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Clare in 1928

Early History and Growth of the Town of Clare.

By. R. H. Tilbrook

Northern Argus (Clare, SA)  Fri 9 Mar 1928  Page 8  "Back to Clare"


Clare, beautiful Clare!

Nature endowed the district with great beauty and fertility, and man has added much to the handiwork of Nature.

Away back in the [eighteen] seventies it was first called 'the garden of the north.'


The title was no misnomer then, and to-day the place is even more beautiful, with its undulating, tree-clad hills and valleys, dotted here and there with vineyards, orchards, and occasional wheat fields, which in the springtime and autumn add their variegated colorings to the charm of the landscape.

Tourists from the old land have described the scenery as more like that of England than they had seen elsewhere, while an artist who spent some months in the district a few years ago painting landscapes said the lights and colorings were equal to anything to be found anywhere.

Clare recently decided to have a back to Clare movement, to take place from November 17 to 24, 1928, and there can be found no more pleasant spot to spend a week's holiday. Early History and Business Houses to-day.

Clare, beautiful Clare!
First Settlers

First Settlers

The first settlers appeared in the district in the early forties, and owing to the richness and fertility of the soil the population soon began to steadily increase.

The late Mr. John Maynard (whose death is again recorded in our 'Fifty Years Ago' column in this issue) is credited with having erected the first hut in Clare in 1840.

The first buildings in the town were erected on section 39, which was owned by the late Bishop Murphy, who had it sub-divided and sold by auction in 1850 by Mr. A. Fox.

The average price realized was £15 an acre.

One of the first general stores was that of the late Mr. Julius Victorsen, erected in 1849. The business was carried on subsequently by his son (Mr. Louis Victorsen), and at the present time in much larger and commodious premises by his grandson (Mr. Julius Victorsen).

A few years later Mr. E. B. Gleeson, of Inchiquin. who owned several sections, had them cut up, and steadily the town began to grow.

In July 1852, the Hundred of Clare was constituted a district council, with Mr. E. B. Gleeson as its first chairman.

As the land about the district was taken up by farmers, the population of the town grew, and in September, 1868, Clare was made a corporate town.

Mr. E. B. Gleeson was the first Mayor, and Mr. W. Lennon the first town clerk.

The population of the town itself at that time numbered 800, and the value of .its assessment was £4,442.

In 1868-9 the farming areas to the northward were opened, and soon gave a big impetus to the trade of the place, considerable business being done with the new settlers, and prosperity reigned for many years.

Public Buildings

Public Buildings

An institute was built, with the late Dr. Bain as president, and he generously contributed towards its cost.

A town hall was erected by a company of local residents, which a few years later was sold to the corporation.

Friendly societies of the orders of Manchester Unity Oddfellows, Foresters, and Rechabites were instituted, and have about 600 members to day.

A Masonic Lodge (No. 12) was founded, with Mr. Powell as its first master.

Clare was the centre of the northern police division, the late Inspector Saunders being in charge.

In 1869 a four-page bi-weekly newspaper — The Northern Argus — was established by Mr. H. H. Tilbrook (now of St. Peters), and is continued to-day as an eight-page weekly by his son.

Branches had been opened by the English, Scottish, and Australian Chartered Bank, and the National Bank, both of which a few years later built handsome two-storied buildings in Main street. 



An implement factory of large dimensions, employing 80 men, was established by Messrs. J. G. Ramsay & Co.

Other implement factories were those of Messrs. Peterson, followed by Carter & Co., and W. Hosking, Richards & Son, and J. Pryor (the latter at Donnybrook).

Butchering businesses were conducted by Messrs R. G. Harmer, C. Beckmann, Mc-Dougall & Hoare, Robins, and Sedgley.

Mr. G. J. Harmer still conducts the business established by his father, while Messrs. Banwell Bros, have now also a butcher's business.

A carpenter and contractor's business, started by Mr. A. Paetke, in 1860, is still being continued by his son, Mr. H. Paetke.

The late Mr. J. Harder opened a similar business in 1866, which is now conducted by Mr. F. W. Forsaith. Others conducting similar businesses were Messrs. J. Work, Clausen, and Uffindel.

Mr. J. B. Scott followed a little later in the same line of business, and the same is now being conducted by Mr. A. J. Bowley.



