Umberatana Station South Australian History

Umberatana Station.

The Umberatana lease (no 566) was applied for by the brothers John, James, and William Thomas. They were successful and took possession on 1 January 1858 when they became the northern most settlers in South Australia at that time. In 1862 this lease, and several others, were transferred to Samuel Stuckey, who had discovered Lake Hope in 1859, his brother Robert Stuckey, with whom Samuel had worked the Mulligan run, and Thomas Elder. The partnership paid almost $30,000 for stock and improvements on the leases. In 1862 the station was managed by Charles Goode.

Although times were hard and very dry they managed to employ more than a hundred men, one of whom, Frederick Matthews, died on 19 February 1863 aged only twenty-seven. By the end of 1864 they had stocked Umberatana with 26,000 sheep resulting in 228 bales of wool after the shearing was finished. It was also during this year that the great drought had started and transport was hard to get. In September it was reported from the station that, We want rain badly, it is dry, very dry, there is no feed. There are about fifty mouths to feed at Oomberatana and there is not a bag of flour amongst them. There is some, I believe on the road or at Port Augusta'.

Two years later, at the end of the devastating drought, they only managed forty bales. By this time 16,400 sheep had died as well as 2,700 cattle, 135 rams, 39 bullocks and 18 horses. By 1867 the workforce had been reduced to 31 Afghans and eight Europeans. It was hard to keep men under these conditions. In October 1868, a warrant was issued for the apprehension of German migrant Peter Wilson, charged with deserting the hired services of Mr Stuckey.

As a result of the continuing drought the Umberatana post office was closed in 1866 together with the nearby Angepena and Nuccaleena offices. The Umberatana office was reopened in 1867 when tenders were advertised for the mailrun between Blinman, Yudanamutana, Angepena and Umberatana. That same year the station was also selected for the distribution of rations and blankets to the Aborigines.

With very few white settlers in the far north, it was not uncommon for Aborigines to attack the sheep, shepherds or even station huts. Several Aborigines had been shot, but the nearest police station was at Angepena or Lake Hope, opened by Police Trooper Samuel Gason in 1865. During January 1864 Corporal James Wauhop was investigating the shooting of an Aborigine by Samuel Stuckey. While on business in Adelaide, three months later, Samuel Stuckey was arrested over the incident but discharged the next day. As late as 1869, Edward Honey reported that six hundred sheep had been stolen by the Aborigines.

A much happier event at Umberatana was the marriage of William Harvey and Mary Ann Pelton, eldest daughter of Samuel Pelton on 9 April 1864. All of those involved worked on Umberatana, which at that time employed more than a hundred men. The ceremony was performed by the Rev John Parfoot.

On 19 April 1866, Samuel Stuckey was back in Adelaide to marry miss Flett before his trip to India. On his return he had successfully brought back some hundred camels and 31 cameleers. These were stationed at Umberatana but later moved to Beltana Station. When the seasons had returned to 'normal' Umberatana remained a distribution depot for goods from the government to help the Aborigines. The station was visited on several occasions by J.P. Buttfield in his capacity as Sub-Protector of Aborigines.

In 1868 John Ross was appointed manager at Umberatana. The next year on 4 July, John Ross, was appointed leader of an exploring party by Charles Todd for the Overland Telegraph Line.

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