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First arrivals

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Fast Facts
Type of event Commemoration

early settlement at Port Gawler and Grace Hundreds

Town or locality Hundred of Port Gawler

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The first settlement by Europeans dates from the Port Gawler Special Survey in 1839.

There was a great shortage of farming land in the early Colony because of a lack of surveyors.

When Colonel George Gawler, the second governor of South Australia, arrived in October 1838, he found some 5,000 people crowded around Adelaide and conceived the idea of granting special surveys to men with capital.

These people could occupy suitable farming areas and were guaranteed the right to 4,000 acres when the surveyors had finally surveyed the area.

Accordingly, on 22 November 1838, Messrs T.B. Strangways and S. Blunden set out to find suitable sites for special surveys. They crossed the river which they named after Governor Gawler and continued as far north as the Hummocks.

The following year Mr Strangways set out again; this time accompanied by Mr G.M. Stephen who was so impressed with the country along the Gawler River, that he immediately applied for a special survey of a narrow strip of land stretching along each side of the river for several miles.

A settlement was established just South West of the present Buckland Park homestead and called Milner, after George Milner Stephen. Nothing remains of this village today.

Almost immediately the special survey was sold to Captain John Ellis and Captain William Allen, who had arrived in South Australia in the ship Buckinghamshire on 22 March 1839.

Further north, the Hundred of Grace was originally occupied for pastoral purposes. Large tracts of the country were allotted to pastoralists in the 1850s, and in 1851 Messrs Grant and Butler secured a 14 years lease, in lieu of occupation licence, for 163 square of country at 10 shillings a mile, which upon expiry or resumption, was included in the Hundreds of Grace and Dublin. Mr Phillip Butler's station took in most of the Hundred of Grace. His flocks of sheep ranged over natural open country, through Mallee scrub and patches of native pine. He employed many shepherds and station hands. These men and their families caused a store and post office to be operated in the vicinity of the homestead. Few traces of these early buildings remain today.

The influx of farmer-settlers was brought about because they had precedence over the holders of pastoral leases. These lessees (squatters) had to relinquish the land to agriculturalists after six months notice, and received compensation only on substantial improvements.

Buying land for about 2 pound an acre, the new farmers set about clearing and cultivating with crude implements and horse power, and were repaid with successively good crops, even up to 20 bushels per acre. Among the vanguard of pioneers were John Forby, John Hugh, Robert and Joshua Marshman, Samuel Crouch, Peter Farrelly, Henry Moody, W. Jarmyn, A.J. McCabe, W. Jury, A. Vawser, J. Earl, N. Lindsay and John Forbes.

Related Articles


  • Mallala Museum research notes
  • Life around the Light: A history of the Mallala District Council area compiled by Two Wells. Mallala and District History Book Committee. Community Development Board of the Council District of Mallala. (Mallala. S. Aust.) 1985.
butler leases
butler leases

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