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Hahndorf’s Heritage

by John Noack

The Pioneer Memorial Garden at Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills is a good place to start any investigation of Hahndorf’s heritage. It was placed on land donated by George Jaensch and it presents some interesting aspects of Hahndorf’s early years.

Captain Dirk Meinerts Hahn (1804-1860), who came from Westerland on the Island of Sylt, in 1838 brought a group of germanic settlers from Europe to Australia on board the ship Zebra. He helped them settle by coming to an agreement with land-owners Dutton, Finnis and Metcalfe on 25 Jan 1839 over the use of some of their land at Hahndorf. This led to the founding of Hahndorf.

This Garden presents a list of the early settlers who occupied land on Main Street, North Lane and South Lane at Hahndorf. These pioneers with their families include C. and G. Bartel; S. Bartsch; G. Berndt; J.G.Boehm; S. Brettig; G. Dohnke; G. Dohnt; G. Fliegert; J.G. Hartmann; F. Helvig; J.F. Hoffmann; C. and E. Jaensch; J.G. Jaeschke; J.G. Janetzki; J. Kalleske; J.C. Kluge; G. and J.F. Kuchel; J.C. Liebelt; J.G. Linke; G. Lubasch; G. Neumann; G. and J.G. Nitschke; F., J.F. and J.G. Paech; C. Pfeiffer; A. Philip; G. Rilbright; J.C. Schirmer; G. Schmidt; C. Schubert; J.C. Schulz; C. Schumann; S. Steike; J.F. Suess; J.C., J.F. and S. Thiele; F.W. Wittwer; J.G. Wundke; C. and G. Zilm and J.F. Zimmermann.

Other early settlers listed on a memorial at St Michael’s church included J.J. Altmann; A.D. Damke; B. Dahl; J.C. Dolling; N.L. and M.L. Fischer; C.J.A. Grummet; J.G. Haebich; F.W. Heinrich; J.C., H.F. and J.E. Kramm; E.E. Meyer; H.A. and J.A. Pade; C.F.E. Reimann; H. Rundle; J.T. Schmaahl; M. Schneider; C.S. Schneemilch; A.B. Schutz; C.A.H and J Storch; A.L. Strempel and H. Urban.

Education was considered important, as the sign “First Lutheran School Building in South Australia, 1842-1917” on an old building along the main street indicates.

The St Michael’s Lutheran Church was soon established by Pastor Kavel at the site of the present St Michael’s building situated at the west end of Hahndorf. Early disputes led to the departure of Pastor Kavel’s followers from this location and the establishment of St Paul’s congregation at the east end of Hahndorf. An early church building is now the Flerl Museum.

Pastor Andreas Kappler was also active at Hahndorf and established the St John’s Free Protestant Congregation.

The history of Hahndorf’s early Lutheran churches and schools was presented by Allan Wittwer in 1990 in his book “St Paul’s Lutheran Church Hahndorf”.

Painter Hans Heysen was attracted to Hahndorf in his quest for stately gum trees and farm life. He established his homestead and studio called “The Cedars” there and the property and buildings are maintained by his descendants for informative public tours. Some of his paintings and sketches, including his “Zinias and Autumn Fruits”, “Wittwer’s Mill” and “Thiele’s Barn” can also be inspected.

Many descendants of the above pioneers moved to other locations in Australia but they can all claim their family’s early settlement in Hahndorf as part of their family heritage.

The following literature provides interesting information about Hahndorf and its settlers.

Emigrants to Hahndorf: A Remarkable Voyage from Altona Denmark to Port Adelaide South Australia by Captain Dirk Meinerts Hahn of the ‘Zebra’ 1838; edited and introduced by Martin Buchhorn, Lutheran Publishing House 1989. This diary by Captain Hahn describes many disputes between passengers, including who should conduct services (p.105), why the doctor put glass in some medicine (p.81), problems when bodily wastes are discarded overboard but are blown back over passengers (p.82) and a debate over whether bodily hair is necessary (p. 105).

The food for the voyage is listed (p.30) but tragedies also emerge, as passengers experience sea-sickness, catch typhus or nerve fever and scurvy (p.34). Some died
and were put overboard into a watery grave.

The contribution of geologist Menge is mentioned, including his navigating only by the sun and stars and his habit of sleeping safely up in trees (p.108).

The book St Paul’s Lutheran Church Hahndorf by E.A. (Allan) Wittwer provides general background information relating to the history of Christianity and Lutheranism, the Old-Lutheran migration to Australia on the ships Prince George, Bengalee and Zebra and the establishment of Hahndorf. The author then deals with Hahndorf’s early Lutheran congregations, including St Michaels under Pastor August Kavel, St Paul’s under Pastor Kavel and St Johns under Pastor Andreas Kappler . Other aspects of congregational life are covered, including the choir, school, indoor bowls, elders and pastors up to 1990.

The Hahndorf Sketchbook, with drawings by Anni Luur Fox and text by Lena L. Wade (Rigby 1976), includes many old buildings in the Hahndorf area.

Hahndorf: A Journey through the Village and it History by Anni Luur Fox (2002) also presents drawings as well as expanded descriptions of old buildings and features in Hahndorf.

Hans Heysen: Artist, Conservationist, Visionary (2003) presents the importance of trees in the mind and work of Hans Heysen.