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   Land Please
   I have a dream
   The Licence

   The House
   Who Gains
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   Reality sets in

   Port Henry
   Bullock Drays
   Watering Holes
   Skilly Creek


The Trial

Skilly Creek
   Money Problems

   Single Life
   Kudnarto's Death
   Loss of Land

Land Claim
   Unresolved Issues
   Terra Nullius
   Land Conflict
   The Facts

   At One


   Adams' Letters


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The Civilising
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1860 Report
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Tom & Tim

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Chapter 15 ~ Burra Copper

Port Henry    Bullock Drays    Watering Holes    Gold    Skilly Creek    Footnotes   

Port Henry

Adams' problems about funding the farm didn't resolve themselves. Life was hard. Added to the hardship faced by the couple was the alteration in the Burra mine's carting practices for moving the smelted ore. Although the Burra mine had opened in 1845, the movement of ore was inland to Port Adelaide. In July 1848, this was to change.

The new mine manager at Kooringa for the Patent Copper Company, Gregory Seale Walters, in July 1848, commissioned Gavin David Young, a surveyor living at Port Henry who came to South Australia in 1847, to map out a route between Kooringa and Port Henry. Work started on this enterprise by September 1848. By the end of November 1848, the bullock drays were ready for the first movement of ore from Kooringa to Port Adelaide. There was great excitement when the first load of copper ore arrived at Port Henry. On 9 December 1848, the South Australian Gazette and Mining Journal proudly reported the first shipment leaving Port Henry by lighters. The result was a saving of sixty miles of travelling or seven days with the bullock drays.

Port Henry was the town where the trans-shipment would take place. The town was named after Sir Henry Ayers, the Secretary of the South Australian Mining Association which worked the Burra copper mine. The name of the town soon changed in 1850 to Port Wakefield in memory of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. In an amusing note, the name of the town was offered to the then Governor Sir Henry Young who declined the honour because he considered the too ugly to bear his name. [1]

The traffic generated by this movement was large. Apart from moving ore to Port Wakefield, coal was moved from Port Wakefield to Kooringa for the Patent Copper Company smelting plant. This involved the movement of 15,000 tons of coal to Kooringa while 10,000 tons of copper went to Port Wakefield. [2] The going rate was 30 shillings a ton.

At first the ore was loaded onto the lighters from the beach at high tide. This proved to be difficult and required better methods. This came in due time. Robert Buck, a lighterman made a discovery about the usage of the Wakefield River. The result changed the methods of moving ore. Now movement of ore to the ships complemented this route.

The South Australian Register of 20 June 1849 tells the following story about the change in carriage techniques:

"An important discovery has been made at the head of Gulf St. Vincent by Mr Buck, lighterman, being nothing less that the existence in quarter of an available harbour for coasters of same burthen, with good natural accommodation for the purpose of loading and discharge.... By this discovery, about fifty miles of land carriage between the present shipping place at Port Adelaide and Burra Burra, will be cheaply substituted by water conveyance; and we understand Mr Buck has already entered into a rather large contract with the manager of the great smelting works near Kooringa, for the conveyance to and from, of fuel, metallic copper, etc." [3]

The trip from Kooringa to Port Wakefield was long and arduous for the bullock dray drivers. As the drivers set out, they passed the countryside and people with whom the Adams family also met. Their journeys became surveys of the local geography and human society. The life of the bullocky, however, was forever transient.

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Bullock Drays

With the introduction of Port Henry as a transport depot, the Patent Copper Company sent their ore from Burra, by way of Watervale or Auburn and through the valleys to Skillogolee Creek. This meant passing through the centre of Adams' land over the main road and on to Port Henry. Carting the ore were numerous bullock drays. As a consequence of the new transport discovery, the Adams family felt the brunt of the product moving past their land.

The bullockies, or teamsters as also they were known, were a notoriously hard living, hard drinking and hard wenching group. They cussed, drank and womanised, and in that order. The only things they required were a good hotel and a source of common women close at hand.

One man of many, provided a service in answer to the teamsters' demands. Mr Thomas Harold Williams, [4] affectionately known as 'Piebald Williams', the manager of Burra Smelting Works, purchased a block of land known as Section 345 in Stanley County on 1 October 1849. [5] This allotment was adjacent to the Adams' selection. On this land known as the location of Pleasant Hill, next to Port Henry Road, he built a Public House that included accommodation for the bullockies. [6] He named the "Port Henry Arms" Hotel in a wistful note that Port Henry was close on hand. The only licensee to run the Hotel was John Hoiles. His term lasted from 1850 to 1851. [7] It is obvious the hotel didn't get the patronage that Williams planned for and anticipated. This hotel would attract all the worst elements as the teamsters drove their bullock drays over Adams' land and caroused next door.

