First Fifty Years by Wendy Treloar

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The First Fifty Years

Researched and written by Wendy Treloar

===== GAWLER'S BEGINNING : Let there be Light =====

The township of Gawler was established through an application for a Special Survey by Henry Dundas Murray and John Reid as part of a syndicate of 12. The site was recommended for a town by Colonel William Light to David McLaren ( the manager of the South Australian Company) when they passed through the district while returning from the Barossa in January 1839. Light foresaw the area at the junction of the North and South Para rivers as a key point for future journeys to the north and the Murray River. He had previously camped at what he referred to as "Para Pass" on his exploration and subsequent naming of Lynedoch Vale (after Lord Lynedoch) and the Barossa Range in December 1837. Later, poor transcribing changed the respective spellings to Lyndoch and Barossa, and so they remain today. Although time proved Light to be correct, the suggestion for a survey of what was to become Gawler was declined by McLaren and the Company.

Special Surveys were provided for by the Board of Colonisation Commissioners in 1835 at the behest of George Fife Angus. These surveys allowed by the advance payment of 4,000 pounds, selection of an area of 15,000 acres outside defined districts. After this area had been divided into 80 acre sections, the purchaser could choose 4,000 acres within that area with the remaining 11,000 acres then being available to other settlers for the set price of 20 shillings per acre. (PIKE, Douglas, 1957. pg. 178). Shortly after his arrival on 17 October, 1838, Colonel George Gawler started pushing for the Special Surveys to begin, the first being selected on 11 January, 1839.

By this time, Colonel Light had resigned as Surveyor General. His pleas for more staff, equipment and funds had been ignored by the Commissioners who were happy to lay the blame for the consequent slowness of surveying the new colony on Light. He was in very poor health and was tired of the duplicity, insults and innuendo that he was facing almost daily. His staff resigned along with him. The following day, 3 July, 1838, the company of Light, Finniss & Co. was formed, comprising of William Light, Boyle Travers Finniss, William Jacob, Henry Nixon and R.G. Thomas as draughtsman.

Henry Dundas Murray and John Reid arrived in South Australia in January 1839. They rode out to Para Pass the next month, after Light commended the site to them. On their return, they applied for and were granted the Gawler Special Survey. At the same time, Light was approached by a committee to survey and mark out a town in the Boston Bay area, among other requests. Due to his declining health, he refused all offers but that of Gawler Town. In a letter to his friend George Palmer in April 1839, Light mentioned that he had just finished planning Gawler (DUTTON, Geoffrey, ELDER, David, 1991. pg. 270). Light's plan was draughted by Mr. Thomas, dated 1 July, 1839 and pegged out by Jacob and Nixon. William Light died on 6 October that same year.

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