Original stone hut
The land on which Stone Hut began was section 3522 in the Hundred of Booyoolie. It was surveyed by F.C. Richardson and William Farquhar in 1855 for pastoral activities. It was thickly wooded and there was a good water supply from the Rocky River. There was also a stone hut, built by Thomas Long, for Frederick White and his bride. It was later used as a shepherd’s hut. The original owners of the land were members of the White family. In 1871 the land was opened up for agricultural settlement and three years later bought by R. Hall and J. Henderson.
When Hall and Henderson owned the land the old stone hut became a coaching station for the mail run between Adelaide and the north. It called in twice a week, and more often than not it would have passengers on boards too. Soon the station was referred to as the stone hut and when finally a town was surveyed nearby on 2 April 1874 it was named Stone Hut. After all, this made sense as everybody knew where that was. Apart from changing horses and mail, the hut has also been used as a store and Post office.
The first education in Stone Hut was provided by Alice Cox in a house owned by Mr Hall. Everyday Miss Cox rode on her trusted horse from her father’s farm in Caltowie to school to teach her one and only student, William Hicks. Slowly the number of students increased but never to the level required by the Education Department to receive payment. Parent contribution was not enough to keep her and eventually she closed the school and went to work as a governess at Mr Cook’s place.
A new school and teacher residence was built around 1877 by J. Bills & Son, carpenters from Watervale, for the princely sum of £790. Its first teacher, Susan Mason, opened the new school in 1877 and lived in the residence with her mother as chaperone. That same year a Board of Advice at Booyoolie was told about the new school and asked to look after it as well as schools in Laura and Beetaloo.
Teacher turnover was a cause of concern. In 1879 Mason was replaced by Robert C. Gilmour. He stayed until the end 1882. Thomas Adams stayed a little longer, from 1883 until 1887. He was replaced by Lilian Mary Adams in 1888 and later that year by Louise Paxton Adams. Thomas was back a few months later but was than permanently replaced by Thomas Helier Sarre Nicolle on 20 August 1888. Nicolle only stayed until the end of the year. Thomas Brockbank served the longest of all teachers. He looked after the needs of the Stone Hut children from 1898 until 1908.
Attendance was a problem at times as the boys were often needed to help out on the farm and the eldest girls at home. In 1895 the school was closed for two months due to the very low attendance figures. In 1898 there were some 60 students enrolled, increasing to 70 in 1904. After that date this number went down slowly to 21 in 1950 and only ten in 1967. When the school finally closed its doors for the last time in 1967, students went to Laura and Wirrabara to complete their primary school education.
The post office was also built by Bills & Son but this time they charged £870. Soon other buildings, including private residences appeared although not all were built of stone. The Royal Mail Hotel was completed in 1877 with Jane Williams as its first licensed publican. In 1879 it changed hands and J.C. Kuchenmeister became publican until 1881 when Jane Williams was back in charge. A Methodist church was completed in 1879 and was used for almost 100 years.
The reporter for the Laura Standard didn't think much of Stone Hut. In May 1889 he wrote that the town was rather disappointing, boasting only one pub, one store and post office, a chapel, blacksmith, school and some twenty houses. Residents of Stone Hut naturally were not impressed but went on regardless. They had a meeting to plan for an Annual Picnic and Sports Day to be held on Christmas Day giving secretary E. Staker plenty of work. Early in November the Primitive Methodists and the Band of Hope held their meetings with a fair attendance. A few weeks later the Stone Hut cricketers played the Stragglers from Laura and when Christmas Day finally came around the picnic and sports were a great success.
The start of 1890 brought a few problems though. In February the Band of Hope was disbanded but six months later restarted. Several labourers had left the district which resulted in the death of one of the cricket teams and great need was felt for a saddler, shoemaker and wheelwright. By the middle of the year a much hoped for improvement was on the horizon. The weather had been good lately and the harvest satisfactory. After weeks of rain seeding operation were almost finished and renewed sawing in the forest had given work for local sawyers and teamsters.
Stone Hut’s best time came in the early 1900s when a Bill authorizing the building of a railway from Laura to Booleroo Centre was passed. It was officially opened on 27 April 1910. This resulted in increasing population with many locals finding employment with the building and later servicing. At its peak three trains a day passed through the town and it seemed that men were for ever loading bags of wheat of which there were thousands in the railway yard.
Four new railway houses were constructed to house the station master, H.W. Inglis being the first, and some of the other married employees among them porters, lumpers, gangers and fettlers. As some of these had families it also meant an increase in school enrolment. More people also meant more shops. Although large families were common in those days, Fred Tobin and his wife Dulcie, nee Craig, were married in 1912. They moved into this four roomed cottage and were to have 21 children.
As in all young towns, be they large or small, sport was played by all who could and had the time. A cricket team was playing as early as the 1880s. During 1910 the town decided to build its own tennis courts after Arthur Moulds and his wife had given birth to that idea. It was soon completed and many matches were played. Competitions among the town’s residents and between those of neighbouring towns were held regularly.
Other sports were also played and in 1928 the footballers were premiers, repeating the same feat in 1932 and 1936.
At a meeting held in 1921 it was decided that Stone Hut should have its own Hall. A committee was duly formed, fundraising activities held and on 22 July 1925 the foundation stone was laid by the wife of William Baker. When completed and opened in April 1926 it was attributed to all the young men from the town who had enlisted in World War I. Of the 22, eight never returned, they were buried at Gallipoli, France and Belgium.
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