The early days at Moralana Station, sometimes called Moralina Station, on section 16 in the Hundred of Moralana, proclaimed on 7 March 1895, were by no means quiet or uneventful days. The station, on lease no. 606, was taken up as early as 1857 by Philip Butler. In 1858 Butler went into partnership with Alexander Grant and William Briggs Sells. This became WB Sells & Co. Sells would manage the station until 1897 when the partnership was wound up. By this time they had also acquired Oakden Hills and Montecollina on the Strzelecki Track.
Butler arrived in South Australia in 1838 and within ten years had freehold land and pastoral leases. Sells first worked for JH Angas and became overseer at Coonatto, Kanyaka and Warcowie. He later owned Yardea and Wilgena on Eyre Peninsula. William died 30 October 1902 and is buried at St Jude Cemetery, Brighton.
The nearest rudimentary facilities were available at Mern Merna where Henry Spiers ran a wineshop and eating house. He was also in charge of the nearby government well, known as White Well. There was also the very small township of Hookina, used by teamsters from Blinman transporting copper ore or coming up from Port Augusta with supplies for the town or mine. The Hookina Hotel was run by W Taylor from 1862 until 1875.
During the latter part of 1872 horses went missing, or were stolen, from Moralana and rewards of up to £5 were promised by WM Cameron and Alf Snowden for their return or information on their whereabouts. In November WB Sells was advertising for fencers to erect a 15 mile, five-wire sheep fence. Materials such as wire and posts would be supplied. When winter 1873 was almost finished teams were needed to cart 200 bales of wool to Port Augusta.
On 25 September 1873 Thomas Cox went on a bender and died at Arkaba. He wasn’t the first or the last to end his life that way. In April 1874 Sells found the body of a man along Wonoka Creek who had previously called in at Moralana. It was assumed that he had died of sunstroke. A happier occasion was celebrated on 10 July 1875 with the birth of a son to Rebecca, the wife of George Surman who worked at the station.
Charles Hodge (c1816-1876) died at Moralana Station on 24 September 1876. It was his eldest daughter Rebecca who was married to George Surman. After their first child, also named George, was born at Moralana on 10 July 1875, they went on to have a further nine children. George, the younger, later had fifteen children of his own.
Nearby the Moralina Copper Mine was not doing too well. Everyone concerned with it had high hopes in 1873, as usual, but nothing eventuated. By November secretary JT Penny made it known that enough shares had been applied for to form a company. When formed it had a nominal capital of £14,000 made up of 7000 shares of £2 each. However 2500 were reserved for promoters JB Williams, JT Penny, W Edwards and A Northcott, free of charge. They were the only ones to make some money as did W Ey the broker. At a general meeting held on 14 September 1874 it was decided to voluntarily wind up the company.
In August 1875 shearing was started at Moralana and Henry Farrell Mansell, manager advertised the going rate at £1 per hundred sheep. In December 1876 Dougal McKinnon was charged with trying to cash false cheques in the name of Mansell and others.
That same month WB Sells was appointed a Justice of the Peace which saved a lot of travelling to his workers and people living nearby. No more need to go to Blinman or Hawker for a signature. Travelling at that time would have been difficult as there was no water available at the station. Feed was only available as dry saltbush. A year later the going rate for shearing was the same but £2 expenses was allowed to men who arrived on or before 26 August and remained until the shearing was finished.
Early July 1878 the newspapers reported that a valuable life had been sacrificed to the insatiable demon drink. On 9 July Henry Farrell Mansell, manager of Moralana for the last ten years, had been brutally murdered by blacksmith Michael Henry Burke with a tomahawk. Maddened with drink after a week-end spree at nearby Mern Merna, Burke who was normally inoffensive and well liked struck down Mansell, inflicting terrible injuries after which he made for Kirwan’s Hotel at Hookina for more drinks until his violent conduct compelled several of the
residents to secure him and tie him down with ropes.
Mr Mansell was a native of Guernsey and a son of Colonel Mansell, who was at one time a resident in this colony. The late Dean Farrell was his uncle. He was highly esteemed and respected by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance,
and many persons in this colony will regret in his untimely death the loss.
He was arrested by Trooper Daer from Blinman, who deserved great praise for his energy in following him. On 11 July an inquest was held by JP Buttfield and Dr Clutterbuck. Among those giving evidence were William Budge, boundary rider of Moralana, William P Bradbury, carpenter at Moralana, Mrs Hawkins, Linden, Roberts and Robert Lamphier. Their story of what actually occurred was just beyond belief. When published in the papers it provoked many comments, not so much on the murder but on the people standing by without doing anything to stop the madman. This is one of the letters published in the Observer of 10 August 1878, p18.
