07 August 2010

Milner's Drive up the now Birdsville Track

If you are travel along the Birdsville Track keep your eye open for Milners Pile south of Etadunna Station.

The Milners Movements 1860-1870
Milner’s Pile is as it implies, a pile of rock on a small hill on the gibber plain.  The cairn itself is a navigation marker built by Ralph Milner, a pastoralist who attempted the first droving of sheep from Adelaide 1860 to Darwin in 1871. Following the path of explorer McKinley he reached Coopers Creek during a prolonged drought and was caught there for seven years, during which time his wife Phebe (Phoebe) died of dropsy illness and his brother John was later clubbed to death by Aborigines at attack creek (NT).

His Adelaide to Darwin droving was an attempt to win £2000 offered by the South Australia Government for the first drover to cross Australia.  He started with 4 300 sheep, 150 goats, 160 horses and two wagons.  He  lost 1 500 sheep from poisoning around Devils Marbles in NT and sold 1 200 sheep to the Overland Telegraph construction party at Roper River.  Eleven years later he managed to arrive at Darwin with 2000 head through lambing.  Due to a change of Government he did not receive his £2 000 award.

While at Coopers Creek, The Milner’s established Bucaltaninna station some 30km East of Milners Pile.  (If you can gain access at Etadunna Station, part of the old station still exist.)

Due to the drought and lack of feed for stock, Milner moved his stock to Kopperamanna after the Moravian Mission was abandoned.   Then shortly after Milner moved his stock to the site of Killalpannina near the mission.  Phebe Milner died soon after arriving at Killalpannina on the 26th May 1868. (Grave can be found at the site away from the other graves).

In 1870 Milners set out again with his stock following the Overland Telegraph Line tracks to Alice Spring.  Milner provide meat to the workers from this point.  Later that year he arrived in Darwin.

It is not clear if Phebe’s death was due to drowning in a flash flood along the Coopers Creek or dropsy illness.  Aged 55 on the 26th May 1868.

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