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Pioneers of Snowtown, S.A.

Pastoral pioneers - 1

The first white men in the Snowtown district were graziers with flocks of sheep. Since there were no fences then, they employed shepherds for each flock, who built rough huts for shelter, some of which can still be traced today.

  • The South Australia Government issued "Occupation Licenses" for graziers starting in 1842.

  • Later in 1851 the Government gave "Pastoral Leases" which lasted for 14 years, and allowed the pastoralists to erect shearing sheds and homesteads.

(Captain) John Ellis arrives in SA

1839 - John Ellis arrives in SA


Captain John Ellis (c. 1803 – 22 March 1873) was granted the first South Australian Occupation License in 1845.

John Ellis arrived in South Australia from England on the Buckinghamshire (pictured below) on 22 March 1839,

  • listed as "Captain Ellis", though on what basis it is not known,

  • and in company of his brother George Ellis.

  • Ellis was a speculator and pastoralist with great resources.

  • almost certainly Ellis was the first person to graze sheep north of Port Wakefield towards the Hummocks (see below).

Captain John Ellis (Benara).jpeg
The Buckinghamshire.jpeg

Above: The good ship Buckinghamshire 1839
was a fine old East Indian ship built in 1816 at Bombay Dockyards, India
by Jamsetjee Bomanjee as a fully rigged ship.


  • She departed London on December 11th, 1838 under the command of Captain William Moore:

  • travelled via Deal and Portsmouth bound for Adelaide and

  • arrived Adelaide on March 21st, 1839.

  • She arrived with 512 passengers including 180 children.


The Buckinghamshire only made one visit to Adelaide but brought the largest single contingent of passengers with her on that visit in 1839.

  • She was probably the largest sailing ship to enter Port Adelaide,

1842 Captain Ellis and the Hummocks Run


Captain Ellis and the Hummocks Run


The Hummocks or Hummock Range is a range of hills in the northern Mount Lofty Ranges extending north from the eastern edge of Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.



Towards the range's northern end it continues as the Barunga Range north of Barunga Gap, approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south west of Snowtown.

- Wikipedia

Occupation Licence 1846 John Ellis.jpg
The Hummocks Run


Located on what was traditionally the land of the Kaurna (indigenous) people, the first pioneers arrived sometime between 1867 and 1869 due to the rapid expansion of farming to the north of Adelaide.


Bailliere's South Australian gazetteer and road guide, published in 1866, contains a brief description of "Hummock's Run" located 28 miles (45 km) north of Port Wakefield.


This farmland, according to the publication, contained the farming stations of Barunga, Bumbunga and Wokurna

and consisted of -

"salt lakes and lagoons, dense scrub, with mallee, pine and bushes, grassy plains and saltbush, well grassed spurs and hills, with oaks and wattle on the Broughton River."[1]

- Wikipedia

The Hummocks Run
Map Hummocks Run.jpg
Map of Ellis Runs on the Hummocks.jpg
Arrow on Historic Map of Colonial SA.jpg
Bumbunga Map SA.jpg
Wokurna Map SA.jpg

From: Parliamentary Paper - South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Runs valued by Mr Goyder


"Valuation No. 28.— Lease No. 124.

Situation—About 28 miles north of Port Wakefield, and about 90 miles from Adelaide.

Area, 251 miles; Rent per mile, 10s. :

Assessment per mile, £1 9s. 2d. (l 75 per mile);

Total rent and assessment per annum, £491 10s. 10d.


Stock on run -There are about 70,000 sheep, including lambs, and 200 bullocks and horses, depastured upon this and

  • 140 miles of winter country in other claims adjoining to the north-west and south-east.

Estimated grazing capacity, 51,500 sheep, or about 205 per square mile....

  • The stock is watered from the River Broughton and from wells.

Total rent per annum, including improvements, £5,020;

total rent per annum, deducting improvements, £4,053.



The run is worked from the head station at Barunga and two sub-head stations at Wokurna and Bumbunga, the sheep being shorn at the last-named station, west of the Salt Lake."


