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Pioneers of Snowtown, S.A.

Pastoral pioneers - 3

John Hope

Extracted largely from:

John Hope of Clare, South Australia: an under-recognised colonial achiever by Rory Hope, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia Issue 46 (2018)

The original pastoral runs in the Mid-North of SA were Koolunga Station run, Bundaleer run, and Bungaree run. Hill River run is east of Clare, a historically huge area like the Hummocks run.

John Hope 1860's.jpg

Above: Map of stations and runs in the Mid-North of SA dated about 1920s

Red lines=Railways, Brown lines=Goyder Line (10" rainfall)

Click for a larger view at Trove

In about 1856, the lease of the Hummocks (a run of 33 square miles or 8547 hectares, leased by John Ellis) about forty-three miles (69 kilometres) west of Clare, was taken over by ‘Hope, Moorhouse and Company’, which was a group comprising

  • John Hope,

  • Dr Matthew Moorhouse (who had relinquished his post as Protector of Aborigines) and lived on the run as manager,

  • Francis Faulding,

  • Joseph Fisher and

  • Anthony Forster.


The Hummocks Run then carried about 25 000 sheep.

  • By 1860, Lease 124 comprised the two properties of Hummocks and Bumbunga, which covered 100 square miles or 64,000 acres.

  • Another two leases, 492, 467, were also West of the Barunga Range, towards nowadays Port Broughton.


Dr. Moorhouse was an early and successful pastoralist in this colony and pioneer squatter in the north.


The lease was resumed by the Government in 1869 forcing Dr Moorhouse out.

The Hummocks
Map SA showing sheep stations-thumbnail2
Dr. Matthew Moorhouse
Dr. Matthew Moorhouse

Dr. Matthew Moorhouse, a medical practitioner, arrived in South Australia from Staffordshire, England, in June 1839 to take up appointment as the colony’s first permanent protector of Aborigines.

  • His instructions required him to

    • become acquainted with the languages and customs of Aboriginal people,

    • protect them from exploitation and,

    • above all, promote the reception of Christian religion and the ‘arts of civilisation’.


As European settlement spread, Dr. Moorhouse regularly visited frontier districts to investigate clashes between Aboriginal people and settlers, frequently serving as a court interpreter.

  • Dr. Moorhouse resigned in 1856 and travelled to England and North America.

  • On his return to South Australia Moorhouse became a pastoralist (at the Hummocks until 1869), before settling at Bartagunyah, near Melrose in the Mid North.  


Dr. Moorhouse died after a short illness on his station Bartagunyah on 29 March 1876, leaving a widow, two sons and a daughter.

John Hope



John Hope


John Hope left Ireland for South Australia on 17 March 1839, taking with him a large store of useful goods, some savings, and letters of recommendation.

  • On arrival in Adelaide, he walked twenty-five miles (40 kilometres) to the then un-surveyed area now known as Gawler where he presented a letter of introduction to John Reid, an old Hope family acquaintance from Ireland.

  • The Reid family, early residents of Gawler, resided in ‘Clonlea’ one of the first stone house erected north of Adelaide.

  • Reid employed Hope as a tutor to his four sons at £1 per week.


In 1841 John Hope formed a partnership with John Watts, the Adelaide Postmaster General.

  • These two enterprising men planned to graze sheep on un-surveyed Crown land in the mid-north of South Australia.

  • Due to his occupation, Watts could rarely leave Adelaide, so the men arranged for Hope to manage Watts’ runs while squatting on nearby land and buying sheep himself.

  • In 1842 he was managing E. B. Gleeson’s flock of sheep stationed where Auburn is now, where Hope and two men were kept besieged for a whole day by a [group] of Aborigines who pelted them with spears and stones; at last he fired some shot at them and they dispersed.”

  • Later, John Hope was to become godfather to Gleeson’s nephew.

Koolunga Station
Koolunga Station 'Run'

Koolunga was a pastoral lease of land to John Hope, and the Koolunga run (station) was 95 square miles, situated north of the Hummocks Run.

  • The government resumed the land for wheat farming in 1870.

  • The town of Koolunga dates from 1875.

John Hope's Koolunga property on the Bro


By 1843 John Hope had in excess of 1000 sheep which he grazed under Occupational Licence No 43 on a run near Clare of about 80 square miles (20720 hectares).


In 1847, Licence number 113 described Hope’s Koolunga run as being on the Broughton Plains, situated on the Broughton River.


These early licenses gave permission to graze without conferring lasting property rights.

