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Wild Horse Plains

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Fast Facts
Also known as: The History of Wild Horse Plains
Town or Locality: Wild Horse Plains South Australia
Year Established: 1863
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The History of Wild Horse Plains

In approximately 1858 Thomas Day and J Hewitt of Peachy Belt were looking for country fit for sheep grazing in the Mallee Scrub between the River Light and Pt Wakefield in South Australia. They came across a small egg shaped plain with about 20 wild horses grazing on the Northern end. They camped on a red sand hill covered with stately pines. There was plenty of rich grass on the plain and an abundance of game such a kangaroos and wallabies, emus and pheasants in the scrub. The next morning they sighted the horses again but were unable to get close to them. Several years later the same Thomas Day took a government contract to cut a road through the scrub from Dublin to Pt Wakefield. The first plain he reached he called Mitchel Plains. Then he came to the plain where he had seen the wild horses so he called the area Wild Horse Plains and this is now part of the township of the same name. IN 1863 the first surveyor H.D. Packard moved into the district to survey the farmlands. The first sections were numbers 12-15, and 20-24 inclusive. Other surveyors namely James Jones, H.H. Mc Leay, Harry Cank, Hugh Nohman followed in a period from 1873 to 1884 to complete surveying the district. The first sections taken up were 13-15 by Richard Loveday who was a surveyor of Adelaide. He entered into a credit agreement with the government in September 1863.

The following year Edmund William Wright and Arthur James Wright ‘Gentlemen” of Adelaide and Melbourne purchased section 20 paying 100 pounds Stirling for 67 acres. A portion of this section was later to become the township of Wild Horse Plains. In the same year James Tapley of Tapleys Hill purchased section 21 consisting of 95 acres for 152 pounds. It was in September 1873 that the first settlers began moving in. Amongst them was William Chapman who purchased section 376. This land had been kept in the family over the years and was part of the Clark farm until it was sold in 1983.

Sections 352 and 353 were taken up by William Jones and handed down to family over the generations. The present day owners are Tom and Joyce Walker (nee Jones) An earlier settler was Peter McDonald who migrated from Scotland in 1851 aged 22 years and was a carpenter by trade. Other people who purchased land in the district over the next 8-10 years paid a 1 pound per acre by cash or a credit arrangement at auction. Some of these people are as follows:

• William Moyse - Mail driver of Nairne

• Adam Hart – Farmer of Mallala

• John Hackney – Farmer of Mallala

• Alexander Taylor – Gentleman of Adelaide

• Thomas Jenkins – Farmer of Brighton

• John Harding – Labourer of Mallala

• Alexander Bannerman

• Charles R Baker - Farmer of Gumeracha

• Alexander McDonald – Farmer of Gumeracha

• Charles Fisher – Farmer of Dublin

• Charles Manuel – Farmer of Stockport

• Thomas Manuel – Butcher of Two Wells

• Andrew Barr

• Robert Barr

• Henry Alexander Lyons – Migrant from Northern Ireland For various reasons some of these land owners did not hold their land for more than a couple of years and then resold. Among the next wave of residents were: • William Temby • Samuel Gray • Richard Baily • George Beams • Samuel Drury • Horace Worsley • Robert Dunlop • Lawrie Hammond • William Wilson • James Wilson

About the same time as the land was surveyed and sold it came within the boundary of the newly appointed Dublin Council formed in 1873. The council asked for tender prices for road clearing which resulted in many of the District’s roads being cleared for 1/3 pence to 2/3 pence per chain, depending on the amount of work required. By 1875 the new farmers were beginning to establish their farms and needing an outlet for their produce. It would also be another way of obtaining their requirements which came by coach initially once a week from Virginia (staples of meat, bread etc) In June 1875 a roadway from from Long Plains through Wild Horse Plains to the beach was approved by the Dublin Council. This road would prove to be a great advantage to residents as goods could be transported by ketch to and from Adelaide. The beach, later to become known as Port Lorne, would also be used for fishing and pleasure. The sale and transfer of Mallee roots was also another activity at Port Lorne. As business progressed the Government saw fit to have the beach area surveyed as a township and proclaimed Port Lorne in May 1884.

The ketches at Port Lorne transported grain and wool from the storage sheds which were built in later years, although the township did not expand with the increase of activity other than a few houses and two General Stores. One store was owned by Mr Penrose and the other by Mr Charles Griffiths, a wheat buyer. As road and rail transport developed in the area the port was phased out and the last contract was given to Mr Albert Clark to load the last shipment of grain in the 1933-34 season. The beach was finally closed in the 1940s due to the Army activities and it taken over by the government.

