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The history of Barmera, Riverland, South Australia

The History of Barmera, Riverland, South Australia

It is unknown where the name “Barmera” comes from but it is suspected that it means “water place” or “land dwellers”, being a word from a local Aboriginal group. Others postulate it comes from Barmeedjie, the name of the tribe that lived to the north of the Murray River prior to European settlement.

Lake Bonney was first seen by Charles Bonney and Joseph Hawdon in 1838 droving cattle along the Murray River to Adelaide from New South Wales. The lake was named after Bonney.

By 1855 the establishment consisted of a police station, horse staging building, blacksmith’s and wheelwright’s shop and a general store. By the 1870s it was the recognised overnight camping spot. Sometimes up to 30,000 sheep grazed the river flats near the Overland Corner Hotel.

16km from Barmera, the Overland Corner Hotel was built in 1859 by the Brand Brothers for the pioneer pastoralist James Chambers of Cogdogla Station. It catered for the overland drovers and provide a staging point for the coach route from New South Wales into South Australia. It was delicensed in 1898 but continued as a general store and post office for many years. The Overland Corner Hotel is now a museum but is privately leased and operates as a licensed hotel. The hotel was constructed of fossilised limestone 1.5m thick and is the oldest building in the Riverland.

An irrigation system was established in Barmera in 1921. The town became gazetted and an influx of World War I veterans settled with promises of irrigated land from the government. A railway station was opened in 1928 and the town was proclaimed as well.

The Donald Campbell Obelisk records the fact that the famous English speedster, Donald Campbell unsuccessfully attempted to break the world water speed record on Lake Bonney in 1964. He reached 347.5km/h but the lake was too small and the waves created by the speeding vehicle were too dangerous.

Towns close by down river Barmera: Kingston-on-Murray, Cobdogla, Waikerie

Towns close by up river Barmera: Loxton, Berri, Renmark, Paringa, Customs House, Lyrup, Monash

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