1837 to 1859 inclusive - the early years of newspaper reporting of snowfalls in SA.

By Miles Peachfield.

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I searched all the South Australian newspapers on the Trove website database for the period "Publication date from 1 January 1837 to 1 January 1860", for the search words "snow AND (fallen OR fall OR fell OR falling)".

I also searched from 1836 to 1859 inclusive, between the dates 1st April to 10th December for each year, with the key words: snow hail (ie both words must be present in the article) and the usual parameters for the rest of the settings.

I found a couple of references to snow events in this period in reports on later snow events ie published in years subsequent to 1859 and one in a letter written in 1901, and a couple of references to snow events in a diary written during this early period. 

I'm confident the search found a high proportion of all SA newspaper references to snow events in South Australia in the search period of 1837 to 1859 inclusive, and so the results can be used as the basis for building a complete inventory of newspaper reports for that period.

First a brief diversion to the "proclamation", and the earliest newspapers in South Australia. South Australia was proclaimed by Governor John Hindmarsh on 28 December 1836 at the Old Gum Tree, Glenelg. On the State Library of South Australia website here http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=1467 it says: "The history of the South Australian press begins in June 1836 when partners Robert Thomas and George Stevenson printed the first issue of the South Australian gazette and colonial register in London, shortly before the two men set sail with their families for the experimental colony. With them was the equipment needed to set up a newspaper in the 'wilderness'. Due to various setbacks it was a little over a year before the second issue of the newspaper appeared, printed in a rush hut off Hindley Street - in modern day Register Street. In 1838 their first competitor, the Southern Australian, was established, heralding a golden age of decentralised, prolific newspaper output."

Results of searches 1837 to 1859 inclusive.

Mount Lofty Ranges 1840.

One of the earliest references is to a snow event on the Mount Lofty Ranges in 1840, in a published letter or article written and sent by a person on the Victorian goldfields in 1852. If this reference is factually correct then it was a record-setting snow event the like of which (as far as I know) has not been seen since: "...when the snow-drifts remained on the Mount Lofty range of hills for more than a week". Those are the only words referring to the event in the letter. 

So far I've not been able to find any corroborating evidence for a fall of this magnitude in 1840 in the three SA newspapers on the Trove database that were publishing in that year.

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Saturday 11 September 1852 Page 3.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/38454204
(quoting the snow-relevant part of a longer article written I presume on the Bendigo Creek gold diggings)

"LATEST NEWS FROM THE VICTORIA DIGGINGS.
[From our Special Correspondent.]
Letter VIII. Bendigo Creek, 20th August, 1852.

"We are now enjoying bright frosty weather, and consequently pick and spade, cradle and tin dish, are busily plied in all directions. Until the last few days work was at a stand still. Hail, snow, and sleet, as well as wind and rain, assisted to convince us that winter has really arrived. I have seen snow here only three times, and each time it fell in small quantity, and was of brief duration. I believe such falls as we experienced in Adelaide in 1840—when the snow-drifts remained on the Mount Lofty range of hills for more than a week—are not uncommon here; but at present a game at snow-balls has been an unobtainable luxury."

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38454204
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page3917716
APA citation
LATEST NEWS FROM THE VICTORIA DIGGINGS. (1852, September 11). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 3. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38454204

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Mentions in the diary of Mary Thomas to snow on July 21st 1840 and August 5th 1841.

Source: State Library of South Australia.
Title: Extracts from the diary of Mary Thomas (junior), 1839-1846
PRG 160/6
(a pdf file)

If you click on the following Google link it should open the pdf file: this Google link. If it doesn't then try putting Extracts from the diary of Mary Thomas (junior) into the State Library of South Australia search window http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm or the Google search window. I've been unable to find a more direct link than the Google link.

Mary's 17th birthday was on August 30th 1840.

There are brief references to two snowfalls in this document. I'm not sure if Mary was living in Adelaide or at Holdfast Bay in 1840 and 1841. She doesn't mention whether she saw the snow falling or on the ground on July 21st 1841 or where she was if she did see it, and she doesn't mention where she was when she saw snow on top of Mount Lofty on August 5th 1841.

