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Hawker Hub of the Flinders

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Hans Mincham author of “Hawker..Hub of the Flinders” wrote the following on page 63 and 64. Hawker, we have seen, arose on a bend in the railway line that was the nearest point for roads running on through the ranges via Arkaba and Wilpena to Blinman and surrounding runs, and, more importantly, through the long corridor between the Chace and Druid Ranges to stations on the Eastern Plain flanking the northern Flinders and stretching on to New South Wales and Queensland. And of course Hawker was the obvious centre for wheat farmers in the Hundred of Arkaba and those immediately around the town in the Hundred of Wonoka. The quantity of stores for distant runs unloaded there was very considerable. The teamsters on their return trips brought back wool to be trucked from the Hawker railway station.

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Hans Mincham author of “Hawker..Hub of the Flinders” wrote the following on page 63 and 64. Hawker, we have seen, arose on a bend in the railway line that was the nearest point for roads running on through the ranges via Arkaba and Wilpena to Blinman and surrounding runs, and, more importantly, through the long corridor between the Chace and Druid Ranges to stations on the Eastern Plain flanking the northern Flinders and stretching on to New South Wales and Queensland.

Of course Hawker was the obvious centre for wheat farmers in the Hundred of Arkaba and those immediately around the town in the Hundred of Wonoka. The quantity of stores for distant runs unloaded there was very considerable. The teamsters on their return trips brought back wool to be trucked from the Hawker railway station.

The extension of the railway beyond Hawker did not for many years greatly affect the pattern of traffic that centred on the town from its very beginning. Blinman did connect by road with the line at Parachilna and the railway certainly initiated renewed activity in the old mine, but the road for years followed the round-about route through Moolooloo. Even with the opening of the direct road in 1889 Blinman captured far less of the traffic from the Eastern Plain than local businessmen had hoped to secure. Hawker, centrally situated with roads radiating in all directions to places near and far, was truly the Hub of the Flinders.

But if the railway had occasioned the birth of Hawker, it was to cause the death of Kanyaka in the Hundred of Kanyaka where, after the resumption of the old Kanyaka run, many farmers had settled. It was not much of a township but it did boast for many years of having the largest hotel north of Port Augusta. This, the Great Northern but popularly known as the ‘Black Jack’, was a two-storey building of twenty-two rooms. The rest of the town consisted of a blacksmith shop, a store including a post office and a few houses. There was also at times a school which was apparently conducted in one of the houses.

Hemmed in by hills and partly surrounded by the winding Kanyaka Creek, Kanyaka could never have grown much larger even had northern settlement favoured its growth. It had been a popular stopping (and drinking) place since 1863 but the railway suddenly ended traffic on the road. The final blow, again from the railway, had been the refusal because of the grade to provide a siding and make Kanyaka a stopping place for trains. For a time an unidentified Kanyaka correspondent continued to contribute interesting local items of news to The Port Augusta Dispatch. There will be very frequent reference to, and quoting from, The Dispatch throughout this chapter and all items bearing only a date are from this paper.

While Kanyaka had been appealing for a siding, the people of Cradock had petitioned for one to serve their area at a place about half-way between Kanyaka and Hawker. The Government finally chose a site half-way between Cradock’s choice and Kanyaka township. Writing on 22 October 1880 the Kanyaka correspondent stated, ‘Since I last wrote the Government have begun surveying another township about three miles north of this place in about as waterless a spot as they could have picked … It really is a great folly to survey townships so close together.’

This was the origin of Wilson in the north-western corner of the Hundred of Cudlamudla which was known for some time as Kanyaka Siding. Proclaimed and sold in January 1881 the town was named by Governor Jervois after his friend Colonel Sir William Wilson of the Royal Engineers. In the same letter the Kanyaka correspondent went on to say that ‘grasshoppers have destroyed all of the feed and are committing fearful havoc with the crops.’ A month later (29 November) he reported a terrific dust-storm and that there would be little wheat ‘after the depredations of grasshoppers and kangaroos.’

So that we can, as far as possible, follow the story of the next decade through the words of people who lived at the time in the places that concern us, the events and developments of each year will be briefly reviewed. The Wilson correspondent of The Dispatch was active throughout much of the decade.

Hawker news was often very well covered but there were periods when that town seemed not to exist. Cradock contributed least of all to The Dispatch but from time to time supplied local news to The Chronicle. All, however, even when reporting purely local affairs-a dust-storm, locust plague, big rain, earthquake, a poor harvest, or much more rarely a good one-mirrored much of the whole district.

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Weight .840 kg
Dimensions 24.5 × 18.5 × 2.4 cm

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