South Australia - Colonial period: 1856 to 1900.
Telegraph offices in the Border Town - Mount Gambier region to Victoria.


Beachport Border Town Guichen Bay Kingston Lucindale Millicent
Mount Gambier Naracoorte Penola      



On 5 March 1879, the South Australian Register reported that "the want of the opening of the telegraph line is very much felt. The line is finished but there is no sign of the arrival of an operator yet".

The Telegraph Office was opened on 23 May 1879.

Border Town.

In May 1877, it had been reported that "The Border Town folks are again moving in the matter of their long delayed railway and telegraph. At a meeting held the other day, resolutions were carried in favor of pressing the claims of the district on the Government".

In the finalisation of the Estimates in the House on 1 November 1878, £200 was passed for the Border Town Post and Telegraph Office.

The telegraph connection to Border Town was completed on 18 November 1879. The first telegram was sent on that day from Thomas Addison, Chairman Tatiara District Council to Mr. Henning MP and Mr. A. Hardy, M.P.:

"At last we are able to offer you our congratulations on the establishment of telegraphic communication. We feel that much is owing to your exertions that, after so many difficulties as to route and other matters, the boon is an accomplished fact and we also feel that it will be the means of bringing us into closer communication with yourself for the future and advance the general prosperity of the place. Wishing you long life and happiness".

It had been announced in the South Austraian Advertiser (2 May) that the building of the Post and Telegraph Offices had been completed in May 1879.

Records show that both Border Town and Bordertown were used as the name for this place. From 5 April 1979, the official name was Bordertown.

In August 1909, the floods were so bad that the Postmaster was imprisoned in the Post and Telegraph office and telegraphed the Adelaide office to say that he could not get out to read the rain gauge because of the water.

In a non-telegraphic observation, Australia's former Prime Minister Bob Hawke was born in Border Town in 1929.

Bordertown Post and Telegraph Office about 1914.

Bordertown 1905Bordertown squared circle used on postcard but was also used on telegrams.


Bordertown 22 July 1948.

Diameter: 28 mm.

Used on AW-DO-10 (46).

Guichen Bay (Robe).

The Telegraph Office opened on 21 July 1858 as Guichen Bay. The name changed to Robe in 1866.

The Post Office had opened in December 1846 but changed its name to Robe in June 1847.

Guichen Bay was the oldest port of that part of the South Australian coast and it had been the main outlet for the wool from the Tatiara and Mosquito Plains (Narracoorte) regions to the east. By the 1870s, the trade moved to Port MacDonnell in the east and Lacepede Bay (Kingston) in the west (which also became the terminus of the railway from Narracoorte).

Robe 1905
Robe Post & Telegraph Office about 1950.

The people of Guichen Bay were very pleased to have the inter-colonal telegraph line passing through their town. In an article on Guichen Bay, the South Australian Advertiser of 22 February 1859 described the town as "containing a Court House and Police Station, a Post Office, a Station of the Intercolonial Telegraph, a Roman Catholic Chapel, attended periodically by the Rev. Mr. Woods of Penola, an Independent Chapel, also attended from Penola and the residents are now about to commence the erection of a Church of England".

In July 1860, the Post-Office was transferred from the Court House to the Telegraph Station and was under the management of the Stationmaster. The Post Office had previously been held by the Clerk of the Local Court and so the change was regarded as being "one of manifest advantage to the public".

"The new Telegraph and Post Office are finished and the work does great credit to the contractors Messrs. Savage & Pearce. The new office will be a very great improvement on the old pigeon-hole wherein a person could scarcely turn". (South Australian Weekly Chronicle 25 October 1860).
Another report added "The office in which the business is now conducted is so small that a man can scarcely turn in it; some of the fair sex will not enter it for fear they would never be able to get out again".

In October 1861, £200 was allocated in the Estimates for additions to the Telegraph Office at Guichen Bay. The extensions to the Telegraph and Post Office - being a very large room - were completed in October 1862.

In 1862, the following report was filed:

Robe, August 8.

The grand rifle match by telegraph took place today, Robe versus Portland, seven men on each side. The distances were 200, 400, 500 and 600 yards - seven shots at each distance. Total points: Portland 178; Robe 191.

On 20 August 1866, the Telegraph and Post Master - Mr. Edward Squire - was transferred to Wentworth after 7 years at Robe.

The Chief Line Inspector for the Telegraph Department became involved in an extraordinary demonstration of a snake bite antidote while visiting Guichen Bay in 1861 (Adelaide Observer 16 March 1861).

Kingston (Lacepede Bay).

The Telegraph Office opened as Kingston on 2 October 1867.

