Lobethal / South Australia

Notes About the Germans and German Villages in South Australia.

The following is taken from the:   South Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1844 – 1851) Tue 17 Mar 1846 Page 3

It was written by a corespondent identifying them-self as N.R.F.. Whom takes “a great interest in the German emigrants in this colony” and put this together from a recent excursion made in the country.
It is of extreme interest as it is a snapshot from some of the earliest times of our settling families specifically at Lobethal. The ringing of the bell is of note as I have heard of this before. There was apparently also someone stationed at Lobethal in the early days to listen for the noonday gunshot from Adelaide and ring this bell to advise the locals of the time. The bell has also been rung in alarm as the people of Lobethal were called to help put out a fire at the woollen mills.


Although the Germans are to be found frequently in the employment of Englishmen in this colony, yet it is strange how very little is known of them—in fact how little is desired to be known. The lower classes of the English entertain a shameful feeling of jealousy towards them, which I suspect arises, in some instances, as much from envy as from any other cause. And these poor foreigners have not much better friends in the higher classes, being usually looked upon by them as merely a “harmless set of people,” Now, there is in this word a very equivocal compliment paid them, or indeed any other persons to whom it is applied. And, instead of meriting such a dubious but contemptuous expression, any one at all acquainted with their character, must acknowledge that they are entitled to much higher respect and consideration than is usually allowed them. Rude and primitive as they seem, yet many are the excellent lessons we might learn from their examples, both in virtue, industry, endurance, humility, honesty, and even in good breeding. To understand them well, we must live among them for some time. A travelling view certainly will not enable us to form a correct opinion of either their character or habits; and as the English people have not the opportunity generally, of forming opinions for themselves, they are led away either by their own foolish prejudice or that of others. Accident, as much as anything else, has thrown the writer among them from time to time; and he must say that the more he has seen of them, the more he admires their character.

It is difficult to say where a person could spend a more agreeable Sunday than in one of the villages—Lobethal, for instance. Before breakfast, all the family, great and small, assemble round the table and say prayers and grace. This breakfast is a very humble one generally being composed of coffee made from burnt wheat, sour bread, and sometimes a little lard or fat on it. After it is over, another short prayer and grace are said, and then they commence to dress for church. A little cracked bell is next wrung to give warning; and in half an hour it is tolled again, after which you may observe all the villagers flocking towards the Kirsch;— the women attired in their gay, but ill-becoming national costumes, and the men in their long green or blue coats, long boots, little caps bound with red cord, and in front a shadowy verandah of leather for a peak; all having that peculiar air of seriousness for which in all places they are so remarkable, but which is so seldom seen among us. They carry unwieldy bibles under their arms, bound with wooden boards, and secured with ponderous iron clasps, which appear to have been made to withstand both the assaults of time and batteries. The prints and illustrations of these books agree perfectly with the idea their outworks convey, being imperfect imitations of the first efforts of W. Caxton’s press. They have, on the whole, a very grave and antiquated look; and books, as well as castles, if they are aged, command respect. It is not easy to avoid smiling when watching the children trudging after their parents; to see their happy, innocent, and smiling faces peering out from under an overgrown muslin cap, and their heads bound up in a black or red handkerchief; metamorphised into little men and women outwardly, while inwardly, cheerful playfulness peeps through all.

Service in church is commenced by singing, as in ours; but it is singing—not drawling—nor roaring—nor whining. All the world knows that the Germans, from the peasant up to the prince, are musical; and therefore a stranger that has any idea at all of correct sounds, will not be disappointed in listening to their singing. In their style there is a simplicity, a plaintiveness, and harmony which is delightful. Though it is scientifically correct, still it appears to be deeply felt, and answers the end better than all the screeching and overstraining of our church musicians.

The Lutheran Church allows a prayer book, and is read by the merest child, upwards, along with the pastor ; and the service concludes with a sermon and singing. The demeanour and decorum observed is truly admirable—-nothing takes off the attention; and I believe were two young people sitting opposite to each other, and engaged to be married that day, that they would never exchange a glance the whole time! They possess a powerful sense of the solemnity of a place of worship : which, after all, is but correct. Should not this bring a blush into many of the congregations of our Protestant Churches? Decorum cannot be too rigid in such places.

