Swaffer, Daniel (Mounted Police)

Date of Birth/Death:

c 1811/1869

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 probably its first Police Constable. His name appears on a Mounted Police pay list in the Court House and Police Station for the week ending July 25th 1840, when he was paid £1-5-0 for a week’s work.

He also acted as the Willunga Postmaster in 1841, and may have done so since the establishment of the postal service in 1839. The passenger list of the ”Prince George” from London, arriving on 26 December 1838 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 (although his father Daniel was recorded as David) 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.  Daniel’s son, Edward Daniel’s, oft re-quoted claim to the press that his father arrived in South Australia on the ”Buffalo” is not substantiated by its passenger and crew lists. 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 its acceptance as fact. 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…’  Daniel had been to Port Lincoln in 1840 and 1842, well before he purchased land there in 1845. 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. Daniel’s son, Edward Daniel, 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’. The cutter, ”Albatross”, is reported as arriving at Port Adelaide on 22 October 1843, from Port Lincoln with Corporal Swaffer, wife, and 2 children and 2 Mounted police privates, W. Wells and a native prisoner, so their arrival in Port Lincoln clearly happened before that time(Adelaide Observer, 28/10/1843, p. 5). 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.  The family might have moved to Mount Barker as  Matilda Jane was born there on 8 January 1845. Indeed, Edward Daniel mentions that he spent time at school in Mount Barker but does not provide a date. 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.<He gained a wine licence for 112 King Street (or King William Street), Port Lincoln, where he established the Port Lincoln Hotel.He must have done well, as he rebuilt the hotel in 1851. 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. Daniel’s and Jane’s family included:

  • Henry, who was born before 1838 and possibly died as a child.
  • Edward Daniel, who was born 12 December 1842 at Port Lincoln.
  • Matilda Jane, who was born 8 January 1845 at Mount Barker.
  • Fanny, who was born 14 February 1850 at Port Lincoln.
  • Charles Henry, who was born 11 February 1853 at Port Lincoln.
  • Elizabeth Lucy, who was born 6 July 1855 at Mount Barker and died at Port Lincoln in 1857.

Daniel Swaffer died at Port Lincoln on 13th April 1869 aged 58 years and Jane on 22 January 1888 aged 72.


South Australian Record and Australasian Chronicle 25 April 1840:7,

Adelaide Observer 28 Oct 1843:5,

South Australian Register 7 Jan 1845:4,

South Australian Register 29 Nov 1845:3,

South Australian 12 Dec 1845:3,

Adelaide Chronicle 25 April 1846:6,

The Express and Telegraph 10 May 1869:1,

South Australian Deaths – Index of Registrations 1842-1972,

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