Adelaide Hills - Towns, People, and Things We Ought to Know

Source:  SA History Newspaper Articles

The reader is advised that these "Chronicle" articles were first published in 1932-1937 primarily as light reading / entertainment and cannot in any way be considered to be scholarly. You are advised to independently check the veracity of the content, as no sources have been cited.

Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this text may contain names and images of deceased people.  Readers should also be aware that certain words, terms or descriptions may be culturally insensitive and would almost certainly be considered inappropriate today, but may have reflected the author’s/creator’s attitude or that of the period in which they were written.

#40  - Mount Barker (part 1 of 2)

#41  -  Mount Barker (part 2 of 2)

#57  -  Meadows (part 1 of 2)

#58  -  Meadows (part 2 of 2)

#59  -  Echunga (part 1 of 2)

#60  -  Echunga (part 2 of 2)

#61  -  Aldgate, Stirling, Crafers and Mt Lofty

#62  -  Aldgate, Stirling, Mylor, Scotts Creek

#63  -  Hahndorf  (Ambleside)

#64  -  Balhannah

#65  -  Woodside

#66  -  Lobethal (Tweedvale)

Towns, People, and Things We Ought To Know  -   No 62

By Our Special Representative, No. LXII  -  Extract From Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954) dated 14 September 1933

Aldgate, Stirling, Mylor, Scott's Creek, and Elsewhere  -  The Interesting Story of The Tiers

Secret stills in the bush, wild cattle in the scrub, bushrangers near the Mountain Hut, giant red gums in the forest, and squatters who squatted without leave, are the chief ingredients of this article on the early days of our near hills towns, proving again the wealth of romance lying in the Adelaide ranges. 

When I stopped last week because I had already exceeded the space at my disposal I was about to tell you how the Aldgate Pump Inn came into existence.  It was built as a wayside house to supply the thirsty teamsters who came over the hills with heavy loads and sweating bullocks.  When Otto Hawkins put up the place, I don't know how many years ago, he got the walls erected, and then called a pause.  For years the building stood there roofless, windowless, door-less, and tenant-less.  It looked as if the Aldgate would repeat the story of the Mount Lofty — would never open as a hostelry.  I don't known the owner's reason for the delay.  But suddenly he put a roof on, glazed the windows, fitted the doors, and opened the house, bestowing on it the name Aldgate Pump.  That was before Aldgate Village came into existence.  Then Mr. Hawkins laid out a town, and called it after the hotel.

But for years Aldgate lagged behind in the march of progress.  Today if any part of South Australia is entitled to that horribly-hackneyed appellation, "the garden of the State," that part is Aldgate.  But for many years the place was far from being a garden.  For some reason or other the land about Aldgate was not regarded as being particularly good.  Settlement was slow.  The only advantage was a plentiful supply of water.  The same remark applies to Stirling West, named after the father of Sir Edward and Sir Lancelot Stirling.  Incidentally Sir Edward was the first chairman of the Stirling District Council.  The chief landowner at Stirling was H. D. Prankard, whose property fronted the east side of the main road.

I was told this road was surveyed by Benjamin Boothby.  That rather surprised me.  The only Benjamin Boothby I know of was he who squabbled so incessantly with his colleagues when he was a judge of the Supreme Court that he was removed from the Bench — the only instance in the history of the State, as far as I know where such a drastic step as the removal of a judge has been taken.

Nevertheless, good or bad, Stirling and Aldgate have always been garden centres.  I know that when things were bad the market gardeners of Stirling need to take their vegetables as far afield as Kadina, because the markets in the city were glutted.  It necessitated them being away from home for a week at a time. That was about 70 years ago.

Secret Grog Stills

In the earliest days of the colony the Customs hadn't discovered the science of strangling industries as they are doing today with South Australia's big wine trade by the imposition of thumping imports on the manufacture of ardent spirits.  For years in pioneer times it was perfectly legal to make as much wine, spirits, or beer on your own premises as you chose, and to make it as strong as you liked.  Of course that was a state of things which could not be permitted to go on indefinitely.  The time came when legislation was passed to bring these stills, breweries, and wineries under control.

