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Martindale Hall Story: 1

The Bowman Family Arrives

"Since first seeing the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock, I have been fascinated by Martindale Hall and have wanted to visit this iconic home for as long as I can remember. I recently got that opportunity and was certainly not disappointed. The home is beyond beautiful, the stories are amazing."

Balaklava. Werocata homestead.jpg

Right: The first grand rural house built by the Bowmans, Werocata at Balaclava in the mid-north (1865)

The Bowman Family Arrives in Australia.

The Bowman family were noted for doing much of
the hard graft of station work themselves  - 
they built all the fences and lambing pens,
they even washed their sheep before shearing them.

They also carted copper ore from Burra to Port Adelaide and
on the return journey would bring up their station supplies.


Above: Thomas Bowman's historic Potalloch Estate, by Lake Alexandrina

From the 'Register' (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 18 February 1911, page 14 

Mr. Thomas Richard Bowman, Pioneer Pastoralist

—A Stirring Career—

Mr. Bowman was generally associated with Campbell Park, on Lake Albert, and was a well-known member of the "Bowmans of the lakes."

  • The Bowman brothers purchased the Poltalloch Estate in 1876 from the late Mr. John Malcolm, of Poltalloch, in Scotland.

  • John Bowman developed Polltalloch into a thriving sheep station and constructed a substantial new homestead and other buildings west of the 1840s settlement.

  • These buildings were laid out to resemble a small English village, with the ‘village green’ extending to the shore of Lake Alexandrina.

These pastoralists belong to the pioneer stock which founded the industry of South Australia.

Pictured at Right:

Residence of Thomas R. Bowman, at Campbell Park, Lake Albert, SA.

The Bowman family of pastoralists lived in the grand homestead of Campbell Park in the 1870s.

The Heritage listed property consisted of Italianate style house and outbuildings and was situated on the banks of Lake Albert between Meningie and the Coorong.

The photograph shows a lookout platform and weather vane towering over the single storey building.

Campbell House, Campbell Pk B-10772.jpeg
Thomas Richard Bowman 1885.jpg

Above: Mr. Thomas Bowman

Edmund Bowman 1865 illustration.png
Thomas Richard Bowman photo 1885.jpg

Above: Mr. Thomas Bowman

—In Tasmania—

"My father settled in Tasmania. He first rented a small farm with a fairly good house on it, between Bridgewater and Risdon Ferry, near Hobart.

  • Up to this time a grant of land had been given to each child of any family that landed in the colony from the old country, but while my father was up country looking for suitable land the grant was cancelled, so, unfortunately, we could not acquire any land in that way.

  • Being unable to obtain suitable land elsewhere, father took a farm on the bank of the Big Lagoon, then called Stokle's Lagoon, which, though only a reedy swamp of about 1,200 acres in extent, was called Lake Tiberias, and it was here that I was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1835.

  • Sheep-farming and agriculture were tried, and in small drained swamp some good crops of turnips were grown, on which the cattle were fed.

  • After living here for some years, father took another farm called Woodlands, close to the Coal River, so called on account of the presence of coal in the neighbourhood."


—Beginnings in South Australia—

"Father, seeing that he had a family of sons growing up, and there not being much available land in Tasmania, once more turned his attention to Australia.

My eldest brother, the late Edmund Bowman, then about 30 years of age, came over to South Australia in one of the sailing boats to spy out the land.

  • As this was in the year 1838, and the colony had only been proclaimed in 1836, Adelaide was represented only by a few scattered houses and a number of small primitive erections.

  • My brother Edmund's voyage had an unpleasant termination, as the craft, the Parson, was wrecked on the Troubridge Shoals, and he lost everything he had.

  • After his arrival in Adelaide my brother went with a survey party to the neighbourhood of Encounter Bay, remaining there about two months, making flying surveys and fixing trigs.

  • He then returned to Tasmania, and in 1839 came back to Adelaide with a few sheep and horses.

