In the 1880’s Farina was a busy town at the railhead from Port Augusta, a centre for mining and transport route for stock and goods from the outback.
History of Farina Settlement
It is strange, while wandering around the ruins, to think that people once made their homes here and hoped to grow wheat in the parched surrounding landscape.
Farina was founded in the 1870’s on an outback South Australia gibber plain as the rail head for the towns that were to grow wheat well beyond Goyder’s line.
During the 1880s, plans were laid out for the town with 432 quarter acre blocks. Farina was the railhead from Port Augusta from 22/5/1882 until 1884 when the line was extended first to Marree and then Alice Springs.
It boomed in the years between 1882 and 1884 and then began the long years of languid decline. There grew a cosmopolitan population of Aborigines, Chinese, Europeans and Afghan. There were those upon whom the town was centered…the station master, the store keeper, the hotelier, the pastoralist and the post master and a whole range of outsiders and transients. There are colourful tales of Gool Mahomet who brought a Frenchwomen by camel from Kalgoorlie to raise their family, letters from a homesick school teacher describing life in the post world war one town, and insights into the wonderful sense of community demonstrated in dances, races and sporting events.
The area was originally proclaimed a town on 21/03/1878 and called “Government Gums” because of the mature River Red Gums in the creek to the north of the town. Later its name was changed to “Farina” (Latin for wheat or flour) by farmers who optimistically hoped to turn the vast flat lands here into fields of grain.
For a few years the rains were unusually good, and the farms and town flourished, reaching a population of about 600 before the copper and silver mine closed in 1927. At its peak the town had a bakery, grain store, two breweries, two hotels, a general store, post office, Anglican church, five blacksmiths a school and even a house of ill repute.
Then the normal climate returned, bringing years of drought and dust storms which eventually forcing the abandonment of the town. A visitor to Farina in the 1930’s once defined it as “the last place on earth God made and then he turned around and threw stones at it,” this was said as Farina was once a very rich area and now is in ruin.
The Farina cemetary was last used in 1960 and the town was finally abandoned in the 1980’s. The line closed in the 1980’s and was removed in 1993. Railway buildings included platforms, goods shed, sheep and cattle yards, station masters residence, workman’s cottage and a 5m gallon reservoir. One of the more unusual cargoes embarked at Farina railway station was South Australia’s biggest meteorite. The 1.2 ton Murnpeowie iron Meteorite was dragged out of the desert north-east of here about a century ago; and can be seen today at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.
See more here about the launching of the Farina Restoration Group in an article by Jack McGuire for “Inside South Australia“.
For more information about people with links to old Farina – visit our Facebook page “Farina Residential History“.