With more people moving into the district by 1881, Messrs Harold Addison surveyor and William Paddock-agent, both of Adelaide, saw the possibilities of a private town being established. In October 1881 they purchased a portion of Section 20 from Mr Peter M Sonag and surveyed 58 allotments for establishing the town of Wild Horse Plains. The town fronted the Adelaide to Port Wakefield road and consisted of five streets - aptly named First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth.

The first four allotments were sold in December of that year. In 1882 the Education department purchased allotment 52 for the purpose of building a school house and class rooms. About the same time Samuel Drury of Wild Horse Plains purchased allotment 50 and immediately transferred it to Robert Barr Junior, William Jones, Adam Hart, Robert Lawrie and Frederick Hammond all of Wild Horse Plains, under the Trustees act with the intention of building a church. Allotment 37 was donated by Mr Addison and Mr Scott for the building of an Institute. Over the next three years the remainder of the allotments were sold but not many were used for the erection of a building. One of the main purchasers was Alfred West, farmer of Two Wells and later of Long Plains.

Postal Arrangements' The first Postmaster to settle at Wild Horse Plains was Henry Alexander Lyons with his wife Margaret (nee Crothers) who were migrants from Northern Ireland. They were married in Australia at the North Adelaide Congregational church. The store they established in 1878 was about half a mile north of the present town. There was a daily mail service on the Kadina mail route. In 1880 the main route was changed and became the daily run from Adelaide to Wild Horse Plains via Virginia, Two Wells, Lower Light, Dublin and Windsor to Lower Light. The distance was 46 miles and the rate of travel was 8 miles per hour by horse and coach. When fire destroyed the Post Office and store during the year it was opened, Peter McDonald became the new postmaster – a position he held until 1882. Other postmasters to follow were William Temby 1882, and Samuel Gray 1883. In the meantime Mr H.A. Lyons went about rebuilding his original store hence his return to storekeeping and Postmaster in 1884 until early 1885 when once again fire destroyed the premises. As a result of this, on 24th March 1885 a deputation of local residents waited on Mr W. Gilbert and J.H Bagster, Members of Parliament for the area, to ask for a Post Office to be built at Wild Horse Plains. The Minister for Justice and Education stated that such a building was not justified on the grounds of insufficient business expected from postal and telegraph but promised to supply some other postal arrangement for the township. (Unfortunately information regarding the period 1885 to 1891 is unavailable)

It was in 1891 when James McDonald, a son of an early pioneer, opened up a new shop and Post Office which is still standing but was closed for business in 1978. Mr McDonald was postmaster until at least 1909. Subsequent postmasters were as follows:

W.R. Burnard - 1910 to 03-6-1914 H.B. Moore – 1-7-1914 to 12-8-1920 G.B. Zanker – 12-8-1920 to 29-10-1950 H.P. McArdle – 30-10-1950 to 2-5-1966 I.G. McArdle 2-5-1966 to 20-12-1978

Following this date the Post Office was officially closed. Since then a group of boxes hold the mail delivered to the town with a roadside delivery made to some premises adjoining the Pt Wakefield Road.

Communications: The first telegraph (worked by telephone) and public telephone was opened in Wild Horse Plains in late 1912. This was installed at the shop/post office managed at the time by Mr W.R. Burnard. With increased demand a new Trunk Line from Adelaide to Windsor was extended to Wild Horse Plains.

Telephone Exchange: 1921 saw the change over to the 30 line Magneto cord type wall mounted switchboards. The first subscriber was H.W. Lyons. It was several years before other residents accepted the modern equipment. Hours were 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and some charges were 1 penny farthing for a local call, 8 pence to call Adelaide for 3 minutes or part thereof plus 6 pence for each additional 3 minutes. Mr R.A. Bache was appointed the Telephone office keeper following the closure of the shop and post office in 1978. He held this position until the manual exchange was replaced with automatic equipment installed at Windsor on 7-3-1979.

Roads: After the first tracks were laid in the 1860s improvements were made through the years as traffic increased and roads were upgraded to a standard to cope with the changing modes of transport. In 1929 the Adelaide to Pt Wakefield road was sealed – the shoulder stones being laid by hand. In the late 1960s the government acquired additional land for a new highway and this was built through Wild Horse Plains in approximately 1970.

