Australia’s only leg!
Named by Capt Mathew Flinders on March 30th, 1802 during his exploration and mapping of the southern Australian Coastline. Named on behalf of the Right Honourable Charles Philip Yorke, of the British Admiralty.
Captain Flinders described the Peninsula as being 'Like an ill-shaped leg'. A week later while sailing away from the area Flinders came across the French navigator, Captain Nicolas Baudin, who was also exploring the southern coast but traveling in a different direction. Which is just as well, otherwise Yorke Peninsula would have been given a different name - Cambaceres Peninsula!
The Peninsula’s total land area is about 4,800 square kilometres, and apart from the southern Hummocks Range protruding into the northern part of the Peninsula, and the high ground along the 'backbone' of the Peninsula, (where the center road runs), the land is comparatively flat with low undulating hills, some of which where the town of Warooka is located have been dated (by some) back tens of millions of years.
The entire Peninsula has no permanent running streams, although in extra-wet winters the swamp-like shallow streams between Weavers Lagoon and lake Sunday near Yorketown do flow slowly. The short, steep gullies between Pine Point and Port Clinton along the east coast flow after a heavy downpour. Yorketown is surrounded by an estimated 206 salt lakes of varying sizes with Lake Fowler being the largest.
The Aboriginal Naranga Tribe which occupied the Peninsula was divided up into four sub-tribes - the Koornarrah which lived in the northern section; the Winderah which lived in the eastern section; the Dilpah which lived in the southern section, and the Warree who had the western section. Most lived in the coastal sections where fresh water was available in soaks behind the sand hills, or occasionally in large depressions in the limestone surface rocks. Especially close to the inland township of Curramulka, which is a native name meaning 'Emu Waterhole'.
Fishing was the main source of food along certain sections of the Peninsula’s seashore, and is so even today. One can discover the remains of native fish traps made from rocks, designed to allow fish to swim in at high tide and then become trapped as the tide went out.
European Settlement began in 1847 with the establishment of a sheep run at Oyster Bay (now called Stansbury), by a Mr. Alfred Weaver. He was soon followed by other settlers bringing over mobs of sheep the long way, by droving them along the east coast, which was extremely difficult to do due to the low heavy scrub that grew in places.
Naturally the local natives and the European settlers didn’t see eye-to-eye over ownership of the sheep and other livestock. Therefore quite often natives were caught stealing white man's property and duly caught and dealt with- usually with on the spot rough justice.
During 1860 copper was discovered on the northern Yorke Peninsula by a shepherd who noticed 'greenish coloured stones' at the entrance to a wombat’s burrow', just south of the current town of Kadina. This soon led to the development of the Wallaroo Smelting Works located at Wallaroo Bay, about twelve kilometers from the mine site. This mine was soon surrounded by other profitable mines. A year later a higher grade deposit was unearthed approximately 17 km to the south-west at a locality called 'Moonta' where the ore averaged 25% copper, along with some gold too! Many hundreds of Cornish families migrated from England to live in the nearby towns of Kadina, Wallaroo and Moonta to work in the Copper Mines. This is why this region of Yorke Peninsula is quite often referred to as 'Australia’s Little Cornwall'.
During 1866 a tramway was constructed connecting the town of Moonta with the Wallaroo Copper smelters. This soon proved it worth as on one occasion 40 tons of malleable copper was delivered in one train load of ore on one day. The Moonta Copper Mines became known world-wide for producing high grade ore. It lasted into the 20th century, finally closing down in the 1920s mainly due to falling prices and increasing operational costs. Nowadays with modern mining equipment this region is currently undergoing extensive drilling exploration, with the long- term possibility of a copper mine - or two - becoming operational once more.
The discovery of copper also increased the need for better transportation as the mines were on the north-west coast of the Peninsula. By sea this was a good twenty hours sailing from Port Adelaide. A shorter route was urgently sought, which came about by using a paddle steamer from Port Adelaide to the tiny outpost of Port Arthur. Now a ghost town which died in its infancy. The only known building to be built was Browne’s Hotel, near the top of St Vincent Gulf on the Peninsula side. Transport then went by horse and cart onto either Wallaroo, Moonta, or Kadina. After a while this changed to Port Clinton, with a fast horse-drawn stage coach connecting with the boat.
