Talk Given to the Mount Barker Branch of the National Trust of South Australia on 1st March 2016 in the Mount Barker Uniting Church Hall by Don Goldney, Branch Chairman

There are a number of items that I will cover today that involve stories that have been published and later found to be wrong. 

One of the problems with these myths is that they are perpetuated by unknowing and unsuspecting people and taken as correct and truthful.  There is work by consultants who thinking that source documents are correct continue to substantiate these myths. 

This is particularly so when we look at the Local Heritage Register, but more about that later.

Myth number 1.

The memorial to Collet Barker at the corner of Wellington Road and Maldon Street.  If you look at the wording on the monument you will read, “Erected to the memory of Captain Collet Barker of HM 39 regiment of Foot who discovered the District of Mount Barker that bears his name.  He was killed by the Blacks on the 30th April 1831 while endeavouring to ascertain the communication between Lake Alexandrina and Encounter Bay.”

This monument would indicate that Captain Barker walked through the District of Mount Barker.  However, in reality the nearest that Barker got to Mount Barker was Mount Lofty.  There is an article by John Morphett printed by the State Library which I have but can not find it at the moment which points out this mistake which I think was made by the Chairman of the Council at that time.

Also I am not sure what is meant by ascertaining the communication between Lake Alexandrina and Encounter Bay.

Myth number 2.

I always find it interesting to read the tourist brochures for the Adelaide Hills.  The next two myths came as a result of reading these magazines.  When writing to the Editor he replied that he got the information from the Local Councils but was not more specific.

One blatant error was that Robert Barr Smith was knighted and was a premier of South Australia.  Robert Barr Smith refused a knighthood and had no interest in being a politician although his expertise was often sought by politicians.  Another mistake with the name Barr Smith is to place a hyphen between Barr and Smith.

Myth number 3.

There are ghosts in Millie’s Shop in Gawler Street.  For those who may not know the name Millie comes from the previous owner.  Millie Watts married Dick Daniels and Millie lived in the house after her husband’s death.  When I read this I referred the matter to her sister in law Mary Watts who said the story was a figment of someone’s imagination.  At no time was there a ghost in the house.

Myth number 4.

The next myth was one in which I was involved.  I am not sure where it began but when we did the previous Walks Brochure this matter was included.  This issue relates to the house 1 Mann Street which is now the Photographer’s business.  For many years it was thought that this was the Station Master’s house.  How I got influenced on this point is a bit of a mystery as in the 1950’s when I was at Mount Barker a fellow High School student was Bob McMahon and he lived in this house and his family were not involved with the railways.  In 2007 at the Combined Heritage Meeting there was a talk on John Banks Stephenson who came out to Adelaide as the first school teacher.  He later came to Nairne then Mount Barker and from number 1 Mann Street he began the first Post Office.  So by good fortune as it were I found the real heritage and history of this home.  Unfortunately I have seen a consultant’s report referring this site as the Station Master’s house.  So I am looking forward to the coming Walks Brochure where the correct information will be given.  I tell this story that even people with good intentions make mistakes.  In the case of Mount Barker it is unfortunate that the Courier was only commenced in 1880 and so much of the early history is not recorded and thus some assumptions are made some correct others wrong.

Myth number 5.

Those of you who have been involved with family histories will know that all that is written in newspaper may not be correct.  In fact dates given by members of the family are often not correct.  This occurred to me recently while doing some research for the Womens Pioneer Memorial.  I was doing research in regard to Mary Dutch nee Rundle for a story for the Mayor as Mary with her parents was one of the earliest female inhabitants of Mount Barker.

In the Courier article on her death it stated she married Charles Dutch in 1850.  Then I looked at the death notice for Charles Dutch and found that he came to Mount Barker after a time at the Victorian goldfields and therefore the marriage could not have occurred in 1850.  Referring to the St James Anglican Church history I found that they were actually married in 1853.  So if you can check other sources do so.

Myth number 6.

