Johnburgh , South Australia


Very little is left, or to show for, after years of hard work.

With the expansion of the wheat industry, and the opening up of new farming land beyond Goyder's Line, the government proclaimed the Hundred of Oladdie on 23 March 1876. Three years later the town of Johnburgh, forty kilometres north of the Line, was surveyed with 144 town sections and proclaimed on 10 July 1879.

On 2 August it was reported that; We have been so fortunate as to have our township gazetted for sale at last. 'Johnburgh' is the name in which it rejoices. The sale is to take place on the 7th of August. We were lately regretting the dry weather and sharp frosts, and the farmers were beginning to think things were looking very queer, but on Wednesday, the 23rd, rain began to fall at 10 a.m. and continued without intermission till 9 p.m. In the morning on first looking out we saw the ranges west, north-east, and east of Johnburgh capped with snow, rather an unusual sight in the Oladdie Hundred. The snow remained till nearly evening. The Worna Whim Well, close to Johnburgh township, is to be put in thorough repair at last. This has been long needed, as a great number of families are dependent on it.

As early as August 1879 a postal service was put in place and Mary Dowd secured the contract for the conveyance of the mail between Orroroo and Johnburgh for 130 pounds a year. Three months later, four sections, allotments 49, 50, 95 and 96 were proclaimed as a school reserve on 20 November 1879. Its first teacher was Mary E Bishop who was appointed Provisional Teacher in December 1879, ready for the start of the new school year in 1880. She only stayed for a very short time and resigned in April 1880. The school remained open until 1967.

The town was named after Major John Jervois, son of the Governor of South Australia at that time. The first town blocks were sold on 7 August 1879. Other towns surveyed and proclaimed that year were Gordon, Amyton, Carrieton, Hammond, Cradock, Stephenston and Chapmanton.

Even before the town's proclamation, the Bishop brothers had a shop built and operated it from 1878 onwards. A year later they added postal services to their establishment as well. That same year they became Registrars of Births and Deaths and could issue several other licences as well.

In December 1879 it was reported that; This township being as yet in its infancy, it is not usually a very lively spot, but on the 3rd inst. it was sufficiently lively to please everyone. At about half-past 12 on that day a fire suddenly broke out at the back of Mr Abraham Walter Bishop's house, which was just finished, and as there were large heaps of chips as well as posts for fencing, &c, close to the building, it was with great difficulty that the fire was got under.

The neighbouring farmers seeing the flames, left their machines and hurried to the scene. One side of the house was charred and two windows completely destroyed. No one knows how the fire originated. I hear that the crops are likely to turn out better than was anticipated at one time, but the fearful hailstorm we had on the 10th November nearly destroyed some of the best crops. The grasshoppers, too, have played sad havoc in some parts; one or two crops, I am told, have been eaten off bare to the ground.

From the Wesleyan meeting on 8 April 1879, it was reported in the Advertiser to ask the Commissioner of Crown Lands permission to cut timber from any section that has passed the hammer in the Hundreds of Yalpara and Oladdie, seeing that there is a large proportion of it so heavily timbered as to be entirely unsuitable for agricultural purposes. This motion was carried unanimously.

It was also proposed by J Bishop, and seconded by Mr Thomas, that a memorial should be sent to His Excellency requesting him to grant to the township now being surveyed the name of Playford. The meeting then considered the most desirable spot on which to erect a place of worship. Mr H Reynolds kindly offered to present a piece of land opposite the township. This offer was gladly accepted. A vote of thanks to the Chairman terminated the meeting. This last request was not granted as the government decided on Johnburgh. For a long time, until 1892, it was actually referred to as Johnsburgh.

Some six months later Johnburgh had some nice showers just in time to save some of the crops, but some of the late-sown ones would not recover, having been without rain for about two months. The dams were consequently getting low and the feed becoming scarce also. Building of the Wesleyan chapel in the township was in progress and would be a great improvement on the present arrangements of holding services in private houses.

Church completed in 1880 on land given by Henry Reynolds.

One of the first to make use of the new building was George Fullwood, fourth son of Thomas of Snowtown when he was married on 2 March 1880 to Sarah Jane, third daughter of N Coad of Oladdie by the Rev WT Carter.

