Saint Matthew's Church, Poonindie
A brief history of the Poonindie Mission 
In 1848 the first Bishop of Adelaide Augustus Short arrived in the colony with his Archdeacon Mathew Hale. At once they became concerned about the attempts that were being made to educate the aborigines in Christian values. Although boarding schools had been established for aboriginal children in Adelaide, on reaching the completion of their education these young people invariably returned to their people and their tribal ways.

Hale saw this as his chance to set up a training institution for these young teenagers, away from the immoral influences of many Europeans in Adelaide at that time and also from the influence of their own people. His vision was to establish, as Bishop Short wrote “- a Christian village of South Australian Natives, reclaimed from barbarism, trained to the duties of social Christian life and walking in the fear of God - - .”

In 1850 Hale took these young people and set up his training institution adjacent to the River Tod at Poonindie, having first looked at Boston Island, ideal for its isolation from unsatisfactory outside influences, but sadly lacking in its water supply.

In 1852 when the last Adelaide school for aborigines closed there were no more young people with qualifications in reading, writing and Christianity available for the institution. The Government then advised Hale that if he wanted Government assistance he would have to take any persons sent to him by the Protector of Aborigines, even those of mixed descent, and he was to make Poonindie a distribution point for rations for the local aborigines. Hale agreed to these conditions and set about and succeeded in setting up his Christian village. However in 1856 to the sorrow of all residents he moved to Western Australia, being appointed the first Bishop of Perth.

As the years went by, although the Institution did not perhaps conform to Hale’s original vision, the Aboriginal people who remained throughout grew into a close-knit community, as Superintendents, farm managers and teachers came and went.

By 1860 the institution consisted of approx. 15000 acres of lease land carrying sheep, cattle, horses and pigs. Some good crops of wheat and oats were being grown.

Click on the small images for the larger photos then click "back" on your browser
Circa 1870
From the "main road"
Farm hands and machinery of the era
Early photos of the Church & Mission ~ Circa 1870
From the "main road"
Farm hands and  machinery of the era.
Early photo of the Church and Overseer JD. Bruce. Note the stained glass windows in the upper story.

Poonindie men became very good shearers, ploughmen and stockmen and were often sought after by the local settlers. Some became lay readers and were called upon to take services when required.

Poonindie men were good cricketers playing against Port Lincoln teams, even travelling to Adelaide to compete against a St Peter’s College team. The St Peter’s College team also visited Poonindie.

By late 1880 early 1890 pressure was being put on the Government to close the Mission and have the land sub-divided and sold. By 1894 the lease had been surrendered by the trustees and Poonindie people were being relocated at Point Pearce and Point McLeay.

Family names of those relocated included:-At Point Pearce - Adams, Power, Milera, Yates,Wanganeen, Bramfield, Newchurch, Wowinda,Rivers, Mortlock, Stewart and Jet.

At Point McLeay—Varcoe, Welch, Barritt, Yates and Stanley.

Emmanuel Solomon & Superintendent Bruce were the only residents to be allotted land at Poonindie. Approximately 300 acres of land east of the church was dedicated as an aboriginal reserve which is now being managed by the Port Lincoln Aboriginal Community Council.

Record of Mission Superintendents
1850-56 Archdeacon Mathew Hale,1856-68 Rev Octavius Hammond,1868-76 Missionary (later Rev) William Holden,1878-82 Missionary J. Shaw,1882-94 J.D. Bruce

Farm Overseers included:-Wollaston, A. Watherston, Watts Newland,J.D. Bruce
Teachers included:-Joseph Provis, William Blackmore, Rev William Holden, Rev Canon Poole & R.W.G. Dempster

Aboriginal teachers included:-Amy Stirling, David Arnott & Harry Flower

Information sources:-
“Poonindie” by Peggy Brock & Doreen Kartinyeri
"A visit to Poonindie—1872” by Bishop Short

Some interesting excerpts from various sources
Click on the following links 

"The Willochran" April 1916:- "The Church badly needs repair, and to be carefully restored, if only as an interesting relic. The school and several of the old stone buildings of the Mission are still standing."

"The Willochran" April 1, 1924:- "Many of our readers are acquainted with the little Church of St. Matthew at Poonindie but not all of them know:-

a) That it is the only ecclesiastical relic in the Diocese of historical importance

b) That it is in danger of falling down and will cost 250 pound to restore.

There are several points of interest about the building. It has an upper story above the ceiling of the church and here the Archdeacon used to live."

