Appila was originally known as Yarrowie when the town was surveyed by the South Australian Government. Blocks of Crown Land, which had previously been leased to Pastoralists but whose leases had been resumed, were offered for sale on 4 June 1874. The present name of Appila, an Aboriginal word meaning 'hunting ground', was formally adopted and proclaimed on 20 February 1941.

Surrounded by magnificent scenery, Appila retains a strong community, with many organised events and activities. Although the hotel and general store have closed, Appila is central to Booleroo Centre, Jamestown, Orroroo and Laura.

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March 21, 1910




Imagine an extensive slightly undulating stretch of country, with a few trees here and there, but for the most part densely covered with spinifex, or porcupine, as it is sometimes known, and you have a fairly accurate idea of the appearance of the Appila Plain when the first portion of it was gazetted for sale in November, 1872.

Notwithstanding the comparatively uninviting aspect which it presented, the land was eagerly sought and taken up by men from the south, who knew what it was to overcome difficulties, and felt that by hard work, pluck, and determination they would at least be able to win a competence for themselves and their families.

Grass flourished on about 4,000 acres, but where the spinifex held sway nothing else had much chance. This was the reason that the Murray's, on about 98 square miles, had only 16,000 sheep, and then occasionally found that number inconveniently large.

The New Arrivals.

When the settlers arrived on the plain the only signs of human habitation were four shepherds' huts, one of which was situated on the boundary of what is now the main road between Appila and Tarcowie, and was occupied by a Mr. Hogan.

The shepherd located about three miles west of this was a Chinaman, whose wife was an aboriginal woman, and in whom Mr. Murray had the utmost confidence.

With that characteristic enterprise and enthusiasm which have at all times distinguished South Australian agriculturists, the new arrivals lost no time in encircling their properties with the necessary fences and preparing the soil for seeding.

Thousands of posts were carted from Yandiah, where this harvest approximately 50,000 bags of wheat have been stacked for removal by rail to tbe seaboard.

Among the hardest workers and most prominent settlers were Messrs. Hirsch, Borgas, Heaslip, C. Hall, Paul Martin, H. Fox. W. T. Francis, Gellow. Klemm, Wallis, Edwards, Clark (of Pine Creek), Paul Law son, Pat Clark, J. Martin, W. Griffin, and Hannigan. Men of real grit, they threw their whole energies into their operations, and many of them soon had crops peeping above the ground.

Agricultural science and modern farming equipment were things of the future in those days, however, and in the first season the average yield was between one and a half and two bushels although in one instance 13 bushels were obtained.

Seed wheat had to be brought a long distance, and hay was £4 10/ a ton, so that the prospects at the outset were not particularly bright or encouraging.

Not a whit daunted though, the pioneers increased the area under cultivation in 1874, and up to the beginning of September had the satisfaction of believing that they would reap fully 30 bushels to the acre.

Then a blight fell upon the crops, and simultaneously upon the hopes of the farmers. In all directions the grain withered and shrivelled, and when the reapers had been taken through it was found that the average was not more than 9 bushels.

On top of that heartbreaking disappointment the wheat had to be carted to Port Pirie, for which some of the settlers paid 11d. a bushel, with the price of wheat at 2/9d. a bushel.

The ensuing year the silver lining showed beneath the dark clouds. The majority of the crops turned out well, and the quotations for the grain rose to 5/-, which left a fair margin of profit when all expenses had been met.

A Grand Man.

Mr. Paul Martin, who has resided in the district practically ever since the subdivision of the land, and, despite innumerable stirring and occasionally bitter experiences, delights to recall those days of long ago, furnished a reporter with some interesting material concerning the difficulties which the settlers had to face, and the pleasures which they sometimes enjoyed.

"In the beginning," he said, "we had only one mail a week, and the farmers took it in turns to go to Laura for the letters and news papers. Perhaps the greatest trouble we had to contend with, however, was that of securing fresh meat. None of the settlers had been able to bring sufficient stock for killing with him, and had it had not been for the great kindness of Mr. A. S. Murray - one of the noblest-hearted and grandest men who ever lived in the north - the people would have fared badly indeed.

A large proportion of the men were without much ready cash when they required the Plain, but that fact made no difference to Mr. Murray, who, when asked to sell a sheep or two, and acquainted with the circumstances of the purchaser, generally remarked "Never mind; pay me when you can." With few exceptions, I believe, he eventually was paid all the money due to him.

Wonderful changes have taken place since I first set foot in this neighbourhood. Men have come and men have gone, and out of the original settlers only half a dozen are left. As in all other parts of the State, land values have fluctuated considerably. I paid £2 2/6d. an acre for my blocks on the outskirts of the township of Appila, and a few years ago a farmer near by sold his place at £2 10/- an acre.