It was then that the illicit still became an institution in the hills.  Many people resented the curtailment of their privileges regarding the manufacture of alcoholic liquors.  They decided to defy the law, and the in accessible gullies of the Mount Lofty Ranges were ideal locations for the manufacture of illegal grog.  There were places in plenty where you could procure an afternoon's forgetfulness provided you had the proper passport.  One of these, which was the pet abomination of the enterprising Crafers, was situated at the top of Gleeson's Hall.  It caught the thirsty teamsters when they got to the summit of that steep pinoh and before they could reach 'the more distant and regular pubbery at Crafers.  A man named Miller owned this sub rosa drinkery, and Crafers decided to catch him.

So a trooper was sent ito visit Mr. Miller.  The officer asked for a nobbler of whisky.  Miller was shocked at the request.  But he offered to supply a glass of water for 1/-, explaining that the remuneration was necessary, because he had to carry the water a great distance.  The day being hot, the trooper handed over his shilling.  Then Miller produced a bottle, explaining that it was his own private whisky, and that, having conceived a genuine regard for his unknown visitor, he would "kill" the water with some grog.  Accordingly an obviously illegal sale took place in a perfectly legal manner, and both Crafers and the policeman had to admit that the astute Mr. Miller had been too smart for them.  But dont try that trick today.  The law has been tightened up somewhat since the early fifties.

Still In A Swamp

Now I will tell you of another still which led a secret existence in a swamp surrounded by dense tea-tree at the foot of Hardeman's Hill, now called Clough's Lookout.  It was on the north-west side of the hill.  The police knew that illegal spirits were being made in the vicinity, but for a long period could not find the place.  More than once they followed the tracks left by the horses of the suspected people.  But these tracks always led them further and further from the still — though they never knew it.  The explanation was that the distillers, who were blacksmiths, had shod their horses with shoes which were reversed, and they kept them reversed whenever they were making in the direction of the plant.

Of course, you can fool the police, like the people, some of the time, but you can't fool them all the time.  The day came when the grog-makers became uneasy over the number of "suspicious characters" intermittently poking about the scrub.  So one dark night they betook themselves and their "factory" to a more remote hiding place at Scott's Greek.  Whether they eventually came into the waiting arms of the law history does not say, but if I were a betting man I would lay long odds that they did.

Hunting Down The Scrubbers

For the information of those who don't know it, I should explain that "scrubbers" are wild cattle.  In the fifties and sixties the hills were thick with them.  They became a real menace to the settlers.  In the days before fences became fashionable the herds of the pioneers strayed over the landscape at their own sweet will, being periodically rounded up by the station hands and branded.  But, of course, no muster was ever so complete that it accounted for all the beasts roaming the wilds.  As long as the herds were showing a satisfactory increase, the owners scarcely ever worried about the odd beasts which strayed into the more inaccessible parts of the hills, where they bred and multiplied, and became veritable outlaws.  Mr. Hill, who well remembers these animals, told me they were mostly Herefords, tame enough in the stock yard, but terribly vicious In the scrub.  On one occasion, in 1872, a mob of be tween 40 and 60 of them were rounded up by the Government, and the whole lot sold by auction for £11.

Of course, the settlers had their own methods of dealing with them.  The favorite one was a hunt, when the beasts were shot down for their hides.  They provided splendid sport for men of nerve, who got as much excitement out of the pastime as the hunters of big game in the jungles.  Among remembered bushmen who took part to such sport were Joe and Harry Saunders, Bill Burton, Mumford, and John and Ted Mildwaters.  These Mildwaters boys, by the way, took part in the construction at the Overland Telegraph.  Mr. Hill told me he met  them three years ago at Wagin (W.A.), when they were in the neighborhood of ninety years of age.  They and Mr. S. J. Westcome, of Renmark, are said to be the only constructors of the telegraph line now living.

