German vinedressers in Camden

2012
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German vinedressers in Camden

[media]On 23 April 1838, Sydney Cove was the destination port for the very first group of German vinedressers to immigrate to Australia. They were Casper Flick, Friederick Sickold, Georg Gerhard, Johann Justus, Johann Stein and Johann Wenz.

Foreign bounty immigrants

In the Marco Brunner vineyards of Erbach on the Rhine in the Duchy of Nassau, Edward Macarthur handpicked six experienced vinedressers to cultivate the grapevines on the family property at Camden Park. His father John Macarthur, before his death in 1834, had successfully petitioned the authorities to permit foreign immigrant workers into the colony under the newly formed 'Bounty Scheme'.

Although the Macarthurs had hoped to have several hundred skilled workers from areas such as Germany, Switzerland and France, they were only allowed to recruit six vinedressers to start with.

In 1837 the men signed two contracts, the first on 9 October 1837 in Hattenheim, and the second on 23 October 1837 in Wiesbaden. They had to be married, and to

take care of the vineyard of Mr. Macarthur in New South Wales in the same manner as if their own and work in the seasons when there is no employment amongst the vines upon other parts of his property. …They pledge themselves to control themselves in their lives and manners as good Christians and as honest and diligent Germans, and especially to prove themselves in all things orderly, diligently & soberly, and not to allow themselves to be turned aside by bad example.

They promise to bring up their children virtuously and orderly, and to send them regularly to School. [1]

For his side of the contract, Macarthur promised to 'send the named families free of expenses from the Port of London to his estate'. [2] Each man was to receive £15 per annum, a comfortable cottage for his family and a block of good ground. Provisions consisted of milk from a cow, 11 pounds of flour, and 7 pounds of fresh beef or mutton; plus they were permitted to keep pigs and poultry but not to sell them. [3]

On 19 November 1837 they set sail down the Rhine to Antwerp, approximately a four-day journey, then across the North Sea by steamer to England. When they got to London, 'they were anxious and hesitant and were barely persuaded from turning back'. [4] They wondered what they had let themselves in for, but a letter to them from the Austrian botanist and diplomat Karl von Hügel gave them the confidence to continue. [5] Nearly 20 years later, in 1864, a letter to Karl von Hügel from Edward Macarthur recounted those earlier fears

When the first party of German vine dressers from the Duchy of Nassau were in a state of mutiny in London in 1837, and refused to go any further, your letter was all powerful in overcoming the obstacle that had been thus raised up, and thus opened the stream which has never since failed. [6]

Voyage to Sydney Cove

On Sunday 10 December 1837, the Kinnear a 370-ton barque built in Yarmouth, England in 1834, set sail from The Downs, England, under the command of Captain Charles Mallard, bound for Sydney Cove. On board were 23 English immigrants and 29 Germans (six couples with 17 children). [7]

Three weeks into their journey, storms lashed the Spanish coast. Johann Stein, one of the six, wrote of the experience in a letter to the Mayor of Erbach, Germany, dated 27 May 1838:

Our whole ship was rolling continuously. We never thought this would happen when we left London. The women and children had to stay in bed. They became seasick but nothing serious. The men all felt well and had no problems.

One sailor who had too much brandy the day before, was punished by the captain and was tied up to the steering wheel. When the steering wheel turned he was thrown on to the other side and washed away by the enormous waves. There was no rescue possible. We had to watch how the enormous waves took him over and it was terrible to watch. In January a baby of an English family was born on ship and had to be buried in the sea. [8]

Johann Stein also described their arrival in Sydney.

On the evening of 21 April we could see the lighthouse. This was a big relief for us….Our destination had been reached. Thanks be to God….Our Master welcomed us and took us in a little boat about 12 English miles to his Mother's place. [Elizabeth Farm Parramatta] where she had an estate. That is where we stayed overnight … Next morning we continued with four wagons and a carriage until we reached the estate of our master. Here [Camden Park] they served us with fresh milk. Next morning they gave us our homes and gardens with animals. There were cows, chickens, dogs, geese as well as furniture and kitchen tools, basically everything we hoped for. [9]

Six neat cottages all in a row

They were settled in 'six neat cottages all in a row'. As Johann Stein noted, 'Our houses are situated opposite the vineyards. A very pretty vineyard', and, he went on, 'We are cultivating it in the Rheingau way'. [10]

William Macarthur gave some more detail of the houses:

We have built them of 9 inch brickwork; and 14 inch 'pise' or rammed earth; and framed upon wooden sills brick nogged between the quarterings and weather boarded outside, the whole plastered within, but without ceiling, and with shingled roofs. Each cottage contains generally, a kitchen, two sleeping rooms, a small pantry, and a verandah in front.[11]

Paul Edmund de Strzelecki spent his first Christmas in Australia with his friend James Macarthur at Camden Park in 1839, where he met the Germans, noting:

I had gone with my host to look at the farm, the fields, and the vineyard, — contiguous to which last stood in a row six neat cottages, surrounded with kitchen gardens, and inhabited by six families of German vine-dressers, who emigrated two years ago to New South Wales, either driven there by necessity, or seduced by the hope of finding, beyond the sea, fortune, peace, and happiness, – perhaps justice and liberty. The German salutation which I gave to the group that stood nearest, was like some signal-bell, which instantly set the whole colony in motion. Fathers, mothers, and children came running from all sides to see, to salute, and to talk to the gentleman who came from Germany. They took me for their fellow-countryman, and were happy, questioning me about Germany, the Rhine, and their native town. I was far from undeceiving them. [12]

