License: Creative Commons - Attribution-No Derivatives Author: denisbin
This tiny town, still bypassed with no bitumen road was once a bustling railhead town and a stop for the bullock teams on their way to Port Wakefield from the Burra copper mines. Today it has a population of around 300 people but most of those live on the farming properties just outside of the town. The first white settler to have a leasehold over the land here was Walter Watson Hughes, later Sir Walter, who was the major investor in the Moonta copper mines and is often labelled the “founder of the University of Adelaide” because of his generous donations to the fledgling university. His grand estate established in the 1860s was Hughes Park near Watervale but his first property was The Peak which he took up in 1851 near Hoyleton and Skillogalee Creek which flows down into the Wakefield River. The Peak is just north of Hoyleton where the road ends. Hughes searched for copper in the hills by Hoyleton but without success. Hoyleton appears to have been named after Mr J Hoiles who was the publican at the Port Henry Arms (later Port Wakefield) Hotel in 1850-51. He later gave his name to some hills near Skillogalee Creek called Hoyles Hills and beyond Hoyles Plains. The first farmers started arriving in the district in 1853 with names such as Cowled and Catford. Both of these families were Bible Christians. By 1861 there were about 20 people in the whole district and they were talking about building a Bible Christian chapel for Hoyles Plains. A cottage/preaching house was built on land donated by Malachi Brain in 1863. The land was transferred back to the Brain family in 1872 after Hoyleton began as a town. From 1871 Hoyleton became a preaching place for the Bible Christians as the caretaker of the railway sheds conducted services in the rail sheds. The Bible Christian preaching place at Hoyleton disappeared when the Wesleyan Methodists built there church there in 1876.
In 1866 a public meeting was held in Clare to discuss a suitable railway terminus for the Clare valley and the meeting concluded that Hoyles Plains would be suitable. Hoyles Plains was in the public notice at that time as the Hoyles Plains Bible Christian Methodist cottage had opened there in 1863 and the Ebenezer Lutheran church( it closed in 1947and was demolished in 1949) had opened there in 1866. In 1869 a road was opened through the hills to the Clare Valley from Hoyles Plains and also in that year the government selected Hoyleton as the site of the terminus for a horse tramway from Port Wakefield. The railway was needed to open up the Hoyles Plains area for farming and to give access to the Clare Valley. In 1870 the horse drawn tramway started operating to cart wheat down to the port. Trains left Port Wakefield daily at 2:30 pm reaching Hoyleton at 6 pm and left Hoyleton daily at 8 am reaching Port Wakefield at 11:30 am. The 1871 SA census showed that there were 282 people in Port Wakefield, 79 in Hoyleton and a mere 24 in Balaklava. The horse tramway was financed by the government but leased out to private individuals to run the service. Firstly it was leased in 1870 to Mr Badcock who soon relinquished the lease to Mr Ferguson. Neither was able to obtain a profit and the service was in financial difficulties. The government reclaimed the railway, strengthened the 3’6’ gauge and started a steam engine service on the line in 1876. At that same time the line was extended from Hoyleton to Blyth as that was a mere 8 kms from the town of Clare. When the tramway opened huge sandstone rail sheds and wheat store sheds were constructed at Hoyleton by S Sanders who carved his name and the date (1870) into a stone on the northern facade. Fortunately the structures are still in good condition.
The town of Hoyleton was surveyed and blocks of land put up for sale in 1869. The advertising blurb highlighted the fact that there was excellent stone for building just one mile away from the proposed town. The Hoyleton Hotel was licensed from 1871(it closed around 2012); Hoyleton state school opened in 1878 (and closed in 1971); a District Council was formed in 1879; a hall was opened in 1908; a Wesleyan Methodist Church was opened by 1878 ( it was extended in 1954 and closed in 1985.) By the early 1870s Hoyleton had a Post Office, a general store, a saddler and blacksmith. Alas it did not progress much beyond this. The most talked about resident of Hoyleton was the daughter of the local stationmaster, Evelyn Masters who got employment as a stewardess with the White Star Line. In 1912 she was rostered on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Evelyn was one of only two Australians saved from the sinking ship, despite her being a stewardess. The town of Hoyleton and her parents thought her dead. But she lived, returned to Australia, married a doctor and then lived for a while in Ruthven Mansions in Pulteney Street before spending the rest of her live in Sydney. The War Memorial Gates in Hoyleton are possibly unique as they use stobie poles! They replaced the original wooden posts which were eaten by white ants.