Extract from Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 – 1954) - Saturday 4 February 1928

The Australian Lutheran Almanac for the year 1928, is a most interesting little book.  It contains not only information with regard to the activities of the Lutheran Church and its history, but much also of general appeal.  Pastor Brauer contributes an article on "The Life of the Fathers," from which we make the following extracts: —

Lutheran Pioneers

Among those entitled to an honored place in the history of Australia are the Lutheran pioneers who arrived in South Australia about two years after the establishment of the province on the 28th day of December, 1836.  These pioneers had, in their homeland, fought most valiantly for a great principle and high ideals— religious liberty or freedom of conscience — and had, in consequence, suffered ridicule, contempt, and persecution.  So, like the "Pilgrim Fathers" of America, they sought a new home in another part of the world, where they might worship God according to the honest dictates of their conscience.  The motive for their migration was, therefore, not acquisition of wealth, desire for worldly glory, or a mere spirit of adventure; no, obedience to what they regarded as the command of God; the voice of conscience; the desire to hand down to their posterity their holy religion unaltered and undefiled, was the impelling motive.

In Australia they found the asylum of religious liberty they had been seeking.  Has posterity properly appreciated the toil and labor, the daring and enterprise of these sturdy and godly pioneers?  Does it recognise and acknowledge the debt it owes to them?  Where are the monuments to perpetuate the memory of the invaluable services they have rendered?  The names they put on the map have been obliterated, as if unworthy of Australia.  The obliteration of German names, we are pleased to note, is now regarded by many as a sham and a folly.  These German names were, as it were "statues of liberty" erected by the pioneers, proclaiming and perpetuating the glory of Britain, because they proclaimed to future generations and ages that these pioneers had been accorded in a British province the liberty denied them in the country of their birth.  The question is, therefore, being asked whether the blotting out of these names was not a mistake, and whether the time has not come when in perfect reasonableness these names should be restored.

Religious Liberty and Freedom of Conscience

The Lutheran pioneers, as stated, had fought for religious liberty and freedom of conscience, refusing to allow the king to force upon them his own religious beliefs and opinions, however honestly held by him.  The result was oppression and persecution.  And incredibly severe were the measures taken against them to enforce submission to the will of the king.

In the district of Zullichau, in Silesia, two families (Thiele and Kuchel) were each fined 50 dollars for non-compliance with the order of the authorities, because they had declined to allow their children to be instructed in doctrines that were antagonistic to their own religious convictions.  They were either not in a position to pay the fine, or they refused to pay from motives of conscience.  The consequence was, the seizure and sale of Kuchel's household effects and even wearing apparel.  As the proceeds of the sale did not cover the amount of the fine, another seizure and sale took place somewhat later.  Thiele's fate was even more tragic.  Not only were his furniture and other effects and chattels seized, but even his homestead was confiscated and sold, in the face of desperate attempts to prevent the infliction of such a crying injustice.

A great-grandfather of the present writer had been elected a deputy by a Lutheran congregation to proceed to Berlin, and appeal in person to the king.  As soon as the object of his journey to Berlin became known, the order was given to quit Berlin ''sofort" (at once).  After his return to his home, he was arrested and sentenced to a short term of imprisonment for "disaffection and disobedience,"' in reality because, in child-like simplicity, he had imagined that a personal appeal to his "gracious king and land-father" would move the royal heart to do justice to the Lutherans and end their troubles and trials.  Drastic measures.

Not only individuals, however, but even large congregations were disciplined by order of the authorities.  At Honigern there was a loyal Lutheran congregation, comprising several thousand souls, under the spiritual care of Pastor Kellner, a man noted for his "deep learning, innate modesty, and conscientiousness."  This congregation and its pastor, like many others, refused to recognise the authority of the king and his ministers to dictate to them in matters of religion, and thus incurred the wrath and displeasure of the king.  The pastor was suspended from office and imprisoned, and the officers of the congregation ordered to hand over all books and documents, as well as the keys of the church, to a government official.  They declined, averring that they held the keys for the rightful owners of the church—the congregation.  The result was that leading members of the congregation were placed under arrest, and then escorted to a prison in a neighbouring district.  A little later a "Royal Commission" appeared on the scene, and demanded possession of the church.  The "Commission" had requisitioned the services of a blacksmith, who was to break open the doors of the church in case the keys were not surrendered.  But the members of the church, men and women, ten deep, stood sentry at the doors, singing hymns like "Commit whatever grieves thee," &c., and the "Commission" retired.  The pastor, meanwhile, "was on his knees in the manse, beseeching God for light and guidance in that dismal hour."  As the "Commission" retired, the members who had stood guard, women as well as men, joined in singing the choral, "Now Thank We All Our God."  No physical force had been employed on either side, no acts of violence had occurred; no active resistance offered, nevertheless the upshot was that 62 persons had to stand their trial for "insubordination," 47 of whom were acquitted, and five sentenced to a short term of imprisonment.

