Overland Telegraph Line EmployeesPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Stephen Warren

The monument commemorates employees of the Overland Telegraph Line were killed or injured during incidents with Aborigines at Barrow Creek in February 1874 and Roper River in June 1875.




Address:West Terrace, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, 5000
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -34.933545
Long: -34.933545
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Conflict
Approx. Event Start Date:February-1874
Approx. Event End Date:June-1875


Front Inscription

This monument is erected by the Officers and men of the Overland Telegraph Line

In memory of their comrades who were treacherously murdered by the Blacks whilst in the discharge of their duty :


Left Side Inscription

Charles Henry Johnston,
Station Master,
Daly Waters,
Speared at the Roper River,
29. June, 1875,
Died 30. June, 1875, Aged 28.

Abram Dauer,
Speared at the Roper River, 
29. June, 1875,
Died 7. Augt, 1875, Aged 40.

Back Inscription

In memory of Ernest E. S. Flint J. P.

Senior and Inspecting Officer of the Southern Section of the Overland Telegraph Line.

One of the survivors of the attack by natives of the Barrow Creek Station, 24 Feb. 1874. In which he was wounded.

He died after a short illness at Alice Springs, 

17 July 1887. Aged 33 Years.

His memory will remain green in the hearts of those whom he has been long associated.


Right Side Inscription

James Lorenzo Stapleton,
Station Master,
Barrow`s Creek,
Speared February, 22. 1874,
Died 23. February. 1874,
Aged 40.

John Frank,
Speared at Barrow`s Creek,
22. February, 1874,
Died The Same Day.

Plaque :

The Overland Telegraph
Connecting Australia with the world

The telegraph was the communications revolution of the mid 19th century.  Messages that once took months to travel over land and sea could now be transmitted by telegraph in a matter of hours.

Building the trans-continental telegraph also offered an opportunity to open up Australia`s interior : allowing further settlement, expansion of agriculture, and the exploitation of mineral resources.  There was fierce competition between the colonies to secure a route for the telegraph and reap the benefits that would flow from it.

South Australia secured its position by sponsoring John McDouall Stuart`s cross-continental expedition and annexing the Northern Territory in 1863.  The chosen route for the telegraph, mapped by explorer John Ross, closely follwed Stuart`s path - linking Adelaide to Darwin and from there via a submarine cable to the rest of the world.  The construction of the 3,200 km line to a mere 18 months.  This epic feat was one of the greatest engineering achievements of the era.  The first official message was transmitted on 22 August 1872.

Tragedies along the telegraph line
A turning point in colonist - Indigenous relations

This monument commemorates the lives of telegraph workers killed and injured during incidents at Barrow Creek in February 1874 and Roper River in June 1875.  The wording of the memorial says a lot about colonists` attitude to Indigenous people at the time.

When explorers first passed through Australia`s centre, they reported friendly interactions with Aboriginal groups, but these were only fleeting encounters.  Relations became more complex when the telegraph line indicated a more permanent European presence.  The two cultures often misunderstood each other, leading to mutual mistrust that sometimes escalated in violent attacks and reprisals.

The Barrow Creek attack was the first such incident at a telegraph station.  The ability to transmit events as they unfolded , including the dying James Stapleton tapping out a farewell message to his distraught wife, created a sensation at the time.  Written history only reports the European perspective of these skirmishes, so we cannot know for sure exactly what chain of events culminated in the incidents memorialised by this monument.

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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