  • One of the latter was sold to the Government for a hundred pounds—a good price in those days."


"Edmund Bowman fixed his camp at Islington, where the Government Workshops now stand.

  • A good many gumtrees grew there then, which have since been cleared away.

  • On his return to Tasmania our family decided that it would be better to sell off every-thing in Tasmania and remove to South Australia.

  • Edmund therefore returned to South Australia immediately, taking some stock with him, and the rest of the family followed him, leaving two daughters at school in Hobart.

  • A frame home of four rooms was put together, and this was brought over and put up at Islington. Shortly after this Edmund bought a section at Enfield."


"Before the rest of the family came over my two brothers— John and William— were sent over with a cargo of sheep from Tasmania in a small craft called the Lady Emma, 136 tons or so. John was 13 years old and William not quite 11.

  • The man sent with them in charge of the sheep turned careless, and the boys had to take full charge of them, as they would have perished on the voyage over.

  • The boys had to crawl through among them and feed them with hay and water them out of bottles.

  • Wild dogs rushed and killed several sheep when the sheep were put on shore a little north of where Largs Bay is".


—Early Troubles—

"Wild dogs were very numerous at this time and troublesome to our sheep, which were kept in the plains from Islington north for some time.

After living at Islington for a while a pise and brick house was built at Enfield, and all were removed up there.

  • Two of my sisters married about this time and went south to live, at Willunga.

  • As the sheep increased— the land being taken up about Dry Creek— we removed the greater portion of our flock to Wiliunga, where they remained for two or three years.

  • Thence we camped for a time along the hills at Dry Creek and ran the sheep on the hills and plains, watering one day at the River Torrens, near where Beefacres is now (Windsor Gardens), the next day on the plains at the foot of Dry Creek."


"I think about the year 1846 Mr. Kelsh and family came over from Tasmania, and later on rented part of a special survey at the head of the Light River, and started sheepfarming there. Squatting was a term not then used.

  • Scab was very bad in the colony at this time, and wool brought poor prices. Mr. Kelsh sold his wool one year for 5d. per lb., and another year for 5 1/2 d.

  • Wild dogs were also very troublesome then, and Mr. Kelsh got so disgusted with sheepfarming that he sold all his sheep to us, and went back to Adelaide to live.

  • His sheep were coarser in wool than ours, but turned out very hardy and strong, and the wethers were fine sheep.



About two years ago (1908) Mr. Thomas Bowman himself contributed some interesting reminiscences of the early life of his family and himself.


The Early Days

"The history of our (Bowman) family as pastoralists dates back to the very early days," he wrote, "for it was in 1829 that my father, the late Mr. John Bowman, came out to Tasmania, then called Van Diemen's Land.


In those days the ships that came out to Australia were few and of small tonnage, and it was therefore difficult to obtain a passage out for a family, especially when, as in the case of Mr. Bowman, it was a moderate-sized one of six, namely, two sons and four daughters."

"It was therefore necessary to adopt some means to secure a passage, and my father and a few others put their goods together, and thus enough was collected for it to be worth while for the agents to charter a small ship and start her on her voyage to Western Australia, their intended destination.

  • Father left his farm in the hands of an agent to be arranged for him, probably thinking he might not be able to live in Australia when he got there.

  • Much to his and the other would-be passengers' chagrin, when they all arrived at Liverpool they found that the ship had been taken off the charter.

  • My father having let his farm, was in a fix.

  • However, the passengers all went to the agents and placed before them the awkward fix they had placed them in taking the ship off the charter.

The agents then agreed to put an-other ship on. This vessel, some old craft, was knocking about the ocean for six months, and at last struck Tasmania instead of Western Australia."


Above: Captain Charles Sturt leaving Adelaide in 1844

"I remember seeing Capt. Sturt's exploring party start on his expedition to the north".

I was shepherding my father's sheep on Dry Creek plains at that time.

We shepherded our sheep by day, and at night slept in a 'watchbox,' a small wooden box with a roof over to keep out the rain.

