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National Trust of South Australia


Swaffer, Daniel (Constable)

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 1810
Place of birth Sussex
Date of arrival 1838
Principal occupation Mounted Policeman, Publican
Date of death 1869
Place of decease Port Lincoln

Daniel Swaffer joined the Province of South Australia's Police Force on 20 May 1839, following its foundation in April 1838, and came to Willunga as its first Police Constable.1 His name appears on a Mounted Police pay list in the Willunga Courthouse for the week ending July 25th 1840, when he was paid £1-5-0 for a week’s work.2 He also acted as the Willunga Postmaster in 1841.3

The passenger list of the Prince George from London, arriving on 26 December 18384 records the arrival in Adelaide of Daniel Swaffer, aged 27, with his wife, Jane Wright, aged 23, and an infant. This was probably Henry, who was named with his parents in the 1841 Census, when they were living in District C (the area from the mouth of the Onkaparinga River to the base of Sellicks Hill and west of Mt Lofty)5. Daniel died at Port Lincoln on 13th April 1869 aged 58 years and Jane on 22 January 1888 aged 72.6

Daniel’s son, Edward’s, oft re-quoted claim7 to the press that his father arrived in South Australia on the Buffalo is not substantiated by its passenger and crew lists.8 It seems that the re-writing of this article about the Buffalo on several occasions in the press over the years might have led to it being accepted as fact.9

In 1840, the police ‘force consisted of Major T. S. O'Halloran, (Commissioner), Alex. Tolmer, Esq. and David Gordon, Esq. (Inspectors), H. Alford, H. Dean, and J. Eastop (sergeants), Daniel Swaffer, T. Naughton, and W. Freestone (corporals), besides saddlers, farriers, and twenty troopers...’ 10

Daniel had been to Port Lincoln in 1840 and 1842, well before he purchased land there in 1845.11 Early in the settlement of Eyre Peninsula, police and military were sent to the area when needed, and Daniel was part of a group that was sent to protect the settlers following the murder of sheep farmer John Brown, his cook and housekeeper at Port Lincoln.12

Daniel’s son, Edward, remembered that, at some time in the early 1840s, the family moved to Port Lincoln where his father ‘had instructions from the Government of that time to come over here and take charge of the police station, which was then being built’.13 Some credence can be attached to this, as there are recollections of ‘Mrs and Mrs Swaffer’ accommodating police in Port Lincoln at that time as well as reference, in the archives, to a policeman named Rose succeeding Corporal Swaffer in 1843 at Port Lincoln.14

The family might have then moved to Mount Barker as it is believed that Matilda Jane, was born there on 8 January 1845.15 Indeed, Edward mentions that he spent some time at school in Mount Barker but does not provide a date.16

On 30 November 1845, Daniel, by then a Corporal, resigned from the Mounted Police, having spent his last 7 months in the service at Gawler.17 He gained a wine licence for 112 King Street (or King William Street), Port Lincoln, where he established the Port Lincoln Hotel.18 He must have done well, as he rebuilt the hotel in 1851.19

According to Edward, the family moved to Mount Barker again at the time of the Echunga gold rush, when Daniel became a sergeant in the gold escorts (1852-3) and, following that assignment, the family returned to Eyre Peninsula, where they became significant members of the community.20

Daniel’s and Jane’s family included: Henry (born before 1838 and possibly died as an infant), Edward Daniel, born 12 December 1842 at Port Lincoln, Matilda Jane, born 8 January 1845 at Mount Barker, Fanny, born 14 February 1850 at Port Lincoln, Charles Henry born 11 February 1853 at Port Lincoln and Elizabeth Lucy, born 6 July 1855 at Mount Barker.21


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