Tregu/Nackara. Sixty or seventy kilometres beyond Goyder’s Line of demarcation between farming and pastoral lands lies the tiny settlement of Nackara. This semi desert country had been good pastoral lands but grain was never going to grow there with its low and unreliable rainfall. Often a year’s worth of rain will often fall in a couple of days followed by a couple years of total drought. A pastoral leasehold run named Nackara Springs was taken out over this district in the 1850s. In 1864 after the surveyor General had visited the leasehold their annual rental was increased from £13 a year to £66 a year. It was a good pastoral leasehold as there was a permanent water spring on the property. Nackara Spring eventually became part of Sir Thomas Elders Paratoo leasehold run based just to the north of Nackara. Then in 1881 the South Australian government resumed part of the Paratoo leasehold to create the Hundred of Nackara. Why the sudden idea that this land was suitable for small freehold properties? It was partly for grain production but also for small farms to raise sheep on a few thousand acres. And there was hope for new mineral discoveries. Good deposits of silver had been found just over the NSW border in 1875 at a place which later became known as Silverton. In 1873 a major gold field in the Nackara Arc of mountains which stretched from Burra to Broken Hill was made at Waukaringa about 50 kms north of Nackara Hill (560 metres above sea level). Six mining syndicates worked the Waukaringa gold fields. Then in 1886 a significant gold field operated at Teetulpa, just outside of Yunta about 35 kms from Nackara. Five thousand diggers were on the Teetulpa gold diggings in 1886 and the mines there produced over 3,000 kilograms of gold. These finds were supplemented by a local gold discovery at Nackara in 1888.
The township of Nackara, originally known as Tregu was created in 1891 where a few streets crossed but the hotel predated the formal township as farmers moved into the district from 1881 when the Hundred was declared. The main purchaser of town lots was the Catholic Bishop of Port Augusta who bought eight town lots. The temporary wooden Fielders Hotel opened early in 1881 and then the stone North Eastern Hotel was built to replace it later in 1881.The first licensee was Edward Wickham but his stone hotel was not fully completed until 1884. By then some early settlers in the Hundred of Nackara were leaving and asking to re select land elsewhere. Although a large dam had been built by the government in the hills it did not provide water for crops. The government was already planning for a railway which would need good supplies of water for the steam engines. Soon three railway workers cottages were built along the railway line. By 1886 the stock was starving to death around Nackara and there had been no rains at all. 20,000 acres had been sown in grain in the Hundred in 1886 and no yield was obtained at all in 1887. The land owners were petitioning the government for lower rents for leasehold land and the provision of free grain seed. The government ignored their requests. Then the rabbit plaque reached Nackara destroying any vegetation that was left. The dismal prospects of the district were however lifted slightly in 1888. A gold mine near Mount Nackara was established by the Statton syndicate but more silver than gold was obtained from the fields. The Statton lode was 90 feet wide and kept mining going for some years. A bigger gold discovery at Nackara was the Mount Grainger gold field of 1891 from which 57 kilograms of gold was extracted. The government became optimistic about the future of Tregu/Nackara at that time and set aside a town reserve for a Council Chamber but that never eventuated. So because of gold the town of Tregu grew a little and survived into the 20th century. It was also boosted by the arrival of the railway line from Peterborough to Broken Hill in 1888 after the significant silver, lead and zinc finds at Broken Hill in 1884. As late as 1912 the government offered town blocks in Tregu for sale but no buyers came forward! Once the gold finished the railway became the raison d’être for the town until 1969.
Thus the little ghost town of Tregu/Nackara once had two churches – Catholic( opened in 1896 but services held in tents from 1886) and Methodist (built 1892), a cement brick hall which still stands and is sometimes used, a fine government red brick school and headmaster’s residence which is still in use, but not as a school. The school opened in 1891 and the headmaster’s house was built at that time. The red brick school room was built around 1910 when the average enrolment was around 42 children. Eventually other government services were added to this plot of land including the telephone exchange. The school closed in 1966 and it is now the Mizpah Retreat bed and breakfast and meditation establishment. The tin Methodist Church was removed; St Patrick’s Catholic Church was built of stone on the hill above the district hall but it was demolished in the 1960s. The hall itself is seldom used but they were still holding debutant balls in the hall in the 1960s. The ruins of the North Eastern Hotel are down by the railway crossing as was the settlement Post Office and general store which are also only a pile of stones and a chimney today. The new standard gauge line to Broken Hill in 1970 bypassed tiny Nackara by a few kilometres and that was the death knell for village. But in its heyday up until the late 1960s Nackara had several fettlers and railway workers cottages along the railway line near the centre of the town. All trace of them has now gone as they were sold by tender in 1958 for demolition and removal of debris.
Mount Grainger Mining Company was the major mine in the Nackara area but several companies operated in the district around the town and around Mount Grainger itself. In 1896 the syndicate took out gold leases and about 50 men worked on the goldfields but their work came to no great success. Then in 1900 a New Mount Grainger Gold Mining Company was formed with a 52 acre gold lease from the government and further leasehold land leases of 2,000 acres to provide a good supply of timber for the proposed mine. The government Mining Inspector inspected the work done by the syndicate soon after operations started and his report was most favourable. Ore was being crushed at the Petersburg gold battery and 175 ounces of gold was obtained from the first crushings. The company was set up with £60,000 worth of capital from 60,000 £1 shares. Of the five company directors three were well known South Australian pastoralists – James Melrose of Rosebank and Ulooloo, E Hawker of Bungaree, and Andrew Tennant of Eyre Peninsula runs. Despite promising early finds and the sinking of a 150 deep shaft the leasehold soon lapsed, the company went into liquidation and the shareholders- many of them local farmers- were the big losers.
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