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Echunga is a small vibrant town in the Adelaide Hills located 34 km south-east of Adelaide and 8 km south from Hahndorf in South Australia. The area was initially settled in 1839, with the town laid out in 1849. Population was 1050 at the time of the 2011 census.
In 1839 John Hagen, a wealthy English Quaker businessman, decided that Echunga would be an ideal location for a Quaker settlement. He purchased land off another Quaker J. Barton Hack, built the Hagen Arms Hotel and tried to create a model village with wheat fields, dairy herds and a vineyard. By 1843 he was bankrupt.
in 1854, the Hagens returned to England , but retained much property at Echunga, which they left in the care of their land steward, George Sanders. Although Hagen was bankrupt the vineyard he had planted continued to yield good quality grapes and it is possible that the first South Australian wine to be exported was an Echunga hock which was served to Queen Victoria in 1845.
Gold was discovered in 1852 and Echunga became the first proclaimed goldfield in South Australia. This led to a gold rush, however it did not last long with the diggings exhausted and all but abandoned within a year. Subsequent discoveries in 1853 and 1854 led to smaller and equally short-lived rushes. In 1868 more gold was discovered at nearby Jupiter Creek, which proved to be a much larger and long-lived field. For a brief time the town prospered and it has been estimated that at its peak it had grown to a population in excess of 1200.
The town reputedly takes its name from an aboriginal (Kaurna) word 'eechungga' which may mean either 'a short distance' or 'close by'. Echunga is part of Battunga Country.