South Australian History Timeline

The first hundred years of colonization

A chronology of the history of South Australia and its capital, Adelaide, up to 1936, the centenary of foundation.

Event
22,000
BC
Evidence of aboriginal occupation of the future South Australia through flint mining and cave wall engravings in the west & South East.
8,000
BC
Further evidence of aboriginal occupation through wooden tools found in the South East.
Pre-
colonization
About 40 tribal groups of aborigines inhabited South Australia.
eg the Kaurna people occupied the Adelaide Plains & beyond from Cape Jervis to Pt Broughton.
AD
1627
26 January: 1st known sighting of the South Australian coast (far west) from a European ship, the Gulden Zeepaard, by East Indies Councillor, Pieter Nuyts, and the captain, Francois Thijssen.
17891st smallpox epidemic reached SA from Pt Jackson, NSW resulting in hundreds of aboriginal deaths.
1800Lt James Grant RN in the Lady Nelson sailed along the south east coast.
1802Capt Matthew Flinders RN in HMS Investigator and Nicolas Baudin in Le Geographe charted all the remaining unexplored coast.
18031st recorded long term occupancy of Kangaroo Island by American sealers from the brig Union.
1819George Sutherland spent 7 months on KI harvesting seal & kangaroo skins and crossed from Nepean Bay to SW coast. His report influenced the future South Australian Company to establish itself on KI.
1829June: Sketch of a Proposal for Colonizing Australasia by Robert Gouger based on discussions with Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
National Colonization Society formed in Britain.
2nd smallpox epidemic reached SA and continued into the early 1830s.
1830Charles Sturt's expedition from New South Wales reached the River Murray mouth.
1831April: Collet Barker surveyed Gulf St Vincent, climbed Mount Lofty and saw the Port River inlet.
29 October: 1st "plan of a company to be established for the purpose of founding a colony in Southern Australia..." by Wakefield.
183327 November: Gouger formed the South Australian Association in Britain to found a colony on the principles of Wakefield.
183430 June: Meeting at Exeter Hall to explain to the public the plan for a new colony of South Australia.
15 August: South Australia Colonization Act.
29 August: SA Literary Association formed by Richard Hanson & Gouger. Their book collection was the basis of the colony's 1st library.
18355 May: Board of Colonization Commissioners appointed.
15 October: South Australian Company formed.
1836January: Free passage scheme for immigrant labourers commenced.
21 January: John Hindmarsh appointed as Governor.
4 February: William Light appointed as Surveyor-General.
19 February: Letters Patent issued and attached to the 1834 Act to legally create the Province of South Australia and define its boundaries.
22, 24 February: 1st migrant ships left England with British pioneers for SA.
12 April: Pastor ALC Kavel first met with GF Angas in London to initiate arrangements for the emigration of German Lutherans from Klemzig & elsewhere to SA.
The South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register newspaper founded (1st issue published & printed in England 18 June).
1st permanent pioneer settlers in large numbers arrived at Kangaroo Island on 27, 30 July and 16 August aboard the Duke of York, Lady Mary Pelham and John Pirie.
20 August: Light arrived with other settlers at KI aboard the Rapid.
5 September: Light began his exploration of the areas proposed as possibilities for the capital of SA.
14 November: 1st pioneer settlers arrived on the mainland at Holdfast Bay aboard the Africaine (after its 1st arrival at KI).
20 November: 1st school opened at Kingscote, KI.
17 December: Light chose the site for the capital, to be named Adelaide after King William IV's Queen, & its harbour, having rejected the alternatives at Encounter Bay and Pt Lincoln.
28 December: Governor John Hindmarsh and other European settlers arrived aboard the Buffalo (after 1st arrival at Port Lincoln) and Hindmarsh proclaimed the Province of South Australia.
This began the invasion of the Kaurna tribal lands. There was no treaty nor consultation of any kind. Although the aboriginal people's rights and lands were protected by the Letters Patent attached to the 1834 Act, these provisions were largely ignored by the province's commissioners, governors and the South Australian Company. George Stephenson nominated temporary Protector of Aborigines.
