Farming History

Pastoral development began on Yorke Peninsula in 1846, with the first leases given in 1851. The leases had a term of 14 years which gave security to many of the squatter's and rent was set at 10 shillings a square mile.

It wasn't until 1860, when a successful wheat crop was grown at Green Plains near Kadina that an explosion of interest in agriculture began. Many workers from the Adelaide Plains, Barossa Valley and the Southern Districts came to try their luck on Yorke Peninsula. Agricultural success was evident when production rose from 552 acres planted and reaped in 1870 to 180,000 acres by 1884.

The experimentation of using superphosphate from trials by Professor Lowrie at Roseworthy College - saw Joe Parsons from Curramulka, drill seeds and phosphate together in the same hole in 1892. By 1896 other farmers in the area had followed his lead and they were averaging 4.5 to 5 bushells while the rest of the peninsula averaged only two bushells.

The rich limestone soils and growth in agricultural knowledge from clearing the land to sowing seeds, produced bumper crops and the Yorke Peninsula soon became known as the 'Barley Capital of the World'.

As a direct consequence of Yorke Peninsula's agricultural success, Ardrossan now has the third largest grain bulk-handling facility in South Australia.

Stump Jump Plough.

The ingenuity of early settlers was evident when in 1876 the 'stump jump plough' was invented to circumvent the laborious task of clearing mallee stumps from farmland. Invented by RB and Clarence Smith, the plough helped revolutionize the task of reducing the despised mallee scrub.

This was also assisted by knocking down and burning the growth of the mallee trees discovered by Charles Mullens at Wasleys, and the improvement of scrub rollers by William Fowler which allowed a team to travel over already rolled scrub. Ardrossan is known as the home of the stump jump plough and the ingenuity of the Smith Brothers is remembered and showcased at the local museum.


Thu 20 May 1869, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900)

The second session of the present Parliament will not be allowed to close until a very important topic connected with the pastoral occupation of the country has been settled. During the session of 1868, strange to say, little or no reference was made to the interminable squatting question, but this short respite promises to be abundantly atoned for in the history of the session which is to commence towards the end of July of this year.....

Mr Strangways' Pastoral Bill

Wed 24 Nov 1869, The Wallaroo Times and Mining Journal (Port Wallaroo, SA : 1865 - 1881)

Mr Strangways' Pastoral Bill has been submitted to the Legislature, and the fact is fully evident that the learned Attorney-General is alive to the difficulties attendant upon a satisfactory settlement of the question. The leases, he classifies under two schedules, for it, those felling in on June 30, and as far. as 1878, to the lessees of which he offers a renewal for seven years, with half of the unexpired term of the old lease where there is any; the rent to be fixed by valuation under the direction of the Commissioner of Crown Lands. In the other schedule are leases, some of which do not expire before 1878, to the lessees of' which he offers ten years-being seven years and the difference between 1870 and 1873 with as before half of the unexpired term ; the rents to be determined as in the case of the other leases. Annual leases in the hundreds are to have a right of renewal yearly for seven years, the Government having the power to abolish the hundreds if necessary, and the rent to be determined by valuation. There are also provisions in the Act for recovering rent. In the first schedule will be found the Gum Flat, Oyster Bay, Pentonvale, Yorke Valley, Corney Point, Oyster Bay, Coffin's Bay, Yorke's Peninsula runs, Port Davenport, North Mannanarie and St. Vincent's runs, all on Yorke's Peninsula; also the Rutallo and Rocky River runs, Crystal Brook, the Crystal Brook run, the Bundaleer and the Hummocks runs. In the second schedule are nine other runs described as being on Yorke's Peninsula, and others near to the Tipara. Objections will be taken to the Bill, doubtless, because in the valuation the squatter will not be represented. Should he disapprove of the valuation his lease will be forfeited and submitted to auction an obviously unjust way of dealing with a tenant who has regularly paid his rent and may have expended a large sum of money in improving the property. Another objection is a branch of the foregoing. No provision is made respecting improvements made. A squatter may be charged rent upon his own capital or be compelled to forfeit it.