On 16 April 1864, the Adelaide Observer reported that

"Some dissatisfaction is felt at the non-acknowledgment of a memorial to the Governor praying for the establishment of a telegraphic station which was forwarded from the Bay to head-quarters some time ago". Finally, in the 1866 Estimates, £2,000 was allocated for a Telegraph Station and Post Office. The new building was soon regarded as being a "superior Post & Telegraph Office".

On 1 October 1868, the Post Office was relocated to the Telegraph Office.

In addition to the features noted above (see Guichen Bay), Kingston also attracted the interests of Victorians as Horsham was only 60 miles to the east and the area around Kingston was freer of mallee scrub and more resembled the Wimmera lands.

No special date stamp was issued to the Office for use with telegraphic matters. Instead the usual postal date stam was used for telegrams.

Framed datestamp.

Diameter: 23 mm.

Rated: C but uncommon on a telegram.

4 February 1884.
Used on SC-DO-6Ac

22 July 1891.
Used on SC-DO-7A


A Telegraph Office was opened on 13 April 1878 and the usual congratulatory messages sent. It was, at that stage, considered by some as being an intermediate station on a Kingston to Narracoorte telegraph line to Victoria.

Lucindale was called Baker's Range until June 1877.


The Telegraph Office opened on 7 June 1876.

Millicent usual postal date stamp.
2 August 1948.

Used on AW-DO-10F (45) .

Mount Gambier.

The Telegraph Office opened in 1858.

The Post Office had opened on 22 September 1846. The early mails were carried and delivered by the police.


Mt Gambier 1860Mount Gambier Telegraph Office in 1860.
Source: Museum Victoria B27047.

The South Australian Register of 29 July 1857 made a surprising announvement:

"It is with the greatest surprise we are told that we are to be left wholly unprovided with a telegraph station at this township and our disappointment is the greater as we were always given to understand that, in consequence of Mr Todd's recommendation and favourable report, were to have been supplied with one. If this is really to be the case, I consider the scheme to be a great oversight and planned with no other intention than to insult the district and to throw the consideration of our interests to the mercy of the winds".

An amalgamation of the Post and Telegraph Offices at Mount Gambier was announced in late 1860. A number of residents disapproved as shown in the following Letter to the Editor of the South Australian Register of 21 November 1860:

"I see by your correspondent at Mount Gambier that the Post Office is to be removed to the Telegraph Office. This arrangement will lead to many inconveniences.

At present. when tne English mail is going through the line, it is very difficult to send a message any where; but when the local mail is added, what will become of the local telegrams? And supposing the English mail is passing when the local mail arrives, how long shall we have to wait for our letters?

Undoubtedly the amalgamation of the Telegraph and Post Office is of great public convenience in such places as Penola or Guichen Bay; but at Mount Gambier, where all the intercolonial business has to be repeated by the clerks as well as the English mail, a union of the line departments can only harass the officers and lead to delay in both, besides materially inconveniencing the public.
I am, Sir,
November 16, 1860".

Mt Gambier 1870Mount Gambier Telegraph Station in 1870. Mt Gambier 1880Mount Gambier in 1880.
Source: Museum Victoria B21766-41.


(Right): The garden reserve in front of the Mount Gambier Post and Telegraph Office.

The stairs leading down can be seen in the centre.

It is uncertain - but suspected - that it was in this garden that the sparrows were released by Mr Stapleton on 13 May 1868.


The Adelaide Observer of 23 May 1863 reported on local agitation concerning the Telegraph Office and the Post Office:

These "were considered to be very much too small for the accommodation of the operators and their families and in several other respects highly inconvenient ... the Commissioner of Crown Lands inspected the plans of the building and was of opinion that there was no cause for complaint and consequently declined to interfere. The Border Watch comments indignantly upon this letter as well as upon the general neglect of the interests of the district, with which it considers that the Government is chargeable, and concludes by saying " If our reasonable requests are to be treated in a similar style to the Telegraph petition; if we are to be coolly told that we don't know what we want, it is high time that our connection with Adelaide had ceased. The Separation feeling is still strong in the South-Eastern District. Our sympathies are almost entirely Victorian and a proposal to agitate for a union with Victoria would be one of the most popular that could be brought before the public".

In the Estimates for the half-year to December 1865, £400 was allocated for outbuildings and fencing. It was notified that, as from 3 August 1867, the Post Office business would be conducted in the old telegraph building. (Border Watch). However, on 4 August 1877, the Minister of Agriculture stated in the House that "nothing would be gained by amalgamating the Post and Telegraph offices at Mount Gambier".

In the new Australian Parliament, on 30 October 1902, the question was asked that, when the new telegraph rates came into force, would the name "Mount Gambier" be counted as one word or two. The Chief Secretary did not know the answer but said the problem would be overcome by simply calling it "Gambier".

A more detailed history of the Mount Gambier Telegraph Office is contained elsewhere.

