Terowie is a small township (population 220) located 221 km north of Adelaide. It came into existence as part of the railway network which was built in South Australia in the late 19th century. Consequently it has a large number of interesting and significant historic houses and the surrounding area (particularly the 91.5 km Hallett-Terowie Circuit Tour) has a rich variety of historical sites as well as extensive fauna and flora.
Terowie has been designated an historic town because of its large number of untouched 19th century buildings. There are old hardware stores and blacksmith's shops in the main street which have all the charm of something from the 1880s.
The first European to see the Terowie-Hallett area was probably the explorer Edward John Eyre who passed through the district in July 1839. By 1842 John and Alfred Hallett, early pastoralists, had settled in the area and the following year more land was taken up in the area by John Chewings, William Dare, George Hiles, Dr William James and Dr John Harris Browne.
The Hundred of Terowie was surveyed in 1871. John Mitchell purchased land in 1873 and built the town's first pub, the Terowie Hotel, the following year. A store and a blacksmith soon followed.
Terowie was gazetted in 1877. Three years later the railway arrived making the town a natural regional centre. This led to intense settlement of the district (the population of the town was almost 700 by 1881) but the droughts of the 1880s, combined with the proliferation of rabbits, soon made the smaller land holding uneconomic. However the railway continued to sustain the town's importance. It was the vital link between Adelaide and New South Wales and was the place where the two different railway gauges met. At its peak Terowie had over 3 km of railway tracks in its yards where men worked in workshops, engine sheds and the shipping yards. The town's population, at its peak, reached 2000.
During World War II there was an army camp established at Terowie. It was here that General Douglas MacArthur made his famous speech: 'I came out of Bataan and I shall return.' There is a plaque at the railway station which commemorates the event.
In 1969 the broad railway gauge was extended and Terowie's importance declined. Very quickly the population dropped to the low hundreds. By the 1980s the railway line had been removed. The town's very reason for existence had been removed.
Things to see
Things to see
The source of all knowledge in the town is Heidi Hill at Terowrie Budget Hardware (phone and fax 08 8659 1016) who can provide some excellent brochures and booklets for people interested in exploring the area.
Terowie Arid Lands Botanic Garden
Situated on 1 hectare of land adjacent to the Main Street this Botanic Garden boasts 450 shrubs and trees from 250 different species. It has three different zones - the river zone, the rocky zone and the sandy zone. A number of the plants are endangered species.
Terowie Historic Walk
The Terowie Historical Walk can be comfortably walked in about 2 hours and includes 35 buildings all of which are important historically. The walk is available as a printed sheet and is included in the excellent and interesting book 'Woolsheds and Railheads' which is available for a very modest $4.00. The most interesting buildings include:
Original Post Office
Now privately owned this was the town's major Post Office for a century (1882-1993). It was located at this point because the postmaster wanted to be close to the railway line. Today it contains an excellent collection of fine linen and lace.
The Railway Yard
A reminder of the town's prosperity. The railway station has a plaque commemorating the visit by General Douglas MacArthur and his famous 'I shall return' speech which he made on the railway platform.
Dr. Hill's Eye Hospital Building
Built around 1885 by a Dr Abramowski in the 1890s this became the surgery of Dr Hill who experimented with rabbits to try and improve human eyesight. A strange activity for such an isolated township.
This dates from the town's first boom period - it was built in 1882 - and still has the original cells at the rear. It is now a private residence.
St Joseph's Convent
Built in 1885 this building was operated between 1911 and 1966 by Sister Mary McKillop's Sisters of St Joseph. It is now privately owned.
St Johns Anglican Church
Built in 1880 this church has been, at various times, Primitive Methodist and Salvation Army. It was purchased by the Anglicans in 1890 and church services are still held three or four times a year.
There are groups of shops, now disused, on the main street some of which have remained untouched since they were built in the 1880s. Of particular interest are those now used as the Terowie Tea Rooms
Built in 1874 this is Terowie's first building. It still stands as a reminder of what the town must have looked like when it only had one building.
Dare's Hill Circuit Tour
There is an interesting and informative sheet titled the Dare's Hill Circuit Tour which takes visitors from Terowie to Hallett via Dare's Hill. It is 91.5 km long and passes Waupunyah Plain, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Homestead, Ketchowla Homestead, the Piltimitiappa Ruins, Goyders Line (that famous limit of agriculture) is crossed twice and then there is Hallett and Whyte-Yarcowie. There's no petrol on the route and it is entirely on dirt roads. A true, edge of the desert, experience. The brochure tells you everything you could ever want to know about the area.
Ketchowla Historic Reserve
Located 30 km from Terowie Ketchowla has fine examples of Aboriginal painting and carving. It is located in a number of dry channels and there are a number of examples of red ochre animal tracks as well as geometric engravings.