Canowie Station: A Pastoralism Wonder Revealed

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 312 pages
Author: M. Slee
Year: 2020
ISBN: 9781922452726
Other: b&w photos, maps, timeline, bibliog, index
Publisher: Max Slee

This historic homestead, midway between Hallett and Jamestown in South Australia's mid-north is a remnant of the former Canowie station and Canowie Pastoral Company.

The Company, which also owned Curnamona station among others, was one of the earliest corporate pastoralists with shareholders including the Morphett, James, Scott, Browne, Hayward, Sanders and Rymill families, all well-known names in the Australian pastoral scene at that era. 

Although the once-renowned Canowie estate has long since been subdivided into highly productive grain farms, and its famed merino stud operates elsewhere, for half a century the Company ran one of the most influential and prosperous sheep stud enterprises in Australia.

By 1903 over 2000 swagmen per year received their customary two meals and a bed at Canowie. By 1905 it was the largest private freehold landholder in South Australia. But then, having sought and achieved immunity from the land reformers through freeholding, the Company was unexpectedly liquidated at the height of its prosperity. At one time it was a self-contained village with an eating-house, school, cemetery, post office and more. The barracks at the Canowie homestead could ghouse 100 men to service the 38 stand shearing shed.

Exhaustive research now reveals the fascinating history of Canowie's exciting frontier origins, its expansion into prosperous corporate pastoralism, and then voluntary liquidation at the peak of its success, leaving a remarkable legacy to the Australian wool industry.

In 2021 Old Canowie celebrates the 175th Anniversary of its foundation in 1846. This book is written to coincide with this important event, by recording the history and stories of a place that so many people have a connection to. Employees at Canowie such as: Shepherds, knockabouts, stockmen, stablemen, horse drivers, bullock drivers, farm hands, stall feeders, boundary riders, well cleaners, fencers, carpenters, stonewallers, butcher, cooks, blacksmiths, saddlers, rabbiters, harvesters, and more all get a mention in the book (name, job title and yearly rate). There is also numerous photos throughout, maps, a timeline and an index. 

List of Illustrations
Introduction and Acknowledgements
1. Pre-history and Geography
2. Foundation Decade. Browne Brothers and Harry Price, 1846-56
3. Canowie purchased by Hayward, Scott & James, 1858
4. Flourishing under Richard Boucher James
5. The Canowie Eating-House, 1859-1873
6. James family moves to England, Thomas Goode appointed first resident manager, 1863
7. Schooling and social life
8. Pastoralism land reforms of the 1860s
9. The ill-fated Canowie Township, 1865
10. Canowie auctioned. new partnership of Sanders, James & co., 1869
11. The staggering prosperity of the new partnership
12. Expansion, the purchase of Curnamona station, 1875
13. New arrivals from England, James family purchases Erudina station, 1880
14. The Canowie Merino Stud prospers
15. Incorporation into the Canowie Pastoral Company, 1894
16. Riding high of the sheep's back - despite management turnover
17. Turn of the twentieth century - heady days for Canowie
18. Headswinds emerge, despite fame and prosperity
19. Downsizing begins - 'An incident without parallel', 1908
20. The dispersal continues, 1922
21. Voluntary liquidation of Canowie Pastoral Company 1926-1950
22. Quieter times, from 1925 to present day, Old Canowie created 1938
Timeline of significant events
Select Bibliography
Abbreviations and explanatory notes


2 Reviews
  • Canowie Station

    Posted by Stuart McDonald on 6th Aug 2021

    Greatly anticipated read that just doesn't disappoint. Thoroughly researched and evokes a place in the South Australian landscape that has become iconic. Superb photographic accompaniment helps bring the narrative alive. Second book I've read by Max Slee, 45 years apart, both kept me engaged. Captivating cover image.

  • Canowie Station

    Posted by Judy Thain on 25th Jan 2021

    An amazingly well researched & written account of the years that Canowie Station existed in South Australia.
    It has an index of persons associated with the station, and I can now confirm the whereabouts of my g-grandparents at a particular time. I have been trying to do this for 40 years.
    Written in an easy to read form, giving much information without ever being boring.

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Canowie Station: A Pastoralism Wonder Revealed


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