1840 July 21. "A very cold day indeed, with a fall of snow, which is a novelty in Austraila."

1841 August 5. "We saw snow on top of Mount Lofty."

Other items of interest I came across included:
"There was an earthquake felt here in the winter of 1837."
1839 "Oct. 10?. This day poor Colonel Light was buried. We went to see the funeral. My brother Robert, having been one of his partners, was a chief mourner, and my father [Robert Thomas] joined the procession. We all went in mourning for him."
1840 "Mar. 31. ... The Adelaideans say that there was another earthquake at 10 o’clock last night."
1840 "Apr. 1. The earthquakes of Monday [March 30] were severely felt by some people, but I do not think that there was any great damage done beyond the shaking down of an old rickety wall at the Southern Cross Hotel and the breakage of some glasses."

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1841 August 13th.

Here are two closely related references I found on Trove to a heavy fall of snow on August 13th, 1841: "Mr Tralaggan was born in Bowden in 1841, and on his natal day, for the first time after the white man had settled in S.A., Mt. Lofty was covered with snow. ... " and "... he [Mr Tralaggan] was born at Reedbeds, South Australia, on August 13th, 1841, a day that was marked with a heavy fall of snow."

The first reference is in a paper published on Wednesday 20 August 1913 and the second is in a paper published on 1st October 1919. Despite an extensive search using various keywords I've been unable to find any reference to snow falling in 1841 in the newspapers published during that year in the Trove database. The Trove search hasn't been exhaustive though - a spelling error in Trove's digital rendition would result in a search using the keyword "snow" to miss it.

The details of these reports are given below. By good fortune the second report, which is part of Henry Tralaggan's obituary, mentions his day and month of birth which the first report does not. There is no other snow-related text in either article.

Burra Record (SA : 1878 - 1954) Wednesday 20 August 1913 Page 3.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/37493642

"PERSONAL.
A GOLDEN WEDDING.
Yesterday was commemorated the 50th anniversary of the marriage of Mr and Mrs Henry Tralaggan, of Redruth, and it is a somewhat unique golden wedding inasmuch as both the bride and bridegroom are Australian natives. Mr Tralaggan was born in Bowden in 1841, and on his natal day, for the first time after the white man had settled in S.A., Mt. Lofty was covered with snow. ... ".
Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37493642
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4757977
APA citation
PERSONAL. (1913, August 20). Burra Record (SA : 1878 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37493642

Burra Record (SA : 1878 - 1954) Wednesday 1 October 1919 Page 3.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/39139896

"Death of Mr. H. Tralaggan.
The death of Mr, Henry Tralaggan, which occurred at his residence, Redruth, on Tuesday evening last, removes not only a very well-known and highly respected resident of the Burra district, but also one of the oldest surviving Australians, as he was born at Reedbeds, South Australia, on August 13th, 1841, a day that was marked with a heavy fall of snow."

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39139896
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4759407
APA citation
Death of Mr. H. Tralaggan. (1919, October 1). Burra Record (SA : 1878 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39139896

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Another reference to a fall of snow in 1841.

It's in a letter by Catherine Helen Spence, written shortly after the epic 1901 snowfall (Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th July 901).

Part of this letter fragment reads:
"We had no snow in Adelaide but the Mount Lofty Ranges and all the North high lands were covered – the heaviest snow I have seen .... [that's referring to the 1901 fall - Miles] It is just 60 years since I recollect seeing it on Mt Lofty".  Just 60 years since "on or about 1 August 1901" is on or about 1 August 1841, which is pretty close to "Mr Tralaggan was born in Bowden in 1841, and on his natal day, for the first time after the white man had settled in S.A., Mt. Lofty was covered with snow. ... " and "... he [Mr Tralaggan] was born at Reedbeds, South Australia, on August 13th, 1841, a day that was marked with a heavy fall of snow."

It's also close to Mary Thomas' diary reference: "1841 August 5. "We saw snow on top of Mount Lofty."

If you want to find the pdf file where I found this letter, put PRG 88/7/1-122 into the Google search window and click on the return PDF]PRG 88 - State Library of South Australia. I've been unable to find the direct web address.

Here's some more info in the pdf file referring to the letter.

"PRG 88/7/1-122 Letters by Catherine Helen Spence to Alice Henry 1900-1910"
""PRG 88/7/7
[The following fragment of a letter was written on or about 1 August 1901]"
"Transcribed by Dr Barbara Wall, Volunteer at the State Library of South Australia, 2010"
"Catherine Spence (1825-1910), Adelaide journalist, suffragist, tireless worker for women and children, celebrated campaigner for proportional representation, who wished above all to be thought of as a reformer, found a woman of like mind and interests in Alice Henry (1857-1943), a Melbourne journalist, women’s rights advocate and lecturer on female suffrage, who later moved to the USA where she became Secretary of the Chicago branch of the National Women’s Trade Union League of America."