Many years ago a trap was erected to catch these roaming cattle.  It was located in a gully off the Aldgate Creek, on a regular cattle pad.  It was a high structure, and very strong, but not a single beast was ever caught.  The "yard" is still in existence, and a source of speculation to those who do not know its story.

Scott's Creek  

Some four miles south of Stirling is a picturesque strip of country called Scott's Creek.  It is named after an early selector, but old-time residents still wax indignant over the honor conferred on Mr. Scott, who was a comparatively late comer into the district, where a number of families were already living when he arrived — W. R. Hill (pioneer and discoverer of the creek), George White, George Mildwaters, and Joseph Brown.  These men were all "squatters."  They settled on their properties, but had no legal tenure.  That was not their fault.  They selected the land and applied for a grant.  But things were done leisurely those days.  Their shacks were built and their land cleared and cultivated before Authority made up its mind about surveying the blocks and granting their applications.  And when it did, Authority had to put the land up for public competition by auction, and there was always the danger of a "squatter" being outbid after putting in a couple of years of slavery, by someone with a longer purse who had never lifted a finger to improve the country.  It was a grave risk every "squatter" took.  Some times their luck didn't hold, and an outsider got the land.  Then there was nothing for it but to shrug one's shoulders philosophically, abandon a couple of years of hard work, and set out for pastures new.

The natives called Scott's Creek "Wedenunga," which meant "rapidly running water."  In the first days of its existence Scott's Creek was known for its big timber — red and blue gum, and stringy bark.  The bush was so thick that men might almost be next door neighbors without knowing of each other's existence.  Indeed, there is a case on record of two old shipmates — William Hill and George Mackereth — accidentally encountering each other in the city after a lapse of years.  Mutual enquiries led to the discovery that for the whole of the period they had been living in the same locality — only three miles apart — each wondering what had become of the other!

"Billy Wuck"

Mention of the big trees of this district reminds me of the story of "Billy Wuck."  "Billy" was not a man; it was a tree — an immense red gum which had seen centuries of aboriginal history pass by, and had reared its defiant head towards the sky long years before the white man dreamt of an unknown continent in the southern seas.  I could not find out how "Billy" got its strange name.  But it was tall and straight and solid at heart —a very monarch of the forest.  "Billy" continued to toe the admiration of tree lovers until the railways came.  They sealed his doom.  He was wanted for sleepers, and one day the forest rang with the "clop," "clop" of the woodmen's axes, and the rasping song of the saws, which was the funeral dirge of the wooden giant.  His trunk yielded nearly 300 broad gauge sleepers, each 8 ft. 6 in. long, and almost as many 7 ft. 6 in. short bed planks.

By the way, it was a settler of Scott's Creek, Archie Gall, who was reputed to have had the first bullock team in the hills.

J. Bond Phipson

How many people remember J. Bond Phipson, one of the most eccentric characters who ever roamed the hills?  It is certain I would never have made the acquaintance of Mr. Phipson, post humously, of course, if it hadn't been for that unconquerable habit of his of lifting his elbow.  This landed him even tually in the inebrites' retreat at Belair, from which point he made excursions to every part of the mountains, threatening all and sundry with summary punishment if they happened to laugh in his vicinity.  He was convinced everybody was laughing at him.

John BondPhipson is worth chronicling.  He was well connected in England, and came to South Australia in 1838 as a youth of 17.  He had recommendations to influential people.  He was a shipmate of Major O'Halloran's whose guest he was at his home near Adelaide.  Governor Gawler appointed him a clerk at Government House in 1839.  Later he was made clerk to the Resident Magistrate, and clerk of the Local Court at Adelaide.  He held the latter position for eleven years.  All this indicates that J. Bond Phipson, who was a man of considerable talent, should have risen to almost any height in South Australia.

But he didn't.  On the contrary, he crashed badly.  He couldn't beat the drink.

I have a letter before me as I write, addressed to Governor Daly which is pathetic in its simplicity.  "It may be urged against me," says Phipson, "that I have been repeatedly fined for drunkenness.  This in shame and sor row I admit, but in extenuation I would urge that I have suffered reverses of fortune unparalleled, I believe, in the history of any man in this colony."

