Bruce South Australian History

The Town of Bruce

Bruce, in the Hundred of Willochra and about 23 kilometres south east of Quorn, on the Carrieton - Hammond railway line, was surveyed in February 1881 by E.B. Jones and proclaimed on 19 May the same year. The 183 sections of the survey were put on the market and by the end of August a large number of them had been sold. Unfortunately the majority of them were bought by speculating landagents from Adelaide rather than by people who actually wanted to settle down in the new town.

William Forsyth and Patrick Gay, both from Adelaide, bought seven sections on 23 August for $129.80 and on 16 December another twenty-two sections for $453.00. Louis Henry Giles, another Adelaide landagent bought four sections for $86. George Howel also from Adelaide bought four sections on 23 August for $72. and a further two the next day. At the same time he bought some blocks at the newly opened town of Dawson. George Alexander Lawson, a bankclerk from Adelaide bought section 63 for $16 in Bruce and also a section in Dawson.

Map of Bruce

Landsales, for farming purposes which eventually gave birth to Bruce, had started as early as 1875. One of the first to buy land in what was to become Bruce was William Abbott. He was born in Devonshire, England in 1836. He married Jane Haley, sailed for South Australia and found work on Wonoka Station. The family later moved to Saltia where William operated as a teamster, carting materials for the Overland Telegraph. Their four children were all born at Saltia before they moved to their farming block at Bruce. William was interested in the new town and bought sections 142 and 145 on the corner of South Terrace and Third Street for $16. on 16 December 1881. In 1890 he secured the appointment of Poundkeeper at Bruce. He later became a Foundation member of the First Foresters Lodge at Port Augusta, Alderman for Thebarton and eventually died in 1915, aged 79 years, in Adelaide. William Abbott's grandson, Harry, also farmed at Bruce and served as a councillor for the Willochra Ward, on the District Council, before retiring to Adelaide where he died in 1976, aged 72 years.

Some other locals who secured land at Bruce were Samuel Jones Hamlyn, storekeeper of Willowie, Thomas Perry Jones, stockholder of Wilmington and Joseph Shakley, farmer of Willochra. When the town was established more land was sold to people who had taken up residence in the town without actually buying their property. One of these was William Andrews, assistant storekeeper of Bruce who bought six sections for $33. on 23 May 1885.

Bruce, and all the other newly created towns on the Willochra Plain and further north, struggled very hard in its infancy as a result of depression and drought. It did survive and was helped with the completion of the Petersburgh-Quorn railway. Its postoffice opened in August 1882 and remained in business until 1976 when it finally closed.

It also had a cemetery and in August 1886 a very successful entertainment was organised in the railway goods shed, and presided over by Mr Cornelius, to raise funds to have it fenced in. In 1892 the cemetery was big enough to have C.B. Walters appointed as curator. Others to fill that position at different times were N.Rogers, J.J.Townsend and J.Barns. Earlier in 1892 E.Ellery and J.O'Brien Jnr. had been appointed as local constables. This position was recreated in 1911-1912 when A.E.Rodgers and A.G.Pool were appointed Special Constables in order to compensate for the lack of State Police protection. Later the town also appointed its own Rangers. Before the abandonment of this position in 1926 it had been filled by J.M. Moses, H.Ratke, J.Hillman, W.Dixon, and T.Paynter.

On 25 May 1893 the District Council of Hammond was proclaimed, much to the disapproval of the Bruce residents who had hoped that it would have been called the Hammond and Bruce District Council. At its 1 November 1897 meeting in Bruce councillors present were, Twopenny, Gum, Hudson, Cole, Walters and Kelly. They were informed by the clerk that an agreement with the Commissioner of Railways had been signed for the construction of a level crossing at the Moochra railway station. At this meeting the Council also granted slaughtering licenses to T.W. Metcalf of Pinda and W. Brewster of Willochra.

Bruce also had enough young residents to have its own Cricket and Tennis clubs. The Cricket Club was even given permission to have a cricket pitch established on the Bruce Parklands. The Tennis Club was not so lucky. It was only allowed to build its double courts next to the school.

The school itself was the pride and joy of Bruce. It had been lucky with its teachers and results were more than pleasing. When in 1916 the Education Department transferred Mr Keen to Peep Hill he was sadly missed by students and parents alike. He had been a real part of the community and had been secretary of the Red Cross Society and had worked hard both in Church and Sunday School.


Bruce Hotel

One of the much later settlers to arrive in Bruce, and serve its community with distinction, was Gustav Hermann Voigt. Gustav was born in Saxony, Germany on 23 December 1877. At the age of five, Gustav and his family arrived at Semaphore on 8 July 1883 on the ship Catonia. In due time he would live in Bruce for more than fifty years whereas his brother Carl settled at Robertstown. Gustav Voigt applied for his Naturalisation papers in 1921. Mounted Constable S.R. Stewart wrote in support, 'Voigt is known to the police as a steady, sober man. He has resided in the district about thirty years and he is at present engaged at general farming and sheep breeding at Bruce'. Having lived in South Australia for more than fifty years, Voigt and his wife Alice Maud Mary Voigt, foundation member of the Wilmington Country Women's Association, still had some problems when they tried in 1940 to buy 1,300 acres of land north west of Bruce.

Letters went to the National Security, Australian Military Forces at Keswick, Adelaide police and naturally the local police. Constable W.H. Kitchin of nearby Wilmington wrote to Inspector Giles that both Voigt and his wife 'were regarded locally as very loyal citizens. Mr Voigt is chairman of the District Council and a Justice of the Peace. He recently made a donation of $100 to help the war effort. I would say that he is 100% loyal'. A little later the Commander of the Australian Military Forces at Keswick Barracks advised that they had no objection from a defence point of view to Voigt buying his land.

Well beyond Goyder's Line, Bruce and its surrounding area did have some successful harvests. It wasn't always dry. The area did have rain sometimes and even its occasional floods as well. On March 1921 one of the northern newspapers reported that 'An official who returned last night from the scene of the Willochra floods, states the scene is beyond description. The northern abutment of the Bruce bridge is washed away, and the end of the bridge has dropped. In the vicinity the rails are swinging for a chain and a half'.

This was not the first time either. During the winter of 1885 the bridge was also washed away. When a new one was completed it was officially opened by Miss Abbott, daughter of William Abbott, the local butcher. The ceremony was attended by nearly two hundred people, who were afterwards served with lunch in the railway goods shed. That evening a dance was held which did not finish until the early hours of the morning.

Although most of the time too dry to grow its own fruit and vegetables, Bruce residents did not have to go without. Fresh fruit was often delivered by cart from Wilmington where the Noll family had a large and thriving fruit and vegetable garden.

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Bruce Cemetery

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