Menu Icon

Past Events

Deutscher Family Reunion

by John Noack

Deutscher 2008: A Reunion of the Deutscher descendants celebrating 160 years of the Deutscher Family in Australia took place in Hamilton on 27-28th September 2008.

Michael Deutscher and his brother Andreas and sister Magdalene Liebe left their homes in the Wendish areas of Upper Lusatia, Saxony and travelled overland to Hamburg . They arrived in Port Adelaide in December 1848. The party first settled in the Barossa Valley but soon moved overland to Portland and then to South Hamilton. As land opened up in Murtoa some Deutschers moved there and to other parts of the Wimmera. From there they spread across Australia.


Over 200 Deutschers assembled at Hamilton on 27-28 September to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the arrival in Australia of the three ancestral Deutschers on board the ship “Alfred” on 6 December 1848: (1) Michael Deutscher with his wife Johanna Schwarz (2) Magdalena Maria with her second husband Johann Gottfried Liebe and (3) Peter Andreas Deutscher with his wife Agneta Albert.

Descendants were fortunate to be able to refer to the book “Deutscher A Family History, 1848-1986”, which was carefully researched by Ray Deutscher and was published in 1986. Apart from the family trees of the above Deutschers, Ray presented useful information about Upper Lusatia including their ancestral village Zschorna, the history of the Wends, the voyage on the “Alfred” and life at Rosenthal, Portland, Hamilton and Murtoa. Ray also included Deutscher memories of farm and factory life and he noted that Deutscher was originally “Niemz” (p.17), that Germany was experiencing severe famine between 1844-1848 (p.19), that South Australia needed settlers to prevent its conquest by the French (p.20), that the Albert, Burger, Deutscher, Hundrack, Mirtschin, Petschel and Rentsch families who went to Portland in the early 1850s were Saxon Wends (p.40), that Michael Deutscher helped to found St Michael’s church at Hochkirch (p.53) and, following often heated disputes with Pastor Clamor Schurmann (pp.56-68), Michael donated land and helped to establish St Luke’s Lutheran Church in South Hamilton (p.72).

Descendants could also refer to the book “Emigrants on the Alfred 1848” by Thomas Darragh, which was published by the Friends of Lutheran Archives, Bowden S.A. in 2003. It not only contained a list with biographical details of all of the Alfred passengers but also some very interesting letters sent back to Germany by Michael Deutscher, as well as by other fellow passengers including Alois Kranewitter, Heinrich Luestner, Ernst Kaulvers, Christiane Hiller nee Petschel and Andreas Albert. Michael Deutscher notes in his letters that some of the settlers miss the large European gardens, the cities and the splendid palaces but they have freedom and plenty of food, wheat and fruit (p.57). He also writes that the name they chose for their Barossa settlement was “Sachsenruh” or “Saxon Rest” but this was later changed to “Rosenthal” (p.58).

The Reunion’s busy Saturday program included registration, display viewing, car tours, pastoral museum visit, welcome address, dinner and a talk by Betty Huf on the Deutscher’s wendish heritage.

The car tour featured Monivae College, the Hamilton Pastoral Museum, the Church Block and the South Hamilton Cemetery, all built on land originally purchased by Michael Deutscher, the Clyde Engineering works in Lonsdale Street, where the Thompson Street gate and fence of the Hamilton Botanical Gardens were made and St Michael’s church at Hochkirch/Tarrington.

The Church Block in the Pastoral Museum includes a display in the St Luke’s church which recalls the pioneering days, the arrival of the above eight families, the 1853 purchase of land at the Grange and the plan in 1859 to build a new church, which was dedicated as St Luke’s on 10 March 1861 during a visit by Pastor M Goethe.

The Church Block also contains a comprehensive range of horse-drawn vehicles which help to explain their different uses. It appears that the “buggy” was hooded and used for passengers; it had springs, four wheels and two shafts for pulling by horses. A “wagon” was used to carry goods and had four wheels and a single pole for pulling. A “dray” had two wheels and no springs, with shafts for pulling but a “gig” or “jinker” had two wheels, springs and two shafts for pulling. There were also “spring carts” with shafts for one horse, the butcher’s delivery cart and a “tip dray”. This display from the horse and buggy days is most enlightening.

The Dundas Block displays horse treader winnowers, horse-works and other early farm machinery.

Daryl Deutscher welcomed the descendants at about 3pm and he explained how the idea of holding a 160th anniversary celebration arose. A group in the late 1990s decided to retrace the steps of Michael Deutscher to his property at Rosedale/Rosenthal/Sachsen Ruh. Soon after, some Queensland Deutschers came south to seek out their ancestors. Also the Wendish Heritage Society published an article on Daryl Deutscher’s Turkey Farm, which contained some wrong dates which Ray Deutscher saw the need to correct. In 2007, Daryl again contacted Ken, held a meeting at Jeparit, formed a Reunion Committee and held many planning meetings which resulted in this Reunion.

Daryl paid tribute to Ray Deutscher for his magnificent effort in producing and publishing the Deutscher book in 1986 and in helping the Committee to locate descendants all over Australia. Daryl, on behalf of the Committee Rob, Ken, Arthur and Glenda Deutscher, Annette Hubbard and Glenda Campbell then welcomed everybody. Sponsors including Chris Deutscher, Deutscher Mowers and Ideal Fasteners were thanked for their support.

At the Dinner on Saturday evening, the 200 descendants could choose porterhouse steak with shiraz gravy or turkey breast with cumberland sauce. Dessert was either homemade apple strudel or baked cherry cheesecake. Bautzen to Hamilton was the theme for thoughts by Evelyn and Peter Deutscher and Betty Huf provided an informative illustrated talk on the Deutscher Family and their Wendish Heritage in the Hamilton district. She presented many illustrations and descriptions of early pioneering life. There was Pastor C.W. Schurmann, Pastor of the Hochkirch Parish from 1853-1893; the first thatched church which was erected at South Hamilton, now the Cemetery; St Luke’s church formed in 1860 and consisting of Michael Deutscher, Carl Huf, W. Petschel, J.C. Schneider and P. Zieschang and Teacher Traugott Grosse who taught the children in members’ homes and in the first church building from 1864-1868.

Further afield, Betty presented the Gnadenthal Cemetery established by the Albert, Burger, Mirtschin, Stephan and Urban families; the Burger cottage, with its stone fences and bake-oven; the Byaduk church with its wendish surnames such as Bramke, Gude, Handreck,Hona, Jeitz, Kilo, Kosch, Pertzel, Pumpa, Rentsch, Salzke, Schlemmer and Towk and the erection of St Michael’s church at Hochkirch.

Betty then described the Wends as Slavic people now living in Lusatia, south-east of Berlin while their earlier homeland was east of the River Vistula. Called “Venedi” by the Romans, they entered Lusatia in about 500 CE. Finally, some wendish costumes, views of the Deutscher ancestral home at Zschorna (Cornjow) and the Hochkirch church shed useful light on the Deutscher Story.

The Thanksgiving Service at St Michael’s Lutheran Church in Tarrington allowed participants to reflect on the Deutschers’ 160 years in Australia. Colin Huf and Geoff Deutscher led the service and Howard Pohlner dealt with the Deutscher heritage and legacy in his sermon. John Noack played the pipe-organ.

It was a great pleasure for me as President to accept this invitation to represent our Wendish Heritage Society at this reunion and to share in the very enthusiastic celebration of the Deutschers’ 160 years in Australia.