European History

The first European person to view Martins Well were explorers, Edward C Frome and his party, in 1842, searching for new land to open up for grazing and settlement. In 1854 the station was taken up as part of the Wilpena Run, and in 1889 subdivided into a smaller parcel in its own rite.

Currently Martins Well covers over 1000km2 and is primarily used to graze sheep. Ownership passed regularly over the years, owing to the harsh terrain, the feast and famine cycles of droughts and floods, and the boom and bust cycles of the commodities of wool and sheep meat. Martins Well has a very harsh environment, rainfall is unreliable, and temperatures fluctuate to extremes at times ( -5 to 50+ degrees!). Anything (or anyone!) that wants to live here year round must be of exceptional hardiness and resilience. Native plants, animals and humans have all adapted to match this environment. Luckily these days we have air conditioning and ice makers!

Martins Well also took in numerous trade routes, both Aboriginal and European, with the latter bringing wool down from as far north as southern Queensland and western New South Wales, following the natural springs on the eastern side of the Flinders Ranges to reach firstly Port Augusta, then the railhead at Hawker when that was built. One of the major stops was at a place called ‘Tooths Nob’, where an Outstation of multiple stone dwellings was built (now ruins), a well dug near a natural spring and road built through the creek to accommodate the travelling bullock (and probably camel) teams, as well as Cobb and Co services passing through.

Europeans also tried and (ultimately) failed in their attempts at mining. Very small amounts of minerals were mined at Martins Well, including gold, copper, phosphate and barytes to name a few. Evidence of these activities can still be seen, in the way of mine shafts and abandoned mining paraphernalia.