Innamincka

Innamincka

Innamincka had its origin in the failed attempt by Burke and Wills to return to Melbourne after having crossed the continent from south to north. In 1862 the government set an area aside near present day Innamincka for an Aboriginal mission station. However due to a lack of finance this was never established. Although still going, the town never had a population exceeding thirty people.


Tourists at Cooper Creek.

This 'Creek', first discovered by Charles Sturt on 13 October 1845, has been a life giver and taker, depending on the amount of water, if any, that has come down it to reach South Australia's Outback. It can be dry or a hundred kilometres wide.

Its first white settlers were Customs Officers at Oontoo to collect taxes from drovers who crossed the Queensland border travelling down the Strzelecki Creek. Naturally the drovers who had to wait for stock to be counted developed a thirst for something stronger than the water from the Cooper. In 1871 M.F. Lennon provided that when he opened the Bushman Hotel at Innamincka.

Crossing the Cooper, 1982 and 1938.

In 1872 the Innamincka cattle station was established which grew until it covered more than 16,000 square kilometres. It was managed for Robert Bostock by Frank Doveton in 1873 and by Henry Colless, JP., from 1874 until 1881 during which time it carried 8,000 head of cattle. With the increase of station hands, shearers and other pastoral workers a Store and Post Office was opened in 1877 and in December 1878 Scotty Napier set out from Farina with the first bullock wagon loaded with stores for Innamincka, arriving in April 1879.

In 1879 Thomas Neaylon's line of coaches started a fortnightly service mail run from Beltana to Innamincka, via Leigh's Creek, Mount Lyndhurst, Yeralina, Mount Freeling and Blanchewater. That same year, William Garrett, aged about twenty and travelling from Beltana to Innamincka, died of sunstroke. He was eventually found by Thomas Fowler and Edward Campbell. Two years later Henry Howard, cook at Innamincka station also died on his way to Farina.


Aborigines at Innamincka 1930.

Transport and communication between Innamincka and Farina greatly improved when Afghan cameleers took over and government wells were sunk along the track. With sly grog sellers, cattle rustlers and other dishonest elements and the occasional friction between Aborigines and station people it was decided that a police camp would be established in the area. Operating from a tent, with horses and camels, the first constables certainly had a difficult and uncomfortable time.

In 1881 Innamincka station and all its cattle were bought by William Campbell, MLC from Melbourne, who paid $120,000 cash for it all. Born in Scotland in 1810 he migrated to Australia in 1838 and worked for the McArthur family. In 1882 he returned to England and appointed Alfred Walker as manager who stayed until 1908. Today Innamincka Station is part of the S. Kidman & Company.

Although situated in arid country, the police station, build at a cost of $1500 and delayed by drought, was washed away by floods before it was completed in 1885. The floods also resulted in the drowning of James Fee, a teamster from Farina, in the flooded Cooper. Fifty kilometres to the north Frederick Kuttler died from thirst on his way from Cordillo Downs. Two years later, on 28 March 1887, twenty-three year old John Budge drowned while crossing the Cooper at Innamincka. His body was not found until December 1888. His remains were buried at the Innamincka.


Mail truck unloading to camel team for further transport to Innamincka,
August 1933.


Mail truck after it caught fire in 1935.

One of the greatest benefits bestowed on Innamincka was the establishment by the Australian Inland Mission of the Elizabeth Symon Nursing Home in 1928. It became an oasis in the desert and provided medical help for the small isolated town and its large hinterland. The two-storied concrete building was named after the wife of Adelaide barrister Sir Josiah Symon, who had provided most of the money.

The first two Sisters appointed were Claire Stewart and Elsie Edgar. The sisters were appointed for two years. The home opened in 1928 and Elizabeth Burchill, who later wrote several books about her experiences at the home and elsewhere, and Ina Curry relieved the first two sisters in September 1930. Its secretary during the first years was local Constable John Finn. When better transport and communication, and the increasing efficiency of the Flying Doctor Service became available, the home had outlived its purpose and was closed in 1951.

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