Murbko, South Australia


William Maiden arrived in 1853 on the Royal Charles. He started working for Grant & Stokes of Coonatto station sawing timber for the homestead at Spring Creek near Mount Remarkable and later at Kanyaka. From 1854 to 1859 he worked on Murbko.

The Murbko Run on lease 765 was taken up by E.T.H. Heywood who had previously established Portee Station, in January 1860. Thomas Glen had it in 1861 and called it Murbko Station. As early as December 1862 the Murbko station, with 8000 well-bred sheep, was advertised to be sold on 28 January 1863. It was held by CB Fisher, 192 square miles on annual leases and 28 square miles on a 14 year lease. The terms of sale were 1/3 cash with the balance over 12 months. It would be sold and resold a number of times before it was cut up into smaller agricultural blocks.

On 9 April 1865 Thomas William Glen, son of owner Thomas Glen, died aged only seven months. William Lysander Hersey of Murbko and Maria Eleanor Dundas Beatson, fourth daughter of the late Captain Samuel Mottley, R.N. were married at Tusmore by Rev. Henry Cheetham on 27 January 1866.

In August 1868 the station was up for sale again, this time with nearly 15,000 sheep. The new owner, H. Scott and his overseer William Hersey made some important improvements on the wool scouring operation to improve its quality and obtain a much better price for their product in London. Scott sold his station, with 11,000 sheep at auction on 1 September 1870.

Two months later Captain W.R. Randell, master of the steamer Nil Desperandum left Murbko with a cargo of 124 bales of greasy wool and five bales of skins. It was just in time as in December the woolshed and washing facilities were completely submerged by floodwaters. One of the shearers making a regular appearance at Murbko was Charles Bannear.

Another wedding took place at the house of Owen Mobbs when the Rev Peter Barr married Henry Smith and Elizabeth, daughter of Daniel McFarlane of Murbko, on 20 March 1874. Daniel, a native of Scotland died on 23 April 1878, aged 54 years. He had been in the colony for 25 years.

In 1875 the station was owned by Donald McLean, Hugh Chambers and William P. Barker. They paid 2/6 per sheep with the land thrown in. They paid for it out of the first clip. McLean arrived in South Australia from the Orkney Islands and had been manager of Nor-West Bend station until it was sold. The partners suffered a financial loss when the Mundoo steamer’s barge sank with a cargo of 50 bales of wool from Murbko. More bad news occurred on 5 February 1879 when Jessie McFarlane died at the age of 29.

As a result of the dissolution of the partnership the station was once again to be sold at auction on 10 September 1880. It now had a river frontage of 75 km and contained 318 square miles and some 30,000 sheep. It was advertised as having a large well-built homestead, men’s huts, smithy, shearing shed and all improvements to enable an overseer and three men to run the property.

By this time there had been further settlement in the area but it certainly was not easy to make a decent living. Rabbits had taken hold of the country site in enormous numbers and the Murbko Vermin District Board did what it could to solve this problem. Members appointed to the Board in June 1883 were A. Brown, E. Rogers, W.T. Sheppard, A.H. Pegler and J.O. Carlile.

Rabbits and dingoes remained a problem and made much of the land unprofitable. In February 1891 the Pastoral Land Commission examined country abandoned by some of the lease holders and land on which leases would run out shortly. John M. Kerr, JP. and manager of Murbko station during 1890-91, was leaving and given a farewell party in December.

With an increased pressure for land, large stations were cut up by the government for closer settlement and in June 1893 the Hundreds of Paisley, Murbko, Cadell, Paringa and Bookpurnong were all considered for this purpose and for cultivation. Other Hundreds declared at that time were Waikerie, Holder, Moorook, Bakara and Mantung. It was recommended that blocks of 1000 to 20,000 acres should be created.

Even so, it would be hard to turn land bare of vegetation, as a result of rabbits and overstocking, into prosperous farming country. Some large patches were red sandy soil and covered with spinifex and mallee. Murbko station was abandoned in February 1894.

Among some of the first farmers to take up agricultural blocks were Christian August Noll, who selected a block of 3,585 acres in July 1895 and Joanna A.W. Hermann on a block of 2,865 acres in August. They, and other farmers, had a tough time and reported very poor crops in October 1897 with rain badly needed. It did not deter new settlers giving it a go. J.G. Nitschke took up 3,904 acres in October 1898 while E.A and P.E. Noll started farming on 3,430 acres in February 1901. H. and E. Crook were granted 1,558 acres at an annual rent of £6.10 for grazing and cultivation in June 1905.

