Blanchetown, South Australia

Blanchetown.

Blanchetown, about 275 river kilometres from the sea or 125 by road from Adelaide was surveyed in 1855 and named by Governor Sir Richard Graves McDonnell after his wife Lady Blanche. A year later it was declared the Port of Blanche Town. Like Rome, more than 2000 years ago, Blanchetown was also built on seven hills. The post office, general store, service station, police station and some houses all have their own hill but the highest hill is graced with the Blanchetown Hotel.

The first town lots were offered for sale on 27 April 1857 and within a year the hotel was built. However supplies had been available from the nearby Haywood Arms at Moorundie as early as 1841. A Police Station was built in 1859. It lasted for 75 years when it was replaced by a new one in 1934. This one served for 35 years when a third station was completed on the Sturt Highway at the entrance of the town in 1969.

Among some early industries were the supplying of firewood for the steamers and shipbuilding. Neither of them were a roaring success. Only 2 barges were ever built, the Webster in 1859 and the Waverly in 1865. During 1865 the Post and Telegraph Office was built, on its own hill naturally, and became the town's first official building. It is still in use today. Another addition that year was the cemetery where Mrs Sarah Woolley became the first to be buried on 14 March 1865. It is also still used today.

Slowly but surely the town increased in population. On 12 January 1862 Mrs T.W. Harvey had a son while Mrs J.R. Ewens had a son on 20 December 1865 and another son on 25 July 1867. Several town's people died during these years, some of them still young. Thomas William Harvey died at Truro on 5 January 1863 age 35. Two years later, on 14 March 1865 the wife of John Maude Woolley, Custom Officer died at 43. James Brand was only 42 when he drowned on 1 July 1874.

As far as weddings were concerned Blanchetown did well between 1860 and 1870. On 10 February 1862 George Schoell of Blanchetown and Sarah Ann Willsdon of North West Bend were married at Truro by the Rev. A.R. Philps. On 1 November 1864 Henry Brand of Overland Corner and Hannah Teasdale of Blanchetown were married by Philps at the residence of the bride's father. Two weeks later on 25 November there was a double wedding when the Rev. Dr Muecke married F.L. Morris of North West Bend and Miss M.E. Spead of Blanchetown and F. Scholl of North West Bend and Miss G.A. Cassida of Blanchetown. On 20 January 1865 James Rossiter and Mrs Forbes of Moorooroo were married at the Holy Trinity Church at Lyndoch by Rev. Canon Coombs.

The next group to be married came along during 1869 and 1870. Among them were George Rayner of Wentworth and Ann Jane Marshall of Blanchetown. They were married on 8 February 1869 at Freeling by Rev T. McNeil. A few months later on 24 May it were William Howe, storekeeper of Overland Corner and Sarah, second daughter of Israel Marey of Alberton. They were married at the residence of Teasdale by Rev. Peter Barr of Truro. On 2 October 1869 Samuel Watts married Selina Jane Lavis, granddaughter of George Darby of Riverton at the Congregational Church at Truro. They had a daughter on 14 July 1870. On 11 July 1870 George Brand of Overland Corner and Henrietta Jane Clark of Blanchetown were married at the Trinity Church, North Terrace, Adelaide.

In 1866 the town was reported on in Bailliere's SA Gazetteer and Road Guide as being a postal town and river port in the Hundred of Skurray and on the mail coach road between Adelaide and Wentworth. It was also in the midst of a fine pastoral district, chiefly sheep, although there are many large herds of cattle. The town had a Post Office, Telegraph Station, Harbour, steamers, custom house, Peacock's shipping agency, hotel and Teasdale's general store. Game of all kind was apparently abundant and the place eminently adapted either for sportsmen or invalids, the air being pure and the climate salubrious.

Luckily not all were sportsmen or invalids. Many members of its small population worked hard and in 1868/9 5,040 worth of cargo was shipped from the port of Blanchetown. A new punt, the Moorundie, was launched in 1869 as well. It was privately owned and operated by hand. In 1872 there was enough business to appoint a local Sub Collector of Customs. By 1876 cargo shipped had increased to 354,061. Two years later though the town, which had hoped to be connected to the newly proposed railway, was dealt a heavy blow when it learnt that it would go to Morgan. As a result the importance of the port of Blanchetown declined rapidly.

In 1879 the government took over the ferry service and operators had to tender for the job and passengers were charged a fee for the use of it. During that same year the first school was built and was in use for more than a hundred years. Among its early teachers were Mrs M.E. Annear, wife of bank manager Robert S. Annear. A year later in 1891 it was Eliza Kildea. She stayed for 2 years until Miss F. McRae took over in 1893 and stayed until the end of 1895. A new school was built in 1981.

Regardless of losing out on the railway, the occasional drought and its small population, 40 in 1887, Blanchetown did manage to hold annual race meetings. Although small in 1887, there was at least some stability. M. Corcoran operated the ferry until 1894 and Benjamin Crabb was the mail contractor until 1896. Thomas Delaney represented the law until replaced by John Shanks in 1889. Shanks remained at his post until 1897. William Jewell was the post and telegraph master until 1892. Walter Boys held that position in 1894 and E.D. Brown in 1896 and 1897. James Rossiter was not only the local JP but also the publican until 1897. By 1897 Blanchetown's population had more than doubled to 84, which included Miss Sophie D. King, the new Postmisstres.

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Below are SOME of the headstones of the Blanchetown Cemetery. In an attempt to save as much space as possible and increase the speed of downloading, only part of the stone is displayed. Flinders Ranges Research has a full photograph of each of these, and many others as well.

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