Gordon Cemetery, Flinders Ranges, South Australia


The drive beyond Goyder's Line in the early 1870s and the start of the Great Northern Railway from Port Augusta to Marree and beyond, prompted a series of new settlements on the western plains of the Flinders Ranges. Among the new towns surveyed in the late 1870s and early 1880s were, Amyton, Carrieton, Chapmanton, Cradock, Gordon, Hammond, Hawker, Johnburgh, Stephenston, Wilson and Wonoka.

Gordon was proclaimed on 2 October 1879 and named by Governor Jervois after his brother. However its railway station was named Wirreanda. Even before the town had been proclaimed, William Hall had taken up farming land in the area in 1873. Hall was born in Lancashire in 1838 and had married Mary Jane Wyatt of Cornwall in 1866. They were to have eight children.

Gordon Map

By 1880 the town had still some allotments for sale but there were already some 25 buildings which included the Gordon Hotel, with John J. Carolan as publican. There was also a store, blacksmith, butcher, baker, and a Bible Christian Church. For the last two years they had held their services in Mr Baseley's house, but now had their own weatherboard building constructed by Baker Brothers at a cost of 64 pounds, on land donated by Mr Kirk. It was officially opened on Sunday 17 October 1880.

Although they had a building, the services were conducted by visiting clergymen. In 1897 it was the Rev C.E. Schafer from Quorn and in 1900 the Rev I. Perry, also from Quorn, held regular services. For the Catholics it was the Rev Mulcahey from Hawker. In 1881 another large store and the school were completed. It was built on sections 15, 16, 17 and 32 on the corner of Milne Terrace and Thorold Terrace. It even had a Cricket Club with 25 members.

In December 1880 it was reported that reaping was in full swing, but the highest yield was only 1 bushel per acre. It was feared that this season would crush many farmers in the north as there was no feed for stock, most had been eaten by locusts. A meeting was held that month by the Gordon Branch of the Farmers' Association to consider the local problems, which was chaired by E. Twopenny. The results of it was that the government would be petitioned to forego the coming land payments and interest.

Between the 1880s and 1900 Gordon was the centre for the surrounding farming communities. In September 1880 George C. Hawker, Commissioner of Railways, advertised for tenders for the construction of a goods platform and office at Gordon. In July 1881 the railway traffic was opened and residents could catch a train on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10.52 am going north, arriving at Beltana more than seven hours later. If they had to go south they could travel on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays leaving at 2.22 pm arriving in Port Augusta four hours later.

The Gordon Hotel had many owners before the turn of the century. J. Finch had it in 1883 followed by A.M. Eagle in 1884 and 1885. J.J. Carolan had it again in 1886 and kept it until 1889. May E. Richards was the publican from 1890 to 1896. From 1897 until 1903 the house was kept by Adolph Dorney. It was a similar story with the post office. In 1887 S. Williams looked after it and Mrs J.S. McDonald was appointed postmistress in 1889 and M. Bole the year after. In 1893 J.B. Hooper was the postmaster and storekeeper. He stayed until 1901.

Although the early farmers and other settlers faced a hard time population kept growing. In 1887 there were 36 residents in 10 houses, while six years later there were 57 residents and 13 houses. In January of that year W.MacDonald advertised that at his cash Store he sold Grocery, Drapery, Ironmongery, Chaff, Hay, Bran, Pollard and Flour. He was also willing to buy Farm and Dairy Produce from the locals. Among some of the other residents living at Gordon during the turn of the century were J.J. Carolan, who was still there in 1913, John Carpenter, George Easther, Thomas Heneker, J.N. Hooper, John Markman, Jessie Robinson and John Wilson. There were enough people for William McDonald to be appointed Resident Justice.

Like so many of the northern towns Gordon had its problems with rabbits, lack of water, locusts and the Bathurst burr. Droughts in particular were frequent and farmers were soon to learn that Goyder and his line were correct. However when it did rain in often came down in torrents and flooding of creeks was a common sight. Often locals did not realise the force of the water and drownings in flooded creeks were also a regular occurence. In 1922 it was Thomas Carman who drowned in the Wirreanda Creek near Gordon.

Although the main income was generated from farming and pastoral activities there was also a small amount of copper mining in the neighbourhood. In 1887 the Etna Silver and Manganese Mining Company worked a deposit near Gordon and in 1905 some 33 tons of ore from nearby mines were loaded on the railways.

In 1917 Mick Donnellan moved into the district and bough a property about 9 kilometres north of the town, followed by another property about a kilometre from Gordon. By the 1920s the town still had a hotel, two churches, railway cottages, two stores and a post office. After the death of her husband Mrs Donnellan ran the post office for more than thirty years. She and her son Bernard lived in Gordon until 1957 when they moved into Quorn.

The school though did have a few problems staying open, as there were not too many students enrolled by this time. During the Beltana meeting of the Great Northern Juvenile Athletic and Schools' Exhibition Association, Gordon was still able to send 11 children north to compete. They did not win any medals or prizes that year but they certainly had a good time. Those lucky to go were, Tom, George and John Trader, Clemm and Edna Hall, Mary and James O'Reilly, Matilda and Bernhard Donnellan, Kevin McCarthy and R. Schmidt. Financial assistance to run the meeting had come from the South Australian Brewing Company, Beltana Pastoral Company and Sir Sidney Kidman.

During 1926 the school was closed for a few months and students travelled to Willochra for their lessons. It reopened but finally closed in 1928 when David Dee was the last teacher. Still, there were enough adults to play golf and tennis and after a hard day's work all were able to attend a dance at the hotel, run by the Schmidt family.

Hermann Schmidt was born in 1874 at Stockwell, near Kapunda He was soon working in the north shearing and breaking horses. He drove stock overland as far as Darwin was a coach driver for the Beltana Pastoral Company and was publican of the Innamincka hotel for seven years. From there he went to Cordillo Downs colt breaking and Lyndhurst, where he had the hotel, before finally settling at Gordon.

Schmidt also had a sense of humour, even when he suffered financial losses. When a train ran over one of his bulls he wrote to the Commissioner of Railways in Adelaide. 'Sir, on the 12th instant your train, which was going to Oodnadatta ran over my bull at Hergott. He was on pasture. Your train took a piece of hide out of his belly between his naval and his poker at least a foot square and took most of his bag off. He has also lost his seed. I don't think he will be any good as a bull since he was under your train. I wish you would tell the general traffic manager he is done for, he has nothing left but his poker and that is out of plum. He was a red bull once but now he stands around looking bloody blue'. Schmidt died in July 1945.

Many of the early pioneers are buried at the Gordon Cemetery.


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