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 60 Echunga

By Our Special Representative, No. LX  -  Extract From Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954) dated 31 August 1933

More About Early Echunga  -  The Story Of Jacob Hagen 

In this second instalment of the story of Echunga the reader makes the acquaintance of some strange characters, as well as some historic ones, and meets Jacob Hagen, the founder of the town that exists today.  

If I am able to present to you anything like an interesting story of Echunga your thanks and mine are due to Messrs. A. W. Cobbledick (chairman of the Echunga District Council), Stanley Keane (district clerk), Andrew Leslie, G. L. Hampton, Pat and P. E. Kavanagh, Mesdames L. A. Wiese and M. Hall, and Miss E. J. Hough, who on a bitterly cold and wet morning recently put themselves to no small amount of inconvenience to meet me at the local institute.  Some of them came long distances in pouring rain to tell the tales they had to tell, and, but for their co-operation my task would have been a difficult one.

Last week I gave you the story of Echunga district, pioneered by J. B. Hack.  This week I will tell you the tale of Echunga township, founded by a quaker — Jacob Hagen.  It is rather extraordinary that a man who played an important part in the early history of South Australia should be so little known to posterity as Hagen.

Sir George Grey when Governor esteemed him sufficiently important to give him a seat in the first Nominee Council which guided the destinies of the colony at a time when it was "touch and go'" with the small community.  That was in the dark days of the early forties about which I told you last week.  Hagen was a valuable adviser on the prickly problems of the period, and one of the contributors to their solution.  Candidly, I am not a particularly ardent admirer of Hagen.  But that does not debar him from occupying his rightful place in these stories, and his claim to be the founder of Echunga township cannot be ignored.

Sir George Grey, in reporting the appointment of Hagen as a member of the Legislative Council to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in June, 1844 makes him the subject of some eulogy.  Hagen was nominated to take the place of Thomas Williams, who, like Hack, had crashed in the financial entanglements of the day.  His Excellency describes the new member as "a merchant and large landed proprietor," and proceeds to remark that the appointment is subject to confirmation by her Majesty's Government.

"Mr. Hagen," says the Governor, "is a member of the Society of Friends, and I am not aware whether her Majesty's Government may on this account object to the appointment."  Does that not give us a curious sidelight on the prejudices of the period?

However, the Governor continues to laud his choice remarking that "so many circumstances combined to give me a favorable opinion of this gentleman's eligibility for the office that I felt satisfied I could not upon the whole make a better selection."  I have quoted that paragraph for a reason.

Governor Called A “Swindler”

Hardly was the ink dry on this letter before his Excellency changed his opinion.  He sent a second communication to the Colonial Office virtually suggesting that the appointment should not be confirmed.  The root of his objection to his own nominee was that soon after his appointment to the Council Hagen had presided at a meeting in the city where the actions of the Government were criticised in the good, old-fashioned way our bulldog ancestors had when things were not to their liking.  We of today have forgotten the art, and as long as the Government leaves our horse racing alone, and doesn't try to ban the Test matches, we don't worry much about what they do.  The lives of Governments were not so happy in the distant days we write of.  Even the nominee council had to take its "gruel" when the independent spirits of the forties chase to administer it.  However, at this meeting "the most violent language was used in reference to the Government, and some heated  speaker went so far as to describe the governor as "a swindler."  But was Hagen repentant?  Not a bit of it.  He put an advertisement in the '"Observer" under his own name as chairman, repeating in essence the charges made at the meeting.  It was this which roused the Governor's ire.

Right Of Free Speech

Those were the days of slow communication.  In similar circumstances nowadays — assuming they were possible — a cablegram would have been sent to London while the vice-regal breakfast was in progress.  Before lunch his Excellency would have authority to "chuck that incendiary out."  But over six months elapsed before Sir George got a reply to his complaint, and, probably by then he had forgotten what it was all about.  The answer of the Colonial Office was historic.  It practically laid down a rule on the rights of free speech.

