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Published June 30th 2017
Living on the edge
Departing his home county of Essex, John Hallett ventured towards South Australia in 1836 in search of an alternative life. After successfully setting up a business as a merchant, John travelled north in search of further property and selected a run known as Willogoleechee in SA's mid-north. John passed away in 1868, and soon thereafter a gold rush at nearby Ulooloo created a need for a town, one that was surveyed and established in 1870 and become known simply as Hallett.
Facilities at Ulooloo were primitive and pastoral land in the area was marginal at best but that didn't deter the small town. Aside from the standard North, South, East and West Terraces, Hallett had five other streets, all of which were named after John, his brother Alfred and three of his children. The Wildongoleeche Hotel on West Terrace was one of the first buildings established in the town, and is still operating today and is affectionately known by locals as the "Wild Dog".
The population steadily increased and in 1877 James Tiver set up a general store similar to his successful store in Burra, and he stocked the best brands, had plenty of feedstock on hand, and was known to pay the highest prices for dairy produce. Tiver sold his store in 1879 and for the next 90 years, it continued to sell haberdashery and general goods, before becoming a Roadhouse and then the Hallett Mini mart in recent years.
Tiver had set a successful precedent, and soon thereafter the town soon became home to various trades and professionals including a carpenter, builder, wheelwright, woodworker, doctor and undertaker. Food and drink were also never far away from the minds of the locals with several stores popping up across the growing town, including Drew and Crewes whom like Tiver also ran a successful store in Burra for many years.
By 1878 the town was large enough to demand a station on the newly laid narrow gauge line through to Terowie and Peterborough, a line that operated until 1990. The Railway Station building itself was left in disrepair for some years before it began a new life as an overnight accommodation hut for walkers on the Heysen Trail or cyclists on the Mawson Trail.
The District Council of Hallett was formed in 1877 and a building of stature was required to serve as the Institute and to service the local community and was duly built in 1879. This grand old building was surpassed in 1929 by an even grander Hallett Institute Hall complete with a cinema projection room, a concert stage, a billiards room and a library.
Like many towns of South Australia's mid-north, the glory days have passed and the now 150 strong community band together to come up with ideas as to how to retain their size through an increase in tourism. The combination of fertile and good sheep grazing lands to the west, wind farms to the ranges and arid lands to the east are ideal for those passing through on the Heysen and Mawson Trails, or travellers looking for an outback experience on Dares Hill Tourist Drive 21 passing alongside the original home of one of Australia's greatest explorers, Sir Hubert Wilkins.
Or for those with a bit less time, the Hallett Historical Walk is a short walk from the picnic area through the town highlighting some 32 places interest, the majority of which are now well maintained private residences. For further details on the township of Hallett, the people or the Historical Walk, refer to the Hallett Mid North website or their Facebook page.