ITS SLATE QUARRIES — AN OLD DISTRICT COUNCIL CLERK.
Mintaro is famous for its slate quarries, which contain an unlimited quantity of the best slate in the world. That, this is so is an undisputable fact, for the quality is even, the stone has a natural face, unlike the products of Welsh and English slate quarries, and can be raised in blocks 18 ft by 12 ft. Originally a Melbourne company worked a slate quarry, but liquidated after conducting business for some years. A local company was then formed, principally through the support of the late Mr James Torr, and the energy of the secretary (Mr W E Giles), who has retained his position up to the present time. The idea was mooted for the benefit of the men in the town who lacked employment owing to the shutting down of the first quarry. Work was started on Chief Justice Way’s Kadlunga Estate, and at a depth of 30 feet high-class slate was discovered. At the present time, where corn once waved luxuriantly, is the plant of the present company, which is under the management of Mr J A Jacobs, is turning out excellent samples of flagstone for Adelaide streets and private places in South Australia. The largest trade, however, is done with the Victorians, who appreciate the stone for its even-wearing qualities. A large stock of slates are kept raised, so that they may dry sufficiently to be ready for conversion into finished blocks for customers. It is interesting to note that the obliging manager has had great experience with slate, as previous to coming here, four years ago, he worked for 27 years in the Willunga quarries.
Mintaro township is situated in undulating country at the foot of the hills, which belong to the Kadlunga Estate. It is an old established township, and was at one time much frequented. This was in the early days of the Burra, when journeys were made by bullocks and other teams through to Port Wakefield. Mintaro was the first camping place en route, and presented quite an animated appearance. The progress of the country has robbed it of the passing trade, and to-day it is a quiet and yet prosperous little township, gaining celebrity for its slate quarries and its proximity to the famous Martindale Estate and the Kaldunga Station. Mr W E Giles, who is the clerk of the district council, came here about 48 years ago. He landed in South Australia in ’56 from the ship Albuera, and almost immediately came up to Minlaro. Soon after his arrival, the route for teams was changed, and instead of proceeding to Port Wakefield, they went on to Kapunda. Mr Giles started a store, and after running it for a few years, went in for general agency business and for auctioneering. In 1866 he was appointed clerk of the district council, which position he still holds, so that at the present time he is probably the oldest council clerk in the state. The members of the district council are—Messrs J J Kelly (chairman), A P Brown, J Nykel, P Smith and S Torr. The area of the hundred is about 64 square miles. The institute, which is well patronised, contains about 1,600 volumes, which number is being added to each year. A memorial tablet in the wall bears the following inscription :— “In memory of three volunteers from this district, who fought and fell in the South African war, ’99-02 Corporal Sid Landsdell, I.B.C, Bethel, May 22, 1901 ; Trooper Oliver E Fry, 6th W.A.; Trooper A A Vickery, I.B.C., Kroonstad, March 18, 1902.” The officers of the institute are— President, J A Jacobs ; vice-president, J C Hunt; general committee, J L Byan, T H Weston, A E Pricaul, F H Marston, Trewren, A March, and J Tickell; secretary, W N Rowe. Mr W E Giles has been long associated with the institution, but last year he retired from active service in connection with it.
Mr Rowe, sen, is one of the oldest residents in Mintaro. He left the shores of England in the John Banks in February. 1855, and landed in this state in May of that year. He opened a blacksmith shop soon after his arrival in Mintaro in 56, and with perseverance established a good trade. After all these years of labor he has handed over the management to his son, although he still takes a keen interest in the work. The son, Mr W N Rowe, takes a great interest in the welfare of the township and the promotion of sports which serve to provide recreation for body and mind. A tennis club is in active existence, and matches with rival teams are frequent.
Mintaro at one time boasted a flour mill, but this has been relinquished by the miller and is used as a chaff mill for local trade. There are two churches, the Methodist (Rev H Trewren) and the Roman Catholic (worked from Seven Hills). The Rev Sewell, of Auburn, conducts services in the Institute for Anglicans periodically. The wants of consumers are supplied by two stores, Montgomery’s and Wiltshire and Seabury’s. The latter passed into the hands of the present owners at the new year, and under the management of Mr G J Pulford supplies customers with all needs. For travellers accommodation is provided at the Mintaro Hotel and the Temperance Hotel. The latter place is kept by Mr C Grym.