When Peter and Anna Doig arrived in South Australia during 1855, they could not have come at a more opportune time. Most South Australians who had left in a hurry in 1851 for the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria, had returned. The copper mines, which had closed as a result of the exodus, could now re-open. Farmers were supplying the eastern states with as much wheat as they could grow, and business was generally booming.
One job in particular was in great demand - blacksmithing. Neither farming machinery nor mining equipment was produced in factories but was all made locally by blacksmiths. Before the year had finished, the Doigs had moved form Port Adelaide to Salisbury where their first child, John James, was born in 1855. Two years later their second son, Alexander, was born. After a few years the family had once again moved. This time it was to Tothill's Creek, where they had two more children, daughters Helen and Elizabeth.
With four children to feed and clothe, Peter looked for better employment prospects. He and Anna decided to move to the mining town of Kooringa, later named Burra. At Kooringa there was considerable work available as the mine was producing enough copper to support a town of about five thousand people. During their stay at this mining town three more children were born, but with the subsequent decline of the Burra mine during the late 1860s the Doigs decided to move again. This time it was to be the Northern Flinders Ranges, where the Blinman mine provided work for many miners and already supported several businesses such as butchers, bakers, a general store, a post office and several other services.
As early as 1869 Peter Doig operated a blacksmith business in partnership with William Radford. Although Doig had become involved in the mining industry and taken out a mineral claim in September 1866, it was not until their short stay at Blinman that Doig became seriously involved in the actual mining business. With his partner, and a Mr Thompson he submitted a mineral application (no 3,709) for forty acres in the neighbourhood of Blinman. This was approved on 8 September 1869. Sometime later he was also involved in a claim near Nuccaleena.
The Doig's blacksmith shop in Beltana.
Between his blacksmithing and mining interest Peter Doig also found time to become a member of the Independent Order of Rechabites and preside over many of its later meetings at the "Star of the North". Soon after his arrival in Blinman, the nearby copper deposit at Sliding Rock was discovered. When this proved to be promising, and was going to be mined, he became one of the original shareholders of the Sliding Rock Mining and Smelting Company Ltd.
No sooner was this mine in operation than Mr Doig moved to Sliding Rock to establish his own blacksmith business, probably assisted by his son John James. The mine proved to be successful at that time and he bought several more shares, eventually increasing his holding to twenty-eight. When the town of Cadnia (Sliding Rock) was surveyed Doig was again among the first to show faith in the mine and bought a total of five blocks in the town. During their much longer stay at Cadnia, the Doig family were heavily involved with all aspects of its community life. Peter and his wife Anna ran the Sunday School and were members of several local progress committees and deputations.
One of their first children to move away from the parental home was John James. He bought a block of land at Beltana in 1877 and established his own blacksmith business. By the end of the 1870s prospects at the Sliding Rock mine did not look very promising any longer, and Peter was forced to seek other work. He travelled to wherever work was available and completed contracts for Moolooloo and Beltana Stations, Beltana township, and places as far away as Mundowdna and Cowarie Stations, and the Lutheran Mission at Killalpaninna on what is now known as the Birdsville Track.
With the possibility of the railway coming through Beltana, job opportunities increased in the town and Peter established himself there and built a substantial business and house with the help of his wife Anna. The Doig family certainly had moved economically and socially in an upward direction since their landing at Port Adelaide. Financially they were well enough established to be able to employ a domestic servant. Soon Mr Doig had diversified his business interest.
Apart from the blacksmith shop he also became the owner of a large assembly hall, which was used for meetings, parties and other community functions of a social nature. With the opening of the railway, Peter had all supplies forwarded by train. This was not only much faster but also much cheaper. A study of his cash books shows that whereas in 1876 he paid more than $250 to teamsters for transport costs, in 1882 total rail charges were only $70. His biggest supplier was Harris Scarfe and Peter ordered materials worth more than $500 in 1883. During March of that year, he paid out $90 in wages.
When the railway was pushed further north to Farina and Marree, Peter was able to establish blacksmith shops in these new towns as well, although it is unlikely that he worked them himself. His son John worked the Farina shop and lived there with his wife Mary O'Brien and daughters. Peter's second son Alexander, began his own business in 1885. He bought William Gunter's butcher shop at Beltana. On Christmas Eve of that year he married Maria Brans, who had worked at his parents' home as housekeeper for several years.
