Named after Governor Sir James Fergusson and proclaimed in 1871, Jamestown, in the Hundred of Belalie, developed on land originally held under pastoral lease no.115 by John Bristowe Hughes. After the passing of the 1869 Strangways Act and the resulting closer settlement, farmers from far and near moved into the area and the government proclaimed several towns where previously only sheep had grazed. One of the first farmers to buy a farming property was James Erwin from Mintaro. Within a year these pioneer farmers were competing in ploughing matches and in 1875 held their first Agricultural show under President Joseph Thyer and Secretary James Wilkinson. Later special trains would bring visitors from as far as Gladstone and Port Pirie to attend the show. The first town blocks, near the Belalie Creek, were sold in October 1871.

Map of Jamestown

As with most newly established towns, churches and hotels were often the first buildings to be completed. Church services became available in 1871 when Father Pallhuber of Sevenhill held services in private homes but a year later the Catholics of Jamestown had their own church. From 1879 they also had their own resident priest. Although the Wesleyans had bought a block of land in December 1871, it was not until 1874 that a school room was completed to be used as a church. This was followed by the Presbyterians and Anglicans who completed their churches in 1876. A year later the Baptists finished their church. The Salvation Army arrived in 1884 under the leadership of Captain and Mrs Llewellyn.

The first two hotels to be completed in 1873 were the Belalie Hotel, known as the Globe Hotel, built by Robert Hall and the Jamestown Hotel by Albert Trilling. The Commercial Hotel was built in 1874 by William Savage. This was followed by the Railway Hotel in 1878. During the first years most horse and cattle sales were conducted in the yards from the hotels until 1883 when they were moved to proper stock yards. It was also from rooms at the Commercial Hotel that Dr Robert Riddell operated his medical practice.

With the early successful harvests, the need for a flour mill became obvious and in 1873 Albert Trilling, originally from Sevenhill, built one, only to be killed in the engine room a few years later. The business was carried on though by his sister, Ida Trilling, until 1896 when she sold it to the Adelaide Milling Company. Most of Jamestown's early secondary industries have been connected and dependent on the agricultural industries and later the nearby forest plantations. As early as 1875 the Mellor Brothers of Adelaide had a factory established and in 1877 Thomas Carter had started a smithy, manufacturing all kinds of farm equipment. The Mellor Brothers also had factories in Quorn and Kapunda. To reduce the cost of transport Francis Opie started the production of Stump jump ploughs for the local market.

Education came to town in 1873 when the Sisters of St Joseph started teaching in a room of the Catholic Church. A year later Miss G. Kerr opened her private establishment. In 1877 the government built a primary school with a residence for a teacher. From 1883-1892 it had a Ladies School run by Misses A., M. and E. Hervey. They advertised in the Terowie Enterprise of 1890, that they would provide 'A good sound English education' which included music, singing, German and drawing. Provision for High School students became available in 1910 when classes were started in the old primary school and were attended by twelve students, including some from Yongala and Caltowie. A separate High School was built in 1923.

Settlers were granted local government in 1875 when the District Council of Belalie was gazetted in November of that year. Its first meeting was held at the Jamestown Hotel when John Chapman was elected Chairman and William Goodes, Samuel Pearce, Joseph Thyer, and Albert Trilling councillors. It was from these early beginnings that resulted in the formation in July 1878 of the Jamestown Corporation.

Work at the nearby Bundaleer Forest Reserve started in 1876. This was three years after the reserve had been dedicated by Surveyor General George W. Goyder. Preparations for the planting of the first section were made by William Curnow in February 1876. By the end of the year he, and his men, had planted some 17,000 trees.

The narrow gauge railway reached Jamestown in 1878 when it was connected with Port Pirie, the first train arriving on 25 June. On 14 December 1880 the connection to Yongala was opened and a month later Jamestown people could also travel by train to Petersburgh. The first Station Master appointed was Charles Rudolph Sulzmann from Crystal Brook where he had held a similar appoinment. The original weatherboard building was destroyed by fire in 1884 and replaced by a stone building in 1885.

Apart from the railway link, the year 1878 also linked the community with some of its nearest neighbours. That year saw the production of the Northern Review with its first copy hitting the streets on 14 March 1878. It was produced by John Burrough Collins who would become sub-editor of the Adelaide Register in 1881. The paper was taken over by George Lake who renamed it the Agriculturalist and Review.

JA Cockburn (SLSA)

A year after its rail connection with Port Pirie the town also had its hospital. This Cottage Hospital was owned by Dr J.A.Cockburn in Clifton Road. It was used until 1884 when the government built its own. It even had a branch of the St John Ambulance between 1885 and 1886. John Alexander Cockburn and his wife came to Jamestown in 1876 to take over from Dr Riddell. In 1878 he was elected as the town's first Mayor. Later he was elected to the House of Assembly and in 1885 became Minister of Education. The next year he left Jamestown and the medical practice and was elected Premier of South Australia in 1889.

The town's first butcher, Edmund Humphris, bought in 1880 the Aerated waters factory and produced the XX and XXX Emu Beer until his sudden death in 1882. The factory was continued by his wife, Frederina Gotte, who also had to take care of their ten children. For a long time she was the largest employer in town and when her sons left school they joined their mother in running the factory. Frederina and Edmund were married in 1864 and for a time farmed at Strathalbyn before moving to Jamestown in 1872. After Edmund's death Frederina expanded the factory and produced tomato sauce as well as butter.

In 1881 Jamestown had a population of nearly one thousand. The town also had a post office, a police station and Court House, an Institute, street lighting, schools, a railway station, two banks, the National since 1876 and the Bank of South Australia since 1879, a flour mill, a butcher and baker shop, several churches and general stores, a newspaper, the Jamestown Review, a brewery, a Football Club, Cricket Club, a hospital, a blacksmith, a Coach building factory, a Boot factory, a District Council and five hotels.

Jamestown and Burra Hockey Team, August 1911.
Jamestown Cemetery

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