As early as January 1880, the Bishop Brothers advertised that as GENERAL STOREKEEPERS, in the Township of JOHNSBURGH, they were prepared to SUPPLY all comers from a really well-assorted STOCK, which is specially adapted to the requirements of FARMERS and STATIONS at the LOWEST POSSIBLE REMUNERATIVE PRICES, and trust by strict attention to business, combined with good value for money, to merit a share of the public patronage. FLOUR, BRAN, POLLARD, GALVANIZED IRON. FENCING-WIRE (best quality), PLOUGHSHARES, BEDSTEADS, COLONIAL WINE, &c., on hand, REGISTRAR of BIRTHS and DEATHS. Issuers of Timber Licences and Insurance Agency. The Bishop brothers were declared insolvent and in May 1880 the store was taken by J Carter.

In September 1880 it was said that the township of 'Johnsburgh makes very slow progress'. There were only two or three buildings and there 'is no prospect of an increase'. On 29 April 1882, a meeting of the Johnburgh branch of the Farmers' Mutual Association was held. Only about a dozen farmers were present, owing to it being the busy season. Correspondence was read from the Hawker branch re the land laws.

After some discussion it was agreed that 3,000 acres for one farmer to hold was too much, unless at least two-thirds of the same was rough and unfit for ploughing. It was thought this would create a monopoly, and that men with capital would hold the largest portion of good land, thus preventing permanent settlement. Correspondence was read from the Central branch as to the coming elections for the Legislative Council. The branch regretted that the candidates had not published their views, and for that reason could not really select anyone. However, they would give Mr J Miller, JP, the president of the Farmers' Mutual Association, their support.

In April 1881 this notice appeared in the local paper. L. REYNOLDS, GENERAL STOREKEEPER, JOHNSBURG, Having bought the business lately carried on by Mr J Carter at Johnsburgh, begs to announce to the inhabitants of the surrounding districts that he intends keeping a complete STOCK of GROCERY, DRAPERY, and IRONMONGERY and hopes with moderate prices to merit a share of the support and patronage bestowed on his predecessor. The Store will be under the management of Joseph Charles James.

Laurence Reynolds was, and remained a grazier with properties at Tommy's Gap and Walloway. Joseph Charles James, son of Captain E James of Penzance, Cornwall, also did well. Between 1881 and 1890, he not only ran the store in Johnburgh and one in Belton, but became a provisional teacher and postmaster as well. He also married Emily Reynolds, the second daughter of store owner, Laurence Reynolds, and sister of Henry Reynolds on 18 December 1881.

Laurence Reynolds and his wife Mary Ann, father and mother of Henry, Emily and Arthur James retired to Kapunda in 1887, after selling his farm and all the household furniture on section 141, Walloway North. He died in Kapunda on 11 June 1899.

The Express and Telegraph stated that Mr Laurance Reynolds had been ailing for some time, but seemed much better last week, and yesterday he walked to his son's residence in the main street to have dinner with him. After the meal he left for his home, but was seized with a fit. He expired in a few hours. The deceased gentleman had lived in Kapunda a number of years and was highly respected. Mr James, a storekeeper, of Balaklava, is a son-in-law. The other members of the family reside in different parts of the colony. His wife Mary Ann lived until 1923, and died on 7 February, in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect. Both are buried at the Kapunda General Cemetery.

On 6 May 1891 Joseph, and his wife Emily, daughters Emma and Bessie, son Ernie and nurse left for Cornwall on the RMS Austral to visit the family there. After their return to South Australia Joseph once again started farming and shopkeeping, only this time in Balaklava. In 1902 he was listed as a JP and on 12 September 1903 Joseph Charles was elected to the Balaklava Committee of the Branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Settling in, preparing land and farming was the main occupation of most residents. Unfortunately for them the weather wasn't always favourable to them. Their main problem was water; and most of the time it was the lack of it. Sometimes, as in May 1882 there was plenty of it, so much that dams were overflowing and cattle were able to have a good feed for some time to come. As harvests had been rather poor, seed wheat was now distributed by T Thomas, JP who was the local representative of the Farmers Seed Wheat Distribution Society.

Map of Johnburgh

As early as 1882 the Wesleyan Methodists provided regular religious services for the settlers at Johnburgh. Some of its early preachers were Rev. J.H. Goss, J.P. Chapman, C.W. Genge, R. Dunstan, W.A. Millikan, A.P. Burgess and W.A. Gann. On 17 August 1882, Rev Chapman married Frederick Robert Phillis Tapscott of Mount Pleasant and Mary Ann Polden, daughter of George Polden of Yalpara.

Many of the early ministers travelled each Sunday to Bendleby to look after the spiritual needs of that town. Sadly though, a Reverend, Priest or Pastor was not always available when there was the greatest need for one. Many people died and were buried without their ministrations. This problem was common in most of the newly established towns, especially if they remained small.

The new Johnburgh Church, first stone laid by CH Hombsch on 9 July 1924.

