Amyton, South Australia


Amyton 1910, Courtesy SLSA

After the passing of the 1874 Waste Land Amendment Act all land in South Australia not as yet appropriated became available for selection, including land beyond Goyder’s Line of Rainfall. New Hundreds were surveyed as well with at least one town in its centre. Most farmers were able to buy up to 640 acres on credit.

Amyton, in the Hundred of Pinda, was surveyed in 1879, as were Gordon, Carrieton, Hammond, Cradock, Stephenston, Chapmanton and many others. Amyton was named by Governor Jervois after his daughter Amy. It was proclaimed on 10 April 1879.

The town was laid out in a rectangular shape running in a North South direction. It had the usual North, South, East and West Terraces, suburban lots and even parklands. The town itself had 204 allotments which were divided by the North-South running First Street between East and West Terrace. It also had a main square between 4th and 5th streets with a creek running through the middle of it.

The town plan also included provisions for a school, slaughter area and cemetery. One of the first stone buildings completed in 1878 was the Methodist Church. The foundation stone for it had been laid by Mrs Metcalf. This building was used for some time as a school until a separate school building became available. The Church on land donated by Joseph Kenner was badly needed as previously services had been conducted in the private homes of F McHugh and WP Metcalf.

Map of Amyton

Very little traffic passed through the town as roads were very bad and dangerous to travel during the night. This changed somewhat after the discovery of the Mount Browne Goldfield. During the early months of 1881 a substantial number of parties passed through and were even joined by a group of Amyton settlers, including Alfred Stokes.

In September 1880 Matthew Metcalf built his house and shop on the corner of Main Street opposite the Church. It was later occupied by the Baumgurtel family. A Debating Society was started and on 3 June 1881 the Rev. WT Carter visited the town and entertained some 30 people by showing them a number of dissolving views.

Amyton School 1891, Courtesy SLSA

Although one of the many problems faced by the farmers and town people was drought, the church was severely damaged by flood in 1884 and had to be demolished. After great efforts the new building was opened by the Rev. Mitchell in October. In January 1904 the Church was once again flooded, but escaped major damage.

In August 1881 it was reported that the residents were enjoying ‘a most beautiful season, as the rain continues to fall at periods suitable for the growing of wheat. During the past week some nice showers fell and the country is all that could be desired. The wheat looks well. It is hoped that the Post Office will soon be moved closer to town or better still, into the town'.

A few months later the scenery was vastly different after a destructive thunderstorm. Joseph Gum lost 600 acres of crop during the hail storm that followed and several houses lost their roofs. Among those who could see the sky from their living rooms were the Dimond, Gum, Burt, May and Gregory families. A month after this disaster the town was struck by an earthquake which was felt as far away as Morchard and Willowie.

A school was operating from 1881 when Joseph de la Hunte was teaching an average of 18 students. It was conducted in the Wesleyan Church building but in 1894 a new timber and iron building was erected at a cost of £327. Later it was reported that ‘Teacher has left, which is a matter of great regret and concern for the parents with school aged children’. Alice Isa Dobney, born on 12 December 1866 taught at the school from June 1886 until the end of 1890. There were many other teachers who only stayed for a short time. In August 1904 the Amyton public school was reopened after a recess for some time. Mr F Mullet, the late teacher, had been transferred to Golden Grove and Mr J Bourke was appointed as his successor.

John Naughton arrived in 1915 with his newly-wed wife from Lancelot but was gone before the year was finished. Vida Levett Read, born on 19 February 1893 stayed from August 1915 until the end of 1919. Previously she had been teaching at Wonoka and Wilson. The school closed in 1930.

The town also acquired a Post Office. Previously it had been well out of town meaning a time consuming walk. John Stokes, originally from Caldicott, England and his wife Annie moved to Amyton where John became the first Postmaster. Their eldest daughter Jane, born on 14 January 1857, later married William Baumgurtel. Although it had a post office very few of the residents were happy with the postal arrangements. They were slow at the best of times. The Friday newspaper from Port Augusta did not arrive until the next Tuesday.