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"The Willochran" - October 2 - 1931
(Extract from an article by Archdeacon Snow ). 
' In attempting a reconstruction of the scene as the walls of the Church began to rise in year 1854, under the hand of Tom Coffin - the master mason - and dusky assistants I am met by the singular fact that though Archdeacon Hale - the founder has written sufficiently largely of the progress of the Mission in his book, "The Aborigines of Australia", no mention whatever is made by him of the building of any Church or Chapel. The then Bishop of Adelaide, Bishop Short, speaks once of a "chapel" in one of his letters and some casual; visitor writes of what he calls the village of Poonindie …… The very masonry of the walls is of interest to architects. The stone came from the bed of the Tod River and is of many colours, the stone of one course is laid diagonally, the next in an opposite direction. The quoins are of warm red bricks; handmade from the clay from the clay pits a few hundred yards away. But the great feature of interest on the wall facing towards the hills, is the handsome chimney-stack of Tudor design, which provides a fireplace for which is now the nave - and one for the loft above - where once the schoolmaster lived, visitors often slept and classes were held on occasions. A winding staircase gives entrance from the nave.

The more I study the old building, the more does the architecture arouse my curiosity as to who was the architect. The general style is Romanesque. The porch entrance with circular embrasure is roofed with slate and the pitch is steep - the arch is bold. In the embrasure was set a clock of French make. The maker's inscription gives the date 1797 (or was it earlier).In that position the old clock stood fro years, giving the time of day to the village street which ran opposite to it. *The clock is now inside to preserve it.

When I first knew it in 1913, the general arrangements were quaintly in keeping with the atmosphere of the place. A tiny alter without ornaments, wooden Communion rail of cedar, a ponderous lectern carrying a huge covered bible, resting on a gorgeous red cushion with yellow fringe and tassels. Lately, a sort of cedar enclosure on the opposite side, which imprisoned the preacher like a stockyard, as though to prevent him wandering from his subject. It was, of course, the narrow staircase on the right of the main door which completed the infinitely old-world atmosphere - for leading to what is suggested a priest's chamber - as indeed the loft really was, for the Archdeacon often slept there whilst his family reside temporarily in Port Lincoln.

"The Willochran'' April 1st, 1940 ("Early Poonindie" by Archdeacon Snow)
"In a Parliamentary Paper dated April 12th, 1856, Archdeacon Hale gives a list of buildings at Poonindie. He states, "The school building was commenced in May 1854 and although we were able to use the upper room or loft for Divine Service in May 1855, the building was not completed till August, 1855.

The size, 36' x 16' inside, with a bay window of 4 lights, 4' deep, built of hard blue stone with brick quoins - walls 18" thick - side walls 17' high - a gable end 28' high - one of them is a bell turret - 2 fireplaces with two separate brick flues, height 29'. The building has four massive beams, two of these support the upper floor and two rest on wall plates - beams and roof timber are of native gum. The lower room, 11' high, was completely finished, ceiled, stuccoed and painted. The upper loft is used as a granary store, etc.".

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"The Register" of February 11, 1904 reports 
"The Poonindie Church should be long permitted to stand as an impressive memorial to the noble work which was inaugurated in 1850 if only because it contains a stained glass window inscribed, "To the Glory of God in memory of Bishop Hale, founder of the Poonindie Native Institution" (given by the congregation). A quaint old Church this, and probably unique in Australia, with its walls built like no other in the world with its little clocked porch way, its double chimney, confronting the prevailing winds at an angle, its disproportionately heavy buttress and iron braces and its crumbling little belfry. The building has two stories, the lower for worship with all the Church accessories in excellent taste".

It is interesting to state that the boarded floor was presented by Trinity Church Sunday School and the windows and doors by St. John's Missionary Association. The Kensington Sunday School presented a very handsome Chalice and Paten for the administration of the Lord's Supper. The Church itself was not completed till 1855. In all probability the Church had never been consecrated. Bishop Gilbert White, no doubt after careful enquiry, decided to consecrate it. This took place on a Sunday afternoon in March 1925.

"The Willochran" July 1st, 1954 It has at last been found possible to completely renovate the Church at Poonindie. This historic building was in desperate need or repair. It was necessary to replace flooring and flooring joints throughout, a new ceiling, various repairs and repainting. Total cost of the repairs will amount to 700 pound of which 400 pound is still needed.

"The Willochran" October 1st, 1954 (Bishop's letter) "In the afternoon I travelled for the re-opening of Poonindie Church after it had been closed for several months for extensive repairs. About 100 were able to squeeze into the Church and another 100 were provided with seats outside the Church".

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Extract from The South Australian Register, Tuesday Feb 15th, 1876
Original found in a bottle under the Foundation stone of St. Thomas's Church,Port Lincoln when repairs were being effected.