During 1878 a railway line which connected to the Adelaide-Port Pirie Line at a locality called Bowmans, a few km east of Port Wakefield, then through Port Wakefield, across the top of the Peninsula, winding its way through the southern Hummocks range, then onto Kadina, Wallaroo and connecting to the Moonta line which was subsequently up-graded. This promptly made an enormous difference to accessibility of the north Yorke Peninsula region.
Several privately owned copper deposits have also been discovered in other areas of the Peninsula. One near the inland locality of Urania, south of Maitland, another two near the east coast township of Pine Point, with the Hillside mine near Pine Point proving to be the most valuable over the ensuring years. Today it is set to become part of the massive Rex Minerals Exploration Site, appropriately named 'Hillside' after the original mine.
Meanwhile on the eastern side of the Peninsula small coastal towns were springing up as the surrounding land was being opened up in the 1850s for (initially) sheep and cattle runs. After about 1870 they were sub-divided into smaller holdings of a square mile or smaller sections for scrub-clearing and growing crops of wheat and barley.
During the first few years of cultivation and crops the grain harvested was of excellent quality, but as the soil fertility became reduced so did the quality of subsequent harvests. Scientific research into the problem led to the development of the super-phosphate fertilizer which proved to be the solution, and a Phosphate Fertilizer Works was constructed at Wallaroo to manufacture this valuable fertilizer from imported phosphate rock mined from Nauru and Christmas Island, etc. Now farmers could add the super-phosphate to their seed and be assured of a reasonable chance of a successful grain harvest every cropping year.
Stump Jump Plough
Tilling of the land also improved with Clarence Smith’s 1878 invention of the Stump-Jump Plough. Ploughs up till Clarence’s invention had always been of fixed frame construction, and when the plough hit an obstruction, such as a rock or the remains of a tree stump, the plough quite often broke, meaning expensive repairs. The Stump-Jump Plough solved that problem by having each plough body hinged to the main frame, and a counterweight attached on an extended arm to push the plough back into the soil after rising up and over the object.
Later model Stump-Jump Ploughs had an improved linkage system utilizing a 'Bridle-draft' linkage of inter-linking chains and steel rods, some on the underside of the main frame and others above the main frame. Ploughs also became larger from single furrow to three, five, eight, even ten and twelve furrows wide. These were pulled by a team of Clydesdale horses.
Clarence H Smith chose the town of Ardrossan to set up his implement factory and was soon selling the Stump-Jump Ploughs to farmers from all over Yorke Peninsula, plus exporting them to other farming regions of South Australia, then interstate to Victoria, NSW, Southern Western Australia, Tasmania, etc.
Because the idea was never patented, other implement manufacturers round Australia also brought out their own variations of the Stump-Jump Plough. Even today the modern spring-release Cultivator and Wide-line Air-seeders are based on Clarence Smith’s invention.
Ardrossan is named after its namesake in Scotland, and was proclaimed in November 1873 by Governor Fergusson. A jetty was constructed in 1878 to accommodate steamships and windjammers used to ship bagged grain, plus to export outward bound cargo including Clarence Smith’s Stump-Jump Ploughs. The factory closed down in 1935 after the Great Depression reduced the buying capacity of farmers across Australia. The town survived due to the income from the surrounding farms, and by steady trickle of tourists arriving from Adelaide by coastal steamers on a regular basis.
In the early 1950s Ardrossan's growth picked up again with the opening of a large dolomite quarry near the western edge of the town by the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited company (BHP). The dolomite is used as a flux in the manufacture of steel at the BHP Whyalla and Port Kembla foundries. A new one kilometre long jetty was constructed by BHP to load the crushed dolomite as well as salt from the Price Salt Works approximately 10 km to the north.
In 1952 the first grain silos in South Australia were also constructed nearby with a conveyor belt taking the grain from the silo directly to the waiting grain ships. Twelve million bushels of wheat were shipped in bulk from the Ardrossan bulk handling complex that year, and more in the following years as farmers from all over the Peninsula began carting their harvested grain to Ardrossan in bulk bins fitted to their trucks. Ardrossan now has bulk storage for approximately fifteen million bushels, the bulk of which is now transported to Port Giles by road transport as the Ardrossan Jetty cannot handle modern, 'Panamax' bulk grain carriers.
