Klemzig, first German, and Lutheran, settlement in South Australia ">


First German, and Lutheran, settlement in Australia

German Lutheran refugees established Klemzig, the first ethnic village in South Australia. The first group of 21 Lutherans arrived on the Bengalee on 18 November 1838 followed two days later by the main group on the Prince George. They arrived on 20 November with Pastor August Ludwig Christian Kavel who brought a much larger group of migrants to South Australia. They all came to escape religious persecution at home, and Kavel settled them at Klemzig, named after their home town in Prussia, with the help of George Fife Angas.

George Fife Angas was greatly interested in the emigration of German Lutheran settlers. When Pastor August Kavel approached him for help for his people to escape religious persecution, Angas unsuccessfully tried to have their passage paid from the Emigration Fund. In the end he paid for their trip to South Australia, much to the regret of his colonial manager David McLaren who was not impressed and strongly disapproved.

To protect his investment Angas had hired Charles Flaxman to assist the Germans on board and look after them when they reached the colony and also act as Angas’ agent. After their arrival at Port Adelaide the migrants brought their belongings on hired bullock drays to their new home, which took about four weeks to complete. They were settled on sections 491 and 492 belonging to Angas and formed the village of Klemzig.

They were loaned £1,200 at 15% interest and a lease for seven years at a rent of five shillings per acre. Although not welcomed at first by the mainly English settlers, they soon changed their minds and attitudes when the Germans proved their worth. Governor Gawler said he would like to see a 100,000 of them. Each family led a happy independent life and very few of them were affected by the economic setbacks suffered by most South Australian during the early 1840s.

Kavel realised that South Australia was very well suited for agricultural activity and the best way to succeed for his followers was to open up country lands and establish self supporting villages, rather than concentrate in the city of Adelaide. Early in 1839 Menge informed Angas that many of them would become English subjects and 120 of them signed the oath on 24 May. However it was not until 1847 that most Germans who wanted to become a British subject were granted naturalization. One reason for the Germans’ eagerness was the fact that only British subjects could buy Crown land.

After many months Pastor Kavel's wife to be, Anna Catherine Pennyfeather, came out from England. They were married on 28 April 1840. However when she gave birth on 24 December 1841 to a still born son she died the next day Cristmas 1841. Other family members who came out with Pastor Kavel were his sister Maria Charlotte Sabine and brothers Johann Wilhelm Ferdinant, Johann Friedrich Wilhelm, both teachers and Daniel Samuel and Albrecht. Albrecht died at Klemzig in 1842. His wife passed away ten years later and was buried at Langmeil.

The new settlement attracted considerable interest from the Adelaide people and in May 1839 it was reported that Klemzig, on the northern side of the Torrens, had progressed well since its establishment. Cottages had been constructed with earthen walls, white washed and their roofs thatched with straw. A Chapel was erected in the middle of the settlement at a cost of £150 and used during the week as a school.

Within six months the Southern Australian reported that the industry and quiet perseverance of the German character had been fully developed in Klemzig. ‘Four or five months only have elapsed since the hand of man began there to efface the features of the wilderness, yet nearly thirty houses have already been erected’. Not only that but its farmers supplied Adelaide with badly needed fresh vegetables and several women took in washing from Adelaide residents.

By 1840 some 268 acres had been fenced into paddocks, 27 acres were planted with wheat, 96 with barley and 26 with potatoes. Water was supplied by the Torrens and the town had 209 inhabitants living in 34 houses. After a few years, Angas’ act of philanthropy had provided handsome profits to himself, the South Australian Company and even more so to South Australia. Hermann Koch wrote on 17 November 1841 to Captain Hahn that he, with J. Fiedler, had leased 134 acres for 14 years at £100 per annum. Ploughing and sowing had taken three months but he was now one of the principle farming peasants of the colony. Letters, written by these early Lutherans, and those of Pastor Kavel himself, resulted in even more Germans coming to South Australia.

Within a short time the village became a temporary home for further Lutheran migrants until they moved out to mainly German villages and other areas. By 1843 there was a shortage of land within the settlement and several of the initial settlers now moved to larger farms away from Klemzig to other settlements such as Bethany, Hoffnungsthal or Light Pass.

More German migrants arrived at Port Adelaide from Bremen on 17 March 1847. Among its 214 passengers were 40 farmers and 14 miners. Both occupations were very welcome at that time. Several of the migrants went to Klemzig while others moved the Lobethal.

Among those to seek better opportunities away from Klemzig was Johann Fiedler, born in 1796 at Klemzig, Prussia. He came to South Australia in 1838 with his relatives the Kavels. He first settled at Klemzig before moving to Bethany and planting vines in 1847. Another early settler who had similar ideas was Joseph Ernst Seppelt He arrived from Silesia in 1850. and became one of the best known wine producers in Australia. Born in 1813 he arrived with his wife Charlotte, his two sons, Benno and Hugo, daughter Ottilie, thirteen families and a group of young men who had worked for him. After first settling at Klemzig, the family moved to Seppeltsfield where Joseph grew tobacco, wheat and wine.

By the 1880s all residents had gone and most buildings collapsed or demolished. In 1900 the government bought the 256 acres for £4,556. In 1917 the name Klemzig was changed to Gaza, but reverted to its original name in 1935.

Many of the early Lutheran pioneers
are buried in their village.


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