The man who purchased it has already made a profit of £1,500 on the transaction, and would probably decline to sell the property now at less than £7 an acre, if he would part with it at that.

Thus do good seasons and up-to-date methods of farming enhance the worth of agricultural land."

Capital Sport

The Appila Plain of to-day and that of nearly 40 years ago are two vastly different scenes. The spinifex has almost entirely disappeared, and where 16,000 sheep once grazed, there are now 30,000, besides cattle and horses, and between 25,000 and 30,000 acres are under cultivation, and yielding up to 45 bushels.

Although in the early days we had our hands full with the many operations which necessarily accompany the opening up of new country, we found time to enjoy ourselves.

Wild turkey shooting offered capital sport, for the birds were remarkably plentiful; but the favourite pastime was that of kangaroo hunting. The 'roos were all over the plain - mobs of 100 or more were a common sight - and we had some glorious pursuits and capture, and not a few exciting encounters.

One of the most tedious tasks connected with the early settlement of the district was the transport of the wheat to Port Pirie. Most of the teams made two trips one week, and one the next; and during the busy times I often saw as many as 200 teams at the dam, seven miles from the port.

Forty bags of wheat were regarded as a good load, considering the weight, the distance which had to be covered, and the fearful state of some of the roads.

The construction of the Petersburg to Port Pirie Railway [1881], the extension later from Gladstone to Laura [1888], and the recent building of the Laura to Booleroo Centre [1910] lines, have gradually reduced the difficulties, until to-day the whole of a man's crop can be transferred from the farm to the ships in a very short while.

20 August 1879

The last of the telegraph poles for the construction of the line between Laura and here was deposited in the township yesterday. The carpenters are hard at work fitting up the place intended for the office which, when completed, will consist of four very comfortable rooms.

The township was very lively yesterday, owing to there being a sale of horses here. All the horses sold well, and the only fault was that there were not enough of them. The weather is still very cold and wet

4 November 1879

The Post and Telegraph Office was opened yesterday by Mr. Tucker, from Laura, but in consequence of no one knowing up till the last when it was to be opened there was no demonstration - a thing every one seemed bent on having. This boon will be greatly felt in the coming season, as it will save travelling ten miles to send any important telegraphic communication.

Haycutting, where the paddocks are very oatey, has already commenced and I expect that by the end of next week it will be in full swing. The wheat has made striking progress within the last few weeks. The heads are coming on and filling up beautifully. If all goes right abundant harvests will be reaped in this district, and farmers, in anticipation of same, and with the promise of good prices, are in excellent spirits.

27 September 1873

Everything is growing profusely. Wheat, grass, weeds, and flowers (wild) are in a luxuriant state. Wild oats have made too fast an appearance among many of the good crops around.

Under the supervision of Mr. D'Arcy Irwin the streets of Yarrowie are being very greatly improved. Over £100 has been voted for the purpose of cutting a road through the hill in the main street of the surveyed township, and of improving the streets in general. A good deal of work has been done.

The masquerade ball which came off last Friday night was quite a success. Many of the dresses were most picturesque.

17 March 1891

The weather is still keeping dry and rain is be coming much more urgently required. It is no uncommon thing for farmers and others to have to cart water for their stock and household purposes fifteen miles and further, owing to their dams becoming dry and the springs in their wells having become exhausted on account of the long continuance of drought. Farmers are endeavouring to prepare for seeding, but find it a work of very great labour, as the ground is so hard and dry. It is to be hoped that the prognostications of the old settlers will prove correct, and that we shall have a very wet winter in consequence of the extremely dry summer we are experiencing.

The anniversary services in connection with the Wesleyan Chapel in this township were celebrated yesterday, when Rev. Mr. Carter, from Melrose, preached two very eloquent sermons, and were continued today with the usual tea and public meeting, at which Mr. Carter delivered his interesting and instructive lecture entitled, 'Is man the creature of circumstances'. The lecture was listened to with intense interest by a crowded audience, who frequently evinced their appreciation of it by applauding the lecturer. This, besides being the anniversary, was, in a measure, the reopening of the chapel, which had been closed for a little while, during which a porch has been added, and the building both inside and out thoroughly repaired and renovated. The results financially were most satisfactory, as with collections, proceeds of tea, and subscriptions nearly £40 was raised.

The gold fever is causing an exodus from this part, and I am afraid if all go who state their intention of doing so the remainder might is well travel too, for almost everyone, both in business and in other employment, are talking of leaving as soon as rain sets in.

The excitement over the coming elections has partially subsided, but I expect will again be aroused shortly, as it is rumoured that Messrs. Cooks, Mortlock, and Moule will at no very distant date address the electors of Flinders in Appila.