In the early 1960s the Coast Road from the Copper/ Coast Road intersection was sealed, greatly improving road transport and reducing traveling time to Adelaide. The sealing of the Coast Road was gradually extended all the way down the east coast of the Peninsula, connecting all the coastal towns, and arriving inland at Yorketown in 1964.
Also about this time mains water arrived in the town via a pipeline from the Paskeville Reservoir, which in turn is linked by a much larger diameter pipeline from the Beetaloo and Bundaleer Reservoirs located in the Flinders Ranges. During drought years these are topped-up via a pipeline off the major Mannum - Whyalla line.
Pine Point located about 16 km south of Ardrossan on the Coast Road (now called the 'St Vincent Highway'), is another small community which was a 'Mosquito Port' for the ketches to call at to load the bagged grain and bales of wool from the surrounding farms, till the new grain silos opened at Ardrossan. Pine Point survived the transition as there is an implement manufacturer in the small town who specializes in making Rocking-Picking Machines for the Yorke Peninsula farming community, and who also sells the machines to other stony farming regions of Australia.
Several kilometres north of Pine Point is the headquarters for Rex Minerals who are involved with an extensive Copper-Gold Exploration Project, (Hillside Mine Site), which through a major core-drilling project has discovered extensive high-grade copper and gold deposits north and south of Pine Point, along with other minerals such as iron ore, silver, lead, etc.
About three kilometres to the south-east of Pine Point, on a separate sealed road leading from the St Vincent Highway, one discovers the 'Millionaires Playground' of Black Point, which is a long, flat sandy point stretching out into St Vincent Gulf. It currently has approximately 160 holiday homes facing onto the Gulf. Black Point is believed to be named from the local natives who used to camp out on the point during the early days.
Approximately 10 km south of Pine Point one comes across the Port Julia turn-off. Port Julia is another small coastal 'Mosquito Port' which was used for loading the ketches with bagged grain and wool bales from the surrounding farms. Port Julia was for a time also called 'Port Curramulka' as the road from Curramulka was better traveling than the road to Port Vincent!
The jetty is still in good condition, and the old grain storage shed on the landing by the jetty has been converted into a community shed by the local people. Although there are only houses at Port Julia, Adelaide people are gradually buying building allotments in the town, building homes, and moving in.
Traveling south again on the highway brings one to the Port Vincent turn-off signs on the left, and on the right inland to Minlaton and Curramulka.
Curramulka is tiny inland township, with a current population of 150 people, that began in 1876 at a convenient intersection where a local deep well, dug in the 1850s by Cornish Miners, already existed. The well was used for drawing up stock water for Gum Flat livestock.
A hotel was built across road from the well during the early 1880s. Then on the other side a general store was constructed, followed by a blacksmith's shop, an implement maker, then a bank agency, a row of houses, a school, church, oval, tennis club, etc, all serving the local farming community. The bank agency has closed down, but the hotel, general store, school, mechanical business, etc, are still in business.
Curramulka has a different type of limestone to the rest of Yorke Peninsula, called 'Blue Limestone'. It is much harder than the white variety and is used extensively for road sealing, plus for base-leveling before home/ building foundations are poured. The rock quarry is about a kilometre to the south of the town. This is also interesting from another angle, as one literally drives down into Curramulka, and up to travel to any other town, because Curramulka is at the bottom of a hollow between the surrounding low hills.
About three kilometres to the south of the town, just off a gravel road is what is generally acknowledged to be the most extensive chain of limestone caves in the Southern Hemisphere. The sheer size of the system is also why so little is known about it. The ONLY visitors are professional cavers, and members of the South Australia Police Rescue Squad who use the caverns for part of their training.
About 30 years ago a farm-hand on a motorcycle got himself lost in the main cave while looking for some missing sheep. Luckily he had a full tank of petrol and finally found daylight in the cliffs north of Port Vincent some hours later.
Kulpara named for a local native word 'Kula' meaning eucalyptus. Kulpara is located on the Copper Coast Highway at the western foot of the southern Hummocks Range.
Here in the early days the rough dirt road branched southwards to Arthurton, Maitland, Mount Rat, Minlaton, Yorketown and ended at Edithburgh. Other bush tracks led off the central road to Port Victoria, Ardrossan, Curramulka, Brentwood, Hardwick Bay, Warooka, Corny Point, and ending at Stenhouse Bay/ Inneston.
