Mount Mary, South Australia

Mount Mary

There are several locations in South Australia and Australia for that matter, which are called Mount Mary. There is a Mount Mary near Blinman and another one on Kangaroo Island. There was a Mount Mary Copper mine in the Parachilna Gorge and another one in Tasmania. There is also the Mount Mary vineyard in Victoria. However the Mount Mary we are concerned with here is, or was, the township of Mount Mary some 35 kilometres east of Eudunda on the road to Morgan.

The first land leased in the area was on 1 July 1854 by Lachlan McBean and named Mary Mont. Another pastoral property was named by Samuel Dixon after his favourite sister Mary. Dixon held the property in 1864 but on 19 January 1892 he became one of the Board Members for the Belair National Park. He died at Glenelg on 25 August 1927, aged 86. Although the Mount Mary pastoral property produced some high quality wool, in 1879 it sold 158 bales to a French buyer, it provided only some work for station hands, boundary riders and once a year a shearer’s gang.

The town, when officially proclaimed on 24 January 1884 and the Hundred proclaimed on 15 February 1883, were both named Krichauff in honour of F.E.H.W. Krichauff, who was born in Germany in 1824 arriving in South Australia in 1848. The little township did not really develop until the opening up of agricultural land and after the coming of the railway in 1878. Among some of the earliest settlers to take up land were members of the Kleinig, Klitscher and Kroschel families.

With the whole area beyond Goyder’s line, wheat harvests were unreliable and often very poor. This meant that a lot of farmers tried to get any kind of government contract, in particular logging to feed the steam locomotives. Locomotives also needed a goodly supply of water and in April 1878 A. Hunter put in a tender for the excavation of a 1 million gallon reservoir at Mount Mary, as specified by the Engineer in Chief, H.C. Harris.

While the line had been operating for some years it was not until September 1881 that the Commissioner of Public Works, J.G. Ramsay, promised that a platform would be erected at the railway station. This would allow the loading of wool and wood and improve facilities in general. A few months later though, in January 1882, a bushfire on both sides of the railway destroyed thousands of tons of wood.

By the end of that year a water tank of 25,000 gallons was promised for the station whereas a three million gallon tank would be erected at Riverton and Farrell’s Flat both of which would have a pumping connection as well. Not so at Mount Mary.

In April 1883, at the regularly held land sales at the Adelaide Land Office, James Bradley bought 403 acres in section 6 in the Hundred of Krichauff. Both the name of the Hundred and town were changed in 1918 to Beatty when almost all German names were wiped off the map. In 1940 the town of Beatty was renamed and finally called Mount Mary.

William White, contractor of Mount Mary, selected section 13 of 493 acres at £1 per acre with 10% deposit. In January 1884 John Childa, farmer of Mount Mary selected land in the Hundred of Brownlow and in April W. Makins selected 495 acres of section 34 in the Hundred of Krichauff. In June William Aslin also selected land in the Hundred of Brownlow.

As elsewhere, but particularly outside Goyder’s line, life on the farm was hard. Work often started before the sun was up and continued till early evening. Many children were part of the family’s part-time labour force, before walking to and from school. In May 1884 a meeting was held of land owners and selectors to get some improvements of the roads and to obtain a weighbridge at Mount Mary to be able to weigh trucks of wood.

Regardless of the hard labour, irregular rain and a downturn in the South Australian economy there were still many men who looked for land and bought it on a 10% deposit base, hoping that seasons, the economy, price of wheat and everything else would improve to make it all worthwhile. On 22 May 1884 W. Mitchell took up 263 acres on section 155 in the Hundred of Brownlow.

That same month more land was selected in the Hundred of Krichauff by Mount Mary farmers. W. White of Mount Mary bought 482 acres of section 49; J. Stevenson got 277 acres of section 58 and G. Morgan 277 acres of section 56. A few months later it was suggested to plant an experimental olive grove at Mount Mary.

With a steady increase in the town’s population Joseph Stevenson submitted plans for the building of a hotel in 1884. It was to be erected on allotments 92, 109 and 110 which were on the corner of North Terrace and Main Street. However it was not until 11 September 1894 that the Mount Mary Hotel was opened in part of a wine saloon owned by James Bradley. On 11 December 1894 the licence was obtained by George Yong and he named it the Krichauff Hotel.


North Terrace, Mount Mary 1905

It kept that name until March 1895 when it became known as the Mount Mary Hotel. The hotel changed hands a few times as well and in 1916 the licence was taken over by Mary Young. What is interesting is the fact that the South Australian Almanac refers to it as the Krichauff Hotel even many years after all German names were supposed to have been removed.

By October 1883 it had become necessary to open a Post Office at Mount Mary. In 1904 it was operated by E. Heinzel. In 1906 the postmaster was G.A. Leibie with Henry Herbert Francis in 1907. In 1924 the post office was run by A.B. Wilksch and the hotel by W.Y. Grewar. The reservoir of 1 million gallons, which had been promised, but still not started, was costed at £588.18sh and tenders were called for the job to be lodged before 10 March 1885.

On 30 April 1885 allotments 19,20,21 and 22 bounded by South Terrace, West Terrace and Second Street were proclaimed as a site for a future school. Two months later the Minister called for tenders to build a school and teacher’s residence after D. Moody M.P. had presented a memorial from the residents of the Hundreds of Brownlow and Krichauff to the Minister of Education asking for the building of a school. It was opened in March 1886 with 34 students on the roll and D.D. Cogan as the first teacher.