  • The property boundaries were poorly defined. There were few, and in most cases no, fences – hence the need for shepherds.

  • John Hope named his run ‘Koolunga’. This is thought to be an Aboriginal word meaning ‘red banks’, with reference to the banks of the Broughton River.

  • The present town of Koolunga (population about 200 in 2016) is close to the site of Hope’s original homestead.

Lease 113 (marked '58' on the map below), was situated on the Broughton [River], (see left)

bounded by a line commencing at the River Broughton and running 6 miles North,

forming a portion of the Western boundary of Mr. Watt’s run,

thence by a line running 2 miles West,

thence 3 ¾ miles North by West,

thence 6 miles West by South,

thence 2 miles South, thence 1 ½ miles West, thence 8 miles South East by South,

thence 2 ¼ miles South by West,

thence 6 ½ miles East by North to the starting point on the Broughton.

The bridge over the River Broughton leading northwards into the town is named ‘Hope’s Crossing’.

  • Hope employed upwards of twenty shepherds to care for his stock.

  • Each shepherd, some with wives, was assigned a hut and supplied with provisions.

In the mid-1840s, John Hope was a busy man.

  • While running his own sheep station Koolunga

  • and cooperating with George Hawker at Bungaree,

  • he retained a managerial role for John Watts.

On 7 June 1845, Watts recorded that: [Hope] came into town [Adelaide] to attend the Grand Jury and told me [Watts] there seemed to be no doubt of their being able to establish their right to the additional runs which Hughes and Hawker had attempted to take.

In March 1852 the Governor of South Australia, Henry Young, appointed John Hope and Charles Hawker as Justices of the Peace.

  • Hope earnestly fulfilled his duties and, together with fellow JPs Paddy Gleeson and James William McDonald (Stipendiary Magistrate), he frequently adjudicated in the Clare Magistrates Court.

Mid North Runs map.jpg



John Hope, pastoral pioneer, whose home


On 12 May 1853, soon after George Hawker with his wife Bessie and five young children had departed from Port Adelaide for an overseas trip to England, John Hope entered in his diary: ‘Took charge of Bungaree’.

  • From this date until Hawker’s return to South Australia in late 1855, Hope divided his time between managing his own run, Koolunga, and Bungaree.

Hope now ran over 15,000 sheep on Koolunga, and his average income from wool sales was about £8000 pa, tax free.

  • This is a huge income when converted to today’s value.

  • By 1857, in addition to his Koolunga run, he owned about 2340 acres (947 hectares) freehold in the Clare area.

  • It was on one of these sections, within walking distance to the town, that he built his homestead ‘Wolta Wolta’.


Hope was now able to afford some small luxuries;

  • Koolunga, for example, became one of the first properties in South Australia to use a hydraulically operated wool press.

  • Hope had imported this press from England.


Buys Lease of the Hummocks

In about 1856, the lease of the Hummocks (a run of 33 square miles or 8547 hectares) at the top of the St Vincent Gulf, about forty-three miles (69 kilometres) west of Clare, was taken over by ‘Hope, Moorhouse and Company.

  • Moorhouse lived on the run as manager.

  • The Hummocks carried about 25 000 sheep.


John Hope left Australia in February 1858 to visit England and Ireland.

  • Hope, while staying with his Uncle Charles Hopes in Dublin, was introduced to Isabella Matilda Kenney whom he married on 13 January 1859.

  • Isabella was born in 1828 and was about thirty years old when they met. John was fifty-three

  • Isabella soon also became friends with the Hawkers, for whom John Hope had managed Bungaree.

  • She also established a Sunday school for children in Clare.


Meanwhile, John helped establish an ‘Agricultural Society’ to represent the interests of the local squatters, and he was a member and regularly attended and contributed to meetings of the Clare Council.

In the 1860s when the Government decided to increase lease fees for the squatters and employed George Goyder to carry out surveys of property boundaries and set new rates.

  • Before 1864, Hope paid £197 per annum rent for Koolunga but Goyder’s assessment was £1520, a huge increase.

  • Squatters were then offered the choice of buying their runs as freehold or selling them at auction.

  • The Hawkers purchased their runs.


Koolunga Station sold

In 1865 Hope sold Koolunga, the run which had provided him with the financial security and independence he sought when leaving Ireland twenty-seven years previously.

  • The purchaser was John Maslin with Mr. Robert Barr Smith, and they purchased not only both the Koolunga and Hummocks Runs, but also Warrakimbo, in the north.

