After the passing of the Strangways Act, officially known as the Waste Lands Amendments Act, in 1869, large pastoral properties were cut up for farming blocks.
The Hundred of Appila, which had been previously part of Wirrabara Station, was proclaimed in 1871 and opened up for selection in 1872. Within a very short time the first selectors, mainly from the mid north and the Barossa Valley, had pegged out their properties. Among them were Johann Friedrich Klemm, James Heaslip, Charles Hall, Thomas Gilloo, Carl Pech and William Griffin. In their haste to get on the land and get going some lived in tents, dugouts or bark huts. A few lucky ones were able to use old shepherds huts from the old pastoral leases.
By 1884 the numbers of farmers had increased greatly and many were now well established and come to terms with the erratic weather conditions. Among them were H. Borgas, S. Amey, John and Peter Zwar, J. Vandeleur, E and W. Catford, J. Graham, Charles Hawke, Edward, Fred, Henry, Sam and J.F. Jaeschke, F. and G. Klemm, A, D, J, and R. McLeod and August Brewer.
The town of Yarrowie, an Aboriginal name meaning hunting ground, on the edge of the Appila Creek flood plain, was surveyed in August 1872 by Giles Strangways. Town blocks were offered for sale on 4 June 1874 and 51 out of 90 were sold on the first day. One of the first stores to be opened was by Thomas Coombe of Gladstone, closely followed by Samuel Webb. Thomas Stephens began his business in 1877 and remained in the town for twelve years. James Daly, educated at Sevenhill, opened a store in nearby Laura with his brother Patrick but soon after moved to Appila where he also had a store. He became one of the longest staying residents.
Blacksmithing was an important job in these days. William Stephens started his business and at one stage employed fifteen men. In 1884 the town had four blacksmiths, including A. Bettridge, John Hand, D. Lewis and W.B. Sillicks. Naturally a hotel, The Yarrowie, was also opened before the end of 1874 with Terence Francis Reid as its first publican. A second hotel, The Globe, was opened in 1879.
A post office was opened in December 1874. In October 1879 it was connected to the Overland Telegraph and a new building opened in April 1882 housing both services. Because of towns like Yarcowie, Tarcowie, Terowie, Caltowie and Willowie, Yarrowie created a lot of confusion by its name and was changed to Appila-Yarrowie in February 1877. Eventually it became just Appila.
Among some of the early births in Appila were, Frederick William Baldock on 15 November 1878 followed by his brother Charles on 1 June 1880. Their parents were George and Mary Baldock who were married at Laura on 21 January 1878. Arthur E. Wilson was born on 19 February 1883 followed by his sister, Elizabeth Ann on 29 July 1884.
After twelve years the town had made some good progress. Miss L.T. Wehl ran the post and telegraph office, T.H. Francis and James Heaslip were the local Justices of the Peace, the Globe Hotel was run by G.W. Holdernesse and the Yarrowie Hotel by Willis Cook. There was even a daily transport service to Adelaide, first by coach to Yongala and from there by train. There were also three resident teachers, Miss Bollinsdorf, Miss B. Nicholas and John H. George.
Education was seen as an important way to get on in life by the residents at Appila. Its first school, a Protestant day school was opened in 1876 with James Coane as teacher. Unfortunately it only lasted for a very short time. It was closed in 1877. However the Sisters of Saint Joseph filled the gap and a government school building was also started that year. When it opened in 1878 James McClintock was appointed as its first teacher.
In 1881 John H. George was teaching 70 students. He eventually became headmaster at Morgan. In 1884 Elizabeth Fergusson had a go at educating the willing and unwilling youngsters. In 1890 John O’Connell, who remained for 11 years, not only provided an excellent education but also started a programme of tree planting. The different churches in Appila and cemetery committees soon followed his example.
Among some of the earliest teachers at Appila were John Henry George, James Stephen Gold and John O’Connell. The nearby Appila Lutheran School, at Pine Creek, built in 1875 was started with Hugo Becker as its first teacher. Among some the first non Lutheren children to attend the school in 1876, were Josiah Hollitt, Christina Milne and Ada Walkington. One of its long serving teachers was H.H. Jericho who resigned in 1913 after 11 years of dedicated service. His place was taken by H. Spannenberg until 1916. Josiah Hollitt eventually settled at Wirrabara.
In 1917, when G. Doehler was teaching the school was closed by the Government as part of its campaign to wipe anything Lutheran or German from the map, including all place names. In July of that year the school reopened as a State School with Jack Stevens in charge.
