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Mintaro's History, page 1

Early Mintaro

Mintaro Approximately 1873 B-73197_edited.jpg

The charismatic and controversial Stein family, whose descendants include a British Prime Minister, pioneered the exporting of Scotch whisky worldwide.

In 1777 Stein made history by exporting 2000 gallons of whisky to England to be made into gin.

In the 1780s they produced around 5000 gallons of Holland’s Gin per day.

They produced so much whisky that their tax bill alone was greater than the rest of the land taxes put together annually in Scotland. 

200 years ago a dispute erupted between the Steins and the government over duty payments.

Their Kennetpans distillery was forced into bankruptcy and has become a forgotten gem of Scotland‘s industrial heritage.

James Stein B-3391.jpeg

James Stein (pictured above) was born of Scottish wealth

— his father was a London banker and member 1796-1802 of the House of Commons,

and his sister was the Countess of Fife.


In 1829, the distillery interests of Stein’s father and uncles, struck financial difficulties and all related partnerships were dissolved.

Young James Stein, having the benefit of a good education, then sought to make his own fortune in Australia, arriving at Sydney in September 1833 on the ship Sir John Roe Reid.

In 1838, aged 33, James and his personal companion, 17 year old John Price, convened an expedition from Bathurst NSW to the colony of Adelaide, with approximately 5000 sheep and 5000 cattle.

His party consisted of 30 Englishmen and a number of Hindustani coolies headed by Evelyn Pitfield Sturt, brother of explorer Captain Charles Sturt.

His Hindustani coolies were later sold to Mr E.B. Gleeson, founder of Clare.

Lindsay, Spanish Muleteers.jpeg

Mintaro is a remarkably well-preserved and rare example of an early colonial rural town and is a strong physical reminder of the importance of copper and slate mining for its siting, layout and built form.

Minarto's cultural significance is enhanced by its picturesque setting of wheat fields in a valley which is surrounded by a broad band of hills.

In 1984, the township of Mintaro was declared a State Heritage Area.


Mintaro's growth was short-lived and spontaneous. This can be seen in its close village settlement, and irregular century's old stone buildings.

There is no other town in South Australia to rival Mintaro for such an extensive use of slate.

This durable material has been used in every possible way in features such as walls, roofs, windowsills, posts, troughs, tanks, kerbs and steps.

First Settler

James Stein was a pioneering European settler of South Australia’s mid north and founder of the now heritage-listed Kadlunga estate.

In 1838 James Stein, aged 33, and his personal companion, 17 year old John Price, convened an expedition from Bathurst NSW to the colony of Adelaide, with approximately 5000 sheep and 5000 cattle.

  • His party consisted of 30 Englishmen and a number of Hindustani coolies headed by Evelyn Pitfield Sturt, brother of explorer Captain Charles Sturt.

  • By c1838, Stein's expedition was pasturing in the Upper Wakefield River district.

  • In 1839, an official report from Edward John Eyre to John Ainsworth Horrocks documents an interesting aspect of the survey of the area. In their the survey of the Upper Wakefield and the twin rivers Hutt and Hill, surveyor brothers William and John Hill refer to Stein and the British flag at Flagstaff Hill, 10 km east of Mintaro.


In 1840, Stein was recorded as having two Runs, one at Burra and the other at Mintaro (the Mintaro Run).

[Colonial spelling was Mintadloo. The Ethnologist of the SA museum interpreted the aboriginal word Mintingadlu as based on 

  • Minti, meaning net, and 

  • Ngadlu meaning water, 
    meaning: a place of netted water, e.g. a fish or animal trap.]


Stein and Sturt, in 1840, were assessed as being at Kadulunga, 3 km west of Mintaro with 2600 ewes, 400 wethers, numerous cattle and some crops.

[Kadlunga — Kad meaning sweet/honey or banksia nectar and Unga meaning water in hill]

  • In 1842, Stein's occupational lease and staff were as follows —:​

    • T. Diprose, Base Station, Princess Royal, a fortification painted by landscape artist S.T. Gill.

    • J. Logan, head camp, Logan Gap and Logan's Creek Reserve. He returned to England in 1860.

    • E. Sturt, head camp, Kadulunga Springs, section 173.

    • M. William, outstation, Apoinga.

    • T. Semple, outstation, Burra Creek, Burra 1839.

      • Two other Semple brothers arrived in SA. The married brother squatted at Mintaro.

    • J. Farrell, outstation, at a permanent lagoon between Farrell's Flat and Merildren.
      Farrell's Flat is thought to be named after Rev. James Farrell who served the Anglican Mission at Mintaro.​

    • Tie Tee Wies, outstation, Mintaro Reed Beds, a market gardener whose descendants remained in Mintaro until the 1880s.

    • W. Tateham, outstation, Wakefield River, Auburn, married with 3 children, took up employment with Joseph Gilbert on his Crystal Brook run.