400 was allocated to the Mt. Gambier Telegraph Station for the call signal.

A steel date stamp was issued to the Mount Gambier Telegraph Office for use with telegraphic matters (SC1-TO). The inscription at the top is:
T.O. MOUNT GAMBIER. See also SA datestamps.

Used: 19 January 1970 (only recorded date).

Diameter: 30 mm (1.5 mm and 2 mm side arcs).

Rated: RRRR.

Number in the Census: 1.

Although Mount Gambier was allocated a post code in September 1967, the code of 5291 does not appear on this date stamp. Possibly the date stamp was made earlier but there is no record of earlier use.

19 January 1970.
Used on Confirmatory Delivery
envelope AA-EC-3Ae (68).
The only slogan postmark used at Mount Gambier was that for SEND A TELEGRAM.
Used 14 January 1939.

Die 3A: A over EG.
Diameter: 22 mm


The Telegraph Office opened in July 1863 as Kincraig. Until 1861, it had been known as Mosquito Plains. The town was spelt as either Narracoorte or Naracoorte.

"A deputation met with the Mnister of Education to discuss that great inconvenience and obstruction to business had been caused by the great distance the post and telegraph office were situated from the business tenure of the township. The banks, institute, Government school and the principal places of business were three-quarters of a mile from the Post and Telegraph offices and, as nearly all the business transacted by the offices named was through these establishments, the memorialists prayed that the Minister would take the necessary steps to establish a branch post and telegraph office in a central position ... Narracoorte was he telegraph station was situated and Kincraig was where the places of business were erected ... the Minister said it seemed to him an utterly stupid thing to place the Post and Telegraph offices in their present position and if he had been in office at the time, it should not have ocurred. (Hear, hear) Personally he had experienced the inconvenience of the arrangement. If a branch office were erected at Kincraig, the office at Naracoorte could not be closed and another officer would have to be employed, so that the whole matter resolved itself into a question of expenses. He felt that the deputation had made out a strong case, and that something ought to be done".
(The Express
23 April 1880).

The Border Watch of 22 November 1882 noted

"on this year's Parliamentary estimates was a line of £750 for building a new post and telegraph office in Narracoorte ... the money passed will not do Narracoorte much good if it remains in the Treasury... Mr. Wicken and his assistants do their work in the present office very well as far as the public is concerned, but not with much ease or comfort to themselves as the one room of the post-office is very small and the telegraph room is nearly as cramped. As rent has to be paid for the present office, the Government would save money by building a new office as well as adding to the convenience of the postal officials and the public".

The editor added - I need only say "That's so."

SL Narracoorte
A SL name stamp used on the same telegram delivery form SC-DO-7A
as the unframed post mark. Shows the two spellings of the name.

Used on a telegram: 8 March 1893.

Diameter: 22 mm.

Rated (on telegram): RRRR.

Number on the Census: 1.


Narracoorte unframed date stamp.
8 March 1893.



A squared circle date stamp was also used on telegrams received at Naracoorte.

Used on a telegram: 31 July 1905.

Size: 22 × 22 mm.

Rated (on telegram): RRRR.

Number on the Census: 1.


31 July 1905.
Used on SI-DO-2A.

As shown by following this hyperlink, the place name still has the RR in the spelling.


The Telegraph Office opened on 13 August 1860. In December 1859, a tender for £497 had been accepted from Mr. Pannell for the construction of the Telegraph Station - to be completed by 6 April 1860. Mr. Terrance A. Woods was appointed Station Master as from 1 August.

On September 1873, £450 was placed on the Estimates for additions to the Telegraph Office and the Post Office in Penola. On 10 October, 1875, the House of Assembly was requested to allocate £500 for the construction of a new Post & Telegraph office at Penola.

The 1876 Penola Post & Telegraph Office about 1900 showing the mail stage coach outside.

Pen 1905
The Penola Post & Telegraph Office (at right) about 1905 along the Main Street.

The Hotel is on the other side (at center) with Robe Street running between them away from Main Street.

Mt. Gambier Border Watch: 12 June 1876 :

"The new Post and Telegraph Office (at Penola) has been commenced. The foundations are in. In the internal arrangements a great mistake has been made. The corner of the street, and the most frequented, is apportioned to the Telegraph Department, and round the back slums to the Post-Office. Now it should be just vice versa. The postal department should be at the corner and the department round at the back. As it is, all the small children, and a great many grown up ones too, will be going into the telegraph lobby asking for letters, to the great inconvenience of person's sending messages".


The Telegraph Office opened on 21 July 1858 as Guichen Bay and changed its name to Robe in 1866.

Mr. J. A. G. Little, who had been the Telegraph Master at Robe, was selected in June 1871 for the important position of Telegraph Master at Port Darwin.