There were six hotels in the town for many years, among the early licencees being Messrs. Smith, Stacey, W. E. Ford, (later of the York Hotel, Adelaide), Bradley, F. C. Gray, H. Trew, Holloway, F. Knowles, D. O'Leary, R. Luke, Warren, Lawson, Provis, R. Graham, Rogers, and Du Rieu. 

The number of hotels has now been reduced to three — all fine up-to-date buildings, and conducted respectively by Mrs. Bentley, Mrs. Carter, and, Mr. Childs.



The principal storekeepers were Messrs. A. Young, J. Victorsen, J. MacFarlane, J. Silver, Northmore & Deane, Rainsford, G. Eaton, Carr, A. Clarke, T. S. Stacy, Gillen & Graham later P. & P. P. Gillen), W. E. Lunn, B. Cohen & Co., Blair, (later conducted by Mr. J. McCord), Toovey.

Messrs. E. J. Scott & Son now conduct the business started by Mr. Silver, Mr. T. P. Gillen is in the premises then occupied by Mr. A. Young, Mr. Bails occupies the premises of Mr. McFarlane, and Mr. A. L. Stacy continues the business started by his father.

Mr. H. Paterson is in the premises first occupied by Messrs. Gillen and Graham.

Messrs. R. French, Le Fevre, H. Weinrich, Croll, and Koerner, conducted boot-making businesses, also later Mr. C. B. Walden.

Messrs. H. A. and T. French now own the business commenced by their father.

Messrs Edwards and Fergusson also have a boot-making business to-day.


Hairdressing was conducted by Mr. H. C. May, Mr. A. Bishop still conducting the business in the same premises.

Mr. H. P. Pargeter has also now a hairdressing establishment and a billiard saloon with five tables.

Messrs Betteridge and Greenwood were the chemists. Later Mr. E. C. Rix arrived, and now Mr. L. A. Davies is the chemist of the town.



A lot of building was done in the early days, and amongst those who carried out that work were Messrs. R. Bishop, Page, Hoare, Rogers, Glassett, G. Bryant, G. H. and R. Bowley, Norris.

The masons to-day are Messrs. E. Raymond, W. Sharpen, P. Snashall, H. Haysman, M. McEvoy, H. Williams, G. Williams, W. Stopp, R. and W. Robins.

Dr. Davies was one of the earliest medical practitioners he later leaving Clare to return to Wales.

Dr. Webb, was another, and he took a keen interest in the town. A German doctor whose name I do not know, also practised.

Later Dr. J W D Bain arrived, also Dr. Elam, and a little more than 50 years ago Dr. Bain entered into partnership with Dr. O W. Smith.

When Dr. Bain retired Dr A. A. Smith entered into partnership with his brother. Both retired a short time ago, and Dr. G. W. Smith and Dr. Godfrey are the practitioners in the town now. 


Other Businesses

The mill played a prominent part in the progress of the place I believe Mr. O'Leary was the first miller, being followed by Messrs. C. Kimber, and A. Palmer, and later by

Messrs. H. and R. Kimber.

The old mill has been demolished.

The bakers were Messrs. W. Blight, and T. Freeman, followed by Mr. J. E. Webb. Mrs. S. Nolan also had a similar business. Messrs. E. W. Wells and S. Gniel now conduct these businesses


Auctioneers in the early days were Messrs. J. W. Gleeson & Co., S. Trestrail, J L. Smith, and Davey, Farrar, and Scot.

Mr. A. J. Davey followed, (still conducting the business), then Messrs T. Reed & Co., followed by Mr. G. T. Harder Mr. D. Menzies arrived a few years later, and recently disposed of his business to Messrs Hockridge & Co.


Clare was the centre of the activities of the well-known firm of Hill and Co., who ran the coaches from Clare to Saddleworth, Red-hill, Crystal Brook, and Farrell's Flat, under the management of Mr. George Hill.

Two of their popular drivers were the late Messrs. Manuel, T. J. Edwards, and Douglas. Mr. W. A. Deacon was afterwards manager, and later Mr. T. J. Edwards.


Solicitors in the town were the late Messrs. H. Hosier and T. R. Bright, and Messrs. Carter & Badger.

Mr. Bright left for Adelaide, and Mr. Badger is now the only solicitor in the town.


Messrs Skidmore, T. F. Pink, J. McKinnon, and Treleaven carried on chaff and wood businesses.

