Nixon's Windmill c1915.LOCATION:   Mount Barker Road - Midway Between Hahndorf and Mount Barker

There are many stories and events concerning Nixon's Windmill and a number of them are included below:

Battle at Windmill Hill

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.

In 1846 the Windmill Hill area and Nixon's Mill was the site of an Aboriginal conflict.  The following articles give some insight into this occurrence.

TOWNS, PEOPLE and THINGS WE OUGHT TO KNOW - 1933, March 23  [Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p.44]

"Hundreds of travellers on the Mount Barker road pass the old mill on Windmill Hill every day. Thousands more know it well.  It is close to the road, about midway between Mount Barker and Ambleside.  But how many know that it marks the site of a terrific battle some time in the forties between the Mount Barker and Encounter Bay tribes.  I will tell you the story of the mill presently.  Just now I want to say something about the fight. 

It occurred while Walter Patterson was the owner of the old-fashioned tower.  For a long time the blacks of Encounter Bay had been nursing a grudge against the Mount Barker tribe.  Eventually the yearn to spill their rivals' blood became so overpowering that they sallied forth, armed with spears and waddies, and a copious supply of native profanity, to "take it out of the hides" of the dusky gentlemen of the mount.  But the warriors of the heights heard them coming, and they, too, went forth in the latest fashion of warpaint, and without the latest edition of Marquis of Queensberry rules.  The rivals met on the hill where the old mill, at that time in its early in fancy, worked away oblivious of such trifling matters as life and death and dusky warfare.  There was such shouting of defiant epithets one morning early that Patterson peered out of the window of his hut to see what it was all about.  He saw large bodies of whirling black activity engaged in the playful game of trying to pin each other to gum trees like a collector pins butterflies in a specimen case.  Getting his wife and children together, he hurried them over to the mill, where he locked them in, bidding them stay there quietly until he came to release them.  Then, with a couple of other men, he walked over to the battlefield to inform the combatants that it was "bad form" to use his property for the purpose of sending each other to Kingdom Come.  He might have saved himself the trouble.  Those ebony sons of the soil were too intent on breaking the sixth commandment (Anglican version, please) to pay much attention to a couple of unarmed whites.  So Patterson and Co. had to sit about idly while the colored disputants continued the argument. 

But not for long.  Rumors of the impending trouble had reached the long ears of authority.  While Biljim of Encounter Bay was telling Biljim, of Mount Barker, exactly the disgraceful sort of thing his ancestry was, a squad of troopers, with drawn swords, dashed over the rise, and the niggers scattered for cover like a flock of mice for their holes when puss puts in an appearance.  The troopers got hold of the ringleaders, made them swear friendship for the rest of their lives, and told them what would happen to them if they forgot it.  So the Great War ended.  That was nearly 90 years ago."

'MOSTLY MOUNT BARKER in SOUTH AUSTRALIA', by Vivien S Martin - Extract from p65

A grand-daughter of Walter Paterson tells the story of an extraordinary scene which took part soon after the building of the mill was completed, owing to a feud between the aboriginal tribes of Encounter Bay and Mount Barker.

"The scene of action was Windmill Hill, where belligerents met, and battle was set in array.  Mr Paterson, being alarmed, gathered his wife and young family together and locked them in the windmill, whilst he and one or two other white men did their best to quell the trouble.  In this way they were powerless.  The fight however did not last long, as mounted troupers with drawn swords and revolvers were speedily on the scene, and suppresses the disturbance.  Explanations were offered and an honorable understanding having been arrived at, the warriors dispersed, and the Encounter Bay tribe treked back to the sea coast."

Strange Encounter at Nixon’s Mill

In an article in the Chronicle dated 13/10/1938, Eric Fairey described a strange encounter he had with an old itinerant Indian hawker at Nixon’s Mill one wintry afternoon in 1901 when he was a lad aged 15.  Subsequent information he gained in England in 1918 added considerably to his knowledge of the encounter.

The original lengthy article has been summarised below by Tony Finnis (Hahndorf).


