleggett;   Isaac Dutch;   John Barton Hack;   William Hampdon Dutton;   William Bevis Randall;   William Pierce;   Duncan MacFarlane;   John Finnis;   Samuel Stephens

100 Years Ago

Nothing in the past is dead, to the man who would learn how the present came to be what it is.

Here is a little poem, loaned to me by Mrs E J Schmaal.  It is called ‘100 Years Ago’:

Where we live and work each day, | Native children used to play | All about our happy land | Where the shops and houses stand. | Then the trees were very tall, | And there were no streets at all. | Not a church, and not a steeple, | Only trees and native people. | Only wurlies on the ground – | And savage dingoes prowling round – | What a different place today, | Where we live and work and play.

One hundred years ago, the township as we know it was non-existent.  The scene, however, was beautiful and tho’ small in area to other country districts.  It has developed and is now the hub of an important producing area, living proof of the potential foreseen by the pioneers who were attracted and impressed by the bush growth, fresh streams and beautifully wooded undulating land.  The area was abundant with golden wattles which were soon destined to be cut down and stripped by white men, the straight sapling to be used together with mud to make pisé houses, better known as wattle and daub and more important still the bark, which was stripped off, was tied into bundles and sold to be used when treated to tan hides.  To many a pioneer and his family this bark proved to be a steady source of income.

The area lies in a huge natural irregular bowl surrounded by hills including Mount Barker itself.

This in the 20th century came to be called the Cream Bowl and for a few years a Cream Bowl Festival was held here but due to lack of support this annual function died out completely.

The 'Mount' and the Aborigines

Firstly I’d like to talk of the Mount itself, its names and the reasons for being so called, the aborigines living here, the first white people to see Mount Barker and the first white people who were the first, or rather claimed to be the first, to ascend it.

The Mount itself actually consists of one huge rocky tree-covered eminence and two smaller hills.  The big mount is the property of the Government, the bigger of the 2 small hills is the property of J L Frame & Co., whilst the smaller one as it slopes to the south belongs to Undermount homestead.

The local aborigines known as the ‘Per-am-An’ people (last syllable pronounced ‘ung’) called the Mount ‘Womma-mu-kurta’ meaning ‘hill upon a plain’, this fact being borne out by the fact that the land falls away on the east, south east and southern sides very steeply and the ‘mount’ itself is visible from so many places, such as Murray Bridge, Tailem Bend, Wellington, Meningie, Milang, Langhorne Creek, Goolwa, Stirling and Mount Lofty.

The natives here because of the abundant supply of food here were about 800 in number.

They had two main camps, one about 400 strong down near the creek on the flat area where Jacobs now stands.  Several natives living in groups and along the creek until Mount Barker Springs, an area west of the big ‘mount’ fed by many fresh water springs and hence the name, where about 300 camped.  There were lots of ti–trees along the creek and the natives used these trees to erect shelters.  Some of the early pioneers used bundles of ti-tree boughs as brooms.  Birds everywhere: galahs, small birds and water fowl, native animals.  A galah baked whole in hot ashes is a delicacy and the natives liked nothing better.  The streams of deliciously fresh water – not the over polluted streams from the wastes of the tannery and factory - teemed with fish and yabbies’ and mud fish and a small fish not unlike a rainbow trout and perch were enjoyed by the natives and last but not least, honey.  There were numerous swarms of native bees who took honey from the various gum flowers and native shrubs.  One little medicinal plant known to us as Century and wild violets grew profusely.

The natives lived peacefully, fighting occasionally with the ‘Moop-pol-tha-wong’ tribe, Murray Bridge.  In 1846 a very fierce battle took place, amid the rough scrub of Windmill Hill between the local tribe, the Murray Bridge tribe and the Wellington tribe, and so fierce and bloody was the battle that white people were forced to break up the fight with the use of muskets.

As I am about to tell you of the first sightings of Mount Barker here is another little poem about the mount and the aborigines who lived here.  It is called Womma-mu-kurta

By the lofty mount they dwell, | By their gleaming camp fires slept; | Sought the bounding kangaroo, | Hunted grey o’possum too. | Tried the dingoes – wild – to tame, | Caught the wild fowl as they came. | ‘Womma-mu-kurta’ to the brown men, | ‘Mountain upon a plain’ ‘twas known then. | Not a house and not a steeple, | Only brown ‘Per-am-an’ people | Dwelt there from the dream-time days | And lived their simple peaceful ways

All this, however, was to change.  The teeming wild life, native bees, fowl and bush food laid on free, to change drastically in a very few years with the advent of the white folk who took over the land completely and in time the aborigine was forced to steal white man tucker in order to live.

I have heard that the aborigines considered the white man thus:

Him plurry silly fellow | Him shoot and kill everything that moves | Him cut down everything that doesn’t move.

The first white man to see Mt Barker itself was on Feb 19th 1830 when Capt. Charles Sturt made his epic voyage from N.S.W. down the river Murray in a whale boat.  On entering a beautiful lake of fresh water (Alexandrina) he surveyed the horizon and saw a huge dark mountain towering in the distance.  He took this to be Mt Lofty.  However Capt. Collett Barker with his men of the 39th Regiment, who had been sent by the Gov. of N.S.W. to examine the east coast of St Vincent’s Gulf in the hope of finding some other outlet of the waters of the Murray other than the disappointing one found by Sturt at the Murray Mouth.