Strzelecki went on:

After talking of various matters, they at length all simultaneously cried, ' but are you not come here to stay with us? Oh, do stay! We shall not then be alone! ... Never shall I forget the expression of their faces on hearing my negative: they looked at each other as if to say, ' we ought to understand this, – he has reasons for returning to Germany; we, alas! know none but those which forced us to quit it ! ' … It is the regret with which every emigrant naturally looks back to the country he has abandoned, added to a feeling of isolation that weighs so heavily on the hearts of these poor vine-dressers. To proceed to a new country, in a number sufficiently large to form a nation or community within itself, greatly relieves and moderates the evils of emigration; but to abandon our country for another, where the people have nothing in common with us but the bond of the same humanity, is to renounce our nationality and our race…How many, many times – an object of kindness on a foreign soil – have I not been in their situation, and shared their feelings! How many difficulties, too, have I not conquered, in the study of languages which have no affinity with my own! and yet, whenever the heart and soul have been moved, how difficult have I found it to adapt them to the faintest expression of that which moved me. It is on such occasions that the recollection of country is recalled, and the sentiment of nationality revives. [13]

The original six Germans were one of the first groups of non-British immigrants to come to Australia, arriving seven months before the famous South Australian Germans. They were the first German vinedressers to arrive here, bringing with them the first Riesling grape cuttings to Australia, and through their expertise in the vineyard, enabled the Macarthurs to distribute vine cuttings throughout New South Wales and South Australia that proved vital to the fledgling Australian wine industry. The main varieties of grapes grown at Camden Park were from Germany. By 1841 William and James were producing more than 5000 gallons, and that vintage won gold medals in England. In 1844, 24,000 vine cuttings were sent from Camden Park to Adelaide, setting South Australia on a path to becoming an internationally acclaimed wine-growing district. [14] They also set the precedent for thousands of Germans to migrate to New South Wales and other states.

Elizabeth Macarthur wrote to Edward about the immigrants from the Rhineland whom Edward had selected in 1837:

You would like to see as I do the cottages of the Germans they are built at some distance from each other, in the form of a crescent which the ground favours ... and facing the vineyard between which and their dwellings is a fine lagoon of water frequently visited by wildfowl. Mellow apple trees ... shade those habitations which exhibit at once the appearance of peacefulness combined with plenty – each family having a cow or two, a garden, and poultry in abundance. [15]

References

Jürgen Tampke, The Germans in Australia, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2007

Albert Grulke, 'Kinder des Vaterlandes', unpublished manuscript, 2005, available online at http://www.chapelhill.homeip.net/FamilyHistory/Other/, viewed 1 August 2012

Notes

[1] Macarthur Family Papers, 1796–1945, second collection, pp 155–157, State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, Manuscripts A4187, A4188

[2] Macarthur Family Papers, 1796–1945, second collection, pp 155–157, State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, Manuscripts A4187, A4188

[3] Macarthur Family Papers, 1796–1945, second collection, pp 155–157, State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, Manuscripts A4187, A4188

[4] Alan Atkinson, Camden – Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1988, p 39

[5] David Nutting, 'Chronology', on German Australia website, http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/dnutting/germanaustralia/e/chron/chron1.htm, viewed 12 July 2011

[6] Letter to Karl von Hügel from Edward Macarthur in England, Middle Rectory Shrewsbury dated 28 June 1864 (sic), Macarthur Family Papers, 1789–1930, first collection, vol 24, pp 316–318, State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, Manuscripts A2920, quoted in JH Voigt, Australia-Germany, Two hundred years of contacts, relations and connections, Internationes, Bonn, Germany, 1987

[7] Passenger list of barque Kinnear, Ozships: Australian shipping 1788–1968 website, http://www.ozships.net/ozships/, viewed 12 July 2011

[8] Johann Stein letter, in Patricia Cloos & Jürgen Tampke, Greetings From the Land where Milk and Honey Flows – German immigration 1838–1858, Southern Highlands Publishers, Canberra, 1993, pp 21–47; Robert S Stein, A Fine Australian Vintage – The Stein Families from Erbach, the author, Mudgee NSW, 2001

[9] Johann Stein letter, in Patricia Cloos & Jürgen Tampke, Greetings From the Land where Milk and Honey Flows – German immigration 1838–1858, Southern Highlands Publishers, Canberra, 1993, pp 21–47; and Robert S Stein, A Fine Australian Vintage –The Stein Families from Erbach, the author, Mudgee NSW, 2001

[10] Johann Stein letter, in Patricia Cloos & Jürgen Tampke, Greetings From the Land where Milk and Honey Flows – German immigration 1838–1858, Southern Highlands Publishers, Canberra, 1993, pp 21–47; and Robert S Stein, A Fine Australian Vintage – The Stein Families from Erbach, the author, Mudgee NSW, 2001

[11] Macarthur Papers pp 155–157, State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, Manuscripts A4187, A4188

[12] Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London, 1845, p 462

[13] Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London, 1845, p 462

[14] David Everett, 'The Heritage of Australian Wine Show', Macarthur News, 2004, cited in Office of Environment and Heritage database listing, 'Camden Park Estate and Belgenny Farm', http://www.heritage.nsw.gov.au/07_subnav_01_2.cfm?itemid=5051536 , viewed 9 August 2011

[15] Hazel King, Elizabeth Macarthur and Her World, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1980, p 182

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