One afternoon in 1901 while on holiday in Mount Barker from Glen Osmond, Eric Fairey, then aged 15, rode a bicycle out to the old mill.  When reaching the mill a sudden downpour of rain forced him to take shelter there.  After some time he heard the rattle of wheels and horse’s hoofs on the nearby road leading into Mount Barker.  Looking out he saw a covered wagon which he recognised as belonging to Rajal Singh, an Indian hawker, who regularly called on his mother at Glen Osmond about every 6 months to display colourful shawls and silks from the Orient for sale.

Rajal Singh requested Eric to help him to carry up a large box to the mill.  Within a short space of time, the interior of the old mill was decorated with colourful shawls and long lengths of silk that looked like royal banners.  It was obvious that Rajal Singh had brightened the interior of the mill on previous occasions.  A cloth of gold-like material was spread on the box and on this was placed two lamps with red glass oil filled bowls, broad lamp bases and orange shades.  Once lit, the lamps bright orange light changed the previously gloomy interior of the mill so that the old dingy walls were now warm with colour and the banner-like shawls and silk-lengths that hung down them were enriched.  Rajal Singh then took a small idol which he reverently placed upon the long box draped with the golden cloth, and then bowed his head to the earthen floor of the mill.

Some years before, Eric had noticed that the old hawker had two fingers missing from his left hand, and was surprised that he now seemed to repeatedly point out this fact to the small idol to which he was making obeisance.  For nearly half an hour Rajal Singh continued his worship of the idol which Eric described as a small ugly deity with one eye which appeared to be a large piece of green glass set in its ebony-like head.  The mutilated hand and the worship of the one-eyed god gradually made Eric feel very uncomfortable and so he waited outside the mill.

Rajal Singh then reverently took up his god which he placed back in its box.  The wall decorations were taken down, and soon Eric was helping the old Indian carry his belongings back to the wagon.  There Eric was given a bright scarf and a silk handkerchief for his services.  As the old man's ramshackle wagon went rattling down the hill towards Mount Barker, Eric little realised the wealth it transported on its travels.

Some years later in 1918, Eric Fairey was a soldier-guest at a retired Indian Army officer’s home in a Midlands county of England.  Colonel Lauriston’s home held many curios and antiques, and one night after dinner he gave Eric the history of certain of his treasures.  In particular, he pointed out a small idol and stated that "This is Gonji, a god worshiped by the Hindus of Guldustan, a province of India's hill country. I wish this little god was one of the four Gonji gods taken from Guldustan in 1879. The eye of each of those gods was an emerald of enormous value."  On hearing this, Eric told Colonel Lauriston of his experience with Rajal Singh in 1901.

Colonel Lauriston was absolutely amazed at what Eric said and questioned him regarding the details and particularly Rajal Singh’s mutilated left hand.  After considerable thought, Colonel Lauriston told Eric "Your Indian hawker was once a prince of Guldustan, and the green eye of the god you saw was worth a king's ransom.  It was one of the four emeralds of Mirzan."  After Eric expressed doubt regarding this, Colonel Lauriston suggested that they sat down while he attempted to convince him that it was correct.

Colonel Lauriston then explained that in 1879 he was a Captain attached to the Army Intelligence Corps in India and was sent as the Government representative to the principality of Guldustan on a special mission.  This was to determine why the Rajah had abdicated and with his three brothers had left the country and that Guldustan was now ruled by a cousin of the ex-Rajah.  Lauriston soon ascertained that the real rulers were the fanatical temple priests who served the god Gonji.  Also, that the ex-Rajah had been the owner of famous jewels including the ‘Four Emeralds of Mirzan’ noted for their size and beauty.  For many years the temple priests had coveted these emeralds for their god, and a request by the priests to the Rajah to honor Gonji with them had been refused.  Two days after the Rajah had declined to part with the exquisite jewels they were stolen from the palace.

The Rajah, suspecting that they had been stolen at the instigation of the priests, went to the temple together with his three brothers where they confronted the priests and accused them of theft.  The priests explained that the god Gonji, angered at the Rajah's refusal to give him the gems, had himself left the temple overnight and had taken the emeralds while the Rajah slept.  To allay suspicion, the Rajah decided to appear to believe the story told by the priests and that he did not resent the alleged act of the god.

