THE EARLY DAYS OF BURRA.
Arrived at Port Wakefield on Monday, July 18, 1853, the barque Malacca from Monte Video, after a passage of 70 days, with a cargo of mules imported by the Patent Copper Company ; 180 shipped. Passengers—Mr. E. K. Horn, Mrs. Isaac Killicoat and family, and Mrs. Skews and family. S.A. Register, July 18, 1853.
It is now 50 years the 18th day of July, 1903, since the first lot of mules were imported from South America to South Australia. These mules were first used in carrying the low grade surplus ore from Burra to Port Wakefield (two bags or about 2 cwt. each mule), thence shipped by the company’s ships to their works at Swansea (Wales) to be smelted.
Mr. Horne as agent, proceeded in the barque Malacca to Rio Janeiro, to purchase these mules. The barque went to London for the Killicoat and Skews families; at the same time bringing back a cargo of bagged scrap iron. On reaching Rio the captain ascertained that Mr. Horn had to purchase the mules at Monte Video, so went round and got them on board, taking six weeks to accomplish the trip through rough weather. The Mexicans, who were in charge; had a good deal of trouble with them on the voyage to South Australia, as the weather was exceeding rough, and several died.
Mr. Horn acted as agent for the company at Port Wakefield until the opening of railway to Kapunda, when the traffic diverted in that direction, and the mules were used in waggons in lieu of driving in mobs with their packs of ore by the Mexicans. Other importations of mules were made by this company, and a second lot of scrap iron was imported, but during the absence of the Malacca it was discovered that the ironstone at Carculta, near Black Springs, would act as a flux to smelt the Burra malachite ore, so the imports of scrap iron was used at Port Wakefield to build up wharfs for shipping. After this discovery no more iron was imported. These mules proved to be far better than horses, having had the hardest and longest stages allotted to them — between Mule Camp and Burra. The other stages to Kapunda via White Park, which was much shorter and easier, were done by horses. This means of carriage continued for many years, until the opening of the Burra railway. The same company had a variety of teams, consisting of horses, bullocks, mules and donkeys, and did a large portion of their own carting, while hundreds of others were employed in various ways. They had at the works stores, where you could buy almost anything, and a butcher’s establishment to supply the employees with meat. At this time a great many people were living in huts, dug out in the banks on each side of the Burra Creek. Some contained quite large rooms, nicely white-washed, very cool in summer and warm in winter, with fireplaces and shelves cut out of the ground. The P.C. Company had 18 reverberatory and three refinery furnaces at work. They constructed the bridges and roads between the works to Port Wakefield and Baldina, and were the lessees of the Baldina run at that time.
Their employees consisted of managers, agents, clerks, weighmasters, chargemakers, smelters, grooms, teamsters, storemen, carpenters, smiths, wheelwrights, bricklayers, butchers, stockmen, and others. Readers can imagine what a busy place it must have been in July, 1853. The writer, though young, has a vivid recollection of it.
This company had land at various places between Port Wakefield and Burra, one of their properties being what was then known as the farm, now the property of Chief Justice Way (Kadlunga). Here a large quantity of hay and other cereals were grown, and carted to the copper works, and used in feeding the company’s stock; besides the above properties the Mule Camp and White Park belonged to them. It can be imagined the many details required to give anything like a condensed idea of the enormous employment of labour and other items in connection with the P.C. Company’s investments. There was no restriction on the working of their business, as the construction of premises, etc., will give one the idea now by looking at the beautiful arches of freestone still standing, chimney stacks, etc. The above company are still carrying on the smelting at Newcastle, N.S.W., and have wharfs, etc., at Port Adelaide and Port Augusta, besides one of the best copper mines—the Clara St. Dora—near one our great northern railway-stations ; they have been working this mine for several years continuously with satisfactory results, smelting the ore at Newcastle.
THE EARLY DAYS OF BURRA.