Colonial Commissioner of Lands Fisher, Secretary Gouger, Treasurer Gilles and Governor Hindmarsh commenced duties.
30 December: Hindmarsh, Light & Fisher visited the chosen site for the capital.
31 December: Adelaide and its harbour at Port Creek founded.
31 December: Population (excluding aborigines) 546 (estimate). Aboriginal population 12,000 (estimate).
18372 January: Supreme Court established by Letters Patent; 1st judge Sir John Wm Jeffcott.
11 January to 10 March: Adelaide surveyed by Light & BT Finniss.
27 March: Adelaide land sale commenced.
April: Captain Walter Bromley appointed as temporary Protector of Aborigines. In consultation with the Kaurna people, he established a native location in the North Park Lands. He died and was replaced by Dr William Wyatt.
13 May: 1st sitting of Supreme Court.
May: Colonial infirmary transferred from a hut to a permanent building.
3 June: 2nd issue (1st in SA) of the SA Gazette & Colonial Register printed.
July: Emigration Depot established in West Park Lands.
16 October: 1st German Lutheran pioneer settlers arrived aboard the Solway.
October: Jeffcott resigned from Supreme Court & drowned 19 Nov.
November: Henry Jinkling appointed as a Supreme Court judge.
31 December: Population (excluding aborigines) 3,270 (estimate).
183826 January: Foundation stone of 1st permanent (Holy) Trinity Church building laid.
21 May: 1st export (wool).
June: Light resigned.
July: Hindmarsh recalled.
July: Sir Charles Cooper appointed as Supreme Court judge replacing Jeffcott.
17 October: Governor George Gawler commenced duties.
SA Police Force established (1st in Australia).
Jeffcott proclaimed Aborigines to be British subjects (without consultation of any kind).
18 November: 1st of Kavel's Lutheran settlers, financed by Angas, arrived aboard the Prince George.
1st livestock brought from NSW.
31 December: Population (excluding aborigines) 6,000 (estimate).
1839Adelaide Chamber of Commerce founded (1st in Australasia).
SA Agricultural Society formed.
A school for Aboriginal children was opened by Lutheran missionaries.
Dr Matthew Moorhouse was appointed Protector of Aborigines.
German settlers established their village of Klemzig SA. Some, with assistance from the Zebra captain, DM Hahn, established the village of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills.
Smallpox vaccination began.
6 October: William Light died of Tuberculosis.
Dec: Infirmary transferred to Emigration Depot.
31 December: Population (excluding aborigines) 10,300 (estimate).
184015 July: Adelaide Hospital founded.
October: Adelaide to Port Adelaide road completed.
October: City of Adelaide council elected (1st in Australia), mayor James Hurtle Fisher.
December: Free passage immigration scheme ceased due to lack of funds.
Total cultivated land 1,013 ha.
Livestock: 959 horses; 16,050 cattle; 166,800 sheep.
Adelaide population 8,480. Number of buildings 1,615.
1841January: Population (excluding aborigines) 15,440 (only SA census with surviving details).
January/February: Adelaide Hospital opened and infirmary closed.
15 May: Governor George Grey commenced duties.
Edward John Eyre crossed from Fowlers Bay to Albany, Western Australia.
Glen Osmond Wheal Gawler silver, lead mine opened (1st metal mine in Australia).
SA Savings Bank opened.
Total cultivated land 2,720 ha.
1842Legislative Council of nominated members approved and Colonization Commission abolished.
Waste Lands Act.
Copper discovered at Kapunda (mining commenced 1844) by Francis Stacker Dutton who later became Premier of SA (1863 & 1865).
Total cultivated land 8,010 ha.
Registration of births, marriages and deaths commenced June/July.
Annual occupation licences for pastoral land introduced.
1843Act to provide for the maintenance and relief of deserted wives & children and other destitute persons.