During 1882 the Johnburgh hotel was completed and WH. Tremaine, its first publican, served his thirsty customers until he was replaced by James Pearce in September 1882. Pearce remained for only a year when he in turn was replaced by 29-years-old Henry Reynolds on 12 June 1883, who also held a billiards and slaughtering licence. Henry was the eldest son of Laurence and Mary Ann Reynolds, both from England. They were to have six children, all born in South Australia.

Henry lived at Sandy Creek, Barossa Valley and Hallett before buying sections 103 and 107, consisting of 669 acres in the Hundred of Oladdie in 1878. A year later he managed to get 130 acres under crop which gave a harvest of about six bushels per acre. The South Australian Register of 21 March 1882, reported among other farming matters that in 1880 Henry got in 246 acres, and gathered 85 bags, or about 340 bushels; last season he sowed 346 acres, and reaped 65 bags, or about 260 bushels. His averages he believes, are better than those of many others.

He ploughs about four inches deep one year and scarifies it next, and sows 1 bushel per acre of Purple Straw. He has been farming all his life, and his present holding consists of a red-and-brown clay, with small stones on the hillsides, and on the flats a rather firmer yellowish soil, in both cases of considerable depth. His water supply is obtained from a well 65 feet deep, of the same character as previously described, and is good and plentiful for his own uses.

Henry must have been confident about his future as a farmer as he married Mary Jane Duance of Wirreanda on 9 June 1880. They were to have five children, four of them born in Johnburgh and the last one, Maud Mildura Reynolds at Mildura, Victoria, where they had moved to in 1891, just before her birth. Reynolds served the locals at his hotel until 6 June 1891. During these years he continued working as a farmer. His first two children, William Henry, born on 16 April 1881 and Ethel May, born on 16 June 1882 both died at Johnburgh at a very young age and were buried there in unmarked graves. Henry stayed in Mildura until 1893.

His next move was to Penola in the South East. Here he became the landlord of the Royal Oak Hotel. In February 1905 he joined the Liquor Trades Defence Union. That same month it was reported that the popular landlord would be going on a world trip shortly, accompanied by his wife and son Fred. They left on 30 March on the Orontes for Europe, America and New Zealand.

In December 1905 Henry was elected as a vice-president of the Penola Racing Club. Later that month he was in the news again when the Border Watch of Mount Gambier, reported that on 21 December 'A pretty and interesting wedding took place here yesterday afternoon, the contracting parties being Edward Thomas, second son of William E Plummer, and Lucy, the eldest daughter of Mr. Henry Reynolds, the popular proprietor of the Royal Oak Hotel.

The ceremony took place at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic church, the officiating clergyman being the Rev Father McGrath. The church was literally crammed with interested spectators, and hundreds were unable to get a place therein. The bridesmaids were Miss Maud Reynolds (sister of the bride) and Miss Martha Plummer (sister of the bridegroom). The bride was elegantly gowned in white ivory silk, tastefully trimmed with chiffon and valenciennes lace and orange blossoms.

Miss Plummer wore a cream voile dress, suitably trimmed, and picture hat. Miss Reynolds wore a very pretty dress of cream crepe de chine, with pleated chiffon and creme ribbon. The bride and her maids all carried handsome shower bouquets. The ceremony over, the wedding party and a very targe number of guests adjourned to the Institute Hall, where a sumptuous wedding breakfast, catered for by Mr P Balnaves, was spread, and between 200 and 300 guests partook thereof.

Mr Darwent, JP, Chairman of the Penola District Council, presided, and the following toasts were honored: "The newly wedded couple," given by the Rev. Father McGrath, the bride groom responding; "The bridesmaids," by Mr M Tyler, to which Mr William Plummer, brother of the bridegroom, responded; "the parents of the bride and bridegroom," by Mr R McClanaghan and to this Mr Reynolds and Mr W E Plummer, Sen., responded. "The Ladies," by Mr W Thyer, and "Absent friends," by Mr R C MacLeod concluded the toast-list.

The happy couple left by the evening train for Adelaide, and the guests spent a very pleasant evening at the Institute, dancing being kept up until the early hours of the morning. The bride and bridegroom were the recipients of a very large number of costly and useful presents.

Henry leased and co-owned many hotels. Among them were the Johnburgh Hotel, Johnburgh from June 1883 to June 1891. This was followed by the Koolunga Hotel, Koolunga from June 1893 to 1895 and the Eureka Hotel, Redhill, from September 1895 to 1898. Next was the Broughton Hotel, Port Broughton, from June 1898 to October 1902 and after that the Royal Oak Hotel, Penola, from December 1902 to June 1906 and again from September 1908 to July 1910 at which time he is reported to have 'disposed' of the hotel.

