Australian Overland Telegraph

Insulators Used to Sharpen Spears


Publication: The Union and Recorder

Milledgeville, GA, United States
vol. XLIV, no. 46, p. 4, col. 2




The Australian overland telegraph extends for 1,900 miles across the great wastes of Australia from Adelaide on the South to Port Darwin on the North. The stations are few and far apart, and the line is consequently greatly exposed to attacks from the natives, who pull the wire down, and cut away great quantities of it for the purpose of arming the points of their spears. They also smash the porcelain insulators and use the sharp edged pieces to scrape their spear blades into shape. Each station is a small fort in itself, at which six men reside.

Barrow creek is 1,200 miles from Adelaide and 700 miles from Port Darwin, while it is in the midst of a district thickly populated with blacks. On the evening of Sunday, Feb. 22, all the men of this station were lying out of doors smoking, when they were suddenly attacked from the eastern corner of the building by a large body of natives, who speared Mr. Stapleton, the master. As the Englishmen had left their arms inside, they made a rush for the entrance, but they were driven back by a shower of spears, which wounded two of them. Finding their retreat cut off, they ran around the building in the hope of that the natives would follow them and so be drawn away from the doorway. Happily for them the natives gave chase; and thus, when the poor fellows came round again to the front of the house, they found the door unguarded. One, however, was fatally wounded as he ran. They at once seized their rifles, and soon drove the natives off. They then telegraphed to Adelaide news of what had happened, and Dr. Gosse, one of the Adelaide surgeons, did all that a surgeon can do by prescription and advice for patients who are 1,200 miles away. Poor Mr. Stapleton was beyond cure, but he and his wife, who was living at Adelaide, 1,200 miles away, were able to exchange a few parting words. Dr. Gosse had to insist that the wounded men should be kept awake all night, for fear their flesh might have been poisoned by the spears. Three days later Mr. Flint, the wounded operator, sent the following message: "At one P. M. natives attempted to surround station. Three shots fired, killing one native. Fires all around station. Expect another attack. Strict guard kept. Please hurry relief." Happily relief was near at hand, for five teamsters and their superintendent were within a few hours of Barrow's Creek. Moreover, Mr. Tucker, the station master at another creek, "who had been traveling southward along the line, yesterday attached his pocket instrument to the wire at Dixon's Creek and spoke to Mr. Todd, the superintendent at Adelaide." Mr. Tucker and the five men who were with him were ordered to proceed with all dispatch to Barrow's Creek, where they relieved the little garrison.


Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information:Article: 11900
Researcher:Glenn Drummond
Date completed:July 19, 2009 by: Glenn Drummond;