Hummocks Run Improvements

"The improvements are as follows :


substantial nine-roomed stone house and cellar, newly built; four pine huts, smith and carpenters' shops, paddock fence, stockyards, two wells with whips and troughs, and one with whip, tank, and troughs.



Pine house, store, men's kitchen, sleeping-rooms, woolshed, yards, sweating-shed, and paddock fence— all in bad repair; and three wells and troughs and one pump.


Wokurna Sub Head Station

Four-roomed stone house and store, two-roomed stone hut, two old pine huts, yards, stockyards, paddock fence, two wells with water, and two dry wells.

On the Run—

  • Twenty-nine pine and five stone huts and yards,

  • 15 wells with rater, one of which (on west side of range) has only sufficient water for hut;

  • one deep dry well, sunk by Mr. Davis under the impression that he was on land claimed by him west of this run, and one well in progress, west of Hummocks Range;

  • also a nine-roomed pine house of accommodation, stable, yard, and well.

  • Total value of improvements £4,843.


From the absence of water on the west side of the Hummocks Range

  • there are 100 miles of the worst part of the run that can only be fed over in the winter season, and,

  • from my observation, but little appears to have been done until the last two years to make the most of the country.

There is a tolerable road from the wool shed at Bumbunga to Port Wakefield, distance about 22 miles."


Wokurna is a scrub hundred:

"A traveller standing an the summit of the she-oak crowned Hummocks some ten years ago and gazing westwards on the expansive tract of arid and sombre mallee lands reaching to the marine of the saline waters of Spencer's Gulf,

would incredulously smile at the idea of this,

then considered, useless country,

being inhabited by farmers

and cultivated to such an extent by them

within such a short space of time.


Since the birth of the stump-jump (plow) quite a revolution has taken place in these scrub lands and how quickly are the primitive forests disappearing ;

and the native lairs of timid Emus,

and noble Kangaroos are now

smiling homes of persevering "cockatoos".
("Cockies" = 'Farmers' (slang))


A considerable area has been rolled down (cleared) this year, and many are now busily engaged clearing ground for firing this month, as a good burn is the saving of an immense amount of work.

Two or three large fires have been raging in this and adjoining Hundreds during the week.

Mr. Flann had a number of posts and some fencing burned, the fire breaking out from a neighbour's burning timbers."

Wokurna is a scrub hundred
Hummocks Run Improvements

Below: the pink salt waters of Bumbunga Lake

Lake Bumbunga.jpg
Hummocks Station - Snowtown Bed and Brea
H Cameron, Port Gawler manager.jpg

Above: Hummocks Station, formerly Barungs homestead, built in the early 1860's on the Hummocks Run, near Snowtown.


Mr. Ellis engaged very largely in pastoral pursuits, his stations extending from the Little Para to the Hummocks, the country comprising the latter run having been first stocked by him.


In 1842 Captain John Ellis took out an annual leasehold on the Hummocks Ranges run.

  • He also bought land in New Zealand.

  • Captain John Ellis took up the first lease of the Hummocks Station in July 1851 which included country he had held on occupation licenses since 1845.

  • The general manager of most of his properties, and largely responsible for his good fortune, was Hugh Cameron (c. May 1796 – 10 June 1884).


Ellis also purchased over 50,000 freehold acres in the Hundreds of Benara and Blanche, between Mount Gambier and Port MacDonnell,

  • and 34 square miles of leasehold land, where he ran some 73,000 sheep

  • He purchased the remainder of Benara (originally spelled Benaira)

  • and an adjacent station, Coola comprising 22,000 acres of freehold and 36,000 acres of leasehold, from the South Australian Company in 1875.

Below: A modern view of the Hummocks near Snowtown

Mr Ellis, Pastoralist
John Ellis Pioneer Pastoralist.jpeg
Hummocks Station

Above: Hummocks Station Bed and Breakfast, Snowtown SA


John Ellis MLC, S.A. Parliament

1851 - John Ellis MLC

Ellis entered very little into public business until the establishment of the first partially-elective Legislative Council in August, 1851,

  • when he was returned as the member for Flinders, having successfully contested the district with the late Mr. Matthew Smith.