The licence of the Royal Oak appears to have been officially transferred to Margaret O'Connell in September 1910. during these years Henry also owned the freehold of the Wauraltee Hotel in Port Victoria, South Australia from 1901-1908, co-owned the hotel in Frances, South Australia (1906-08) and perhaps one or more in Queensland, according to oral family history. Henry didn't personally act as publican in these pubs.

If all this wasn't enough, Henry also co-bought The Bushman's Inn in North Penola, which was delicensed at the time, around 1905. This seems to have been simply an investment, as it didn't become a pub again. During his time in the South East he also aquired the Federal Hotel in Semaphore, from 1907 to 1908. His last hotel was the Sir James Ferguson Hotel, Tarlee, from December 1910 to September 1914.

Henry went on three major overseas trips. On 20 March 1900 a farewell (and wish for safe return) evening was held at the Broughton Hotel, Port Broughton for proprietor Henry Reynolds and wife Mary Jane who would be leaving for London and the Paris exhibition.

His second trip was reported in the Advertiser of 15 December 1904 which stated that Mr H Reynolds, of Penola, and recently of Port Broughton, was leaving shortly with his son on a trip to the old country. He expects to be away for six months.

On 1 February 1905, the Penola Football Club held a smoke social in Host Reynolds' Royal Oak Hotel, Mr R McClanaghan presiding over 40 or 50 guests. Henry's third major trip overseas was a six months' tour to England and the Continent. On 4 September 1905 it was reported that Mr H Reynolds and his son, Mr Fred Reynolds, of Penola, who have been visiting Europe and America, were to leave San Francisco on their homeward journey on August 31.

Henry Reynolds, with his wife Mary Jane, taken at the wedding of their daughter Lucy,
in Penola in 1905.
Mary Jane, in the striking dress, and Henry are furthest left.
Picture and information kindly supplied by Kevin Densley,
great-great grandson of Henry and Mary Jane Reynolds.

Farmers, and others soon realised that rain did not follow the plough and as early as 1880 farmers in the Johnburgh area suffered a crippling drought. Farmers soon learned that with an average rainfall of 270 mm and no surface water, growing wheat was risky at the best of times. Many diversified from intensive agriculture to dairying.

A traveller stated in August 1884; the little township of Johnsburg is reached, and finds here a nice-sized hotel kept by Mr Reynolds, a store, and several other houses. The township is situated at the foot of the ranges in a very nice position, with a three-chain road running through it. Abundance of fresh water is had by sinking, and altogether Johnsburg now seems in a fair way of prospering, although, like many other townships, it has greatly suffered by the poor harvests which the North has had so much of lately.

Sometimes there were good times as well. A picnic and sports were held on the parklands on Christmas Day 1885. There was an attendance of from 400 to 500 persons. The hack race brought out thirteen, the best horses of this and the surrounding districts. One event which attracted much attention was the ladies' tilting match. In this, five fair equestriennes took part and was won by Miss Caughlan.

It didn't even pay to take it away or sell it.

During the late 1880s and early 1890s, several Johnburgh farmers took up farming at nearby properties such as Bendleby, Belton, Yalpara and others. Among them were the Arnolds at Yalpara, Mrs S Luckraft at Oladdie, Jos Deere at Yalpara, Frederick Gangell at Bendleby and Andrew, James and P Goorty also at Bendleby.

Although hit hard by poor seasons, the town grew as did the school. A weatherboard building was erected and in April 1890 Benjamin Jones was appointed Provisional teacher followed by Flora McArthur, who was appointed in 1891. In early July 1891 there were a few showers, but the fall had not been heavy. It was said that 'considering the cold weather we have had, our rainfall since April has not been heavy by any means, and were it not for the April floods things would not look very cheerful here. Some of the dams are dry. A good downpour would be very acceptable now to fill up dams and keep the subsoil nice and moist'.

There had been a marked difference in the early and late sown crops. 'Fallowing has begun; as fallow is the surest there will be a good bit turned over this year. I think feed is plentiful and stock in good order. I regret to chronicle the death of Mrs McNamara, of the Johnburgh Hotel. The deceased lady had been ailing some time. She leaves a husband and grown-up family. The deceased lady was interred in the Carrieton Cemetery'.

