Lake Hope, South Australia.

Lake Hope & Kopperamanna
Police Stations

Lake Hope was discovered by S.J. and R.J. Stuckey in October 1859 and given that name "because we hope for better fortune in the future". Its Aboriginal name was pando penunie, or great lake. After having been shown around the area by Stuckey, Thomas Elder took up a pastoral lease over the area in 1860 and appointed Henry Dean as manager of Lake Hope Station in 1861. Soon agitation started for the establishment of police protection but P.E. Warburton, Commissioner of Police opposed the idea in 1863. As far as he was concerned people should look after their own property first.

On 1 January 1864 Thomas Elder took up another three pastoral leases in the Lake Hope area creating much ill feeling among the Aborigines who now became troublesome and at times killed some of his stock. During the debates in the Legislative Council on 4 August 1865 Captain Bagot wanted to know what the government was doing, or had done, about police protection in the north. He was told that a police post would be opened at the Hamilton Creek.

To protect the pastoralists, who had moved even further from the settled areas in their search for land and wealth, from the local Aborigines, who were not impressed with strangers moving into their territory, a police station was finally opened at Lake Hope in 1865. It was one of 52 stations in South Australia at that time.

It was Police Trooper Samuel Gason, one of the 212 members of the police force, who established the police post and remained there until it closed. Although it was also the start of a severe and long-lasting drought, Gason recorded a flood that year in the Cooper Creek which filled lakes Killalpaninna and Kopperamanna.

Early in 1866, when there were one corporal, two constables and five horses at the station, a group of German Moravian and Lutheran missionaries arrived in South Australia hoping to establish a missionary station in the far north at or near Lake Hope, where they arrived in December. They were soon persuaded by Gason to established their mission at either Killalpaninna or Kopperamanna instead of Lake Hope, where the natives were far from being friendly. They took his advice and the Lutherans settled at Killalpaninna while the Moravians moved to Kopperamanna. Other Moravian missionaries had already established Ebenezer Mission, near Antwerp, about 20 km from Dimboola in Victoria, in 1859.

That same year a post office was also opened at Lake Hope with Henry Dean taking care of the services. Thomas Elder would be paid 150 pounds a year to carry the mail between Blanchewater and Lake Hope once a fortnight. A year later the contract was awarded to H.D. Ryan who was paid 128 pounds.

In February 1867 it was reported that 'the natives were so lawless and so treacherous' that the lives and property of white men could not be sufficiently protected. Apart from keeping the peace between the Aborigines and the few white settlers, the main problem the constables had to deal with was cattle duffing by both Aborigines and white men. Although there were few men to patrol the area offenders were caught even 800 kilometres from the crime scene. On 26 April 1867 Mounted Constable E.N.P. Catchlove arrested J. Mc Innery for cattle stolen on the Birdville Track.

Soon after the missionaries had set up at their respective camps they became very worried about their safety and asked for police protection. This did not impress George Hamilton, the Police Commissioner in Adelaide. With a very small budget to run his department he was worried about the cost involved and wrote to the Chief Secretary 'that these gentlemen had gone into the bush beyond the settled districts to convert the Aborigines from paganism to Christianity'. Obviously he had forgotten, or ignored the fact, that the white settlers had done exactly the same thing and were the reason for the the Lake Hope police camp in the first place.

However he continued his letter stating that 'they had met with hostile natives and feared for their lives'. As they refused to shoot them, Hamilton feared that the 'ruthless savages' would soon become emboldened by their peaceful attitude and proceed to rob and murder them. According to Hamilton two or three troopers supported by armed bushmen could repel any number of natives and keep them in order.

Unfortunately the same number of troopers could not so well protect white men who refused 'to draw a trigger in their own defence'. This meant that more troopers would be needed and why should the police department have to pay for the conversion of 'Heathen Natives to the religion of the civilised European'. To gain a better understanding of the situation the Sub-Protector of Aborigines, John Parker Buttfield from Blinman, and a number of troopers visited the missions and Lake Hope.

On 30 May 1867 Hamilton instructed Corporal John Morton and Trooper Samuel Gason to report on the matter. He also wanted to know if the missionaries planned on staying and if more were to come out from Europe. Luckily for Hamilton, Morton was already on his way to Adelaide. Due to ill-health he had left Lake Hope leaving trooper Skermer in charge. Trooper Raymond was sent up to replace Morton. On 9 June, a deputation of the Lutherans in Adelaide went to see the Chief Secretary to explain their predicament. They must have done it well, as the government decided to move the Lake Hope police station to Kopperamanna.