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Mention of snow "Somewhere about 1842".

The following newspaper article reports on a heavy snowfall on 21 July 1888 "at Hallett and other elevated northern plains" and includes the comment: "Somewhere about 1842 there was a fall of snow at the foot of the Mount Lofty Range, near Glen Osmond, which remained for about three days, but since then no snow has been seen upon the Adelaide Plains." If that is reliable, then snow fell on the Adelaide Plains near Glen Osmond somewhere about 1842, and didn't fall again on the Adelaide Plains till at least 21 July 1888. I've yet to search all 1888 reports in Trove to see if there's any reference to snow falling on the Adelaide Plains then. (By the way, in another article in the same paper a report from Hallett refers to "The snow is fully half a foot deep, and about 12 inches in the drift.")

Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904) Saturday 21 July 1888 Page 10.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/160780116
{quoting snow-relevant part of a much longer article}
"NOTES AND COMMENTS."
"The occurrence of snow in the North is almost phenomenal in South Australia, and the record of a foot depth by our correspondents at Hallett and other elevated northern plains is unprecedented in the history of this colony. Somewhere about 1842 there was a fall of snow at the foot of the Mount Lofty Range, near Glen Osmond, which remained for abont three days, but since then no snow has been seen upon the Adelaide Plains."

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160780116
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page18929558
APA citation
NOTES AND COMMENTS. (1888, July 21). Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904), p. 10. Retrieved September 19, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160780116

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Mount Barker: snow shower(s) apparently within the period Saturday 4th to Monday 6th July 1846 inc.

There is a report in a "letter to the editor" from Mount Barker of snow shower(s) apparently within the period Saturday 4th to Monday 6th July 1846 inc.: "the snowy season has set in upon us in the Mount Barker district. We have had successive showers of hail, rain, sleet, and snow, ever since ten o'clock on Saturday morning last ... ". (This report was not found in the search I've described above but during another smaller search).

The following is a report from Mount Barker of snow shower(s) apparently within the period Saturday 4th to Monday 6th July 1846 inc.

South Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1844 - 1851) Friday 10 July 1846 Page 4.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/71605178

"TO THE EDITOR OF THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN.

SIR—In the absence of more interesting local news, perhaps you could let the elite of your City know, through the columns of your paper, that the snowy season has set in upon us in the Mount Barker district. We have had successive showers of hail, rain, sleet, and snow, ever since ten o'clock on Saturday morning last, which renders the weather extremely cold, and, no doubt, will mar vegetation. The unusually wet season here has very much retarded the sowing of wheat. For so far, our winter has been very trying. ... "

The above quote is the snow-relevant part of a longer letter to the paper. It ends with:
"... I have the honor to be Sir,
If not BRAN, BRAN'S BROTHER.
Mount Barker, July 6, 1846."

So it seems the reported snow fell in or near Mt Barker within the period Saturday 4th to Monday 6th July 1846 inc.

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71605178
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page6250533
APA citation
TO THE EDITOR OF THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN. (1846, July 10). South Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1844 - 1851), p. 4. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71605178

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1849 Friday 31st August: Mount Barker.

South Australian Gazette and Mining Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1847 - 1852) Saturday 8 September 1849 Page 3.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/195938429

{quoting the snow-relevant part of a longer article}

MOUNT BARKER PLOUGHING MATCH.
This affair, the fourth of a series that have been taking place in the different agricultural districts of this Colony, came off on Friday last, the 31st ultimo. ... There were fourteen entries, consisting of three horse and eleven bullock teams, ... . The weather was disagreeable in the extreme, there being a constant fall of rain, hail, and snow, which seemed to be driven right through us by a cold cutting English November wind.

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195938429
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page22341627
APA citation
MOUNT BARKER PLOUGHING MATCH. (1849, September 8). South Australian Gazette and Mining Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1847 - 1852), p. 3. Retrieved September 24, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195938429

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1852 14th May: Commissioner of Police on Snowstorm near Mount Barker.

