Mount Gambier 160 Years


Thursday, 10th May, 2007, saw the marking of 160th year of permanent

European settlement In Mount Gambier.

On the 10th May 1847, His Excellency Frederick Holt Robe, the Governor of South Australia signed the Land Grant of Evelyn Pitfield Shirley Sturt.

It was for 317 acres in the centre of today’s City area.

Sections 1100 (80 acres), 1101 (80 acres), 1102 (80 acres) and 1103 (77 acres) situated in the County of Grey, were purchased at a price of £1 per acre, at the sale of Waste Lands belonging to the Crown in the Australian colonies, in Adelaide on Tuesday 5th January 1847.

Evelyn Sturt, who was the younger brother of Charles Sturt, the explorer, had taken over the land from Stephen Henty of Portland, who had first stood of the edge of the Blue Lake in June of 1839.

In 1841 Henty’s men built two huts – one in the now Cave Garden and one in the Vallley Lakes.

The first official mention of Sturt In the area was when he was granted an occupation license in March of 1844 for land In the Compton area, but It is believed he was here several years earlier.

In 1845 he dispossessed Henty of his land, who had not taken out the necessary licenses.

In the Government Gazette of 9th April 1845, it stated that Sturt had lodged an application for occupation of land.

It was estimated as 16 square miles and its boundaries were “lines of marked trees and stakes running east and west, north and south at a distance of two miles from the Mountain”.

He stocked this land with some 3000 sheep.

After a visit by Governor Grey In 1844, the land was first surveyed by Forrest and Dickson, two members of the Royal Sappers & Miners in 1845.

Three acres were set aside as a Government Reserve which became the Cave Gardens.

The same year (1845), a Police party of eight men was dispatched from Adelaide under the leadership of Inspector David Gordon, after settlers in the district complained about the lack of police protection.

After Henty’s men had vacated the hut in the cave Gardens in late December 1845,

four policemen, Corporal Mcculloch, and constables McMahon, Dewson and Robins took charge of their new police station on the 3rd January 1846.

Inspector Gordon and the other men returned to Adelaide.

In the early days of South Australia, Police were also responsible for transporting the mail, which was distributed from the Police Station.

This occurred until late in 1847 when Patrick Moore, a storekeeper was appointed as our first Post Master.

His store was next to the first hotel which was established by John Byng the same year.

It opened on St Patrtick’s Day and several races were staged.

Byng was a large man who kept the customers and “house” in an orderly manner.

These buildings stood on the site of today’s Jens Hotel on the corner of Watson Terrace and Commercial Street West, opposite the Cave Garden where Henty’s men first erected their hut around a permanent water supply in 1841.

Source – “A Most Suitable Place, Mount Gambier – From Crater and Cave”, by Pam O’Connor and Jan Mayell. Published 1997.

CAPTION: This stone building was the kitchen and bedrooms of the first hotel in Mount Gambier. Dismantled in 1904 for additions to Jen’s Town Hall Hotel.

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