Tue 20 Aug 1872, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Trove

Although frequent reference has been made in public to the growing importance of Yorke's Peninsula in relation to the rest of the colony, very few people have an idea of the change which is rapidly being brought about over the large tract of land, which by a glance at the map will be seen to be included in "the Peninsula.". The designation has hitherto been generally applied, and has come to be understood pretty much as applying to. Kadina, Moonta, and the Other townships amongst and around the rich copper mines of the Wallaroo District. Daring the last few years, however, the farmers have found that there are other beside mineral riches to reward labour and perseverance, and there is now a well beaten track from Port Wakefield round the head of the Gulf, and by way of Clinton, Parara, and Oyster Bay, down to what may be termed the settled district at the foot of the Peninsula. The first-named spot will be remembered as once the changing-place for the Wallaroo mail, where bags and passengers were transferred from steamer to coach, or vice versa. It now has all the appearance of a sad falling off from those comparatively busy times, and is chiefly notable from the fact that water is there retailed at 3d. per bucketful, none being obtainable between it and Port Wakefield—a distance of 30 miles. Parara, the Messrs. Bowman's station, has some good wells of water in the sandhills close to the beach; and Oyster Bay is the shipping-place of the wool from Messrs. Rogers, Landers, and Stephens's run, a large shed being erected at the spot, where many thousand sheep have been shorn every season for some years past. Between Parara and Oyster Bay there are three good watering-places—Black Point, Sheaoak Plat, and Beach Hut—the precious fluid being found in each instance close to the sea-beach, which is within view from the road nearly all the way along. It is the South end, or foot of the Peninsula, how-ever, which is the destination, or has become the home of most of the travellers along the route referred to. It was under Mr. Cavenagh's Commissionership, nearly four years ago, that the domain of the blackfellow, the sheep, and the kangaroo was first invaded by the surveyor with a view to its being made available for agricultural settlement; and the surveyor was Mr. Strangways, a brother of the late Premier and author of the Act now "known by bis name. It will be remembered how when the Area of Troubridge and the five others defined in the Act were declared open for selection, it was sneered at as "nothing but limestone." Only a few sections were taken up at the full price, and the rest of the land over and above what was dummied remained open for a long time at £1 an acre. The result of the first and second harvest of the early settlers was, however, of such a nature that in spite of stone and timber there are now not half a dozen sections in the area unselected besides those on which the head station stands with improvements valued at £1,700. The neighbourhoods of Bald Hills and the Peasy Range are fast assuming the appearance of settled districts—with comfortable stone homesteads, wire-fenced roadsand sections, and chapel and sohoolhouse, the latter licensed by the Education Board. Next to Troubridge in date of settlement comes the Hundred of Morowie, which very little was at the time of its being first submitted to auction bought either by agriculturists or capitalists, and it remained in the occupation of the sheepfarmer until the favourable returns from the adjoining lands became known, and induced an influx of farming population, which has been going on ever since. The last area thrown open was that of Penton Vale, adjoining Troubridge on the north, and bounded by the same coast-line on the east, and the Oyster Bay Area, new just surveyed, is a continuation of the same line. At present there is only one Post-Office to supply the whole of the three areas, as they may be termed, although Morowie is not technically an area. For years past a mail bag had been regularly sent along from Moonta once a week for the accommodation of the sheep and cattle stations, each of which has a private bag. About a couple of years back a hawker, having a keen eye to business and noting the advance of settlement, resolved to improve upon his nomadic style of life, and with a pretty good idea of the most central spot for such a large tract of country planted a store at the place which has now become the embryo township of Weaner's Flat. A saddler has once " located" next door, a public-house or hotel is in course of erection, and a blacksmith and a shoemaker are daily expected. The Government Township of Edithburgh (for Troubridge Area) has not made nearly so much progress; but there also a public-house has been begun, and two storekeepers are on the ground. The delay in the commencement of the jetty has kept back everything else; but when that is once well in hand Edithburgh will soon assume a different appearance, for there will be in all probability a large quantity of wheat shipped this season at the jetty if it is finished in time. If it is not it will be necessary to use the old place— Salt Creek—which some think should have been the site for the jetty and township. For the latter it would certainly have been preferable to the locality selected, as there is water obtainable at an easy depth. Another site spoken favourably of amongst the settlers is one of the sections on which Penton Vale Station is situated, which would be in many respects a good position, and, if surveyed in township lots,, probably bring in a fair price to the Government, as it also possesses the advantage of having good water at the depth of about 12 feet, while some settlers not far off have gone 60 feet without success. There is talk of memorializing the Government to survey a township at this spot, or, if they do not, to at least reserve some of the wells, of which there are six or seven. That there must be a township somewhere soon is pretty certain, and in all probability there will he a good deal of contention which of the three places named shall carry the palm. Certainly Weaner's Flat has the advantage of having obtained the start, mainly through the enterprise and energy of Mr. Jacobs, the storekeeper and Post master.

