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14 February 1887 The Chaffey brothers

 14 February 1887   The Chaffey brothers

On 14 February 1887 an agreement was signed between brothers William and Ben Chaffey and the South Australian Government to set up an irrigation colony on the River Murray at the site which is now Renmark. The Government made 20,000 acres of land available, with the right to acquire further sections, to the Chaffeys who had been persuaded to come to Australia from California by Alfred Deakin to start an irrigation scheme at Mildura.

By September 1888 the Chaffeys reported that 700, 10 acre blocks and 60 miles of drains had been surveyed, other work completed and 15 acres of vines and 5 acres of peach trees had been planted. By early 1889 300 people had taken up blocks. But drought, salt, difficulties of transporting fresh fruit, and fresh water crayfish which undermined the channels, ruined the Chaffeys and they ceased operations in 1895.

Supervision of the scheme was placed under the Renmark Irrigation Trust and with loans from the Government, and hard work by the locals, the area survived. William Chaffey returned to California but Ben stayed and became Mayor of Renmark, President of the Australian Dried Fruits Association and Chairman of the Shire Council. He was made CMG in 1924 and died in June 1926.

Geoffrey C. Bishop, Mining, Medicine and Winemaking, Angoves, 1986, p. 67.

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