Cogan didn’t last long as he was replaced by R. Waden in May. Kathleen O’Leary was teaching the local children in 1901. In 1902 Ellie Lee had a go and in 1903 it was Olga Cecilia Amanda Burdak. During the next three years Marguerite L’Estage was in charge while Elizabeth Mary Bradley taught from 1906-1909. In 1924 when it was a Grade VII Primary School Annie M. Lynch was in charge.

As with the town and hotel the school’s name also changed. Up to 1902 it was the Krichauff School but after that it was named the Mount Mary School. Being a small town with few large buildings the school was often used for church services, polling booth, concerts, fetes, weddings or for any other purpose. It finally closed on 17 May 1956 when the few remaining students were transferred to the Bower School.

Farmers and selectors also wanted the road cleared from Anna through Brownlow to Mount Mary station to enable them to cart their wheat. In May 1885 Joseph Stevenson presented a memorial to the Commissioner of Public Works asking that a proper railway siding be erected at Mount Mary. As was, and still is the case today, the Commissioner promised to obtain a report.

Three months later it was reported that all work at the railway station had been costed at £431. Meanwhile Stevenson was hit hard on 28 August 1885 when his wife Annie died at the age of only 37 years.

By the end of 1885 the drought was taking its toll with all dams in the area dry. To make matters worse farmers were not allowed any more water from the railway reservoir. They had to go to Morgan and cart it back from there. With no crops, no water, no rain and for most no money, farmers were suffering great poverty. Some were able to make ends meet by carting wood for the Locomotive Department.

It was soon suggested that the government should make work available for them in the form of cleaning out reservoirs in the area, especially the drains leading to the Mount Mary reservoir. This would prepare them for the rains…… if and when it would come. In March 1886 a meeting was held in Bradley’s store which decided to ask the government for seed wheat as most of them had not harvested a crop the previous year.

There were no improvements in any of these matters during the following year. On 27 January 1887 the post office burnt down which was seen as a bad omen. Stock was still suffering from starvation and when the rains finally came down on 24 July it killed many of the weakened animals, including a dozen horses.

But life did go on; it had to. In July 1889 Mount Mary residents made it known that they would like their town to be declared a polling place for the upcoming elections saving them a trip to Eudunda or Morgan to cast their vote. A small improvement occurred in August when James Bradley became the agent for the Advertiser and Chronicle newspapers.

In March 1890 the government reservoir on the railway line was sold by auction to W. White for £15.15. This relieved the government from the cost and worries to maintain it but did nothing for the town’s people. Water supply remained as big a problem as ever. Although there had been some rain that year, when it came to harvesting the average yield was only four or five bushels an acre. It could have been double that if the rabbits and locusts had not beaten the farmers to it. When it was time for harvesting in 1891 thousands of acres of wheat had once again been damaged by rabbits. During the heavy rains of December 1902 the reservoir was filled and emptied in one act, the water running through it like a sieve as it had not been used for some years on account of the drought.

Meanwhile the Mount Mary residents were still trying to have improved facilities at the railway station. A goods shed was badly needed as well as provisions for the trucking of sheep and other stock. Often goods such as tea, sugar and other articles were left at the station out in the open, before they could be picked up, causing considerable damage. Last but not least they would like a telephone connection.

Unfortunately for them, the Minister’s response was that as Mount Mary was only a small place it did not warrant the expenditure. It was not until 1913 that the station got a second hand ticket office from Tanunda and 1919 before a telephone was installed and 1924 before a telephone exchange operated.

Finally, in March 1893, tenders were accepted by the Railway Department for the supply of wood for its locomotives at Mount Mary. W. White would supply 100 tons at 6 shillings and sixpence per ton while George H. Roebuck 200 tons at 7/4 per ton, W. Herbert 50 tons at 6/11 per ton and John James Hutchinson 30 tons at 7/6 per ton. Hutchinson, son of the late James Hutchinson and Emily Harriet, eldest daughter of George Woolston who had been married on 10 June 1891 by the Rev John Wills at Mount Mary, would have been very pleased with the extra income.

Even so, one woodcutter felt compelled to write a letter to the Editor stating that; ‘In these depressed times I think the Government should do all in their power to push forward contracts for loco wood as it would find work for a good few men. There are quite enough unemployed, without a lot of us joining their ranks, which we shall be compelled to as there are no other means of livelihood at present that I can see’.

The 1893 season was much better as far as the weather was concerned and in November Johann and Peter Kleinig delivered the first truck load of wheat at Port Adelaide from Mount Mary. It came from a crop of 18 bushels an acre and turned out to be of remarkably fine quality, weighing 66lb a bushel. In 1895 Theodore G.P. Sieber and Carl F.H. Schlisser were granted a Storekeepers’ Colonial Wine Licence. Slowly additional facilities did become available.

In 1907 the majority of the residents listed as living in Mount Mary, apart from wood carters, teacher, postmaster, labourers and the hotel keeper, were farmers. Among them were Thomas Bettison, Samuel Birch, James Bradley, F.W. Dreckow, Hermann and Johann Freundt, Carl and Frederick Hanisch, Johann and Peter Kleinig, F.W. Klitscher, August Kroschel, George Roebuck, Wlliam White and Frederick Zerner.

By the mid-1920s some had left the area but were replaced by others. Now the most prominent were Thomas and S. Bettison, Samuel Birch, S.C. Bradley, James Bradley had died on 1 February 1913, August and D.E. Doecke, W. Dreckow, H. Finn, H. and J. Freundt, C.A. Giersch, H. Hassedky, A. Hutchinson, P. Kleinig, F.W. Klitscher and C.J.F. and Frederick Zerner. As can be seen from the names many of them were of German descent whose parents had originally taken up land in more suitable areas when it was still readily available.

Mount Mary Cemetery

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