During the 1890s Joseph Gum was the postmaster. The Gum families were well represented among the early settlers. William and Eliza Gum arrived in South Australia on 25 March 1849 with their two small sons George and Joseph. Joseph was born on 18 April 1848. When his father William died in 1872 at Nairne, he left a family of 7 sons and 2 daughters. Joseph married Elizabeth Ann King of Nairne on 6 March 1878. Joseph and Elizabeth would eventually have 11 children. Elizabeth was born in England on 21 November 1852 and arrived on the Olivia in 1853

On 18 January 1879 Joseph's wife Elizabeth had her first child, a daughter, at Nairne. Later that year Joseph settled with his wife, young daughter and his widowed mother at Amyton where he and his brother William had taken up land and settled at Fair View Farm in the late 1870s. They had a daughter on 20 July 1887. Joseph Gum became President of the newly started Literary Society in 1879. Sadly the Gum's lives at Amyton were soured by misfortune. Several of their children died at a very young age, which was not that unusual at that time.

On 29 October 1881 Emily Ada died aged 2 years and 9 months. On 20 February 1888 Amy Elizabeth died only 11 months old. This was followed by Ida Ruby on 22 November 1891 who was barely 4 months when she passed away. In 1910 Jack Gum, third son of William and Annie, died on 3 February. He was 7 years and ten months. Not all Gums died young though. Maude Edith Gum, born in 1885 at Amyton died in 1973 at the age of 88 in Adelaide.

Naturally there were also the births of many Gum children at Amyton. On 1 June 1885 Maude Edith was born, Amelia Gum was born in 1887, On 22 October 1889, Annie, the wife of William had a daughter and on 23 March 1892 a son, Frederick William, the first of four, while still at Fair View Farm. Laura was born in 1896. Mrs H Gum had a son on 30 November 1921 at Glenmore Nursing Home, Orroroo.

Another heart breaking example of children dying young is provided by the Kairl family. George Kairl, born in England in 1833 married Esther, nee Meadows. They were to have sixteen children between May 1855 and March 1880. At least ten of them, and husband George, had died before Esther herself died at the age of 56. Two children outlived their parents. Abel, born in 1862, died in 1898 and Norton, born in 1866, died in 1933. The date of death of the other four is not known. One Kairl member settled later at Terka.

The early settlers were very interested in a good and religious life. In 1885 a Band of Hope was formed with Samson Thomas as Secretary for the next 7 years. For the Bicentenary of John Wesley in 1903 an Essay Competition about his life and work was organised in South Australia. Division III was for people under 18 years and was won by none other than an ex-student of the one-teacher school of Amyton, Maude Edith Gum.

Amyton School children, 1902. Courtesy SLSA

Maude and several other Gum children, among them Amelia F Laura, Stanley and Raymond, were long-time members of the Sunbeams, an organisation which collected small donations from its members on their birthdays to finance extra beds at the Children's Hospital in Adelaide. During the annual festival of the local Methodist Church, the Gum family were present in large numbers. The Chronicle of 22 October 1927 reported the festivities as follow.

BACK TO AMYTON. METHODIST CHURCH JUBILEE. In June, 1877, the Rev. T Edmeades, of Melrose, visited the settlers and suggested that church services should be established. The home of Mr F McHugh, afterwards purchased by Mr MH Metcalf, was offered, and services were conducted regularly, the minister being assisted by such men as Messrs Jabez Tilbrook, John Gray, Moses William and William Crisp. During the winter of 1878 steps were taken to build a church.

On October 14 the foundation stone was laid by Mrs MH Metcalf. On Sunday and Monday, October 9 and 10, crowded congregations met to celebrate the church's jubilee. The two services were conducted by the Rev. Geo W Shapley, and were very impressive. Anthems were rendered by the choir. On Monday afternoon a cricket match was played by the old pioneers and the younger generation, the captains being R Brown and HK Gum, following which an 'old-time tea meeting' was held.

A special feature of which was a cake of three tiers, the work of Mrs A and Miss Verna Crisp, was cut by three pioneers. Mrs MH Metcalf, who laid the foundation-stone, cut the first tier, Mr John Gray, representing the local preachers, cut the second tier, Mr William Gum, representing the old pioneers, cut the third tier. After tea tho time was pleasantly spent in the renewal of friendships. Friends from far and wide met once more.

