The small town of Carrieton, originally known as Yanyarrie Whim in the Hundred of Eurelia, was a stopping place for teamsters on the copper road from Burra to Blinman. At first the area was on the pastoral lease of Coonatto Station, granted to Alexander Grant in 1853. Grant arrived in South Australia in 1839 with $2,000 given to him to make his fortune.
Before long Grant sank a well, built a stone tank and troughs and cashed in on the passing traffic. Unfortunately for Grant, his land was resumed by the Government in 1876 for closer settlement and broken up into small blocks to satisfy the ever increasing number of wheat farmers pushing north of Goyder's Line during the good seasons of the 1870s. With an increase in population in that area, and the north in general, an eating house was erected near the well followed by a post office in 1877 and a general store in 1879.
During 1879 a town was surveyed, named Carrieton after Governor Jervois' daughter, and proclaimed on 10 April 1879. The first town lots were sold in May for two ponds and ten shillings per block. Another sale was advertised in January 1880. Three months later John Johns advertised that he would sell by auction, for Michael O'Halloran, 12 draught horses, agricultural implements, a reaper, double farrow ploughs, harrows, pigs and sundries.
The town grew slowly and after the first five years had about 120 inhabitants. Farmers had been busy and in January 1880, J.F. Schramm, agent for John Dunn & Co, asked teamsters to cart wheat to Quorn. More land was bought in June 1881 when Forsyth & Gay, W.C. Simcock, M. Kingsborough, L. Giles and H.D. O'Halloran bought a large number of blocks between them. The Catholic Church Endowment Society bought lots 2 and 3 for a total of six pounds and 5 shillings.
By 1884 the town's population was well over 100 residents with J. Jordan as postmaster, Howard H. Vine as manager of the National Bank and P.W. Bleechmore as storekeeper. It also had a local court with G. Donaldson as Special Magistrate, J.N. Williams as Clerk and D. Jacoby as bailiff. Resident justices at that time were Frederick T. Reed and J.F. Schramm.
The town had two hotels, the Carrieton Hotel, operated by William O'Grady and the Eureka Hotel where M.E. Kenny was the publican. T.A.A. Byerlee was the local wheatbyer and W. Cherry, W.L. Haydon and W.J. Lock were the local butchers. The Davies Brothers, Thomas Pearson and Bernard Lamb were the blacksmiths, George Edwards the teacher and James Milne operated a wheelwright establishment.
It still had some other services. Among them an eating house, operated by G.J. Morgan and a bakery run by George Nelson. The town's tailor was J. Noatske, Edward Potter was listed as mason, Frederick Schmidt as shoemaker, Th. Stuchlik and J. Thompson as saddlers, B. Treloar as carpenter and Mounted Constable P. O'Brien tried to keep the peace and made sure everyone followed the rules of the law.
In 1885 F.T. Read transferred his storekeeper's licence to George Marshall who had also gained a Colonial Wine Licence. Unfortunately not all could find work in the town and some had to look further afield. James Meers found work on Anna Creek station where he died on 16 January 1888, aged only thirty-two years. Carrieton's highest number of residents was reached during the 1890s when there were just over 200.
Although still small, the town seemed to have most of the essential services expected in those days. It even had an accountant, chemist and a doctor, three churches, an Institute, general store, several smaller stores, post and telegraph office for which tenders had been called in June 1883, police station and court house.
In February 1886 George Harris Heaney, who had previously served at Beltana and Blinman, was now appointed clerk of the Carrieton and Quorn Courts, replacing J.N. Williams and in May 1895 William James Gleeson was appointed Justice of the Peace.
As most towns on the Willochra Plains, Carrieton suffered from the drought and depression of the 1880s. When rain fell it was appreciated by all, no matter the consequences. In August 1886 it was reported that 'Carrieton had two inches of rain in ten minutes. The oldest inhabitant can not remember a similar visitation of such quantity in the time. The storekeepers have lost the depressed look which had become almost habitual with them, and we are now in hopes of a fair season. The change in the prospects has given fresh impetus to the agricultural implement maker and business in general has improved'.