Two buggies were procured and a start was made for the station which is situated 10 miles north of Port Lincoln on a plain within a mile or two of the sea at Louth Bay. The road winds along the shore of the beautiful Boston Bay and each turn reveals fresh beauties. On the one hand tree-clad uplands, scattered farms with haystacks and fields of yellow stubble, divided often by lumbering log or effective picket fences, so thoroughly colonial and broken cliffs with bright green creepers clinging to their rugged sides and the waves washing their feet, reaches of white sand and shingle, abrupt rocky gullies with rushy bottoms, betokening the presence of fresh water and beyond all the deep blue waters of the bay broken into low choppy waves by the wind from the hills. Even as seen by the "Musgrave" passengers, with the disadvantages of louring sky and rough wind, the scene was one of great beauty and one not likely to be soon forgotten. What it must be like in the spring of the year with the additions of green grass and sunshiny weather, may be readily imagined. About 3 miles from Poonindie the sheoaks disappear near the road, but follow the sweep of the hills; and a belt of scrub is passed through, at the further edge of which is a station gate.

Poonindie was founded in 1850 by Archdeacon Hale, now Bishop of Brisbane. It consists of 15,455 acres of fair land, some arable and all good sheep country. Of this 250 acres are under crop - 220 wheat and 30 hay. This year the yield has been 2,400 bushels of wheat and about 60 tons of hay, 9000 sheep are depastured, from which the clip last season gave 115 bales. There are also 150 head of horned cattle and 30 horses. The settlement is on a plain a short distance from a small river containing permanent water. The situation is rather bleak and exposed but is found to be healthy. There is quite a little township, consisting of a chapel, school, store, Superintendent's and farm manager's residences, 11 neat brick and eight upright log cottages, standing close together, all as spotlessly white as whitewash can make them and 3 detached cottages for boundary riders. There are present 78 natives on the station which is under the superintendence of the Rev'd. R.W. Holden, and of these all the adults, with the exception of one or two who are incapacitated, are earning their own living. There is a school with an attendance of 26 scholars, presided over by Mr. W.G. Blackmore. The scholars were examined in several subjects and showed much aptness and intelligence, whilst the copy-books submitted for inspection would do credit to any school in the country.

The chapel, which is of stone with brick facings, is a quaint-looking little building with a clock, and circular plate in front bearing the inscription Native Institution, founded Oct. 10 1850.

It will accommodate 70 and contains a neat reading-desk, communion table, harmonium, comfortable seats and a punkah. Close to the chapel in a hollow is a fruit and vegetable garden, and on the opposite bank of the creek is the cemetery. The managements of the farm and stock is in the hands of Mr. Watts Newland, a thoroughly practical man. The wheat and other produce of the station are shipped direct for Port Adelaide from Louth Bay, thus saving land carriage. Mr. Newland has to assist him 15 able-bodied men, to whom regular wages are paid as to European labourers. There are a number of married couples on the station, and the people are clearly well-behaved and seem very happy and comfortable. The mission which is self-supporting is doing good work, and is deserving of the encouragement of all who have the welfare of our native population at heart. The return journey to Port Lincoln was done under the disadvantage of a strong, piercing wind and heavy downpour of rain, and the weather continued thus till late the next day, compelling the steamer to remain in harbour till 12.15 a.m. on Wednesday, when the wind, having somewhat abated, steam was got up and a start made for Cape Borda.

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Notes on the Reverend Octavius Hammond

Supplied by his son-in-law, Mr Myles Bishop, Port LincolnIn June 1856 Octavius Hammond was appointed to succeed Archdeacon Hale as Superintendent of Poonindie Mission Station. Hale had just been appointed to Perth as its first Bishop. Previously W.A. was included in the Adelaide Diocese. It seems that at that time there was much sickness at the institution and that Octavius was persuaded to take the position in order that he could try and deal with the situation. The late Rev. Canon Poole was as a young man (1867 - 1868) was employed at Poonindie as a teacher, has recorded:- (Dr. Hammond has been in practice as a physician in Adelaide and was persuaded to go to Poonindie to see what he could do to abate the mortality there prevalent. His undoubted skill in his profession was a distinct blessing not only to the patients at Poonindie but to the whole of the surrounding district." The S.A. Register is quoted as stating that "He may be said to have saved the Institution."

On December 8  1856 Bishop Short, when preaching at St. Thomas' Church, Port Lincoln "gratified his congregation by announcing that Mr Octavius Hammond had become a candidate for admission into Deacon's Orders, an arrangement which ….. will be hailed with the more satisfaction in as much as Dr. Hammond is universally and justly esteemed." (Register 12.2.1857).

He was admitted to Deacon's Orders in February 1857, licensed to Port Lincoln with Poonindie on March 19th of that year and appointed Priest-in-charge the following year, having been ordained by Bishop Short on 15th April, 1858.

