Hornsdale, South Australia


Hornsdale is situated about 19 kilometres NNW of Jamestown and well within Goyder's Line of Rainfall. Although droughts have, and still do occur, it has also experienced excessive rain, floods, snow, mice and locusts' plagues and dust storms. By the late 1860s and early 1870s large pastoral properties were broken up to make land available for farmers. Most of the early settlers in and around Hornsdale were migrants who had been in South Australia for some years or even some of their children. Most of them had their roots in Ireland, England, Scotland or Germany.

Among some of the early settlers who bought or leased land in the newly opened up area were, William Hockey, Hugh Campbell, Thomas Shannon, John Aughey, Catherine Leahy, Elizabeth Kain, John Moyses and Catherine McKenzie. By 1874 only 5% of the 120 sections of Hornsdale remained unclaimed.

William James Hockey arrived in South Australia on 17 October 1866 and worked for a number of years at McLaren Vale. Having gained enough farming experience he set out for the north and found work on the Hughes Brothers Booyoolee Station as a shepherd. When this holding was subdivided William took up his first block of land on 27 July 1874. He had acquired Mount Lock and now being a landowner he married Charlotte Ann Turner of Gawler. He would eventually become one of the largest landowners in Hornsdale.

On 18 May 1874 William Horne selected sections 193 and 195, in the Hundred of Tarcowie and on 25 June 1880 he purchased section 195. In 1875 Hugh Campbell, born on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1832 and one of the few Scots among the original selectors, took up land on section 187 at Hornsdale.

After marrying Isabella, born in Gallatown, they had two children before migrating to South Australia in the ship Utopia. They arrived in Port Adelaide in 1858 and eventually settled at One Tree Hill. After having worked for some years with his uncle he bought and leased several parcels of land at Hornsdale. Although some of their older children had left there were still enough to make it a very busy household.

The old Campbell home on section 187.
Courtesy Mrs Jean Taylor (nee Campbell).
Area Map

William Horne established the first Post Office, on section 195B, named Tarcowie East in October 1880. It was renamed Hornsdale in 1882. Horne became its first postmaster until 1884 when George Beech took over. He stayed until 1895. During these years George supplemented his income and worked as a farmer, ranger and registrar of dogs.

As with so many post offices in rural areas, the workload was not too big, nor was the pay. Therefore it remained a problem to have anyone taking on the job or once they did to stay at it for some reasonable time. There was a high turnover of postmasters but when the job was taken up by women, most of them married, matters improved a great deal.

In 1896 Mrs Marianne Rigby became the Post Mistress and stayed until 1901 when Mrs Agnes Aughey took on the job. She was followed in rapid succession by Mrs E.I. Watherston in 1903 and Mrs Aughey in 1904. In July 1905 the Post Office and store was up for sale for £350 cash. Mrs Amie Rowe had the office in 1906. However the next Postmistress, Mrs Eliza Robinson appointed in 1907, stayed on the job until the 1940s.

Post and Telegraph Office. 1880 - 1966.
Courtesy; NAA B5919,9/117

On 11 November 1882 a meeting was held to advocate the wants of the district in the matters of school accommodation and main roads. William Horne presided and said that an amount of £300 had been voted for a school. A motion was carried that the Education Department be asked to spend the £300 formerly granted on a stone building and remove the present timber structure to a part of the Hundred of Tarcowie where it was more needed. Its Provisional school opened as 'Tarcowie East' in 1878 and changed its name to Hornsdale in 1881. It was upgraded in 1885 to a Public School. Among some of the first students were Jemima, Florence, Hugh and James Campbell.

A Committee, which included Horne, Campbell, McCann, Hill and Kelly was formed to draw up the different petitions. However three years later nothing had been achieved, the school building was still a problem and the roads even worse. In June 1885 William Horne wrote a letter to the Adelaide papers to let all of South Australia know about it. That same month a deputation went to see the acting Minister of Education for more room at the school, which now had an average attendance of 25 students. The school house was of poor quality, as was the teacher residence and both very unhealthy. During winter students had to sit in wet clothes in the cold while in summer the room was like an oven. The Hornsdale deputation wanted the school upgraded to a public school and thus gain the benefit of a male teacher. If a male teacher was appointed fully 100 students would attend, according to the deputation.

