Into The Land Of Promise

Extract From - The Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser, Thursday 8 August 1935

New Homes, Hard Work - But Freedom

It seems to me that Nature has lavished her choicest gifts on South Australia, and I would like to end my days here and never return to the busy world."  These are Captain Hahn's words as he viewed the beautiful and fertile district that spread away from the slopes of Mount Barker, and it was his appeal to the owners, to use it for settlement rather than for grazing cattle that obtained for the Lutheran immigrants permission to found their village in the valley where their descendants live today.

While these negotiations were taking place, and Captain Hahn was urging the needs of his people in this boundless tract of land where a few acres would scarcely be missed, the immigrants from the "Zebra" had landed at Port Adelaide and were living in huts left vacant by the first batch of Lutherans who had arrived with Pastor Kaval and had already moved on to found the little town of Klemzig (now Gaza).

These new arrivals had landed on November 21, 1838, and had built rough huts to house them while arrangements were being made to lease 144 acres on the banks of the River Torrens, about 4 miles from Adelaide.  These huts now provided very welcome shelter for the later arrivals, while they, in their turn, awaited settlement. There was no jetty or wharf at Port Adelaide in those early days, and the men had to wade ashore from the boats, carrying the women and children pick-a-back, and bearing the luggage on their heads and shoulders.  But they were all safely ashore with their belongings when Captain Hahn returned with the longed for news of the granted land.

When they heard of the new home that awaited them they began to make immediate arrangements for the journey.  But £7 were being asked by the Adelaide carters, to take a load of goods to Mount Barker and only a few of the immigrants could afford this high charge, so they started with their own belongings - either carrying them or dragging them along in primitive hand carts of their own construction.  Their method was to carry or drag as much as they could manage for a certain distance, and then dump it on the ground and return for another load.

Thus tramping backwards and forwards they at last reached Adelaide.  This was the first and easiest stage of their long trek, but they had found it full of difficulties and arrived foot sore and weary after journeying over the rough country.

Early Adelaide

Adelaide, in those days, was but a collection of huts and tents - even the Governor's residence was only a rude structure composed of slabs and mortar, dabbed together, with a thatched roof.  And in this beginning of a city, the pioneers rested for several days.

Many tales of the dangers that awaited them in the hills filled the Lutheran's hearts with fear, but not even warnings of treacherous natives or of escaped convicts from New South Wales, could dissuade them from setting out towards the heights which stood between them and their promised land.

A little north of the present Glen Osmond, they made another halt, and there built temporary huts and made preparations for the upward climb.  The huts, which they left behind, served later to shelter the 130 Lutheran immigrants who arrived at the end of January, 1839, and made their first home at Glen Osmond, and who, a few months later, in May, entertained the first Lutheran Synod.

Climbing the Heights

From Glen Osmond the pioneers toiled upward, climbing one of the spurs between Beaumont and Glen Osmond, to the north of the present road.  There was no track then through the Glen proper, and the settlers pushed their way through a thicket of scrub, carrying and dragging their goods for short stages, and then returning for the remainder, up and down, up and down until at last everything was safely on top of the first hill.  And here they camped for the night.

Looking back, they could see the still waters of the gulf reflecting the rays of the setting sun, and the beauty of the scene spread beneath them so filled them with rapture that they burst into song, their voices echoing in the hills that had hitherto heard no music but that of the birds, they sang one of Paul Gerhard's evening hymns, the lines,

"The last faint beam is going  ||  The golden stars are glowing  ||  In yonder dark-blue deep,"

being especially appropriate to the time and place.

After the night's rest in that place of beauty, but surely of an eerie strangeness, they started again at day break over the formidable hills that taxed their strength to the utmost.  Men, women, and children, all did their share, carrying the burdens and dragging their little carts over the rough, uneven track.

Thus February passed; each day one of incessant tramping backwards and forwards, tracing and retracing their steps until each load reached the camping place.  They worked all day in the sun or the rain and they slept at night in the open, but they were nearing their goal.

For food, they had only what herbs grew around them, but by dint of sheer perseverance they at last won through to their new home.  The land for their settlement was on plain, luxuriant with kangaroo grass and surrounded by thickly timbered hills, while near the centre was the natives' "bukatilla" - swimming pool. (This swimming hole was a little north of the present Ambleside Post Office.)

It was near this swimming hole that these first Lutherans held a thanksgiving service as their first act on arrival; not even waiting to unload their belongings before falling on their knees to give thanks to God for leading them safely to this land of religious liberty.