The Adelaide Observer newspaper founded.
Some of the Klemzig SA people established the village of Langmeil in the Barossa Valley.
John Ridley invented a stripper harvester.
Total cultivated land 11,600 ha.
Drought 1843-5.
1844Walkerville Aboriginal School opened.
Total cultivated land 10,900 ha.
Population (excluding aborigines) 17,366 (census).
1845Governor Frederick Holt Robe commenced duties.
Copper discovered at Burra (mined for 32 years).
Numerous Aboriginal children were dying of European diseases.
18461st hundreds proclaimed to regulate occupation of Crown Lands.
Population (excluding aborigines) 22,390 (census).
18471st Barossa Valley winery established at Jacob's Creek.
Collegiate School of St Peter founded.
SA Savings Bank wound up.
1848Governor Henry Edward Fox Young commenced duties.
Savings Bank of SA opened.
1849Central board of main roads established.
Destitute Board established.
1850Australian Colonies Government Act proclaimed by British Parliament enabling Legislative Council to be partially elected.
Total cultivated land 26,200 ha.
Livestock: 6,490 horses; 60,000 cattle; 874,200 sheep.
1851Legislative Council now partially elected.
Education Board established.
Major exodus began to the Victorian gold fields lasting about 4 years.
Pastoral leases replaced annual occupation licences.
Population (excluding aborigines) 63,700 (census).
1852District Councils Act.
Bullion Act.
1st escorted consignment of gold arrived overland from Victoria.
Education Act.
1853Steam navigation of the River Murray began.
A year of very high inflation.
SA was Australia's major wheat producer.
1854Severe drought.
1855Governor Richard Graves MacDonnell commenced duties.
Population (excluding aborigines) 85,821 (census).
1856Boyle Travers Finniss appointed as 1st Premier of SA.
Constitution and Electoral Law Acts giving male adult suffrage for parliamentary elections (both houses) and 3 year terms.
SA and Victoria introduce secret ballot (used since ancient Athenian times) with strict rules to prevent fraud.
The office of Protector of Aborigines abolished.
1st government telegraph line opened (Adelaide to Port Adelaide).
Adelaide to Port Adelaide railway opened.
1857John Baker took over as 2nd Premier but was soon succeeded by Robert Richard Torrens who was replaced by Richard Davies Hanson.
1st elections (both houses of parliament).
Adelaide to Gawler railway opened.
1858Real Property Act.
Matrimonial Causes Act to facilitate divorce and separation (weighted in favour of husbands).
July: Telegraph line to Melbourne opened.
Aborigines Friends Association formed.
South Australian Advertiser newspaper founded.
1859Copper discovered December on Wallaroo Run near Kadina.
1860Thomas Reynolds took over as Premier.
1st reservoir completed (Thorndon Park).
1861Western boundary of SA changed from 132°E to 129°E, increasing the total area from 802,511 to 1,043,514 km².
SA Gas Company Act.
Propertied women given the right to vote at municipal elections.
Office of Protector of Aborigines restored.
Copper discovered at Moonta.
George Marsden Waterhouse became Premier.
Population (excluding aborigines) 126,830 (census).
1862Governor Dominick Daly commenced duties.
John McDouall Stuart crossed Australia from south to north (complete journals).
1863Northern Territory annexed by SA.
Gas works established at Brompton.
1865Drought 1864-6.
Goyder's Line of Rainfall delineated.
1866Destitute Person's Relief Act.
209 deaths from typhoid fever.
Population (excluding aborigines) 163,452 (census).
1867240 deaths from diphtheria.
1868Method of clearing mallee scrub developed by Charles Mullen.
1869Waste Lands Amendment Act (Strangways Act).
SA Chamber of Manufactures founded.
Governor James Fergusson commenced duties.
1870Deceased Wife's Sister Act.
1871Population (excluding aborigines) 185,425 (census).
1872Overland telegraph connected Adelaide to London.
1873Public Health Act.