While engaged on this duty, Capt Barker and his party, landed near the present site of Pt Noarlunga.  They struck in-land, along the Mt Lofty Ranges and on April 19th 1831 they ascended Mt Lofty itself and here they saw a large mountain in the distance: this was Mt Barker.  Gaining this view of the ‘Mount’ Barker reasoned that just as this geographical feature shut off his view of the Lakes – so it would prevent Sturt from seeing Mt Lofty from the lakes.

On reading Barker’s report Sturt admitted his mistake and he named the ‘Mount’ after Capt. Collett Barker, who some short while after he saw Mt Barker was speared to death by hostile blacks near the Murray Mouth.

The frequent statement that Barker ascended the ‘Mt’ is incorrect.

The First White People to Ascend Mt Barker Itself

There were 2 parties to claim the honour, however due to lack of communications in the very early days of the colony, I think the first mentioned party can claim the honour.

Early in Dec 1837 a party of men including John Barton Hack, Samuel Stephens, John Wade, John Morphett (later Sir John) and one unnamed man, left Adelaide.  The object of their trip was to look for some cattle belonging to Hack, which had strayed inland from the foothills of Mt Lofty Ranges.  The main object of their trip was to look for a river said to run from north to south beyond Mt Lofty Ranges.  This would be the Onkaparinga River.  In one report it is quoted that the party rode their horses – well at this time – the Gov. of S.A. and John Morphett were supposedly the only two owners of horse flesh in S.A. however the party climbed to the summit of Mt Barker sleeping there over night because of a fierce thunderstorm which hindered their journey back to Adelaide.

The other party of 2 men – J.B. Shepherdson and William Beavis Randell – claimed they ascended Mt Barker Summit Christmas Day 1838.  Randell was so impressed with the district that he determined to establish a cattle station here.

William Beavis Randall came to S.A., on the ship Hartley in 1837, together with his wife and seven children.  He went to Gumeracha where he erected and worked a flour mill.  In 1838 as an agent of the S.A. Lands Development Co he came to Mt Barker being connected with the survey of the district.

The Survey and Early Pioneers

This survey was officially accomplished (1838) by William Hampdon Dutton and the survey plans were exhibited in Adelaide Nov. 5th 1839.  Dutton and partners Duncan MacFarlane and John Finnis leased and sold some of the first sections (80 acres) to John Kain, Higgins, Clancy Bull and Murphy and so the district began.  Prior to this however, by 11th Sept 1839 there were squatters occupying sections to which they had no legal right.  Among these were Captain Finnis, Messrs J.B. Hack, Fenn, Bouchier, Scott and Jones.

Also at this time overlanders were coming from N.S.W. with cattle they came along the coast road thro Meningie then on to Mt Barker.  These people were also greatly impressed with the lush surroundings and stayed so that the cattle could recover in condition after the long dry journey.

In 1836 in Dec. at Glenelg the first British Colonists arrived followed by other ships, the Hartley, the Maryanne, Hollyoak, Ariadne, Phoebe, the Resource, Highland Lass and others.

There were many reasons for these Colonists coming from Europe and the British Isles to settle in a vast, wild, unknown land.  The German folk came because of religious persecution.  The Irish for the fact that Ireland suffered a dreadful famine when ‘Irish Blight’ attacked the main source of food - the potatoes.  In England itself and in fact all of the British Isles the standards of living were exceedingly poor many folk inhabiting the Work Houses living in deplorable conditions.  If a man so much as stole a loaf of bread or ‘poached’ a rabbit he was either hanged or branded as a criminal and sent as a slave to one of the British Colonies.

The attitudes of the mine owners towards the miners were very harsh and inconsiderate.  They disregarded the value of the pit workers lives and even children from 8 yrs onwards worked underground in the mines.

Revolt at these conditions and the spirit of adventure strong in their hearts they came to this country to better their living conditions.

At first conditions were very very harsh.  Remaining close to that source of life ‘fresh water’ the pioneers moved in towards the hills from Glenelg and Adelaide was beginning its birth to become the beautiful garden city that it is at present.

Adventurous folk pushed on further to the foothills then known as the ‘Tiers’.  Here many lived in dug-outs covered with brush and one of our ancestors 5 generations ago lived in one such a dug-out and had her baby in very appalling conditions.  On leaving this dug-out to progress further into the hills she set alight to the dug-out determined no other woman should suffer the deprivations that she experienced while there.

By 1838 people had reached Gumeracha, Uraidla, Crafers, Aldgate and Hahndorf.  At Crafers there was a crude shepherd’s hut where many a weary and depressed traveler was glad to spend the night.

On reaching Hahndorf the more venturesome pioneers pushed on further turning eastward on coming to the rough insurmountable wooded slopes of what is now Windmill Hill moving along on country flat enough to make good progress.  Here they passed thro what is now Shady Grove and the outskirts of Mt Barker Junction keeping in an easterly direction until they reached what is now known as Blakiston and on to Nairne which was founded by Andrew Smilie 1838.  Some folk came along what is now Bald Hills Road area which was then deeply covered with Golden Wattles.

Some of the first settlers lived here in Mt Barker at Totnes this side of Windmill Hill and Teakletowns,  Totnes being named after the village in Eng. that some of the colonists came from.

Teakletown – the area in the vicinity of Hill Street, Cherington Street and Hawthorn Road – was named after a Mr Teakle who owned land from the Adelaide Road to Dunnes Run which was the area where the new section of the freeway to Adelaide now extends.