  • Afterwards they bought the station east of Koolunga, Bundaleer from J.B. Hughes for a quarter of a million pounds.

  • Mr. Maslin eventually became sole owner of Bundaleer and Warrakimbo

Life in Clare

John Hope then built the house named Wolta Wolta in Clare (pictured below).

  • John and wife Isabella settled down to a busy married life at Wolta Wolta.

  • In the five years between 1860 and 1865, Isabella had five children including a set of twins.

Most of Isabella’s time was spent caring for their children but she also entertained visitors from Clare and Adelaide and continued to run the Sunday school.

  • John was involved in buying and selling sheep and horses and caring for stock, employing shepherds and other staff, fencing, managing problems with dingoes, planting and maintaining garden and vines, travelling to and from Adelaide on business where he stayed at the Adelaide Club (he was a foundation member).

Buys Lease of the Hummocks
Koolunga Station sold
Life in Clare
Wolta Wolta around 1880.jpg
St Barbabus Stained Glass Windows, Clare SA
John Hope's Travels

In January 1865 George and Bessie Hawker and their children left again on a trip to England, partly ‘to clear out from the troubles of South Australia’

  • (the ‘troubles’ referring to drought,

  • Goyder’s valuations and

  • aggravation against squatters).


In October of that year, John Hope and family followed the Hawkers, arriving in Liverpool on 22 December:

  • Isabella must have been overjoyed to visit her mother and sister in Dublin, and John once again spent some time in England witnessing his wool being auctioned, and in Manchester with his brother Charles.

  • In June 1866 returned alone to Wolta Wolta.

After seven months back in South Australia, which included an ambitious camping/ horseback exploration of the Flinders Ranges with George Hawker, Hope set out yet again for England and Ireland, this time with the aim of returning with his wife and children.

  • They arrived back in Adelaide in July 1870, and settled into life at Wolta Wolta.

John Hope's Travels
Hope Memorial Window med.jpg
John Hope's Wolta Wolta.jpg


Hummocks Lease Resumed

In 1870 the SA Government resumed the Hummocks and Bumbunga leases, sruveyed the land into Hundreds and Sections, and auctioned those Hummocks sections to Robert Barr Smith and John Maslin.

  • Hope now focused his pastoral activities on the freehold land he had been accumulating nearer Clare and on which he had built the Wolta Wolta station homestead.

  • While Wolta Wolta station was never much greater in area than 12 square miles (3108 hectares), it had a higher rainfall and richer pastures than Koolunga.

  • However, the sections of land were dispersed which made it difficult to manage.

Hummocks Lease resumed


Para Station 2091351.jpg
Para Station 2091353.jpg

New Stations in NSW & Qld

Between 1873 and 1875, John Hope purchased two very large stations.

  • The first, near Wentworth in New South Wales, was named ‘Para’.

  • It was some 570 square miles in area (147 629 hectares) and had a twenty-five mile (40 kilometre) frontage on the River Darling.

  • Para was stocked with 38 000 sheep, 1200 cattle and 100 horses.

  • The annual wool clip, averaging about 450 bales, was sent by paddle steamer down the Darling and Murray rivers to Goolwa, by rail to Port Victor (Victor Harbor), and then by ship to Liverpool.

  • Including stock and improvements, Para cost Hope £58,000.

  • The annual rental due to the New South Wales government was £335.


Hope found it necessary to borrow heavily to finance this purchase.

  • To visit his property, Hope travelled from Adelaide to Mannum by mail coach, and then by paddle steamer to Para. The trip of over 500 kilometres, took him three to four days.

  • The manager on Para, John Urquhart, wrote regularly to John Hope in Clare, reporting day-to-day activities on the run.

John Hope settled the property and the Station was recorded as one of the largest in the district by stock returns of 1867.

  • In 1884, Para consisted of 528,000 acres.


Pictured below: The Para homestead and associated buildings are a fine example of slab dwelling construction, and reflect the mixed periods of agricultural development on the district.

Para Station 2091352.jpg
New Stations in NSW & Qld



His second purchase (May 1875) was a property in the Channel Country of southwest Queensland, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) due east of the north-east corner of the South Australian border.

  • He purchased the lease from John Costello, brother-in-law to Patrick Durack, patriarch of the Durack family, and pastoral pioneer in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

  • Hope soon acquired additional nearby leases, giving a total holding of some 700 square miles (181 300 hectares), with a ten-mile (16 kilometre) frontage on the Cooper Creek.

