As with the Lutherans, the Catholics too suffered disabilities and persecution in their homeland. They were well aware of the freedom of religion and migration opportunities provided in South Australia from reports which had come back to Silesia from the Lutherans. With the added problems of political unrest, Franz Weikert, a well to do Silesian farmer, soon had a group of like minded people interested in leaving and establishing a new village in South Australia. Weikert paid the fares for those who could not affort the money.

Weikert knew that for his venture to be successful he would need a priest to look after his people. Unfortunately for him, his requests to the German bishops were unsuccessful and in the end he was only able to secure the services of Father Aloysius Kranewitter, a Jesuit priest from Austria.

Sevenhill Map

Weikert and his people left Hamburg on the Albert on 15 August 1848 and arrived, four months later, at Port Adelaide on 8 December. It now was up to Weikert to find a suitable place for his new village and its migrants. He was advised to settle on land just south of Clare, but many of the passengers thought it better to settle elsewhere and went their own ways. Weikert's scheme collapsed and he and his family settled on a block of land south west of Clare. He never recovered his money and eventually died a poor man at Sevenhill on 3 October 1875 at the age of 83. He is buried at the Sevenhill Cemetery.

The failure of Weikert to establish his village was a real disappointment for Kranewitter. But he put his time and effort to good use to help wherever help was needed. He was able to buy a small piece of land at Sevenhill, named after Rome which was built on seven hills, and in 1851 took up residence there with Jesuit Brothers John Schreiner and George Sadler, who had recently arrived from Austria.

They built themselves a mud and slab hut of ten by three metres and started with a project that would eventually result in the establishment of the first Australian Catholic Seminary. Kranewitter soon travelled from Sevenhill to as far as Morgan to look after the Catholic Germans in these young towns.

Father Aloysius Kranewitter, the first Jesuit Missionary to land on Australian soil was born in 1817 in Tyrol. He landed in Victoria with a group of German migrants and moved immediately to South Australia. After many years of hard work he was able to establish St Aloysius College.

During October 1852 he was joined by Father Tappeiner. Born in 1820 in Austria, Tappeiner was ordained in 1846. That same year he was sent to South Australia where he visited Catholics at Mintaro, Burra, Kapunda, Gawler and Tanunda. It was now possible for Kranewitter to extent his visits as far north as Blinman. In 1878 Father Joseph Tappeiner and Father John Pallhuber bought allotment 198 at this mining town. Father Pallhuber came to Australia in 1856, after spending eight years as a missionary in America.

While at Sevenhill he often visited such places as Wirrabara, Jamestown and Terowie. In Terowie he baptised babies from as early as 1863. He also travelled extensively on horseback from Sevenhill to Blinman and most of the surrounding pastoral stations. No doubt they hoped to use the land for a church to cater for the Catholics in Blinman and the north.

The crypt at Sevenhill. Something not often found in Australian Churches.

At Sevenhill matters improved with the return of successful farmers from the Victorian gold fields. Several of them, and other locals, were married including Charles Crew of Crystal Brook. He married twenty year old Katherine Hennesy of Clare on 5 December 1855. Katherine had only recently arrived on the Nashwauk from Ireland. As many of the returned diggers were in a generous mood, it enabled Kranewitter to finish his chapel at Sevenhill in 1856.

Meanwhile more and more students attended the college and on 14 December 1858 the annual examinations were held lasting some four hours. Among the subjects taken by the students were spelling, grammar, arithmetic, geography, latin, french, german and music. Prizes were later distributed by P.Roe, Joseph Tappeiner, John Wallace and Alexander McDonald.

More land was bought at Sevenhill and farm, orchard and vineyards were improved. Kranewitter returned to Europe in 1856 but was back three years later with an extra priest and two brothers. Two years later, in 1861, Father Dengel arrived at Sevenhill and a start was made with the building of a new church.

From the Observer, October 1863.

With the financial help of all the Catholics in and around Clare, including the Poles at Polish Hill River, enough money became available to start the building. On 15 August 1864 the foundation stone was laid by Father Michael Ryan. Two years later, enough of the building had been finished for Bishop Lawrence Bonaventure Sheil to come up from Adelaide and officially open St. Aloysius Church on 18 November 1866. Part of the ceremony included the Baptism of two Aboriginal families who had been prepared by Father Hinterocker. The choir of Mintaro came up especially to sing at the Mass.

For the next few years fundraising continued and in 1868 a start was made with the building of the new College. The foundation stone was laid by Father Julian Tenison Woods, one of the original students and the first student ordained to the priesthood from Sevenhill in 1857. Other students were Peter and Donald MacKillop, brothers of Mary Mackillop.

During 1870 Father Kranewitter was sent to Victoria and for ten years performed missionary work there among German Catholics. He died on 24 August 1880.

At the start of 1871 Sevenhill College advertised its services in the local papers. It stated that 'the schools of this college affords to parents the best opportunity for the training of their children in virtue and learning. The course of studies embraces all branches of a classical and commercial education'. It also listed the fees which would be charged. They were Forty Pounds for tuition, board and lodging. Five Pounds extra for bedding, washing and for mending linen and stockings.

All in all about 450 boys were educated at the college until 1884 when the Jesuit Novitiate was transferred to Melbourne. Meanwhile work on the church also continued and the whole of the completed building was opened by His Lordship Bishop Dr. Christopher Augustine Reynolds in February 1875.

People often travelled long distances to be married or have their children baptised at Sevenhill. On 10 September 1876 the later well known C.J. Dennis was baptised in the new church.

The work of the Sevenhill Jesuits was recognised as far away as Rome and in 1882 they were asked to look after the Aborigines of the Northern Territory as well. In September of that year Father Strele, who had been at Sevenhill since 1867, and three other missionaries sailed for Darwin. They were granted some land and started their efforts at Rapid Creek, about ten kilometres from Palmerston. After three years of back breaking work they had to admit defeat. However after a new land grant of 100,000 acres they started all over again on the Daly River at Old Uniya. Strele returned to Sevenhill in 1892 and died there in 1897.

Apart from their religion, the Jesuits also brought vine cuttings from the Rhine Valley which were planted at Sevenhill. They established the first winery in the Clare Valley in 1851 with Brother John Schreiner as first Cellar Master. Only church wine was produced but Schreiner soon included other wines and brandy. After more than thirty years of successful management, he was replaced in 1884 by Brother Francis Lenz who held the position until 1889 when he was replaced by Brother Patrick Storey. By the turn of the century the winery produced more than 25,000 litres of wine. It is still operating today.

Sevenhill Cemetery


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