The first house, a pisé house known affectionately as ‘wattle and daub’ was built in Kia Ora Street near the creek by Duncan MacFarlane.  Similar houses were soon to follow and a very substantial home, since been added to, was built by the son of Mr Teakle at Teakletown and was called ‘Adlooka’, now occupied by Mrs Wilson Smith senior.  The main centre in those days was Commercial Rd, Walker St, Morphett St, Cameron Rd, Hutchinson Street and of course the main street Gawler St named after Gov. Gawler.  A Mrs Starling kept a shop in Morphett St near the site of the first cemetery called Resurrection Row, between Walker St and Stephen St.  Now the site of 2 very old houses adjoining one another and recently renovated.  These were jokingly referred to as Dead Man’s Row for many years.

The second cemetery was on the site of the present triangle and contained 70 graves.  As the town grew the cemetery site was changed to its present position over the railway line above the convent.

Some of the first substantial buildings to be erected were the hotels.  These could furnish a history of their own.  They were the community centres of the new town.  Meetings, social events, courts, schools and church services were held in the hotels as they were usually the largest edifice in town.

The first hotel that I know of was Gloag’s Hotel, situated across the road from the present tannery in the vicinity of the mill-house.  Later Gloag built his second hotel in Hutchinson St which was later purchased by Dr Octavius Weld who came to Mount Barker from Nairne.  He was later to endow the present Weld Park.  The present site of Gloag’s Pub is now the R.S.L. building in Hutchinson St. there was another hotel in commercial Road – a two story building which still stands and is adjacent to the entrance of the ‘Laurels’.  The present Rest Home was in the beginning another hotel and important to the town.  It was called the ‘Oakland’ Hotel kept by Lachlan MacFarlane and in 1861 it was the stopping place for the Coach Service and a depot for the Mail.  It was later purchased by the Barr-Smiths who erected the beautiful edifice we see today.  He called it Auchendarroch and the stables (now converted into a house) and the coachman’s house are opposite on the Adelaide Road.

Three more very old hotels, 2 of which are still standing deserve mentioning.  The ‘Morning Star’, now belongs to the Bligh family, was a flourishing sea of activities, the depot for mail.  It was the last drinking place between Wistow and Wellington in those days.  The other the ‘Lord Nelson’, now the home of Nanette and Cliff Hunt has two very interesting features.  The beautiful timbers in the floor in the bar of the Lord Nelson and still as good today as when laid are fastened to the joists with horse shoe nails, a thing we don’t see today in modern homes.  Also the still room or wine cellar is as fresh smelling as when installed – no sign of mildew, dampness or wood rot.  Goods can be stored there without any danger of deterioration.

The last of the 3: the Blakiston Arms or the Dublin Castle Inn, or later to be the home of the Misses Howard and long since a scattered heap surrounded by hawthorn, plum and apple trees, was run by the Donoghue family.  There is many a tale told of the Wakes held by the Catholic folk staying overnight before resuming their journey to Callington, Murray Bridge or wherever.

The Royal Mail

In Adelaide the Elephant and Castle Hotel – the third oldest hotel in S.A. situated on the corner of West Terrace and Gilbert Street, Adelaide – was used as a depot for the mail and travelers from country areas.  It was from here that Her Majesty’s Mails were carried by Rounsevell & Co, then Cobb & Co and later to become Hill Co.  One of the main drivers in the very early days was Jack Alexander who from the age of 13 and for the princely sum of 9/- per week piloted the coach as far afield as Burra, Blinman, Adelaide, Strathalbyn, Mt Barker and finally Gumeracha and Mt Pleasant.  The first P.O. here was erected 1842 on the site of the present Post master’s residence.  The present dining room was used as a post office.

This P.O. was run by the Misses Gowen who also had a school there.  This building was altered over the years and the present P.O. was completed in 1914.

My great-grandfather opened the P.O. at Mt Barker Springs in 1863, and my grandfather Steven Harper carried the mails from Mt B. to Wistow, Jubilee and the Springs.

The First Shops

The majority of the first shops were in Commercial Road, Walker St, Hutchinson St, Morphett and Gawler Streets.

In Walker St there is a 2 story building once known as the White House, and in 1858 Thomas Henry Stephenson, at the age of 21 joined his uncle Samuel Cook who previously had conducted a general store there.  Thomas Stephenson over a period of years changed to drapery.

In Morphett St a Mrs Starling kept a butcher shop.  I believe it was she who asked Dr Bollan to build her a shop on the corner of MacLaren St and Gawler St.  This he did but he was so busy and anxious shall we say that he designed and built a 2 story edifice completely forgetting to allow access to the second floor.  So an outside staircase was added on, this was affectionately known as ‘Bollen’s Folly’.  Today it is occupied by Gardeners Land Agents.  Mrs Teakle whom I mentioned before once kept a store on the corner of Druids Ave and Hutchinson St.  If you look you will see how the shop door meets (is situated) almost at the apex of a triangle.  Another gentleman (no name for obvious reasons) later ran this shop in about 1880: he used to sit in a rocking chair all day and talk to the customers while his wife and daughter did all the work.  After his wife died his daughter took charge and how did his life change.  He even had to chop the wood.  A Mr Dawe opened a butcher shop about 1884.  The shop was run as a butcher shop for many years by a Mr Rundle and when Mr Dawe purchased it he pulled it down and built the 2 story building we see today now occupied by Symonds family.

It is interesting to note here that John Wickham Dawe, who came to S.A. in 1838 on the Winchester, purchased at the first sale of S.A. Lands Dept Co in London, 1000 acres in the suburb now known as St Marys.  It was his son Alfred Compson Dawe who came to Mt Barker.

About 1846 and onwards the most popular shop was the Blacksmith Shop.  There were many, one near Greys Inn, one down near the Bowling Green Bridge.  One on the Adelaide Road just along from the School.  One where Mt Barker Ford motors now stands.  Another a short distance out on the Macclesfield Road.

