1865: Consolidation and Expansion
The map of South Australia in 1865 shows, in comparison with the map of 1850, a cautious outwards expansion of farm settlement and, behind the pioneer fringe, a consolidation of economic life, communications and services.
South Australia attained a large measure of self-government in 1856 with possibly the most democratic constitution of all the Australian colonies. Henceforth the management and disposal of public land, the planning and construction of public works, and the welfare of the fast-declining Aboriginal population were entirely local responsibilities.
The prosperity of the 1850s continued until the middle 1860s. A severe drought occurred in 1864-65. Eighteen sixty-five was the first year in which the numbers of sheep were fewer and the production of wheat and wool less than the previous year. The government Statistician's annual report to Parliament stated '… the immense wheat field to the north of Gawler, averaging in ordinary seasons from 15 to 17 bushels per acre, only yielded from five to eight'.
Pastoralists in the Flinders and Olary ranges were more seriously affected than the wheat farmers; the pastoral districts lost one-quarter of their sheep. Port Augusta, which in the year to June 1864 contributed one-quarter of the South Australian wool exports, shipped considerably less wool in 1866.
One unexpected enduring legacy of the drought was the drawing of Goyder's famous 'line of rainfall'. Instructed to report on the state of northern pastoral runs during the drought, he drew a line indicating the limit to which rains that year had extended, which approximated the southern boundary of the saltbush country. Beyond the line, he defined three zones of increasing drought severity for which the government gave graded remission of rents to the pastoral leaseholders. Although defined for the specific event of the pastoral drought in 1864-65, the line came to assume in Goyder's and the public's mind an agricultural significance in demarcating areas of 'safe' from 'uncertain' annual rainfall.
The census of 1866 showed that the South Australian population had increased by 28% since 1861, at the very rapid rate of 6% per annum. With the male : female ration at 52 : 48, the balanced sex ratio intended by the colonial theorist was nearly maintained. Persons of German birthplace made up 5% of the population.
Some 32% of the people lived on the Adelaide Plains in the city and nearby suburbs, villages and farms. Four thousand people, or rather fewer than 3% of the total, lived on the Pastoral Leases beyond the boundaries of the sold land. The remaining 65% of the population were small farmers, the artisans and tradesmen of the small towns, and the miners, all living within, or at the edge of, the central zone of compact agricultural settlement and on a small outlier on the volcanic soils around Mount Gambier.
The most dramatic change in the location of population recorded in the 1866 census was at the new copper fields on the west coast of upper Yorke Peninsula. Following the discovery of very large and rich copper deposits at Wallaroo in 1859 and at Moonta in 1861, there were now some 8000 people, largely of Cornish origin, in the three towns of Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina
Assisted immigration to South Australia reached a peak in 1865. The map shows how the demands of the copper mines for workers with particular skills focused the recruiting activities of emigration agents on southwest England. Half the assisted migrants in 1865 came from Cornwall, and Plymouth replaced London as the principal port of departure for South Australian emigrant ships.
Of the male work force of 50 000, the census recorded 3550 pastoral workers, 3500 miners, 7600 farmers on their own account, and 8000 farm labourers. Women made up only 13% of the paid work force, 70% of them being domestic servants.
Three commodities made up most of the colony's exports. In 1865 these were: grain and flour, 41% (mainly to Victoria, New South Wales and New Zealand); wool, 31%; and metals and mineral ores, 25% (mainly to the British Isles).
Within the settled districts there had been substantial progress since 1850 in capital works for transport and communication. Two-thirds of the revenues from Crown Lands sales were now allocated to public works and only one-third to immigration.
In the ten years since the first telegraph opened between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, some 1400 kilometres of telegraph had been opened, giving instant communication with forty-five settlements within South Australia and with all major towns and ports throughout Australia.
The Central Road Board built 560 kilometres of metalled roads in a radial pattern focusing on Adelaide and helping to ensure its dominance in the emerging pattern of towns. Outside the central district, 'roads' were simply unfenced and unsurfaced routes through pastoral country, although the emerging pattern of telegraph lines provided a basis for the gradual declaration of these routes as main roads. However, roads were soon to be eclipsed by rail, river and coastal waters as the prime medium of transport.
The beginnings of the rail system was a line from the river port of Goolwa to the ocean at Port Elliot. Built in 1854 for horse-drawn trucks it was Australia's first public iron-tracked railway. The first State-owned steam railway in the British Empire was opened from Port Adelaide to Adelaide in 1856. The beginnings of a main trunk route to the interior was the line to Gawler in 1857 which was extended to Kapunda in 1860.
The hazards of coastal navigation had been reduced by four major lighthouses which were built at Cape Willoughby in 1852, on Troubridge Shoal in 1856, and at Cape Northumberland and Cape Borda in 1858. Shipwrecks of small vessels standing off or approaching exposed ports were frequent, especially along the coast south of Adelaide, off Port Elliot, and off the isolated and difficult ports of the South-East.
Steam navigation on the River Murray commenced in 1853. By 1865 there were thirty-six South Australian steam vessels on the river. These brought wool to Goolwa from stations on the Darling River in New South Wales and supplied them with grain, flour and farm produce from the Gumeracha District through the port of Blanche Town, established in 1855.
Port Adelaide had long shaken off the early 'Port Misery' reputation. With dredging and improved wharves and facilities it captured the greatest share of long-distance sea trade. A number of outports served pastoral districts in the South-East and the west coast of Eyre Peninsula. Port Wakefield (1850) and Port Augusta (1856) at the heads of Gulf St Vincent and Spencer Gulf respectively served extensive pastoral hinterlands, for periods also handled the export of copper ores and the import of coke and coal for inland smelters.
Simple manufacturing industries proliferated in number if not in size. Many were in the country towns. There were 36 breweries (25 in the country), 62 distilleries and 182 winepresses, 88 quarries for building stone and 12 for slate, 65 brickworks and 57 agricultural implement manufacturers. Pride of place went to the 76 flourmills, scattered through the agricultural zone with all but two being worked by steam-engines.
By 1865 Adelaide had assumed the appearance of a substantial town rather than a pioneer encampment, a change signified by a City Council prohibition in 1858 on the erection of any further wooden houses. In 1860 piped water from the first metropolitan reservoir at Thorndon Park flowed to city businesses and homes and was extended to Port Adelaide in 1866. Adelaide shops and homes were lit in 1863 for the first time with gas from the Brompton works. As if setting the seal on nearly thirty years of successful colonisation a handsome three-storied stone building was erected in 1864 on North Terrace for the Adelaide Club, for many years the reputed headquarters of South Australia's pastoral and professional 'establishment'.