It was in March that the first settlers arrived, and having selected the 38 acres reserved for the settlement from the 150 acres made available by the station owners, they pitched their tents and called their new home Hahndorf in honour of the man who had made their settlement possible.

Then they began to make their homes.  Packing cases were used, supported by limbs and branches; trees were felled and log huts built with grass thatched roofs.  Other families completed their long trek and arrived to join first comers, until, by the end of May, the whole company was assembled in Hahndorf.

Roll of the Pioneers

All told, there were 52 families forming the original settlement.  Of these, 38 families (106 adults and 91 children) had arrived with the "Zebra," when they were joined by 14 other families who had arrived five weeks earlier with the "Prince George."  Their names were:— Schubert, C. Liebelt, P. Thiele, S. Thiele, Wittwer, E. Jaensch, Rillricht, Zilm, C. Jaensch, Lubasch, Neumann, Schulz, Steike, Boebm, Kuchel, Liebelt, Janetzki, Nitschke, Linke, Jaenschke, C. Thiele, Bartsch, Ziim, Paech, Bartel, C. Schirmer, Wundke, G. Bartel, Berndt, W. Nitschke, Pfeiffer, Nitschke, Dohnke, Hoffmann, Schumann, G. Liebelt, Paech, Hartmann, Suess, Schmidt, Kuchel, F. Kuchel, G. Dohnke, Brettig, Pfluegert, C. Pfeiffer, Kluge, "Renschner" Paech, Zimmerman, Philip, Kalleske, and Helbing.

Many of these first settlers later left their original holdings and settled in other parts of the commonwealth, where their descendants still live, although some of the families appear to have died out.

The 150 acres were apportioned, by lot, among these 52 families, and according to the agreement made with Captain Hahn, the land was to be rent free for 12 months and provisions were to be supplied until the settlers could provide for themselves.

Debts and Struggles

Just how long this agreement was observed is hard to say.  It appears that before long the settlers wished to make the land their own, and since government land could not be procured on credit and the pioneers had not sufficient money to pay cash, the terms of the original agreement were altered to permit the settlers to purchase land.  But they had to pay £7 per acre for the 240 acres thus purchased, and the 150 acres of the original agreement were included in these 250.  They thus contracted a debt of £1,680 for their land, but through the good offices of Pastor Kavel, credit for necessary provisions was arranged, amounting to £1,500.  On these loan money they were charged 10% interest, besides which a number of them still had to pay off their ship-debts - that is, money loaned to pay for their passage.

In those days seed-wheat cost £1 per bushel; a pair of bullocks £40; a cow, £18; and until they had their own vegetables they had to fall back on boiled grasses and roots to supply their need of greens.  For meat, kangaroo and possum caught in the scrub, sufficed.  Some even tried the lizards and found them palatable.  The food had to do.  There was nothing else.

But the pioneers battled on.  They cleared the ground and dug it over with fork and spade.  The barley and wheat were hand sown and the ground harrowed with a forked branch, fitted with wooden teeth.  Vegetables were sown, and the vegetables together with the butters and eggs produced by the settlers found a ready market in Adelaide.  All produce had to be carried to the city by foot, and usually this fell to the lot of the women or older girls.  Reaping was done with the sickle, 15/ per acre being the wage paid, and all the implements were curious contraptions manufactured on the spot.

Women Play Their Part

It was not an uncommon sight to see a woman harnessed beside an ox to a wooden plough which her husband guided over the land.  But by long hours, low wages, hard work and hard living the pioneers gradually won out. Within the first two years, the most pressing debts had been paid off, and another 240 acres of land taken up from the government at £1 an acre.

The pioneers proved themselves splendid colonists, the women helping the men, and becoming expert at tilling the land and shearing.  They looked for and found work on the neighbouring stations, thus earning more money with which to pay their debts.

One of the most prominent characteristics of these early settlers was their piety; and in gratitude to a country which granted them a freedom of worship denied by their own land, they voluntarily assembled, in company with other Lutherans from Klemzig and Glen Osmond, in front of the Governor's house in Adelaide, to swear allegiance to the Queen.  This was on May 24, 1839, the day after the holding of the first Lutheran Synod in Adelaide.  One of the early colonists paid them the following tribute:—"They rise early and work late, and moderate and contented as to food and accommodation, and cheerful and pleasant in their intercourse with their neighbours.  At the end of the week they like to assemble in their own village (Hahndorf) for Divine worship, and sing the songs of Zion in a strange land."

And thus Hahndorf was founded in 1839.

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