Allen Tiller, historian – for well-researched Kapunda History, go to http://kapundalink.blogspot.com
Discovery of Copper
Francis Dutton and Charles Bagot, who both ran sheep at Kapunda, discovered copper ore outcrops in 1842. They purchased 80 acres (32 ha) around the outcrop at 1 pound ($2) per acre, beginning mining early in 1844 after assay results showed the richest copper content of any mine in the world at that time. Mining began with the removal of surface ore and had progressed to underground mining by the end of the year.
Most miners were Cornish, labourers were Irish and smelter specialists were Welsh. Trade and agriculture were Scottish and English. German farmers and timber cutters at nearby Bethel had already been in the area, and trees from the entire area were cut down to provide fuel for the huge boilers at the mine.
German men grew produce for the mine workers, and the wives would bring the produce into the mine in wheelbarrows from the farms many miles away.
A steam engine to drive a water pump was installed in 1847, replaced by a larger one in 1851, but as the shafts went deeper, the large steam engines driving water pumps could not keep up with underground water flooding as the shafts went below 400 feet underground.
Kapunda Mine from Perry Road
The Kapunda Croquet Club, 1868.
Many social and religious activities kept people occupied.
No TV, internet, motor cars, etc was a blessing. Regular activity prevented modern diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
Mining operations ground to a halt in 1851 as workers left to find their fortune in the Victorian gold rush, but restarted in 1855 when the workers returned, a few with money but most empty-handed.
Copper ore was originally transported to Port Adelaide by Bullock trains, and in 1860, a railway from Adelaide was opened, and extended to Eudunda and Morgan in 1878.
In 1865, the mine was leased to a Scottish company which switched to open cut mining methods and replaced the smelters with a different treatment method (cooking the ore with salt to produce copper chloride).
During the mining operations, Kapunda became a very large city, and the wealth generated actually saved the State of South Australia from bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, copper prices fell in 1877 and the mine was closed in 1879. Substantial copper deposits remain, but too deep for economical mining.
Boilers from the mine drawn by horses
There are also quarries near the town which provide fine marble ranging from dark blue to white. Marble from the Kapunda quarries was used to face Parliament House in Adelaide, also the pedestal of the statue of Venus on North Terrace, Adelaide is made of both Sicilian and Kapunda marble.
A gold rush at nearby Moppa field was not as significant as Bendigo or Coolgardie, but provided employment for a large number of men during the 1890s depression, who otherwise might never have been employed. Within days of the discovery, claims were pegged out, tents went up and a blacksmith opened.
After the mine closed, Kapunda people turned to agriculture, animals and other work.
Saint Mary MacKillop
Kapunda had a strong Catholic community and Saint Mary MacKillop established a convent in Kapunda, now a beautiful private residence. She also established St John’s Church and St John’s Reformatory for Girls that operated from 1897 to 1909.
St Johns Church, with the Girls Reformatory the building on the far left.
The book “Kapunda and the Mary MacKillop Connection” is available from www.makingadiff.org for $9.95 and contains a lot of information that is not commonly known about Kapunda and Mary MacKillop.
World War One
307 Kapunda people enlisted from the Kapunda area, and excelled in bravery, earning 2 Distinguished Cross Medals, 2 Military Cross Medals, 6 Military Medals, 1 Military Soldiers Medal, and 1 Royal Red Cross Medal.
Kapunda people organised money-raising events to support their boys.
Mothers and sisters knitted warm socks and beanies, mittens and scarves to keep the lads warm in the trenches of Gallipoli. They baked fruit cakes and Anzac biscuits to send to their lads . They held bandage rolling afternoons, where sheets were torn to make bandage strips.
The fruit cakes were stitched up in calico (no glad wrap or foil in those gays!) and everything sent to Adelaide to be loaded on ships, along with mail, munitions and war supplies, which took many weeks to arrive, and even longer to reach the troops.
As well as supporting the war effort and running the house, women also had to run farms and other duties the men would normally have done, helped by the retired men.