Phipson's greatest disappointment came in 1850.  That year Sir Henry Young appointed him Government Resident at Guichen Bay (now Robe).  The post was a sort of Deputy Governorship.  Phipson had completed his arrange ments to leave Adelaide, when, a day or so before the steamer sailed, he was notified that the appointment had been cancelled, "chiefly," complains Phipson, "on the ground that Mrs. Phipson was not a suitable lady to grace Government House at Guichen Bay, I having married my servant girl, a young Irish woman, reared and brought out by Captain Bagot."

It was, however, not, the humbleness of Mrs. Phipson's birth which counted against this strange man, but his own curious temper which, inflamed by drink, was capable of committing any indiscretion.  For instance, on one occasion he was bound over to keep the peace for throwning stones through windows of a house in the city in which his wife had taken refuge during one of his violent outbursts.  I don't think any South Australian would welcome the spectacle of a Governor acting in that way, except perhaps, an enterprising reporter with a nose for news.

Which reminds me that Phipson trod the uncertain path of journalism for some ten years after he left South Australia, first as law reporter on the Melbourne "Argus," and then sub-editor.  Those were the days of Bohemian news papermen.  Thank heavens they are no more.

Things never did seem to go right with poor Phipson.  He inherited a fortune from his mother.  Before he got possession of it the banker who was to transmit it failed and Phipson got nothing.  It was then he returned to South Australia and became a well known figure in the hills about Stirling and Aldgate.  I could tell you many strange things about this remarkable man, who would have been a genius could he have conquered his weakness, but space forbids.  Phipson died in May, 1880 at the age of 59.  He Is buried in West terrace Cemetery.

Equally interesting as an oddity, though of quite a different type, was Edward Hamilton, the first schoolmaster at Stirling.  He subsequently became Protector of Aborigines.  Hamilton's peculiarity was that he never rode in a coach.  He had a withered leg, and walked on crutches.  Notwithstanding this disability he could beat most men with two sound members.  Though he made frequent journeys to and from the city he always walked.  "He was the smartest man on crutches I ever saw," remarked my informant.  In 1865 he became clerk the Local Court at Adelaide, and in 1873 Sub-Protector of Aborigines.

Bushrangers Near Mountain Hut

The vicinity of the Mountain Hut  used to be a favorite lurking place for gentry of unsavory reputations during the boom days of the Victorian diggings, where they would lie in wait for miners on their way back to Adelaide with their gold.  There were many cases of "sticking up" until Tolmer's gold escort was organised to secure the safe transport of the precious metal of the South Australian diggers.

In front of the post-office at Stirling is a natural spring.  It is now surrounded by a garden.  But before Stirling began its very effective scheme of street beautification it was in the open.  In the days of the teamsters this spring was a favorite stopping place after the stiff climb from the plains.  The sweating horses would be pulled up here, and willing hands would drench them with buckets of cold water.

Stirling, Aldgate, Mount Lofty, Mylor!  Each is a beauty spot.  Spring, summer, and autumn they are a riot of color.  The controlling authority, utilising the natural beauty of the hills as a background, has turned the country side into a huge garden.  Their efforts have been splendidly assisted by public-spirited citizens, who have presented trees and shrubs on a lavish scale for street adornment.  The council has received over £800 worth of these offerings, and widespread encouragement in its policy of ornamenting the roads.

One other fact about Stirling before I close this article.  It was there in Moss's old jam factory, that the codlin moth, the bugbear of orchardists, started its career in this State.  It is said to have been imported in some dried fruit.  It was also at Stirling, on Dr. Hamilton's property, that the first spraymg experiments for combating the pest were carried out.


  • William Rowe Hill, discoverer of Scott's Creek.
  • The Aldgate Pump in the late sixties Or early seventies. Road on left   goes to Mount Barker, and that fronting the house to Mylor and Echunga. — Courtesy of tbe Archives.