Unfortunately the odd good shower was not really enough to be of lasting benefit. The seasons remained poor year after year and most farmers were heavily in debt. On 13 January 1889, a public meeting was held at O'Grady's Assembly Rooms, at which William Russell presided, to request the government to accept farm improvements as sufficient security on credit given to farmers to buy seed wheat.
By the mid 1880s the town had a school, library, band, assembly room, agricultural show, race course, two banks, literary society, railway station and a Pound with W.L. Haydon as Poundkeeper in charge during 1887. Finally there was the coach factory. The Coach Factory was the largest business enterprise in town. It was operated by David Davies and his brother Tom, previously from Talisker and Kadina. They started their blacksmith and coaching business in 1879 in a two-storey stone and brick factory and workshops, eventually occupying nearly two acres on the corner of Main and Second streets. Tom later became the publican of the Eureka Hotel but in 1893 sold it and moved to the Carrieton Hotel. Another blacksmith shop was operated by W. O'Grady until 1888. In 1892 William O'Grady held both the publican's licence of the Carrieton Hotel and the licence for the Railway refreshment room.
By 1890 the Davies brothers employed more than thirty people in their business. Their excellently produced vehicles and machinery obtained many prizes at country shows and field days. Farm machinery produced by Davies included the three-furrow plough. Apart from this, the Davies brothers also made coffins which were used by Bert Johnson, their foreman carpenter, to conduct the undertaking business on their behalf. However as a result of the depression, drought, poor crops and a decline in rural population, Davies sold up and transported all his belongings and equipment to Port Lincoln in 1904 to start all over again.
The Carrieton Public School opened in October 1882 and has been educating its students for well over a hundred years. Its student - teacher ratio has remained the same during most of that time. Whatever the number of students, there was always one teacher. When the Catholic school closed in 1897 the ratio at the Public school in 1898 became 112:1!
Within three years of being proclaimed, Carrieton had a railway line connecting it with Orroroo and Quorn. Unfortunately the station was more than two kilometres from the town. Although many attempts have been made during the years to have a branch line established closer to the town, they have all been unsuccessful. Even so, it was and remained a major boost and asset for the young town.
The importance of the railway was clearly demonstrated at Carrieton. Not only did it carry wheat, farming machinery, sheep, wool, cattle, ores and copper from the nearby Prince Alfred Mine, mail and many other articles, it also carried people from nearby towns to Carrieton. As early as 1883, M.E. Kenny, Secretary of the Carrieton Racing Club, organised for a special train to leave Port Augusta at 6.30 am so people could attend the local races on 8 February. To make it even easier for people to attend the town's race meetings it was later decided to move the racecourse closer to the line and save them a long walk. From 1917 until 1937 the main Sydney-Perth line passed through Carrieton, giving its residents access to the far corners of Australia.
Apart from being the secretary of the racing club, M.E. Kenny was also the publican of the Eureka Hotel. In 1883 he advertised that his establishment had, Good accommodation for travellers, Horses and traps for hire, First class paddocking, an abundant supply of water, Excellent stabling, Billiard table and a shower bath. He also operated the booking agency for coaches to Cradock and Hawker.
During the 1880s population numbers were boosted when Thomas Axford and his family arrived from Victoria to take up farming at Bendleby. By 1900 the population of Carrieton had increased to 200 residents and some 40 houses had been built. J. Jordan was still the postmaster but the positions had the local court had all changed. James Thomas Keats was now the Special Magistrate, J. Jordan Clerk and J.A. Adamson the bailiff. Patrick Fox was the storekeeper and the Davies Brothers still operated as blacksmiths. John and Patrick Hehir were listed as contractors and Mrs J.E. O'Grady ran the Eureka Hotel.
The town had a large number of Resident Justices which included P. King, N. Travers, P. Fox, W.H. Byerlee, N. McNaughton, W.J. Gleeson and John Ormiston. It was also the end of an era. On 24 December 1900 the Very Rev. Richard Doyle, who had been the first resident Pastor, from 1889 died aged 43 years, having served the community for 12 years.
On 23 October 1936 the first CWA meeting was held in Carrieton. In 1978 the town still had a population of 234 people.