      • Tateham was the first person to purchase a Mintaro town lot under the direction of Gilbert who laid out the town of Mintaro. Tateham and his family departed to the Victorian goldfields, where he died.

    • L. Levett, a shepherd at Mintaro.
      His daughter Sarah, born in 1843, was recorded at the Mintadloo Run Anglican Mission in Mintaro.

    • G. Kite, married with 6 children, head drover based at Mintaro and later the pound keeper at Kite Street, Mintaro and a bullock contractor.

    • H. Huxtable, married with 5 children, bootmaker, saddler, based at Mintaro. His descendants remained in Mintaro until the 1920s.


Early Settlers

There was an early S.A. settlement in the area of Mintaro, since a special survey was dated June 15, 1842, where land was granted to Mr. Arthur Young of Aberdeen, Scotland, and on this section was later built Martindale Hall.

  • Drs. W. and J. Browne, who sold a large portion of their holding to Mr. Edmund Bowman soon after 1845

  • Mr. James Torr arrived in 1847

  • Mr. William Dunn arrived in 1850

  • Mr. James Brown about 1850

  • Mr. Joseph Tickle, 1851

  • Mr. G. Sandow 1854

  • Mr. George Faulkner, Mr. Peter Brady. Mr. John Chewings

  • Later Mr. David Power in 1899

A four-roomed d​welling exists on the old 'copper track' on the side of Mt. Horrocks, showing there were settlers in the district before the mule drivers started driving through the area.

  • The families of Torr, Tickle and Sandow, still live on their original properties.

  • By the early 1850s the township was thriving and prosperous.

Copper Ore Transport

Copper was discovered at Burra in 1845 and by the end of the decade the Burra Burra Mine was one of the richest copper mines in the world.

Owing to the expansion of the Burra Copper Mine, a new route for the bullock teams hauling two-ton jinkers of copper from Burra to Port Henry (now Port Wakefield),  was needed and so the Gulf Road was developed (see the route of Copper Ore Way).

From the end of 1848, bullock teams carted copper ore from Burra to Port Wakefield and shipped back coal, from Wales, on the return journey to the Patent Copper Company’s smelter near the mine.

  • However one of the many problems of the Burra Mines was the slow bullock teams and the winter road conditions which were unsuitable for the hauling of two-ton copper ore jinkers, over slippery muddy roads. 

  • This route, for many years little more than a track between watering holes, was a private road owned by the Company. It became known as the Gulf Road.

Gulf Road

From 1849 to 1857 bullock and then mule teams travelled this Gulf Road between Burra and Port Wakefield carting copper ore to the port, and returning with coal and other supplies, covering 10 miles per day.

The Mintaro Belt, a wooded section of the Gulf Road, had a backlog of copper ore 'bullocky' jinkers negotiating around Mt Horrocks.

Mules and Muleteers

(In the Register, 3/11/1891. p. 4, c. 4, it is asked when the first mules were brought to South Australia, and 7/11/1891, p. 4, c. 4, 'Muleteer' says, they were first brought here in 1850 in the ship Ibella, but F. M. Le Leu, of the Semaphore (Register  12/11/1891, p. 4, c. 2) writes that he was mate with Capt. Coleman in the Malacca, and the first mules arrived in 1853. The Register (Adelaide, SA) Tue 27 Apr 1926  Page 3 


Illustrated below left: Lionel Lindsay artist - "Muleteers, Spain"

Because mules could cart the ore in both wet and dry seasons, between 1853 and 1857, Chilean muleteers were employed by the English and Australian Copper Company to transport copper ore and coal between Burra and Port Wakefield, so mule teams driven by Spanish-speaking muleteers were a common sight on the Gulf Road.

Many of them brought their wives and children with them to South Australia. Groups of up to 50 Chileans made the five-day journey on the Gulf Road, camping at towns such as Mintaro on the way. 

 N.B. Most mules and muleteers were shipped from Chile on the Copper Company ship Malacca (launched 12th January 1842), although the first few came from Monte Video, Uruguay on 23/7/1853: 70 mules and six muleteers.

The rest came on 13/4/1854 from Coquimbo via Sydney with 210 mules, and six asses, and again on 18/2/55 arrived from Valaparaiso, Chili with 200 mules, 16 horses, also 14 native Chileans, two women, and two children. The Register (Adelaide, SA) Tue 27 Apr 1926  Page 3 

Illustrated at left: HM ships Grappler, Shearwater and Malacca (far right) at Esquimalt, Vancouver's Island, 1853

There were 50 mule teams on the road at any one time, each team with 2 or more tons of copper ore.

Most of the muleteers and their families had a permanent camp at the Apoinga Smelting Works, 17 miles South of Burra.


Mintaro had 14 muleteers, some with their families, camped behind the Devonshire Arms owned by S. Torr, with their mules queuing along Wakefield Street.

One muleteer, J. Preo, is buried in the Mintaro cemetery.

