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Minlaton

Area before establishment of the township

Robert Cock and Surgeon Jamieson explored in the vicinity of Coobowie (the heel of the Peninsula) in 1838, but reported that the soil was not particularly fertile and there was a lack of running water. The following year, in June, two special surveys were conducted at Port Victoria and Port Vincent. While there were some preliminary land sales, the survey had no lasting effect and 'died a natural death' (Cook p. 5). In 1843 a second exploration of the lower peninsula was undertaken by William Robinson. He had overlanded stock from New South Wales to Adelaide in 1841, and subsequently taken up land on the River Wakefield, as well as further north at Hill River. Robinson landed at Oyster Bay (Stansbury) exploring from there, but his report was unflattering. Again the lack of surface water was a key factor, but the heavy scrub and sheoaks meant that 'not one acre of land [was] fit for cultivation' (Cook p. 5)

In 1846 Alfred Weaver sent his employee Charles Parrington to select grazing land. Parrington chose Oyster Bay and became the first white man to live on the Peninsula. He subsequently advised Thomas Giles and George Anstey to take up the Gum Flat Run which extended from Moorowie to Port Victoria, covering 167 square miles. Subsequently pastoralism thrived on the Peninsula. From 1855 farmers began to claim a precarious foothold on the coastal fringes particularly near Surveyors Point (Port Vincent) and at Black Point. Stephen Goldsworthy notably held freehold farming land as well as pastoral leases, but by the mid 1860s there were still only 67 acres sown with wheat, and the total yield was only 374 bushels. (A further 90 acres were planted for hay.) However, against this there were 135,554 sheep and 1,578 head of cattle in addition to nearly 1,000 horses.

Minlaton surveyed

But men were looking for farm lands, and the large leaseholds on the Peninsula were targeted. The first surveys were conducted in 1869 in the Hundred of Melville. In 1874, Giles and Anstey at Gum Flat Run received notification that their government lease was to be resumed, and the land to be surveyed and sold to farmers. The Hundred of Minlacowie was proclaimed on 26 March 1874. New town and suburban allotments were surveyed at Gum Flat Run, and the name Minlaton chosen for the settlement. By March 1876, the survey of the town was completed, but the sale of blocks was delayed for five months. Several businesses were established just outside the township in the triangle of land formed by the Yorketown and Cemetery Road: these included Minlaton's first blacksmith Andrew Gardner, and Calder and Baker's wheat store and general trading centre. Amenities were slow to follow. Most urgent was some form of water storage along the road to Stansbury, where the townspeople were obliged to go to collect their mail and incoming stores and to take their harvest for export. This was a round trip of 30 miles without surface water, a long distance for thirsty teams of horses or bullocks. Finally the government agreed to supply this need, but the road itself remained in deplorable condition.

The towns and adjacent farms were remote and isolated, made more noticeable when the telegraph line to Yorketown passed through Minlaton in 1877 but with no provision made for a telegraph station in Minlaton itself. This was only remedied in 1878 after the postmaster William Long built a telegraph office himself. Long had been appointed postmaster in April 1876 and established a twice-weekly collection of mail from Stansbury, but by 1881 a coach had connected Minlaton with Stansbury, and to the railhead at Moonta. A return trip three times a week became available carrying mail, passengers and small freight. A telephone service was connected in 1911, and a trunk line service to Adelaide in May 1916 - this was finally automated in 1969. A daily bus service was established between Yorketown and Paskeville in 1926. Harry Bastin who had taken the contract to deliver the Sunday Mail to Peninsula towns riding a motor bike with sidecar began to carry the odd passenger back to Adelaide. This service grew and Bastin was able to buy a car and began to advertise his Sunday service. His business expanded until he had a fleet of buses carrying passengers to and from the Peninsula. The isolation was decreasing.