8 hour working day, 6 days per week began to be established.
Governor Anthony Musgrave commenced duties.
1874Civil Service Act.
University of Adelaide Act.
1875Education Act which made schooling compulsory for children aged 7 to 13 years.
Forest Board appointed.
Crude death rate peaked at 20 (after about 14 for 30 years, then steadily fell to present day 7).
1876Trade unions recognised legally.
University of Adelaide began teaching.
Stump-jump plough invented by Richard Bower Smith.
Adelaide Children's Hospital opened.
Population (excluding aborigines) 212,528 (census).
Higher proportion of women to men.
Aboriginal population 6,000 (estimate) at 31 December.
1877Governor William Francis Drummond Jervois commenced duties.
Burra copper mine closed.
Government established forest nurseries.
1878St Peter's Cathedral consecrated.
Horse drawn tram system introduced to Adelaide.
Kapunda copper mine closed.
18791st public secondary school (Advanced School for Girls) opened.
1880Women permitted to undertake degrees.
Adelaide Creche founded.
Severe drought 1880-1.
1881Destitute Person's Act to eliminate 'baby farming'.
Adelaide to Port Pirie railway opened.
More than 440 deaths from tuberculosis (peak after gradual increase, then similar numbers each year until 1895, followed by a gradual decline).
1st Australian capital connected to a water-borne sewerage system (Islington Sewerage Farm).
Population (excluding aborigines) 275,344 (census).
1882Adelaide to Port Augusta railway opened.
More than 140 deaths from typhoid fever (similar numbers each year for the rest of the decade).
Severe drought 1882-3.
1883Married Women's Property Act.
Governor William Cleaver Francis Robinson commenced duties.
Adelaide Telephone Exchange opened.
Roseworthy Agricultural College established.
1884Custody of Infants Act.
United Trades and Labor Council formed.
Land and income taxes introduced.
1885Broken Hill, NSW ore (silver, lead, zinc) discovered.
Total cultivated land 1,100,000 ha which remained approximately constant for the remainder of the century.
1886State Children's Council established.
1887Guardianship of Infants Act.
Adelaide to Melbourne railway opened.
Renmark Irrigation Colony established.
1888Crown Lands Act.
1889Governor Algernon Hawkins Thomond commenced duties.
Lead smelting began at Port Pirie.
School of Mines and Industries opened (later renamed SA Institute of Technology, now University of SA).
1890220 deaths from diphtheria (peak after 10 years of about 180 pa).
1891United Labor Party formed.
Cremation legalised.
National Park Act.
Population (excluding aborigines) 315,212 (census).
1892Compulsory education provided free.
1893Village Settlement Act.
1894Women enfranchised (exercised 1896).
Industrial Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
Factories Act.
Department of Mines established.
1895Governor Thomas Fowell Buxton commenced duties.
1896State Bank of SA opened.
Severe drought 1896-7.
1897Closer Settlement Act.
Constitutional Convention on Federation held in Adelaide.
1898More than 140 deaths from typhoid fever.
1899Governor Hallam Tennyson commenced duties.
BHP began mining at Iron Knob.
Referendum on Federation — 70% of South Australians voted yes.
1900Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act passed by British parliament.
Workmen's Compensation Act.
1st electric power station opened in Adelaide.
19011 January: Federation of all Australian colonies into the Commonwealth of Australia.
Whyalla founded on Spencer Gulf to export iron ore — connected by rail to Iron Knob.
Volunteers left for Boer War.
Population (excluding aborigines) 358,346 (census).
1902Barossa reservoir construction completed.
19031st Australian crematorium opened at West Terrace Cemetery.
30 September: Automobile & Motor Cycle Club of SA formed, forerunner of the Royal Automobile Association of SA.
Methodist Church formed by amalgamation of Bible Christians, Primitive Methodists & Wesleyans.
1904Motor Traffic Regulation Act (1st in Australia).
Adelaide Fruit and Produce Exchange opened in the East End.
