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European discovery of Daly River was in 1865 by Boyle Travers Finniss, the first Premier of South Australia and Government Resident in the Northern Territory. Finniss named the river after Sir Dominick Daly, the Governor of South Australia, since the Northern Territory was at that time part of South Australia. The region lay untouched by Europeans until 1882 when copper was discovered. Daly River town was the scene of some particularly bloody exchanges between the local Aborigines and the miners. In 1884 three miners were killed. The miners in the town wreaked vengeance on the local Aborigines out of proportion to the perceived crime. A year later, probably aware of the tensions in the area, the Society of Jesus order of the Roman Catholic Church established a mission in the town, introducing Christianity and farming techniques to the local Aboriginal population. The original mission endured until 1899, when following a significant flood the missionaries were withdrawn.