"Mr. Hagen," it remarked, "erred in not preventing the introduction of topics foreign to the objects of the meeting," but her Majesty's Government were not prepared to affirm that the position of a Legislative Councillor debars a man from expressing publicly and strongly his opinion of the conduct of the Executive in public matters.  That opinion may be expressed with more or less prudence, but in the course taken by Mr. Hagen her Majesty's Government do not see sufficient ground for his dismissal from the Council."  So ended the incident.

Hagen was a wealthy Quaker.  He reached South Australia in 1839 by the William Barrass, the same ship which brought the Whites, of Wirrabara fame, to these shores.  He was a member of the firm of Hagen & Co., merchants, of London.  He and Hack had been school mates, and the latter always blamed Hagen for ousting him from the Echunga estate.  Hagen brought a good deal of capital to this country, and for a long period was in business in association with Captain John Hart.  He was an uncle of the late Sir Richard Baker.  Hagen returned to England at the end of 1853, and died there fifteen years later.  It was he who cut up portion of the Echunga property into town blocks, and so founded Echunga township.

District Council Formed

What I have just told you will give you the clue to the unusual name borne by Echunga's sole hotel — the Hagen Arms.  I do not know when the original house was erected.  One informant said 1846, another averred there was no hotel there in 1863.  If you are unduly inquisitive on the point you can decide it definitely by searching the licencing records of the time.  What was established at our meeting was that the original "pub'"was a long-fronted place of three low rooms, built of wooden slabs, with a paling roof.  Hagen is supposed to have built it.  Probably he did, for he was never averse to turning an honest penny — and there was money in pubs those days.  But he never "kept" it.  The first publican in command was Joe Fry, though he might have been a man named Sayers.  Both names were given to me, but after the matter had been debated the honor was given to Fry.

What is undeniable, however, is that the house was there in 1853 for in that year the Echunga District Council was launched at a meeting held in the unpretentious building, over which the lordly Hagen himself presided.  He was the first chairman of the council.

One time the Hagen Arms used to flaunt an elaborate coat of arms as the inn sign.  It was a gaily painted thing of much interest to the small boys of the town.  It was there until comparatively recently.  I do not know where it is today — probably destroyed.  That would be a pity. These old inn signs have a distinct historical value and there were many in South Australia in the early days.  I remember in Paris spending an absorbing afternoon studying the old inn signs of ancient France carefully housed in the Musee Carnavalet.  South Australia has not got an "archives'"of that sort, where everything pertaining to the history of Paris is housed, including the costumes of the ages.  And, unless we start to gather these old momentoes now, we never will have.  For old things, like old people, pass away.

Another old hotel, now closed this ten years or more, was the Bridge Inn.  I cannot tell you much about it.  The old building when I saw it a week or two ago was falling into ruin.  But it was a flourishing affair in the sixties.

School In A Dugout

I suppose Echunga's most curious school, though not its first one, was that conducted "by a man named Umpidge or Umprey."  Old memories grow hazy on the subject of schools, even when they retain their freshness about pubs.  That is an aspect of human psychology one might study — if one had the time.  St. Mary's church of England is perched on the top of a hill overlooking the town.  If I lived at Echunga I wouldn't go to church, for I don't like Alpine climbing.  Nature hasn't furnished me with low gear to take the heights at ease, and I don't like blowing like a sperm whale, or breathlessly staring like a dumb fool, when I encounter someone who speaks to me at the top of the rise.  Well, it was in a dugout at the side of this church that the uncertain Mr. Umpidge had his school.  This was so far back in the dim ages that I couldn't learn much about it.  All that I can tell you is that later on the Government built a school on the same site, and the young martyrs of the gold town were there subjected to the customary torture until such time as parents, becoming aware that the heights of Olympus could be too high, insisted on the school occupying a site that was less like a cross between the Woolworth Building and a 16mo edition of Mount Everest.  So the public school was moved to the plain, and the unfortunate head master condemned to use the building in the sky as a residence.