During the 1930s the central road was gradually sealed which improved road traffic accessibility between all the main Peninsula towns immensely.
About fifty kilometres south-west of Kulpara is the small rural town of Arthurton, originally called 'Kalkabury', which was offered for selection in 1872. This site is where the first known invention and demonstration of the original Stump-Jump Plough, (called the 'Vixen') took place by its designer, Clarence Smith. The idea was never patented, resulting in many other farm implement manufacturers copying the concept over the years.
The local hotel was built in 1877 on a large corner block in the town center, and has always thrived, while the general store has shut down at times, only to be purchased by a new owner and re-opened. The school has been transferred to nearby Maitland, but in years gone by Arthurton had its own football club, golf club, etc, and still has an active tennis club.
From Arthurton one can travel north-west via the sealed Agery Rd to either Moonta, Kadina, or Wallaroo. This region is also being extensively tested for potential future copper-gold mining as the region is in the same basin as the former Wallaroo-Moonta copper mines.
Just at the southern edge of Arthurton one can turn left onto the bitumen and drive to Ardrossan, via the pioneer settlement of Petersville. Alternatively, one can follow the bitumen some 16 km to the larger town of Maitland.
Maitland is a popular community centre with a current population of about 1,000. It serves some of the richest farming families on the Yorke Peninsula, whose ancestors arrived to work on the original holding of Samuel Rogers' Ynoo Pastoral Lease about 1850–55. The old Ynoo ruins can still be found several km south of Maitland along the Yorke Valley Rd.
Maitland has numerous local community service clubs, a supermarket, bakery, hotel, car and farm Implement dealerships and numerous other shops. There is an extensive golf course, a modern hospital and medical care facility, an area school, churches, retirement village, and an all-weather airstrip. The Bulk Grain Storage area is on the southern edge of the town,
Maitland was proclaimed in 1872 and named after Lady Jean Maitland, wife of the First Lord of Kilkerran, who was related to the then South Australian Governor.
The old 'Cape Horners' town of Port Victoria, on the western coast approximately 20 kilometres south-west of Maitland, is protected from westerly storms by nearby Wardang Island.
The town jetty was opened in 1878. During the next year three of the tall ships that visited Port Victoria were the 'Cardigan Castle', the 'British Duke', and the 'Salamanca' During 1880 there were at least eleven tall ships from overseas at Port Victoria loading bagged wheat and barley for shipment to England and European ports.
By the 1930s numerous four and five-mast windjammers were using Port Victoria, all anchored between the town and Wardang Island, making a magnificent sight. Then, once fully laden there was a Grain Race back to their English or European home port. The 'Passat' won the 1949 Grain race, completing the trip in 110 days.
The other smaller grain ports on the Spencer Gulf - Balgowan, Port Rickaby, Port Minalcowie, Point Turton and Corny Point, were served by the ketches, schooners and small coastal steam ships plying between those ports and Port Adelaide, Port Lincoln and Port Victoria. They took out grain, wool and firewood, and brought in super-phospate, implements, piping, cornsacks, etc. for each local community.
34 kilometres south-east of Port Victoria, one comes across the Mount Rat intersection on top of high ground. The sealed road heading north takes one to Maitland, to the south-east Curramulka and Port Vincent, etc, and southwards to Minlaton, Yorketown, Warooka, etc.
Mount Rat today is a ghost town, with one house nearby and a roadside cairn telling those who stop to read what used to be there 90 years ago. Back in the 1920s there were several houses, a hotel, grain stacking yards and even a small community store. With the arrival of sealed roads and better transportation this all gradually disappeared, with the hotel being demolished just prior to the second world war.
Minlaton, also called the 'barley capital of the world' due to the majority of the surrounding farm land producing top class malting barley, much of which is exported to Europe and middle-eastern countries through the massive Port Giles Silos and Bulk Handling Complex located on the coast approximately 55 km to the South-east.
Minlaton was proclaimed on 15th June, 1875, and is laid out similar to Adelaide with the main street being two chains in width, (approximately 40 metres today), and the side streets only one chain width. The main town area totals 118 acres and is surrounded by 297 acres of park lands. On the eastern edge of the town is an unique natural area of river red gums, the only known red gums on the entire Peninsula.
Nearby is the original Gum Flat Homestead, built about 1847–49. It is the main house of the old Gum Flat Pastoral Lease which once covered 107 square miles of Southern Yorke Peninsula.
