William OLIVER 1812 - 1888 - from the Scottish Borders to South Australia :: FamilyTreeCircles.com Genealogy
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William OLIVER 1812 - 1888 - from the Scottish Borders to South Australia

Journal by chaye

From the Scottish Borders to South Australia

William OLIVER 1812 1888 and Elizabeth TURNBULL 1813 1887

by Chaye OLIVER, gg granddaughter of William & Elizabeth

William OLIVER (1812 - 1888) and Elizabeth TURNBULL (1812/13 - 1887) were married on 14 June 1833. The Parish Record shows that
their marriage was registered in Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, Scotland
they were both living at Samieston, east of Jedburgh, at time of their marriage
William's occupation was listed as Ploughman.

Their first 2 children were born in Scotland - John in 1834 and Agnes in 1836. The Parish records shows:
the births were registered in Cavers
the parents were living in Denholm at the time of their births
William's occupation was that of Labourer.

They applied for free passage from Scotland to South Australia on 15th July 1839. The application number was 5458 and was made to a Mr George RUE or RAE. A Mr LITTLE selected William and his family. William was listed as an Agricultural Labourer, residing at Southdean, Roxburghshire, at the time of this application.

William and Elizabeth arrived in Pt Adelaide, South Australia on December 20th 1839, on the 360 ton sailing ship the Delhi, which left Liverpool, England on August 18th 1839. They arrived with their two eldest children and other relatives. What a journey that must have been with 2 young children! I have so much admiration for my gg grandparents undertaking such a major life change. Imagine arriving in South Australia in the middle of a hot Australian summer after leaving winter in Scotland in their neck to ankle long dresses!

The other relatives on board the ship are very likely to be -

Archibald LITTLE b 29 Jan 1812 in Cavers, Roxburghshire, Scotland. Died 12 Aug 1903 Mt Barker, SA, Australia. Applied for free passage to South Australia on 15 July 1839 with his wife and 1 daughter aged 15 months.
William LITTLE b 7 June 1814 in Denholm, Roxburghshire, Scotland. Died 3 May 1850 & buried at sea St Vincent Gulf, SA, Australia.

Archibald and William LITTLEs parents were John Archibald LITTLE b 20 Dec 1774, Denholm, Roxburghshire, Scotland and Janet Crozier b 1773, Scotland. The reason they are the likely relatives is that there is mention in a family letter, that Janet Croziers sister was William OLIVERs mother, but we havent solved that puzzle yet.

On arrival in South Australia, William worked for a Mr McLean of Dry Creek for some time and their third child, Robert, was born there in 1841. In the South Australian 1841 census their address is recorded as being - Outstations and Squatters. Their next place of work was at Hackham, at Craigbank, the property of Mr James Craig where their fourth child Jane was born in 1843.

The family arrived at McLaren Vale about 1844, and began to buy land from The South Australian Company on which William established White Hill Farm and Taranga Farm. As is evident from the land titles office records, William purchased land regularly from 1844 when he was 32 years of age until 1873 when he was 61. There is a story, which recounts how William got around the fact that settlers were only allocated 80 acres. He apparently built dwellings and placed a worker and his family on every 80-acre section.

William and Elizabeth's first house was a bark slab type hut built near where the dam is now situated at White Hill Farm, Seaview Rd, McLaren Vale, South Australia. He called this farm White Hill, and there are several differing views as to why he did. One story states that the surrounding hills were treeless and covered with pale summer grasses, and yet another states that the hills were covered with white wildflowers. Another possibility is that it is named after a place in Scotland called White Hill, which is described as a summit of 301m to the East of Slitrig Water and 3 kms South East of Hawick and which is quite near to where William and Elizabeth once lived in Scotland.

Follow this link to see more information about White Hill in Scotland:

link text

William eventually built a more substantial cottage (which no longer stands as of 1992), and by the early 1850's had built the large stone house which still stands today and is presently occupied (as at 2010) by William's great great grandson, Warren William OLIVER (b 1949) who inherited the land from his father Leo Keith OLIVER b 1915, great grandson of William. The house was excavated underneath, and this consisted of cellars and domestic areas the same size as the building above. This house, is now (as of 2006) a Bed and Breakfast business and the old Chaff Shed is now a Wedding and Function Centre.

William may have referred to the southern most sections of his land as Taranga. This word was a corruption of the aboriginal word Tarangk, meaning the middle, which was used by the Encounter Bay people, The Kaurna. Alternately, the land may have been given this name by Archibald, William's son, on the death of William.