Another myth I found occurred also with working on the Womens Pioneer Memorial and this case involved involves the spelling of a name.  One of the three owners of the first Special Survey was Duncan McFarlane.  Often linked with Duncan is Lachlan McFarlane.  Over the years it has been difficult to determine the relationship between the two, if any.  Also the spelling was uncertain.  While doing the Pictorial Book in 2001 this was a hot topic and Alan Wittwer was adamant that the spelling was Macfarlan, MACFARLAN with a small “f”.  Again by checking the death notices in the Courier the spelling was Macfarlan.  Also again the history book of St James Anglican Church confirmed this spelling.  Let me close this story with a little romance.  Louise Macfarlan’s maiden name was Lubash from Hahndorf whose father Gottfried Lubasch, an old German colonist was the local carrier of the mail.  With a little pony and a small spring cart the old man could be seen winding his way over the rugged roads of the Mount Lofty ranges.  At this time the residents of Mount Barker District had to be content with a weekly mail.  Louise sometimes filled in for her father and delivered and collected the mail.  It is possible that the mail business could have been carried out at the Oakfield Hotel (now Auchendarroch) under the watchful eye of Lachlan.  The two later married.

Another interesting piece of nothing was in trying to determine which of her three Christian names was the one that Louise used.  It is disappointing that most death notices of that time do not give the Christian names of women.  In most cases for example they are referred to as the wife of Lachlan Macfarlan.  However, the St James history book gave her third name as the one she used when she died so that is the name used on the Womens Pioneer Memorial plaque.  It pays to check from as many sources as possible.

Myth number 7.

Nixon Mill has been on the radar recently with plans to reinvigorate the area.  For many years there has been a lot of confusion whether the mill is in Mount Barker or Hahndorf.  It was only recently that while looking at details for the new Walks Brochure that I referred to the Mount Barker Heritage Register and there was a Nixon Mill entry on the State Heritage Places.  So reference MtB/SH 14 ( Mount Barker/State Heritage) relates to Nixon Mill and thus even though it is on the boundary of both towns it is officially classified as Mount Barker.

Myth number 8.

Sometimes even educational institutions get history wrong.  I am not sure where it came from but a bus load of visitors were visiting Mount Barker and were given a hand-out relating to the Town of Mount Barker.  In the document handed to me reference was made that in addition to William Hampden Dutton, Duncan McFarlane and John Finnis, John Baton Hack was added.  Correctly John Barton Hack was involved with the First Special Survey but was beaten by the other syndicate who won under very dubious conditions.  It is unfortunate that such information gets into the hands of people who take it as truth and so the fact is carried on by innocent people.  I know of PhD theses that choose one writer over another and as a result perpetuate wrong information.

Myth number 9.

Wrong details concerning John Dunn.  Even journalists in the Sunday Mail can get things totally wrong.  In an undated article it states the following about John Dunn.  “Mount Barker’s pioneers were generally a long-lived lot.  John Dunn, a district benefactor who developed 11 mills and later became an MP, died at 92.  He knew nothing about milling when he built a windmill around an old tree in 1842 without taking into account the prevailing winds.”  The fact is that prior to coming to South Australia John was managing a mill.

Myth number 10.

Also in the same article the original “Oakfield Hotel” was called the “Oakland Hotel”.

Myth number 11.

Walter Paterson.   Another error or myth in this same article is as follows; “The other development was the invention of a wheat stripper by Walter Paterson, which many people say preceded the better known Ridley stripper”.  In fact what actually happened that Walter Paterson made some practical changes to the Ridley Stripper.

So just from one newspaper article there are three myths which could be perpetrated by well meaning people reading this article.

Myth number 12.

Let me give a few incorrect details from the Local Heritage Register for Mount Barker which are not necessarily myths but are not correct.  Unfortunately although Dick Mills and myself on behalf of the National Trust tried to correct some errors we were over ruled by the then Council staff.  Again as most researchers and consultants use the heritage register as a reference source these mistakes are carried on.

I remember that at one of our Branch meetings when Ronda Jaensch was speaking she indicated that details relating to the Heinrich home need adjusting.