The box had legs to stand on about 18 in. high, and handles at each end to move it about from place to place."


—Pine Forest and Dry Creek—

At the end of 1839 the family took up their abode at Pine Forest (Enfield) where a house of

nine rooms with thatched roof was built for the family, and for a few years agricultural pursuits combined with sheep-farming were carried on.

  • As the sheep increased, a station was formed at Willunga, whither a number were removed.

  • At Pine Forest a good quantity of maize, pie melons, and water melons, were grown on the fallow land.

  • Another station was established at Dry Creek, close to the site at present occupied by the Stockade, where we rented some land on the banks of Dry Creek from the late Capt. Bagot.



On this we grew some fine wheat, and I think were among the very first to use Ridley's reaping machine, steered by a pole (1843).

  • Someone had to stand behind and take all the dust that came out of the machine.

  • What a change to see the splendid machines now in use.

  • Mr. Ridley tried to make a machine to reap, clean, and bag the wheat.
    I saw it, but it was never brought to perfection.
    He also started to build a very large wind machine for irrigation, &c., but that was not a success".


—Upper Wakefield Run—

"I think about the year 1844-1845 our people took up country round where the Burra Burra Mine was afterwards found, but, as there was little or no timber on it, they gave it up and took up some at the head of the Wakefield.

Our country ranged from near the head of the Wakefield (Holm Hill) to Tottel's Belt (Tothill Range and Creek), thence to Black Springs and (also) the Flagstaff (Hill (area)".


Lavender Federation Trail image11.jpeg

—Martindale purchased—

"My brother, Edmund Bowman afterwards bought the country known as Martindale from Drs. W. and J. Browne."

—Lower Wakefield Run—

"The Lower Wakefield run extended from what is now known as Balaklava to the back of the South Hummocks, thence down the west side of the gulf, taking in the land owned by the late Mr. William Fowler, known as 'Yararoo' on Yorke Peninsula."

—A Plea for Native Names—

"It is a pity the native names have not been retained in all cases. We have taken the country from the blacks, but why cheat them of their names?

  • Had the whites never appeared in Australia the blacks would still have been here, a happy race in their way.

    • Witwater should be 'Witarter,' (now Whitwarta).

    • Nantywery should be spelt 'Nurnto Werrah,' (now Nantawarrameant black kangaroo country;

      • 'Nurnto' meant black kangaroo. 'Tunder' red or plain kangaroo."


—Hard Work—

"We had a station at the Gilbert (River) for a time, and I put up a hut there. The wild dogs were very bad at that place.

  • I have known them drive our dogs up to our hut door, and we had to throw firesticks at them to keep them from the sheep.

  • At this time our family did nearly all their own work, and generally their own cooking."

Bullock Driving -Warren Fahey.jpg

"It was an old country or Cumberland custom to stand in the water and hold and wash the wool on the sheep's backs. My brothers did this for years.

  • After this we put the flock through the water twice the same day. This was also a wet job for us all.

  • Our other work included shearing our own sheep. One year my three brothers shore 7,000 of their own sheep.

  • That was in the digging times when few shearers could be got, and most of them bad shearers that."


"We drove our own bullocks, built our own huts, cut the battens and boards for our woolsheds, sank our own wells, and did a lot of boring for water on the Werockety (now Werocata) and Crystal Brook Runs.

  • We also made miles of basket yards out of the small mallee scrub for lambing purposes.

  • The smaller sticks were woven in between stakes, say 2 1/2 ft. apart, basket fashion. This makes a good close fence, and if made high enough will keep native dogs out."


"Prior to this time we had been troubled with "sheep scab".

  • We got clear of it about the year 1847, but caught it again from some stray sheep belonging to a neighbour in 1853.

  • However, we set to work with clay and bricks to make a sheep dip hole, which we did by making a stiff pug of clay all over the bottom and sides, then covering all over with bricks. The draining pens were done in the same way.