The one just up from the school later became a rough foundry and then a machine shop. It later became the property of Isaac Dutch and his brother who manufactured ploughs, reapers, strippers etc all useful for the progress of the district.

Isaac Duch died very early in this century.  The front door of the shop on the corner of Walker St and Gawler St used to be in Walker St about halfway along the wall.

Important Identities

John Bull was one of the earlier settlers in the district. In 1840 after raising a crop here he conceived the idea of a mechanical reaper.  He made rough drawings of a crude machine to demonstrate the principal threshing of a standard crop.  A committee was formed to discuss this.  From John Bull’s pattern - which the committee rejected – Walter Paterson who arrived in the colony 1839 and was first employed by John Barton Hack of Echunga. Together with Mr Lamber took up land at Wistow and by the harvest of 1843 Paterson had constructed a machine from John Bull’s pattern.

John Kain, Higgins, Clancy and Murphy the first farmers leased 80 acre sections from Mr Finnis on the Bald Hill.  They cultivated the section and pastured their flocks on land beyond the limits of their section.

John Frame came from Glasgow 1839 in the ship ‘Ariadne’.  He was first employed digging trenches around the Custom House at Pt Adelaide, but being descended from a long line of tenant farmers in Scotland his aim was to acquire land.  He purchased a few acres at Unley & there grew his first crop of wheat.

In 1843 he came to Mt Barker and rented a section on the Bald Hills from Cpt Finnis but seeing no prospect of being able to buy he purchased 4 sections at Mt Barker Springs.  He being the first owner of this land.  In 1847 he purchased a fifth section from early farmer Murphy.  He, in 1847 was awarded first prize of 5 guineas for a sample of wheat weighing 66 ¾ lbs per bushell and also a first for his barley.

These were the earliest awards for grain made by the Adelaide Agricultural & Horticultural Soc.  He was also one of five farmers here who contributed samples of wheat that gained first prize in the Great London Exhibition in 1851.  F. Cleggett, Tom Jones & Allan Bell also contributed wheat to the sample.

Benjamin Gray arrived in S.A. Jan 1839 in the Resource and settled at Blakiston soon after.  He was a carpenter with the ability to draw plans and was appointed architect, clerk of works, contractor & carpenter for the building of St James Ch. Blakiston.  He was a trustee of the Ch. also chairman of the early 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 their brother-in-law George Wedd, and were immediately employed fencing the northern area of Mt Barker known as Teakletown and here they lived in a wattle and daub hut.  Instead of wages they received a lease of land from S.A. Lands Dept. with the right to purchase.  Their first crop of wheat was harvested in 1844 on land along the Bald Hills Road.  Friend Cleggett later bought land at the Springs the farm being called Spring Head.  Firstly they lived in a wattle and daub hut on the bank of the Mt B. Creek and later building a very large home further up the bank.  This house now occupied by the Misses Lindstrom and the cutting on the eastern boundary of the property was called Cleggett’s and the ford, often to prove a death trap to the unwary when in flood, was called Cleggett’s Ford.  At the foot of the cutting a Mr George Bollen designed and built the bridge which was called Bollen’s Bridge.

Joseph Cleggett continued to farm the original farm situated on the Bald Hills Rd.

James, son of Joseph, started a carrying business using horse drawn trollies. The business is now conducted by his great-grandson Harry Cleggett.

Tell (tale) of Jo: “the house on fire”

Also the native who wrapped the sickle around Jo’s neck

A notable feature at Spring Head are the beautifully constructed barn on the town side of Mt Barker Creek.  They’re still as sound today as at first with beautiful timber beams.

In Smiths paddock as it was known as then opposite Spring Head there were 2 very roughly built stab hut with stone chimneys and these were the homes of Mr Holliness and Mr Tom Halbert who were employed by the Cleggets (have often wondered if this Mr Halbert was any relation to John Halbert the football player as it is not a very common name).  Wages were £1 per week plus milk and odd joints of meat now and then.

Thomas Paltridge and his wife Mary came to S.A. from Oakhampdon, Devon in the ‘Phoebe’ in 1846.  From Pt Adelaide the family arrived by bullock wagon and on arrival in Mt Barker they occupied a 3 roomed slab cottage in Cameron Rd which John Dunn had recently vacated for the newly built mill house almost alongside and this was also the site of the first flour mill in Mt B.  After a short time the family moved to a cottage in Hutchinson St which was later to become the Temperance Hall built by Quakers and later still the Salvation Army Hall.  Weekes car park now stands on this spot.

Thomas Paltridge was a boot maker by trade and started business immediately on his arrival here and his son was apprenticed to the trade with his father.  They had great difficulty in securing the leather they required and they could only get what they required by walking to Adelaide to buy it.  Consequently they decided to tan their own hides.  They sunk two large barrels in the ground and used these as tanning vats and they stripped the wattle bark they needed from trees in nearby paddocks.  So began the Mt Barker Tannery on the same site it occupies today.  It was once totally destroyed by fire, once partially so and often flooded out.

Thomas Paltridge died 1882 at the age of 83.  His wife predeceased him by a few months also at age of 83.

Thomas Paltridge jnr purchased premises in Gawler St (now Grants shoe-shop) where Messrs Carroll and Penny used to make and repair shoes in an underground section of the shop.

His first wife died in 1866 and he remarried 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 beautiful home built there.  This was later sold to Sir Wallace Sandford. It is the large old house still standing at Flaxley Park.

