Monday, 15 June 2009

German Station

A lot of Germans arriving in Brisbane in the early 1800s would have travelled from the port to the German mission at what is now Nundah before moving to their eventual homes. I assumed, and several people told me, that this was the norm for German migrants. Like all things historical though, it has to be examined. And yes, I am writing fiction, but I would like it to be reasonably accurate in the historical facts.

One of my first questions was what was German Station like and would the Jaeckels have gone there?

German Station was set up as a mission station by German Lutheran missionaries in 1838. It was originally called Zion Hill (now the area of Walkers Way in Toombul) and was on a hilltop about eight kilometres north of what is now the Brisbane CBD. The missionaries were attempting to convert the local Turrbul aborigines to Christianity. In their zeal, the Reverends Carl Wilhelm Schmidt and Christoph Eipper managed to establish the first free white settlement in Queensland with 19 adults and 11 children.

Sadly for them, the mission wasn’t a huge success and the government of the day asked for it to be closed in 1846. Apparently their evangelical targets kept moving around and were hard to locate. In 1839 the penal colony closed down and the settlers lost government backup. However, they were self-sufficient farmers by that stage and were able to continue until 1846 with the formal closure of the mission.

Schmidt went to England on the closure of the mission and joined the London Missionary Society. He then worked in Samoa until his death in 1864. Eipper joined an exploratory trip to the Wide Bay area to find a new location for the mission before moving to Braidwood in NSW where he remained until his death in 1894. I don’t know what happened to the other missionaries, perhaps they simply stayed on, having established homes and farms. Or perhaps they moved up to Wide Bay.

Zion Hill rapidly became German Station and then became Nundah in approximately 1882. A railway station was built in 1882 and called “German” (apparently so that it wasn’t called German Station Station) but the name of the station was changed within six weeks to Nundah. The post office followed suit but the name of the state school was not changed until 1896. For many years any mention of the area referred to “Nundah (formerly German Station).”

Lots of German migrants went to German Station on arrival because they could be sure of German speakers, hospitality and advice. Even after the mission closed, there were many German settlers in the area, those who hadn’t wanted to venture too far from a relative comfort zone.

So the answer to my question is that the Jaeckels might have gone there, but that it wasn’t a necessary step. The actual mission had closed down by the time the Jaeckels would have arrived (1866) but there were German-speaking support services available. Some German migrants started out there, others didn’t. If people were confident free settlers who wanted to immediately take up land, they could pick a direction and set out.

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