Wooltana Station. |
Wooltana Station, more than 600 kilometres by road north of Adelaide, lies on the plains between the northern Flinders Ranges and Lake Frome. It was pioneered by John McTaggart, born in 1828, who arrived in South Australia from Scotland on the Bengal Merchant in 1852. He started work for Archibald Johnson, at Mount Muirhead near Mount Gambier, where he remained for two years. By that time he had married Mary McCallum and saved enough money to start out on his own.
In 1856 he went north with his brother-in-law John McCallum to look for land. Having found what he wanted he returned to Mount Gambier and travelled his 1,500 sheep to Wooltana. His wife, who had arrived in the colony a year before him, and their four children travelled from Port Augusta in a bullock dray. When he arrived with his family and flock they were the northern most settlers. The nearest white woman was two hundred kilometres south at Arkaba. Before long shepherds were employed, including some who were married, and on 11 May 1865 Maria Taylor, wife of James Sutton, gave birth to a healthy son, Daniel.
When the drought started to take hold of the country McTaggart had over six thousand sheep. He lost four thousand of them but was lucky to walk the remainder back to the Adelaide Hills to land owned by George Melrose of Mount Pleasant. At Wooltana the drought broke in January 1866 with heavy rains and floods and the McTaggarts returned to start all over again. With the financial help of Elder, Smith & Co he was able to improve his property, fence the paddocks and restock it. By June 1868 he had 4,658 sheep and 44 cattle. Eventually the station area was doubled when he acquired the Paralana run from Hawker and carried 30,000 sheep.
Most of the time McTaggart carried his own wool to Port Augusta, at times taking two months for the return trip. During this time his wife and children had to look after themselves. Later there were permanent station workers some with families which broke the loneliness and isolation. Mary McTaggart had another six children while at Wooltana.
When John retired, the management of the station passed to his son Lachlan. John McTaggart died on 25 September 1907. Wooltana was sold in 1918 to McBride.