A little later the Rajah sent a gift of exquisite wine to Gonji, knowing that the priests would drink it.  At midnight, when the priests lay drugged on the floor of the temple, the emeralds were recovered by the four brothers.  Although incensed by the theft perpetrated by the priests, these men were Hindus and believers in the god Gonji, and for them it was no light matter to take from the god the gems given it by the priests.  To appease the god, the Rajah took a sacrificial knife from the altar on which animals were sometimes sacrificed and from his left hand which had taken the emeralds he cut off two fingers, one of which carried his royal ring.  The amputated fingers were left on the altar with the knife.  That night the palace jeweller fitted the four emeralds into the heads of four small Gonji gods kept for private worship by the brothers.  When dawn broke the Rajah and his brothers had left Guldustan.  No one knew where they had gone.  They carried away with them much wealth in the form of jewels and their four gods whose single eyes were the emeralds of Mirzan.

Colonel Lauriston concluded by saying to Eric Fairey: “That is the story told to me by the new Rajah of Guldustan in the year 1879.  To my mind there seems to be little doubt that the old Indian hawker you knew in South Australia was the Rajah who, with his three brothers, left Guldustan in that year.  One can only make conjecture as to the cause of his humble walk in life as a hawker of silks and satins.  I am inclined to think that the gems carried away by the Rajah and his brothers were stolen from them.  Hinduism is practised throughout India and the brothers may have been watched and robbed at the instigation of the Priests of Gonji.  The ex-Rajah, at least, retained his small god.  As you watched him worshiping it in that old mill in South Australia, he was evidently striving to impress upon his idol that he had sacrificed two fingers of his left hand in expiation of what he believed to be a crime.  But if he had taken the four emeralds of Mirzan from the big temple god, he had returned them to four smaller Gonji gods.  He was evidently now a poor man who allowed his god to retain one of the world's most valuable and beautiful Jewels.”

Caught by the Windmill

As stated by Anni Luur Fox in her publication "Hahndorf - A Journey Through the Village and It's History" , ..... Sometime later the miller’s daughter became caught in one of the mill’s sails and was tossed in the air.  Mabel Baker did a full revolution before her anxious parents were able to extricate her.  She was unhurt but impressed with the power of the wind.

WINDMILLS OF THE EARLY FORTIES — Stephen Parsons  -   Portion of Letter To the Editor - Advertiser 21/7/1928  [Extracted by Bernard Arnold]

Sir — I feel gratified at the interest aroused by my article on the above heading.  Quite a number have seen me personally and others have communicated by post.  Unfortunately no one belonging to the period when these mills were in operation is amongst them, as they have all passed into the unseen, but many of the generation following seem much interested, especially in the old windmill on Windmill Hill.  A week or two ago a very elderly lady waited on me and informed me that she was the daughter of Mr Paterson, the first proprietor of the mill, and that she was born in the little cottage adjoining the windmill.  From a story she narrated, she should be congratulated on being alive to tell the tale, which is as follows:–  In the early days of her babyhood, when just able to toddle, she one day got so near the revolving arms of the mill that one of them tossed her into the air, and it was only by the timely rescue of her father that the episode did not end in tragedy! .........

Spring-heeled Jack

[sketch by Anni Luur Fox]After F.W. Wittwer dismantled the machinery in Nixon's Windmill and installed it in his Hahndorf steam mill in 1864, the gutted Windmill became a landmark for people travelling to and from Mt. Barker.  The sight of its broken sails heralded the end of their bumpy journey along the bush tracks that linked hills townships to Adelaide. 

Reg Butler in his extensive history of the Hahndorf Academy and its scholars, “A College in the Wattles”, describes some of these impressions and the fascination the old Windmill held for the school’s boarders.  They were convinced it was haunted by Spring-heeled Jack!  No doubt the creaking sails and howling winds on stormy nights added to vivid imaginations of boys out on a dare. 

