Klemzig and Hahndorf:  Reminiscences of an Old Pioneer, Well and Hearty at the Age of 92

By Rev. John Blacket

Extract from Chronicle (Adelaide, SA) - Thursday 7 November 1929

In dealing with the history of the pioneer church at Ambleside [Hahndorf] a few months ago, the circumstances were stated that led so many of our Lutheran colonists to emigrate from Germany to South Australia in pioneer times.  At the basis of the emigration was persecution by the German Government.  There is no need for me to re-tread the ground already trodden.  Recently it came to me as a surprise that a lady who knew the romantic villages of Klemzig and Hahndorf some 85 years ago was still with us to-day in good health, mentally and physically.  I refer to Mrs. Theika Staude, of Booleroo Whim, whose family I knew when stationed at Melrose some thirty years ago.  Mr. E. A. Staude has favored me with some of his mother's stirring reminiscences.  She was born in Poland, and came, with her father, to South Australia in 1844.  The voyage occupied about 15 weeks.  They arrived in a period of social depression.  Adelaide and Port Adelaide were in their infancy, and heroic men and women, who came to lay the foundations of our province, were struggling for existence.  Mrs. Staude's father was willing to take any kind of work in order to make an honorable living.  Long hours and low wages did not worry men of his stamp; his aim was to 'get something to do,' and 'to get on with the job.'  In summer picking wattle gum was one means of subsistence, the wage being £1 per cwt.  Another form of employment was reaping, all done with the sickle, for which the payment was 15/- per acre.

When Young Women Could Walk

Mrs. Staude's father made his way to the village of Hahndorf, then in its infancy, and so-called after Captain Hahn, who brought many of the Lutheran pioneers to South Australia.  Here he rented a piece of land, tilling it with fork and spade, and growing a little wheat.  How resolutely these pioneers - especially the German pioneers - labored; they were 'all at it,' and 'constantly at it,' except on the Sabbath, for they were men and women who recognised an over-ruling Providence in a practical and praiseworthy way.

Mrs. Staude now tells how, as a young girl in her teens, with other German lassies, carrying baskets of dairy produce, she was accustomed to walk from Hahndorf to Adelaide and home again, a distance of about forty miles.  'In the winter,' she says, 'I walked in one day, and out the next; but in summer time we would start at midnight, and get home next evening.  Winter nights in the city were spent with kindly folks, the husband a carpenter and cabinetmaker.  A couple of rugs on the shavings under the carpenter's bench, made a fine bed.  At break of day up with my basket again, with tea, sugar, soap and candles, I stepped out blithely, and thought nothing of it at fifteen years of age.'  When the German lassies left Hahndorf for Adelaide at midnight with their baskets of produce, they would be near the city in the early morning.  Beside a running stream they were accustomed to eat their breakfast, wash their faces and hands in the stream, comb their hair, and prepare for their entry into Adelaide, using a pool of water as a mirror. 

The hand of the diligent and abstemious does not always make rich, but as a rule it secures a competence.  Mrs. Staude's father gradually improved his position.  In the history of the family it was 'a great day' when he was able to buy twenty acres of land and two bullocks, and made a dray, after securing two wheels.  The walking to Adelaide and back with a loaded basket came to an end, the bullocks doing the journey.  Some of the young maiden's experiences were tragic — in danger once from wild dogs — missing a hungry pack, in pursuit of a wallaby, by climbing a tree; falling into a flooded creek; pursued on one occasion by a travelling pedlar.  Once, when a young girl of about twelve, going out into the scrub to get the cows, she was surrounded by blacks and began to scream.  The blackfellows heartily laughed, but the lubras and little black children came to the rescue, patting the cheeks of their young white sister, trying to reassure her. 

In a communication to 'The Country News,' describing the aborigines of the period, Mrs. Staude writes — 'The blacks were great, stalwart fellows, well built, and well nourished, quite a contrast to the puny, spindly natives in the north-west.  On one occasion a whole tribe of them came, and had a litter made of boughs, upon which lay a lubra, very ill.  They placed her carefully in the shade, and some of the white women brought milk and other suitable food, and gave her some attention.  After several days they moved on, first begging a few sheaves of straw to make a soft bed for the sick lubra.  On another occasion a number of blackfellows came along just as mother had taken off a large boiler of boiled wheat.  They scooped it out with their hands, and were laughing impudently and enjoying the feast.  Mother, however, went to a neighbor, who was a shoemaker and leather worker.  He had a fine whip, and out he sallied, using it with right good will.  There was no ceremony about their departure.  The stinging lash on their bare backs and legs was no joke and they soon vanished, no doubt finding it safer to rob the potato patches by night, which they sometimes did.

