Goyder's HundredsWhen Escape Cliffs was abandoned in early 1867 the impetus for the exploration and settlement of what is now the Litchfield Shire area evaporated. It seemed that the whole Northern Territory scheme might be disowned by the South Australian government, despite the sales of land and the obligation to give a good surveyed title to that land.
There were proposals to refund the money paid by land purchasers, but in the end South Australians resolved to try again. In 1868 a plan for carrying out the survey work was put forward by Surveyor-General George Goyder and this was accepted. Goyder's plan was to take the survey party north, to probably disembark in Port Darwin and from there survey the hinterland blocks and town sites which were required.
In the end Goyder succeeded brilliantly in carrying out his allotted tasks. In the process, he laid the foundations for the future development of the Litchfield area by finalising the process of exploration and achieving the surveys which were needed as a basis for land settlement. In so doing, Goyder set a settlement pattern which is still influential.
Late in 1868 Goyder assembled 120 hand picked men and they set sail for Port Darwin in the Moonta. The party landed on 5 February 1869. They established a camp in the saddle between Fort Hill (now removed) and where Government House now stands.
By September 1869 the party had surveyed Darwin and three other towns (Virginia, Southport and Fred's Pass), and 665,866 acres of land extending east to the Adelaide River flood plains, west toward the Daly River, and south beyond the later site of Adelaide River township. Virtually the whole of what is now the Litchfield Shire was surveyed in this way, except for the eastern edge, toward the Adelaide River.
The hinterland was cut up into "Hundreds", areas each ten miles by ten, thus 100 square miles in area. Rural allotments, mostly 320 acres each, were designed within each Hundred. Today's maps still show Goyder's Hundreds, and today's surveyors still respect the work of Goyder's men.
Goyder's men also laid out a two chain road from Port Darwin to Daly. This "Fred's Pass Road" was intended to be the main road leading inland, but the development of the Overland Telegraph from 1870 meant that the route south from Southport to Adelaide River and beyond became the practicable route.
The work performed by Goyder and his men was certainly one of the most remarkable achievements in the whole of the Territory's history. It was truly the foundation for later European settlement.
Goyder returned to Adelaide in late September 1869, leaving in Darwin just a skeleton team to await the commencement of the Overland Telegraph Line, and the Territory's future.
As he departed, Goyder wrote "South Australia has no reason to fear her connection with this place."