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. "  Six days later the "Commission"' returns with threats and warnings as to the consequences in case of further resistance, and remarks about "the knocking off of heads" are heard.  But such manoeuvres make no impression on men and women fighting for a religious principle, as were these Lutherans.  So the congregation remains adamant, with the result that more members are escorted to prison.  The second day of October sees practically a repetition of former occurrences, and another six members are incarcerated.  The congregation recognising the determination of the authorities and the seriousness of the position, now appoints a large number of members to guard their church, both night and day, for nearly three months.  Lay readers conduct the services, as the pastor was still in custody, where not a soul was permitted to see him, excepting a police sergeant, who brought him his daily ration of food, cut up into very small bits, lest a slip or note be smuggled in, giving him information about events outside his prison cell.  "Further resistance will be broken with armed force," is the parting word of the ''Commission," and the congregation replies by singing Luther's battle hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

On the following day, the Crown Prince of Prussia — (late King Frederick Wilhelm IV.)— whose sympathy was with the persecuted Lutherans, and who assisted in relieving their distress as much as possible — goes to see his intimate friend, Baron von Kottwitz, and after an exchange of greetings, says, with a sorrowful heart, "A very sad day this is in my life. Soldiers have been ordered to proceed to Honigern".  And so it proved.  On that day, two days before Christmas, 500 soldiers (400 infantry, 50 cuirassiers, and 50 hussars) march to Honigern and enter the village.  On the morrow, the day before the festival of peace and goodwill, at 4.30 a.m., they invest the church, and a contingent of 200 church members, male and female, all armless, who had stood on guard all through the cold winter night— suddenly find themselves surrounded by the army of 500 soldiers.  They are called upon to surrender and to go to their homes.  Five minutes are given them for reflection.  Their reply is — a verse of Luther's battle hymn.  The order is repeated, and another five minutes grace given.  The response is—another verse of the hymn.  The singing finished, the officer in charge repeats his previous order.  The soldiers are ordered to "load and charge".  "The third and last time!" "Forward!" is the command.  The soldiers attack, making good use of the butt end of their rifles, and in a few moments the defenders of the church are overpowered and disperse in all directions, followed by the hussars or light horsemen, who play their sabres on the heads and shoulders or the retreating "enemy."

The "battle" won, the soldiers are billeted in the village, the most prominent Lutheran families having each to provide quarters for about twenty men.  The soldiers had carried out orders, but many of them, perhaps all, felt deeply humiliated and ashamed of the laurels won in that memorable charge.  Furthermore, as they became acquainted with their kind-hearted Christian hosts and hostesses they were most profuse in their apologies for the part they had been ordered to play in that tragedy.  They had come to curse the Lutherans, but now blessed them.

Determination to Emigrate

Matters went on from bad to worse with these persecuted Lutherans, until many of them determined, as the American Pilgrim Fathers had done before them, to seek some part of the globe where they might be free to worship God after their own manner.  With the assistance of an English philanthropist, George Fife Angas "Father and Founder of South Australia," they were enabled to come to South Australia, the first batch of about 200 souls arriving in the Prince George on the 10th of November, 1838, while 17 persons (for whom the Prince George could not afford accommodation) arrived on the Bengalee a little later.

The third vessel to sail was the Zebra, with 197 Lutheran emigrants on board, under the command of Captain Hahn, a somewhat remarkable man.  The worthy captain is most anxious to assist the immigrants in the selection of a suitable locality where they might form a settlement.  He happens to meet Mr. F. H. Dutton, who had taken a special survey of 4,000 acres in the Mount Barker district, and who invited the captain to visit the spot.  The captain went, was enchanted with the beauty and fertility of the land, and was asked by the owner what he thought of it.  "It seems to me as if nature had lavished her choicest gifts on South Australia," the captain replied. Then, turning to the wealthy owners, he said, "Now I ask you, do you think it is the will of God that this beautiful land, on which so many hundred individuals could find an ample maintenance, should be destined merely for grazing cattle?  In such a boundless tract of land you would scarcely miss it, were you to grant my emigrants from 50 to 100 acres in some corner where they might raise a settlement.  Would not the consciousness of having made so many people happy repay you a hundredfold for your bit of land?  And do you not think the land would be rendered doubly valuable if it were cultivated by my industrious countrymen?"  Then the good captain took higher ground, and pleaded the religious aspect of the case, describing the heroism of his countrymen in their fight for liberty and truth.  This was on January 25, 1839.  The appeal of the captain fell on good soil.  Mr Metcalf [actually, Mr Macfarlane], a partner of Mr. Dutton, replied, "I am not at all disinclined to bring your emigrants here."  Mr. Dutton concurred.  Mr. Finnis, who also was part proprietor, said:— "I shall be pleased to have them here, and to see what industrious farmers can do with this land."  So 150 acres were appropriated to their use, and the people invited to come up, bag and baggage.