Victor Dumas born in Eng. 1806.  Educated at Merchant Tailors School and Cambridge University arrived here in Mt B. 1854.  As a school teacher and a man of great intelligence, regarded as an authority on times, events, history also a Latin scholar he was unequalled in the colony.  He established a private school here.  Died 1882 at age of 76.  His son, Charles Morris, also an intellectual started the local newspaper business and the first Courier was published 1884 Oct 1st.  The printing business itself was opened Apr 22nd 1872.

The Institute - I have placed the Institute here because so many of the early folk were connected with its origin.  In 1850 the nucleus of the Institute was formed by local residents who clubbed together.

A foundation member one Roderick Murdoch MacKenzie, his photo hangs in the founder’s room.  MacKenzie was a saddler.  He is reputed to have made the best saddles in the colony but was never a successful businessman.

Thomas Henry Stephenson came to Mt B. 1858 to join his uncle Samuel Cook who conducted a general store in part of White House Walker St.

Later Stephenson sold the business and bought the farm on Flaxley Rd Corner called Brook Bank now the home of the wife of the late Keith Stephenson. He was also one of the founders of the Institute and his photo also hangs in the Founders Room.

Robert Barr Smith born in Scotland Feb 23rd 1824.  He purchased the Oakfield Hotel from Lachlan MacFarlane and converted it into a summer residence where he and his family lived 6 months of the year.  Both he and his wife were great philanthropists and among the then many charitable gestures was the gift of Pipe Organ to Ch. of Eng. and the enlargement of the Institute Stage.

Amos Howard - Born in Hertfordshire Eng 1848 he arrived in S.A. by the sailing ship Lightning in 1876.  In 1888 he was appointed by the S.A. Govt as one of an honorary commission to inspect the soils and climatic condition of the S. East including the 90 mile desert with the object of improving its carrying capacity.

In 1889 he settled in Blakiston where he established a nursery, specializing 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 known strain of clover that buries its seeds underground.  This is called Subterranean Clover and from the 1930s to 1946 his son Cecil Howard began the Clover Boom.  5,000 cwt was harvested from 1,768 acres and ****** seasons of clover raking, broom rolling, hopping and cleaning of the clover seed.  Mt Barker was the successful centre of this and seed was sold to New Zealand, Canada and other places overseas.  For about 16 years it was ‘booming’ but so greedy did some farmers become that they swept their paddocks bare and as a result of this we see paddocks which were once rich in clover are now yellow field of dandelion, fat hem? and thistles.

Another clever man who made an impact on the early history of the town was George Bollan; a cooper by trade he worked here while studying to be a doctor.  His hobby was architecture and he designed and caused to be built the bridge at the foot of Cleggett’s Cutting and this was called Bollan’s Bridge.  Here close to this bridge a family by the name of Hamlyn lived in a dug-out on the bank of the Mt Barker Creek.  About 12 yrs ago the bridge, considered unsafe for the heavy traffic was rebuilt and Hamlyn “dug-out” was bull-dozed out.

Later he designed a two story building now occupied by Gardiners the land agents, for a Mrs Starling who kept a store in Resurrection Row.  Mrs Starling’s daughter by the way married Mr Rundle who kept a butcher shop in Gawler St.  When the first story of this building was completed it was found that no provision for a staircase had been provided so an outside staircase was erected (this was later covered) to provide access to the second story now called Bollan’s House.

Dr Bollen completed his doctorate in America and whilst there became interested in forms of American architecture, central heating etc.

On his return to Mt Barker he began to build a large square 3 storied home overlooking the town.  This became known as the Wedding Cake House, now Hawthorn Farm.  As it was centrally heated there were no fire places or chimneys.  This astonished the local people and they called it ‘Bollan’s Folly’.

Later owners added rooms and fire places.  Donald Cameron had a blacksmith shop where a house now stands on the bank of the creek at the foot of Rest Home Hill.

Police & Police Stations

Tenders were called for the erection of a Police Station in 1840 and the first Police Station was situated in MacLaren St behind the court house.

The Police Station, now the home of some of the single policemen, was built in 1848(?) which makes it the third of its kind.  Behind this stands the loft and cells and in the loft old records some in beautifully written copper plate were stored.  They have recently been removed to the Archives as their information is most valuable.

The Court house was built in 1860.

Daniel Swaffer joined the force in 1839 and was stationed at Willunga in 1841, Pt Lincoln 1845 and then Mt B where he had a room at Gloags Hotel.  He later resigned to take up the life of a Publican.  I have read of a huge hollow tree 37’ round at knee height, and 38’ high.  This was to be the bedroom of George Uphill one of the first troopers stationed here and this tree was later used as a carpenter shop and in 1853, a Mr Watt and his family used the tree as a shelter until their home was ready.

John Banks Shepherdson, a school master, was the first clerk of the local court and Sgt Scarcy was the first policeman.

First Churches

The first Church services on the banks of the Mt Barker Creek by the Primitive Methodists who partially built a church in Walker St the picture of same is in the Cream Bowl Book.  The stone was later used to build a house by Mr Pere Gee?.  In 1874 there were 7 Wesleyan Churches in S.A. and Mt B had one of them.  There is a plaque on a tree near the creek, at the foot of Kia Ora St to celebrate the holding there of the first Presbyterian Service in 1842 by the Rev Robt Haining.  In 1847 the Presbyterian Ch was partly built by a Mr Rogers of Nairne and later finished in 1851.