The First School

Searching for the truth is full of excitement.  I don't wonder so many of us stray from the ticklish path of accuracy.  You see, you have only got to get together a dozen or so old towns folk, and ask them a simple question, such as "Who ran the first school?' and you will get so many divers answers that, unless you have had as much experience as I have, you will ruffle your hair in perplexity.  Mais restez calme.  All you have to do is to sit back quietly, and you will find those townsfolk will wrestle with the problem until light emerges from the darkness.  That is what happened at Echunga — just as it has happened at twenty to thirty other towns I have worried with my presence.  Memory plays us quaint pranks when our hair is white and our skin furrowed, and we are asked to recall something that happened years ago and to which we attached no importance at the time.  So my friends debated the point of the first school at Echunga, and awarded the honor to Miss Jeffrey, whose private establishment was located in Susanna street.  That was long before the Government came along with their school in the sixties, but I cannot give you a definite date.  Nor can I tell you anything about the historic Miss Jeffrey.

The next school, also in pre-Government days, was run jointly by Mrs. Buttrose and Miss Creer.  The latter changed her name subsequently to Mrs. George Sanders when she promised to love, honor, and obey a resident of Mount Barker.  You mustn't take my word for the obedience part of the contract, for I've never come across a sample of it yet.  Mrs. Buttrose, I believe, was the widow of a policeman who was thrown off his horse and killed on one of those stony rises I described to you in earlier articles.  Then, in the early sixties, appeared Mr. Sawyer, with the authority of the Government behind him, to lead young Echunga along the path of learning.  He took over Mr. Umpidge's dug-out academy until such time as the Government put up their own building.

A College In The Bush

Now have a look at the picture on this page.  It is unique, because it is an actual photograph of the type of school in the bush in which so many of our grandparents learned to read and write.  Its period is the middle sixties.  It is a wooden slab building with a thatch roof — Miss Parke's Roman Catholic School.  And, I can actually give you the names of all the children — most of them now, unhappily, passed over to the Great Beyond, for the photograph is nearly 70 years old .  Those who are left are the grandmothers and grandfathers of today.  Reading from left to right, the names are: — Back row — David Riddle, Jack Plane, Charles Penrose, Patrick Penrose, and Michael Penrose.  Front — Mary Ann Penrose, Miss E. Parke (teacher), Margaret Hagen, Monica P. Redmond, Elizabeth Redmond, Marie Redmond, Jane Riddle, James Farrell, Mary Ann Farrell, Bridget Farrell, Charles Mumford, Louisa Mumford, Emanuel Mead, and Lucy Mead.  Those names!  How do they strike you as a feat of memory?  They come from Mrs. Pat Kavanagh.

Travelling Parsons Of The Forties

You cannot talk long to a group of veterans in any town without something cropping up about early preachers and their churches.  You see, religion was a vital thing when our grandparents were young.  It sustained them in times of trouble — and pioneer days were mostly trouble.  Old residents talked to me about the Rev. Basil Craig, who was the first resident minister in Echunga, and had charge of St. Mary's Church of England when it came into existence 80 years ago.  But none of them mentioned the Rev. J. B. Austin, one of the earliest — probably the earliest — clergyman to conduct service in those parts.  True, he was not a resident, but he lived at Macclesfield, six miles away, and attended to the spiritual needs of Echunga before it had a parson of its own.  His period was about 1843.  Mr. Austin was a Congregationalist.  When he came to South Australia with a wife and eight children somewhere about that year he had no idea of continuing church work as a profession. He had his eye on the land.  He found a population singularly neglected from a religious standpoint.  There were so few ministers in the colony.  There was nothing for it but to take off his coat in a metaphorical sense, and get to work.  There were no church buildings in this district, and only one house with a room large enough to conduct a service.

So he pitched a tent every Sunday morning with the aid of his eldest son, and took it down every evening.  He did not believe in Sunday work, and at the beginning of his ministry the tent was put up on Saturday nights.  But invariably it was flat on the ground on Sunday morning when the pioneer parson was ready to begin.  You see there were no fences, and the cattle roamed the country at their own sweet will.  They displayed a sacreligious interest in the tent, and ate the ropes.  These services were held at Macclesfield, Echunga, Strathalbyn and Mount Barker — all on the one day.  Austin was 44 when he began this work.  He continued it for 52 years.  The services at Echunga were conducted in a room at Hack's residence.  The congregation represented all denominations.  They came mostly on horseback, or by bullock dray, and a few of them in spring carts which, at that period, were as aristocratic as landaus became in the subsequent and more affluent days of the colony.  The Methodists followed the Anglicans in establishing churches in Echunga, their first building being a brick chapel standing back some dis tance from the present main road.

