Amyton, South Australia


After the passing of the 1874 Waste Land Amendment Act all land in South Australia not as yet appropriated became available for selection, including land beyond Goyder’s Line of Rainfall. New Hundreds were surveyed as well as at least one town in its centre. Most farmers were able to buy up to 640 acres on credit.

Amyton, in the Hundred of Pinda, was surveyed in 1879, as were Gordon, Carrieton, Hammond, Cradock, Stephenston, Chapmanton and many others. Amyton was named by Governor Jervois after his daughter Amy. It was proclaimed on 10 April 1879.

The town was laid out in a rectangular shape running in a North South direction. It had the usual North, South, East and West Terraces, suburban lots and even parklands. The town itself had 204 allotments which were divided by the North-South running First Street between East and West Terrace. It also had a main square between 4th and 5th streets with a creek running through the middle of it.

The town plan also included provisions for a school, slaughter area and cemetery. One of the first stone buildings completed in 1878 was the Methodist Church. The foundation stone for it had been laid by Mrs Metcalf. This building was used for some time as a school until a separate school building became available. The Church on land donated by Joseph Kenner was badly needed as previously services had been conducted in the private homes of F. McHugh and W.P. Metcalf.

Map of Amyton

Very little traffic passed through the town as roads were very bad and dangerous to travel during the night. This changed somewhat after the discovery of the Mount Browne Goldfield. During the early months of 1881 a substantial number of parties passed through and were even joined by a group of Amyton settlers, including Alfred Stokes.

In September 1880 Matthew Metcalf built his house and shop on the corner of Main Street opposite the Church. It was later occupied by the Baumgurtel family. A Debating Society was started and on 3 June 1881 the Rev W.T Carter visited the town and entertained some 30 people by showing them a number of dissolving views.

Although one of the many problems faced by the farmers and town people was drought, the church was severely damaged by flood in 1884 and had to be demolished. After great efforts the new building was opened by the Rev Mitchell in October. In January 1904 the Church was once again flooded, but escaped major damage.

In August 1881 it was reported that the residents were enjoying ‘a most beautiful season, as the rain continues to fall at periods suitable for the growing of wheat. During the past week some nice showers fell and the country is all that could be desired. The wheat looks well. It is hoped that the Post Office will soon be moved closer to town or better still, into the town.

A few months later the scenery was vastly different after a destructive thunderstorm. Joseph Gum lost 600 acres of crop during the hail storm that followed and several houses lost their roofs. Among those who could see the sky from their living rooms were the Dimond, Gum, Burt, May and Gregory families. A month after this disaster the town was struck by an earthquake which was felt as far away as Morchard and Willowie.

A school was operating from 1881 when Joseph de la Hunte was teaching an average of 18 students. It was conducted in the Wesleyan Church building but in 1894 a new timber and iron building was erected at a cost of £327. Later it was reported that ‘Teacher has left, which is a matter of great regret and concern for the parents with school aged children’. Alice Isa Dobney, born on 12 December 1866 taught at the school from June 1886 until the end of 1890. There were many other teachers who only stayed for a short time. In August 1904 the Amyton public school was reopened after a recess for some time. Mr. F. Mullet, the late teacher, had been transferred to Golden Grove and Mr. J. Bourke been appointed as his successor.

John Naughton arrived in 1915 with his newlywed wife from Lancelot but was gone before the year was finished. Vida Levett Read, born on 19 February 1893 stayed from August 1915 until the end of 1919. Previously she had been teaching at Wonoka and Wilson. The school closed in 1930.

The town also acquired a Post Office. Previously it had been well out of town meaning a time consuming walk. John Stokes, originally from Caldicott, England and his wife Annie moved to Amyton where John became the first Postmaster. Their eldest daughter Jane, born on 14 January 1857, later married William Baumgurtel. Although it had a post office very few of the residents were happy with the postal arrangements. They were slow at the best of times. The Friday newspaper from Port Augusta did not arrive until the next Tuesday.

During the 1890s Joseph Gum was the postmaster. The Gum families were well represented among the early settlers. William and Eliza Gum arrived in South Australia on 25 March 1849 with their two small sons George and Joseph. When William died in 1872 at Nairne, he left a family of 7 sons and 2 daughters. Joseph married Elizabeth Ann King of Nairne and settled with his wife and mother at Amyton.

As early as 1879, Joseph Gum had become President of the newly started Literary Society. Sadly their lives were soured by misfortune. Several of their children died at a very young age, which was not that unusual at that time. On 29 October 1881 Emily Ada died aged 2 years and 9 months. On 20 February 1888 Amy Elizabeth died only 11 months old. This was followed by Ida Ruby on 22 November 1891 who was barely 4 months when she passed away. In 1910 Jack Gum, third son of William and Anny, died on 3 February. He was 7 years and ten months. Not all Gums died young though. Maude Edith Gum, born in 1885 at Amyton died in 1973 at Adelaide.

Another heart breaking example of children dying young is provided by the Kairl family. George Kairl, born in England in 1833 married Esther, nee Meadows. They were to have sixteen children between May 1855 and March 1880. At least ten of them, and husband George, had died before Esther herself died at the age of 56. Two children outlived their parents. Abel, born in 1862, died in 1898 and Norton, born in 1866, died in 1933. The date of death of the other four is not known. One Kairl member settled later at Terka.

