George Edwin Curnow

George Edwin Curnow

George Edwin Curnow joined the Mounted Police on 1 August 1867 and was stationed, in the latter part of the 1860s, at the Mount Freeling Police Station in the far north of South Australia. During that time he had to cover an area of thousands of square kilometres. On 10 May 1868 he was in Blinman to arrest Robert Graham for stealing $16 from Robert Blinman. After the property was recovered Graham was discharged. That same week he was at Nuccaleena to arrest William Perkins for stealing money and other items from Michael Marra. Later that year he was at Mundowdna searching for the bodies of 2 Aborigines.

At other times he performed the duties of census collector. The roles of policemen were many and varied. As a government representative he was at times a mine inspector, crown land ranger, collector of hawkers' licences, dog registrar and compiler of information on agricultural returns, and noxious weeds. He was also responsible for the maintenance of the police station and if any time left the investigation of crime, deaths and enforcing law and order. In 1869 he was often accompanied on his rounds by Trooper Robert Whitbread who was also stationed at Mount Freeling.

While at the Mount Freeling police station, conditions were extremely bad. During the drought of 1864-68 nothing had been done by the government to provide suitable accommodation for the troopers and even after the drought it was very slow to act. Eventually they were given a cottage by Thomas Elder who owned the property. Towards the end of 1869 Curnow had enough of it and applied for a transfer to the Northern Territory. After his request, the police station was improved and he wrote the following letter to his boss, George Hamilton, in Adelaide.

Sir, I beg most respectfully to request that I may be allowed to withdraw an application I sent in December last, applying to be stationed in the Northern Territory. I have the honour to state that since sending in that application a new station has been built here and that I have gone to considerable expense, in conjunction with P.T. Whitbread, in furnishing and fitting up this station, and that if I were to leave now it would be at a pecuniary loss. Thrusting this will prove a sufficient reason, and that I may be allowed to withdraw my application, I have the honour to be Sir, Your most obedient Servant, George E Curnow.

His request was granted and he continued for some time at this station. From December 1870 until January 1871 Curnow was stationed at Kopperamanna on the Birdsville Track until Police Trooper Samuel Gason returned. During the year the troopers visited Bolla Bollana, Umberatana, Illiawortina, Nepowie, Wooltana, Paralana, Hamilton, Blanchewater, Yudanamutana, Sliding Rock, Patsy Springs, Owieandana and Blinman. They certainly got to know the area, its people, and the possibilities of making a living in the north. Many police troppers after several years of service resigned from the force, remained in the area and started their own business, often very successfully. Curnow was no exception.

During 1874 George Edwin Curnow took over the pastoral lease, with Thomas McTurk Gibson, of Mount Flint. The year after he aquired pastoral lease 2244, of forty square miles north of Lake Arthur, on his own account for twenty-one years. On 6 December he took up residence at the young town of Beltana and bought the local store from Robert Whitbread, another ex-policeman. In July 1877 he sold his store to D.L. Murphy but a year later he was once again operating the Beltana Store.

Curnow did well and in 1878 he was able to lease a cottage and forage room to the Police Department for $156 a year. He also took up a partnership with Samuel Gason, also an ex-policeman, for the running of the local brewery and hotel. This partnership was dissolved in 1879 when Gason took up the running of the hotel and Curnow carried on the brewery.

Both Gason and Curnow enjoyed their drink. Gason was booked thirteen times for being drunk between 1879 and 1889 whereas Curnow was charged with the same offence four times in 1879 alone. Curnow still kept his shop and in 1880 became an agent for the Port Augusta Dispatch, the area's newspaper.


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