The Great 1890s Drought

The 1896-1902 drought left its mark permanently on the country.

It completed the devastation of vast areas denuded of vegetation caused by over-stocking and plagues of rabbits. [Mincham 1983:172-3]

Stock losses were appalling. Wilpena, Kanyaka and Coonatto each lost 20,000 sheep.

There wasn’t enough feed for the horses or bullocks that pulled the drays. Some services were cut altogether (such as the passenger cart from Blinman). Most of the bullocks died. Transport costs skyrocketed.

Wool prices were falling in the 1890s too. Run after run was abandoned at this time. All of the runs in the Gawler Ranges and many in the North Flinders and beyond, including Callabonna, were deserted.

Farmers’ crops failed. Wells failed. Choking dust storms took away soil and left sand drifts. The Hookina pub was almost covered by drifting sand and the owner, George Glass, closed it down in 1897

Fences were buried or left hanging in the air from sand drift. One drift could still be seen a hundred years later 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. The drifting sand was held by the fence, and then consolidated by the alien plant Ward’s weed and other growth. [Mincham 1983:170]

Farmers had to leave to their land, and townships faltered as their surrounding populations fell. Some men found work on unemployment relief projects like building the railway extension to Oodnadatta

One of Hawker’s four mill’s closed and was demolished in 1899, the other closed a few years later.

After the exodus of farmers and towns-people from Cradock during the 1890s, the police station was closed in 1901.

Confidence was never really restored after this drought.