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Echunga, SA

Historic village and site of South Australia's first gold discoveries

Echunga is a sleepy little village only 8 km from Hahndorf. Perhaps the only building of significance in the town is the pub, the Hagen Arms, named after the first European settler in the district, Jacob Hagen. The Jupiter Creek gold diggings nearby were the first gold discovered in South Australia. Today there is an interesting walking track around the diggings. It includes a section of the famous Heysen Trail.

Location

Echunga is located 35 km south-east of Adelaide via Hahndorf.

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Origin of Name

Echunga probably comes from a Kaurna word 'eechungga' which could mean either "a short distance" or "close by".

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Things to See and Do

Hagen Arms
The Hagen Arms, which was first built on this site in 1848. It was named after English Quaker, Jacob Hagen who built the hotel. It is now one of the few buildings remaining in Echunga. The hotel is very proud to declare on a coat of arms out the front that it was "By Appointment to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh - 1867". Jacob Hagen, who arrived in South Australia in 1839, was a successful landowner and politician, and acquired the land around Echunga in 1843 when his partner, another Quaker named John Hack, went bankrupt. The name of the hotel became Hagen Arms in 1855.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Jupiter Gold Diggings
Located 5 km west of Echunga on Rubbish Dump Road are the old Jupiter gold diggings. Gold was discovered here in 1852. The diggings themselves are a brisk walk from the car park. There is an excellent, and very comprehensive, guide to the whole area (complete with very good maps) titled Gold at Jupiter Creek: A guide to the historic gold diggings, which can be downloaded at http://www.samininghistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/jupiter-ck-broch-red.pdf. The walk through the Jupiter Creek Historical Trail includes an outcrop of conglomerate, the remains of the Crystal Mine, a whip shaft which is 50 metres deep, some shallow underground workings, a horse puddler, the South Crystal Mine, Hewlett's Hut (a reminder of the kind of accommodation the miners lived in), the Beatrice Mine and Engine Shaft, the New Phoenix Adit and the Middle Sluice Dam. The walk includes part of the Heysen Trail.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to people from the Kaurna Aboriginal language group.

* The Wheatsheaf Hotel was opened in 1842.

* The first South Australian wine to be exported was an Echunga hock which was served to Queen Victoria in 1845. It was grown by Jacob Hagen on John Hack's vineyard.

* In 1847 Jacob Hagen, a wealthy English Quaker, was granted land in the district.

* John Hagen opened the Hagen Arms in 1848.

* By 1849 Hagen, having decided that Echunga would be an ideal location for a Quaker settlement, had sold land and tried to create a model village with wheat fields, dairy herds and a vineyard.

* A post office was opened in 1850. 

* St Mary's Anglican Church was consecrated in 1851.

* The discovery of gold at Chapmans Gully in 1852 was the first in South Australia. It led to a goldrush in the area.

* In 1853 the Echunga District Council was established. That year saw gold discovered at Bells Hill.

* For a brief time the town prospered and it has been estimated that at its peak it had grown to a population in excess of 1200.

* The Wesleyan Chapel was opened in 1857. That year saw the building of the Bridge Hotel.

* Diamonds and gold were discovered at Poor Man's Hill in 1859.

* The Echunga Goldfields School was opened in 1863.

* In 1868 a second goldfield was discovered by Thomas Plane and Henry Saunders at Jupiter Creek. By September it had attracted over 1,000 miners.

* A Catholic school was opened in the late 1860s.

* By 1871 most of the gold mining companies in the area had gone into liquidation.

* In 1880 the Echunga Institute was opened.

* A New Methodist Church was opened in 1884.

* The Jupiter Creek School opened in 1915.

* The Bridge Hotel closed in 1920.

* The Echunga Goldfields School closed in 1929.

* In the 1930s gold miners returned to Jupiter Creek during the Great Depression.

* Today Echunga is a sleepy town with a lot of disused buildings in the main street.

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Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information. The closest is the Adelaide Hills Visitor Information Centre, 68 Main Street, Hahndorf, tel: (08) 8393 7600.

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Useful Websites

There is no website for Echunga. Check out https://www.flickr.com/photos/82134796@N03/40433158025 for a good overview of the village's history.

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