Up to about 30 years ago extensive bagged grain stacking yards were on the southern edge of the town, but with the on-going development of Port Giles these were closed.
Minlaton today is a well-known community center with numerous shops, engineering works, Post Office, town hall, retirement village, nursing home, high school, hotel, car dealerships, extensive secondhand shop, tourism information center, fuel depots, and a population of about 1,000 residents.
Stansbury is approximately 25 kilometres to the south-east of Minlaton, on the coast. It was originally called 'Oyster Bay' by the first settlers because of the large number of oysters to be found in the bay, which (similar to Port Vincent’s bay) is protected by a sand spit running in a north-easterly direction from the end of the foreshore caravan park.
The town was proclaimed in July 1873 and a few years later the jetty was built in 1877. It is the largest coastal town south of Ardrossan, due to the nearby Klein's Point Limestone Quarry, where limestone is quarried, crushed, then transferred by a motor barge to the Cement Works at Birkenhead (Port Adelaide) five days a week.
The town has a good selection of retail businesses, along with a large caravan park and numerous holiday rental cottages. Tourism has increased at Stansbury since the Seaside Markets along the foreshore became a regular monthly event through the warmer months.
Wool Bay (originally called 'Pickering') is the next small community down the coast from Stansbury. It also was a 'Mosquito Port' for the ketches, regularly loading wheat and barley for Port Adelaide. The little town is built on the cliff top, with a incline road cut into the cliff face which ends on the foreshore landing by the old jetty.
Wool Bay kept its name as it was used by the nearby Pentonvale Pastoral Lease to load the bales of wool onto ketches, and the name stuck. Years ago there was a shop, school, church, community hall, plus a large bagged grain stacking area. That has all vanished over the years, leaving memories and numerous holiday homes.
One standout feature is a unique up-draft lime kiln built into the cliff face, where limestone was burnt years ago to produce builders lime.
Port Giles is approximately 2 kilometres south of Wool Bay and is South Australia’s newest shipping port. It is also the deepest at the low tide depth of 11.6 metres which allows modern bulk grain carriers to load safely.
The 617 metre long jetty was completed in 1970, with the first double row of 10 concrete silos completed the year earlier. This was soon extended to a double row of 20 silos, then a second separate row of steel silos was added a few years later. Even then at peak harvest time the silo complex quite often had to close till a grain ship arrived to empty some of the silos. Additional outside bulk storage has recently been added.
Grain ships during the 2011 harvest loaded 879,000 tons of grain from Port Giles destined for international export markets. During the summer months after harvest one quite often sees two grain ships moored out in the Gulf, while a third is at the jetty loading.
Approximately 5 kilometres further on from Port Giles is the small township of Coobowie, which overlooks a wide shallow sheet-rock bay. It is adjacent to an unusual tidal inlet where one can find many species of water-birds, some of which have flown from far-flung corners of the world to nest on the shores of the inlet.
On high ground behind Coobowie, in a farmer’s paddock, there is the entrance to a cave which meanders in numerous directions underneath Coobowie. According to local legend during the first and second world wars an entire family actually made the main cave their home. During the 1970s a group of cavers from the SA University spent a week on the site, and managed to map all the accessible sections of the cave system.
Coobowie, although first established as a small loading port of call for ketches, is today a popular holiday town with large caravan park, numerous beach-side cabins and units, and a well-stocked general store, along with a tennis club, hotel and various community groups.
100 years ago Edithburgh was the largest seaport on the Yorke Peninsula, and for a short while had the largest export tonnage outside of Port Adelaide. The town dates back to 1871, and excavation work for the jetty commenced shortly afterwards, with the jetty opening in 1873.
Edithburgh sits on low, hard limestone cliffs. The surrounding cliff top area became storage areas, initially for bagged grain, then as years went by, gypsum and salt. During 1877 the Edithburgh Primary School opened its doors to young students. In 1881 Edithburgh became a Corporation, with a fixed population of 234 residents.
During the 1880s, drought helped change the face of Edithburgh and the surrounding farms for many years, but there was an unlikely saviour - SALT.
There are over 200 lakes in the Southern Yorke Peninsula region. When pastoralists first took up their leases, the entire Peninsula was covered in mallee scrub. During winter and spring the lakes were fresh water lagoons, drying out in the hot summers.
