Dictionary of Sydney

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Justus, Johann

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Justus, Johann

Johann Justus was a qualified vinedresser who worked in the Marco Brunner vineyards in his hometown of Erbach in the Rheingau region of Germany.

He was 26 years of age when he embarked on a life-changing journey that would take him to the other side of the world. With him were his wife Apollonia, née Petri, aged 27 and daughter Agnes, aged eighteen months. Both Johann and Apollonia could read & write and their religion was Catholic.

The original six Germans

Johann was one of the original six vinedressers engaged by Major Edward Macarthur in Germany early in 1837. It must have been a trying time for the Germans as Macarthur had difficulty in obtaining passports for them. An urgent letter from Macarthur to Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State of the Colonies, dated 15 March 1837, resulted in permission being finally given to sign the contracts in October 1837:

In October 1835, my brothers Messrs. James and William Macarthur applied for permission to introduce into that Colony twelve married couples from the Continent of Europe, skilled in the culture of the vine. I have since succeeded in making engagements with several families from the German Provinces on the Rhine and I now find that there is difficulty in obtaining the passports necessary for their embarkation, without some assurance from the British Consul at Frankfurt that the Emigration of these families to New South Wales is sanctioned by his Majesty's Government. My Brothers have already as much as 20 acres of vineyard (besides more ground in preparation) two thirds of which will be in full bearing next summer, and it is of importance that the Families I have engaged should arrive some months before the vintage, which takes place in January and February. [1]

Johann entered employment at Camden Park on 28 April 1838, five days after arrival at Sydney Cove on the barque Kinnear . He finished his employment on 29 April 1843 when his five-year contract with the Macarthurs expired. [2]

Johann was born 18 July 1812 in Erbach, Rheingau, Germany and died 2 May 1894 at Tarcutta, New South Wales. His wife Apollonia was born 22 August 1811 in Wicker, Rheingau, Germany and died 5 September 1878 at Tarcutta.

Their daughter Agnes was born 10 September 1836 in Erbach, Rheingau, Germany and died 28 October 1915 at Goulburn, New South Wales.

Johann and Apollonia had three more children while living at Camden – John, born in 1840, Hannah Maria, born in 1843, and Philip born in 1845. All lived into the twentieth century.

From Camden Park to Wivenhoe

After leaving Camden Park, Johann, now known as John, advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald for work as a vinedresser in the Camden area and eventually started work at Wivenhoe for Sir Charles Cowper, a rival of the Macarthurs, who was later five times Premier of New South Wales.

On Saturday 7 April 1849 Johann visited the bounty ship Beulah in Sydney to meet his nephew Johannes Justus who had arrived four days earlier. Johannes was aged 23 and his wife Anna Maria, née Stahl, 22 when they embarked on the Beulah on 25 November 1848, after immigration agent Wilhelm Kirchner visited Erbach in 1847. Also on board was Heinrich Joseph Stein, brother of vinedresser Johann Stein, who was another of the original six.

Johannes Justus wrote to his parents (and others) in Erbach on 12 August 1849, and described this meeting:

We arrived on Wednesday in Holy Week and on Holy Thursday, Johann Stumpf, Jakob and Johann Stein came to the ship. We recognised them immediately. On Holy Saturday, my 'vetter' [cousin] came with his brother to the ship and collected us about 1 pm. Nobody recognised him and he didn't recognise me … Our employer looked after us very well and greeted us with food and drink. Our employer is a member of Council like so many of our landholders, a very good, respected man, always in Sydney in council and coming home every Sunday. [3]

Johann accompanied his young relatives to Wivenhoe where Johannes also entered employment with Sir Charles Cowper and they worked there together for an unknown period of time.

During his time at Wivenhoe, Johann Justus of the original six became supervisor in the vineyard. He was described in a letter written by Joseph Michael Vogt from Wivenhoe to his parents in Erlenbach, Germany, in September 1855:

Our officer, that is our supervisor, Johannes Justus, comes from Erbach on the Rhine. He is a very good man with wife and children and has been at this place for 10 years and 5 months. He works with us, is a good worker, too, and we like to be with him. He looks after his master's interests but does not ask too much. We have to work 7-8 'morgen' [acre] vineyards as they are grown in the Rhine area. The vines are staked and have 6-7-8 branches of 2 buds each. Our first job was to help gather in the vintage. [4]

On 17 June 1856 at St John's Roman Catholic Church, Campbelltown, Johann's eldest daughter Agnes, aged 20, married Franz Melchior Muller, aged 22. Franz had arrived with his parents and three siblings on board the Peru , on 23 May 1855. It appears they met while working in the vineyard at Wivenhoe and a year later their first son was born at Wivenhoe in 1857.

After Camden

Some time after his employment at Wivenhoe finished (about 1858) Johann (John) and Apollonia, together with their sons John and Philip and daughter Hannah Maria, left the Camden/Sydney area and moved south to Tarcutta. Their surname had been anglicised to Justice.

At about the same time, Agnes, her husband Franz, and their son John Francis moved from Wivenhoe to land owned by Sir Charles Cowper at Tarlo via Goulburn, New South Wales. Franz later purchased land for farming. A further 10 children were born to Agnes and Franz (who anglicised his name to Francis Miller). After Franz (Francis) died in 1887 Agnes married John O'Neill on 25 July 1894.

Johannes (anglicised to John) Justus applied for naturalisation at Elderslie in 1854, [5] but it is not known what happened to him and his wife Anna Maria after that.


[1] Major Edward Macarthur to Sir George Grey, 15 March 1837, in Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, vol 18, pp 717–18; Patricia Cloos and Jürgen Tampke, Greetings From the Land where Milk and Honey Flows – German immigration 1838–1858, Southern Highlands Publishers, Canberra, 1993, pp 11 and 201

[2] Macarthur Papers, 2nd collection, Estate Account Books, State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library

[3] Letter 9 written by Johannes Justus, quoted in Patricia Cloos & Jürgen Tampke, Greetings From the Land where Milk and Honey Flows – German immigration 1838–1858, Southern Highlands Publishers, Canberra, 1993, pp 112–116 ; Wilhelm Kirchner, Australien und seine Vortheile fur Auswanderer, HL Bronner, Frankfurt am Main, 1838

[4] JF Cast, Briefe Würtembergischer colonisten zu Neusüdwales in Australien, (8 Letters from Immigrants), Stuttgart, 1855, translated by Marlene Bueshele, 'Letters from Wuerttemberg Settlers at New South Wales Australia', in Margin, no 20, 1988

[5] Naturalisation papers, NSW State Archives, Date of Certificate 25 Juyl 1854, Register No 1 p 540, item [4/1200] Reel 129