One of the few solid buildings 1885, Courtesy SLSA

Amongst the old pioneers and those who 'came back' were: Mr and Mrs John Gray, Mr and Mrs William Mills, Mr Jabez Tilbrook, Mr William Gum, Mrs MH Metcalf, Mrs Baumgurtel, Mrs TW Metcalf, Mrs Jacobs, Mr and Mrs Dunsford, Miss Maude Gum, Messrs Alfred and George Gum, Mr and Mrs A Grief, Mrs Parrington, Mr and Mrs Scott, Mrs Hooper, Mrs French, Mr and Mrs Messenger, Mr and Mrs A Brooks, Misses Olive and Doris Gray, Mr and Mrs A Schmidt. Mrs D Brooks and Mrs AN Mills.

Mr and Mrs W Mills were also present as were Mr and Mrs C Mills, Mr and Mrs J Mills, Mr and Mrs Kairl, Mr and Mrs Duffield, Mr and Mrs H Brooks, Mr and Mrs A Freeman. Mr and Mrs W Thomas, Miss Blanche Thomas, Mr and Mrs R Hitch. Mrs W Garnett, Mr RB Metcalf and Mr DW McLeod.

In the evening a public meeting was held. The Rev. AE Jones presided. A bouquet of flowers was presented to Mrs Metcalf by Miss Gwenneth Gum. Mr A Crisp responded on behalf of Mrs Metcalf. The three speakers for the old pioneers were Mr John Gray, who spoke of the church's early influences in moulding character and Mr Thomas, of the early pioneering days. The Rev. GW Shapley read greetings from absentees. Short addresses were given by the Revs. A Jones, of Port Augusta, FJ Barnes, of Quorn, and HA Miller of Booleroo Centre.

Mr S Thomas was presented with an illuminated address in recognition of his long service with church work. The Wilmington Sunshine Choir of Girls, under the leadership of Mrs PT Scholz contributed items. It was estimated that about 350 people, including children, were present at thn celebrations

They took part in competitions where Mrs William Gum won a prize for her cotton winding and Jessie Gum a prize in a junior spelling bee. Among the many stall holders were Emily Gum, Mr G Gum, Hilda Gum and Maude Gum. Her stall received the highest number of votes for best decorated stall.

During 1895 the Young People’s Christian Endeavour Society was started. They were also interested in improving their natural environment. In July 1889 a large number of trees, both fruit and forest trees were planted. They were well looked after and within a year were more than a metre high.

During Arbor Day 1905 the school children planted another 50 trees. By 1905 most were 3 metres tall. On 15 May 1895 the Amyton Branch of the Agricultural Bureau was formed to improve the knowledge of farmers and improve the quality of their work. Among some of its early members were J Gum, President, S Thomas, W Mills and W and T Gum. Nine years later the membership had changed a litlle. The members now were F Mullett (Secretary), J Gum, A Gray, W Gum, J Gray, W Mills, J Kelly, T Gum, S Thomas, Wm Hughes, Geo Wheadon, J. Ormiston and Walter Gum.

During early 1900 the post office was operated by the Baumgurtel family. From 1900 until 1902 it was Mrs J Baumgurtel. Her husband was a contractor. In 1903 and 1904 RM Baumgurtel was the postmaster. J Baumgurtel was back in 1905 and RM Baumgurtel was in charge from 1909 until 1911.

In 1912 there was a change when Elizabeth Hillman was the Postmistress. In 1913 the teacher AM Woonton looked after it but from 1914 until 1919 Mrs J Baumgurtel was back to be relieved in 1920 by teacher LV Reade.

Farmers listed during the early 1900s were; C Brown, Richard Brown, J Garnett, H, Jas and John Gray, James, Joseph, William and Walter Gum, Charles, Edwin, Jos and William Mills and FJP and J Stokes. Mrs Reddaway was listed as a nurse. One of the few solid buildings 1885, Courtesy SLSA

By 1905 farmers had concluded that growing wheat only was out of the question because of the unreliable rainfall. Most of them had changed to mixed farming. Dairying paid far better and saltbush and bluebush were nutritious and free. Nearly all farms had a cream separator and weekly supplies were sent to Tuckwell & Son in Wilmington or by train to the Jamestown factory.

As the price of butter depended on its quality, which in turn depended on the quality of the cream, Mr Friedricks, manager of the Wilmington plant gave a lecture on dairying in the Amyton School in connection with the Agricultural Bureau.

