Early days at Hookina, South Australia

Early days at Hookina

The first 20 years.

SLSA PRG 1652/51/2

An early mention of Hookina occurred in 1860 when it was stated in the parliamentary debates that a railway would be build north of Port Augusta via Hookina. It took another 18 years before the first sot was turned in Port Augusta to start its construction which would finally reach Darwin, via a different route, in 2004. When it did the town of Hookina had been established but after many years of hard struggle to survive had been gone with only a few ruins left to show where it once had been.

In July 1861 the Hookina pastoral property had been stocked with cattle and William Taylor had established a small hotel which survived until 1897 when the last licensee, George Glass removed the iron roof for his store at Wonoka. In January 1862 the government advertised for tenders to construct a well between Moralana and Hookina which had to be timbered all the way and supplied with a windlass, robe and 2 five-gallon buckets.

That same year the town of Hookina was surveyed and eventually became the most northerly and last wheat town ever established in South Australia. Other towns surveyed were Yarrah, Mt Eyre, Mern Merna, Edeowie, Kanyaka, Oratunga and Nuccaleena. There were already several buildings before Cooper laid out Hookina. A pine hut used by shepherds of Samuel Sleep of Warrakimbo, the Hookina Inn built by William Taylor, a stable and a blacksmith shop.

As it was far beyond Goyderís Line it had many devastating droughts but also the occasional major flood. In October 1862 the Hookina Creek was flooded holding up as many as twenty bullock teams which provided extra business for Taylor who was only too willing serving the teamsters with drinks and meals. In between he rescued Mrs Mc Dill and her daughter Jessie who were nearly swept away by the flood waters.

Town lots were offered for sale on 13 March 1863 when lots 26 - 48 were offered at the Crown Lands Office in Adelaide. Lots 26, 27, 28, and 30 were snapped up by PD Prankerd who paid £18 for three of them and £23 for lot 28. J Ragless paid £25 for lot 37 and £30 for lot 43. The highest price was paid by Green and Wadham who parted with £41 for lot 29. They also secured lots 31, 32 and 44 for less than half that amount. Samuel Sleep became the owner of lots 33, 35 and 36. Lot 33 was sold on 30 September 1863 to Edward Thomson Braddock.

Joe Mole made it known in April 1863 that a cart would leave Port Augusta every fortnight for Hookina, under the management of J Hunt and would be back in time to take passengers to the steamer Lubra for Adelaide. During July Taylor added some badly needed buildings to his place while Braddock and TW Hood had a large store and residence erected. They obtained a storekeeperís licence on 27 October 1863.

In Adelaide another 10 town lots were offered at the Government land sales. Of all the townships laid out in 1863 Hookina was the liveliest and survived the longest. Taylor, who had the hotel until 1875, was kept busy with more than just being a publican. In January 1864 when Henry Vale had a fall and broke his leg he was brought to his hotel. As there was no doctor Taylor sent for one at the nearest station but found him gone. It was now up to him to do the best he could.

On 7 April 1864 ET Braddock, second son of John Braddock of Wallaroo married Ann, sixth daughter of Robert Cox, at Wallaroo. A month later Marshall Braddock was employed as a servant by ET Braddock as was Alfred West. Business was good and ET obtained a cart licence as well. On 13 May 1864 William Taylorís wife had a daughter at Hookina.

A Public Pound was established in October 1864 and James Donaghey appointed first Pound Keeper. One of his first jobs was to advertise that several horses would be sold if not collected. With business slowly improving in the north after a long and severe drought, ET bought the Edeowie hotel in September 1865. His store was not doing too well but he kept trying and made it known that regardless of all setbacks he would continue. It didnít work out and he was declared insolvent on 28 June 1866.

Although declared insolvent he was entrusted with the entire management of winding up the estate. After some reorganisation and paying debts, his storekeeperís licence was renewed on 10 September 1866. Three months later his wife gave birth to a daughter. Marshall Braddock obtained a hawkerís licence and Alfred West remained a servant. In 1867 ET was granted a storekeepers and wine licence. While busy getting his own future back on track, ET was also concerned with the lack of postal services in the north and wrote to the newspapers about it who inserted this letter on 15 October 1866.

Sir, There is a line of road that has been most shamefully neglected for the last four years with regard to mail carriage from Port Augusta. On the said line of road there are twelve large head stations, where in good seasons the average of men employed would be from 20 to 30 on each station. There are also four Government townships on the said road and all these places and people are entirely without mail communication. The distance of these places from the present line of mail road is from 27 to 55 miles.

The Western Plain road has been in ordinary seasons and always will be the most used, and consequently the main line to the Far North, Yudanamutana and Daly Mines, and the Far North West country. There was an application made to the Postmaster nearly three years ago, and the reply was at that time there were no funds at his disposal for carrying the mail our way, but that we should be considered in the future. Consequently we have been left to our own resources since that time.

Again, some six weeks or two months ago there was a memorial numerously and influentially signed, but which would have been very much more numerously signed had not a great number of people been away for a time with their stock in consequence of the drought, sent to the Postmaster-General, asking for mail conveyance, to which we have as yet received no reply, or any intimation that our request will receive favourable consideration.