Power: Prior to World War Two homes had an assortment of lighting facilities with wood stoves for cooking and heating, After that time came the improved home lighting plants, some wind generators and 12 and 32 volt. These plants were in operation until 1960-61. After that time came the improved home lighting plants, some wind generators 12 and 32 volt. This improved life for the house-wife or home maker. These plants were in operation until about 1960-61 when the 240 volt earth return power was connected throughout the district. This enabled the use of modern day appliances for the benefit of the whole community enabling the use of modern day appliances.

Water: Before 1906 water was acquired from dams and tanks only. IN 1906 water from the Barossa Reservoir was extended along the Long Plains road to Wild Horse Plains. Six inch pipes were used and are still in use but were relined with cement in 1962. Following the laying of the main, water was reticulated throughout the district.

School: With the influx of settlers in the 1870s and early 80s it was obvious that education of the young was a major concern to all. After approaches to the Minister of Justice and Education the department saw fit to purchase town allotment 52 in January 1882 (the second to be sold within several months of the township being surveyed) for the purpose of erecting a teacher’s residence and school to accommodate 40 pupils. Within weeks a tender was accepted for the sum of 477 pounds and the building was completed on 6th September 1882 and opened for students in November of the same year. Mr A. Wicksteed was the first teacher and he served the school for five years. Initially 13 pupils attended for a total of 17 days at the end of the fourth term. (The school year consisted of four terms at the time) During the 56 years that the school functioned the attendance varied from a daily average of 14-16 students up to 31. At its height 66 students attended one year. With the lack of numbers in 1888 it became a Provisional school. This school which also served Port Lorne was under the watchful eye of the Dublin Board of Advice for many years. One of the highlights of the school year was the interschool sports day held for 3 years in Pt Parham – the first one held in 1886. Amongst those who taught at the school were Mr Fred Wilkins – for 15 years, Edna Cosh – 6 years, Gertrude Swannell – 5 years, Edith O’Riley – 3 years, Leila Jervis – 3 years, Carl Uhularb 3 years with the last teacher being Wilfred Corbett for 5 years. In 1938 due to lack of pupils, the department considered it uneconomical to maintain the school and it closed later that same year. The children continued their education at the Long Plains School.

The school was then used as a residence by Mr Walt Zanker and his wife Phylis nee Worsley. In this year of 1984 it stands in good condition. The children now receive their education at Balaklava Primary School and Balaklava High School and are taken there by a government bus.

Institute: In 1884 the residents felt that they needed a meeting place for various social and group activities. A public meeting was convened on 8th August to discuss erecting a suitable building. From this meeting of 18 people a working party was formed consisting of Robert Barr chairman, A. A. Wicksteed secretary. A building committee was formed consisting of Robert Barr, Peter McDonald senior, William Chapman, William Moyse, A Bannerman and Thomas Barnes. Other residents attending the meeting were Alf, Allen and William Jones and Peter McDonald junior. A meeting was called on 28th August 1884 and attended by 40 or more people and the building committee reported back. Mr Addison and Mr Scott donated township allotment 37 on which an building could be erected. Residents were told that with the building contractor Mr J.C Burton assisted by local volunteers the cost could be kept to a minimum. Material required included 140 yards stone, 100 yards of sand and 5,300 bricks. Trustees appointed were Robert and Andrew Barr, William Chapman, Alexander Bannerman, (all farmers) and Henry Lyons (storekeeper) and witnessed by AA. Wicksteed (school teacher) On the 4th November 1884 the foundation stone was laid by Robert Barr and the building eventually opened on 3rd April 1885. The approximate cost was 600 pounds plus a further 100 pounds for a piano and other furnishing. One hundred and forty four chairs were ordered. A library was established to provide means of support with the opening hours between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday. Other uses for the hall were : Anglican Church services, lodge meetings, draught matches, debating and social evenings and a Young Men’s Improvement Society. It also was the polling station for both the State and Federal elections and these continued until its closure. In 1931 the Ladies Guild was formed with President Mrs H.W. Lyons. Monthly meetings were held and money raised through sale of handicrafts and other goods sold at fetes and fairs. Proceeds were donated to the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, Minda Home, Local school and Institute. During world War Two (1939 – 1945) the ladies ceased these fund raising activities and worked to raise money for the Fighting Forces Comfort Fund. Once again due to the decline in residents this organization disbanded in 1962 (Mrs Roy Bache was the last president.) Following 80 years of service to the community this Institute building was closed in 1964 and later sold. It fell into disrepair and was demolished in about 1980 after being acquired by the District Council of Mallala. The last president of the Wild Horse Plains Institute was Mr Albert G. Clark J.P.