Mr. Pink's business is now conducted as T. F. Pink & Sons, Messrs F. and C. Pink being in partnership with their father. Mr. H. J. Coles also carries on a similar business to-day,


The tinsmiths were Messrs. Buck, S. Williams, Nicholson, and G. Liedle.

Messrs. F. W. Forsaith, McDonald & Edwards, A J. Bowley, and G. A. Perry carry out this class of work to-day.

Saddlers were Messrs H. Crabb, Fels, Hagger, dements, and Abfalter.

Today, the only saddler is Mr R. E. Masters.

The tailor in the early days was Mr. B. Jacobs. Later Mr. R. Gilchrist started a business, which since his death has been conducted by his son, Mr. J. D. Gilchrist.

Mr. Elliott Williams has also a tailoring business.

Other Businesses

Mr. Jordan was one of the earliest jewellers, but left many years ago. Mr. P. Victorsen also conducted a similar business. Mr. J. W. Ohlmeyer has been established in that line of business now for several years, and has recently added to it that of optometrist. There were no dentists in the early days, but now there are two, Mr. R. F. George and Mr. A. J. Thompson. Misses M. F. and E. Tilbrook have succeeded to the fancy store business first established by Mr. U. V. Jaeggi, and later conducted by Mr. W. J. Kelly.


One of the businesses that did not exist 60 years ago was that of the motor garage. To-day Clare has five of these— Mr. H. E. Cato's, Mr. W. Ogilvie's, Clareford Ltd., Mr. A. C. Groverman's, and Mr. Chandler's.

The British Imperial Oil Co., and the Vacuum Oil Co. both have depots in the town.

Mr. J. S. Horrocks has an up to date tyre retreading works.

I can remember when Mr. Freeman started his first ham shop in Clare. Today there are six restauants, supplying cool drinks, eatables, fruits etc., owned by — Messrs. E. Giles. C. & S. Maynard, Les Haysman, W. J. Maynard, F. Phillips, and C. Page.


Mr. W. G. Lewcock conducted a florists, and greengrocer's business, and later establishes a fruit tree nursery at Hartley Springs.

One of the earliest photographers in Clare was Mr. W. Rowe, who was also secretary of the Institute.

Mr. Rowe (South Australia's champion tennis player) is his grandson.

Afterwards Mr. W. E. Merchant carried on a photographic business in Clare, and then Mr. S. Williams. Mr. L. G. Sladdin is now carrying out all public requirements in this direction most satisfactorily. 

Schools and Churches

A Government school was established about 1868, and among the first masters were William Moyses, Thomas Stephens, the late L. W. Stanton, Newton, and T. C. Hay-ward.

Mr. R. Graham also conducted a school. Mrs. Chandler and Mrs. Cruickshanks also conducted a day school. Miss Steele and Miss Hawker had boarding schools.

Higher education could be obtained at Sevenhills college, and at Mr. Cole's school at Watervale.

Later the Rev. R. B. Webb started a school for higher education, and later still again Mr. Braddock.


There are six places of worship in the town — Church of England, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Salvation Army.

The Roman Catholic Church is a fine piece of architecture.

The Church of England, Presbyterian, and Methodist Churches were built in the early days, and additions made later.

The Baptist Church is of more recent date, and the Salvation Army Citadel was recently built.


The A. M. P. Society had an agency in the town from the early days. Messrs A. Young and after-wards Messrs. Carter & Badger conducting the agency.

The business so grew that an office was established, Mr. F. Lester being the first manager, and was followed by Mr. Row Morgan.

Mr. W. A. Read is now the manager.

Several years ago the society erected a most up-to-date two-storied building, with a suite of offices and residence.

The brewery established by Messrs Filgate & Co., in the early days, and later carried on by Mr. J. Christison, is now an aerated water factory, conducted by Mr. F. Bulfield.

The Clare Racing Club held its first race meeting on the course on the Bungaree estate. It went out of existence for some years, and then was resuscitated, with Mr. A. J. Davey as secretary.

Later Mr. T. P. Gillen was appointed secretary, which position he still holds, having held the position for 33 years. Mr W A. Wood is president.

The Oddfellows and Foresters for many years held races on the Inchiquin Course m Easter Monday.

The cricket club held a foremost place in country cricket, and Clare also had a good football team. There were also two tennis clubs.