The early settlers were very interested in a good and religious life. In 1885 a Band of Hope was formed with Samson Thomas as Secretary for the next 7 years. Ten years later the Young People’s Christian Endeavour Society was started. They were also interested improving their natural environment. In July 1889 a large number of trees, both fruit and forest trees were planted. They well looked after and within a year were more than a metre high. During Arbor Day 1905 the school children planted another 50 trees. By 1905 most were 3 metres tall. On 15 May 1895 the Amyton Branch of the Agricultural Bureau was formed to improve the knowledge of farmers and improve the quality of their work. Among some of its early members were J. Gum, President, S. Thomas, W. Mills and W. and T. Gum.

During the early 1900 the post office was operated by the Baumgurtel family. From 1900 until 1902 it was Mrs J. Baumgertel. Her husband was a contractor. In 1903 and 1904 R.M. Baumgurtel was the postmaster. J. Baumgurtel was back in 1905 and R.M. Baumgurtel was in charge from 1909 until 1911.

In 1912 there was a change when Elizabeth Hillman was the Postmistress. In 1913 the teacher A.M. Woonton looked after it but from 1914 until 1919 Mrs J Baumgurtel was back to be relieved in 1920 by teacher L.V. Reade.

Farmers listed during the early 1900s were; C. Brown, Richard Brown, J. Garnett, H, Jas and John Gray, James, Joseph, William and Walter Gum, Charles, Edwin, Jos and William Mills and F.J.P. and J. Stokes. Mrs Reddaway was listed as a nurse.

By 1905 farmers had concluded that growing wheat only was out of the question because of the unreliable rainfall. Most of them had changed to mixed farming. Dairying paid far better and saltbush and bluebush were free. Nearly all farms had a cream separator and weekly supplies were sent to Tuckwell & Son in Wilmington or by train to the Jamestown factory. As the price of butter depended on its quality, which in turn depended on the quality of the cream, Mr Friedricks, manager of the Wilmington plant gave a lecture on dairying in the Amyton School in connection with the Agricultural Bureau.

In 1907 Joseph Gum died of cancer on 11 October, aged 59, at the Jamestown Hospital. He was the second son of William Gum of Nairne. Born in England in 1848, Joseph arrived in SA in 1849. He lived in Nairne until 1874. In 1876 he, and his brothers James and William, took up land in the Hundred of Pinda and lived there till their death. He kept the post office at Amyton for 15 years, served on the Hammond District Council for 12 years, was Chairman of the local Agricultural Bureau and a member of the School Board. As one of the oldest residents of the district he was highly respected and liked. He married Elizabeth King, eldest daughter of J.W. King of Nairne and they had 5 sons and 3 daughters.

Modernisation was slow in the north. Transport, expensive at the best of time, was also slow. In 1910 G. Gray still owned and operated bullock teams.

Gray's bullock teams arriving at Amyton driven by F.P. Stokes
from Curramulka, a distance of 240 km, in 8 days.

In July 1914 Thomas Gum, born in 1858 at Nairne died. A memorial service was conducted by the Rev JG Mitchell in the Amyton Methodist Church on 5 July. That same year several young, and not so young, men enlisted to fight overseas. Among them were P.V., S.T., R. and F.W. Gum, W.J. and G.E. Garnet and J. Cowan, who was killed. Lance Corporal Arthur Kairl, a blacksmith by trade, killed in action on 10 October 1917 in France, aged 21. He was the son of Mr and Mrs O.J. Kairl. Private F. Gum, from Fairview, Amyton, was killed in action on 20 May 1918 in France. He was 26 and the eldest son of William and Annie Gum, brother of P.N. Gum.

All in all members of the Gum family made a substantial contribution to the little town of Amyton and other places. This is well illustrated by these two Obituaries.

Above Register 9 July 1914

Left Observer 2 November 1907

Mrs Josiah Thomas died in her 96th year in 1920. She came out from England with her parents when she was 18 years old. They disembarked in Tasmania but moved to Mount Barker in 1850. She married Josiah and lived at Moonta. In 1887 Josiah selected land in the Hundred of Pinda and lived there until his death in 1887. Mrs Thomas lived at Amyton until her death. They had 4 sons and 4 daughters.

The town of Amyton, started with such high hopes had like many of its residents a very short life. It only existed for 78 years. Nothing remains of the town today except a few ruins and some rubble heaps. It was officially declared to cease to exist on 13 June 1957. What is left though is its small cemetery which has a most beautiful and impressive driveway from the main road, flanked on both sides with a double row of native trees, planted in July 1974. It may be in the middle of nowhere but this is not seen anywhere else in South Australia. The cemetery also contains the remains of some people from Willowie, including twin children from the Tucker family, who died before that town had its own cemetery.

Entrance lane to cemetery.

A plaque honouring the pioneers and settlers of Amyton and its surrounding district was unveiled on 13 April 1975. Next to it is another plaque honouring the members of the Amyton Methodist Church, which was closed in 1930. The pews of the church were removed to the Willowie Church.


Amyton Cemetery

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