Peter and Anna Doig's other children also found partners. Helen, born in 1859, married Felix Montgomery Buttfield, son of John Parker Buttfield, S.M. of Blinman. They had ten children before they moved to Western Australia. Elizabeth, born in 1861, married Victor Hantke, son of Theodore Charles Hantke, J.P. successful Beltana businessman and mine owner. The Doig children were also interested in mining. Peter Doig had always been involved in mining, but now it was his wife, sons, daughters and their husbands who saw it as an opportunity to improve their economic prospects.
On 7 January 1888, claim no.11,298 near Mount Rose, taken out by Peter Garibaldy Doig was approved. A few weeks later, during the height of silvermania, Peter Snr took out claim no.11,560 west of Beltana, where his son Alexander held claim no.11,561.36 This was followed a month later by Mrs Anna Doig (no.12,367) and Marian Doig (12,368). Helen Buttfield, wife of Felix Montgomery Buttfield, publican of the Royal Victorian Hotel at Beltana (12,369), and Victor Hantke, husband of Elizabeth Doig (12,371), were also represented on the Beltana silverfields. The female members of the Doig family certainly were trailblazers. Very few women ever took out mineral applications during the nineteenth century, least of all in the Northern Flinders Ranges.
When the youngest son, William, had finished his schooling he established himself as a hawker. When the Angepena goldfields were proclaimed William did not hesitate long before setting up a store on the field. Soon he was advertising as "General storekeeper, baker and butcher", and having all the diggers' requisites in stock, including the Harrold Brothers' "Save All" cradles. When prospects at Angepena declined William Doig travelled to Algebuckina and Warrina in the search for gold near Mount Kingston. With the opening of the Ediacara silvermines both Alexander and John James Doig were among the first in 1891 to hold occupation licences for living on the recently surveyed townlots of Ediacara.
John James, like his parents in Sliding Rock and Beltana, had become rapidly involved in Farina's social life and with his wife worked hard for the benefit of the young community. He served for several years as a member of the local schoolboard. Like the rest of his family, John was also interested in mining and soon became secretary of the Farina Prospecting Syndicate which held eight gold reef claims at Mount Nor'West. John and Mary had a family of five daughters. Mary died at a relatively young age on 16 December 1902 and was buried at Port Augusta.
The only son not to follow his father into the business world was Peter Jnr., usually known as Gary after his second name Garibaldy. This son was more interested in books and learning in general. His mother hoped he would become a minister of the Church, but he turned to teaching as a profession instead. He was appointed as a Provisional Teacher at Mount Dutton in 1887. Later appointments were at the Hallett School on 1 January 1900. Eventually he became Headmaster of the Hawker School where he tought from 1903 until 1906. He married Amy Hauson and had nine children. Their daughter Letitia Doris, born 15 January 1899 and son Sydney Raymond, born 27 October 1900 both attended the Hawker school. At the end of the 1906 school year Peter Garibaldi Doig was transferred to the Port Wakefield school. With hindsight, he may have done the best thing. With the depression of the 1890s, droughts, and modernization, the need for blacksmiths was considerably less and education became more valued than ever. Even Alexander found business in his butcher and bakery shops greatly reduced during the depression years.
Meanwhile, Peter and Anna continued to give invaluable service to Church and community activities at Beltana. Together they established the Beltana Sunday School of which Peter remained Superintendent until 1892 whilst Anna taught classes. At times Anna, in the absence of any qualified doctor, acted as midwife and nurse to the people of Beltana. On her death in 1894, she was sadly missed by the entire community.
Several days after her death the following article appeared in the newspaper. Beltana has suffered a severe loss in the death of Mrs P. Doig, a much loved and respected resident. Her name was a household word - for she was in the truest sense the "Dorcas" of the town... The local Wesleyan Church has lost one of its brightest and most useful workers. She was the leader of all local religious and philanthropic movements... Her life ended on Tuesday night, September 11, the cause of death beng Bright's disease and heart complaint. She leaves six children and seventeen grandchildren. On Thursday her remains were followed to the grave by a large circle of relatives and friends. The coffin was literally covered with flowers.
It was probably about this time that some of the family began casting their eyes to the West where there were plenty of employment prospects with the enormously rich gold finds at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. Alexander finally took the big step in 1896. He, his own family and his father, Peter, packed up and left for Western Australia. Eventually the whole Doig clan moved to the West and Beltana and the Far North lost not only some excellent blacksmiths but also devoted church members and community orientated settlers.
After having travelled the world, moved his business
and home many times, particularly in the Northern Flinders Ranges, Peter
Doig lived in Western Australia for many years with his large family of
sons, daughters and in-laws in Wagin. He died at the age of ninety-one