In his book Reg Butler states:  .... "Apparently, the day boys who regularly plodded their weary way past the motionless sails managed to convince more gullible boarders that the mill was a force to be reckoned with.  Bated discussions abounded in the College dormitories:   The old windmill after which Windmill Hill was named, stood in my day ....  It used to be a subject of great discussion in the dormitory at night, when we told tales of haunted houses and Spring-heeled Jack; for written on the wall of the mill, with its creaking timbers, was;   | Be prepared to meet thy doom, | For in this coffin there is room, | The chill that ran up our spines was delicious, | in our nice warm beds. | "

Presented to the District Council of Mount Barker - An Historic Relic

[The Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser, Friday 15 February 1929]

Owing to the generosity of Mr. Paul Braendler, and the enthusiasm of a committee of interested gentlemen, the Old Windmill, built by Mr. F. R. Nixon on the top of Windmill Hill, Mount Barker, was handed over to the District Council of Mount Barker by Sir Langdon Bonython on Saturday afternoon, February 9th, 1929.

In spite of the heat and the blazing  sun, there was a good attendance of local and visiting folk to witness the historic ceremony, and the road recently constructed by the Mount Barker District Council to the spot was used extensively by motors for the first time.  The South Australian Tourist Bureau, as well as the Royal Geographical Society, were both interested, and the Tourist Bureau despatched car loads from the city for the occasion.  Dr. Angas Johnson was present representing the R.G.S.

The committee responsible for the  securing of the mill consisted of Messrs. Stephen Parsons (chairman), L. von Doussa, Herman Rundle, and the Rev. W. Gray, and these proved a very live body, and quickly had the right people interested, and the appeal resulted in from £120 to £130 being raised with which to put the place in repair, paint, roof, and build a floor at the top and, of course, a staircase to reach it.

Mr. Stephen Parsons was appointed to the chair on Saturday, and expressed his pleasure at seeing such a representative gathering.

Mr. von Doussa, on behalf of Mr. Paul Braendler, dedicated the windmill as a memorial to the old pioneers of the district.  The speaker was sorry that Mr. Braendler was not well enough to be present that afternoon.  Mr. von Doussa said that when the committee approached Mr. Braendler with regard to securing the old mill as a relic worthy of preservation, Mr. Braendler at once agreed to their proposal, and made the gift not only the mill, but sufficient land surrounding it for whatever purposes the committee required.

Sir Langdon Bonython, who was received with applause, said:— I attend here to-day with great pleasure to perform a very simple duty, and that is to ask the chairman of the Mount Barker District Council to accept on behalf of the public the custody of the Old Windmill (always known as that even in its ruins) and the site on which it stands.  In the first place I would like to express the warmest possible thanks to two gentlemen.  One. of course, is Mr. Stephen Parsons, without whose untiring efforts we should not be here this afternoon.  Mr. Parsons is entitled to all praise for his public spirit and his determination that such an interesting relic of the past should not disappear and be entirely forgotten. (Applause).  The other gentleman, as you may suppose, is Mr. Braendler, the proprietor of the land, who with fine generosity has given the windmill and a site amply sufficient for the purposes of a public memorial.  Mr. Braendler has and deserves the heartiest thanks of all concerned. (Applause).  There have been associated with Mr. Parsons other enthusiasts, such as the Rev. W. Gray, Mr. Louis von Doussa, and Mr. Herman Rundle, but in the interesting memorial now provided I am sure they feel that they are fully recompensed for any trouble they may have taken in the matter.  And there has been trouble, because the memorial was not put into its present condition without the expenditure of money, and that money has had to be collected from friends.  Somebody may ask, "What about this windmill on the Mount Barker road?  What makes it so interesting as an historical relic?  The answer is that it was the first wind mill in South Australia, with the exception of a very primitive structure erected just before by Mr. John Dunn at Hay Valley, which was only used for a short time.  The windmill on the site where we are gathered was built in 1842 by Mr. F. R. Nixon, who sold it to Mr. Walter Paterson, by whom it was worked for many years.  I am glad to know that descendants of Mr. Paterson are represented here to-day. (Applause).  From what I have said it will be realised that the windmill existed in the very early days of this State, when the beautiful country in which it is situated had just been opened up for settlement. It may be interesting to recall that nearly all the land covered by original surveys in this district was owned by the South Australian Company and Mr. John Barton Hack.  My memory of the old windmill carries me back a long way.  My grandfather (who died in 1860) and grandmother lived at Mount Barker Springs, and when I visited them for the first time and the windmill. on what was then was known as Windmill Hill, I must have been under seven years of age.

