Mining Days on Yorke Peninsula

Eighty years ago mining was booming on Yorke Peninsula. Copper was about £120 per ton. In 1873, a small sydnicate of Moonta men obtained a miner's right over section 40 at Kalkabury and sent out four men to test it for mineral. These men, Messrs. W. Mathews, T. Davey, R. Morton and R. Martin, put down two shafts, and did a lot of costeaning work, that is, sinking small pits just large enough for a man to work in. These pits were sunk so as to cross the veins between the shafts. No. 2 shaft was sunk only about 20 feet, but No. 1 shaft was 100 feet deep, when it was no longer possible to haul the stuff to the surface without a windlass, so they closed down without having found any mineral, though indications were said to be good. The shaft is still there.

A Varied Use

The miner's hut was used for a number of purposes in the community. A day school was started with a Mr. Henry Jones from Wallaroo as teacher. Mr. Jones was an educated man, a surveyor by profession, but apparently was not adapted to schoolmastering, for the school did not last long, although one man paid 2 6 per week for his three boys, and others paid more than the prescribed 1 - for big children and sixpence for small ones, in an effort to keep the school going.

Church was also held in the miner's hut, although the first service in December 1873. and several in 1874, were held in the home of Mr. J. Colliver. The Rev. W. T. Carter and the Rev. W. H. Pollard were the first ministers, and amongst local preachers who conducted services were Messrs. N. H. Wilson, from Maitland, H. Lamshed and C. Miller.

About the end of 1874, the mining syndicate was wound up and the miner's hut demolished, so it was necessary to find some other place for the holding of church services.

For a time, services were held at the home of Mr. D. Henderson, who then gave a piece of land at the junction of Moonta, Kadina and Paskeville roads for the building of a chapel. On it, a wattle and daub structure was erected by the residents. Mr. R. Winzer, plasterer, and Mr. Buik, a carpenter, helping largely with the work.

The chapel was about 25 by 10 or 12 feet, with an iron roof, two small windows at each side, and a front door. A subscription to raise funds for roofing materials and furniture reached £25, and the little church was opened free of debt.

Amongst well known Moonta men who conducted services in the church were Messrs. Jabez Tonkin, Brown (from Moonta Mines workshops) and John Anthony. The church was in the charge of the Maitland circuit, and the Revs. T. M. Rowe, R. Kelly and T. E. Thomas were among the early ministers. In 1882, a property was purchased in Arthurton township.

With the building of the little church, other efforts were made to give the children some schooling. A Miss Pascoe conducted a school in the church for several months one winter, then a Swedish doctor called Smidl was a schoolmaster under the Education Department before the Arihurion schoolhouse was built. But learning the three R's was a chancy business in those days.


Mr. Colliver, from whose reminiscences this information about early Arthurton comes, tells us stories of the road — or lack of the - in those early days. The tracks were made by bullocks winding in and out amongst the trees. The trees were so tall they met over the track top, making it very difficult to be sure whether the right track was being followed, or to see any end to the road.


Kangaroos were so plentiful in those days, he says, that they looked like flocks of sheep in the mornings and evenings. One man made a practice of shooting one or two each morning and evening. From the sale of their skins he was able to buy a set of shaft and leading harness for his first two horses, besides supplying the cook with some meat.

Smith Plough

Mr. R. B. Smith and brother, Mr. C. H. Smith started work near Arthurton as blacksmiths. Mr. Colliver says he cannot completely vouch for the evolution of the stump jump plough as invented and made by the Smith brothers, but as far as he could remember, the first attempt was "a disc wheel or coulter affixed to an ordinary single furrow plough to run in front of the share and a little deeper, so that when the disc struck a stump, it would rise over it, lifting the plough with it. The handles would rise over the head of the man holding them, and when the obstruction was passed, drop back into place again. Another attempt was a V-shaped frame with one wheel in front and two behind and the body of the plough fixed in between the frame on the hinge, or king bolt, with a long wooden lever to keep it down. Afterwards, an iron lever was used with a knob of iron about the size of a good pie melon on the end to make it take the hard ground." "I believe." he says, "the secret, of the first plough consisted of this king bolt, or hinge, as all stump jump emplements have it. There are many different shaped frames and devices to take the hard ground, but they all have to be hung on a king bolt to make them jump. Mr. R. B. Smith has the credit of being the inventor, but, it was Mr. C. H. Smith who did the work and followed it up with improvement on the first attempt."