Rich with history

Published on 24 January 2020

Rich with history

Morphett Vale is now the state’s largest suburb, but in 1840 it was a different story.

Morphett Vale was originally colonised as a series of farmland estates, when early settlers were attracted to the same rolling hills and ocean views that appeal to residents and tourists today.

“Morphett Vale itself grew around the main transport route, Main South Road, where enterprising settler Alexander Anderson subdivided his land and sold allotments,” explains Kelly Dyer, Local History Officer at the City of Onkaparinga Libraries.

“Anderson started a trend, and other smaller village settlements followed as landowners subdivided their acreage. These included United States, formed near Bains Road, which is remembered today by the name of States Road.”

Despite the gradual expansion of the settlement, life in the region wasn’t easy.

“Clearing land and then farming crops was arduous work,” says Kelly. “By the 1860s, soil was largely overworked, many local mills were closing, and then, during the gold rush years, a lot of men went to the goldfields to seek their fortune, leaving a labour shortage.”

Many settlers experienced difficult times, but some prospered and laid the foundations for transformation. One such settler was again the trend-setting Alexander Anderson who, Kelly explains, established the first Emu Hotel, near the corner of David Terrace. The hotel eventually housed the town’s first court sessions and postal service.

Kelly also tells the story of Dr Alexander Kelly, who had a farm and vineyard named Trinity, near the corner of Dyson and Flaxmill Roads. A surgeon in his native Ireland, Kelly became a well-respected authority on wine science. He established the Tintara Winery at McLaren Vale, one of only a few existing reminder of the area’s vibrant past.

Although few landmarks from the original post-colonial settlers remain, Onkaparinga Libraries have a wealth of resources that commemorate the region’s history.

As Kelly says: “The region is rich with history, there’s plenty to discover about our local area.”