  • After this time Ellis sold a portion of his properties.

  • John Ellis retired to England between 1859 and 1861 with his first wife Elizabeth and all of their eleven South Australian born children.

    • Elizabeth died in 1862, Westminster, England.

    • In 1864 at the age of 61 in Derbyshire UK, Captain John ELLIS remarried Susanna HINDMARSH, the daughter of the first governor of South Australia, Sir John HINDMARSH.


John Ellis sells the Hummocks leasehold


The Hummocks lease was acquired from John Ellis by Messrs. Hope, Moorhouse, and Co. (See more on the Michael's page)

  • "My father, the late Dr. Matthew Moorhouse, with Mr. Hope, and several others, bought the Hummocks Station (run) from the late Mr. Ellis.

  • It comprised the ranges west of (Bumbunga) Salt Lake, and extended north of Redhill.

    • Bowman Brothers, Mr. Herbert Hughes, of Booyoolie, and Reid Brothers, of Beetaloo, were the squatters who held tho country (to the North)."
    • The old homestead on the property was erected by that firm.

 - Mr. J. Moorhouse's Recollections
The Register (Adelaide, SA) Tue 12 Oct 1926, Page 7

"In the early sixties--when Messrs. Hope Moorhouse, & Co. owned the Hummocks Station -- I several times went with a friend and a black boy to the creek which is now called Port Broughton.

  • We went in a Yankee wagon, took the black boy, some water and tucker, and camped under a bush.

  • In the early mornings we began to fish, and in about three hours we had as many schnapper as the wagon could carry, and on the way back to the homestead we gave supplies to all the shepherd huts.

  • The shepherds, in those days, were a fine lot of men, and they had comfortable homes, and sometimes fairly large families."

- Mr. J. Moorhouse's Recollections
The Register (Adelaide, SA)
Tue 12 Oct 1926  Page 7

John Ellis sells Hummocks Lease
1870 Hummocks becomes Freehold
Lease assessments 19 Nov 1864.jpg


Hummocks Leashold converted to Freehold

When the government began resuming lands for the creation of the Hundreds of Barunga and Cameron in 1869

  • Dr Moorhouse, Hope and Co. lost the leasehold lands of the Hummocks and Barunga runs which were bought from the Government by Robert Barr Smith and John Maslin.

  • At this time the old Barunga homestead became known as the Hummocks homestead as it still is today.

  • Hummocks homestead from 1863 must be one of only a dozen or so homesteads built in the 1860s in South Australia and still occupied.

  • It is a very unique property with a fascinating history.


John Ellis made a considerable fortune and in 1867 retired to England with his second wife where he died in 1873.


  • His son Thomas took over his estates, and his children in turn continued to run Benara and Coola stations properties into the 20th Century.

  • Ellis died on 22 March 1873 in Kempton Park, Middlesex, England, at the age of 69.

Read More:
Road from Black Point to Kadina Fri 9 De
Road from Black Point to Kadina 1870.jpg
Underground tank (Former)



This large stone lined underground water catchment was constructed by the pastoral lessee, John Ellis (lease 124) prior to the resumption of the land· by the government in the late 1860s.


  • The area of 22 acres including the tank was dedicated as Water Reserve No. 2 in 1889 and later leased to the Cummins family, who settled on nearby land in 1871.

  • The tank is of irregular shape and approximately 10 metres long and 2 metres deep.

  • It is in sound condition and an unusual surviving relic of the pastoral era of the district.

Stone tank (Former)


(Illustrated at Right)

This square ironstone tank was probably constructed by the pastoral lessee, John Ellis (lease 124) prior to the resumption of the land by the government in the late 1860s.

  • John Ellis' head station " Bumbunga" was situated nearby on section 569.

  • The tank is a landmark beside the Main North Road and an interesting relic surviving from the pastoral era of the district.

Read More
Heritage - Underground tank
Petition: Road Black Point to Kadina
Heritage listed square stone tank, Bumbu

Next Pioneers:   Paddy Gleeson

John Hope

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