Monthly Archives: February 2019

Lost Hotels: Crabb’s Old Accommodation House

William Crabb – circa 1872

Lost Hotels: Crabb’s Old Accommodation House

Blanchetown in the 1850s was a Murray River Port that was nothing much more than a few tents and a couple of small cottages. In 1841, The Protector of Aborigines, Edward John Eyre established the first European settlement on the Murray River 6 kilometres south at a place called ‘Moorundie’. Moorundie was the name of the local indigenous people.
Eyre’s site was subject to flooding, so another site further up the Murray was chosen to be surveyed for a township. In 1855, Governor Sir Richard Graves McDonnell named the new river port “Blanchetown” after his wife Lady Blanche McDonnell.

The first families in the region were the Brand family and Crabb family.

One of the first pastoral leases in the area was held by the Crabb family. The Crabb’s had emigrated to South Australia from Plymouth, Devon England on The Java. They arrived in Port Adelaide in 1840. They moved around South Australia to places like Angaston, Truro and North Rhyne, (now Keyneton) before settling in Blanchetown in the late 1850s.
The Crabb’s took to catching and taming wild horses in the area on Craig’s Plains below Accommodation Hill.

 Being close to the Blanchetown port allowed the Crabb’s to export their goods and profit from their land. The Crabb’s also ran sheep, cattle and their own horses, with their boys growing up to be well-known boundary riders and stockmen in the region.
William and his wife Mary Anne (nee Chinner) had nine children. In time, those children married and the family grew. There were 18 members of the Crabb family living in Blanchetown in the 1870s, which made up a significant portion of the population of the then tiny town.

Crabb Reservoir – located halfway between Crabb’s Old Accommodation House
and the Annadale Halfway House on the Sturt Highway.

Blanchetown became a centre of activity, as a port, and as a crossing point of the river of the road to Sydney NSW. Wool and other commodities would come down the river via paddle steamer, then get loaded onto bullock drays to head further south to Adelaide.

The 1865 drought killed much of the Crabb’s cattle stock and their property had to be sold. William Crabb instead built the first hotel in the area, known locally as Crabb’s Halfway House, and later as Crabb’s Old Accommodation House, which was located on the track from Truro to Blanchetown (now the Sturt Highway). His hotel was first licenced in 1865 and almost closed a year later when Crabb was late with his application to the Magistrates board.
He appeared in person to plead his case and stated that; “I did not send in my application in time because I had made up my mind to leave the house, but was afterwards induced to apply for a renewal of the licence in consideration of the accommodation the house afforded the public. I have kept it eight years and have sunk a considerable amount of money there.”
His license was renewed by the board.

William Crabb ran his hotel until 1873 when he decided to shut up shop and sell off all the internal furnishings. He then invested in the nearby station Roonka Roonka, and Hampton station. This investment proved profitable for the Crabb’s, with William beginning trade in wool-buying and wool-scouring, which was earning him over 1000 pounds a year.

In 1881, Crabb’s Halfway-House is mentioned in many local newspapers as the nearest point to a

Newspaper advertisement for the sale of goods from Crabb’s Hotel

cliff fall of the banks of the Murray River. On the bend of the river nearby, A 250 feet section of the cliff face had come away from the ground around it via an explosion. Warnings were put in newspapers for steamboat Captains to avoid the fallen debris, and to avoid the large section of the cliff still dangling, ready to fall.
William and Mary had rushed from their home upon hearing the explosion and watched a 1.5 metres (5 foot) high tsunami travel across the Murray River and submerge a small island in their view. After inspecting the cliff, they discovered one massive 12-metre-tall (40-foot) tree over 3 metres (12 feet) away from where its roots sat.

The Crabb’s rented out their former hotel for a short time before it fell into the ruins that remain today.

William and Mary Crabb are buried in a little cemetery not far from Blanchetown. In the same cemetery are the final resting places of James Brand, James Rossiter and his wife.