Regardless of the conditions and the opinions of the parents the teachers - females - did their very best. On 8 November 1888 they organised the annual picnic, which was held at W. Stacy's place. Many games were played by both students and parents. During the evening entertainment was provided by the children, reflecting great credit on teacher Mrs Beech. Each child was presented with a book. In August 1905 Arbor Day was held at the school and attended by the local Board of Advice and Miss H. Brinkworth, parents and students. Many trees were planted in the school grounds, with meals provided by the parents.

Three years later, on 8 September 1908, the school was visited by Inspector Cherry for its Annual Examination. Out of 24 students 21 were promoted with two obtaining an honours certificate. In September 1915 the Hornsdale school boys played football matches against Caltowie and a few days later against the Mannanarie lads. They won both games. After that enrolments steadily declined and the school was closed for some time in 1932 to be reopened in March 1935 with only ten children on the roll.

Charles Francis Gerald McCann, later Sir Charles, was born on 10 June 1880 at Jamestown. Sir Charles received his early education at the Hornsdale State School. Country schools, and their females teachers, can’t have been all that bad as Edmund Albert Colson was also educated at a country school. Another high achiever educated at a one-teacher country school was George Hubert Wilkins, later Sir Hubert Wilkins, of Mount Bryan East, the youngest of 13 children.

Farmers were not always happy with their lot either. As early as September 1886 T. Martin had selected sections 73, 153, 154 and 983a in the Hundred of Sterling. During 1887 several of them worked hard trying to get someone into parliament who would represent them. Among these were John Cooper, William Stacey, William Horne, C, J, and M. Meaney, and P. Donnellan. During the drought at the turn of the century, when farmers experienced many dust storms, James Kelly was leaving the district too and put his farm, including stock and implements, up for sale. While some left, others remained. Farmers H. Campbell, senior and junior and James Campbell were still working the land. Campbell junior was still farming in Hornsdale in 1924.

In 1888 Alex Johnston, John Henry McCann, J. and M.J. Meany, Jas Shane and William Stacey were among the first shareholders of the newly formed South Australian Farmers’ Co-Operative Union Ltd. Among its provisional directors were John McCann and others from Jamestown and Caltowie. Farmers at Hornsdale were keen to do the right thing, not just for their families but also for their farms. When the government proposed an increase in Land Tax in 1888 a large meeting was organised on 17 September and chaired by H. Campbell, to tell the government in no uncertain terms what they thought of it.

By the early 1890s the population of Hornsdale had grown to 186 in 29 houses, but only half of them were from the original settlers. By the 1890s some of the early settlers who remained had become large landowners. Among them Leahy, Hill, Kelly, Stacey, McCann and the largest of all William Hockey. The town now had also its own Resident Justice, a job held by John McCann for a number of years until 1903. There were a number of shops and soon George Robinson opened a blacksmith shop. Most of the residents though were farming families.

Like postmasters and teachers, farmers too had a high turnover, especially in the early days of taking up their virgin land. Initial clearing and waiting for the first harvest took a lot of hard work, time and money. To this can also be added dry or even bad seasons, not to mention droughts or floods, locusts and rabbits. Life certainly was not easy for the early farmers.

During the sales at the South Australian Farmers' Co-operative Union in November 1902 H. Campbell got almost sixpence a pound for his wool. P. Adolph remained from 1903 until 1910 and J. Baynes for 8 years until 1909. The Campbells were listed as farmers between 1902 and 1910 as were Albert Clagg, J. Cooper and Albert M. Cooper. Naturally there were also the exceptions. James, Thomas and William Swearse farmed at Hornsdale from 1908 until 1924 when James moved on. Thomas and William remained until 1946. They were replaced by L.J. and O.W. Swearse who farmed until 1959.

Horne's barn on section 195 in 1878 and 2008.

Among some of the teachers to work at Hornsdale were Mary Fanny Beech. Born on 8 February 1842, according to some records 1848, Mary Fanny Greey married George Beech on 16 March 1869 and in 1877 they decided to migrate to South Australia. They arrived with their daughter Laura on 1 January 1878. Their ship the Scottish Lassie carried more than 200 migrants, including 37 agricultural workers. Mary started teaching at Hornsdale in 1883 and was appointed head teacher two years later. She remained until October 1893 when she was appointed at the Wistow school. In January 1896 she moved to the Tantanoola school where she taught until April 1905.

