It has strong poetical themes, being named from a poem and the birthplace of a famed poet.
The first European to explore through the Auburn district, in April 1839, was John Hill, who was followed one month later by Edward John Eyre. On 10 March 1840 John Morphett selected a special survey of 4,000 acres on the Wakefield River as land agent for three English investors, Admiral George Lambert, Edward Rice M.P., and Robert Slaney M.P..
Very soon after, just outside the southwest corner of this survey, a pioneering character named William Tateham squatted on the Wakefield River, living in a riverbank dugout from where he provided hospitality to travellers. The spot, which later became the site of Auburn, was for a time named Tateham's Waterhole or Billy Tatum's because of this.
In October 1849, Thomas Henry Williams, a copper-smelting superintendent at the Burra mines, received a land grant for what was to become the Auburn area. During the next few years Williams sold off allotments to bullock teamsters and others. The first building – a well-appointed hotel named the Rising Sun Inn, which still stands – was built in 1850 and so Auburn Village was begun. The hotel's enterprising proprietor, Joseph Edwin Bleechmore (c. 1809–1887), also founded the town's school, which opened in May 1855 under Joseph S. Cole, later of Stanley Grammar School.
The name of Auburn, probably applied by Williams, is doubtless derived from a line in a poem by Oliver Goldsmith, Sweet Auburn, loveliest village on the plain.
Auburn is the birthplace of Australian poet, C. J. Dennis (born 1876), who lived for a time in the former Auburn Hotel, which has since been demolished. A small tributary of the Wakefield River, Dennis Creek runs through the town and was named in honour of his father, who was a local publican 1868-80. The town was also the birthplace of Australian cricketer and Australian Rules football player, Ernie Jones (born 1869).
The town today
Auburn always was a transport hub. In the 1850s it was on the Gulf Road, used by bullock teamsters carting copper ore from Burra, through Mintaro, to Hoyles Plains and on to Port Wakefield. Today it is on the Horrocks Highway, connecting Adelaide to the north, and also connects the Riverland district with Yorke Peninsula. The southern end of the Riesling Trail also begins here, alongside the former railway station, which is now a winery cellar door.
Auburn has many charming historical buildings. As a result, since the 1970s the town has become a popular tourist destination, with a number of local winery cellar doors and B&Bs. Auburn is serviced by a pub and several cafes, a gallery, roadhouse, bike hire and internet cafe, a post office, hairdresser, Primary School, CFS station, and a number of other services. The Auburn oval hosts sporting facilities for cricket, bowls and netball and is also the location of a small, self-contained caravan park.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Auburn". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Northern Argus newspaper, 28 February 1882, p. 2. (ref: Billy Tatum's Waterhole)
- "The Late Mr. J. E. Bleechmore, J.P." The Northern Argus. XIX (1, 660). South Australia. 12 August 1887. p. 3. Retrieved 24 February 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- Chronicle newspaper, 5 December 1946, p. 48.