History Week this year will be celebrated by the Gumeracha and District History Centre, Inc. by an â€˜Open Dayâ€™ to be held on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008, from 10am to 7pm. Anyone interested in accessing the Centre’s resources for family or general local history will be welcome to attend.
During the open day Volunteers will be in attendance to assist with enquiries. The Centre is located in Albert Street (Main Street), Gumeracha next to the library. A basic resource for family history research is found in cemetery records and the Centre holds burial records and cemetery maps and photographs of existing memorials for the area.
It also holds births, deaths and marriage records for the whole State on searchable compact disc. The photo left is of William Richard Randell’s grave in Salem Church Cemetery, Gumeracha. “WR” arrived in South Australia with his parents at the age of 13, and died on 4 March 1911, at the age of 86 years.
William is Gumeracha’s most historical figure, being the pioneer of steam navigation on the River Murray. The frames for his pioneering paddle steamer, the Mary Ann, were made at Gumeracha and the boat assembled near Mannum.
Randell had never seen a steam boat before he built the Mary Ann, and it remains, perhaps the only one ever to have a box-shaped boiler, because the only material available in South Australia at that time was rectangular iron plate and there was no means of bending it into the more conventional tubular shape.
This boiler is preserved at the Mannum museum. “WR’s” motivation to navigate the Murray was to sell flour from his Gumeracha mill on the Victorian goldfields where good prices were to be had and transport via the River was cheaper than by sea and via Melbourne.
The Mary Ann’s first voyage took place on 19 February, 1853, whilst his rival pioneer navigator, Francis Cadell, first brought his steamer, The Lady Augusta, onto the River on 16 August, 1853, virtually six months later.”