A traveller, William Cawthorne, visited the Port Henry Arms in 1851. He was clearly shocked with the lifestyle of the bullockies. At Hoiles’ he met the:

"... usual, a drunken mob of bullock drivers, playing cards, drinking, swearing, fighting. So little are they trusted, that the landlord or landlady hold the nobbler in one hand while they take money with the other! ... So Much is the publican in the hands of these ruffians that they insist upon his rising at any hour of the night and satisfying their insatiable desire for drink." [8]

With the prospect of some "black velvet" [9] just down the road from the hotel, Adams had good reason to worry about the safety of his wife. She was young and attractive and would have turned the eye of many a teamster as they traversed the road past the Adams' hut. Many a wayward eye would dream of spending some sensuous moments with her. The bullockies only needed some liquor in them to arouse the deepest and unstoppable lust.

Coupled with this, Kudnarto would have expressed grave concerns about her safety. After all, white men viewed molesting and raping an Aboriginal woman as a legitimate pastime and not as a crime. The wife of a lubra shepherd [10] did not qualify as an exception. In fact, in view of previous comments about the women of these shepherds, it was more than likely that the bullockies considered her fair game. This conclusion is borne out by Adams’ later actions. Five years after moving to Skillogolee Creek, he did indeed move his family some three kilometres away to Aboriginal Section No. 3055 for respite from the bullockies. [11]

One area of speculation is whether Adams, himself, thought to earn additional cash by prostituting Kudnarto at this time. It appears within keeping of both Kudnarto’s earlier life and the morals of Adams. As was discussed earlier, the situation was reversed when Adams first met Kudnarto. When Kudnarto first cohabited with Adams, it was as a consequence of a financial arrangement between Adams and Kudnarto’s husband. Since both saw this transaction as acceptable in 1846, it is not unreasonable to suppose that such dealings were still acceptable three years later.

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Watering Holes

Since there were no watering places around the area except the spring on the land where they lived, the teamsters encouraged their cattle to drink from the spring. This disturbed Adams greatly for the presence of the cattle would destroy all his attempts at cropping the soil. Without delay, Adams complained about this depredation of his land.

With the assistance of a professional letter writer, Adams sent a letter to the Governor on th 20th October 1849. It said:

I Thos Adams herby present to Your Excellency a petition, hoping your Excellency will be pleas'd to consider the precariousness of my situation, and to grant the terms of Recompense I here as in some measure will renumerate me for the loss I shall be liable to sustain form the annoyance of Carters of ore from the Burra Mine to the Gulf, and as Mr Williams, the Manager of the Smelting Company at the Burra has purchased a section of land close to mine and is erecting a Public House on it for the accomodation of Bullock Drivers and being no water upon it, has ordered the Derivers to water their cattle at my water hole, and they are becoming to me and my property a great inconvenience, and as I am informed by Mr Moorhouse that there is no reserved water on my section, I do not relish at all to see what little property I am possessed of undergo any damage from depredation that their cattle will no doubt be liable to perform, therefore I hope Your Excellency will ordain it so that if I can not derive benefit from my land in one way, I may in another, therefore if it is Your Excellency's wish that the water on any section must be as a regular watering place for bullocks, I hope that your Excellency will sanction my proposal of charging so much a head for all Bullocks that come there to water or granting me authority to put a toll gate on the road through my section on if my proposals cannot be adhered to I hope Your Excellency will inform me some means whereby I may derive some little advantage to stop finally all depredation on the land I am bound if possible to protect. I conclude hoping Your Excellency will persue the contents of my humble petition. [12]

This cry from the heart of Adams rings an authentic chord. The number of bullock drays passing by his property on a daily basis would have been great. Each bullock team were voracious eaters and consumers of water. The water hole upon his property was a beautiful place to let loose the bullocks. It was a perennial spring with wonderful grasses growing nearby. Intimidation from the bullock drivers would have assured them access to this water and grazing land.

In reply to Adams' letter, a solution was offered by Moorhouse. According to the available options, Moorhouse pointed out that Adams had two resolutions to remedy the problem.