In 1847 it was used as a school and later as a bulk store for grain.  John Dunns Mill near the Tannery was used by the Methodists as a place of worship and later John Dunn had built and endowed the present Methodist Ch in 1881.  Another Dunn cousin to John also endowed a Methodist Ch at McHargs Creek.  The beautiful timber work – pews and altar furniture of the Pres Ch was made by one George Jobling who lived at the Springs on the Road named after himself Joblings Road.  There were no doors or windows and services were held at Low Inn until Sept 1st 1857 when the rev Gordon conducted the first service.

Christ Church or Ch of England opened 1865, Baptist Church 1874, St James Church of England, Blakiston opened 1846 and is the 3rd oldest Eng Church still in use.  Primitive Meth Ch at Mt Barker Springs built by Capt William Harper 1864 who preached there.  It was a small building flanked by a porch.  There were 12 pews.  The women sitting one side and the men the other.  Capt Harper also built first Meth Ch at Callington 1856 and preached there 858 and as his great granddaughter.  I was invited to the Centenary services held there some years ago.

The Catholic Church built 1851 and later used as a school and now demolished was built on the foot of the hill opposite the convent.

The Quaker sections of the community have a cemetery on the Herbig property near the present Flaxley Park.  I’m not aware of the site of their church.


There were many small schools conducted by genteel ladies (probably the spinster daughters of clerical gentleman) in various parts of the town.

St James School Blakiston opened 1848 and a no. of children walked across the paddocks to attend school there.  The primary school now the adult Education Centre was opened in 1877.

The High School opened 1908.  The new modern school accommodates roughly 400 children.

The earliest school in the Wistow Mt B Springs area was Yunkunga opened 1853 by Henry Bonner with 49 pupils.  A stone chimney and an iris patch mark the place alongside the road beyond Mr Gordon Paech’s farm and Blight Reserve.  In 1863 Mr Ernest Shackleford opened the new Mt Barker Springs school and he kept his still under the wooden steps in the school room.  There were 44 pupils.  There were many families in the Springs area, Halls, Callabys, Snells, Pearson, Frame, Paterson, Harper, Cleggett, Rundle, Tillbrook, Kavanagh, Bonython, Cray, Bouceau, Lang, Neagles, Bells, Hamlyn, Choats and many others who lived in dug-outs down along the Mt Barker Creek.  Among notable pupils at the Springs school were Langdon Bonython later Sir Langdon and one of the important persons connected to the Advertiser.  Cecil and Tom Madigan (their mother was a teacher there).  Cecil to go to the Sth Pole with Sir Douglas Mawson and Tom to become a lawyer and a member of Adelaide City Council which held its meetings at the Adl Town Hall.

Another school from 1854–57 was on the property where Sir Langdon Bonython was born and owned by his father Tom Bonython. This property now belongs to my family.  The Wistow School opened 1870.

The convent had a boarding school there for many years.

Schools were held in the early days in Misses McGowans Ladies Seminary, Gawler St.

The unfinished Presbyterian Church 1847 run by Mr J.J. Bonner.  His brother Henry Bonner came from Eng. to tutor the Paterson family, he afterwards kept a school behind Von Doussa’s on the spot where dentist is.

Miss Ficklan held a school where R.S.L. is now situated.

Wife of local lawyer Mrs Walker also kept a school.

Rev. Alec Law (Pres) a boys school in old Pres. Manse a part 2 story house over the railway line. Mrs Taylor held classes in the White House and Mrs Harrison at Cherington, she also kept a school in Gawler St at one time Miss Stewart in the old Dumas home.

Tom Bonython, George Snell and Capt William Harper

Most of the Bonython family settled Uraidla, Norton Summit and area but Tom Bonython a stocky Cornishman came to the Springs about 1850.  George Snell, his parents and brothers and sisters came from Cornwall 1849.  Capt William first came from St Austell in Cornwall, first going to New Zealand with his parents and brothers and sisters.  They found New Zealand to be short on copper.  The family broke up some going to America some to W. Aus. some staying in New Zealand while Capt Harper came to Australia where he went to the Burra and opened mines there.  He then heard of copper being found at Callington.  He moved there and worked the mines building and preaching in the first Meth Ch there.  In 1863 he came to Mt Barker Springs where he met and married Eliz. Snell.  They opened the store and general P. Office and extended so much credit to their customers that in 1898 they had to close the business.

George Snell Tom Bonython and William Harper used to push wheelbarrows loaded with tools, food and water down an old back road thro Blight’s Land over a wide steep which they crossed on a flying fox to St Ives or as it is sometimes called Staunton Village near Callington.  I have been taken to see holes that these 3 men dug in that area.

One of Capt Harper’s sons – Samuel Harper when a small child blew the tops off his fingers.  However this small thing did not deter him.  He became a horse and camel dealer and made many trips to India in business dealings concerning horses and camels.

On his final trip to India from which he failed to return he made a will leaving £1,200 sterling with 2 of his brothers Stephen and Abel as the beneficiaries.  With £600 each these two purchased land – Abel – 1 square mile at Monarto and Stephen 1 section at Wistow.

Capt Harper was born March 8th 1826 being the youngest of 12 children.  On Sept 3rd 1842 he with his family sailed to New Zealand which was reached exactly four months later.  Came to Aus. 1846 and first working the Paringa Mine, then he went to Kanmantoo.  In 1853 he went with a party of 5 to the gold diggings in Bendigo. Journey overland took 5 weeks.  His party had fair luck. Cpt Harper went gold cleaning for the 3 Mitchell Bros and in 12 days he cleaned up 30lbs of gold for which he received 15oz of fine gold.  He first on his return built a story.