Church: Religion was important to the majority of the early settlers and if a suitable building was not available they would meet in a private home. This applied to Wild Horse Plains and Sunday services were initially held in the home of Mr McDonald. In January 1882, Samuel Drury purchased township allotment 50 on behalf of the Christian Disciples for the purpose of building a church as soon as possible. The land was immediately transferred to the trustees Robert Barr Junior, William Jones, Adam Hart, Robert Dunlop, Mr Lawrie and Frederick Hammond all of Wild Horse Plains. Plans were drawn up and preparations made but the actual building work was delayed as the volunteer farmers were busy with farm work. It is believed that construction took place in June and July 1882. In May of 1883 well attended services were taking place in the unfinished building. Store keeper Mr S Gray was in charge of some services as well as Mr Woolcock taking a crowded afternoon service and who established a bible class. By July 1883 the church was completed and named “The Christian Chapel”. At some time prior to 1906 the church changed from “Christian Disciple” to “Independent Baptist”. On September 29th1906 the chapel was purchased by the “Australian Christian Commonwealth Methodist for the sum of 50 pounds including the organ, and became part of the Methodist Circuit. The new trustees, appointed were: James McDonald, Richard Bailey, Gilbert Jones, (farmers of Wild Horse Plains) George Betams – Plumber, Rev John Dingle – minister of religion at Mallala. Church and Sunday school continued services with up to 40 children on the roll prior to 1938. Anniversaries were held in the Institute often accompanied the day before by a tea and fun football match. During the year of 1961, and due to declining numbers, the decision was made to close the chapel. The building was sold by tender and demolished in 1964.

Shops: Over the period of 100 years Wild Horse Plains had seen the establishments and also the closure of several shops apart from the Postal depot and shop. Samuel Gray ran a store in the 1880s and a Blacksmith shop opened in late 1881, on town allotment 32. The blacksmith served the district for many years and serviced the passing through traffic including the horse drawn mail and passenger coaches. In May 1885 Mr H.A. Lyons purchased allotment No 46. IN 1887 he opened a store complete with wine license and it operated for a few years. In the late 1880s a new building was erected for the McDonald family on allotment 31 and this building became the final store and post office in Wild horse Plains. Mr McDonald operated the store until 1909 followed by W.R. Burnard 1910 – 1914 and H.B. Moore 1914 – 1920. Mr Zanker from Dublin operated from August 1920. He owned a truck and would leave his home at 2 a.m. to drive to Adelaide for groceries and general merchandise and to collect fresh fruit and vegetable from the market and deliver them on the way home from Dublin to Wild Horse Plains. Mr and Mrs Zanker both died while still running the business and it was taken over by Mr. H.P McArdle followed by his son Mr Ian McArdle and his wife. Owing to illness the store finally closed on December 20th 1978.

Sport: Sporting activities on the whole were limited but a cricket team was formed in 1880 – 1881 and appears to have been more social than competitive. Other teams talking part were Grace Plains, Windsor, and Dublin. The captain for Wild Horse Plains was E.Good. In the 1920s Wild Horse Plains combined with Dublin to form a football team for several years. During this same period Wild Horse Plains formed a cricket team of their own. Tennis began in about 1922 and continued for a number of years with the first captain being Mr W. Dunlop (a wheat buyer) A few years later under the captain Mr Walt Zanker, Wild Horse Plains won their first and only premiership. Soon after that insufficient players forced the closure of the tennis club. The asphalt courts were situated on allotment 20. The concrete cricket pitch was situated on the north/east corner of allotment 376, whilst the football oval with the boundary marked with a single furrow plough was sited on the same section.

Notable residents: Two sons of the first Postmaster/shopkeeper Mr H.A. Lyons were to become prominent in public life apart from their extensive farming interests. John Alexander Lyons left the district and settled at Georgetown. He was first elected to the S.A. parliament in 1926 at a by-election for the District of Stanley as a member for the Liberal and Country League and stood until 1938. Following redistribution he held the seat of Rocky River from 1938 – 1948. He died in December 1948.