Story Of Foley The Horse Thief

The hills in the early days were full of strange characters.  I have already related how J. W. Bull's model servant turned out to be a murderer with a price on his head.  Now I am going to tell you of another model servant who was a noted horse thief.  He was named Foley, and was employed as stockkeeper on the Hack's Three Brothers estate near Echunga.  Mr. Foley's chief claim to fame is that he was one of a gang of three or four convicts who were the first of that fraternity to make their way into South Australia from the penal settlements in the east.  Two of the others were named Stone and Stanley.  You made the acquaintance of Stone in one of the articles on Meadows.  To facilitate their journey from the eastern States to South Australia Stone and Stanley stole horses.  In the vicinity of Encounter Bay Foley and his companions fell out about a dog, and separated.  After that there was bad feeling between them.  Foley continued to live about the fishery at Encounter Bay where he was regarded as a nuisance.  So he was sent to Adelaide with a trick message, while at the same time the police were advised of his pending arrival in the city.  As soon as Foley arrived he was arrested.  He proved a model prisoner.  When it was suggested to him that he should assist the police in apprehending his former companions he agreed, and it was through his efforts that they were eventually captured.  The party which took part in the chase included Stephen Hack, who was so impressed by Foley's bearing that, although he knew his record to be a bad one, he engaged him for work on the Three Brothers' estate.  Foley, as I said, was a model servant.  He was entrusted with all kinds of important duties.  And he performed them well.  He worked for the Hacks for two years.  Then Stephen Hack secured a pardon for him from the Governor, and took him with him to England as a servant.  But, alas, the reformation was not complete.  The next one hears of Mr. Foley is of his giving exhibitions of colonial life — rough riding, whip cracking and rounding-up imaginary cattle for the benefit of the dukes and duchesses and the lesser social fry of England.  Then he had a quarrel with another fellow, and stabbed him in the chest.  For that slight pleasantry he again found himself a guest of her Majesty's Government.  But they did not return him to Australia.  He died in prison.

The Old Dairy

The picture of Hack's dairy, published on this page last week, showed the old house just as it was in Hack's time, except that the straw thatch roof has disappeared.  This was the residence.  It was, of course, the first house in Echunga.  The dairy itself was a wooden building with a paling roof, but it has long ago disappeared.  Although ninety-odd years have passed since the house was erected it still contains the original stringy bark floor put down by Hack from timber cut on the property, and there is a stringy bark gate post still standing with five neatly cut holes for slip panels.  It was round this house that the original settlement of Echunga began.  The site of the township was changed later when Hagen cut up the property.  The first milkers Hack sent to the estate were William Warland and Richard Marriage, with some female employes from Yankalilla.  The estate was run as a dairy from the start.  Two of the original stockmen were Sam Steele and Jack Hayward.

I was told that the Old Dairy was the first stone house built on the Echunga side of Adelaide.  In 1839-40 most houses were of wood, built of colonial timber cut by the tiersmen.

The Kavanaghs

I think I mentioned that the Old Dairy is now in possession of Mr. Pat Kavanagh.  This is one of the oldest families in Echunga.  The original Kavanagh took up a holding there in 1846.  The present Pat is his son — now himself a white headed, white bearded grandfather, with a vivid memory of the pioneer days, and still as tough as raw hide despite his venerable burden of the years.  He gave me a description of conditions in the sixties.  He carted wattlebark.  That doesn't sound very exciting.  And it isn't — in 1933.  But try it under the conditions of the period, and there will be another tale.

