In 1841 the South Australian Surveyor-General, Captain E. C. Frome, led an exploration party into the Black Rock Plains. From the top of Black Rock Hill, the largest peak, he believed that the spot was the most 'romantic' yet discovered in this country. They may have been romantic, but the Black Rock Hills were not very habitable by their standards, and were soon marked down as dreary and wretched due to the lack of water. The lack of water was a real problem in 1848 when large bushfires burnt out part of the Pekina, Mannanarie, Yatina and Black Rock runs.
Regardless of the lack of water and the bushfires, Fred Hayward bought Black Rock Hill in 1850 but only held it for a year. In 1851, John Williams purchased Black Rock Hill from Hayward as well as other surrounding leases to create the Black Rock Run, lease no. 112. Williams, who had arrived in South Australia in 1839 at the age of 14, built a homestead, wool shed, stables and many other buildings, all from stone.
Williams started with some 3,000 sheep and finished with 30,000 on 270 square miles. John married Barbara Howard on 22 December 1857 but she died nine years later. John married again and had four children. During the early years he did well until the drought of 1864-7. He lost as many as 8,000 sheep and in 1868 was forced to sell to Alexander McCulloch. John became a politician, representing at various times the districts of Barossa and Flinders. He died on 4 April 1890.
Several men were employed at the station as labourer, well sinker, fencer, storekeeper, blacksmith or any other job. Some of these men had their families with them living on the property. Naturally several children were born at the station. Among them were Sarah Pounce on 3 January 1858. She was the daughter of William and Mary Ann, nee Lawrence. Matilda Caroline Miller, born on 26 January 1863, was the daughter of Peter and Catharine, nee Rowe. Louisa Borough was born on 29 December 1870 the daughter of Randal and Elizabeth, nee Cottrell. They already had another daughter Jane born at Pekina on 22 February 1867.
With the relentless push for land and more land, the Hundred of Black Rock Plain, County Dalhousie, was proclaimed on 20 July 1871. In 1871 the Black Rock Plain was sectioned off, ready to be sold to farmers. The first property was bought in 1873 and others after. During the winter of that year as many as 1000 people were looking for land in the Hundreds of Pekina and Black Rock Plains. The lack of water was would become a huge problem in this area.
The first land sold in the Hundred of Black Rock Plain went to John Kinnane on 4 August 1873. Other buyers that year were John McKeough, Bernard Liebiech, Edward Travers, Joseph Travers, Patrick Leo, Patrick Redden, George Seal and George Searle. That same year a mail route was operating weekly between Kooringa and Blinman, passing through Booborowie, Yongala, Mannanarie, Pekina, Yanyarrie, Kanyaka, Arkaba and Wilpena. Richard Walter Searle bought 6 sections, a total of 264 acres at £1 per acre on 29 December 1875.
The Black Rock Plain post office was opened in 1875, with Sebastian Kranewitter as its first post master. Thomas Carter bought section 146 of 372 acres on 6 July 1875 and was charged £697.10.0. Several of the Carter brothers bought land in the area. John Carter bought section 33 of 18 acres in the Hundred of Coomooroo and paid £18.9.0 on 30 May 1876 while Samuel Carter bought section 88 of 502 acres in the Hundred of Walloway at £1 per acre on 2 may 1876.
Another buyer was Michael Kenny, born 1808, at Sixmile Bridge, County Clare, Ireland. Michael had arrived in South Australia in 1842. After some farming near Noarlunga he married Bridget at Morphett Vale in 1848. In 1852 he visited the Victorian goldfields where he had some success. On his return he bought land at Sheaoak Log where he farmed for the next twenty years. After this he tried his luck at Black Rock Plain in 1874 but this was not a success story. The family left and this time headed for Eyre Peninsula where Michael and his sons took up a large parcel of land at Colton in September 1876. This did become a success story.
New farmers and would be farmers came from all over South Australia. In 1876 James Copley and his wife Mary Ann Marsh and their seven children came from Yorketown to Black Rock Plain to what they hoped would be better prospects. It was here that their last child, Sarah Louise, was born on 24 October 1876.
James’ brother Enos, born at Yorketown in 1856, also went to Black Rock Plain where he married Martha Bertha Klenner on 28 August 1881 at the residence of her father Heinrich W. Klenner. They would have nine children, most of them born at Black Rock Plain. James Copley, born in 1819, died 29 July 1898. Many members of the Carter family also settled at nearby Orroroo.
At the Land auction in Adelaide in 1876 on 11 May at 11am a large number of lots (16) were sold in the Hundred of Mannanarie, but suburban to Yatina and 23 Lots in the Hundred of Black Rock Plain. Prospects still looked good for would be farmers and those with experience as well. The drought of the 1860s and Goyder’s Line had almost faded from memory and there was still the conviction that rain would follow the plough.
M. Donehoe was a landowner at Black Rock Plains in 1879. William Scott applied for his land to be transferred to T.W. Twigden in March and George Rowland Cottrell held 199 acres. His second instalment of £19.18.0 was due on 19 April.
On 15 December 1881 the town of Dalton was proclaimed. Its name was not often used and the present name of Black Rock was officially adopted on 19 September 1940. A school was opened in 1881 in charge of Edward Smith. Over a hundred children attended during the 1890s.
