Dead Man's Pass
Location: Gawler, South Australia
Location Type: Linear Park
Location Status: Open to the public during daylight hours
Colonel William Light passed through the Ford at Dead man's pass, known then as Para Pass in 1837, the Pass was used at this time as a river crossing for Bullocks and horse teams heading through the Gawler region. It was also used as a camp-site for explorers looking to travel north into the Barossa region.
The crossing got its name after an exploration party returning from the Barossa ranges came across an exhausted traveller, whom they offered respite too. Once stopped at the crossing they checked on their new companion who had fallen asleep in the back of their dray, only to find him dead.
Having no tools with which to dig a grave, they placed his body upright in a hollow tree and covered it as best they could with sticks and branches.
Not long after, another travelling party happened across the gruesome site, and, after taking samples of the gentleman’s clothing, encased him with clay in the tree.
The name “Dead Man's Pass” was adopted in 1842 as the permanent name of the South Para River ford where the hollow tree coffin was located.
Well before the influx of Europeans, this was also home to the Aboriginal Kaurna People.
Located in the area are hidden Aboriginal caves, which contain paintings, middens and artifacts belonging to the local's tribes that used this site for water, food and shelter.
Death at Dead Man's Pass
There has been more death at the pass south of Gawler since the location got its name, here are a few of the newspaper reports we have discovered.
Also, something else was found nearby the Pass, which pre-dates humans! read on to find out what!
The South Australian Register
Friday 24 June 1927
While leaning over the swing bridge at Dead Man's Pass, Gawler, on Tuesday evening. Mr J. Bald, of Gawler South, fell over, the railing on to the bank of the
Little Para 'River. His jaw came in contact with the wires of the bridge, and he sustained a severe wound in the throat. He was taken to High-street Private Hospital, where it was found that he was also suffering from a fractured leg. His condition is serious-
The Register (newspaper)
Wednesday 9 October 1901
Patrick Condon, about 61 years of age, and employed by the Gawler Corporation, met with a fatal accident last night. He was out with a night-cart, and was found. this morning, near Dead Man's Pass, pinned under the vehicle, which had fallen over an embankment and was upside down. He died soon afterwards. He has left a widow and several children.
Saturday 13 July 1901
A mysterious case of drowning took place at Gawler today. Some clothes were discovered on the bank near Dead Man's Pass this afternoon, and the matter was reported to the police. A boy went into the water and discovered the body of Anton Johann Linke, aged 13. Deceased, who was a cripple, left home in the morning but did not return. The water was about 8 ft. deep, and the boy was unable to swim. An inquest will probably be held tomorrow.
Tuesday 16 July 1901
An inquest was held at the Gawler Courthouse on Saturday to inquire into the mysterious death from drowning of the lad Anton Johann Link, which occurred on Friday last. Mr W. H.
Emma Link, wife of John Link, and mother of deceased said she sent her son to the railway- station between half-past 9 and 10 on the previous morning to get a parcel for a neighbour, who gave him 3d. He said he would not be long but would come back and play with the children.
She used to punish him when he deserved it and never heard him make any threats. He left home by himself. He often complained of his head and teeth after operations through taking chloroform. He had been to the river once or twice, and she beat him for it. Did not know whether he could swim. Errol Reuben Broadbent, aged 12, deposed to finding the clothes on the bank of the river near the Dead Man's Pass. Told his father, and reported the matter to P.C. Schinnick. Richard Davidson, aged 14, said he saw deceased pass the waterworks, coming up from the river on the previous day. He had two boys with him, and they were going in the direction of the Black Hole.
Angas Mackay said he went to the river and P.C. Schinnick asked if someone would go in. He went in and found the body in about 4 or 5 ft. of water. It seemed as if the body had been washed down by the current. Jonathan Curnow said he knew the deceased. Remembered seeing his mother thrashing him about two months ago. On that occasion, deceased came out crying, and told his mother she would thrash him once too often. He said he would go and drown himself in the "Black Hole." Deceased told the witness that on two occasions. Mrs Anderson and her daughter heard the same expression from the boy. P.C. Schinnick gave evidence as to receiving the news of the discovery of clothes on the bank, and the means taken to recover the body. The jury returned the following verdict:-"The deceased was found drowned, and there is no evidence to show how he came in the water."
Tuesday 2 September 1952
Ernest L. B. Potter (West Croydon) tells me that as a boy of 10. about 1890. he remembers a diprotodon skull being found in an excavation for an underground tank at Gawler South, near Dead Man's Pass on the South Para and the road to One Tree Hill. His uncle. Edward Potter, a geologist, pronounced it to be a diprotodon.
Eidolon Paranormal first started coming to this site in 2007 investigating the ghosts that are seen near what is now the ambulance station, and the opposite side of the ford, where a man “dressed in olden days” clothing has been known to save children, who have lost control of their push-bike on the steep hill and tight corner, from being hit by oncoming traffic.
Before its recent upgrade, the ford crossing has seen a number of vehicular accidents with people losing control on the tight slippery bend, or people turning from, or into the intersection where the reserve is. Two friends of Allen’s were involved in a single car accident on this notorious corner, in my youth, which almost resulted in their deaths…. luckily, both survived to tell the tale….
Eidolon Paranormal had very little luck in getting results here as the traffic flow, even at night, interrupts any kind of EVP session or other experiments we tried. We then moved our investigations into the reserve itself, which brought up its own particular set of distractions and interruptions. For as long as Allen can remember the reserve has been an attractive place for people looking to “disappear” from view, to hang out, drink, take drugs and do all other kinds of reckless things they don’t want the local constabulary to witness. The reserve is notorious amongst the town’s youth as a drinking spot, and with that, investigating takes on a whole new dangerous set of circumstances, this is definitely not a place to investigate at night by yourself.
Due to the constant interruptions and distractions, we left this site for well over a year now, but on a recent trip to Gawler, Allen decided it was time to take another look.
However, again, we came upon distractions and interruptions and left our investigation for another time…we will return to the Pass soon, and try again…
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