On his arrival at McLaren Vale, William immediately set about growing vineyards, raising cattle and sheep and planting orchards. There are still some very old fig, mulberry and almond trees growing near the dam on White Hill Farm that William planted.

The only water on the land in the early days was located in a natural spring, which connected to the Daringa waterhole, and was found in the still reedy, swampy area on the southern boundary of the property. It was called The Swamp and is still referred to as this today. All that is left of the worker's cottage and the flourishing vegetable gardens is a clump of ageing almond trees and wild garlic plants. The stock was watered here and all the water used on the farm and in the houses was drawn here. It appears William may have watered stock on the other side of his land by driving them down to the Onkaparinga River, which was his northern boundary. This would have been quite an ordeal as the country was steep and often treacherous.

A dam was eventually dug in front of the house at White Hill Farm and an under ground tank was built (which no longer exists since 1992 when the farm house was renovated) and a well was sunk near the barn. Local folklore has it that William, after a day's work in the paddocks would come home, eat and then descend this well and continue digging. Elizabeth would winch him up and down the shaft, holding a lantern so he could see his work, and empty the loaded buckets of dirt.

Following is a newspaper article about White Hill Farm as it was in 1863.

The South Australian Register, Thursday, January 8, 1863
page 3, Column (d) available on film in the South Australian State Library

(From our Special Correspondent)


Mr OLIVER farms seven sections (560 acres) of land. On this he grows 200 acres of wheat yearly. He has farmed his present occupation for 16 years, growing wheat year after year in succession until he found the crops getting shorter and smaller and the land getting very dirty.

Since this has happened he has made it a practice to de-pasture the foul land for two years successively - the second year with sheep - so as to allow no seeds to ripen. For the wheat crop both fallowing and ploughing and sowing immediately have been tried: but Mr OLIVER thinks the best plan is to fallow in August and September, to scarify several times during the summer whenever any weeds make their appearance, and sow at the usual time in the beginning of May. The rust has done very LITTLE damage on the farm this season. In Craigs wheat there is scarcely any perceptible.

Sheep have been kept constantly for the last four years even previously a few wethers for the use of the house were kept. The flock consists of 200 breeding ewes, and the plan pursued is to fatten early lambs for the Adelaide market. Two years since 13s 6p each was made of 150 lambs at three months old. Both half bred Cotswold and half bred Shropshire Down rams have been used. The lambs by the Cotswold were preferred by the butchers: but in Mr OLIVERs opinion the Shropshire lambs were equally good: and in order fully to satisfy himself, he has used both kinds of rams with his ewes again this season and I have no doubt will communicate the result.

This is a very interesting point with many farmers both those who have been keeping sheep and those who are thinking of doing so. Whatever may be the result as regards fat lambs, there is very LITTLE doubt that for store sheep the Cotswolds will give heavier fleeces, and I believe the wool will be equally valuable per lb.

The sheep are generally folded over the land at night, the hurdles being made of wattles, at a cost of about 1s 6p each. The boy who minds the sheep is expected to shift the hurdles. Three thousand sheep per acre are folded: but about half that number would be preferable, as it is unsafe to use too much manure: in a dry season it is liable to do more harm than good. In England it is considered that the folding of 1000 sheep per acre is sufficient to ensue a good crop of wheat; but the English sheep being much larger than ours, I should say that from 1,500 to 2,000 would be a relative proportion.

On Mr OLIVERs farm the folding last year gave fully one third more wheat; but the tops of the ears were cut by hot winds, or the increase would have been double. This bears out my theory, that he puts too much manure at all events, for the first crop; although for a second one the strength of the manure being partially exhausted, it would no doubt be all right.

An orchard and vineyard of one acre were planted a number of year since. The vines are very flourishing and productive. Whilst there, my attention was drawn to the way in which ants had been destroying the cherries. An attempt had been made to stop them by tying a rag dipped in linseed oil round the stem of the trees. This had proved effectual as long as the oil kept moist; but as it gradually dried, the ants were just beginning to pester the cherries again, until stopped by a second application of the oil.

An additional four acres of vines were planted three years since; the land trenched with the plough; the vines planted eight feet each way, with a roadway left for horses to turn on whilst cultivating between the rows. The grubs here, as elsewhere, have been very destructive; but the vacancies have been filled up each year, and the failures are now few compared to what they were at first.

Mr OLIVER has one section of land used for grazing on the Onkaparinga, on which there is permanent surface water, where the sheep are generally watered; but for the use of his horses and cattle kept at home, he has excavated a pond in a low place near the house, into which the surface water from two small hollows in one of the cultivated sections flows.

