Raukkan Aboriginal Church on the $50 note, South Australia.

Raukkan Aboriginal Church on the $50 note, South Australia.

Church on the Australian $50 note at Raukkan Aboriginal Community near Meningie South Australia.

Wellington.
Morphett selected the area around Wellington and up both banks of the Murray River for the Secondary Towns Association as a Special Survey for £4,000 in 1839. Morphett bought up land in the district for himself as well. The Secondary Towns Association had also paid for the Special Survey at Currency Creek which they foresaw would become the New Orleans of the South. They had the same idea about Wellington (although Morphett wanted to call the town Victoria.) They surveyed the land, selling off 400 forty acre farmlets and they subdivided one thousand town blocks for the town of Wellington. Their high expectations were not met, few town blocks were built upon and Wellington East on the other side of the Murray never developed at all. Wellington was at the end of the Murray and at the entranced to Lake Alexandrina but traffic was slow and when the river trade did begin in 1854 Wellington was just one stop among many. It never became a major river port. Its two ongoing and consistent functions were to provide ferry services across the Murray River and to house the police, Aboriginal Sub-Protection Officer (John Mason for many years) and visiting court officials.

Apart from John Morphett, one of the first buyers of freehold land in Wellington and near Wellington was Allan McFarlane who later built Wellington Lodge. Other early land purchasers were the Cooke brothers and Robert Barr Smith. All saw the potential of Wellington but only McFarlane stayed the distance and reaped the rewards. Although being located at a major crossing point of the Murray and being the gateway town for the land route down to the South East and on to Port Phillip colony, Wellington suffered set backs. In 1879 a new road and rail bridge was opened at Edwards Crossing, now Murray Bridge removing much of the traffic across the Murray at Wellington. The town survived this. But the arrival of the railway at nearby Tailem Bend (1886) took even more traffic away from Wellington. Although there was government talk of a bridge across the Murray at Wellington in 1864 nothing happened at that stage. The feasibility studies were done on several crossing points with Wellington coming in the most expensive as the bedrock soil report was not favourable. Wellington would have been the most expensive option for bridging the Murray. Edwards Crossing, the cheapest, was selected instead in the 1870s.

But before the bridge was built Willington in the 1840s had great potential. Morphett operated the first ferry across the Murray in 1839 before the town was established in 1840. The town had a police presence before the township was established too with a Sub-Protector of Aboriginals based there. The government stationed police there from 1841 to bring law and order to the region. The first police station was built in 1845 but it was probably not much more than a shanty. It was replaced by a new station in 1849. But the soft soils at Wellington meant that this structure was soon in need of replacement and it was condemned in 1862. The current police station, and court house (and originally ferry house too) were erected in 1864. The stables were added in 1865. Although in a good state of repair it has not been a court house and police station for many years. It was owned by the National Trust but it has recently been sold to private occupiers. In the 1840s two hotels were licensed in Wellington but only one survived, the 1846 built Wellington Hotel. Despite modernisation it is still there and still operates.

Perhaps the most famous ferryman at Wellington was the former Police Commissioner Alexander Tolmer. The one time Commissioner of Police, and instigator of the Gold Escort services from the Victorian goldfields in the early 1850s. But by 1857 he was unemployed as his position was made redundant. In that year Tolmer moved to Wellington to become a sheep farmer and the ferry man. He wrote his biography which he called A Chequered Career to explain his demise. He had pioneered a route across the Ninety Mile desert to Victoria to escort gold back to Adelaide to be assayed in the SA office. The first escort in 1852 took nine days to reach Bendigo. The Governor Sir Henry Fox gave a dinner party for Tolmer on his return and a gift of £100. Commissioner Tolmer led two more escorts but in total some 18 escorts were conducted. Some time later when he was away on police business, a review of the police department led to him being demoted to Inspector. Then this inspector position was abolished in 1856. Our gold hero was then unemployed! In 1857 he moved to Wellington and took up a block of land. Tolmer wrote about himself:”I knew no more about sheep farming than the man in the moon.” He gave up farming and was almost destitute but he then he gained a part time job as returning officer for the District of Murray. His main income was rent from his house at Norwood. In 1859/60 he bought a boat from Mr Potts a boat builder (and wine maker) of Langhorne’s Creek and he began a second ferry service across the Murray. He nearly drowned working his ferry and Alan McFarlane, the great pastoralist of Wellington Lodge rescued him and the boat. Then in 1862 Tolmer was appointed Crown Lands Ranger at a salary of £200 per annum. In 1866 he and his family were transferred to Kingston South East and he departed from Wellington. In 1871 he returned to the Valuations Department of the government in Adelaide. He then lived at Mitcham until he died there in 1891.

