The Yelki Flour Mill was built about 1853 by Mr Adamson on the bank of the Smith Creek about 200 metres south of Uley Road and about four kilometres east of the Main North Road. On examining the water flow of the Smith Creek Adamson considered it suitable for driving a waterwheel which could drive the machinery for the mill. Since the Adamsons were themselves implement makers they probably manufactured the waterwheel themselves. The best description we have of the operation and life of the wheel is recorded in the Adelaide Register of October 5th 1903. "Mr James Kelly, Marocara, Gile's Corner, has written to us relative to the reference to the Smith's Creek Waterwheel which appeared in the "Early South Australian" column on September 21st. He states that the 'diameter' not the 'circumference' of the wheel was 35 ft. Mr Kelly says "All the old farmers who lived at Smith's Creek have passed away. Before Mr Adamson erected the Mill two wet winters had filled the creek, and caused the banks to break away and fresh springs to break forth. When he first tested the water there was sufficient to drive the wheel half a day by holding the water back for the other half. The two rather dry winters during the erection of the flour mill, the supply fell off, and when the mill was finished the water had to be held back for two days to secure sufficient to drive the mill half a day. A steam engine was built as an auxiliary; but the mill, which had cost £7,000 and could store 25,000 bushels of wheat, did not pay, and was soon closed. When the sons took over the property they removed all the machinery" James Kelly had married into the Adamson family and having a family association with the mill would have been familiar with its history and I take his knowledge to be reliable. His statement that the wheel had a diameter of 35 ft. makes sense, as it would require a wheel of that magnitude to drive the mill machinery. A wheel of 35 ft. circumference (i.e. 11 ft. diameter) would have been grossly inadequate. We have no other description of the wheel. From this information we can conclude that the 35 ft. diameter waterwheel was the only one that ever operated at the 'Yelki ' flour mill. For identification purposes I call it the Adamson Waterwheel.

Remains of "Yelki Flour Mill 1985" 
Yelki Wheel


About 1909 the property was acquired by Mr B.A. Kelly who fanned in all 2,100 acres in the area. He kept over 2,500 sheep, a small dairy herd and grew some wheat and barley. In 1911 he had a waterwheel built by Paternoster Engineering works of Salisbury. This was installed at Smiths Creek near the ruins of the Yelki Flour Mill. and was used to pump water from the creek to a storage tank from which it was reticulated around the farm to water his stock. Proof of purchase of this waterwheel was gleaned by Gillian Pearson of the Munno Para Library when she visited the homestead in 1988 during her research into the origin of our waterwheel. An entry in the cash book of the Yelki property recorded the purchase of the waterwheel on the 8th November 1911 from Paternoster of Salisbury for £109/9/4d., plus £17 for installation. The specifications for a waterwheel to operate a pump would have been quite different from that for driving mill machinery. This one was 14 ft. diameter. The Adelaide Chronicle of September 15th 1932 ran a feature article on 'Yelki' farm, then run by Messrs B.A. Kelly and Son. It describes the property in detail and mentions the waterwheel being employed at that time and fulfilling their supply of water: underground supplies of water were not easily obtained because of the necessity of sinking a bore to a great depth. Other officers from Munno Para Library visiting the site in 1996 found a waterwheel still in situ; the same wheel. This wheel operated exclusively for fann purposes and although on the same site it could never have been used to drive the machinery of Yelki flour mill. We shall call this the Kelly Waterwheel.

Kelly Wheel

Kelly Wheel 1985


By 1909 Fredrich Heinrich Kuhlmann was proprietor of the Old Spot Hotel on the Main North Road at the Little Para. He also developed a citrus orchard and nursery. An article appearing in the Gawler 'Bunyip' of October 22nd 1909 describes his property in glowing terms. He had some 20 acres of oranges, was cultivating 5O,OOO of nursery stock plus some four year old peach and apricot trees, and a large area of vegetables. The water supply for his property came from two wells both equipped with windmills as well as pumping water from the river by means of an 8 h.p. oil engine. The water from these sources was pumped up to a 44,000 gallon storage tank. I now resort to some speculation:
Since Paternoster supplied most of the Salisbury growers with their pumping and irrigation equipment one can reasonably assume that Kuhlmann's windmills, oil engine and irrigation equipment also came out of his workshop. At some time after the date of the above article Kuhlmann acquired a waterwheel. The waterwheel which Paternoster had installed for Kelly at Smiths Creek would have been.a topic .of .gossip by both the Paternoster employees and the property owners ill the district. Kuhlmann would have heard about it and no doubt went and had a look at it. It is also possible that Paternoster, having successfully achieved Kelly's set-up, may have suggested to Kuhlmann that a
similar set-up could be used on the Little Para River on his property. The waterwheel that Kuhlmann acquired was identical to Kelly's and the set-up similar, having the river dammed higher up and a flume feeding the top of the wheel (again an over shot wheel). This leads to the probability that Paternoster built both the Kelly wheel and the Kuhlmann wheel. We don't know exactly when the Kuhlmann wheel was installed. We do have a comment from somebody who recalled it being there in 1918. I think we can assume that it was made after Kelly's; probably about 1912. Kuhlmann would have had his from new. It was manufactured specifically to operate a pump. It did not come
from Yelki and could never have been used to drive the Yelki Flour Mill machinery . The Paternoster works operated in Salisbury from 1878-1930 manufacturing engines, windmills, pumps and machinery. The rest of the history you already know. The Salisbury Rotary Club took the
derelict wheel from the Little Para and restored it as an S.A. Jubilee 150 project. It was duly set up in the Museum in 1986 and set going by Sir Mark Oliphant on 21st December1986.

00 00 00 00 00 00 '.
Once upon a time there were three waterwheels.
There was the big Adamson waterwheel. He was
strong enough to drive the machinery that ground .
the wheat that made the flour in the mill that Adamson built.
Then there was the Kelly waterwheel and the Kuhlmann waterwheel. They were less than half as big as the
Adamson waterwheel and they were not able to drive
the machinery that ground the wheat that made the flour
in the mill that Adamson built. They were content just
to have their turn to pump water.

James Potter ©2006 Salisbury & District Historical Society