The names of a few more of the early settlers were Messrs Bell, Bonython, Blight, Bollens, Callaby, Frame, Harper, Hendry, Kavanagh, Paterson, Hall, Mould, Morphett, Finnis, Lang, Neagle, Oborne, Rider, Stokes, Stephenson, Snell, Hamlyn, Cameron, Shepherd, Pearson, Fidler, Champion, MacFarlane, Tirrel, Choat, Teakle, Jobling, Webber, Wright, Wedd, Beaumont, Page, Bonner, Dutton, Craig, Cleggett, Jones, Pope, Chapman.

Stephen Page arrived in the Buffalo from Yarmouth, he was a master of plastering and building.  His main work here was erecting public buildings, such as banks, P. Offices and Churches.  Some of his most skillful work was done on church towers and spires.  The building of the Echunga Ch of Eng was under his supervision and done by voluntary labour.

Alfred Champion was one of the first, organised and conducted a choir.  The baton used for choir work was still in existence a few years ago.  Mr Champion’s family were also connected with engineering.

A Mr Mould, a cabinet maker, the local timbers for furniture some of which is still used at the Springs by the Frame family.

Mr Collins was a miner, a pit man who went with Snell, Harper and Bonython to Callington area.

3 old stone homes are still in use at the Springs – Hendry’s home built of stone 1852.  Patterson’s (?????) also of stone 1854 and now owned by Mr Harry Carr.  The old house built by a Mr Pearson 1842 on Harpers Corner was still livable up till a few years ago.

Mr Hender was the founder of a Church at Mt Barker Springs.  The Yun Kunga Church and cemetery where such pioneers as Bonython, Paterson, Craig, Blights are buried.  At the present moment the Dunn Memorial Church Trust who hold the deeds are planning on selling the land as they did the old Jubilee church last year.

Paul Madigan

There was a lime kiln in operation on the Stephenson property.  An unfortunate accident occurred here above 1916 when a Mr Anderson was killed.

John Dunn, a very noteworthy Pioneer.  Born at Bondleigh, Devon, Eng 1802 of a family with 11 children.  Father was a small farmer.  Mother supplemented family income by weaving blankets.  John Dunn’s ambition was to be a miller and he was apprenticed to a miller at Bideford for 15/- per week.  Married in his 30th year, wife’s name was Ann; he followed 3 of his brothers who came here 1839.  Charles took up land at Nairne – later went to Charleston which he founded and named and George who went to Mt Torrens where he subsequently laid out and sold the village.  Their accounts of the area were so encouraging that he also came to S.A., leaving Eng. with his wife and children in May 1840 on the Lysander arriving here in Sept after a 110 days and carried his wife, family and possessions ashore as was the custom.  He accompanied a drover with a flock of sheep and in return for his assistance the drover guided him to Nairne.  He saw his first wheat crop at Nairne, his first sight of a crop in S.A.  This was grown by Mr Disher who had a few acres under wheat.  After spending a few days with his brother he returned to Adelaide.  It was during this trip with the drover that they took a wrong turning to Nairne and came to the area where we live now.  He was employed on his return to Adel. by Messrs Borrow and Younger? who were building sheds at Pt Adelaide.  He decided to purchase a section at Hay Valley and erect a Mill.  Accompanied by his 8 yr old son he set out on foot from Adel. carrying tools etc on his back.  His first task was to build a shelter for which he cut reeds from a nearby creek, bunched them together and used them to form walls.  For the roof he used bark and reeds.  A well was sunk and good water found at 20 ft. he planted vegetable and put 2 acres under drop – a man from Balhannah ploughed the land for £1 per acre.

He began to erect a mill.  It was built around a large tree which gave the necessary support, as the building went up the tree was cut away bit by bit. The structure was composed entirely of wood as also was most of the machinery including the huge cog wheels and spindle.  John Dunn describes this effort as the hardest 18 mths of his life.

It was the first mill in the district and was put into commission 1842.  Coming of the mill was a great boon to farmers who previously could only have the wheat ground after carting it to Ad which involved a long arduous trip over rough mountain track.  Hahndorf farmers wives used to take loads of wheat to the mill in wheelbarrows.  However he was never satisfied with this mill.

Capt Finnis was chiefly instrumental in persuading Mr Dunn to start milling in Mt B and for this purpose Duncan McFarlane, Messrs Dutton and Finnis each gave a half acre of land on the site for a mill situated opposite the present tannery in Cameron Rd.  The first covering for the millstones was a wooden shanty soon replaced by a good stone structure in which Mr Dunn was assisted by Mr Rogers of Sandergrove.  As the building progressed a well run shop was opened by Mrs Dunn.

The first Meth Ch services were held in this building.  Nov 1844 the first wheat was ground.  Progress was so good until Messrs John Dunn & Co became the largest milling firm in the colony with 11 mills in operation employing over 400 men.

A little story is told and authenticated that when John Dunn and his 8 yr old son dug their first veg patch a very small patch of turnips radishes etc the 2 knelt and prayed thanking the Lord for his blessings.

John and Stephen Hack farmed a section on the western flat area between Mt B and Echunga.  Barton Hacks barn was the first meeting place of the Quakers.

Joseph May and family of 11 children left Gravesend May 27th 1839 on ship Anna Robertson (448 tons) Oct 17th 1839 took up 80 acres at Mt Barker purchased from Mr Oscar Lines.

Acorns from Hertfordshire were planted and the farm was noted for its beautiful trees.  Property called Fairfield.  1848 Fairfield house was begun.  Later 2 sons were to purchase 2 properties on the site adjacent to Fairfields the first Quaker Ch was built and a plot set aside for a burial ground.  An iron railing enclosed several graves and is still there today.  Farm now owned by Des Herbig.