The Pigs Fell Out of the Waggon

Another interesting incident contributed by Mrs. Staude is worth a wide circulation.  Many and varied were the occupations in which the pioneer German lassies as well as lads felt it to be a duty in which to engage.  They tried to help to keep the home fires burning, and the pantry supplied.  Mrs. Staude says:— 'I can call to my mind one of my longest trips with bullocks.  When about sixteen years of age father wanted some barley taken to the nearest mill in exchange for grist.  He was too busy to go himself.  He thought I was able to drive the two bullocks, and discussed the matter with mother.  The outcome was that mother and daughter decided to go; It was a matter of necessity.  Mrs. Staude says:— 'We started out in the morning bright and early.  The distance must have been ten or twelve miles, and our bullocks stepped out smartly.  Right proudly I carried my big whip.  The day grew hot, and the fat, sleek bullocks grew tired and thirsty, and it was well past noon before we reached the mill.  Having watered our bullocks and rested awhile, the return journey was commenced.  As we wanted some little pigs, we deviated a little to a farm house, where there were some for sale. 

A bargain was made; two fat little porkers were popped in a bag and placed in the back of the German waggon.  Slowly we trekked for home.  The sun sank like a ball of fire, giving promise of a warmer day on the morrow.  The stars crept out; darkness descended, and we were miles from home.  There were few fences, and as we crossed an open plain mother said:— Are the little pigs all right?  Alas! I was in the waggon, and must have dozed a little while mother drove the bullocks, and kept a watchful eye on the wheel tracks that represented the road.  The pigs were gone — sack and all.  What's to be done now? was the question.  The night was dark; pigs were dear; money was scarce.  Quickly deciding, mother said:— 'Stay with the bullocks.  I'll go back and try and find them.  None too happy I stayed with the bullocks.  Mother walked off in the darkness, and after what seemed ages to me, I heard a faint 'coo-ee!'  Mother had found the pigs; the little rascals had evidently rolled over and over In the sack, and fallen out of the back of the waggon, and there they were still nuzzling and grunting and trying to get out of the bag.  The grunting guided mother to the spot, and carrying the porkers she wearily came back to the waggon.  Tired out we got home at midnight.  Although then we had never heard of Shakespeare's play, we were satisfied to say, 'All's well that ends well' 

Klemzig - A village of German Settlers near Adelaide - GF Angas 1847Mrs. Staude, as a young girl, was interested, not only in Hahndorf, but in Klemzig, the first German settlement.  It was a delightful little village, really founded by George Fife Angas, on the banks of the Torrens, now called Gaza.  Although the little village was long ago wiped out of existence, it has a peculiar charm for me, as all historical places have.  It was on the road that led to Klemzig — the Felixstow road — that the Rev. Thomas Quinton Stow, the pioneer Congregational Minister to South Australia lived, after whom Stow Memorial Church, Adelaide, is named.  In fact, Felixstow road is named after him, and the house in which he lived is still standing on the banks of the Torrens.  The village of Klemzig consisted of several long, narrow strips of land.  On each strip the pioneer German settlers built a small white thatched-roofed cottage, and laid out a vegetable garden.  Here the Rev. Augustus Kavel, the pioneer Lutheran minister to our State — the man who brought his flock out of the house of bondage, lived, and here the first Lutheran Church in South Australia was built. 

A well-known Lutheran Minister

Splendid colonists these German refugees — known to Mrs. Staude in her maidenhood — proved to be.  Mrs. Staude states that Pastor Kavel lived alternately at Klemzig and Hahndorf, having to minister to two congregations.  In each place he had a furnished cottage.  His brother was school teacher at Klemzig, and here Mrs. Staude, as a young girl, learned her alphabet.  Pastor Kavel was well educated, somewhat reserved, but highly respected.  During the first year or two the German settlers dug up the ground with forks and spades, and sowed as much barley and wheat as they could.  The seed was all hand sown.  A forked branch of a tree, with wooden teeth, was dragged over the land to harrow the seed into the soil.  Two or more persons pulled the wooden harrows by hand.  George Fife Angas, later on, provided bullocks from his herds which the settlers broke in to the single-furrow ploughs.  The settlers on Mr. Angas's property paid the rent, partly or in full, by the young cattle they reared, and every year the stock man went round and collected the young cattle for rent or part of it.  Mr. Angas did much to help the Lutheran settlers.  Men and women worked on the field.  Mrs. Staude remembers a gentleman giving a woman some money to hire a man to drive her bullocks; the woman took the money, but continued to drive the bullocks.  Pastor Kavel gave up his residence at Klemzig and went to reside at Langmell (Long Mile), in the vicinity of Tanunda.  Here he had an allotment of land, planting it with vines.  Mrs. Staude says that the life of these pioneer Lutheran settlers was simple, and laborious in the extreme.  Clinging to their religious freedom they were very devout and regular attendants at church.  In those days it was not an uncommon thing to walk six or even ten miles to church.  Later on, as some degree of prosperity came, and horses were available, the lucky possessor of a pair of horses took his German waggon, with several planks across for seats, and so a dozen or more were able to go to the house of God. 