In the case of the Churches some of the details need correction.  Until the Incorporation Act which I think became law in the 1980’s the ownership of churches and similar organisations was vested in Trustees.  Despite our pleas the Trustees were indicated as owners of the church property.

In the case of the Freemason’s building in Hutchinson Street the wrong original owner is shown.  John Dunn originally sold this land to the Primitive Methodist Church when the Presbyterian lawyer stated that there were only two recognised churches, The Church of England and the Church of Scotland.  As a result the half completed church building was vacated by John Dunn and the two Methodist Church congregations of The Primitive and Wesleyan Methodist Churches.  It was some years later that a church service was held in the building.

The Dunn Memorial has incorrect information too about original ownership.  Also the dates for the Methodist manse and bell tower are not correct as they were not built in 1851 like this hall which was the original Wesleyan Methodist Church.  Rather the manse was built in 1857 and the bell tower in 1928.

The adjoining Kindergarten Hall is shown as the Dunn Memorial Church Kindergarten.  It was the Methodist Church Kindergarten building.  Even the old manse is shown as the Dunn Memorial Church Manse.  The only building to be designated Dunn Memorial is the church.

If you are referring to the Local Heritage Register you need to be wary of some of the dates used as some are not correct.

The Laurels.  Is shown as built in 1864 rather than 1857/8.

The Former Nephalist (Teetotal) House 18 Cameron Road.  This shop was the first custom built shop in Mount Barker run by Ann Dunn the wife of the Flour Miller John Dunn.  For many years it was thought that the shop adjacent to Gray’s Inn in Gawler Street was Mrs Dunn’s shop.

There is a reference to the police station and court house being the same building.  However, according to a friend of mine he said that the court house was near the present CWA Hall.  He told me rather sadly that as a young lad he helped his father demolish the building.  He did not tell many about this as he was sad that the old building was not left as a heritage site.

A reference to the row of cottages in Morphett Street states that these cottages were built before the railway line to Murray Bridge when in fact it was the railway line to Victor Harbor.

At this stage I want to make it clear that the young graduate Fiona Gardiner who under very difficult conditions completed the Local Heritage Register for Mount Barker and Nairne.  Unfortunately she was let down by some of the Planning Staff at that time.  But what I am trying to point out that if you refer to these documents be careful.

Perhaps it is time to leave some of the myths and look at some other bits and pieces.  These stories came from the book with various articles but all are undated.

1. A police station for Nairne.

The following item in November 1882 issue of Frearson’s Weekly.

The question as to the establishment of a police station at Nairne was brought forward by Mr Rees on Friday night.  The Chief Secretary declared that the people of Nairne were so very orderly that the Government did not think it necessary to make any special haste to erect the police station there.  The locals said we do not like the answer at all.  It was poor old Mrs X was criminally assaulted by Myles Y whose trial for the offence is soon to come on for hearing.  We think on the contrary that taking into consideration the fact that no one attempted to interfere with the culprit on the occasion referred to, Nairne cannot too soon have a police establishment; aye, and a stipendiary magistrate who has the courage to do his duty, too.

2. The good old days

22nd December 1893.  At the Adelaide Gaol on Tuesday two prisoners were flogged.  One received 12 lashes with the cat-o-nine tails for indecent assault at Nairne and took his punishment with fortitude.  The other prisoner was convicted of a revolting assault at Callington yelled at the first blow and howled throughout the flogging of 20 lashes.

3. A good story from early Methodism.

Rev Robert Flockhart (1858) was a faithful and energetic minister with a good business ability.  An unusual story is told about him while conducting an anniversary service at Strathalbyn which was in the Mount Barker Circuit at that time.  He announced at the public meeting that the contributions did not come up to the sum wanted and to the amazement of all present he had the door locked and pocketed the key and said that he would not allow them to leave until the sum was made up.  After some persuasion the money was forthcoming and the door unlocked.

4. Details from notes by retired Police Officer Superintendent Bob Potts at a Branch meeting.

On 28/4/1838 the first Police force in the Colony was established for the enforcement of law and order, maintenance of the Queen’s peace, and prevention and detection of crime.