  • In 1880, his Queensland property ran about 20 000 head of cattle.


In March 1879, the Hope family left for England and Ireland on what was to be their last trip overseas, this time to enable John to settle the affairs of his elder brother Charles who had died in Manchester.

  • They returned to Adelaide in May 1880 and John, who had become sick on-board ship during the homeward journey, died of stomach cancer in the old York Hotel on 20 June 1880, aged seventy-four.

John Hope's Diaries
Wolta Wolta hero-300.jpg
John Hope's Diaries

John Hope’s diaries commence on Thursday 12 May 1853, the day he took over the management of ‘Bungaree’, the run established by his friend George Hawker, while Hawker and his family were on a two-year overseas trip.

  • The diaries finish when Hope dies in 1880 and were saved from a bushfire that severely damaged Wolta Wolta.

  • Gaps in the diaries can be partially ‘filled-in’ from Hope’s correspondence, and the diaries of other early settlers.


In his diaries, John Hope refers to over 500 different people.

  • These include individuals employed on his properties or with whom he did business, as well as those he and his wife interacted with socially.

  • Many of the well-known Clare identities of the period are referred to, including members of the following families: Beare, Bagot, Butler, Bowman, Daley, Filgate, Fisher, Formby, Gleeson, Hawker, Horrocks, Hughes, McDonald, Moorhouse, Patterson, Robinson, Walsh, Webb, and Young.


Over the past two years, Dr Rory Hope and Dr Stephanie James have been transcribing John Hope’s diaries and letters with a view to publication.

Read More:
Obituary, John Hope
John Hope of Clare, South Australia: An under-recognised colonial achiever


Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia
Issue 46 (2018) Hope, Rory



Scots-Irishman, John Hope, reached the infant colony of South Australia in 1839.

  • The second son of a 'grocer, haberdasher and sub-distributor of postal stamps' from Maghera in County Londonderry,

  • he established himself in the colony's mid-north.

  • Despite arriving with limited financial resources and only modest social capital,

  • Hope's eventual acquisition of extensive property

  • - and possibly his Protestant background

  • - enabled him to form close ties with prominent figures such as members of the Hawker and Hughes families.


An 1880 obituary stated that Hope 'never came forward as a public man'.

  • While this may have been accurate in terms of colonial politics, Hope was a

  • magistrate,

  • local councillor,

  • generous supporter of a number of community activities, and

  • closely involved with the Presbyterian and Anglican Churches.


His diaries and letters reveal the extent of his interaction

  • with local pastoralists and

  • his lengthy overseas and overland trips.


Given Hope's

  • early arrival in the colony,

  • his demonstrable pastoral success and

  • the significance of his community roles,

it seems inexplicable that his life and contribution has received such little recognition and

that his name is absent from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Obituary, John Hope

( 27 November 1805 - June 20, 1880)

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Sat 26 Jun 1880 Page 2


On June 20 Mr. John Hope, who was for many years a squatter at Wolta Wolta, in the neighborhood of Clare, died at the York Hotel Adelaide.

  • The deceased gentleman in March, 1879, had paid a visit to England on family affairs, and returned in the Orient about six weeks ago when he took up his abode at the York Hotel, being in ill-health.

  • He had lost all his strength owing to old age, and never recovered from his illness. He was about 75 years of age at the time of his death.


Besides having a large property in Clare, the deceased was the owner of a run near Cooper's Creek, and had also recently built a house at Glenelg.

  • The deceased did a great deal of good in and about Clare, although ha never came forward as a public man.


On Tuesday afternoon, June 22, the funeral took place.

  • The remains of the deceased gentleman were removed from the York Hotel, where he had been staying at to the time of his death, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon for the North-road Cemetery,

  • and were followed to the grave by a large number of citizens as well as residents in the country.

Canon (George) Dove officiated at the grave, and His Lordship the Bishop of Adelaide (Augustus Short) delivered the benediction.


Among those who attended were the



The funeral arrangements were conducted by Mr. P. Gay.

Sources of information

John Hope was meticulous in his habits.

  • He retained diaries (covering the period 1853 to 1880),

  • letters received, copies of letters sent, financial records and

  • other documents that cover much of his time in Australia.


His wife, Isabella Matilda Hope (née Kenney) also kept diaries (1857 – 1899) and letters,

  • as did John’s eldest daughter (Frances) Diana Christison.

  • During the early 1900s, Diana researched her family history and documented the results.

Next Pioneer: Robert Barr Smith
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