During her teaching time she was much involved with the local communities. As late as June 1904 she was playing the overture and accompaniments at the Tantanoola concert in aid of the local football club. She resigned after the death of her husband in the Parkside Asylum on 20 December 1904. He had been suffering from the effects of a brain injury some 12 years before. At her farewell social in May 1905, Mary was presented with a silver teapot and tray as a token of affection and esteem but also for the numerous services she had rendered to the community. Mary was still living at Tantanoola in 1907 but died at Evandale on 29 December 1933. They are both buried at the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide.

Another teacher was Ellen Grace Campbell who taught from 1880 until 1882, after which she resigned to be married, under licence by the Rev. A.W. Wellington at the Gladstone Hotel, to John Campbell, farmer of Mannanarie on 22 March 1883. Previously she had been teaching at Smithfield where several Campbells resided. Marianne Rigby was appointed Head Teacher in November 1893 while Miss Harriet Elizabeth Brinkworth, born 25 February 1882, was there from 1902 until 1907. Miss Emma Jane Keynes, born on 9 July 1858, took over in 1907 and stayed until 1924. Miss S.G. Messenger arrived in 1914, when the school was downgraded again to a Provisional School, and Cecilia Elizabeth Pryor, born on 23 November 1861, took up the job in 1915 and stayed for two years. In 1919 E.J. Keynes was back again. The school finally closed in 1959.

Hornsdale School before and after renovations, 1890.
Photographs courtesy Mrs Betty Meader.

At the turn of the century A.J. Watherston and Agnes Augey ran a store each. In 1906 the Parcel post was looked after by Mrs A. Brown and W.H.E. Rowe was listed as storekeeper. Three years later P. Adolph, J and W. Baynes, Ed Bowman, H. Campbell Jnr, J. Cooper, J. Heusler, F.H. and W. Hockey and M. Leahy were all farming.

Even Hornsdale did not escape WWI. Several young men of the local area had joined up to 'do their bit' and in August 1915 a big send-off party was organised for Private Frank Leahy. A concert was given by past and present school children and Master W. Pryor presented Leahy with a nice watch. Speeches were given by Noonan, Leahy and Daly on the benefits and necessity of joining the war effort. The evening was concluded with a dance and supper and an iced cake made by Mrs W. Swearse who had decorated it with 'Good Luck Private Leahy'. After paying for the watch there was still enough money left to be donated to the Wounded Soldiers' Fund.

During 1918 the Anglican Church building at Appila, where it had been used from 1896 till 1915, was moved to Hornsdale and erected again on section 206. Services were held there until 1934.

In October 1920 Mrs Nathanael Robinson died aged 81. She and her husband had arrived in South Australia from Northamptonshire on the ship Collingrove in 1852. They lived at several of the local towns such as Jamestown, Mannanarie and Yatina, before settling down at Hornsdale.

Hugh Campbell died on 26 November 1923. His wife Isabella had died five years earlier on 16 July 1918, aged 85. Both Hugh and Isabella were much respected and had made many friends. They are buried at Appila. They had a family of 6 sons and 6 daughters. Some of them had moved away from the family farm after marriage and settled as far away as NSW, WA and Qld while others remained in the local area to settle at Wilmington, Mannanarie and Yankalilla. This was not unusual at all. With large families and good farming land scarce, sons had to look somewhere else. Several of the Noonan family members also left for the other states where land was still available.

In 1924 the town’s population was 175, slightly less than the 186 recorded in 1903. The Resident Justice was Michael F. Leahy. Post, Telegraph, Telephone and Postal Note Office was run by Mrs E.A. Robinson and Ern Butterich, William Forrest, Mrs M.J. Meaney and J and M.L. Noonan were all listed as farmers. Patrick Stanislaus Noonan born on 9 May 1901 died on 7 September. He was the second son of John James and Mary Jane Noonan, nee Murphy. During the 1950s there were still enough residents and neighbours to support a tennis club. In 1954 the Tennis Club and District Hall was built and officially opened on 26 April 1955. Built at a cost of £1000. it was free of debt when opened. It closed in 1982.


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