GAWLER DARK HISTORY TOUR
A BRIEF HISTORY
Walking through its streets, people seem totally unaware of just how steeped in history the town of Gawler really is.
If you were to walk along the South Para River back in 1835, the area would have looked very different. It would have been thick with the natural flora such as Red gums, blue gums, peppermint gums and stringy barks. The Para Rivers would be flowing more freely with natural springs feeding the waterholes along the way. These in turn would be rich in fishing, containing many fish and crustaceans such as yabbies. In fact game was abundant with emu, kangaroo and many smaller marsupials keeping Australia's other icon, the dingo, fed and their packs healthy. Children's laughter could be heard echoing through the gully and the blue smoke haze that had settled there. This would be coming from the original custodians of this land, the Kaurna people. The children would be freely playing along the life giving waters and the blue haze would be coming from the fire stick farming that the people practiced in this area. At this point they were blissfully unaware of the great change that was about to come to their land in the following years. The era of the local aboriginals and their way of life was about to come to an end, with the last Gawler kaurna, Warette, dying in 1910. Sadly they left little record of their culture or language.
Dead Man's Pass -
It was in 1887, that Col. William Light passed through the area. He had completed his survey of the new town of Adelaide and was now given the task of finding a route through to the Riverland, bypassing the difficult terrain of what we now know as the Mount Lofty Ranges. He became very taken with an area he was using to camp in. This became known as Para Pass, although the name was soon to change to Dead Man's Pass, after a body that Col. Light discovered there. He was much taken with its potential, its beauty and fertile area and eventually passed this information on to two newly arrived settlers, John Reid and Henry Dundas Murray. On Col. Light's recommendation they rode out to look for this area and what they found was to their liking too. Col. Light agreed to the following request to survey Gawler even though he had turned down many other jobs and In 1839 the plans of Gawler were completed. Sadly Col. Light died later that same year.
By 1840 Gawler had grown to a grand population of 34 people and the changes they brought with them were starting to take effect. The town grew rapidly after copper was discovered in 1842 in Kapunda and then in Burra. Gawler became an important staging town for teams travelling through. It quickly became known as the Gateway to the North and even the Athens of the South. Great pioneers such as Walter Duffield, builder of the beautiful Para Para Mansion and James Martin built successful industries in Gawler and the wealth that followed is reflected in some of the ornate buildings along the route, such as the banks, the Town Hall and the Institute. Gawler even had it's own newspaper named (tongue in cheek by the Humbug Society) after an aboriginal legend -
It was certainly not an easy life in those early pioneer days and this can be seen clearly if you visit Gawler's tranquil Pioneer Park. Most do not realise, as they sit under the cool shade of a tree or admire the bandstand, that under their feet still lies the original cemetery of Gawler. The plaque lists the 471 people that were buried in this location and it was a sad reflection of the times that most of these were children, the first being little Ellen Fielding in 1847. The cemetery was eventually closed in the 1860's due to concerns expressed by the locals that it would taint their water supply and spread disease.
These days as you wander through Gawler, you are looking at a successful and very busy town that still tries to preserve that 'country town' image. The population has grown over the years from the 34 in 1840 to a much larger 23,000 and it is still growing.
"We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell." ~ Oscar Wilde
Join us on this unique tour of Gawler, where we delve into a darker past and meet those poor souls that tragically succumbed to these self-
Murder, suicide, mystery... yes Gawler had it all! What was deemed the 'Athens of the North' certainly had its darker moments.
So come with us through the streets of Gawler as we explore tragic tales, murder mysteries and yes, even the odd ghost story!
What was the cause of Gawlers most tragic love story and why did it rock Gawler?
What happened to the 9 year old girl attacked by her mother's 14 year old killer?
What was the real cause of an elderly lady burning to death?
What became of the little boys trapped in a fire and are they still there?
How did Dead Man's Pass really get its name and what of the ghosts said to haunt there still?
"I just popped onto your page to say a very big thankyou for our tour last night. It was amazing how you managed to bring the stories of those poor people back to life, not with drama and trickery but with well researched historical fact. It was amazing to see the passion you have for those poor souls Alison, almost as if they finally found a voice in you because you were willing to listen to them with an objective open mind. (I'm amazed at how you remember every detail as if they were members of your own family.) It was as if they were finally getting the dignity and respect each and every one of them deserved. Thankyou so much would have been value at twice the price I now cant wait to do the Adelaide Tour and the Old Adelaide Jail . Well done you're a treasure." -
PLEASE NOTE: This is not Haunted Horizon's usual ghost tour. This is aimed at people interested in darker history with a couple of ghostly tales thrown in. It is also a street tour so be prepared for plenty of walking. As these buildings are privately owned, we do not enter any buildings at this stage.
Most Mon/Tues at 7.00 p.m.
Other day/nights available by request
Numbers limited! Bookings Essential!
Please note that the content of the tours can be graphic so parent discretion advisable.
Not recommended for children under 14
Duration: Approx. 2 1/2hrs
Cost History Festival Special -