Sir- The greatest praise is always due and generally given to those who do any act of heroism, but we seldom see persons guilty of the greatest cowardice held up to public scorn. I don't remember ever having previously read of such a disgraceful exhibition of want of courage as in the account of the inquest on the body of Mr HF Mansell, who was so brutally murdered at Moralana, and reported in the Register of the 15th inst.
The three witnesses, by their own evidence, prove themselves such contemptible cowards that they are unworthy of being called men The first, William Budge, says he was in the yard with Mr Mansell; that the murderer came up to them and struck at Mr. Mansell with a tomahawk, knocking off his hat; struck him a second time, when he fell.
The murderer then went to the cart-shed, and returned in five minutes, when Budge ran away. Poor Mansell then staggered to the middle of the yard, and fell; the murderer stood over him with uplifted axe, when the poor fellow called out Don't, Harry, don't, but immediately received two more blows with the tomahawk.
Whilst this was taking place two others had looked on. One, Robert Lamphier, says at the time of the murder he was in a stockyard, and saw Burke (the murderer) with, an uplifted axe about to strike Mr Mansell; he called to the other (William P. Bradbury), and then ran away off the station, telling a woman to go inside the house.
Bradbury admits that when the murderer had run after and caught him (Bradbury) that he was powerful enough to prevent himself being cut down with the axe. By this evidence we have three fellows witnessing their master's murder, one of whom says that after Mr Mansell was knocked down the murderer was away for five minutes, yet during that time he made no attempt to get assistance, although from the names mentioned in the evidence two others (Linden and Roberts) were on the station besides the three witnesses.
Another admits that after running away and being caught he was strong enough to prevent the murderer using the axe on him; therefore had either of the other assisted Burke could have been overpowered. The fellow Lamphier says that he saw his master cut down, then ran away off the station, giving a defenceless woman the advice, Go inside the house, as if a locked door would stop a madman armed with an axe.
After such an exhibition of courage they naturally allowed Burke to ride away from the station, taking the tomahawk, and it would not have been surprising had we heard of others being murdered by him. I thoroughly realize that these fellows would have ran a great risk had they acted like men, for on three different occasions my men have bad to contend with fellows coming on this station suffering from delirium tremens.
I regret that it is impossible for all station managers to know these fellows by sight as aliases are very frequently adopted—so that employment could be refused them wherever they went. I know one of them, and he may be sure of a very warm reception the next time he calls for work. Mr. Mansell was universally liked. Men who have worked for him say he was a kind master. His thoughtfulness for others hastened his end, for on the previous evening he was at a neighbouring station, and when asked to remain the night refused as he wished to be home to look after Burke consequently protecting those in his employ.
I am, Sir, Chas W Davies. Mattawarrungalla, July 23
Burke remained in the lock-up until transported by the steamer Flinders from Port Augusta to Port Adelaide where he arrived on 1 August. At his trial in the Supreme Court Mr Downer QC appeared for the prisoner. It turned out that Burke was liked by Mansell. Burke visited most stations about three times a year in that area to do blacksmith work. While at Moralana he stayed at Mansell’s house. The Jury found that Burke had committed the act while in an unsound state of mind and acquitted him on the ground of insanity. He would be kept in strict custody till His Excellency’s pleasure is known at the Adelaide Gaol.
After the death of Mansell, the highly respected JC Turner of the South Australian Carrying Company of Gawler was appointed the new manager. Six months after his appointment he found the body of a man believed to be a Hindu within half a mile from the station. It meant another long trip for JP Buttfield and Trooper South from Blinman to hold an inquest.
With the appointment of Turner, a married man with a young family he advertised for a good servant in May 1879 who had to be able to milk a cow. In 1880 shearing was started in August at the current rate but this time thirty shilling expenses were allowed to men who arrived on 13 August and stayed until the job was finished. A shearers’ cook was also required. Last but not least he wanted a governess capable of teaching music and singing as well as the usual English Education, who would not object to assist in ordinary household duties.
To protect the station and preserve the scarce water supplies he had warnings published that all travelling stock or teamsters found watering at the wells or tanks on Moralana would be prosecuted. To protect the soils from erosion and the ever increasing dust storms JE Brown, Conservator of Forests advised tree planting in the far north and recommended reserves along the Hookina, Mern Merna, Moralana and other creeks.
In 1883 Turner advertised for two experienced men to finish a well which had been started. After shearing was finished in August, Moralana was the first station to ship wool down south on-board the Beltana. The year was finished with the celebration of the wedding of Henry Darley and Elizabeth Rein, eldest daughter of John Rein of Moralana on 19 December 1883.
Below are the two headstones at Moralana. In an attempt to save as much space as possible and increase the speed of downloading, only part of the stone is displayed. Flinders Ranges Research has a full photograph of each of these, and many others.
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