Living Near Angaston

Mrs. Staude says: — 'Father, after some years, removed from Hahndorf to a place near Angaston.  Here, at the age of 20, she was married to Mr. Staude.  She says:— 'My husband and I lived in that vicinity for 20 years, having 80 acres of land.'  This was the usual allotment in those days, the days of small holdings.  'I was well Inured to hard work, so it was no hard ship when I got married to help my husband with his team of four bullocks.'  After marriage came the task of furnishing the home.  Money was scarce, but the young married couple were equal to the occasion.  Mrs. Staude says that nearly all the furniture was home-made out of native wood; rough, but strong and durable.  Some of it could not be worn out.  The camp oven — an old-time utensil — was a special friend.  The fires and fireplaces were things to be remembered.  A fireplace 12 ft. wide, in which a bullock could be roasted, with plenty of wood close at hand, made winter nights cosy.  'My husband,' states Mrs. Staude, 'loved good fires. He would bring inhuge logs, as much as he could lift, and they burned gloriously.  Through hard times and bitter drought and sickness, when poverty knocked at the door with relentless knuckles, two things we never lacked — wood to warm us and bread, however little, to eat.  Black coffee and dry bread we had sometimes for months, but still we had enough — if only enough.  There was no problem how to appear other than we were.  In simple friendliness we dwelt among our neighbors.  The helping hand was shown on all sides, as we were all poor together.  Shearing was an art in pioneer times, and some of the pioneers were adept at it.  Mrs. Staude says: — 'Whenever my husband went north to start the shearing season, for he was a very skilful shearer, and usually shore all the stud sheep for the different sheds, he made it a practice to leave plenty of firewood.  During his absence I tended the farm and stock on our little eighty-acre section, with my children for company.  There were no galvanized iron tanks, and if there had been thatched roofs were poor for water catchment.  In summer every drop of water had to be carried half a mile.  I made many wearied journeys to the spring with two big buckets, hastening all I could for fear that the children (who were small) would come to some harm during my absence, or set the place on fire while playing.

A Startling Experience

It was in 1876 that Mr. and Mrs. Staude decided to make a change and to take up land at Booleroo Whim.  Here they lived at first in a shepherd's hut.  Whilst Mr. Staude was transporting the farming material his good wife built an oven.  She says— 'During his absence I got busy and built an oven to bake bread in with mud and stones.  My son, aged 10 years, and I set to work, and although it was a queer looking structure it was possible to bake first-rate bread in it.'  The holding taken up by Mr. Staude was covered with scrub.  Scrub rolling had not yet come into operation, and the work was indeed laborious, only a few acres being cleared the first year.  Mrs. Staude says— 'Having no fencing wire, stray cattle and kangaroos devoured the crop, which was little enough, as it was a dry season.  A neighbor, who only had a small section and had sown several acres, saved his crop by walking round it half the night, and the wife took the other watch.  They got several bags of wheat and a little hay.'  Mrs. Staude says — 'By degrees we cleared the land and raised our family.  Among her early experiences there was one that always stood out. in her memory.  It was night time.  The husband was away from home, and a sister had come to keep the wife company.  It was a fine moonlight night.  They heard a horse galloping.  Looking out, they saw the rider rein up at the gate.  A big, powerful man was making his way to the door, and demanding admittance.  The wife and sister dragged a large chest, containing household linen, across the door.  The man pounded at the door, pushed, and swore.  The dog was aroused and came to the rescue.  He flew at the intruder.  The man went round the home, trying the doors and windows, and the dog, urged on by the voices of the women, continued his attack.  'After fighting the dog savagely,' Mrs. Staude says, 'the man decamped, with the dog following, tearing his clothes.  For a moment the dog relaxed to rid himself of a good mouthful of serge and man.  The intruder mounted his horse and was off at a furious gallop.  The sound of his horse's hoofs died away, and we sat down and had a cry.  There was no sleep that night.  We watched till dawn, and in the morning my husband came, and although he made careful enquiries we never ascertained the name fo the intruder.'

The Joy of Achievement

Out of Mrs. Staude's more than ninety years' experiences, a part only of which I have given, the novelist might weave a splendid romance.  Her reward was 'the joy of achievement.'  Helping with the fencing, the seeding, the reaping, able in a case of necessity to control a yoke of oxen, as many a farmer's wife can drive a pair of horses, with a strong and willing arm that could use an axe or a cross cut saw, Mrs. Staude lived a laborious but healthy and happy life.  Yes; her reward was indeed that of achievement.  She saw the tallow candle in the home give place to the kerosine lamp; the sickle and scythe give place to the reaping machine; the goat-cart, used by some of the Germans, give place to a pair of bullocks, and the bullocks to teams of horses; the little German waggon give place to the family coach, and the coach to the family motor car.  Ah, there was a peculiar charm about those early days.  After attaining more than ninety years Mrs. Staude, recalling the past, could say that when she as a young maiden rode into the little city of Adelaide, behind the two bullocks in the home made dray, she felt prouder than, when having her first ride in her son's motor car.  In her reminiscences she says — 'While not denying that every generation has its problems, I am sure there are few of the younger folks who know the real meaning of the words 'hard work,' so, with my journey's end in sight, I often wonder what new discoveries await us.  I have seen the city rise from a village to its present size.  The bullock dray has given place to the motor car. and the electric tram.  Life is swifter, more eager, more tumultuous than in the old days; the people are better off, but I wonder sometimes are they happier than we were in our thatched houses.  Mr. Staude adds — 'Mother has had her 92nd birthday (September 11).  She is well and hearty, and Just now is doing some sewing. Her hobby is to sew useful articles for missions and for children.'