The Days of Long Ago

Pioneering on Yorke Peninsula

We have heard and read lots of stories of the pioneering days, and the history of our State, during the Centenary celebrations, but so far not very much of local doings. Although many of our pioneers had trying and even exciting experiences, Yorke Peninsula seems to have treated them in the same kindly fashion that it has treated their defendants. Though the pioneering days on Yorke Peninsula were hard, they were not extremely so, compared with the conditions some settlers had to endure in opening up new country, any more than the conditions and climate which we enjoy to-day are extreme. Life goes on here at a even even tempo than it does in many other parts of the world, or, indeed, of the State.

Since the introduction of super, Yorke Peninsula farmers have never sown their crops in vain, and while there is still some competition to get in the first load of wheat, think how exciting it must have been to Mr. Jas. Anderson, of Brentwood, first wheat buyer in the district, when he shipped his first load of wheat to the United Kingdom in 1856!

It was thirty years later that Mr. William Long established a roller flour mill at Minlaton. The business flourished for some time, them waned, was revived, but finally had to give way before the march of progress.

To the uninitiated, the telegraph call for Minlaton— "G. F" is most puzzling. Most places have two letter's taken from the name of the town. Usually the first letter and another consonant, to make up the call sign. "Y.W" for Yorketown, ''E. B." for Edithburgh, "S. Y''." for Stansbury, and so on. Minlaton's call dates from the days when the whole surrounding country was under the management of Gum Flat Station, and the first name given the new township was "Gum Flat."

Gum Flat Station at one time extended from Penton Vale in the south almost to Maitland in the north, and Mr. John Butler remembers as many as fifty blacks coming up to the outstation hut. They had a burying ground not far from what is now the Minlaton-Stansbury Road, and Mr. Butler remembers that they always buried their dead in a sitting position.

When Mr. Butler was about eight years old, he remembers getting lost on one occasion when he and his uncle, the late Mr. James Trott, made a trip to the beach. On their way out they blazed trees so as to be able to find their way back, but they walked up the beach some distance, and entering the scrub at a different point from the one they had left it, couldn't find their carefully marked trail. All day long they wandered about in the blazing heat. There was a search party out looking for them, and lots of black about, when, finally, mad with thirst, they found their way to a shepherd's hut.

The station manager used to drive a pair of horses in an express wagonette, but most of the farmers used spring carts, and the transport and work of the farm was done by bullock teams.

Scrub cleanup was carried on in the winter time when the ground was soft, and bullocks were used to pull the trees up. A heavy timber roller was fixed to the back of a dray, to which were harnessed fourteen bullocks and then, away she went. Sheoaks were cut down to feed the bullock, which, at night were belled, and turned loose. There were no restraining fences in those early day. Bullocks were also used to bring stores and visitors from the boat at Stansbury. Later a rough unit crossing, followed by a tortuous trip in a bullock dray! The journey to Stansbury from Minlaton and back took all day and part of the night! Mr Dave Cook is proud of the fact that his bullocks won the last prize offered for a team of bullocks at the Minlaton Show.

To those of us who remember nothing smaller than the ten-furrow stump jump plough, ploughing in the land with a one-furrow plough seems almost pre-historic, but for the first crops on Yorke Peninsula, sown less than a hundred years ago, one and two-furrow ploughs were used with a man guiding the plough handles and a boy driving.

To those of us who have only met with Roman figures in the Prayer Book, the idea that they were ever in general use amongst any people but the Romans seems fantastic, and yet, the last record book kept at the Minlaton Police Station, and started in 1880, had all letters written in the Roman way. In those days, when men were men, and horses a fast means of travel, most of the charges recorded were for furious riding! It sometimes took the constable a week to patrol his huge district on horseback.

Of all the tales told around Duncan's Well by men who came from as far away as Maitland, and all the things predicted in those early day, and although we still suffer occasionally from a water shortage. I don't suppose any of those old seers ever thought to see the day when the precious water would be brought by pipes to water lawn and plants fertile beautifying of the then unstated township of Minlaton.

— Edna Davies.