Tuesday, 23 October 2007

First huts

Browsing around the archives of Picture Queensland, I came across this wonderful image dated 1880. I don’t know if it was a postcard designed to send home to those in Germany or if it was part of some official literature about what to expect in Queensland. It is tentatively labelled as being in Rosewood and has the printed caption “ Erste Wohnhutte eines Deutschen Ansiedlers” or “First hut of a German settler.”

The picture is clearly posed. All the family are out the front of the house in their best clothes. One horse has been led into the picture, the other looks like it has drifted off. See, just a slab hut but TWO horses. I also love the amateurishness of the building. The huts look as if they are holding each other up and were perhaps built by someone with little building experience. But it’s shelter and did I mention the two horses? It’s certainly enough to write home about.

I found another image of a German farming family taken in 1872. Here too the family are lined up in their best clothes. Here too, what I take to be the father is proudly displaying his horses, one for riding, the other for the wagon. The radical difference is the buildings – brick shed, tiled roof, semi-timbered walls. If it wasn’t for the towering gum trees behind the buildings, you could have been in any prosperous European farmyard. The farm is in Bethania, on the Logan River. Twenty-two families on the Susanne Godeffroy (which arrived in Brisbane on 17th January 1864 from Hamburg) founded a community based largely on their shared religious values of Old Lutheranism. They appear to have prospered.


SybBrig said...

Wonderful photos, indeed. What time of year were these taken? -- There are few leaves on the trees -- is that winter or always? I wonder what these represented to the people back home, if behind the prosperity available in the distant country they noticed the very different climate (and was that a good thing or a bad thing -- it rains a lot in Germany)?

It is a surprise to modern eyes to see the hut as something to be bragged about -- I mean, they could have had the photo off to the side of the house, with all the horses and showing the tilled fields behind or something. Perhaps the size of the hut and number of outbuildings was impressive?

Blithe said...

I don't know what time of year these photos were taken. Gum trees always look more sparse than many European trees. These are fairly straggly specimens though. It may have been a very dry year.

I think it's about perspective. The Bethania settlers were generally more affluent (religious rather than economic migrants) and had ideas about what constituted a "proper farm." If you were an economic migrant such a hut might indeed be something to brag about.