These colourful families were of much curiosity to the English settlers of Mintaro.

In 1986 a re-enactment of the Gulf Road traffic was undertaken as part of the South Australia's 150th Jubilee.​

Below: The Re-enactment of the mule team at Mintaro 

First Settler
Stein Family of Distillers
Gulf Road
Copper Ore Transport
Mules and Muleteers
Early Settlers
The Mule team in Mintaro(1).jpg
Kadlunga Station 300x300.jpeg

The town and yeomen of Mintaro were surrounded by large estates such as —


  • South-east — the Bowmans of Martindale

  • West — Kadlunga Station
    and (smaller) Montrose, home of Hamish Gosse when he sold Kadlunga

  • North — McCulloch's Estate

  • South-west — Sandow's Trelawney farm holdings, and beyond, the Giles pastoral empire*

  • North-west — Sidney Ayers Estate

  • North-east — Samson Torr Holdings at Farrell Flat, SA,

* The Giles holding in the Gilbert Valley was an early venture in what became a mammoth pastoral empire.

The lease, Marocara, covered an area from south of Rhynie to north of Stockport, and from a mile or two east of the River Gilbert, westwards to the River Wakefield.

Below left: Aerial photograph of Kadlunga Station, Mintaro

Kadlunga is located about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) west of Mintaro, south of Mt.Horrocks, and Kadlunga has been described as one of the most historic properties in the Mid North area. It adjoins the Trelawney farmland to the south.

On the map below, Mt Horrocks is marked with binoculars.


The Gulf Road (illustrated above with the two seasonal routes in blocked markings) passed 2km north west of Mintaro (far-right of above map) through Kadlunga which was now owned by the English and Australian Copper Co, land also claimed by James Stein.

  • Stein's legal battle with the two major mine companies of Burra over Princess Royal and Kadlunga continued for several years to no avail, and eventually financially devastated him.

  • History's only acknowledgment of James Stein is a street in Mintaro named after him.​


Below: Copper Road routes from Burra by date

Copper Road Routes
Copper Road Routes to Ports

The Devil’s Garden is located on the Balaklava-Auburn Road, about halfway between Balaklava and Halbury.

Their origins go back to the bullock drivers who carted copper ore along the Gulf Road from Burra to Port Wakefield – the most hazardous part of their long and tedious journey was over once they finally made it to the top of the sandhill signalling the end of the “Devil’s Garden.”

Copper Transport Roads from Burra S.A.
The old Mintaro cop shop, complete with three original prison cells.jpeg

Above: Built circa 1868, this old Police Station and prison cells, at 81 Burra St. Mintaro has now been converted into a home.

Below: St. Peters Anglican chapel has been converted into a Sacred Space garden to help heal the wounds of abuse - ABC 

Sacred Space garden helps to heal the wounds of abuse.jpeg
Early Mintaro Buildings and their Residents


In 1842, Mintaro had a number of families permanently residing there, the total number being approximately 60.

Owing to problems with aborigines, convicts and ship deserters, Inspector Tolmer established a permanent official Police Reserve at Mintaro, later to become the Mintaro Police Station, Jail and Magistrate's Court and remained the Police Department property until the mid 1950s.

A trooper based at Mintaro, Joseph Lean, found malachite (copper) in the creek bed.

This was the beginning of the Wakefield Copper Mine.


By 1845 when copper was discovered at Burra on Stein's run, Mintaro was a thriving settlement with —

  • St Peters Anglican Chapel, built of stone on the high ground west of the copper fields.

  • Brewery, near the reed beds.

  • Permanent houses, built of stone on the high ground east of the copper fields.

  • Temporary houses, on the flats near the reed beds.

  • Dug-out housing, Kadulunga Creek.

  • Saddler/Bootmaker, sheoak log hut in the centre of the present town site.

  • A merchant and grain store.

  • A Police Reserve and dormitory.

  • Chaff mill, dairy, market garden, crops and bullock stud.


Some of the new families of this area were:

  • Capt Pascoe, mine superintendent.

  • Torr, mine captain, from the Bolivian Tin Mine.

  • McLathlen, mine captain, from Kapunda Copper Mine SA.

  • The Brady brothers, farmers, who discovered Mintaro slate, donated the Catholic Church and subdivided north Mintaro.

  • The Bowman brothers, pastoralists of Martindale Hall

  • The Sandow family, who farmed Trelawney

  • Other families included: Pearce, Morris, Collins, Green, Hogben, Hay, Lynch, Lester, Rodgers, Willmont, Crawley.

The End of the Wakefield Copper Mine:

The Wakefield Copper fields had failed but alluvial gold was found.

Being a closed community, this was kept secret until c1850s.

The copper mine was kept open in name only as a diminishing enterprise.

Read More:

Early Mintaro Buildings
Read More
Mintaro State Heritage Area guidelines for Development.png
Mintaro State Heritage Area - guidelines for Development.png
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