Take yourself on a history tour when you spend a few days in Riverton, just don’t forget to bring your walking shoes to take a walk back in time in this well preserved town. From the caravan park you can walk through the Pioneer Garden which was once the general cemetery. Eighteen of the original headstones have been preserved at the rear of the garden including those of early settlers, men, women and children. As you walk through, there are paths to take into different sections of the garden and leading to a bench seat and rose garden commemorating the spirit of rural women and the Women in Agriculture and Business. This organisation (WAB) was established in Riverton in 1917 and still exists today making it the oldest women’s rural group in Australia. They began with the purpose of supporting, educating and developing leadership skills of women working in isolated rural areas on family farms and in primary industries throughout the state.
A little further along the main street you’ll find Scholz Park Museum. This collection of historic buildings were named after August Scholz who came to Riverton in 1865 and began a business as a wheelwright. By 1886 he and his three sons added to the business, becoming blacksmiths, machinists and coachbuilders for the area. The original four town allotments and buildings where the family lived and worked, have been preserved as examples of the original pioneering history of the town. We were lucky enough to find some volunteers doing a bit of blacksmithing so wandered in for a look even though the park wasn’t officially open. A return visit is definitely warranted to take the time to see all there is here.
There are a lot of historical buildings in Riverton and even some of the old signage has survived over the years. You can take a Heritage Walk around the town to find out the history of a lot of buildings and the riverton.sa website has a list of addresses and the significance of the properties. Some are on the main road, Torrens Road, including the Emporium which sold a variety of merchandise and was built around 1874, but if you walk through the backstreets of town there are plenty more examples including old row cottages and the former Riverton railway station which is now privately owned.
The original station was a wooden structure which burnt down in the 1870s so the current building was erected in 1875 and was used until the last train passed through in 1988. Over the years it has been used as a gallery, tea rooms and some of the ‘Red hen’ carriages have been used as accommodation. At the moment there is no public access but you can still see the grand old station and outbuildings as you walk along either side of the rail yards. The best views of the station and outbuildings can be found by walking on the trail from Duck Pond Park.
An interesting fact is that the Riverton railway platform was the place of what has been called the first (and only) ‘political assassination’ in Australia on March 22nd 1921. It was actually just a case of wrong place, wrong time for Mr. Percival Brookfield, a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly when he was shot by a ‘mentally deranged’ passenger as he tried to disarm him. There were a number of passengers injured during the random shooting but Brookfield was the only fatality, dying of his injuries later in hospital.
Other examples of preserved history around town can be seen, like this window that still exists in the office building of H. A, Davis & Sons from 1895. They were hay and chaff merchants. The Hotel Central is another example with original cast iron verandah and balcony and the bar windows are brilliant.
Riverton is a fascinating town to spend a few days discovering the past and a perfect base for further exploration of the Gilbert Valley region.