Nixons Mill on Windmill was erected 1842.

Death Notices

Rundle:  On 3rd May at Mt Barker Spgs after brief illness James ????? of E.N. Rundle 5th son of late John Rundle of Mt Barker 66 yrs arrived in ship “Java” 1840.

Baldock:  8th Feb at Wallaroo Mines.  Sarah Stains wife of Charles Baldock aged 86 yrs and 11 mths leaving 3 sons 4 daughters 25 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.  Colonist for 41 yrs.  Ship Monsoon.

Webber:  Ethel Louise daughter of Robert and Louise 24 yrs old.

Aunty Linda Choat died S M Hosp Mt B Aug 23 74 yrs.

Incidentals and Items of Value

Titmouse Creek  -  Titmouse ford and Titmouse Creek roads what a fascinating name.  Situated on Quarry Rd.  Paechs live along that Rd as does also a Prosser.

Rabbits and Foxes  -  introduced from Europe good source of food supply in the bunny.  Now very scarce where once they teemed in 1,000s.  Friend Fox also a pest, fox pelts often fetch up to $20

Yellow or Golden Belly Water Rats skins very popular for fur coats etc.

Thro the pollution of the creeks by waste matters of various industries such life is now extinct.  There used to be delicious mud fish and a fish crossed between mullet or trout.  Yabbies and leaches by the 1,000s in the Mt Barker Creek extinct now.


Once a wonderful 25” – 30” annually with the Mt Barker Creek flooded hugely carrying good silty soil down to Langhornes Creek where it was valuable on the vineyards and pumpkin patches there.  The Mt B Creek finally runs into the Bremer which empties into the Murray.  Rainfall much less these days probably due to the decimation of trees.

Mt Barker Road

Lack of a main road was severely felt.  As early as April 1839 interested persons drew the attention of the Govt to the potential of this area.

Jan 1841 work began laborious and costly.

July 1841 Great Eastern Road Act was passed vesting the road to certain trustees empowering them to levy tolls.  Toll House at Glen Osmond 1841.

1844 Govt resumed control as not enough was made from toll levy to cover cost of building a road.

Mt Barker Road opened

District Council

First meeting was held in ‘Gloags Hotel’ to elect members to act as District Commissioners whose principal duties the making and repair of local roads and Licensing Bench.

District Council was proclaimed by Govt Act Oct 1853 with Mr Fred May Chairman, Dr O’Brian local solicitor as clerk (salary £25 p annum), Messrs Gray, Frame, Dunn and MacFarlane as members.

Present Council has an area of 140 sq miles divided into 9 wards

Butler Factory and Jacobs Ltd

1890s group of local men formed a co-op Butter factory and very successful at first.  Idle for some years then Jacob Bros of Nairne and progressed favourable to what it is today.


First doctor - Drs Chalmers, Dean, Beckle, Blaxland, Hamilton, Scott, Smeaton, Wunderly.


Started by the Paltridge family.  Blacksmith named Merrifield helped to make the tools and a Scot Mr Searey who was a carrier supervised the work.  Oct 1907 buildings were burnt down.  Later renewed.  Johnson and Sons purchased business 1948 just before it was burned down a second time.

Agricultural Society

1847 a show society functioning here.  John Frame one of earliest Presidents and exhibitors.


Mt B electric Supply Co formed Aug 23rd 1922, the factory at Jacobs generated the required electricity.  June 14th 1923 electric system first switched on by Mr Bruce Barker.  1926 Co bought out by ETSA


Railway line opened from Ad to Mt B Junction Nov 28 1883, later to be built right thro’ to Strath.  Opened here Sept 18th 1884.

Mt Barker Summit

Once a picture of native trees, shrubs, bracken and native flowers such as spider orchids, Broome, Golden Wattle, Acacia.  Up until a few years ago wandering cattle ate off the native growth and it was not until about 10 yrs ago when Apex and Rotary fenced the mount and replanted many native shrubs which at the present time are in full bloom – one can see the yellow of the wattle for some distance away.

Mt Barker Summit Road repaired about 1936-37.


A Centenary Celebration was held 1939 which was also the year of severe bush fires when plans were in hand to evacuate women and children.

A foundry was in existence 1857 in Commercial Road by a Mr Ramsey employed about 60 men.  Manufactured ploughs, harrows, binders, rakes etc.  Some of those employed later opened foundries of their own.  A Mr Salmon had one by the Railway Station.

About 1875 a Mr Champion produced a mower to cut hay.

Allan Bell with his bullock team and flat wagon was the first carrier.

Have you noticed that a number of Streets, Roads and places have been named after many of the folk mentioned here


To conclude this is by no means complete I have oodles of it.

Progress – do you call it.  Well I don’t. a beautiful spot – no dangerous animals or men and indeed a Paradise “SPOILED” RUINED and in only 136 yrs it’s a place of putrid smells, muddy roads a dump “a fester of flies and rats, noisy smelly motor cars, motor bikes.


Everyone trying to out-do the Jones.  My final piece of poetry describe to the full what has eventuated from the comparative ‘dark ages’ to the present day

Mother Shiptons Prophecy 1488-1561

Carriages without horses will go | And accidents fill the world with woe. | Around the world thought shall fly || In the twinkling of an eye. | Through hills men shall ride, | And no horse or ass be by his side | Under water men shall walk | Shall rise, shall sleep, shall talk | In the air men shall be seen | In white, in black in green | The World to an end will come || In nineteen hundred and ninety one.

A few of the Incidents with the Aborigines, Blacks flour, maid(?) church

????? in crevice

Lawsons Station