In addition to those above referred to there are other areas higher up the Peninsula— Kalkabury now open, and Yorke Valley and others ready to be declared—but these will be intimately connected with the Wallaroo townships, while those at the lower end do business almost entirely with Port Adelaide, two vessels, the Sailor Prince and the Edith Alice, bring employed all the year round in trading backwards and forwards. The accession of business to the tradesmen at Port Adelaide from this source has been considerable during the last two years, and will soon rapidly become of more importance. The jetty at Hungry Point will be the shipping place for the wheat from the Troubridge Area; and when the Oyster Bay Area becomes settled, the produce from that and Penton Vale will be shipped at Oyster Bay, but for the present the Penton Vale people will have to cart either to the jetty or to Salt Creek, which has been the shipping place chiefly used by the squatters for the last twenty years. At one time any one would have been laughed at who hinted at such a thing as Yorke's Peninsula ever becoming an agricultural country ; but that time has now passed, and many a smiling homestead is to be seen where not long ago there was nothing but the wilderness. A large portion of the Peninsula is covered with a dense mallee scrub, and will very likely never—certainly not for many years—be occupied except for pastoral purposes. There are other portions, however, which are wooded more or less with sheaoak, teatree, and peppermint, and it is this description of land which is bring taken up and occupied under the area system. There may be a block or two here and there tolerably dear, but for the most part a large amount of clearing has to be done before a crop can be put in. The usual mode of clearing is by means of bollock-teams, which in the winter time can pull down most of the sheaoaks and teatrees, and is much more economical than hand-grabbing. A greater difficulty than timber is the limestone which is to be found almost all over the Peninsula at a depth varying generally from nothing to about 18 inches below the surface. In some parts, notably Yorke Valley, there is an ample depth of soil, something like four feet, but usually it is much less than that, and a great deal of the land is only to be broken up by dint of great labour and perseverance, nevertheless the returns obtained have been of so satisfactory a nature that each harvest has stimulated the demand for land in the locality. One great advantage is the probability, if not certainty, of water being obtainable by sinking. Many of the settlers on Troubridge and the Morowie Hundred have reached water at depths varying from seven to thirty feet, and several of those in Penton Vale Area have secured the precious boon, though they have not been six months on the land. In many cases the fresh water is obtained, curiously enough, by sinking at the edge of the salt lagoons which abound, but it is also met with in other places. The fact that the squatters have always watered their flocks and cattle, including a large proportion of horses, at wells, and have not resorted to dams, Shows that water is pretty generally attainable, "although often a good deal of time and labour has to be spent before the wished for result is ensured. There are, of course, some localities where no springs exist, and in those cases settlers have either to catch sufficient rain in tanks or reservoirs, or else fetch their water from a distance. It is surely reasonable that where wells have been made, they should, on the resumption of the land, be reserved for public use, as a convenience to travellers and stock as well as to settlers.


Thu 13 Aug 1874, Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912) Trove

The debate in the Assembly on Wednesday upon Mr. Pearce's motion recommending the Government to immediately survey and open for selection all the best agricultural land on Yorke's Peninsula was a thoroughly practical and satisfactory one. Members for the most part resisted the temptation to throw themselves into the breach between employers and employed, and discussed the main question upon its merits. Even when they diverged from this rule their remarks were characterized by a moderation which contrasted favourably with the warm and ill-timed utterances of the previous day. For the judicious and business-like tone of the debate full credit must be awarded to the mover, who in his opening speech steered clear of the irritating topics into which it would have been-easy for him to have drifted, and only referred to the disagreements between the Directors of the Peninsula mines and their workmen in so far as it was necessary to illustrate his argument. He repudiated the idea of having simply brought the matter forward as an expedient for meeting a temporary emergency. A recent visit to Moonta had convinced him that there were numbers of men there possessed of sufficient capital to enable them to enter upon farming pursuits, and his anxiety was to facilitate their doing so. Indirectly the throwing open of fresh lands on the Peninsula would have the effect of relieving the strain upon the labour market, but he disclaimed the idea of wishing to transform unemployed and penniless miners into free selectors. Acting in full accord with the lion, gentleman's expressed views, Mr. Townsend proposed the expungement of words which specifically connected the motion with the fact that men were in want of work on the Peninsula, and the amendment was agreed to without a division on the distinct understanding that the House wished to be clear of the suspicion of interfering in a matter in which its special interference, at all events at present, would be as impolitic as it would be uncalled for. Upon the principle of the motion there was no difference of opinion. The Government were able to prove their unqualified concurrence in it by pointing out that orders for the survey had been given a week ago, and were to be executed forthwith. The promptitude displayed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands in this instance ought in common fairness to be regarded even by his opponents as a set-off against some of the short comings which are so lavishly charged against him. The minds of two or three of those gentlemen, however, seem so utterly jaundiced that they fail to see any redeeming features in Mr. Everard's administration of the Lands Department. Where they find it impossible to censure they have not even the, candour to damn with faint praise, or the self-control to be silent, but proceed at once to rake up proofs of past misdoings. Such a style of criticism is not only ungenerous, but it is indiscreet on the part of those who resort to it. Generally speaking they are members who hope to hold office, and who, when on the Ministerial benches, will find the inconvenience of having praise withheld when they feel themselves entitled to it, and the worst possible construction placed indiscriminately upon the whole of their actions. By the majority of the speakers on Wednesday, however, the readiness shown by the department to meet the wishes of the people at Moonta so-soon as expression had been given to them was cheerfully recognised. _