During the 1960s 165 skeletons of indigenous human remains were found in the sand dunes on the Roonka Roonka station property which led to an archaeological dig in the area. The oldest remains have been carbon dates as 8,000 to 7,000 years B.P (B.P. meaning “Before Present” 1950)

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019


1866 ‘BENCH OF MAGISTRATES.’, The Adelaide Express (SA: 1863 – 1866), 11 September, p. 5. , viewed 03 Jan 2019,

1874 ‘COUNTRY CORRESPONDENCE.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 5 January, p. 7. , viewed 03 Jan 2019,

1881 ‘COUNTRY NEWS, COUNTRY LETTERS.’, Adelaide Observer (SA: 1843 – 1904), 26 November, p. 37. , viewed 03 Jan 2019,

1881 ‘LANDSLIP ON THE MURRAY.’, Adelaide Observer (SA: 1843 – 1904), 12 March, p. 15. , viewed 03 Jan 2019,

1881 ‘SANDLETON, November 16.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA: 1839 – 1900), 22 November, p. 2. (Supplement to the South Australian Register.), viewed 03 Jan 2019,

1884 ‘ANNA. JUNE 23.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA: 1839 – 1900), 26 June, p. 3. , viewed 03 Jan 2019,

1894 ‘No title’, The Laura Standard (SA: 1889 – 1917), 23 November, p. 2. , viewed 03 Jan 2019,

1903 ‘OBITUARY.’, Chronicle (Adelaide, SA: 1895 – 1954), 3 October, p. 35. , viewed 03 Jan 2019,

1939 ‘Blanchetown in the Seventies’, Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record (Renmark, SA: 1913 – 1942), 14 December, p. 12. , viewed 03 Jan 2019,

Leadbeater B (1996) South Australian Shipping & Immigration, Family History SA, retrieved from

Prokopec, Miroslav & L Pretty, Graeme & Smith, Patricia. (1994). Australian aboriginals: prehistoric South. Variab Evol. 4.

A Haunting at The Blumberg Hotel – Birdwood

A Haunting at The Blumberg Hotel – Birdwood

Birdwood, home to the National Motor Museum, was once known as Blumberg, but due to anti-German sentiment during World War One, it and many other South Australian towns had their names.
The name Birdwood comes from Sir William Birdwood who commanded ANZACS at Gallipoli.

The Blumberg Hotel originally opened as the Napoleon Bonaparte Hotel in 1865.

The hotel is thought to be haunted by a little girl dubbed “Emily”. It is believed Emily fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Emily is said to cause all kinds of mischief around the hotel, stealing salt and pepper shakers, turning on and off lights, and causing cold spots and cold draughts throughout the pub.

A former publican of the hotel also claimed that Emily the ghost would sit with her children and watch TV and would sometimes move chairs around in their presence.

Another spirit said to haunt the hotel is an adult that appears in the form of a shadow. One witness claim that the ghost walked through him. Others claim that at times the smell of death wafts through the hotel. On other occasions, it is the smell of incense, even though none has been lit.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

Chirp Internet. 2016. Hotels in Birdwood < South Australia | Gday Pubs – Enjoy our Great Australian Pubs. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 12 September 2016].

1871 ‘Family Notices’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA: 1839 – 1900), 20 May, p. 8. (Supplement to the South Australia Register.), viewed 02 Jan 2019,

1907 ‘OBITUARY.’, The Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA: 1880 – 1954), 13 September, p. 2. , viewed 02 Jan 2019,

Ghost of Glenloth Well Mine

Ghost of Glenloth Well Mine

Located on the Eyre Peninsula, Glenloth Well is approximately an hour and fifteen minutes south-west of Kingoonya near Lake Harry. Glenloth Well is home to the Glenloth Goldfields, a natural deposit of Gold and Hematite that was noted by the Government Geologist in 1893.
 By 1904, a mine and extraction building was constructed. A five-stamp battery mill (a type of machine that crushes rocks instead of grinding them) was built, powered by a 14-horse powered engine with a vertical boiler, drawing water from Lake Harry.
A small settlement was established to process the mine. The closest towns today are Kingoonya (32kms north-east), Glendambo population 77 (74 km’s east), Tarcoola (87 Kms north-west).
In 1936, a daughter of an owner of the East-West Mine at Glenloth Goldfields, Yvonne Marie Heylen, wrote to The Mail newspaper, telling of a local ghost story.
Her article is as follows:
“Last week one of the old miners who was working as a tributer on our mine told father that there was a ghost down one of the old underlie tunnels, near where he was working. He said he could hear weird noises and sounds of running feet at night.
Next night he took his carbide lamp and crawled along the old abandoned tunnel or 90 ft. when suddenly his lamp went out.
 In the darkness, two yellow eyes of fire appeared before him, and the next instant’ he received a heavy blow on the head from the ghost. Scrambling along on hands and knees, the poor miner came out of the tunnel as fast as he could and gave the alarm.
Father and one of my brothers took candles and ropes and went to investigate. They discovered that the ghost was Billie our billygoat, who had been missing for several days.
Billie was soon rescued and taken out of the tunnel.

