Wednesday, 26 April 2017

History

Beltana is a town with a rich historical significance and has stories which fulfil a diverse range of interests. Further information on a number of these topics can be found here.

Explorers

The first white men to reach the area were the explorers Edward John Eyre in 1840 and Charles Sturt in 1845. 

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Pastoralists

Thomas Elder, a wealthy pastoralist, commissioned surveys of the area hoping to find suitable grazing country.   He bought up many pastoral runs in the north and in the early 1860s acquired the Beltana Run lease no. 370 in 1862 with his business partner, Robert Barr Smith. The station ran livestock and a camel breeding program for work on the overland telegraph line, exploration and its own use.

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Mining

For possibly tens of thousands of years Aboriginal people mined red ochre – a particularly valued "shiny" or iridescent variety – from mines in the ranges near Beltana.  

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Overland Telegraph Line

The Overland Telegraph Line was the greatest engineering feat of 19th-century Australia. It crossed almost impenetrable, unexplored land that just a decade before had claimed the lives of explorers Burke and Wills. Messages that had once taken three months to reach London now took less than a day.

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The Railway

On 19 January 1878 Sir William Jervois symbolically turned the first sod on the new Great Northern Railway (later called The Ghan in honour of the Afghan cameleers who opened up the interior of Australia) at Port Augusta. The line reached Hawker in June 1880, Beltana on 2 July 1881, Maree on 6 January 1884, Oodnadatta on 7 January 1891 and finally Alice Springs on 2 August 1929.

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Heyday and Decline

Beltana was surveyed and gazetted as a town in 1873, but early development was slow.   The coming of the railway in 1881 boosted interest and activity. The school, Police Station, Railway Station, businesses and a number of small houses appeared in the town around this time.   Blacksmiths, butchers, bakers, shopkeepers, saddlers, all found customers, while men working on the nearby Beltana Run often had small houses in Beltana to come home to on evenings or weekends.  

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State Heritage Area

People of Aboriginal, Afgan and European decent all think of Beltana as an important place in their cultural heritage. In recognition of this, Beltana was declared a State Heritage Area by the government of South Australia on 16 July 1987.

References
Aird, Graham and Klaassen, Nic: BELTANA, The Town That Will Not Die (1984) Beltana, South Australia ISBN 0-9591081-0-6.
Aird, Graham: Beltana Trails (1984)  Beltana, South Australia