John Charles Darke was born in 1806 in England and sailed for Tasmania in 1824, where he learned surveying from his uncle, John Wedge. He was later offered a temporary job by Land Survey Department in Hobart. Preferring a permanent job he sailed for Port Phillip in Victoria in 1836 and was involved with the survey of what was to become Melbourne. Later he also assisted with the surveying of Geelong and Williamstown.
In 1838 he was recruited by the Survey Department in Adelaide. He must have liked what was on offer in South Australian as the job was once more only temporary. On 13 December the ‘Resident Commissioner was pleased to appoint John Charles Darke to be Assistant Surveyor for the Province Pro Tempore. One wonders if he used it as a stepping stone for better prospects as in 1839 he resigned again. In 1840 he married Elizabeth Carter.
On 13 August 1844 Darke left Port Adelaide on the Governor Gawler for Port Lincoln in charge of an expedition to explore the country west and north west of Port Lincoln and Spencer Gulf. After their arrival at Port Lincoln the party was joined by some of the locals. They reached the Gawler Ranges early October. Darke kept a journal describing the terrain, the search for water and the natives, who seemed to be very friendly. His last entry was made on 22 October.
The next entry, on 23 October, was made by Henry Theakstone who reported that Darke had been speared by three Aborigines whom he had treated in the kindest manner. Darke died the next day and was buried at the foot of the Ranges which was in 1865 named Darke’s Peak by Thomas Evans, government surveyor. In 1910 a monument was erected on Darke’s grave. The town of Darke Peak, originally proclaimed on 4 June 1914 as Carappee, was renamed on 19 September 1940 after John Charles Darke.