Yvonne Marie Heylen. Glenloth Goldfield.”
 While in this case, it turned out to be a goat and not a ghost haunting the old mine-shaft, the moral of the story here is; don’t crawl into deep dark places on your own, you never know what you might find!
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2018    
The Haunts of Adelaide: History, Mystery and the Paranormal.

1901 ‘IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA. FIND OF GOLD AT GLENLOTH WELL.’, The Register (Adelaide, SA: 1901 – 1929), 26 April, p. 7. , viewed 27 Dec 2018,
1936 ‘The Ghost in the Mine’, The Mail (Adelaide, SA: 1912 – 1954), 14 November, p. 7. (MAGAZINE), viewed 26 Dec 2018,

Gee, L.C.E. & Brown, H.Y.L., (1908), Record of The Mines of South Australia, 4th ed., Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia.
Record of Mines, (1980), Summary card No:8, Gairdner S 5315/Harris
Noble R.J., Just J. and Johnson J. E., (1983), Catalogue of South Australian Minerals-1983, Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia

UFO’s over Port Augusta

UFO’s over Port Augusta

Railway yards at Port Augusta, South Australia 1914 SLSA:[PRG 280/1/14/43]

Railway workers in Port Augusta witnessed five objects, described as “white or light pink, and shaped like an egg” fly in formation at great speed, through the sky on Wednesday the 6th of February 1947.

Ron Ellis, an ex RAAF employee was working in the train yards when he spotted the strange sight flying through the sky. Owing to his previous work in the air force, he was able to rule out aircraft of the day as being the culprits. His estimation of the size of the object was that each would have been the size of a locomotive!
Ellis also stated that the objects cast shadows, so could not have been an optical illusion.

Ellis was not the only witness, with other railways workers coming forward with their own sightings of the phenomenon. It was speculated that the objects were at of height of about 6000 feet, they moved erratically, and seemed to ‘pulse’. The objects moved extremely quickly through the sky, being out of sight in just a few seconds.

Further weight was added to the men’s story when Government Astronomer, Mr G.F. Dodwell, stated that the witnessed phenomena did not fit with any known astronomical events, and was most likely not a meteor. A meteorite, according to Dodwell, would have travelled at great speed, would not cast a shadow, being as they are very small, and would also create a deafening roar. Witnesses of the phenomena did not report any sounds associated with the objects.

The Port Augusta UFO incident predates the July 1947 UFO incident at Roswell, New Mexico that would eventually lead to the American pop-culture phenomenon that captured the attention of the world.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2018


1947 ‘C.R. Workmen See Phenomenon’, Transcontinental (Port Augusta, SA: 1914 – 1954), 7 February, p. 1. , viewed 28 Dec 2018,
1947 ‘Objects in Sky Not Meteorites’, Quorn Mercury (SA: 1895 – 1954), 13 February, p. 3. , viewed 28 Dec 2018,
1947 ‘Objects in Sky Not Meteorites’, Transcontinental (Port Augusta, SA: 1914 – 1954), 14 February, p. 1. , viewed 28 Dec 2018,
1947 ‘Objects In Sky Not. Meteorites’, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931 – 1954), 8 February, p. 1. , viewed 28 Dec 2018,
1947 ‘SEEING THINGS’, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931 – 1954), 10 July, p. 2. , viewed 28 Dec 2018,
1947 ‘Strange Objects In Sky’, Chronicle (Adelaide, SA: 1895 – 1954), 13 February, p. 6. , viewed 28 Dec 2018,
1947 ‘Strange Objects Reported In Sky’, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931 – 1954), 7 February, p. 1. , viewed 28 Dec 2018,

SLSA: Railway yards at Port Augusta, South Australia [PRG 280/1/14/43] • Photograph retrieved from