Wellington Lodge and Allan McFarlane.
The first pastoralist settlers in the area were the family of Allen McFarlane who established a lease hold run near Wellington in 1845 covering 72,000 acres. They built a grand house called Wellington Lodge, noted for its fine wrought iron work and views over Lake Alexandrina. The original Georgian house of 1843 was incorporated into a later huge Victorian Italianate style house. Wellington Lodge has hosted several royal visits in 1867 and again in 1927 and members of the family were local MPs and councillors. On his Wellington run McFarlane soon owned 43,000 acres freehold apart from his leasehold land. Allan McFarlane died in 1864 and his son died in 1908 but descendants still operate the property. The McFarlane family operate the property as an Angus beef stud.

Poltalloch.
In 1839 Neill Malcolm (and John) of Poltalloch in Scotland applied in London for a £4,000 for 4,000 acres Special Survey around the shores of Lake Alexandrina. The survey was not finished until 1841 and then the Malcolm’s began their estate as absentee landlords with a local manager. In 1842 a simple Scottish style cottage was built on the property. Behind the narrow strip of 4,000 acres along the Lake frontage the Malcolm’s took out an annual lease, and later a 14 year lease, on a huge estate of 24,000 acres which they ran as a cattle station and dairy. John Malcolm inherited Poltalloch from his brother in 1857 and also acquired a lease for Campbell Park, an adjoining run on Lake Albert. In 1873 the freehold and leased land of Poltalloch was sold to John Bowman. Descendants of John Bowman still live at Poltalloch and run the property. The grand house there was built in 1876.

Narrung and Point Malcolm Lighthouse.
The Malcolms of Poltalloch had their association with the district memorialised in the only inland lighthouse in Australia. The lighthouse at Narrung on the narrow entrance from Lake Alexandrina into Lake Albert was named Point Malcolm. The lighthouse here was erected as an aid to shipping and lake transport in 1878 just a few years after the founding of Meningie. At that time the land route to the South East was from Milang across the lakes to Meningie by steamer and then down through the Coorong by coach. A local Strathalbyn builder charged over £1,000 to build the lighthouse and the keeper’s cottage. The lighthouse was turned off in 1931 and a lighted pole erected nearby for leisure sailors and fishermen as most commercial trade on the lakes stopped by 1931.

The land here was taken up by leasehold by the South Australian Company in 1843 and named Narrung from a local Ngarrindjeri word meaning place of “large she-oaks.” It was a beef cattle property covering most of the peninsula south from Narrung. This leasehold station was then taken over by the Honourable John Baker a wealthy pastoralist and a very conservative politician. (He opposed the railways to Port Adelaide and Gawler in 1856 and wanted members of the Legislative Council to be elected for life!) By the time of his death in 1872 he had 11,000 acres of freehold land near Lake Albert as well as leasehold land along the Coorong. He held major properties at Morialta where he lived, Harrogate, Tungkillo, and runs in the Flinders Ranges and elsewhere in SA. He was to later defame George Taplin and argue strongly against the establishment of Point McLeay Mission for Aboriginal people. Baker attended church at the Anglican Church at Norton Summit and his likeness is carved in stone there and the stained glass windows are memorials to members of his family. When Narrung Station was put up for sale by a later owner in 1906 the state government purchased the station and then subdivided it into small farms for closer settlement. Despite appeals from the Aboriginal Friends’ Association (AFA) not one acre was granted to the Aboriginal Mission at this time. The small township of Narrung with about 40 town blocks was surveyed and laid out in 1907. The school opened in 1912.

George Taplin, Point McLeay Mission and Raukkan Aboriginal Community.
The origin of the Ngarrindjeri Mission of the AFA goes back to the drive of George Taplin, the founding missionary, and the need for the mission because of destruction of the traditional fishing and hunting grounds of the Ngarrindjeri people. The Ngarrindjeri occupied the lands along the Coorong from Kingston, around the two lakes and up the Murray to where Murray Bridge now stands, and across the bottom of Fleurieu Peninsula to Cape Jervis. These lands were all areas of Special Surveys in 1839 and early white settlement. The close access to fresh water attracted pastoralists and where there were not Special Surveys the lands were granted to white pastoralists by annual and later 14 year leases. As one writer, Graham Jenkins, has claimed in his history of the lower lakes, the Ngarrindjeri were conquered by whites and then dispossessed of their lands and food sources. The Aboriginal Friends’ Association was formed in 1857 from various Protestant denominations but with a strong Anglican backing. They wanted to assist with the physical living conditions of Aboriginal people as well as introducing them to Christianity. Welfare was their primary aim. The believed Aboriginal people deserved more than blankets and meagre government food rations. The AFA called for reports and were told that 30 to 40 Aboriginal children in Goolwa from the Ngarrindjeri were in desperate need of schooling. Parliament offered a grant of £500 for the establishment of a school in the vicinity of Goolwa. In 1859 the new AFA committee agreed to appoint an agent to find the best location for the school. George Taplin, a school teacher of Goolwa, was appointed to this role of finding a suitable location and then to set up a mission and school. Taplin had been concerned about Aboriginal welfare for some years. He relished his new position. Taplin selected a spot at Point McLeay (McLeay was second in charge of the Charles Sturt expedition of 1830 along the Murray). To the Ngarrindjeri this spot was called Raukkan hence the name of the Aboriginal Community here today.