While deprecating the tendency shown in two or three quarters to withhold from the Government the credit which was undoubtedly due, we willingly admit that a good case was made out for a reform in what appears to be the ordinary method of offering land for selection. It is no deubt a fact that there has been a special pressure upon the Survey Office, and that considerable difficulty has been experienced in getting a sufficient quantity of land open for selection, but this does not justify or in any way account for the practice, loudly complained of on Wednesday, and then not by any means for the first time, of having a few sections put up here and a few there all over the country. To assume that they are thus put up in driblets because they are surveyed in driblets would be to presuppose an utter incompetency on the part of the Surveyor-General to make the most of the staff at his disposal. We are not prepared to accept that view, and yet in repudiating it we are left without any reasonable explanation for this system of offering land in fragments. The impolicy of adopting such a course is obvious. It puts it out of the power of intending selectors to inspect more than a tithe of the land that is advertised at one time, and inevitably leads to a run upon a few favourite blocks. The consequences are that the price at limited auction is carried to a ridiculously high figure, and that all the applicants, not excepting the buyer, have cause for profound dissatisfaction. Nor is this the end of the mischief, for the unsuccessful bidden, after failing over and over again to obtain the land they have had an opportunity of examining, reluctantly make up their minds to go to some other colony. That there is an exodus still going on of men whom we are least able to spare, and chiefly upon the grounds above set forth, it is impossible to deny in the face of the explicit statements made on Wednesday. Here, then, is a matter in which alteration for the better is urgently required, and there is sound wisdom in the advice tendered to the Ministry as to the propriety of having large areas in particular districts surveyed and put up at a time. We concur with Mr. Krichauff in thinking that in. the adoption of such a course lies a thoroughly practical remedy against the abuse of the limited auction principle. We are glad to find that the Ministry have it in contemplation to adopt a wholesale system of survey upon Yorke's Peninsula, and it is due to the country that they should follow it up by putting into the market at one time a large extent of land in that part of the colony. It is in the highest degree absurd tbat men capital and inclination to engage in farming in South Australia should be driven to inland districts like Horsham when there are on Yorke's Peninsula tend of thousands of acres of good arable land within a few miles of the sea-coast which only requires to be withdrawn from the pastoral lessee and surveyed to be rendered available for agricultural occupancy. The direction taken by the debate rendered it out of the question for the Government to reply to the strictures passed upon their conduct in the course of the previous day's vagrant discussion npon Yorke's Peninsula matters. This, so far from being a ground for regret, affords ample reason for satisfaction. The remarks made upon that occasion, however well meant, were altogether inopportune and it would have been a gross error in judgment for the Ministers or anyone else to have revived fee subject. The miners are evidently deerrrone as far as possible of settling their disputes with their employers without tiny ad cap'andum' appeals to public sympathy, and without proceeding to those extremities which would alone justify outside interposition. This determination on their part merits unqualified approval, and for the Executive or for the House to rush in, even to offer advice, would be nothing better than an act of midsummer madness. As to the employers, they are well enough able to take care of themselves, and nothing need be said on their behalf. The only matter that really called for explanation at the hands of the Government was the dispatch of a body of troopers to the Peninsula at a time when their arrival might have tended to irritate the populace. Even upon this point it seems to us the Ministry has a good defence, but it was better for them to sit silent under the stigma of having done an injudicious thing than to reopen a needless, not to say a mischievous discussion.