In 1840/41 a cordon of Police Stations were built at Gawler, Encounter Bay, Willunga, Wellington and Mount Barker.  A tent was the beginnings at Mount Barker on the site of the present Police Station.  A pug and pine building was then erected and stood from 1840 to 1939 when it was demolished.  Similar to Gawler, Kadina and Woodside the Mount Barker Police Station has always been situated at the same location.

The Mount Barker Station has been

  • The mother Station of the Hills

  • Early staffing records showed that there was a senior officer in charge along with mounted constables and troopers.

Now Mount Barker is the Divisional Head Quarters for the Hills and to the Murray.

In 1875 the cellblock was built.  In 1909 extensions were made to the brick building and this is evident when you inspect the building.

The early days saw the police working seven days a week and discipline was strongly enforced.  Policing included theft of mails and property, lost people, investigations into deaths and fires, escort of prisoners to the Courts, protecting mentally retarded people, oversight of the Station and meals and grooming of the horses.  In the early days larceny of horses was just as bad as the modern day car thefts. The execution of warrants issued by the Courts and the State Government Departments meant the local Police had to try and apprehend the culprits.  Bushrangers were not that prevalent in South Australia.

Although there has been a recent uproar about police carrying arms it has always been an armed force.

The Police paddock at Mount Barker covered a large area behind the Hotel Barker in Gawler Street.  The paddock was built so it could accommodate horses for the local constabulary, and expeditions and surveys carried out by and for the State Government.

5. Article in the Sunday Magazine.

The undated article talks about a visit to Historic Mount Barker.  In the following report there are a number of errors.  The first is a reference to Oakland Hotel which should be Oakfield Hotel which later became Auchendarroch.  Then there is a further reference to Walter Paterson being the inventor of the Stripper Machine.  Fact is that John Ridley made the original Stripper but Walter Paterson made a few modifications to make it more practical.  Another mistake was “John Dunn knew nothing about milling when he built a windmill around an old tree in 1842”.  The fact is that from an early age he was apprenticed to a miller and prior to coming to South Australia in 1840 he was managing a mill in England.  So we need to check other sources sometimes when referring to newspaper article.

6. Bell name shines on

The Bell family were pioneer farmers in the Mount Barker District living on the property at Dalmeney Park on Springs Road.  The Branch had a number of fund raising functions on this property.  Betty Bell was Branch Secretary for many years until her death.  Allan died last year and for the past few years had been living with his son in Canberra.

Allan sold of parts of his land but in the end sold all but a parcel around the house.  One of the main reasons for the final sell off was that the home owners in the surrounding areas were cutting his wire fences so that their family dogs could have a free run around the Bell property.  Unfortunately some attacked and scarred the cattle so that they had to be sold.

7. Fears for the Dunn Memorial Church

In c 2005 the Uniting Church minister at Mount Barker decided to put the church property up for sale and use the proceeds to build a more up to date church complex.  A letter to the Editor of the Courier from a man who was not a member of the Uniting Church sent alarm bells ringing through the community at the thought that the church property could be sold and the Dunn Memorial Church demolished.  Although the article does not refer to the Mount Barker Branch of the National Trust involvement, Dick Mills, Allan Wittwer and Don Goldney made contact with the State Heritage Department in order to have the property listed on the State Heritage List.  As a result a Department Officer came to Mount Barker and was convinced of the heritage value of the property and the Church was duly listed.


There are a few other items I have here but I am sure that what I have already said is suffice for today.  Again let me reiterate that we need to at all times look at multiple sources for the correct details.  We need to be careful that we do not extend the errors of others.


Please add any comments on the above here.

Myth number 6.

In copies of a considerable number of Deeds, Memorandums and Indentures which I have, Duncan Macfarlan's name in invariable written or typed in the content as Duncan Macfarlane.  However, in the copy of the plan for the sections contained in the first Special Survey, his signature appears as Duncan Macfarlan (no terminal 'e').  His signature has a flourish at the end which is basically a curved line.   -   [Tony Finnis March 2016]