In 1907 Joseph Gum died of cancer on 11 October, aged 59, at the Jamestown Hospital. He had kept the post office at Amyton for 15 years, served on the Hammond District Council for 12 years, was Chairman of the local Agricultural Bureau and a member of the School Board. As one of the oldest residents of the district he was highly respected and liked. His wife died in February 1943.

The Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser of 25 October 1907 included his obituary, which read; Much sympathy is expressed at Nairne for the family of the late Mr Joseph Gum, second son of the late Mr William Gum, of Nairne, who a few days ago died at the Jamestown Hospital. Deceased, who has been ill for some ten months, was born in England and in 1849 with his parents came to this state and settled at Nairne.

When the Northern areas were opened for agriculture he took up land at Condowie and left Nairne in 1874. A couple of years later he took up some land in conjunction with his brothers James and William in the Hundred of Pinda. Some ten years ago he secured a good farm at Crystal Brook, and last year he took up land for himself and sons at Pinnaroo.

The deceased was always to the front in local matters wherever he lived. At Hammond he was a member of the district council for over 12 years, was a member of the school board of advice, and chairman of the agricultural bureau and a member of it up to the time of his death.

In 1899 he was appointed a justice of the peace. For 15 years he kept the post office at Amyton. He was a member of the Loyal Flinders Lodge of Oddfellows, Nairne, and went through all the chairs. The late Mr Gum was a man of sterling qualities and greatly respected as was shown by the large attendance at the funeral. He was a son-in-law of Mr JW King, of Nairne, marrying his eldest daughter Elizabeth nearly 30 years ago. The widow, five sons, and three daughters survive.

Gray's bullock teams arriving at Amyton driven by FP Stokes
from Curramulka, a distance of 240 km, in 8 days.

Modernisation was slow in the north. Transport, expensive at the best of time, was also slow. In 1910 G Gray still owned and operated bullock teams. On 14 June 1911 Mrs W Gum was elected president of the Hammond Liberal Union and Maude Gum committee member.

In July 1914 Thomas Gum, born in 1858 at Nairne died. A memorial service was conducted by the Rev. JG Mitchell in the Amyton Methodist Church on 5 July. That same year several young, and not so young, men enlisted to fight overseas. Among them were PV, ST, R and FW Gum, WJ and GE Garnet and J Cowan, who was killed.

Lance Corporal Arthur Kairl, a blacksmith by trade, was killed in action on 10 October 1917 in France, aged 21. He was the son of Mr and Mrs OJ Kairl. Private Frederick William Gum, from Fairview, Amyton, was killed in action on 20 May 1918 in France. He was 26 and the eldest son of William and Annie Gum, nee Gray, and brother of Percy Norman Gum who had enlisted on 10 May 1916, just 6 weeks after Frederick.

All in all members of the Gum family made a substantial contribution to the little town of Amyton and other places. This is well illustrated by the above Obituary and the one below of Thomas Gum.

Register 9 July 1914

Mrs Josiah Thomas died in her 96th year in 1920. She came out from England with her parents when she was 18 years old. They disembarked in Tasmania but moved to Mount Barker in 1850. She married Josiah and lived at Moonta. In 1887 Josiah selected land in the Hundred of Pinda and lived there with his family until his death in 1887. Mrs Thomas remained at Amyton for the rest of her life. They had 4 sons and 4 daughters.

The town of Amyton, started with such high hopes had, like many of its residents, a very short life. It only existed for 78 years. Nothing remains of the town today except a few ruins and some rubble heaps. It was officially declared to cease to exist on 13 June 1957. What is left though is its small cemetery which has a most beautiful and impressive driveway from the main road, flanked on both sides with a double row of native trees, planted in July 1974.

It may be in the middle of nowhere but this is not seen anywhere else in South Australia. The cemetery also contains the remains of some people from Willowie, including twin children from the Tucker family, who died before that town had its own cemetery. Entrance lane to cemetery. A plaque honouring the pioneers and settlers of Amyton and its surrounding district was unveiled on 13 April 1975. Next to it is another plaque honouring the members of the Amyton Methodist Church, which was closed in 1930. The pews of the church were removed to the Willowie Church.

Entrance lane to cemetery.

A plaque honouring the pioneers and settlers of Amyton and its surrounding district was unveiled on 13 April 1975. Next to it is another plaque honouring the members of the Amyton Methodist Church, which was closed in 1930. The pews of the church were removed to the Willowie Church.


Amyton Cemetery

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