There seems to be some very great inconsistency with regard to these matters, as we see by the Government Gazette tenders are invited for carrying the mail in two instances a distance of from 90 to 120 miles, for the sole accommodation of one station in each locality, whilst at the same time a line of populated road like the one I have referred to is left out. My reason for asking you to insert this letter in your paper is to try and get something done before the present contracts for the incoming three years mail conveyancing are fully entered into, and the sleepy people in this part of the country are left as they have been, to carry their letters fifty miles to post. I am, Sir, &c E. T. BRADDOCK. Hookina Store

When Bailliereís South Australian Gazetteer and Road Guide was published in 1866, it stated that Hookina was the name of a small roadside township on the Hookina Creek and on the road from Port Augusta to Blinman. It was 24 miles north-west of Kanyaka, (where there was a post office) and had a hotel and a public pound, the Hookina Inn and a small pastoral population.

It also reported on Sleepís run, originally part of the Wonoka run, on the Hookina Creek on lease No 141A, an area of about 4 square miles. It had a grazing capability of 360 sheep and Goyderís valuation was £20 per annum. It comprised one mile of fairly grassed flat and three miles of undulating saltbush.

Meanwhile drought or no drought, work or no work, taxes had to be paid regardless. One poor unemployed shepherd of Hookina had a particularly hard time and in frustration wrote this letter on 15 August. Sir, Allow me, through your columns, to state my case. I have in my possession two dogs, which, as a shepherd, I have been obliged, through this bad season, to retain. I have always had these dogs registered up to June last. Having been out of employment for this last nine months, and having a wife and six children to maintain, it has taken every shilling that I have saved for the last three years and the earnings of my wife by her needle to keep bread in the house.

At the present time I am in debt, and have not a shilling to my name. Being unable to raise the money to register my dogs, I have been obliged to let them remain till I could have the money to do so. I was visited by the police on Sunday last, and am now threatened. I have refrained from asking Government relief for my family, thinking others wanted it worse, and waited, hoping for better times. This I stated to the police, when I was told it would have been better to have borrowed the money to pay for these dogs than not have got them registered.

By these dogs I partly earn my bread, I am in debt for bread for my family now, and must I get still deeper in debt to pay a tax for my dogs? Thus is the case. If it is so, the Government must find relief for my family, and take me for any amount they may fine me. Looking at the past and even present state of the North, is this right, or is it a grievous wrong? I am, Sir, &c. 'FT' & nbsp; Hookina, August 19, 1866.

Slowly some improvements were made and even the weather had become friendlier. It rained a little more and sometimes even at the right time. With more grass available sheep fattened and grew better fleeces. During shearing in October 1866 H McConville removed the fleece of some of Taylorís sheep. One of them came in at 24 lbs, the growth of one year. On 12 April 1867 Ann Taylor presented her husband with a son. Great was their joy but their despair and sorrow was even greater on 12 June when he died. They had another son on 4 November 1869.

In May 1867 James D Finn, blacksmith, was appointed the new Pound Keeper and Robert Tucker Alloway was listed as hawker. ET Braddock storekeeper at Hookina and Blinman was in financial trouble again and had to assign his estate to George Morgan and Charles Rischbieth of Adelaide to settle his debt in January 1868. He was not the only one. William Taylor had problems as well and had to pay a first dividend of two shillings and sixpence in every Pound to his creditors.

In June, ET transferred his lot 33 to Joseph Bertram and in August an acre of land with house and store was sold for £290. A major improvement was the opening of a post office in 1870. The mail now left Port Augusta for Blinman, but called in at Yadlamalka, Hookina, Edeowie and Aroona. In July Charles Kite was appointed Pound Keeper. The extra income would have helped as his wife had given birth to a daughter on 27 March. On 11 June Mrs A Wyly had a daughter and her husband became the Agent for some of the Adelaide newspapers.

The best news however was the start of the Overland Telegraph Line. Traffic through the little town was brisk owing to both wool carting of the surrounding stations and expeditions going north. When Charles Todd passed on his way north he took very little interest of the place. He didnít even visit the new post office. Maybe he didnít know that there was one. Several local teamsters found constant work carrying wire and poles. To put the icing on the cake, seven camps were established around the town for surveyors and contractors. It turned out a true bonanza for the store and hotel owners.

Unfortunately not everyone shared in the good fortunes. In February 1870 Walter Oakley, a teamster of Hookina, was declared insolvent and in October James Hamilton was charged with an order for £8 from James Hanley. At the end of October Hookina experienced wild thunder and dust storms followed by heavy rain. The mailman was more than ten hours late as he was unable to cross the flooded Willochra Creek. There was also the distinct posibility that business would suffer when the camps would move further north when the southern section of the telegraph line was completed.

The first ten years had seen many ups and downs; hopefully the next ten years would see more ups but fewer downs. The Overland Telegraph was expected to take some time before completion and there were even some rumours about a railway line. The weather too was showing signs of improving with more rain and a resulting expansion of agriculture. Last but not least mining at Blinman and other places in the north would likely remain and even expand. Time would tell.

Hookina in the 1870s
Hookina Cemeteries

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