When European settlers arrived, they set to work and cleared off the scrub, result the naturally occurring salt and minerals in the soils gradually leached into the low-lying lagoons with every winter's rainfall, then when the lakes dried out during summer the salt crust remained. By the time the drought of the 1880s arrived there was a reasonable crust of salt on most of the lakes, which farmers took to manual scraping, bagging and delivering to their local ports for delivery to Port Adelaide.
The Peninsula’s first known Salt Refining business was located on a lake just east of Yorketown. It was set up by a Frenchman named Tocchi who formed the SA Salt Refining Co about 1876. This locally produced salt was 15/- a ton cheaper than the imported product, and of equal quality. Production was about two tons a day, by an evaporation system using wood-fired boilers. The liquid solution was first being pumped from two 12,000 gallon holding tanks through a series of six long filters, and then into the boilers. The bagged salt was carted to Coobowie where it was stored in a beach side holding shed. It was carried by horse and dray out to ketches waiting in the shallow water for transportation to Port Adelaide. This became the Castle Salt Co, who had their refinery at Birkenhead (Port Adelaide). The storage shed at Coobowie was capable of holding 4,000 bags of bagged salt.
After some years the Castle Salt Co was reconstructed, and formed the Castle Salt Co-operative Co. Ltd, moved to Edithburgh. A new Refinery was built on cliff-top land south-west of and facing the jetty. Early in the 1900s two more salt refineries constructed factories: Commonwealth Salt Refining Co. Ltd, and The Standard Salt Co. Ltd.
Although strictly a seasonal operation, salt proved to be the lifeblood for many Southern Yorke Peninsula farmers and families. Production rose from a few thousand tons in the 1880s, to over 40,000 tons in the early 1900s. At the peak years to come production increased to nearly 60,000 tons per year, with nearly all refined and shipped from Edithburgh.
Lake Fowler (between Yorketown and Edithburgh) was the largest salt scraping enterprise. Along the southeast side of the lake a large hill of gypsum existed, measuring approximately a mile long (1.6 km) x 80 ft high x 350 ft wide. The SA Gypsum Co. Ltd was formed in 1898 to mine the gypsum and transport it to Edithburgh.
Lime burning was another business which came into prominence during the late 1890s
With so much suitable stone available to build homes, commercial buildings, etc, it was natural that limestone was used not only to build the homes but also burnt to make into mortar. Although limestone was used this way by the early pastoralists to construct their own homes and buildings, it was only during later years that lime burning developed into a commercial enterprise, employing people to burn the lime in specially constructed lime kilns, and paying local farmers to deliver the rocks.
Kilns were built at Edithburgh, Coobowie, Wool Bay, Stansbury and Port Vincent. Some were also built on several farmer's properties, notably near Weaver’s Lagoon, Hayward Park and at Paddy’s Well, with a total capacity between all kilns of some 31,000 bags of burnt lime per year.
Lime kilns were profitable for many years. I can still recall the Paddy’s Well Kilns working in the early 1960s when I was a kid going to school, although by then the burning process was oil-fired and electric power was used for lighting and operating the crushing plant, etc. The old kilns were dismantled about ten years ago, after not been used since about 1970. All that is left is a roadside sign and lime residue scattered nearby.
Yorketown began in 1872. First it was called 'Weaners’ Flat' as this was where the young sheep were weaned from their mothers. For many years an old shepherds hut stood nearby about where the Town Center Public Toilets now are.
Although Yorketown was never laid out like other towns, being at a five roads intersection - which over the ensuring years has lead to interesting shaped allotments - the town has become a major commercial center for the Southern Yorke Peninsula. The first store was a hawker’s van on the south-east corner, which subsequently became 'Weaners’ Flat General Store'. That same site still has a much enlarged commercial retail outlet, now part of Yorketown Bakery, Clothing and Electrical Store. Yorketown also has two hotels, the oldest family-owned Ford Dealership in South Australia, (Australia?), numerous shops, a modern hospital, area school, community services groups, all-weather airstrip, mechanical workshops, etc.
Some five kilometres to the east of Yorketown is Pentonval Corner. To the left on high ground is the old Pentonval homestead and stone outbuildings where my late grandfather (Edward Hollingworth Giles) grew up, attended the old Oaklands School, which is another 4 kilometres to the east. 100 years ago there was the school, hotel, blacksmith, shops, hall and church. All that remains today is the old school house, and several private houses, and a roadside sign, reading 'Oaklands'.