During its long and proud history the school served both as a school and church until 1901 and during that time was also used as a Sunday and State School. After twenty years W. Wurst and Pastor Muetzelfeldt proposed the re establishment of a Lutheran School. They were successful and it was opened on 30 January 1938 with Dulcie Gehling as teacher.
In 1885, the town of Appila had an additional JP when C.W.H. Hirsch was appointed. Once again there were a number of teachers in town looking after the students of the different schools. A.W. Meyer was teaching at the Pine Creek School, Miss E.L. Fergusson at the Public school and T.W. Jackson and Miss R. McEwan at the Provisional school. A year later Miss E. Bell was teaching at the Provisional school and J.S. Gold was Headmaster of the Public School.
The town also had three butchers in 1885. They were A. Beckmann and A and R.S. Shillabeer. There were three carpenters as well. They were S. Bulling, F.Head and W. Hunt. It also had a bank. A branch of The English Scottish and Australian Chartered Bank was started in 1878 with N.F. Christoe as its first manager. Several of its later managers stayed for lengthy periods. Among those were E. Southwell and Herbert Mayor. Mayor stayed for 21 years.
After several years of trying to get law enforcement officers stationed in the town, it finnaly had its wish granted in 1880, albeit for a short time. A station was opened in 1880 when the town’s population had reached 150. They must have been law abiding citizens after all as the police commissioner decided to have it closed again in 1886.
With many Irish, and Catholics, among the early residents and nearby farmers, it did not take long for a church to be erected. In October 1875 the first stone for the Saints Phillip and James Church was laid by Bishop Reynolds from Adelaide who also marked out the site for the cemetery. Pastoral care was provided during the early years by the Jesuit Priests from Sevenhill.
On 14 May 1876 the church was opened by the Bishop and Mary and Elizabeth Hogan were baptised during that ceremony. From 1877 until 1891 the Sisters of St Joseph conducted a school in the building. Due to a steadily declining population the church was finally closed on 2 April 1997.
The Appila Holy Trinity Church was started on 13 March 1901 when the first stone was laid. This building was extended in 1952 and dedicated on 19 October 1952. It is still being used, although its early German Lutherans have been replaced by South Australian born Lutherans, many of them descendants of the original Germans. Evidence of their background is still very much visible at the nearby cemetery.
Regardless of all the hard work trying to establish themselves and some of the basic requirements needed in any town, the Appila residents, and some of the nearby farmers, held discussions as early as 1875 to have an Institute. In 1879 a secretary and treasurer were elected and in 1882 a disused store was hired for a reading room. The next year, books started to arrive from the South Australian Institute in Adelaide. Finally in 1888 the foundation stone was laid by Mrs T.H. Francis for a proper hall.
The people of Appila somehow managed to have enough time and energy left to form the Great Northern Athletic and Cycling club in 1878. They held their first meeting on 1 January 1879 and it was attended by more than a thousand people. They kept it alive through drought, depression and a movement of people away from the land. After ninety years it was decided that 1968 would be the last show. Believe it or not, they were also the first outside Adelaide to from an Autumobile Club in 1913.
Between 1875 and 1882 the town also had an annual Agricultural show, which was well attended. In November 1890 they even established an Agricultural Bureau. However due to the lack of water and severe drought conditions during the next twenty years no show was held until 1901. Water, or rather the lack of it had been a problem from the very start of the town. A plan by the locals to pipe water from the nearby Appila Springs was rejected by the government. Its answer was to sink a well in 1877.
The surrounding farmers from as far away as Booleroo, Tarcowie and Pekina supported the business centre of Appila. They brought in their wheat bags for further transport to the coast. It gave work to many teamsters, such as Eli and W.H. Peacock, blacksmiths, including James Lobban and others. While in town local business had a good time. The first time a railway was proposed was in 1859 followed by another attempt in 1866 when HBT Strangways proposed a line to Melrose. For more than 50 years Appila unsuccessfully tried to get it railway.
When the road through Port Germein Gorge opened, and later, when the much hoped for railway to the north went through Wirrabara instead of Appila the decline of the town was soon noticed. In 1900 Annie and William Cook left town with their family to take over the Commercial Hotel in Gladstone. They were not the only ones. Slowly many of the town's people left for neighbouring towns and although its decline has been slow, after more than a hundred years of larger farms, improved transport and the concentration of major services in much large towns, Appila’s population is now very small but determined to keep the town going.
are buried in one of the local cemeteries.