Herbert William Lyons (at his second attempt) entered the S.A. Parliament in 1933 as a member of the Liberal and Country League. Herbert, who was a great debater, held the seat of Barossa of which Wild Horse Plains was a part until the redistribution in 1938. Due to his interest in the South Australian Fertilizer Industry he was appointed a director of Cresco Fertilizer Company in 1929 and became chairman in 1931. He was appointed managing director in 1933 and retained this position plus chairman of the company until his death in 1958. He was instrumental in the establishment of “Sulphuric Acid Ltd. at Port Adelaide and “Nairne Pyrites” both adjuncts to the fertilizer industry. Herbert Lyons was a director of the following companies associated with the Australian Fertilizer industry: Cresco Fertilizer Ltd, Sulphuric Acid Ltd, Nairne Pyrites, Fertilizer Sales Ltd, Cresco Fertilizer Western Australia Ltd, Albany Superphosphate Co Ltd.

From its beginning Wild Horse Plains formed a portion of No 5 ward within the Dublin District Council established in 1873. Local men who became Councillors were William Chapman who became chairman in 1889. William Moyse and Henry Lyons J.P.(who was council auditor for one year and who also served on the Port Wakefield Council.

1935 saw the amalgamation of Dublin, Grace, and Port Gawler councils to become “The District Council of Mallala” of which Wild Horse Plains forms a portion of Long Plains Ward. Local residents who have served the council are” Ken A. Jones – Councillor, Roy A. Bache – Councillor and Chairman and secretary of the Mallala Community Development Board, and Thomas Walker Councillor - 1984.

Public Transport: Wild Horse Plains was initially served by a coach drawn by either five or six horses which ran from Adelaide to Kadina and changing horses at the Wild Horse Plains shop for the journey north. This service was scaled down after the railway line from Adelaide to Kadina via Hamley Bridge and Port Wakefield was built in the 1880s. In 1917 the rail line was built from Salisbury via Two Well and Mallala to Long Plains and later on was extended to Bowmans. From the early 1930s the district has enjoyed the daily motorised bus service running between Adelaide and various towns on York Peninsula. In the early days of settlement people either walked, rode a horse or used horse and buggy. By the mid 1920s most people had the use of a private motor car.

Farming Methods: Over the years farming methods have changed dramatically from horse or bullock drawn plough to disc drilling of crops and the strippers used for harvesting followed by the arduous task of cleaning the grain by hand-turned winnower. Four bushel bags were used for bagging the grain on farm for many years until the advent of slightly lighter three bushel bags. Clydesdale horses played a major role in the farming activities until tractors came on the scene in the mid 1930’s with most farmers owning a tractor soon after the end of World War Two. Mr Mervyn Jones (the grandson of a first settler) was the proud owner of the first tractor in the Wild Horse Plains area in the mid 1930’s. Farming methods have continued to become easier but with more technical knowledge of land management and weed and disease control. Farming plant and machinery has increased in size to a point where to cultivate or sow 40 hectare a day is not a problem. In the late 1950’s bulk handling of grain emerged with most farmers in the district delivering the grain to the Long Plains silo which was built in 1963.

General: With an average rainfall of approximately 325 mm Wild horse Plains has seen many drought with 1914 and 1944 standing out as two of the worst. The depression years of the 1930s were a difficult time for many. Two of the wettest years were 1926 and the year of the flood - 1941. This came about as 5 to 6 inches of rain fell in a day in most of the district and also in the Stockyard Creek area east of Owen and set the water in the creek flowing toward Long Plains where it banked up against the railway line and flooded the area. Despite the setbacks the settlers battled on and supplemented their incomes with milking cows and keeping pigs and fowls. The cream and eggs were collected by truck from various companies – the last being the Hamley Bridge factory. Good prices were obtained for wool and sheep meat in the 1950s and these side lines gradually lost favour as land owners endeavored to purchase land and enlarge their holdings.

The 1960s saw the establishment of two successful “Large White” pig studs - one owned by Mr Roy Bache who eventually sold the stud to Mr and Mrs Trevor Schultz in 1979. The other stud is owned by Mr Lindsay Baker and family who still live in the district and are well known for their success throughout Australia. The James family began a new venture when they planted an Almond grove.

In 1984 the oldest living resident in Wild Horse Plains was Mr Cliff Gilbert who purchased sections 345 and 346 and with his new wife moved to live there in 1929.

Related Articles

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  • Written by Reg Clark of Wild Horse Plains in 1984

Related Articles


  • Mr Reg Clark of Wild Horse Plains researched and wrote this article and segments were included in the book "Life around the Light". A history of the Mallala District Council Area. This was compiled by the Mallala and District History Book Committee for the sesqi centenary of the state of South Australia and printed in December 1985..

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