Port Lincoln (1843-1852)

Prepared by: 
Regina Ganter
Also known as: 
Poonindie, Barngarla, Happy Valley

Several mission attempts were located at Port Lincoln -  Schürman’s Barngarla school at Walalla, North Shields (1850-1852), and the Anglican farm and school at Poonindie (1850- 1875).


The violent frontier at Port Lincoln


As the best stretches of land in the coastal areas had been claimed and settlers began to move their flocks into the drier inland, a violent period erupted for the Barngarla. Port Lincoln settlement was established in 1839, and the following decade saw more clashes than any other area of South Australia.1 Governor Gawler appointed Rev. Clamor Schürmann as Deputy Protector of Aborigines at Port Lincoln, and the latter arrived in September 1840 at Port Lincoln in the midst of a black war. Lockwood writes that Barngarla attacked pastoral stations, settlers and police retaliated indiscriminately, and by 1842 Port Lincoln was ‘under siege’. Schürmann was required to accompany police as interpreter and witnessed the killing of innocent people and felt a strong conflict of interest between his official and his missionary role.2


The roving missionary, 1842


Schürmann remained at Port Lincoln as missionary at the request of Governor Grey, but lobbied the Dresden Mission society to give up this hopeless mission, hampered by migratory habits and disinterest.4 He was competent in the Kaurna language of Adelaide, but found little opportunity to acquire the Barngarla language. For a while he tried to move with the Barngarla but found it too taxing. He felt it was necessary for people to settle down somewhere in order to be instructed.5


Schürmann's farm on the shores of Proper Bay, 1843-1845


In 1843 Schürmann began farming with the help of Barngarla men. He acquired the use of six acres about four kilometers south of Port Lincoln and used the government rations as payment. He battled with theft, fire that destroyed crops and fences (some of seasonal burning), raiding by animals, and the workforce leaving for tribal obligations. The government rations were soon withdrawn from the experiment, and no government funding for either a mission or a school was forthcoming beyond a £100 subsidy for the missionary.6 Farming with the Barngarla gave him a chance to learn the Barngarla language.  In 1844 Schürmann published a vocabulary and grammar now being used to revive the Barngarla language. Schürmann was forced to give up the farm in 1845, and in January 1846 the four missionaries from Dresden decided to restrict their effort to Adelaide and Encounter Bay, thus losing the £100 subsidy. In September that year they also decided to relinquish financial support from Dresden.7



Tyilkilli: a young man of the Parnkallah tribe, Port Lincoln; Mintala a man at Coffins Bay 1846-47 from South Australia
Illustrated by George French Angas (London: Thomas McLean. 1846-7

Source: George French Angas, print after, unknown lithographer, Australia

lithograph, printed in colour, from multiple stones; varnish highlights by brush sheet 37 x 55.6 cm

National Gallery of Australia, Gift of anonymous donor 196643890



Schurmann Wallala school Remains of Schurmann house

Location of Schürmann’s Wallala school and Poonindie

Photo: Theo Modra

Remains of Schürmann’s house and school at Wallala

Photo: Theo Modra



At the request of Governor Robe, Schürmann returned to Port Lincoln as court interpreter at a salary of £70. He arrived at Port Lincoln on 12 December 1848 with his wife Minna and an infant son, and supplemented his meagre income by farming. He was required to interpret in court, often in Adelaide, and again he was asked to accompany police in murder investigations, to write reports, and assist the Protector. The undeclared war at Eyre Peninsula had not abated with vigilante killings organized by settlers.8



The Barngarla School, 1850-1853


In early 1850 Schürmann obtained a salary of £50 to commence an Aboriginal school at Wallala, near North Shields, 12 kilometers north of Port Lincoln.9 Schürmann instructed in the Barngarla language and was able to attract students with government rations.10 Schürmann and his wife enjoyed working with the students and were optimistic about the school’s future which found support from parents and students.11


Just a few months later, in October 1850, an Anglican mission settlement opened only five kilometers from Schürmann’s school on an Aboriginal reserve at Poonindie on the Tod River.12 It used English as the language of instruction and drew on the Adelaide Native School to recruit young couples and engage them in agriculture, with the idea of separating them both from tribal and European influences.13 This was the model favoured and financially supported by the government. Schürmann was offered to join the Church of England and its Poonindie school, but declined.