  • In those days we always washed our sheep in the river before shearing them, putting each flock through twice in the one day.

  • The year we went to the Brook we washed, shore, and dipped 35,000 sheep in six weeks.

  • Messrs. H. T. Morris, J. Watson, and Allan McFarlane were inspectors of sheep in those days, and no doubt the Scab Act of that date had a good deal to do with clearing the sheep of scab in South Australia."


—"Bowmans" Settlement—

'In 1854 we brothers did a lot of boring for water on Werockety Run".

Original Werocata Homestead.png

The original Werocata homestead (Illustratetd above) was built long before the township of Balaklava was established, and was a very modest little cottage built of pine uprights and pug. 


"Mr. Williams, as the Patent Copper Company's agent at Port Wakefield, went to the Government and got all the run ("Bowmans") south of the gulf roads renamed for us for the use of the company's bullocks to run.

  • Some time after the land was resumed the Government, seeing that the company's bullocks would not stop on the land, gave it back to us (establishing "Bowmans").

  • My experience has been that cattle would sooner feed where sheep have been fed than on new country".

 In 1864/65 Edmund Bowman (sen) built a substantial house (illustrated below) on the property facing the Wakefield River but above the flood level and he named the property Werocata at that stage. 

Edmund only enjoyed two years on the Werocata property (which he visited from his Enfield house called Barton Vale) because he drowned in the Wakefield creek on nearby Pareora estate in August 1866, which he also owned.

Above right: the Balaklava 1865 heritage-listed Werocata Homestead.

Below right: Thomas Bowman and brother John Bowman

Balaklava. Werocata homestead.jpg
Thomas and John Bowman.png
The Early Days
In Tasmania
Beginnings in SA
Early Troubles
A Plea for Native Names
Time of Drought
A Stirring Career
Hard Work

—Crystal Brook—

"Crystal Brook was purchased for Messrs. Younghusband and Co. It comprised 560 square miles of country, and was stocked with 25,000 sheep, 3,400 head of cattle, and about 20 head of horses.

My brothers, John Bowman, William C. Bowman, and I spent about 20 years of our lives on the Crystal Brook Run.


For many years the work was hard, as up to that time very little had been done in the way of improvements.

  • Wells had to be sank, and several dams put in the Broughton to spread the water over the Lower Broughton Plains.

  • These dams proved a great success, as the Lower Broughton land (to Port Broughton), before the dams were put in, was fearfully rotten and treacherous ground, and many were the good busters we and our men got riding after the cattle, some of which were wild, and took to the scrub kindly."


—Time of Drought —

"The years 1859, 1866-1869, and 1874 were terrible years. Fifteen thousand sheep died one year and 10,0000 another. Those that survived were kept alive by the porcupine grass (spinifex).

  • In the hills the kangaroos died in great numbers; a few were kept alive by eating the bush known as the Sturt thorn (possibly Sturt's Desert Pea?).

  • Dingoes were very numerous. We caught a great many by setting two steel traps down together and hanging an enticing bait overhead. When a dog got a foot in each trap he was tolerably safe.

  • We also had some fine dogs— I think the breed was first got by us from the late James Brown, of the south-east.

  • These dogs directly they heard the howl of the dingo in the trap, would start off, even in the middle of the night, and kill it, and if put on the scent of a dingo trail would follow it up and kill the dingo.

  • We lost this breed when the distemper (canine distemperfirst came among the dogs."


"With respect to the horses, some were trained for racing, but most of the stock were sent to India.

  • The horse South Australian was bought with the run, and few horses did more to improve the breed of South Australian horses than the old horse South Australian - He put his brand on all the foals, however coarse the mother might be.

  • A great many of the cattle were sent to Wallaroo in the early days of the Wallaroo Mines."


"My late brother William Bowman and Mr. P. McAnaney, now of Strathalbyn, cut the first road through the scrub from Mundoora Bay (Fishermans Bay) to Wallaroo (now the Spencer Highway Route B89), and over this back track all our cattle travelled to Wallaroo.