Grandfather Giles went on to become district clerk for DC Melville, then for Yorketown, Auditor for Dalrymple for 28 yrs, Yorketown Corporation for 25 yrs, Southern Yorke Peninsula Hospital board for 35 yrs, Member of Parliament for Yorke Peninsula (County Ferguson), 1926–33. He was awarded an Australian Government Citation for Serving the local Community in 1946, but unfortunately passed away before receiving it.
5 kilometres west of Yorketown one comes across a group of houses by the roadside, with a well-kept oval, plus a signpost which reads 'Sunbury', another tiny community which although it has a cricket club never developed into a town. It is just a group of houses by an intersection.
Further west is Warooka, To get there one crosses the Peesey swamp which stretches almost diagonally from near Port Moorowie north-westwards to end in the sandhills between Point Turton and Hardwich Bay. Many thousands of years ago there was a narrow sea strait, or 'rift valley' cutting off the 'bottom end' of the Peninsula from the rest of the Peninsula.
It is thought the Peesey swamp came about 25,000 years ago when the sand hills at each end moved across the sea entrance, and blocked the sea at both ends. The Peesey ranges to the west are only about 200 ft in height, yet to the traveller approaching from the Yorketown road they appear much higher, due to an optical illusion brought about by the lowness of the Peesey, as it is below sea level.
Salt was scraped on various sections of the Peesey for many years. The salty brine was pumped up from a gigantic natural underground reservoir at a rate of 30,000 gallons per hour 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week for up to four months at a time.
Up to the late 1870s it was impossible to cross the Peesey in wet weather, till the energetic local Member of Parliament, Mr Ebenezer Ward, was successful in having a road made across the swamps. This was called 'Wards Crossing'. Today the bitumen road follows the same horse and cart track that was put down over 130 yrs ago!
During the 1930s oil drillers from the USA attempted to search the Peesey for oil, without luck, although they did find a good supply of underground water at one site.
Warooka was officially proclaimed in 1876 on the crest of the 'Peesey Ranges' and became better known as 'Warooka Hill' or on a cold windy day 'Windy Hill'.
The town grew slowly from a few houses, a shop and a hotel. The hotel was the first stop for many coming up the hill from all four directions as the hotel is town centre. Being on the south-west corner of the main intersection one cannot miss it! The first official school was opened in 1879. There were two schools previously, one a church school and the other the 'town' school. Warooka, although not large like Yorketown or Minlaton, still serves the farming community well with a well-stocked general store, Post Office, mechanical repairs, hardware store, butcher shop, several churches, café, town hall, etc.
To the northwest and on the coast is the small sea-port of Point Turton. It started it’s life in 1877 with a jetty to load limestone flux destined for the Port Pirie Silver-Lead Smelter onto ketches. This developed into an extensive business with up to about 80 men working the quarry, loading jetty trolleys then off-loading the limestone flux into waiting ketches.
Although beginning as a private venture, the BHP Company took over the Quarry Lease in 1899. This proved beneficial as BHP raised and lengthened the jetty, added mooring lights, etc.
When flux was not being loaded, a separate grain loading area was used allowing the jetty trolleys to collect the bagged grain and run it out to the end of the jetty where the bags were manually slid down a slide into the ketches' holds, where the bagged grain was manually stacked.
During 1917 BHP closed its Point Turton quarry and moved up to Wardang Island where the flux reserves were much larger. The jetty traffic then mainly consisted of grain, super-phosphate, and other bulky freight.
Ten thousand bags of grain were shipped in 1906, and in the peak year of 1961 Point Turton was second to Edithburgh, shipping out 215,828 bags of barley, 70,000 of which were No.1 grade malting barley. Several years later the grain stacking yards closed as trucks and better roads meant the grain was now carted directly to the main Peninsula ports, which in turn reduced cartage and handling costs to the growers. Point Turton survived thanks to a local commercial fishing industry.
A few years later the old grain stacking area and the adjacent old quarry area was developed into a caravan park to cater for the gradually increasing numbers of tourists.
Corny Point is the last community of the western end of the Peninsula’s 'Foot',and as the name suggests, the bump on that part of the foot resembles a corn on a toe. Corny Point is unusual for a town, as it is in several sections with farm paddocks in between.