You see, the carting was done at night, so that market could be reached at daylight.  Echunga was left as dusk was falling, and the object was to reach Schnapper Point (Devil's Elbow, Belair) before daylight.  No one used lights on the vehicles.  Adelaide itself was not lit.  The teamsters never rode.  They walked beside their bullocks all the way.  The oxen were not unharnessed from the time they left Echunga one night until they got back the next, nor did the driver get any sleep over that period.  Mr. Kavanagh carted stones for the erection of the Adelaide Town Hall.

Horses in pioneer times were scarce and dear.  Also they couldn't pull big loads over the steep hills.  The first horse to reach Echunga in harness was driven by the grandfather of Mr. G. L. Hampton, another old identity whose acquaintance I made, and it performed rather a meritorious task — hauling half a ton of shot in a boiler loaded on a dray up the Glen Osmond Hill.

"Half a ton of shot," exclaimed I, aghast. "Were you thinking of starting a war?"   "Well, you see," was the answer, "we had to shoot our own meat at the Old Dairy — and the blacks were a bit bad."

Incidentally these old drays which the pioneers had were built of hickory, and cast iron nails were used.  They were as strong as the men who employed them.

Hack's Bridge At Mylor

At Mylor there is a bridge which is a reminder of the pioneering of this district.  It is a handsome affair today, but is still known locally as Hack's Bridge, although it is the third of its race to be thrown across the Onkaparinga.  You've got as much chance of altering the name as you would have of pawning the Crown jewels.  But Hack's Bridge of today is not on the site of the original one of 1846.  If you wander about quarter of a mile down stream you will come across the abutments of the original structure still defying the ravages of time, though those who built it, and those who used it first, have long since passed behind the veil.  The Kavanaghs crossed this place in their bullock drays at the time the first timbers were being laid, and Mrs. Kavanagh had to be held by the arms while she performed a sort of tight-rope feat before the planks were put on.  The Onkaparinga that day was in flood.  But the bullocks had to swim, a stout rope tied to their horns hinting to them the way they ought to go.  The Old Dairy was reached at midnight on a cheerless evening when the sky was invisible and the country covered with water.

Why Woodchester Was Called "Tinpot"

Until a comparatively recent time the little settlement called Woodchester bore the ugly name of Tinpot.  That was not complimentary to Woodchester 's 200 souls — so they changed it.  And I don't blame them.  But behind the unmusical designation is a story.  In the days when all this country extending from Echunga to the limits of eternity was one immense cattle run, without a single fence to restrict the liberty of the bovine subject, everybody's cattle roamed with everybody else's just where their fancy took them.  It was the job of the cattlemen to sort these animals out at periodic intervals, and some nice disputes there were some times in the process.

One day three of Hack's stockmen — Sam Steele, Tom Hayward, and another whose name has passed from memory — set out to round up some strays which had gone as far as Langhorne's Creek.  When they got to where Woodchester now is, it was agreed that one man should stop there to boil the "billies" and prepare dinner, while the others pushed on after the missing cows.  Soon the smoke-blackened "billies" were swinging over the campfire, and the cook was engrossed in the mysteries of Mrs. Beeton, when he was roused by a series of the most bloodthirsty yells that ever struck terror into a white man's heart.  He looked up to find a big mob of ebony-colored warriors bearing down on him with every evidence of breaking the Kellogg Peace Pact.  There being no League of Nations to appeal to, the cook did the next best thing — he mounted his horse with an alacrity that did honor to his agility, and abandoning his tin pots to the ruthless mercy of the enemy, he set out for the Echunga homestead at a pace which would make the late lamented Phar Lap look silly.  From that day the spot was known as Tinpot — and Tinpot it remained until someone years later when the residents thought that Woodchester sounded a much more pretty name.

I ought to have mentioned earlier that Echunga 's first storekeeper and postmaster was Richard Mylee, who was succeeded by William Gratwick.  Granny Brogan, a picture of whose cottage appears in the supplement, was a noted local character of the early days.  She lived to be a great age, and always kept a pile of logs on the road in front of the cottage.  Kind-hearted neighbors passing the place used to stop and cut her a supply of wood.  She was too old to do it herself.


  • Jacob Hagen
  • A bush school of wood, with thatched roof, in 1867. The names of the whole of the students are given in the story on this page.