  • Much more could be said of the incidents of the early days.


My brothers, after carting bullock-dray loads of goods to our station at the head of the Wakefield, used to load up with copper ore at the Burra and deliver it at Port Adelaide.

  • Once my brother had to walk from the Gilbert River to Werockty (Werocata) to find his bullocks, a distance of over 30 miles each way, the bullocks having gone straight off to their old haunts when let loose at night to feed.

  • I have often been obliged to chain the team up to a tree at night to keep them.


These lines are only written to show how much old colonists have to thank their parents for, who suffered the discomforts of the early days and ran the risks of the long voyages in small crafts to the far-distant land of Australia, then so little known.'

—Later Days—

Mr. T. R. Bowman did not inherit a ready-made fortune, but carved his way for himself, and he will always be remembered as a high-minded, kind-hearted, and enterprising man, whose work was of public benefit.

His father and his brothers are all dead, but there is a younger generation remaining to  maintain the best traditions of the Bowman family.


"Looking back on this time, F.W. Holder wrote in 1892:


'In the old time when all of the country north of the Light (River) was held under pastoral lease... squatters made fortunes.' 

'The valleys of the Wakefield, Gilbert and Broughton (rivers) were almost mints with which money might be coined by the aid of sheep.' (ibid p.27)

"Each one of the Bowman brothers died rich, even very rich, as did the luckier and more determined of their neighbours." (ibid p.27)


Mr Bowman amassed great wealth from his pastoral properties, but he worked hard for everything he had, and he richly deserved all the success attained.


During the last few years Mr. Bowman had spent most of his time in Adelaide.

He was married twice, and has left a widow and two children—

  • (Mrs. H. C. Cave, of Second Valley,

  • and Mrs. Cecil Bray, of Adelaide),

  • and two grandchildren.


The death of Mr. T. R. Bowman, which occurred at his residence, 'Waverley,' South Terrace, on Friday 24 February 1911, removes one of the most successful as well as one of the most highly respected of the citizens of South Australia.

Mr. Bowman who died at the age of 75 years, while descending the stairs of his house, fell and expired about about 10 minutes afterwards. Dr. Lynch was called in, and declared life to be extinct.

The cause of death was thought to be the bursting of a blood vessel on the brain. Immediately before his sudden collapse he was apparently in good health; he was better, in fact, than he had seemed for some time.

The deceased gentleman was a pioneer squatter, and was known far and wide for his kindness of heart and his philanthropy.


  • He made a magnificent gift to charitable institutions in January of last year.

  • Few better plans for the assistance of the fortunate charities could have been conceived than that which he adopted.

  • Mr. Bowman executed a trust deed, whereby he transferred to Messrs. W. Herbert Phillipps, L. W. Bakewell, and E. J. Green, as trustees, debentures issued by the council of the Municipality of Brisbane of the face value of £36,100.

    • Under the terms of the trust the income was to be divisible equally among 22 charitable institutions.

    • The principal money, when received, was to be divisible in a similar manner.

    • Debentures of the value of £14,800 will mature on January 1, 1919, and the remainder on January 1,1922.

    • The income to which each charitable institution is entitled under the trust is about £45 per annum.

    • The annual income to each institution from January 1, 1919 to January 1, 1922, will be £19 14/6, less exchange, and will be payable half-yearly in January and July, the first payment to be in July, 1919.

    • The approximate amount of the capital payable to each or-ganization ia January, 1919, will be £836 7/3, and in January 1922 £563 12/8.


Later Days
Bowmans Settlement
Martindale purchased
Upper Wakefield
Lower Wakefield Run
Crystal Brook
Pine Forest and Dry Creek
William Charles Bowman of Crystal Brook.jpg
Thomas Richard Bowman 1885.jpg

Above: Mr. Thomas Bowman

Washing sheep before shearing
Werocata Homestead, Balaclava
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