Landing in South Australia, the immigrants disembark, but not in the modern style, for there was as yet no jetty at Port Adelaide (then called Port Misery).  So the men wade ashore from the boats, and the women folk and children are carried pick-a-back by the sailors.  They commence their journey, carrying all their belongings, or dragging them along in small primitive hand carts of their own construction; or rather, they transport a portion of their belongings a certain distance, and then return, again and again, to fetch the remainder.  Even the first and easiest stage of their journey — from Port Adelaide to Adelaide— they find beset with great difficulties, and many of the migrants became very footsore through travelling over the uneven country.

Adelaide they discover to be but a collection of "huts" and tents.  Even the Governor's residence is a rude structure composed of slabs and mortar, dabbed together, with a thatched roof.  As for the cultivation of wheat at that early period, the records show that there were only 20 acres under cultivation when the Lutheran pioneers arrived.  The harvesting was done at £1 per acre, with a sickle, and one shilling per bushel for threshing with a flail.

The route to Hahndorf taken by the Lutheran pioneers led not through the "Glen," as some suppose, for there was no "track" there, and it would have been impossible for them to drag their little hand-made carts along the side of the rather steep hills, with their gullies; the "Glen" proper, moreover, was then a "thicket of scrub."  There were two routes available to them, as the "route maps" of that time clearly show, and both of them lay some distance north of the present road.  The ascent was made by one of the spurs between Beaumont and Glen Osmond, probably the one nearest Greenhill, as that was the one most used at the time.  This, however, is not certain.  All that we do know for a certainty is that they passed not through the "Glen," but up one of the two "spurs" to the north of Glen Osmond.  They push on, slowly, but surely, and, with the help of God, overcome all obstacles.  After months of alternating struggles and conquests, hardships, and victories, they arrive at their destination, in the lovely spot later named by them after the gallant captain of their vessel— Hahndorf— and a service of thanksgiving is held, when the welkin rings with their songs of praise and rejoicing.  Despite its wild state, it was a lovely spot; to them the loveliest spot on earth, for it was to be their "home, sweet home."

Roll of the Pioneers

This article would not be complete without a roll of the pioneers who settled at Hahndorf on the small holdings allotted to them.  These holdings were not fenced off from each other, but separated by narrow paths.

All told, it was 52 families that formed the original settlement.  Thirty-eight of these families, comprising 197 souls (106 adults and 91 children) had arrived by the "Zebra," and the other 14 some five weeks earlier by the "Prince George'' (a few excepted who had come by the "Bengalee," as the "Prince George" was unable to afford accommodation for all).  The "Prince George"' had been chartered by Mr. Angus, but the "Zebra" people had between them almost sufficient funds to defray the expense of the voyage, so that Mr. Angas was obliged to come to their assistance only to the extent of £200.

The following is a complete list of the heads of the 52 families who settled in Hahndorf:— Along Main Street (commencing at the northern end) — Schubert, C. Liebelt, F. Thiele, S. Thiele, Wittwer, E. Jaensch, Rillricht, Zilm, C. Jaensch, Lubasch, Neumann, Schultz, Steike, Boehm, Kuchel, Liebelt, Janetzki, Nitschke, Linke, Jaeschke, C. Thiele Bartsch, Zilm, Paech, Bartel, C. Schirmer.  Along the nothern lane — Wundke, G. Bartel, Berndt, W. Nitschke, Pfeiffer, Nitschke, Dohnke, Hoffmann, Schumann, G. Liebelt, Paech, Hartmann, Suess.  Along the southern lane — Schmidt, Kuchel, F. Kuchel, G. Dohnke, Brettig, Pfluegert, C. Pfeiffer, Kluge, "Renschner" Paech, Zimmermann, Philip. Kalleske, Helbing.  By far the largest proportion left their original holdings in the course of time, and settled in other parts of the Commonwealth, where their descendants now live.  As far as known, there is at the time of writing only one survivor (G. Janetzki, aged 93 years), who lives in the State of of Victoria.

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