I travelled to Mount Barker in Foote's passenger cart.  I wonder how many people remember that cart? (Mr. von Doussa. "I do.").  At the Vine Inn, in Glen Osmond, there was a halt, and each passenger was given a delicious peach — just the sort of thing to impress the memory of a child. (Hear, hear).  What a contrast there is between the road as it was then and as it is now, and between Foote's cart and the motor car of to-day! (Applause).  And this reminds me that windmills are gone too.  They were very picturesque in the valley of the Torrens, at Piccadilly, and elsewhere, but they have been superseded and regrets are vain.  Ialtogether approve of the tablet which is being placed on this memorial.  Such tablets, I am glad to say, through the public action and wise foresight of Dr. Angas Johnson and other gentlemen associated with him, are being made permanent memorials of important events in the history of South Australia. (Applause).

Mr. A. B. Fry (chairman of the District Counctil of Mount Barker), in accepting the gift, said it gave him great pleasure to take over on behalf of the council, the historic old landmark.  The people appreciated very highly the trust placed in them, and on their behalf he thanked  the committee for what they had done, and Mr. Braendler for his magnificent generosity.  The district was highly honoured, and would at all times do its best to up hold the traditions founded by the old pioneers of that portion of the State.

Mr. Stephen Parsons, after apologizing for the absence of the members for the district and for Mr. Victor Ryan, of the Tourist Bureau, told of his early association with the mill.  When a boy he made up his mind that some time he would ferret out the history of the old mill, and during the past twelve months he had given a lot of time to hunting up details concerning its past.  When he had a fair record pieced together, he approached Sir Langdon Bonython, who at once not only agreed to publish the story, but also to subscribe to a fund for renovation and preservation of the old mill.  Subscription lists were then opened and a committee formed.  The appeal was immediately successful and from £120 to £130 was collected and spent in putting it in order.  He was sorry the wings were gone (Mr. von Doussa—We'll get some more).  A new floor had been put in top and bottom, a roof put over it, and a stair way built and the walls patched and painted.  The speaker hoped that it would long stand as a living memorial to the worthy pioneers in that portion of the State.  It was a matter of congratulation that the District Council of Mount Barker had accepted the responsibility of looking after the mill for all time.  He thanked the members of the council for their interest, and also for making the new roadway.

Dr. Angas Johnson, representing the Royal Geographical Society, congratulated Mr. Parsons and his committee on the success which had attended the efforts in connection with the old land mark.  The Geographical Society was sympathetic to all movements having in view the preservation of historical relics.  Mr. C. H. Paterson, a grandson of the late Walter Paterson, said the family appreciated very much what was being done by the committee.  The late Walter Paterson arrived in the State in 1839, and was an upright and honest man.  He was the first man to build a reaping machine that was drawn from the front, and he also built the first stump-jump plough.  It was in 1844 that Walter Paterson purchased the mill together with about 12 acres of land.  Mr. Robert S. McDonald said his interest in the mill was due to the fact that his father was miller there in the fifties.  He related how his father used to carry the 280 lb. bags of wheat to the top of the mill for grinding.  A vote of thanks to Sir Langdon Bonython was proposed by Mr. L. von Doussa, seconded by the Rev. W. Gray, and carried by acclamation.  Mr. Parsons also referred to the donations acknowledged through the "Courier," saying that one third of the total amount had been received through that medium.  At the conclusion of the ceremony afternoon tea was partaken of, the ladies' committee consisting of Mrs. Crompton, Mrs. Smythe, Mrs. H. E. Carr, Miss J. McEwin (convener), Miss von Doussa (2), and Misses Paterson (2).

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