Times were, and remained hard, but farmers and their families did have time to play sport and forget some of their problems at least for a short time. There was some good news as well occasionally. In 1894 Emil Hoffmann and Edith Hoffmann, daughter of John Laity Cornish and Elizabeth Cornish and born in 1874 at the Duryea mine, became the proud parents of Otelia Elizabeth Olive. Emil was Pound keeper and Publican from 13 June 1893 until 11 December 1894.

On 27 August 1895 Arbor day was celebrated and several trees were planted by the school children. In September 1897 the locals got a team together to play tennis against Carrieton. Everyone enjoyed themselves with Johnburgh winning most of the games. Some of the best players were Arnold, Becker, James, McRitchie, Smith and Zanker.

Johnburgh Hotel 2008

In 1898 William James, younger brother of JC James, was the storekeeper and postmaster. The Wesleyan Minister, the Rev. A H Melbourne provided religious services, the hotel was run by CFW Zanker and FW Smith was the local blacksmith and HE Becker the saddle maker. The next year William James was listed again as postmaster. By this time, the town had also acquired an Institute.

In 1899 a residence was added to the school and the Head Teacher was paid 150 Pounds per annum. In 1900 Mary Louise Hombsch was appointed Monitor at the local school. A year later, in 1901, Ben Jones kept the store and was the postmaster, while the Rev S.J. Martin held the services and B. Crabb was the publican.

In 1901 the hotel was run by Benjamin Crabb but on 25 May 1903 Mrs Margaret Gillard took over the publican's licence and kept it until 1910 when William Gillard continued the running of the hotel until 1917. The Licencing Board gave Gillard the opportunity to keep running it as a pub subject to making some improvements. However, he declined and the building was used as a private dwelling from then on.


During the early months of 1904 farmers were smiling as phenomenal rains had fallen. The total for the first three months was more than 230 mm. Although the last few years had been disappointing for many farmers, they still were keen to try anything to improve both the quality and quantity of their produce. Many still attended meetings of the Agricultural Board and the list of its members for 1904 included T Johnson (Secretary), GH Dunn, J Sparks, FW Hombsch, T Potter, L Chalmers, W McRitchie, ML Read, P Caughlan, JR Masters, FW Smith, W Buchanan, ME Redden, J Luckraft and CH Dicker.

At the start of 1904 Margaret Manning was appointed head teacher and for the last three months of that year Gertrude Cleary was an unpaid monitor. Three years later the annual picnic of the Wesleyan Sunday School took place at H Hombsch's paddock in April. As many families had left the district, due to the poor seasons and economic depression, attendance was not as good as during the previous years. In 1907 Kate Isabel Cousin was appointed Provisional teacher and WP Phillips in 1908.

Johnburgh Post Office Early 1900s

In August 1905 a tennis match was played between the Belton and local teams, which resulted in a win for Johnburgh. The scores for the doubles were: Luckraft and Mrs Read (J) beat Broadbent and Miss Basham, (B) 7-2; Hombsch and Miss M Hombsch (J) beat Fry and Miss Gale (B), 7-5; Sibvy and Mrs. Smith (J) beat Meers and Miss Andrewarthur (B), 7-1; Smith and Miss Bowman (J) beat Zankef and Mrs Harrington (B), 7-6; Luckraft and Mrs Read (J) beat Meers and Miss Andrewarthur (B), 7-2 and Hombsch and Miss H Hombsch (J) beat Broadbent and Miss Basham (B), 7- 2.

As there had been some regular rainfall during the last three years, although the total amounts were still very low, some town lots were offered for sale in February 1906. At the same time though some long-time residents decided to leave and try their luck in better areas. Among them was John Luckraft, who was for many years engaged in farming pursuits. He died at Broken Hill and left a widow and family. On 13 March 1906 FW Hombsch's homestead, farm, land, furniture, organ, horses, reapers, chaffcutter, plough, wagonette and many other implements were offered at auction as he and his family were leaving for New South Wales.

Johnburgh Population 2.

They settled at Tamworth and his son George Bernhard, born in 1895 at Johnburgh, became also a farmer. He eventually joined up on 6 March 1917 to fight with the AIF for King and Country.

During May of that year the rain kept coming and when the District School Inspector, WJ McBride, called in, after a long and arduous drive, there were no children at the school due to the late heavy rains and the state of the roads. In June B Jones, the local storekeeper, who had conducted the post and telephone office, was leaving for Western Australia. He would be much missed by the Methodist Church and Sunday-school, in which he had taken a prominent part. In October 1908 a fare-well social was tendered to Miss Potter in the Methodist Church, where she had been the organist for 10 years.

Gone, but not forgotten, ....yet.


Johnburgh Cemetery

Johnburgh Residents 1876-1901

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