Source: "Reminiscences of an adventurous and chequered career at home and at the Antipodes"
by Tolmer, Alexander
Published 1972
Vol. II.

https://archive.org/stream/reminiscencesan00tolmgoog/reminiscencesan00tolmgoog_djvu.txt

Here's Alexander Tolmer's description of a "snowstorm" he experienced while a passenger on a coach proceeding from Adelaide to Mount Barker on 14th May 1852.

"This third journey overland, which eventually proved my last in command of the escort, the weather set in tempestuously at starting, and in the hills, before reaching Mount Barker, travellers were overtaken with a snowstorm so severe, that the mail coach could only proceed at a snail's pace owing to the difficulty of keeping to the track, which was thickly covered with snow. I have no donbt this storm is remembered by many an old colonist. Glad I and others were, therefore, to reach Lowe's public-house that dreary night, the 14th May, 1852."

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1852 14th May snow event: another description of Tolmer's coach journey through a snowstorm near Mount Barker.

There's an article published in The Advertiser on 10th August 1935 titled "SNOWFALLS In Our State" by H.A. Lindsay and it lists, with comments or brief descriptions particularly for the earlier events, what I gather the author considers to be the bigger or heavier snowfalls in the recorded history of SA till early August 1935.

Below is the author H.A. Lindsay's description of the coach journey through a snowstorm near Mount Barker on May 14th 1852, with mention of the weather on the day. It's considerably more detailed than Alexander Tolmer's reminiscences but he doesn't specifically mention any source for his description other than Tolmer's reminiscences. I haven't been able to find any other reference on the internet to this snowstorm so I don't have any way of knowing whether Lindsay's 1935 description is based on more than one source, or is a "poetic licence" embellishment on Tolmer's brief description.

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954) Saturday 10 August 1935 Page 9.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/40065827

"SNOWFALLS In Our State"
"Picturesque Sights In The Hills"

"THE falls of snow in South Australia last week-end keep up our State's average of getting snow once every three years."
"By H.A. Lindsay"
"The first heavy snowfall in South Australia of which we have any record took place on the afternoon of May 14, 1852 The morning dawned cold and overcast, with a heavy westerly gale and driving showers of rain. Towards evening the wind veered to the south, and over the Mount Lofty Ranges the rain gave place to snow. A wild and terrible night followed in the hills. In a little while all traces of the roads were hidden by snow, which piled into deep drifts. The gale uprooted trees everywhere, and the coach from Adelaide was hours late in reaching Mount Barker—it arrived with the horses knocked up with the exertion of dragging the heavy vehicle through the drifts, and with the outside passengers and the driver half frozen. Very few accounts of this storm have been handed down, as the newspapers of the time printed very little local news. But Alexander Tolmer, the Commissioner of Police, was a passenger on the coach, and has left a brief description of it in his reminiscences. ... "

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40065827
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page2687810
APA citation
SNOWFALLS In Our State. (1935, August 10). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved September 27, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40065827

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Heavy hail-storm in Adelaide on Thursday 22nd July 1852.

In this article there is a reference to a heavy hail-storm in Adelaide on Thursday 22th July 1852, which I'm including here for future searchers, as it may be that snow fell in the hills on this day and a record of it exists somewhere.

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Friday 23 July 1852 Page 3.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/38462213

"Now it is Winter Fairly.—There was a heavy hail-storm yesterday evening, which supplied the youngsters about the city with substitutes for snow-balls, which in some localities they were not slow to avail themselves of, and indulged in a pelting more pitiless than that of the storm."

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A heavy snowfall in the "Burra district and the surrounding vicinity" some time in 1853.

Below is a reference published on Saturday 8th October 1853 to a fall of snow "On the morning of Sunday the 5th inst." ... "in the district of the Burra Burra and the surrounding vicinity" (Burra Burra is now Burra). I'm unable to say on which date the snow fell because the Sunday previous to the publication date of Saturday 8th October was the 2nd and there were four Sundays in the preceding month of September none of them the 5th. For anyone wishing to follow this up, there appears to be a reference to snow in October 1853 in a letter to the editor on wheat smut here http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/48551539, namely "... or it may have been caused by the cold rain and snow in October".

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Saturday 8 October 1853 Page 2.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/48550399

"Snow At The Burra Burra.—On the morning of Sunday the 5th inst., the snow fell very fast in the district of the Burra Burra and the surrounding vicinity. The fall continued for an hour, viz., from 7 o'clock till 8, covering the ground to the depth of four inches ; the drift snow in some places being as much as twelve inches deep."