The leaseholder of land adjoining Raukkan was John Baker of Morialta. He objected to Taplin’s choice as an Aboriginal Mission there would be “prejudicial to his interests” as the government grant for the Mission was coming out of his leasehold of Narrung station. As a state politician he initiated the first Royal Commission by an SA government into the conditions and welfare of Aboriginal people. He had hoped to have Taplin and the AFA ousted from his land. But this was not the outcome of the Royal Commission which looked at issues across SA, not just around the lower lakes, and the Commission found no reason to relocate the Taplin Mission. In one sense Baker had one justifiable point- the Raukkan Mission had insufficient land to provide a satisfactory livelihood for the Aboriginal residents. They could fish the lakes and the Coorong, they could work on the pastoral properties of Poltalloch and Campbell Park, they could grow their own vegetables, but they had insufficient land to crop or to pasture sheep or cattle on in terms of income. The land at Raukkan might have provided for one family, not dozens. This lack of land and income was an ongoing problem with the Mission. But Baker’s other claims that Taplin only wanted the salary and was not interested in aboriginal welfare, that he was lazy, and that he bribed the Ngarrindjeri to attend church were all patently false.

Taplin set to work to establish a school at Raukkan, then some cottages for the Aboriginal people, as well as one for his own family, and the church, depicted our $50 note which opened in 1869. Taplin learnt Ngarrindjeri language, recorded it, wrote many essays and published books on the Aborigines of South Australia. He died in 1879 when one of his sons took over as superintendent of the Mission. George Taplin was revered and respected by the Ngarrindjeri people. He tried to establish a commercial fishing operation for the Ngarrindjeri, he organised football and cricket matches with local white teams, he assisted with the employment of Aboriginal people on the nearby great stations, and the community ran a business washing wool for the Bowman brothers’ estates. The school was his first priority and the school room opened in 1860. Taplin is especially remembered for his Ngarrindjeri translations of books from the Bible which are unique in Australia. By the time Taplin died Raukkan had about 1,700 acres of land, the size of a normal farm. It began in 1860 with a lease from the government of just 750 acres. In 1878 the AFA got a leasehold block along the Coorong for sheep grazing, holidays and fishing. The Raukkan Mission under the guidance of the AFA and strong educationists like George Taplin produced three well known Aboriginal preachers and an outstanding writer, scientist and inventor, David Unaipon who is also depicted on our $50 note. David (1872-1967) was born on the mission, died in Tailem Bend and was buried back in Raukkan. In 1909 he developed and patented a new form of shearing cutters. He was an internationally recognised expert in ballistics although he had no formal university education. He patented nine inventions including a centrifugal motor. He did research at the University of Adelaide although he was not employed there. He mainly got his income from preaching and writing.

The Raukkan Mission was taken over from the AFA in 1916 by the state government which then assumed full control. It was then known as Point McLeay Aboriginal Reserve and over the years it acquired some additional land but never sufficient for a good income for the Reserve. In 1974 the Raukkan lands were handed over to the Ngarrindjeri people and they changed the Reserve name to Raukkan Aboriginal Community in 1982. The town has memorial cairns to George Taplin, Captain Charles Sturt and David Unaipon. The old church has good stained glass windows and an interesting interior with no central church aisle which is most unusual. George Taplin’s cottage from the 1860s is now the Raukkan Gallery and museum.