Lower Murray wetlands drainage commenced.
1905Kindergarten Union of SA established.
19061st free kindergarten opened in Adelaide.
Military cadet system commenced.
1st state in Australia to issue driving licences.
Municipal Tramways Trust Act.
Uranium discovered at Radium Hill.
1907Secondary School Education Bill.
1908Outer Harbour [officially spelt Outer Harbor from 1913] opened at the mouth of the Port Inlet.
Adelaide High School opened (1st free secondary school in British Empire).
19091st electric tram in Adelaide.
Women's Non-Party Political Association formed (later, League of Women Voters).
Fruit blocks in Riverland established.
1910SA Water Authority established.
1911SA administration of Northern Territory transferred to Commonwealth Government.
SA Aborigines Act to 'protect and control'.
1912Construction of section of transcontinental railway to WA commenced.
1913Construction of Lock 1 on the River Murray at Blanchetown commenced.
Metropolitan abattoirs opened.
1st issue of SA Motor published.
1914Long disputed (~75 years) land adjacent to the Victoria border (a 3.6 km wide strip of ~1,300 km²) was ceded to Victoria on a ruling of the Privy Council and receipt of £215,000.
1st troops left for Europe to fight WWI.
9 October 1914: Torrens Island Internment Camp opened.
Construction commenced on Millbrook & Warren reservoirs.
Cheer-up Society founded.
1915Torrens Island Internment Camp closed.
1st women police officers in British Commonwealth appointed.
Opal discovered at Coober Pedy.
Wet wheat pickler invented by A Hannaford at Riverton to prepare seed for sowing.
1916National conscription referendum — SA opposed.
1917Transcontinental railway completed — 1st train to Perth, WA.
River Murray Commission established.
1st Australian town planning conference.
German private schools closed because of WWI.
Nomenclature Act changed 69 placenames of German origin.
Holden & Frost began mass producing motor bodies.
1918End of WWI — about 6,400 SA soldiers killed.
Matrimonial Causes Act.
1919Influenza pandemic.
1st woman politician in Australia elected to Brighton Council (later, Holdfast Bay).
1920Archives Department for the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery opened (1st public archive in Australia).
Town Planning and Development Act.
1921Population exceeded 500,000.
1922Blanchetown lock completed.
1923Aborigines (Training of Children) Act.
Moonta mines closed.
Improved dry wheat pickler invented by A Hannaford.
1924Waite Agricultural Research Institute established.
1st radio stations began broadcasting.
1925Motor bus services commenced.
Wayville showgrounds opened.
Public Library, Museum & Art Gallery, and Institute Act (1st in Australia).
1926Highways Act.
1927Children's Welfare and Public Relief Board established.
Mothers and Babies Health Association established (1st in Australia).
Parafield Airport opened. Paringa rail bridge opened.
1928Adelaide Railway Station building completed.
1st practical pedal wireless sets produced by A Traeger.
1929Pt Augusta to Alice Springs railway completed. Adeleide to Glenelg tramway completed.
1930Unemployment Relief Council formed.
Opal discovered at Andamooka.
1931Financial Emergency Act.
Holden's Motor Body Builders taken over by General Motors (Aust) P/L.
Population 577,079 (census).
1932Liberal and Country League formed.
Mt Bold reservoir construction commenced.
1st trolley bus in Australia ran from Payneham to Paradise.
19331st John Martin's Christmas Pageant.
1934Local Government Act.
Aborigines Act (Consolidated).
1935Nomenclature Act restored some German place names.
1936State centenary of foundation.
Parliament House foundation stone laid.
SA Housing Trust established (1st in Australia).

Sources

W Vamplew, E Richards, D Jaensch and J Hancock, South Australian Historical Statistics Monograph No 3, NSW, 1984
and numerous other publications including newspapers and acts of parliament.

Note

Government supported schools & tertiary education institutions may continue to freely copy up to 10% of this timeline. If more than 10% is required, the author and copyright notice must be included.