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. 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 sydnicate 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 Arthurton 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, tell us stories of the roads or lack of them.
Roads of those early days. The roads were made by bullocks winding in and out amongst the tree-. The trees were so tall they met over the track top, making it very difficulte 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 Kangaroos 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.
Mr. R. B. Smith and brother, Mr. C. H. Smith started work Smith Plough 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.
In recent months, people of Wallaroo, Moonta and Kadina have been tentatively discussing the possibility of some of the old copper mines in their disicts being opened up again. The September issue of "The S.A. Methodist" contained a lengthy history of the development of the mines and the towns, written by the Rev. Gordon Rowe, and we have pleasure in reprinting that article for the interest of our Peninsula readers. The first of three instalments appears below.
Let me begin with a quotation from an article which appeared in "The Register" in January, 1898. Here it is : "It would be a matter of no great surprise if the present generation did not, retain a vivid recollection of the salvation of the colony wrought through the discovery and development of the copper fields of Yorke Peninsula. It was in 1860 when the bloom of the Burra Mine was fading and the whole colony was smitter with the evil effects of drought, that a picturesque shepherd kicked up a stone saw traces of copper, and told others of the discovery, who afterwards made fortunes. Next year another shepherd picked up the first mineral stone at Moonta, ten mile away, and these discoveries laid the foundations of the copper industry of the Peninsula. From the first the mines began to pay, and properties were opened on all sides and thousands flocked to the locality. The scrub was soon changed into thriving towns and with thousands of men in employment and big dividends from the mines going into circulation a healthy condition of things prevailed throughout the whole colony.
Here is a brief reference to these mines taken from an article in the 1917 Journal ol the Department of Mines :
"The shepherds who discovered the copper stones on Yorke Peninsula were in the employ of Mr W. W. Hughes who leased the district as a sheep run. For some time Mr. Hughes had felt convinced that there were deposits of copper ore in the district as stones containing copper had been found on the beach near the head station, and fire wood used in the hut of on of the shepherds had burned with a greenish-hued flame. In consequence of these things, he instructed his men to bring him any likely-looking stones. This caused a keen watch to be kept, and one day in 1860 James Boor, one of the shepherds, came across a mound strewn with small pieces of ore thrown up by some burrowing animal, probably a native rat. He put the stones in his pocket, and few days later, when at the head station, showed them to Mr. John Duncan (later Sir John), the station manager. Mr. Duncan soon had a hole dug on the spot and sent samples of the ore to Mr Hughes In Adelaide, who thereupon took out several mineral leases, and these developed into the Wallaroo Mine. The Moonta Mine was discovered in much the same way a few months later, in 1861, by Patrick Ryan, another of Mr. Hughes' shepherds."
The article goes on to say that the development of these mines was facilitated by their proximity to Port Wallaroo where there is an excellent harbour, and also by the level nature of the country which facilitated fhe construction and economical working of tramways between both the mines and the Port. After some wrangling regarding the ownership of the Moonta property, joint stock companies were formed. The Moonta discovery was developed by the Moonta Mining Company and the Wallaroo discovery by the Wallaroo Mining and Smelting Company, by whom smelting works were erected at Pt Wallaroo to treat the ores of both mines. The original leases of 2,098 acres for the Wallaroo Mine and 2.691 acres for the Moonta Mine were granted for 14 years with the right of renewal, but these leases were later changed into leases for 99 years at an annual rental of one shilling an acre and a royalty of 2 and a half % on profits. For several years the Wallaroo Mine was managed by Captain Higgs and the Moonta Mine by Captain Hancock, and in 1889 the two companies were amalgamated with Captain Hancock as the Manager. The Yorke Peninsula Coppcr Mines were kept working for over 62 years, and produced copper worth over 20 million pounds and paid more than two million pounds in dividends.
According to the records the first miners at Wallaroo came from Burra in 1860, being brought down in a dray by Mr. John Duncan. It is interesting to recall their names. They were Walter Phillips, William Pascoe, Richard Walter and Samuel Truran. They were soon followed by many others with their families. A few month ater, in 1861, Mr. Duncan took a dray-load of men from Wallaroo to Moonta to open he mine there, but their names are not available. The mines were developed rapidly tided by their richness and by the decline of the mines in Burra, Kapunda and Calinton. For from these and other places people flocked to he new mines. Most of them were of Cornish descent, and many of them were ardent Methodists. In a report in the Wesleyan Magazine' of the enlargement of the church at Wallaroo early in 1865, when the Rev. S. Ironside was the visiting preacher from Adelaide, the report says : The population of the district is now about 9,000. Four years ago the kangaroo might have been hunted on the site of our townships, and the solitary hut of the shepherd was the humble representative of the massive buildings which now tell of advanced civilisation and settled commerce .This population was later on augmented by migrants who were brought over from the declining goldfields of Victoria, and by several shiploads brought out from Cornwall, and eventually reached from 15 to 20 thousand.