Locals seek return of historic ‘very good water’ rock missing from Coorong waterhole
A team of locals in South Australia have called for the anonymous return of a historic rock used to mark a waterhole since the mid-1800s which went missing more than four years ago.
The rock, estimated to weigh about one tonne, was inscribed with the words “very good water” sometime before 1858 when a telegraph wire between Adelaide and Melbourne was completed.
“Somebody really wanted it, and maybe it’s set up by a barbecue or a bar or something, and that’s fantastic, but we would like it back,” Ray Ashenden said.
Mr Ashenden spent 40 years living in the nearby Coorong town of Meningie where he restored and refurbished the former Lakeside Dairying Co premises to operate as a restaurant and Meningie Cheese Factory Museum from 2001.
He helped stock the museum with items he accumulated as a demolition contractor across South Australia.
He told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Spence Denny that there were numerous wells along the route between Adelaide and Melbourne during the 1800s which were marked by stones for travellers and their horses.
“There was no social security in the old days, so people got whatever work they could and they’d go along the Coorong and sit down on the ground and smash up rocks, lay them there for the stage coaches.”
Some of the more elaborate wells have been refurbished over the years, with a popular theory being they were built by Chinese settlers on their way to Ballarat’s goldfields.
“There’s Chinaman’s Well [Coorong National Park] and other numerous wells all documented,” Mr Ashenden said.
“But this one was just a natural waterhole and somebody had carved into this rock ‘very good water’ so that travellers knew where to get a drink.”
Waterhole located on back roads
Mr Ashenden said the rock was well known to locals but was located on a back road and had never been cleaned up or made prominent for the public.
The rock went missing during September 2014.
“Somebody who was looking around on those back roads obviously saw it and decided they wanted it more than we did.”
He said there were tyre marks showing where a vehicle had backed up to the rock, suggesting the vehicle may have had a crane to lift the rock.
“I don’t want any names and no-one’s going to be prosecuted,” Mr Ashenden said.
“We’ll work out a way that I can come and pick it up or they can deliver it to a private place.
“We’re not out to hurt or discredit anyone. We simply want it back.”