The lighthouse was completed 1882 on the headland to assist ketches and windjammers as they rounded the Point en-route to Point Turton, Minlacowie, Port Victoria, etc, as close by there are several dangerous reefs and protruding rock formations. The limestone for the lighthouse and the two keepers’ cottages, plus the two 10 000 gallon underground rainwater tanks came from a nearby farm. As Corny Point never gained a jetty or wharf the only way to load and unload the ketches was by smaller boat and or horse and farm dray. A slow, tedious, hard, and rough method for everyone involved, but it was the only way. Otherwise it was a day’s ride to Point Turton, and then another day to ride back. With the advent of better transport, and rough tracks becoming graded roads, sea-loading ceased in 1942. From then on the Point Turton Jetty was used.
The lighthouse became automatic about 1960, and the cottages and tanks were dismantled, leaving the lighthouse standing alone on the headland.
Corny Point, although still in two sections, has slowly grown over the years, with community sports clubs, a general store and a caravan park. Numerous holiday homes are being built every year, especially during the last 20 years since the main road to Warooka was sealed.
Heading south along what used to be the 'Dust Bowl Road' (now also up-graded and sealed) towards Marion Bay, Stenhouse Bay, etc, one comes across side roads pointing to places such as Berry Bay, Point Annie, Gleeson’s Landing, Daly Head, Formby Bay, all of which in days past were simply local fishing locations, and today popular surfie beaches. Gleeson’s Landing was also known for its pipe clay quarry. That’s where the clay to make Grandpa’s pipe came from for many years!
Marion Bay is a young town compared to the majority of the other Peninsula towns. Commenced in 1899 with the construction of a 400ft jetty along with a wooden tramway track from the nearby Marion Lake Gypsum & Whiting Mining Operations. As the project expanded the wooden tracks were replaced with steel tracks, two steam locomotives and 70 small side-tipping trucks to haul the gypsum to the jetty where it was stockpiled.
In 1925 the jetty was increased in length to a total of 1936 ft and with a depth of 16 ft of water at the end which was now 'T' shaped. A conveyor belt loading system was also installed.
Several miles away, to the south-west, another company began mining the Inneston Lake, and constructed their own loading jetty at Stenhouse Bay. The problem was that unlike the Marion Bay jetty which was built straight out from the low shoreline, Stenhouse Bay was a totally different proposition due to the 150 ft cliffs surrounding the little bay.
At first steel tracks were carefully laid down the face of the cliff to and along the jetty. The laden trucks were lowered down the incline of the cliff with the aid of a steam-driven winch. On reaching the jetty each truck was detached from the cable then manually pushed out along the jetty to the ship’s side. About 1916 a cutting was blasted through the cliff face, with steel tracks laid and connected to the main tramway. But as the incline was still too steep for safety, a counter-balance system was devised using two truck, on a separate track at right angles to the main incline, with the trucks both loaded with similar weight. These trucks were connected to the descending trucks and locomotive by a steel cable.
After the second world war, new loading equipment was installed including a continuous conveyor loading belt stretching three-quarters of a mile (just over one km) in length. It was constructed in six sections. It went from the washing plant directly down the cutting and out to the end of the jetty.
Unfortunately the gypsum mining operation became a victim of progress. The parent company had discovered gypsum at Lake MacDonnell on the Eyre Peninsula’s West Coast, which though further away, were easier and cheaper to mine and load onto ships than Inneston and Stenhouse Bay.
The gypsum mining lease closed in the early 1970s. Inneston became a ghost town, while Stenhouse Bay was purchased by the South Australian State Government of the time and now is the headquarters for Inneston National Park, Inneston, even though a ghost town has had some of the houses restored which are now used for holiday accommodation.
During the 1960s the Bitumen finally reached Marion Bay and Stenhouse Bay townships. Instead of heading south from Warooka to Sturt Bay, then westwards along the coast, or westwards to Corny Point, then southwards along the old 'Dust Bowl Road' to Marion Bay, the new road takes a more direct route through the scrub-land. This has cut traveling time literally by half or more especially in winter when some roads became almost impassable during and after heavy rain.
Researched by Roger Jenkins. Copyright © .Roger Jenkins August 2012
Information sourced from various Yorke Peninsula Publications.
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