During 1883 Sarah and John Hook arrived in South Australia and after a brief stay at Wilmington moved to Black Rock where John worked on the railway. In 1887 he bought land in the Hundred of Walloway, which he named Spring Farm. When the Baptist Church was built at Black Rock he used to walk to Black Rock to help with the voluntary building. It was completed and opened free of debt on 11 January 1891.
Black Rock Hotel.
Among some of the other early settlers were Thomas Henry Smith and his wife Louisa, nee Scott. They were to have 8 children. Two of them died very young. Lilly Selina Smith, born at Walloway on 31 January 1883, died at Black Rock Plains on 7 January 1884 and Frederick Phillip Smith, born two months after this tragedy, on 4 March 1884, died 13 March 1885. Several of Thomas and Louisa’s descendants were also born at Black Rock Plains.
On 27 April 1884 Harry Gasmier, son of Henry Richard and Emily, nee Marshall, was born at Pekina. Soon after his birth the family moved to Black Rock. Due to several poor seasons they later moved to Port Germein. It was the same story as some of the other families who had tried hard to make a living off the land but were beaten by the drought.
Some did stay for many years though. Charles Traugott Kuerschner, born on 9 February 1888 at Black Rock was educated at Black Rock public school. He became a farmer and stayed in the district all his life. He served on the Orroroo District Council for 6 years. At various times he was Chairman of the Black Rock School Committee, President of the Black Rock Branch of the Agricultural Bureau, President of the Black Rock Cricket Club and member of the HACBS Lodge.
The children attending the Black Rock Public School celebrated Arbor Day in September 1890. A portion of the school ground had previously been prepared by the order of the Board of Advice and trees, consisting of peppermint and sugar gum varieties, had been obtained to encourage the children to take some care of the trees during the coming year Mr. W. Edson and the Hon. William Copley offered some small prizes to be given to the children whose trees were the best grown on next Arbor day. Oranges and other refreshments were provided for all present.
But all was not well with the school. E.E. Evans complained bitterly and even wrote to the Adelaide newspapers about the grossly insufficient space at the school. When opened, it was meant to be for about 35 students but in 1893 there were 85 on the roll! In May 1901 the schoollike many others in South Australia, held a Hoisting of the Union Jack. They saluted the flag, sang the National Anthem and gave three cheers for the Commonwealth. Young Harold Copley was chosen as Flag Officer. The flagpole had been donated by Mr Cram.
Black Rock School August 1933.
The O’Gorman family also stayed for a lengthy time. In 1894 their daughter, Kate O’Gorman, aged 15 became postmistress. The family would operate the post office until 1948. A few years later, after the death of her husband, John Bracken in 1894 at Black Rock, Mrs Julia Ann Bracken, nee Halpin, started her fruiterer's business. They had been married in Pekina on 11 June 1885. Julia was already a resident of Black Rock at that time whereas John came from the Hundred of Coomooroo. Julia was born in Ireland in 1850.
At the turn of the century Julia was well established and would remain at her post, assisted by her son John Thomas Bracken, born 1886, until her death on 29 December 1931, aged 81. She was buried at the Yatina cemetery, as was her husband. Their children lived in the district for most of their life. Daughter Mary Josephine, born 1888, who married WV Crowhurst in 1923 died on 26 July 1938. Son John Thomas Bracken had married Mary F Kennedy of Quorn on 25 April 1911.
Black Rock finally got its hotel and was run by Michael Moylan from 1899 until 1912 when he sold it to F. Reynolds, who ran it for a few years. The hotel was still open during the 1980s when it was run by Mavis Clara Schiller.
Other services which were available in the town were a Resident Justice (Jas. Jamieson) in 1903. A year later, Duncan Cram became the local Wheat Agent. He remained for many years. Heinrich Graefe, blacksmith and August Rodeghiero, storekeeper, also served the town for many years. In 1905 the Resident Justices were Jamieson and William Copley. The teacher at the local school was William Newbold. In 1911 it was Miss Mary Laintoll.
In 1906 the town had two storekeepers, J. Fitzgerald and A. Rodeghiero. A year later J. O’Loughlin was the teacher. In 1909 Mrs Julia Bracken operated as fruiterer and Ellen Fitzgerald as storekeeper. In 1910 Harold Symes offered his services as butcher. More progress was made in 1913 when C.T. Kuerschner laid the foundation stone of the Black Rock Institute on 21 June. He later had a road named after him. A Supper Room was added to the building in 1920. During 1914 the town acquired an Agency for the State Saving Bank which was operated by D.M. O’Corman.
In 1924 the town and area had a population of 160. D.M. O’Corman was the Postmaster and also in charge of Railway Parcels and Telephone Office. The Primary School was still going and R.A. Nelson was teaching. The State Bank agency was operated by A.E. O’Corman and Frank Thornston was the publican. However from the 1920s onward there was a slow but steady decline in the population of the town.
During 1928, the school which had been reclassified as a Class VII was run by W.E.R. Tiller. The hotel was operated by George Clarke and R. Teague was listed as dairy farmer. Some of the farmers listed are; Thomas P. Smith, Phillip Smith, R. Naismith, William and Thomas Carter and H. Keatley. W. Carter was listed as labourer until 1934. During that same year V. Crowhurst was the storekeeper and Saving Bank agent while G. Clarke was the publican. Three years later E. Kerslake was the teacher and J.W. Paterson the publican.