From 1870 to about 1887 Clare had an era of prosperity, but then, with the rest of the State, it suffered a setback. This was before super-phosphate had come into general use, and the returns from the farms were small, because of over-cropping and no manures being used. 

Schools and Churches

Fruit and Wine

From the earliest days of settlement fruit gardens had been planted in the dis-trict, and, about this time gardening on a larger scale was begun.

Large areas were planted with wine varieties of grapes, and a little later on with Zante currants.

The Stanley Wine Company started operations. It was founded by a company of local business men, but later one of the partners (the late Mr. J. H. Knappstein) purchased the business, and since his death it has been continued under the management of his eldest son (Mr. P. H. Knappstein).

The cellars to-day are conducted under the most up-to-date methods, and have a holding capacity of 350,000 gallons.

When the currant vineyards came into full bearing a branch of the A.D.F.A. was established, called the Clare Dried Fruits Association, which has done good service for the growers.

Mr. J. Victorsen is the present chairman of directors, and Mr. E. C. Deland secretary.


Clare began again to make progress, and was helped by the cutting up of the Hill River Estate about 16 years ago.

A large number of farmers settled there.

The advent of the railway from Riverton to Clare also proved of great benefit to the town and district.

The late Mr. W. G. Lewcock was the chief mover in the agitation for the railway, Mr. E. J Scott being general secretary.

Clare's Improvements

Clare has forged ahead steadily and surely since, and is now one of few country towns which has showed improvement in the last 16 years.


The building trade has been brisk during that period, and many fine up-to-date residences are seen in the town and district to-day.


A new town hall was built on the old mill site in 1925, and is capable of holding 850 people,

A large hospital, with 24 beds supplies the requirements of the district in that direction.

Clare is now the centre of the activities of the Mid-North Electricity Company which supplies the town and district, and also Watervale, Auburn, Riverton, Saddleworth and Eudunda with electric light and power.

Mr. E. W. Castine is chairman of directors, and Mr. W. H. Whitney general manager. 

Fruit and Wine
Clare's Improvements

The town possesses a bowling green of six rinks, croquet lawns, five turf and xix bitumen tennis courts.

The Soldiers' Memorial Park has at its entrance a fine arch, a replica of one in Rome.

On the hill-side adjacent is situated the Bain Rotunda, erected in memory of the late Dr. J. W D. Bain (Clare's most generous and public-spirited citizen), while below is the playing arena for cricket, football and general sports.

An agricultural society was established in the early days, and held its sixty-fourth show last year.

The exhibition is one of the best one-day shows held in the country districts of the State. Mr. J. C. Dux is president, and Mr. F. W. Knappstein secretary


A high school was established several years ago, and has steadily grown under the capable direction of the master, Mr. E. J. Flaherty, B.A.

An agricultural section was recently added to the curriculum, under the direction of Mr. R. Ninnes.

Iceworks have been established by Mr. W. Ogilvie, under the management of Mr. Frank Knappstein.


Municipal Affairs.

The population of the town of Clare itself is more than 1,200; suburbs close adjacent to the town, but not within its boundaries, bring it to about 1,700. The population of the district is about 5,000. The assessment of the town is £14,107.

Past Mayors of Clare include Messrs E. B. Gleeson, A. Young, F. C. Gray, C. Kimber, A. Palmer, H. Hosier, H. Crabb, J. Christison, M. Badger, T. S. Stacy, W. Kelly, T. Reed, R. H. Tilbrook, T. P. Gillen, W. G. Lewcock, J. W. Ohlmeyer, L. A. Davies, J. D. Gilchrist, G J. Harmer, Dr. O. W. Smith, Capt. D Menzies, I. S. Scott.


Town clerks, Messrs. W. Lennon, J. L. Smith, J. W. Ohlmeyer, A. J. Thompson,

The present Mayor is Mr J. Bails, and the town clerk Mr. A. Whiteman.

Mr. C. Neate is chairman of the Clare District Council, and Mr. R. R. Carmichael clerk.


Mr. F. F Chomley is chairman of the Hutt and Hill Rivers District Council, and Mr. Jas. Scott clerk.

Mr. J. Bails is chairman of the executive of the 'Back-to-Clare' movement, and Mr. S. H. Ayers general secretary.

[If any old resident can make additions to these reminiscences we will be glad to publish them—Ed.]

Municipal Affairs
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