Campbell Park and Campbell House.
This large property was originally part of the SA Company’s Narrung leasehold of 1843. It was then taken over by Duncan MacFarlane (not related to Allan McFarlane of Wellington Lodge) and then purchased by Donald Gollan of Strathalbyn who in turn sold the leasehold to John Malcolm of Poltalloch in 1857. In 1873/4 it was taken over by Thomas Bowman at the time when his brother was purchasing adjoining Poltalloch station. At that stage the Campbell Park run was 80,000 acres. The Bowmans were great house builders and Thomas set about building his grand house at Campbell Park just as brother John Bowman built Poltalloch in 1876. Both houses were built at the same time. Campbell Park like Poltalloch was a small village with workmen’s cottages, sheds, general store, tack rooms etc. It was on the waterfront as at that time the main form of transport to and from the estate was by lake steamer. The Malcolm’s had had a small residence built, probably for their manager in the 1860s but it was replaced by the larger and current Campbell Park house in the late 1870s.

Campbell Park House was enlarged in 1881 for the royal visit of two of Queen Victoria’s grandsons, Albert and George, the sons of Edward who became King Edward 1901-10. The tower and two extra bedrooms were added at that stage. Although the Bowmans ran Campbell Park as a cattle property they also experimented with ostrich farms for about 10 years( 1893-1905) when ostrich plumes were at their peak of popularity for the adornment of ladies hats! The Bowmans kept Campbell Park until 1951 when it was resumed by the government to create soldier settlers blocks for returning World War Two soldiers. For some years the house was empty and derelict but the current owner restored it after 2002 and now it is run as an up market bed and breakfast (www.campbellpark.com.au). The house includes a ballroom, twelve main rooms and amazingly for the 1880s five bathrooms! Perhaps some were added for the royal visit of 1881? In 1918 the Bowman’s sold most of the Campbell Park property to a pastoral company (Yalkuri). That property also operated until 1951 when it too was subdivided for small beef/dairy cattle properties for returning soldiers from World War Two. The grand old house was left on a small 50 acre block.

Also on the Bowman’s property of Campbell Park is Campbell House which we see on the road into Meningie. It began life as a manager’s residence probably in the late 1860s. But the Bowmans were also resident managers. They were not city dwellers and they built grand houses on their properties as that was where they actually lived. Arthur Bowman, the son of Thomas Bowman, was made a partner in Campbell Park in 1892 and took up residence in Campbell House rather than Campbell Park house. When Thomas Bowman died in 1912 Arthur became the sole proprietor of Campbell House and a few thousand adjoining acres. At that time, 1912, Arthur extended significantly Campbell House. It has many Art Nouveau and Art Deco features including stained glass windows designed by Mrs. Bowman. The left over stained glass was used for the stained glass windows in the Anglican Church in Meningie! Arthur Bowman and his son lived in this property until it was sold in 1951 to the government. The government kept the house and used it as a training entre for Aboriginal boys for some years. During this time much internal damage was done, marble fire places removed, etc. The current owner has recently begun major restoration.

Meningie.
‘Meningie’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘mud’ an appropriate name for a town on the edge of Lake Albert! The area around the town site was a leasehold station of the South Australian Company called Bonney Wells. (Charles Bonney had discovered this district on one of his overland explorations in 1839.) The government laid out the town of Meningie in 1866 as a staging point on the coach route to Melbourne. Passengers travelled by coach to Milang, then by lake steamer to Meningie and then onwards by coach to the South East and Melbourne. The mails from Adelaide followed the same route. Meningie still had this lake steamer connection to Adelaide into the 1930s but by then the connection from Adelaide to Milang was by steam train (that line opened in 1884). In the 1950s it was a thriving dairying district and the town had a cheese factory. It operated from 1956-1970. Part of the old cheese factory is now the local museum. After surveying town blocks in 1866 many sold quickly. Within a few years there were two hotels in the town, a town jetty (1867), and an Institute and Reading Room (1889.) The public school opened in 1869. A Methodist church was erected in 1878 and is on the road out of town with a newer 1950s church in the Main Street. The Anglican Church of St. John the Evangelist opened for worship in 1882 and it too is in the Main Street near the Institute building. The cemetery is a kilometre or so out of town. The newish Catholic and Lutheran churches are up on the hill near the hospital on the southern exit of the town.

Several gypsum deposits were discovered in the Meningie area in 1995 and are now mined by Meningie Gypsum Pty Ltd. Mining also commenced in 1997 at the Gemlake deposit 6km south of Meningie. Another mine site opened in 1999 at Elephant Lake, 13km northeast of Meningie. But the main industry of the region is still dairy farming and beef cattle and sheep along the Coorong.

Posted by denisbin on 2013-07-19 03:13:57

Tagged: , Raukkan , Church , $50 , Australian , note. , Aboriginal Church , Point McLeay , narrung , Lake Alexandrina , Taplin , Mission , Aboriginal Mission , Meningie , Ngarrindjeri , George Taplin

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