"1 st That there is no reserve of water made for the public in your section and you are at liberty to fence in the swamp and charge for any use that the public may make of it - the rate of charge is left to yourself.

"2 nd There is a public road running across your section and if the bullocks on the main road are liable to trespass and injure your crops you must put up a substantial fence or impound the cattle." [13]

While charging a toll was an assistance to Adams in earning some income, it didn’t solve his immediate problems. The perennial problem faced by Adams was a permanent lack of capital. He could not afford to fence off the water hole. This trapped him into a ever increasing spiral of poverty. Because he couldn’t fence the water hole, the depredation’s to his land increased which increased his poverty. This period proved to be very hard for the Adams family.

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Gold Rushes

By mid 1852, however, the numbers of bullock drays slackened off quite noticeably. Most bullockies and miners deserted Burra and went to the goldfields of Victoria. This left the roads almost deserted. To overcome this problem, on by 18 July 1853, the barque Malacca brought the beginning of a new phase in transport. Arriving from Monte Video was 70 mules and accompanying Chilean muleteers. Solomon Williams recalled their entrance to Burra when he said:

It was a great time for the boys when a large number of mules, a few donkeys came to Burra accompanied by Spaniards in their picturesque dress - hair plaited and wound round under their large sombrero hats, their ponchos, lassoes and large rowelled spurs. It was amusing to us to hear a donkey bray for the first time. [14]

The economy of the whole region depended upon the cartage traversing the Gulf Road. The many thousands of pounds spent by the cartage contractors kept many service industries fully employed. The manager of the English & Australian Copper Company, James Hamilton summarised this economic dependence when he said:

That the townships of Mintaro, Auburn and Watervale are mainly supported by the cartage and money expended by the English and Australian Copper Company in cartage.

That the opening up of this road had occasioned the sale of very large quantities of land in the neighbourhood of the said townships.

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Skilly Creek

Within the immediate area of Skillogolee Creek the hotel wasn't the only constructed building. Next door to the hotel, Williams built a butcher's shop which later was owned and operated by William Titcume and his wife. If nothing else, the Titcume’s offered a semblance of civilisation close at hand. Judging from the course of future events, Mrs Titcume became very good friends with Kudnarto. They spent many nights with each other talking. With her new son and some friends living close by, life seemed to be good for Kudnarto and her family. It was a delightful little village.

In the area resided Mr and Mrs Hoile and their barman James Henderson. Their hotel played host to many regular customers including John Yates, a hut keeper and the feisty old shepherd known as the Sergeant. There were the fencing sub-contractors, Mr Green and Mr Warrimer. Including the Titcumes, Skillogolee Creek looked like becoming a pleasant little rural centre. It too had a hotel and blacksmith’s shop.

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1. Manning, G.H., (1990) Manning's Place Names of South Australia, Adelaide.  Return to text

2. South Australian Parliamentary Papers, No. 2, 1856.  Return to text

3. The South Australian Register, 20 June 1849.  Return to text

4. Williams later received a parcel of land on 29 October 1849 which he subsequently subdivided and proclaimed the private town of Auburn. Lands and Survey, V8, F2, p. 5.  Return to text

5. Lands and Survey, V8, F2, p. 3.  Return to text

6. Letter dated 20 October 1849, GRG 24/6, 1960/49.  Return to text

7. Hotels Index, GRG 56/68/28, p. 91.  Return to text

8. The South Australian Register, 13 January 1851.  Return to text

9. Black velvet is a vulgar Australian colloquialism derived early in Australian history and still with strong currency today, denoting a black woman who men consider solely as a sex object.  Return to text

10. An archaic term usually denoting a white man who seeks sexual partners among Aboriginal woman. More modern terms include "gin jockey" and "coon dog".  Return to text

11. See Murray in Chapter 14 ~ Farming the Land for further details.  Return to text

12. Letter dated 20 October 1849, GRG 24/6, A (1849) 1960.  Return to text

13. Letter dated 5 November 1849, GRG 52/7/1, p. 248.  Return to text

14. Burra Record, 18 April 1934.  Return to text

15. South Australian Parliamentary Papers, No 170, 1856.  Return to text

16. The South Australian Register, 5 August 1850.  Return to text

17. The South Australian Register, 5 August 1850.  Return to text


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Section 346
Skillogolee Creek
The house that Thomas Adams built
Skillogolee Creek
The first letter of Thomas Adams from
Skillogolee Creek