The earth thrown out for a depth of three feet has been made into an embankment at the lower side, the water, when the pond is full, being sent round both ends of the embankment, and not allowed to fall over it; this keeps the embankment from being driven away. The water remained in this pond last year very nearly to the close of the dry season; but it is intended to deepen the cutting sufficiently to secure enough to last through the summer. A waste pipe from the tank at the house also carries any surplus water into the pond.

The house and farm offices are very complete; the house being large and commodious even with only one storey; but the whole space that it covers has been excavated so that there is as much room below as above, used partly for domestic purposes and partly as a cellar; the roof is of slate, with a verandah on three sides covered with corrugated iron.

The water is collected by pipes (210 feet in length) into a tank, the dimensions of which are 17x12x12 feet. This large tank gets quite filled with a moderate rainfall, and occasionally some of the water overflows and is conducted into the pond as before mentioned. The supply is quite equal to the requirements of the house for domestic uses, in addition to which it is occasionally used both for pigs and horses.

The barn was rather too slightly built, and the walls have been supported by buttresses. It is on a hillside, and is so arranged that the drays whilst being loaded are level with the floor of the barn; and one man, by means of a hand truck, can load without assistance.

The stable contains 10 stalls; all separated from each other by boards, which are let into a grooved post at one end, and supported by two sawn pieces, one on each side, and bolted together at the other. There is also a large loose box for an entire or a hospital for a sick horse.

For the roof no nails have been used, but the woodwork is all bolted together, the covering being galvanised iron. A thrashing machine lying in a shed appears to be very LITTLE used; but the horse-work is applied to drive a chaffcutter.

In addition to his farm Mr OLIVER has a run in the Port Lincoln District, where one or two of his sons generally reside.


The farm in the Pt Lincoln District, possibly near Yardea, was sold sometime in the 1860s due to mismanagement and the sons returned to White Hill Farm. The story goes that William visited his sons found they were absent, and also noticed that the stock were dying. He eventually found them at the Pt Augusta races and promptly sold the property from under them.

William was involved in many community projects, including the building of the second Congregational Church in 1861, where he carted stone for the walls. He was also a noted exhibitor in the Willunga Shows and in 1857 showed grapes, a stallion draft horse and wine. He was accredited as being one of the first small winemakers in the Noarlunga and Seaview districts to make enough wine to sell. He was an innovative farmer and tried new breeding methods with his sheep and vines.

William and Elizabeth lived long and prosperous lives and many stories have been handed down though the generations about this pioneering couple and the hard and exacting life they led.

William chose not to involve himself in the politics of the day, preferring instead to accumulate land and assets, which could be passed on to his children. By the time of his death, he owned nearly 2000 acres, some of this land being bought cheaply when the gold rush started. He also rented land to other farmers and one story tells of one such family who were found rustling cattle. They buried the skins in the creek, which runs across several sections of the land. When the creek flooded, the skins were washed away and were found to have William OLIVER's brand on them!

William was apparently a bit of a tyrant and demanded respect at all times especially from the workers who had to doff their hats to him.

William and Elizabeth had 10 children, the last 6 being born at White Hill Farm. Three of the children never reached adult hood - Ebenezer died at three weeks of age and Jane and Thomas died from a childhood epidemic, probably diphtheria or meningitis.

Elizabeth died in 1887 at the age of 74 and William died in 1888 at the age of 76. They are both buried in a marble crypt in the family cemetery at White Hill Farm. Jane and Thomas probably lie to the left of the crypt and Ebenezer to the right. The cemetery stands on one of William's original sections of land (section 95) and the graves are surrounded by a high stone wall amidst century old gum trees.

For more detailed information about our OLIVER family have a look at our family tree on Ancestry.com.au follow this link


We have a rich history of William and Elizabeths family life in Australia but know very LITTLE about their ancestors in Scotland.

I am presently involved in an OLIVER DNA project, using my brothers DNA, to see if this technology can help find my ggg grandfather and beyond. Currently my brother has very close DNA connections to OLIVERs in Scotland, Ireland. America and Canada.

If you are a MALE OLIVER please consider joining the OLIVER DNA Project. The more of us in it the more likely we are to find our ancestors and our connections.

The following link will take you to the OLIVER DNA Project Web site -


and my brothers DNA is part of the light green group.

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by chaye Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2010-06-05 16:56:37

chaye , from Australia, has been a Family Tree Circles member since Jun 2010. is researching the following names: OLIVER, CROZIER, LITTLE.

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