Unfortunately 57 did not come home, of those, many were brothers or cousins, and in some cases, both boys from a family did not come home.
Sir Sidney Kidman
Kapunda is famous as the home of Sir Sidney Kidman. He was a major cattle pastoralist who at one time owned 68 properties with a total area larger than the British Isles. He held annual horse sales at Kapunda with up to 3,000 horses sold during the week.
The building on the corner of Main Street and South Terrace still has the steel roller shutters that were drawn down during the horse sales to protect the windows from breakage when horses were driven down Main Street. Kidman’s house, Eringa, was donated to the Education Department, and is still used as the administration building for Kapunda High School.
There were many meetings in Kapunda to raise money for War Loans. On the way to one meeting, Mr. Kidman mentioned that he hoped that 1,000 pounds would be raised. A gentleman in the group said that if 1,000 pounds were raised, he would buy Mr. Kidman a new hat. When the meeting opened, Mr. Kidman immediately donated 1,000 pounds, and commented that he needed a new hat anyway. That meeting finally raised 3,000 pounds.
At other meetings, Mr Kidman donated one ambulance. The town wanted to raise enough for a second ambulance, and Mr. Kidman donated 100 pounds toward it, then withdrew the offer, saying that if the town could raise enough for a second ambulance, he would donate a third, which was donated by Mrs Kidman. A fourth was donated by Mr Dutton from Anlaby Station, and Mr. Kidman donated a fifth ambulance.
The ambulance bodies were built by Aunger Bodies in Adelaide and were built to travel overland.
Mr. Kidman also donated 1,000 horses, and then sold to the Government another 3,000 horses at a reduced price.
He also donated 1,000 cattle to be slaughtered and made into “bully beef” to feed the troops.
Money was also raised for aeroplanes, which were new technology at the time. Mr. Kidman donated a plane, which was shot down, then replaced several times, presumably by Mr. Kidman, as the replacements all retained his name. Mrs. Kidman also donated a plane, which ended up in New Zealand after the war.
Anlaby Station held Garden Parties to raise money for the war effort. Red Cross Branches were formed in Kapunda. Allendale North and Hamilton organised local contributions for the troops. Other contributors were the Women’s League, Kapunda Cheer-Up Society, Y.M.C.A., all holding Fetes, Button Days, Concerts, Sports Days and other money-raising events.
At the end of the war, Mr Kidman became Sir Sidney Kidman as a reward for his patriotism and generosity to the war effort.
Sir Sidney and Lady Kidman moved to Unley Park in 1921. Lady Kidman returned in 1922 and with the assistance of Continuation Students (now High School Students) donated and planted the trees which line Clare Road today.
Later again in 1929, Sir Sidney Kidman returned to organise and donate generously towards the cost of the second storey built on the Institute in Hill Street, then renamed the Soldiers Memorial Hall.
Irishman Patrick McMahon Glynn, solicitor, became involved with the local newspaper and later became the first South Australian to be appointed Attorney-General for the Commonwealth of Australia. Kapunda itself has produced more than thirty members of parliament including six Premiers. One Kapunda descendant even became Prime Minister of Australia.
Kapunda had the first horse whim, first Cornish beam engine, the first open cut mine in Australia, the first houses built for its workforce by the mining company, and the oldest surviving mining building. In 1866 the town’s District Council was formed and in that same year one of Australia’s first Australian rules football clubs started playing in Kapunda, today the famous “Kapunda Bombers”.
In November 1870 Miss Thorne lectured at Kapunda on ‘Young Womanhood’. The attendance was very large and the lecture was delivered ‘really well’ according to the local newspaper reporter. Miss Thorne had also been lecturing at other towns in the north and on Sundays preached in the Baptist Chapel at Kapunda when seats, aisles and platform of this large building were so crowded, many people had to be turned away.
The Baptist Chapel, now Kapunda’s famous Museum, said to be the finest folk museum in Australia.
There were Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Church of Christ and others. For every new Church built, another Hotel was built, around a dozen of each.