Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Rediscovering Swan Reach SA


Prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1836, the custodians of the region were approximately 1200 Ngalawang tribal members. The aborigines lived with nature, while the white man tried to tame it. Living along the river on a semi-permanent basis, they used the skins from their catches to ward off the cold during winter, made an arrangement of baskets from the reeds, built low stone walls across the river to trap fish, in all, surviving a healthy lifestyle.

Swan Reach gained its name from the Black Swans that once thrived in the area. The striking features of the cliffs along this mighty Murray River are evident at Swan Reach as they rise to 30 metres in places.

The natural break in the cliffs made for an ideal river crossing for travellers and stock, this is of course before the locks and weirs were installed, beginning 1922 at Blanchetown. 

There is evidence that Swan Reach was once a sea bed, as fossilised sea urchins, shells and even sharks teeth have been found embedded in the cliffs over the years.

Swan Reach Public Hall. Foundation stone laid 1933 (RE)

Land surrounding Swan Reach was once open natural plains of waving spear-grass and large expanses of Mallee trees, which in the early 1900s was cut and transported to Adelaide for firewood.

The old AMPOL service station never reopened after the 1956 flood (RE)

During the early 1850s, pastoral leases were taken up in the Swan Reach area. Large numbers of sheep were shorn at a shearing shed located on the clifftop (above the present hotel). The clip was transported to Goolwa via River Steamers. The Swan Reach run comprised 182 square miles and grazed 23,000 sheep.

The first settlers arrived by horse and bullock drawn wagons. The arrival of the paddle steamers took over as the main mode of transport for the settlers and their general freight. Outward goods were wheat, wool and firewood to Murray Bridge and Goolwa.

Some of the river steamers that regularly travelled the river and stopped at Swan Reach were the; RUBY, MARION, GEM, PYAP, TYRO, NELLIE and the MOOLGEWANKE.

Paddlesteamer 'Nellie' docked near Swan Reach

At Big Bend which is near Swan Reach in 1874, the Moolgewanke's boiler exploded, killing a local shepherd, James Long, the explosion happened as he was boarding the paddle steamer. Also killed were a Chinaman 'Sam Son' (the cook) and Robert Rust (the stoker)

In 1899 Paul Albert Hasse engaged C. Sanders to survey his land to establish a township, "Swan Reach". The then District Council of Blanchetown had no objections, so the first 46 allotments were released for sale.

The original Swan Reach station homestead later became the local hotel and is still there, hidden amongst the hotel, due to additions that have occurred over the years.

Swan Reach was heavily impacted by the 1956 flood. Many buildings were destroyed. 

Swan Reach Heritage Walk

1. Original Lutheran Manse was built in 1912, it was occupied until 1922 when a new Church was built on Nildottie Road and Manse was purchased next door. The Seidel's retired here and boarded teachers. The Tonkin family planted stone fruit and Almonds in the 1960s. The Strutton family then purchased the property in 1983 and renamed Cudgee Almonds. In the mid 1990s a family member started a Yabby farm on the property known as Murray Aquaculture, this closed in 2018. The site is now owned by Costa Brothers Almonds.  

2. The Keith Graetz Lookout: The lookout was officially opened in 2003 to recognize the contribution the Graetz family has made to Swan Reach since their arrival prior to 1924. It looks out over the Tenbury-Hunter Reserve with an information board on the town facilities. This site is 248kms by water to the River mouth and 400kms by water to the SA/Vic. Border. The average flow rate since Oct. 1967 is 637.03 megalitre per day.

3. The Lutheran Care Op Shop: This building is still the original structure built temporarily by Wilbur Prosser in 1956 due to the flood as a Serv-Wel store. The building has had several owners over the years and has always traded as a General Store or Hardware Store. In late 1987 Dalgety Bennett Farmers operated as a Farm Supplies until 2012. It was then used to display Aboriginal Art until the Lutheran Community Care started operating as an Op Shop in 2013. Opening hours Mon-Fri 10-4 Sat 10-1 Phone 85702211 

4. Butchers Shop: This was run as a Stock Agent from Feb 1926 until 1987 when it was relocated to the new Op Shop. It was then used as a Butchers Shop by Ned & Heather Drechsler 1988-early 1990s. It is now a rental property.

5. Zadow Corner: This was named after Arthur Gotthard Zadow in recognition as one of the first farming families in 1878. A pug and pine house with a thatched roof built before 1860s was located here; it was used for a residence, a boundary riders hut, a doctor's residence. This is who it was named after Dr Terry White in the early 1900s as the town's first resident physician. Later it was used as a café by Mrs Willson (Riverview Café); it was acclaimed to have had Vice-Regal patronage from Governor Lord Gowrie and his wife who took afternoon tea here after their inspection of the 1931 flood. The old residence was demolished in the late 1930s. It was also the original location for the War Memorial Roll of Honour in 1919 which was later relocated to its present site at the bottom of the hill in 1925.

6. Scenic Villa: Built in 1909 by Paul Hasse (b. 1856 Lobethal, d 1911 Swan Reach) Paul Hasse purchased 520 acres in 1896 for farming purposes, where he resided in a 6 roomed homestead, now the Swan Reach hotel. Paul Hasse along with P. Beck secured a punt in 1899. Paul's wife Emma was granted the first public house (hotel) license in September 1899; she also conducted the Post Office from the back verandah until her death in October 1900. Paul Hasse had a private survey conducted to subdivide his land into 46 township allotments in December 1899. In 1911 Hasse second wife sold a number of allotments for £30-£40, this opened up Anzac Avenue. Matilda Hasse also ran a boarding house from here.

7. Swan Reach Hotel: This building was developed from a solid L-shaped house which was constructed approximately 1865-1873 as the Swan Reach Pastoral Station Homestead. Hasse purchased this and ran a Wine Shanty without a license until this was granted to his wife Emma in 1899. In 1907 a returned verandah and single-story stone room as a public bar was added as

Text source: Swan Reach and District Museum
Title Image: © 2013 by Swan Reach Progress Association

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