Here the troopers lived in tents and make shift wurlies in the midst of troublesome natives who regularly were caught stealing and killing cattle. Gason wrote regular reports to his superiors in Auburn, Clare or Adelaide. At one stage it was suggested that Native Trackers from the Port Lincoln area should be stationed at Kopperamanna but noting came of it as they were too afraid of the Lake Hope Blacks, 'who would kill them'.

At the start of 1868 there were three Mounted Troopers, including Gason, and five horses at the station. During his time at Lake Hope Gason often had to deal with the Aborigines who were stealing sheep from local graziers. On 31 January 1868 Gason arrested Perigundi Sambo for stealing two sheep from R. and J. Milner of Boolcaltaninna Station. On 21 June Gason and Raymond again arrested some Aborigines. This time Harryboy and Paddy from Kopperamanna had "stolen three cows" from Mr Dean and Hack. After they had a good feast, Gason cautioned them in their own language and discharged them. A much more serious incident occurred at Mundowndna Station which the Aborigines attacked and burnt down. This affair resulted in the death of two people.

Slowly but surely more people settled in the far north making it economical for the government to provide a small amount of services and in 1869 tenders were called for the mail delivery between Blanchewater and Kopperamanna. That same year Thomas Elder and Samuel Stuckey formed a transport company to carry goods between Port Augusta and his most northerly Lake Hope Station.

In July 1870 very heavy rains fell flooding many of the creeks and nearly twenty Aborigines drowned when the Kopperamanna Creek flooded. That same year some 3000 sheep from the Lake Hope area were overlanded to the Northern Territory, for the men working on the Overland Telegraph line at Roper River, by Ralph and John Milner. Near Wauchop Creek they lost 900 sheep who had eaten poisonous herbage. John Milner was killed by the Aborigines and Ralph arrived at the Roper with only 1000 sheep.

In January 1870 Gason wrote to Inspector Robert Read at Auburn that he had received a tender to build a proper police station at Kopperamanna which he considered the most suitable site as there was always abundant feet and water for the horses and was also centrally located in regard of settlers and natives. A few weeks later he informed Read that the wurlies they had been living in since October 1867 were now uninhabitable. He had erected 'a more substantial building of logs, pugged with clay'.

From December 1870 until January 1871 Police Trooper Curnow was stationed at Kopperamanna until Gason, who would be absent from the station for a while, returned. During that year the troopers visited Bolla Bollana, Umberatana, Illiawortina, Nepowie, Wooltana, Paralana, Hamilton, Blanchewater, Yudanamutana, Sliding Rock, Patsy Springs, Owieandana and Blinman.

On 8 July 1871 Gason reported that a large mob of cattle had been seen some 300 kilometres north of the station. Strangely, there were no white men with them nor any horses or even horse tracks. This report led to one of the largest operations mounted by the police in the far north to investigate this sighting and the possible whereabouts of the white drovers.

Gason was ordered to investigate and would be supplied with additional police from Adelaide. When they arrived he set out on 9 September with troopers, O'Mahony, Smith, Orr, Fisher and private participants Walter Stuart, master of the Blantyre, his servant and a Mr Gilbert. They took 12 horses and five weeks' supply of rations with them. They left Kopperamanna at 12 noon and travelled about 40 kilometres. This was the average distance travelled on most days. However they had the occasional rest day for men and horses and the occasional day when they only travelled half that distance.

They returned on 13 October without having found the cattle or the supposed white drovers. However they had travelled nearly a thousand kilometres and explored country never seen by white man before. Gason named many geographical features after members of the expedition, including himself. Now the map north of the Cooper had a O'Mahony waterhole, Lake Roe, Gilbert Creek, Smiths Creek, Gason River, Lake Curnow and Kanibal (sic) Hill for good measure.

In 1872 Kopperamanna was listed as a postal town and remained so for many years. However in July the Police Station was closed and troopers transferred to other postings. Gason eventually landed at Barrow Creek in the Northern Territory. After an attack on the station in 1874 Gason mounted a large police hunt against the Aborigines which resulted in many being killed but no prisoners taken. Killing of Aborigines would occur for many years yet. In 1893 James Doughlas Tolmer, son of one time police inspector Alexander Tolmer killed an Aborigine while bringing stock from Innamincka to Lake Hope.

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