Menu Icon

by Andreas Kaiser

Andreas Kaiser (1827-1912), was a Wend who arrived in Melbourne aboard the Pribislaw in February 1850. At the time of writing this letter, he had settled on land at Hawthorn and had also purchased land at Doncaster. Further details about him can be found in From Hamburg to Hobson’s Bay: German Emigration to Port Phillip (Australia Felix) 1848-51(1999) by Thomas A. Darragh and Robert N. Wuchatsch.
Melbourne, 8 October 1853.

My dearest father, your precious letter arrived safely in September and I see that all of you are well, which made me very happy. I hope this letter also finds you well. May God be thanked – I am well too, my dear Father. At the same time I expected my dear brother George here, who, however, is still over there, as you write me, that because of the military service he cannot go and that those who are eligible for service are forbidden to emigrate. It is very sad and to be regretted that your government has not yet the brains to consider more about whether it is right or not to hold back its citizens from striving to achieve the most for themselves. But you, dear father, do not see it that way. But I say woe to the German governments, and may God have mercy upon the German people; it is precisely because of this that I wanted my brother with me here, so that he might be freed from this slavery and live here as a free man under the English government. Its rule is also very strict, but only where it has the right to be so. Evil persons are strictly punished here too, perhaps more so than in Germany, for in Germany it seems that evil people receive even more help for their deeds, growing ever fattle like cattle from the hard-earned money of decent people. They call themselves Sir and Madam, but they are in error – they are just predatory animals.

Dear father, I always intended to leave this colony and go to another, but I have put that idea away now. I am now determined to stay here and have bought land four English miles from Melbourne. I purchased 2 1/2 acres for £150 sterling an acre in total £375 sterling and 10 English miles from Melbourne I have purchased 20 acres for which I paid £9 per acre. Dear Father, it would certainly have been better had I bought the land much earlier, for then it would have been much cheaper. Everything has changed very much now and land is very expensive, particularly around Melbourne. Two years ago I would have been able to buy the same land for £15 sterling an acre, so land near Melbourne is more expensive than anywhere else in the world, because thousands of people arrive each week from all over the world in search of gold. Still, dear Father, there is land enough, but far from the city, and that is not good for someone with little capital, for if one is near to the city, one can sell everything for gold, which is not easily done if one lives too far out unless one has large amounts of capital. I could easily have bought 100 acres but that would bring too much worry with it, because at the moment I am still by myself and it is also difficult for me to hire labour when the average wage for a worker is presently from 30s to £2 a week with board. If I do decide to stay on here, I want to buy more land in the interior later on, for I know it well through the many hundred miles I have travelled around it.

Dear Father, I am presently working with wagons. I now have a wagon of my own which cost me a great deal, for horses are very expensive here, particularly good, strong draught horses. It is impossible to buy a good horse for less than £100 sterling. I do possess a lot of timber, which was on the property I bought, and that fetches a high price like everything else here, so shortly I intend to spend my time in timber dealing. Dear Father, I was in the goldmines for two years, but they are not as productive as they used to be and latterly I had to contribute money. It is thought, however, that new fields will be discovered among the 300 English miles where the goldfields presently extend. Around 150,000 people are working on the goldfields at the moment. They come here from America, Europe, Asia, Africa, all for the gold, and some do make a fortune, though others have to put in everything they have, because finding gold is hard work and sometimes it is necessary to work for weeks before finding anything. Then suddenly you can find so much that it compensates for the many months of labouring. It’s all a matter of luck – many become rich, and many lose everything, sometimes even their lives. I have not been one of the luckiest ones, but also not the unluckiest. I have made good money, stayed healthy and preserved from the bad things which have befallen many others, and now I do not wish to go back again to the goldmines but will stay here near Melbourne on my land. I will settle here and will let the 20 acres of land which I have 10 miles from here lie. I want to lay out an orchard here and I also want to create a nice garden and set up myself a carrying and timber business.

Dear Father, I could write much more about the things you want to know, but the paper is filling up too quickly – and so I must keep to only the most necessary things for you. My dear Father, I must let you know that after a long period a Lutheran Evangelical congregation has established itself here, and a German church is to be built. The congregation is exactly the same as the other Lutheran congregations in Adelaide. Our pastor is a loving man, with a humaneness of the same kind as the true love of Jesus Christ. His name is Matthias Goethe, formerly professor at the English University in Sydney, and may God be thanked for the great kindness He has shown to the little German congregation. Indeed, there are several thousand Germans here, but unfortunately few who want to know anything about a church. Dear Father, I understand your decision to remain home, and you would find much here that you would not like. If you are really content to stay at home, you will be happier there than someone here who has much money but is dissatisfied with his life. Your life will achieve its higher destiny, that much I have concluded, so I will try to remain unbiased in regard to your deciding whether or not to come here. But I ask you again, should my brothers and sisters desire to emigrate, that you do not hold them back, for I wish with all my heart to have my two sisters here, and I would look after them, so that they would certainly have a better life than in Germany. I really enjoyed the two lovely poems that they wrote to me and some day I expect, if they are not able to come here, that they will write me a long letter. So I close this letter with my great wish to have at least one of my brothers and sisters here; I promise them a better life than at home. I wish you all thousandfold a good life.

Your faithful son.

A. Kaiser

Postscript. Dear Father, sincere greetings to all your brothers and to the school teacher. Tell him he should write a few lines to me, because I would like to see his handwriting once again.
This letter was translated from German-to-English by Dr Charles Meyer, Melbourne and revised by Dr Thomas A. Darragh, Melbourne.