In January 1852 Schürmann’s employment as interpreter was terminated. The gold rushes were causing massive shifts in the settler population, and a German and Wendish community intending to move to Western Victoria were looking for a pastor. Schürmann realized that his school was about to be merged with Poonindie.14 The Adelaide school was getting boycotted by Aboriginal parents for fear of having their children sent to Poonindie, so the Poonindie settlement was being starved of new recruits, and Anglican Bishop Hale obtained permission to transfer the Barngarla children to Poonindie. 15 The Anglicans took charge of the Barngarla school in January 1853, and  in February 1853 its 21 students were transferred to Poonindie.16



 1 Protector of Aborigines’ Report 15 July 1849, SA Government Gazette: 313. Most of the information in this entry is adapted from Christine Lockwood’s biographical entry for Clamor Schürmann. To read more see Christine J Lockwood, ‘The Two Kingdoms: Lutheran Missionaries and the British Civilizing Mission in early South Australia,’ PhD University of Adelaide 2014. https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/handle/2440/84754

2 24 April - 9 May 1842, Schürmann Diaries 1838-1845, C W Schürmann box 1, LAA. Schürmann report to Moorhouse, 18 May 1842, GRG24/1/1842/195, State Records Office of South Australia (SRSA).

3 25 April 1842, Schürmann Diaries 1838-1845, C W Schürmann box 1, LAA.

4 Schürmann to Wermelskirch, 22 August 1842, Schürmann Correspondence 1838-1893, Adelaide Missionaries (Dresden) Letters 2/Folder S, LAA.

5 Schürmann to DMS, 27 November 1843, Schürmann Correspondence 1838-1893, Adelaide Missionaries (Dresden) Letters 2/Folder S, LAA.

6 Meyer and Schürmann to DMS, 22 January 1846, Collected letters from the missionaries and conference reports, 1838-1846, Adelaide Missionaries (Dresden) Letters 1/Folder A, LAA.

7 Teichelmann to DMS, 5 January 1847, Teichelmann Correspondence 1838-1853, Adelaide Missionaries (Dresden) Letters 3/Folder TB, LAA.

8 Police Commissioner Tolmer quoted in Ted Schurmann, I'd rather dig potatoes: Clamor Schurmann and the Aborigines of South Australia, 1838-1853, Adelaide, Lutheran Publishing House, 1987:185.

9 Gov. Young to Secretary of State for the Colonies, Despatch no. 50, 21 March 1850, GRG2/6/1850/5, SRSA.

10 Phillipa Walsh, 'The Problem of Native Policy in South Australia in the C19th with Particular Reference to the Church of England Poonindie Mission, 1859-1896', BA Hons., University of Adelaide, 1966:70; South Australian Gvernment Gazette, 24 March 1853:193.

11 Schürmann to Meyer, 23 August 1851 Schürmann, C W 2/Correspondence file no. 2, LAA. South Australian Government Gazette, 18 July 1851:433.

12 Peggy Brock, Doreen Kartinyeri, and Aboriginal Heritage Branch, South Australia, Poonindie: The Rise and Destruction of an Aboriginal Agricultural Community, Adelaide, Government Printer and the Aboriginal Heritage Branch, Dept. of Environment and Planning, South Australia, 1989.

13 Short to SPG, 17 Aug 1851, quoted in David Hilliard, Godliness and good order: a history of the Anglican Church in South Australia, Netley, SA, Wakefield Press, 1986:35, 37; Mathew B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia: Being an Account of the Institution for Their Education at Poonindie, London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1889:67-69.

14 Schürmann to Meyer, 17 January 1852, C W 2/Correspondence file no. 2, LAA.

15 Young to Secretary of State for the Colonies, Despatch no. 64, 7 May 1852 GRG2/6/6/1852, State Records Office of SA.