Cordillo Downs Station

Cordillo Downs Station.

This Station was first taken up in 1875, when it was known as Cardilla, by John Frazer from Victoria. Unable to keep the property, a ballot was held in 1878 and Edgar Chapman obtained the lease over it. In 1883, when the lease was taken over by Peter Waite of the Beltana Pastoral Company, and Arthur Witherby appointed manager, it was stocked with 10,312 sheep, 580 cattle, 28 horses and one camel. When amalgamated in 1903 with Cadelga and Haddon Downs in 1905 it was running more than 85,000 sheep. The Beltana Pastoral Company owned it until 1981 when it was sold at auction for $1,2 million to Brookman Holdings Pty. Ltd.

After the takeover in 1883, work was started on stock yards, fencing, station buildings and the large woolshed, with stands for 120 shearers. Later a meat house, manager's house, kitchen and blacksmith shop were added. The Afghans with their camel teams hauled the stores up the Strzelecki Track from Farina to Cordillo Downs and returned with wool. This 1,200 kilometre round trip often took two months to complete.

Fencing the run, with wire brought up by Gool Mahomet, was important as dingoes were a menace. Bitten and dead sheep were a common sight and the dogs' howling could be heard almost every night. Aborigines were employed almost immediately with the women shepherding the flocks, working the wool scour, carrying light materials to the construction camps and even running the mail between the different stations.

Early February 1885, Cordillo Downs experienced some very heavy monsoonal rains. The resulting floods demolished the police barracks and one of the station houses. During that week more rain fell in one week than normally can be expected in a whole year. By the end of the year though all had been evaporated and the country was as barren as was normally the case. On 23 December 1885 the body of Frederick Kuttler was found about forty-five kilometres from Cordillo on the track to Innamincka. He had been working on Cordillo fot the last two years. Mounted Constable Cahill found cheques to the value of 250 Pounds on him and also his Savings Bank deposit book showing a balance of 97 Pounds.

That same year camels carried a complete wool scour plant and several large steam engines up the track. These were reassembled on Cordillo to reduce the high transport costs of dirty wool which still contained a large amount of dust and sand. The drying room of the woolscour was destroyed by fire on 5 September 1895.

In September 1898 it was reported that Cordillo Downs exceeded, both in the number of buildings and population, the township of Innamincka. The country around the station was described as stony table lands ending in abrupt cliffs, red sandhills covered with spinifex, or else bare and barren, here and there a salt lake shining and dazzling like a lake full of diamonds.

Transport, 1926.

Although trucks were used by this time, camels continued to bring in supplies until the 1940s. Some of the regular cameleers were Mullah Assam Khan, Targe Mahomet, Goolam Rasoul, Roy Adam Khan, Rodda Singh, Nunda Singh, Hassan Mahomet, Gool Mahomet and his son Sallay and Abdal Jubbar (Jack) Bejah, son of Bejah Dervish.

One unlucky Afghan cameleer, Mulloch Mahomet, accidentally shot himself in his thigh and died at Toorawatchie on the Cordillo track in 1892. A year later, on 25 October 1893 William Hoskin, aged thirty-five, died of thirst on the same track. He was not the last one. In 1900, Ah Hang, a part Aboriginal-Chinese boundary rider died of thirst at Cordillo. His bones were not found until 1906.

In 1888 shearers refused to sign contracts, but when the rate was finally increased they went to work shearing one of the biggest mobs in South Australia. When the job was done, they, and the station hands gave a ball in the woolshed in aid of the Shearers' Ward of the Children's Hospital in Adelaide. Total donations that night amounted to more than $55. The dance was attended by 'no less than four members of the softer sex'. Just as well, otherwise it would have been a buck ball or bull dance.

In 1891 the shearers walked out again and this time were replaced by non-union shearers. By 1890 enough married employees and their families were living on the station to warrant the employment of William Sturdy as a teacher. It was during this time also that Cordillo experienced some labour problems.

At the turn of the century Cordillo Downs was big enough to have its own Post Office, opened in 1893, saddler, blacksmith, police station, only manned at shearing time and polling boxes during elections. These boxes were carried by camels from Farina.

Throughout this time a large number of people found work at the station. In 1913 Charles F. Murray was the manager, James Dedman and Keith B. Sutton overseers and F.J. Barrett assistant overseer. There were nine full time boundary riders, among them W.A. Wells, H. Lewis, G. Barber, W.H. Conroy, James Eldridge, A. Hagedon, J. Roach, C Sommerville and J. Spackman. W. Coles, A. Wastell and James Jobson were employed as musterers, Arthur Jiggens as sadler, T. Kennedy, Herman Lorenz and Thomas F. Reid as netting riders, Robert Lee as butcher and D.J. Mackinnon as bookkeeper. There was also Edward Miller the cook and Alex McKenzie the blacksmith. Charles Sanassee looked after the gardens and J. Powderham was the general station hand.

Cordillo Downs 1930s.

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