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Desert no longer


by Megan Mould

TINTINARA's rich, golden history of European settlement dates back to 1852 and the Gold Escort Route that paved the way for development.

Led by police commissioner Alexander Tolmer, the route was established to bring gold back to Adelaide from the Victorian goldfields, and passed through the 90 Mile Desert area, where Tintinara and Culburra now stand.

For the survey party it was a journey into the unknown, as they cut tracks through dense mallee scrub.

By 1856 pastoralists had begun leasing large tracts of land on which to run sheep, but there was still no development.

The railway came through in 1886, and three years later Rosetta Roberts and her daughter Annie arrived to "farm" a section of Old Coonalpyn, west of Culburra.

Rosetta was the daughter of police trooper Isaac son who had accompanied the Gold Escort, and for many years the pioneering women persevered, and tried to make a go of it.

Clearing scrub for grazing became easier when the Triumph Plow Co. started up in 1905, with its large traction engines cleared 20-25 acres a day.

With the clearing came a surge in population, and growing need to accommodate the large workforce and establish basic services.

Slowly farmers began to take up the cleared land, and continue with further clearing.

The railway station also became an important landmark, with its water for the stream trains; and a large railway community developed.

In 1906 Tintinara came of age and was declared a town.

At this stage schools were needed, so when a local hall was built in 1907, it doubled as a school for the next three to four years.

At about the same time a general store went up on the other side of the railway line.

Sport was the entertainment, and local teams travelled by train - up or down the line - to play cricket and tennis.

Next came the call for churches, and in 1910 a Methodist church was built at Culburra, followed by a Congregational church at Tintinara in 1911, that has seen the distance and is now the CWA building.

In 1913-14 The Anglicans built a very small church in the scrub for the wedding of a pioneer's daughter.

This served the community for many years, until it was demolished about 1959.

During this building era a guest house was erected for railway employees, and travellers brave enough to venture into the 90 Mile Desert.

The building, that now forms part of the IGA store, is testimony to the tradesmen of the day.

In 1937-38 the Oasis Cafe, that is currently part of the Landmark building, was built.

Over this time a lake at Tintinara became a popular recreational area, particularly with the young.

This was formed from a natural spring that was uncapped when workers were digging for ballast for the rail.

The water was very clear and oldtimers describe how they could always see the lake bottom.

It was an ideal spot for swimming and water sports until the fifties - when it slowly silted up and became stagnant and smelly.

Silt continued to build until 1979-80, when the Apex Club with lots of help from the community, organised a clean-up.

There was a competition to rename the water place, and since then it has been referred to as Lake Indawarra.

The school moved from the first hall to the Congregational Church until the first purpose-built building was completed in July 1929.

Sport has played a major role in the area's development, along with cropping and grazing.

Today the district boasts intensive piggeries, sheep and cattle feedlots, a robust apiary industry and large dairies.

"We have come a long way in over 100 years but have continued to keep the friendly caring community of yesteryear," History Book committee chairman Melody Twelftree said.

It has also continued to be an environmentally conscious community focused on sustainable practices.

Underground water supply and salinity issues are not modem problems.

When water was first drilled for in 1903 and the artesian basin tapped into, it was quoted that, "The water rises considerably above the ground".

There was early evidence of the limited resource, with one farmer commenting that, "Once water was struck at his neighbours, the level to which his own bore overflowed was considerably reduced."

It was also said that, "Once the area became more closely settled and everyone had a bore there was going to be problems."

From that perspective little has changed in the last 100 years.

Rabbits have also been an ongoing problem over that time, with farmers spending much time and money trying to control them.


The school in 1952
Photo: the Knight family


Lake Indawarra

Lake Indawarra opening 1980
Photo: History File


Main Street

Main street 1961
Photo: B. Bleasby

Tintinara Station

Tintinara Station
Photo: History File