Octavius Hammond was St. Thomas' s first incumbent and held that office until his death in 1878. During this period the Church was enlarged to its present size by the addition of the chancel, transepts and vestry, and a foundation stone to commemorate this event was laid by him on 24th February,1876.

When Archdeacon Matthew Blagden Hale, in 1856, resigned as superintendent of the Poonindie Mission Station, three trustees viz., Bishop Short of Adelaide, Sir Samuel Davenport and Captain John Bishop, were appointed to manage the Institution.

Not long after the Archdeacon left for Perth to become its first Bishop and his place taken by Hammond, it became apparent that improved accommodation for the natives was a vital necessity. The temporary pine huts had become health hazards and their replacement by brick cottages was undertaken. The bricks were made on the property. By 1859, increasing expenses and a deficit of 1,200 pounds so alarmed the Government of the day that further financial assistance was made conditional upon their own nominee, not answerable to Hammond, being appointed to manage the stock and the farm. This arrangement stood until 1865 when the services of the Government appointee were terminated and Dr. Hammond again resumed full control, with the added responsibility for all payments and receipts, keeping account books and giving his approval for the management of any white assistant. Mr Watts Newland was, out of 33 applicants, appointed agricultural and stock manager. The course of the Institution, thereafter, ran smoothly and prosperously. In 1870, 3000 bushels of wheat were harvested and the 15,000 acres property carried 10,000 sheep (9 square miles known as Tooligie had been sold in 1861) and there was no debt. However, in 1868 a further re-organization took place by which Dr. Hammond was appointed Chaplain and charged, also, with all matters concerning the welfare of the natives. Mr (later the Rev'd) RW Holden was appointed superintendent and teacher and Mr Newland, overseer.

It must have been at this time that the Hammond family moved from Poonindie to a weatherboard house known as Boston Cottage which stood at the exact site of the present well-known Boston House, 2 1/2 miles from Port Lincoln and 7 from Poonindie. This was considered fairly convenient for the Reverend Octavius, as Rector of St. Thomas's, to look after his parishioners at Port Lincoln as well as the natives at Poonindie. He did not ride to his work but drove a dog-cart.

Professionally, Dr. Hammond did not encourage private patients, but at all times helped those who sought his aid. As far as is known, he charged no fees. In a review of the Poonindie enterprise published in the S.A. Register of 1st September, 1924 Canon Poole wrote "No candid person would be able to say that Archdeacon Hale's place was filled by those who succeeded him, but Archdeacon Hale was a genius in missionary work and enterprise, and himself filled all necessary offices excepting that of physician - in his own person…" "It is no wonder that his successors, as more ordinary men, failed to keep up to his high level".

On 28th December, 1860, while still at Poonindie, the Hammond family received a tragic and shattering blow on the death of daughter Ellen. In spite of her father's strong opposition, she had fallen in love with a police trooper stationed at Port Lincoln. Finally on being forbidden to see her lover again, she drowned herself in the nearby Tod River. The fact that the same trooper was obliged to organise the recovery of the body must have added to the agony of all concerned.

Many years afterwards a descendant of natives who were transferred to the Point McLeay Mission Station from Poonindie told the writer that, according to legend firmly believed by some of her people, the grass at the spot where the girl was laid when brought from the water never died but always remained green. Ellen is said to have been a bright and intelligent girl but discontented with the life at Poonindie.

For some time before his death Octavius Hammond's health gradually deteriorated and his heart finally failed on October 15th, 1878. The cost of the headstone on the grave at Happy Valley cemetery was subscribed by the Poonindie natives as a token of affection from their departed friend.

Shortly after the death of Dr. Hammond, the house was sold to Mr Sison and the widow transferred to Adelaide. She died there on 10th July, 1894. On a wall in the transept of St. Thomas's Church, Port Lincoln, there is a tablet which reads:-


"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord:
Yea saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours;
And their works do follow them".
He being dead yet speaketh.
In 1960 a plaque in memory of Octavius Hammond was placed in the Church of St. Matthew, Poonindie.
Shortly after Dr. Hammond's death the S.A. Register published an obituary which is here quoted in part:-

"He was much respected by the residents of Port Lincoln, much beloved by the Poonindie natives, honoured and esteemed by the Bishop and clergy of the Church of England. The chief features of his character were an intelligent benevolence, great conscientiousness and care in all he undertook to do, and a habitual considerateness for the feelings of others. He was a gentleman above all things else - a gentleman of the old school, retaining in his manners and address that flavour of quiet courtesy and refinement which is a rare thing in the rough-and-ready life of a colony. His was not one of the active energetic nature, but in quietness was his strength".

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