The town

Laid out on a grid pattern with a belt of parklands which now contain many of the district's sporting facilities, by 1877 Minlaton had two chapels, two stores, a hotel and a blacksmith's shop. This first tradesman was followed by many others, all essential to the town and surrounding district: saddlers, wheelwrights, masons, builders, another blacksmith, and butchers and bakers. A mill was established in 1886 on the Maitland Road. A motor repair business was operated by Walter Riddle from a workshop behind the hotel from about 1910; he expanded his business and in 1915 established Southern Yorke Peninsula Motors. His son continued the business after World War II. Riddle also supplied the town's electricity using a generator driven by a Stanley steam car which he subsequently converted to diesel power. The Electricity Trust of South Australia took over the power supply in 1948, and three years later connected Minlaton to the existing network at Maitland.

Water, the other essential, came variously through bores, wells and rainwater tanks. The soil around Minlaton has always been too porous for the dams that could be dug elsewhere on the Peninsula. Finally, in December 1957, the town was connected to the Bundaleer reservoir vis Paskeville.

Amenities

Medical services for the town and district were erratic for many years. Eventually in 1903 the residents were able to guarantee an income of £400 a year for a doctor. In June of that year Dr A W Hart was appointed, and remained for nine years. He was central to the establishment of the Minlaton Hospital in July 1905. This was taken over by the District Council in 1929.

Minlaton Public School opened in 1878 to accommodate 60 students. Prior to this several women ran small schools in the town and district but records of these are sparse. The school included a teacher's residence as well as the schoolroom. An extension was added in 1880, and in 1924 a new school was built. A secondary school was not opened until 1945, using the parish hall. Every Friday, students and teachers carried all the furniture out to a shelter shed, returning it on Monday morning, as the hall was used for the weekly picture show, the Sunday School and other church functions. A custom-built secondary school was opened in 1954. In 1990 the complex became an R-12 district school catering to the Minlaton, Brentwood and Hardwicke Bay regions, with feeder schools at Stansbury, Curramulka and Port Vincent.

Government

The first proposal for a district council was made in 1877, but was quickly dismissed. A council was finally formed in 1888, and the first meeting was held on 13 February.  The council comprised the Hundreds of Curramulka, Koolywurtie and Minlacowie, and that portion of the hundred of Ramsay not included in the district of Dalrymple. John C Tonkin was elected first chairman. Meetings were held in the institute or in other rented rooms, until finally the first council chambers were built in 1920. In 1939 the council moved to the town hall - which was the rebuilt institute.  In April 1889 the district council assumed management of most of the local jetties, until these were taken over by the Harbors Board in 1913. While management of the jetties had caused council some headaches, it was reluctant to part with them.

The council's boundaries were fluid for a number of years, with annexations and severances. In November 1907 portions of the hundreds of Muloowurtie and Wauraltee were annexed to the district council of Minlaton. In June 1908 severance was made of portions of the hundred of Ramsay from the district council of Minlaton to the districts of Melville and Dalrymple.

In 1987 the District Council of Minlaton made an unsuccessful submission to the Local Government Advisory Commission for an extension of Minlaton's northern boundary. Finally in February 1997 the District Council of Minlaton voluntarily amalgamated with the District Council of Central Yorke Peninsula, District Council of Yorketown and District Council of Warooka, to form the District Council of Yorke Peninsula. This organization's operations are spread over a number of the original District Council sites, with Minlaton the base for the expanded Council's finance and information technology centre.

Reading:

Cook, Diana The Striding years: a history of the Minlaton District Council area [Minlaton, S. Aust.?: Minlaton District Council?], 1980

District Council of Minlaton, the barley capital of the world: 100 years, 1888-1988, proclaimed 5th January 1888, first meeting 13th February 1888  [Minlaton, S. Aust.: District Council of Minlaton, 1988]

Country Show at Minlaton
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Flour mill at Minlaton
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George Penton
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Good as Goldsworthy
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Harry Butler's aeroplane accident
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Minlaton Hotel
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Minlaton Town Hall
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St. Benedict's, Minlaton
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Thomas Giles
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