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48550399
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4149281
APA citation
NAVIGATION OF THE MURRAY. (1853, October 8). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 2. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48550399

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"1858 Tuesday 19th October: Adelaide? and what I deduce was Tuesday 19th October: Riverton"

Firstly, a comment on these two reports. More recent experience indicates that when snow falls in Riverton it usually falls more widely in the Mid-North. And more recent experience suggests that if any snowflakes are seen reaching the ground in Adelaide on the plain, then snow probably fell very widely in the usual high places. I hope that in due course more records of this fall may surface, perhaps in diaries and letters. 

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Wednesday 20 October 1858 Page 2.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/49782858

{snow-relevant part of a longer article}

The article doesn't actually say this "storm of sleet, hail, and snow, equal to anything in the recollection of the "oldest inhabitant"" fell in Adelaide, but I don't see in the article any reason to think the writer is not referring to Adelaide.

"The Weather.—At the beginning of the week we had to record the unusually hot weather which had set in thus early in the year ; but so great has been the change since, that on Tuesday evening there was a storm of sleet, hail, and snow, equal to anything in the recollection of the " oldest inhabitant." Balls of this frozen mixture were brought in from the streets, and handed about with a curiosity unknown to persons who have not lived some years in a warm climate."

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49782858
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4144540
APA citation
LIABILITY OF DIRECTORS. (1858, October 20). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 2. Retrieved September 24, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49782858

The text above also appears in the
Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904) Saturday 23 October 1858 Page 5.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/158123405

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Tuesday morning was ushered in with an intensely cold north-west wind, which brought with it a snow storm, rather a rare sight, I should imagine, in this colony."

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Friday 22 October 1858 Page 3.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/49785951
{quoting the snow-relevant part of a longer article}

" RIVERTON.
[From our own Correspondent.]
October 20, 1858.

We have had some singular changes in the weather these last few days, from the extremes of heat and cold Tuesday morning was ushered in with an intensely cold north-west wind, which brought with it a snow storm, rather a rare sight, I should imagine, in this colony. This was followed by several severe showers of hailstones, which pelted us at intervals during the whole day. Some rain fell in the night; this has greatly improved the appearance of the crops."

Tuesday was presumably 19th October 1858.

Article identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49785951
Page identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4144842
APA citation
RIVERTON. (1858, October 22). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 3. Retrieved March 8, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49785951

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The above are the only reports or references to snowfalls in the period 1837 to 1859 inclusive I have so far found.

The relative paucity of snow reports in the newspapers for the 23 year period 1837 to 1859 inclusive is I think probably due at least in large part to the fledgling state of the colony and its media, and of the very limited means of news gathering, and probably not to a dearth of snowfalls in that period.

The fastest forms of communications during these earliest years of the colony were by horse or horse-drawn carriage or by walking. There was no telephone or radio communication, and a telegraph network was not yet established. On the Burra History Group's "The History of Burra" website http://www.burrahistory.info it says: "1859 ... Telegraph and Post Office built ..." It was also the year of "The Great Flood: January 25th".

I speculate that since the majority of migrants to South Australia during that period would have come from countries where snow was a common occurrence , they may not have considered snow falling in South Australia as newsworthy. It may have taken more than two decades to appreciate that snow in South Australia is rather a rare event and worthy of being reported in the newspapers. And as the years went by there were a rapidly growing number of people born in South Australia who had never seen snow before.

A paucity of reports of snow in the newspapers of 1837 to 1859 doesn't constitute material evidence for an actual dearth of snow events. We would need written or printed records from reliable observers of the period to develop an opinion based on written evidence. There are probably some diaries and letters written during that 23 year period which include references to snow events not reported in the newspapers. Also the Trove database for 19th century newspapers is not yet complete so might be missing one or more early snowfall records in newspapers. The Bureau of Meteorology may also hold some records from those early years gathered from various sources.

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Hill-Proclamation-of-SA1836.jpg

Artist: Charles Hill.
Title: The Proclamation of South Australia 1836.
Current location: Art Gallery of South Australia.
Image source: Wikipedia.
Attribution: "Charles Hill - The Proclamation of South Australia 1836 - Google Art Project" by Charles HILL (1824 - 1915) (Australia) (Details of artist on Google Art Project) - NAHnyRi288qtAg at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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