A peculiar and marked difference of character exists between the English and these people, in their ideas of matrimonial ceremonies. There is a sacredness, and at same time a simplicity about them that the English have little notion of. The general interest which all the Germans, but especially the young people, take in these matters, is pleasing to contemplate. They look upon marriage as the happiest events (as it ought to be) in their lives. There are never any doubts, or “ifs,” about them, as with us, It is a matter of course with them that a marriage must be happy; and I believe they are seldom mistaken. This feeling is simply, but beautifully displayed in the practice of hanging round the walls of the church, and the houses of the newly married, pretty wreaths of flowers. There is a freshness and an innocence about it, which always delights one. Their weddings are conducted in the most decorous manner, and although the company enjoy themselves, still their enjoyment seldom exhibits itself in the ordinary uproarious conduct of the English upon a similar occasion add in the same rank of life. lt is singular that their costume on these occasions should be the very opposite to the English. With us, we wear the lightest colours, as if typical of what we hope our future lives will be. But, alas! how often these emblems darken into the blackest hues! The Germans, on the other hand, adopt the most sombre, implying that they will not trust brightness of colour at the present time, and that if any change does occur, it will not be more gloomy, and they will avoid disappointment at all events. The comparison be- tween their colours and human life, to say the least, is much more consistent than ours. They commence moderately in their hope and attachments; and if they do not plunge into Italian raptures, they at all events glide softly on through the remainder of their lives, unchanged and contented. Sunday in this village, or in any of the others, is passed in tranquillity and peace. After dinner the children go to school, while the older part of the inhabitants visit each other, talk rationally, laugh and joke, walk about, and read. A public house is unknown among them; and, even were such a place there, I imagine its owner would find some difficulty in paying his license. Were this little hamlet to fall into the hands of our own countrymen, heaven help the pastor’s poor sun-dried brick cottage! I can imagine it shivering under the rude hoofs of an overland bullock driver, as he stamps up the steps, and the floor covered with broken glass, pipes, saliva, and filth; while the rooms, now devoted to study and peace, would then become the receptacle of all sorts of vagabonds and idlers. But, fortunately, there is not much fear of such a Gothic change as this; and the honest Prussians are likely to enjoy their present pretty village and excellent customs as long as they please. The evening is closed as the day commenced; and each retires to his home with a mind, that, I will be bound to say, many a merchant and many a monarch would give worlds to possess. By their unflinching perseverance, the Germans have acquired a small portion of land. This is divided equally among them, and the whole surrounded by a substantial fence. All joined in this work, and the intermediate divisions are never separated by any other than imaginary lines. Were it an English instead of a German village, there would be as much labour bestowed on boundaries as on their land; but these people are too wise to dispute, and they thus make a great saving by unanimity alone. Their church is built and supported by voluntary contributions, and their pastor and school- master are also depending for their bread on the same source. The system of education appears to be excellent for the class of persons it is intended to instruct. It is strictly moral; and, besides this, a slight knowledge of geography, history, and music, are added; but VIRTUE seems paramount to all else: it is the beginning and the ending of their education: every thing must bend to that. And assuredly we plainly perceive the result of this admirable course, in the general conduct of the people themselves. No instances yet of robbery, or any other crimes, have come before a court of justice in this province, except in one or two cases of women who were from a seaport town of Holland, and were bad characters before they left home. In all contracts they are strictly punctual. Look at the debts they have liquidated, when, at the same time, and under similar circumstances, an Englishman would not have had resolution even to begin to pay them, from their exorbitant nature. Look at their temperance, where no “Temperance Society” is known; and all this is mainly, indeed solely, attributable to their system of education. And I suspect that, if in the present mode with the lower classes of British, a little more morality, and little less astronomy, were introduced, it might be at- tended with similar good effects. But notwithstanding that the general mode of education in Germany is so much superior to ours, still it is extraordinary that they should be so deficient in agriculture. Perhaps there is no country in Europe in which husbandry or farming implements are so rude, and may be reckoned at least three hundred years behind us in this respect. Judging from the specimens before us, there appears little difference or improvement since the days of the ancient Egyptians. Their ploughs are precisely the same, with single handles and wheels, wooden-toothed harrows, iron-shod spades, sickles and scythes, all bear a strong family resemblance to this venerable prototype. However, it appears that what they want in skill, they make up in industry; and rude and primitive as their system is, still they manage to raise excellent crops, and that, too on the worst land. