Hawker is one of the three main towns in the Flinders Ranges (the other two are Quorn and Leigh Creek). The ranges west of Hawker have Aboriginal names – Yourambulla and Yappala – and so do many of the creeks in the district.
Hawker was surveyed in 1880 on the bend of the new railway line where the government planned to put a railway station. It was named after the prominent grazier and politician, Hon. George Charles Hawker.
One of the many towns intended to serve wheat farmers during the great wheat drive; it is the only ‘wheat’ town north of Quorn and Carrieton to survive the failure of wheat farming in the north.
Existing businesses in nearby tiny settlements like Wonoka Creek quickly moved into Hawker.
Henry Gadd opened a general store and post office in 1880, and two hotels opened in 1881.
Despite the drought of the early 1880s, by 1884 two flour mills were operating in Hawker. One factor in this was the opening of the railway line to Farina in 1882 and to Herrgott Springs (Marree) in 1884.’Flour was an essential foodstuff on every inland station and the railway and the Hawker teamsters transported the bulk of it’.
During the droughts of the 1890s, many families moved away from their farms. Failing crops meant the local economy faltered. Dunn and Co. closed and demolished their flour mill 1899. The second flour mill stopped operating in the early twentieth century and was finally demolished in 1935.
Around Hawker you can see the ruins of many deserted farm houses. The abandoned farms were absorbed back into grazing properties long ago.
In the 1980s, you could still see a sand drift created in a great drought in the early twentieth century along a fence line just west of the main road a few km north of Hawker. The farm abandoned here was first owned by Heinrich Borgas, who ploughed and planted wheat in 1896. The drifting sand was held by the fence, and then consolidated by weeds.
Tracks, roads and railways follow gaps in the ranges, and several routes passed through Hawker. This accounts
its strategic position in the ranges and its enterprising businessmen enable Hawker to maintain links with every place along the railway as it extended from Marree to Oodnadatta in 1891 and finally to Alice Springs in 1929 [Mincham 1983:172]
In 1956 Hawker lost its railway connections when the route changed. But it has continued to build its life as a service centre for the rural industries around it. It has also become a centre for tourism and tourist services.
- Mincham, Hans 1980. Hawker, Hub of the Flinders. Hawker Centenary Committee. Adelaide.
- Mincham, Hans 1983. The Story of the Flinders Ranges. (3rd ed). Adelaide, Rigby.
- Nicol, Stuart 1998 Flinders Ranges and the Mid North . Adelaide. Royal Automobile Association of South Australia.
- Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary – http://www.arkaroola.com.au/