With more young families in the area a Provisional School was opened and Eden Grace Sherrard and Clare Sutherland were both appointed as Provisional teachers in November 1902. Eliza Carroll wrote to Aunt Dorothy, a children’s section of the Chronicle, in March 1904 ‘I am 12 years old but not attending school at present as I have to stay home and help mother. I have got a little sister of 2 years and a pony. We go to Sunday School every Sunday’.

A few months later her sister Honora A.M. Carroll also wrote to Aunt Dorothy saying that she was 8 years and 8 months old. She liked her teacher who was Miss Sherrard. She also had a nice friend Frieda Hausler and the grass was green with the late rains but the rabbits were plentiful. Both sisters sent the usual pennies for the Minda Home.

Mary Ann Flaherty was appointed in June 1904. The school was closed from September 1907 until the end of that year as there were only 13 students on the roll but average attendance was just 8. Mary E. Williams was appointed to the school in July 1912 followed by Gwendoline I. Thomson in December. During 1916 a total of 13 children attended including three Noll children. In June 1917 the school was closed again, and the three Noll children would now be home-schooled by their elder sister.

After some extremely poor harvests several farmers applied in early in 1903 for seed-wheat but were refused resulting in many acres left unsown. In October 1915, eleven year old Meta Dorothea Noll told Aunt Dorothy about the damaging winds in relation to the wheat crop.

With a large number of farmers of German descent the Lutheran Church had a solid group of members. The first Lutheran service at Murbko was held on 25 September 1898 in a pug and pine hut built by C.A. Noll. Some of the foundation members were Heinrich Albrecht, August Schulz, F.A. Ziegler, August Heidrich, G. Jantke, C.A. Noll, F. Pfeiffer and Ernest Hausler. In February 1908 H. Noll attended the Lutheran Synod at Hahndorf as a delegate. When the Annual Synodal Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod was held at Eudunda in March 1914 it was E. Noll who attended.

Land for the cemetery was given by C.A. Noll in 1904. As it turned out he was also the first to be buried there on 20 January 1905. Legend has it that the two large pine trees within the cemetery were planted by his wife Johanna Caroline. She died at her residence on 2 April 1918 aged 72 years and was a colonist of 66 years. She left three sons, three daughters and many grandchildren. She also left £525 in her will. Her daughter Augusta Emma Noll died on 6 September 1919 and left £134 in her will.

The foundation stone for a new church was laid on 26 July 1907 and the building completed, opened and dedicated on 6 October 1907. It was named the Evangelische Lutherische Bethlehemskirche. The first child baptized in the new church was F.B. Zadow. A school was operated by the congregation from 1908 until 1918 when it was closed by the government because of its dislike of anything German. In March 1909 the fees for each service held by the pastor was raised to £2. By the early 1920s white ants had succeeded in eating most of the wooden floor and pulpit. Bert Ziegler got the job of laying a new concrete floor and installing another pulpit in 1922.

In 1927 it was decided to charge strangers £1 for a burial plot. Money had become scarce, especially during the depression when pastors were not paid between 1932 and 1940. At the meeting of the District Council of Swan Reach in June 1928 Friedrich Wilhelm Zadow was re-elected councillor for the Murbko-Paisley Ward. On 13 November of that same year Gertie Kokegel of Waikerie was married to Ben Noll of Murbko in the Lutheran Church of Blanchetown by Rev Kuss. Afterwards they had a breakfast reception which was attended by a large number of guests.

On 18 February 1930 Ida Christina Zadow and Leonard John Smith married at Murbko. Two years later, on 6 April Edwin A, eldest son of Mr and Mrs G.T. Hermann of Swan Reach was married to Meta D, fourth daughter of Mr and Mrs Herm Noll of Woods Flat by Rev. W. Juers at Murbko. In June 1932 Friedrich W. Zadow was again re-elected to the District Council.

Although it was the height of the depression, Edna Greiger was voted Queen of Murbko at a very successful sports meeting held to raise funds for the Blanchetown Hospital on 21 September 1932. After years of struggling to make a living from the land, Murbko was defined as Marginal Land by the Marginal Lands Commission in 1939. The Commission expected that it would need about £1 million ‘to correct the disabilities caused by holdings in South Australia which are too small to compensate for the unsuitability of the land or the inadequate rainfall’. Once again Goyder’s predictions had proved to be correct.

From the 1940s there were some major changes in and around Murbko. Population had declined and farming blocks had increased in size. Even within the congregation there were adjustments to long held customs. In February 1941 the church minutes of meetings were written in English for the first time. It would take another 16 years though before mixed seating in the church would not be objected to. In 1959 a Ladies Guild was formed, which is now often attended by men as well.

Murbko Cemetery

With special thanks to Albert Noll for permission to use information from his publication
Evangelische Lutherische Bethlehemskirche, Murbko 1907-2007.


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