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the Scottish farmer himself, with all his vaunted knowledge, could succeed better. It is a strange fact, but no less true, that the Germans have very little idea of the value of soils —sand being, in their eyes, as precious as the richest alluvial deposits. As long as it possesses the power of vegetating, that seems to be sufficient; they will do the rest. They are more varied in their agriculture, growing things that the English never think of, such, for in- stance, as flax and hemp, and have succeeded perfectly in the first. Already they make a considerable saving in the articles of thread and ropes, as they manufacture them themselves out of the raw material. Almost all of the Germans are taught weaving at home, and most are supplied with looms of simple construction, but have not time to use them; however, when their labour is less valuable, they can then make their own linen, and perhaps supply the markets to a certain extent. The manufacture of thread, and also yarn, is carried on by the women in the evenings, so that very little of their time is lost. It is much to be regretted that they are obliged to work so hard, but it appears natural to them, and, therefore, is not irksome, as the English generally fancy. They look on labour as a matter of course, undertake it good humouredly, and are never heard lamenting their fate. But it is, nevertheless, a pity to see, at any time, the fairest part of creation thus degraded, and so far removed out of the legitimate province of their duties. Though women, in some respects, may be subordinate, still nature never intended that they should, therefore, become slaves. But wherever this system exists, whether it originates in barbarity or in necessity (as in the case of these people), we always see degeneracy and coarseness of appearance accompanying it ; and thus we may readily account for the plainness and uncomeliness of the German women. But although nature may assume a rude exterior, yet she does not appear to have altered the general character of the sex. They do not seem less domestic, less tender to their families, less affectionate, or less happy. In all the contrivances and manufactories of this interesting people, there is wide difference between them and us. It is not difficult to imagine the look of amazement that a Glasgow or Manchester mechanic would give in beholding a water mill, which was built some time back for grinding wheat by a German who was the wonder among his own countrymen, how One small head could carry all it knew in millwright mysteries! This mill is in perfect keeping with the oak-bound bibles—the wooden toothed harrows and iron-shod spades. The whole of the machinery is put together with wooden screws or pegs, and he grinds with colonial stones. Still, like the agriculture, be can equal, if not excel, all other millers of the province for excellence of work! The old principle is at hand—what he loses in speed he supplies by perseverance. On contemplating the sterling qualities by which these foreigners are distinguished, it does not require much philosophy to foresee that they will and must eventually rise into prosperity. They have all the steadiness, the industry, and the economy requisite to ensure it; so if they do not succeed, it will be indeed an anomaly of no ordinary kind. To their other estimable features of character, I might add the ready obedience and respect they evince, as well towards the British laws as their own private and religious regulations. We never hear of any discontent—as we might expect from foreigners—no grumbling, nor noisy nothings about “rights and liberty.” They are wise enough to know that one class of men are made to lead, and another class to follow. Politeness appears to be also universal among them, which does not, I fear, raise them much in the eyes of the generality of Englishmen. I know of nothing more pleasing than to observe two of them meeting, and saluting, as they pass by touching the hat. They never pass a stranger without a similar mark of respect—unless, in- deed, they have been any length of time in the country, and have been thereby imbued with that glorious nonchalance in which the inhabitants of Great Britain rejoice. Politeness costs little; but its very cheapness may have brought it into such disrepute among a nation which generally values things in proportion as they are expensive or rare. With the present ideas of general politeness, it would be absurd to argue a moment in its favour. However, as far as the Germans are concerned—with or without good manners—they will soon attain perfect in- dependence, which they are earning rapidly and most deservedly. But having gained that point, it is to be hoped that avarice may not then tempt them to forget that. ” Reason’s whole pleasure, all the joys of sense, Lie in three words—health, peace, and competence.”

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