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Harz to Adelaide ... 1848-1854
FROM THE HARZ MOUNTAINS (KINGDOM OF HANOVER) TO ADELAIDE AND BEYOND
GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED EMIGRATION 1848-1854
Germans have emigrated to South Australia ever since the first settlements were established in 1836. The best-known group of early German immigrants - Lutherans from Prussia - arrived only two years after the founding of the colony, and, continued throughout the century, several hundred Germans arriving every year 1. However, with the exception of the Prussian Lutherans and a few distinguished individuals, little is known about most of those German emigrants.
In the middle of the 19th century, large numbers of emigrants (from the Harz mountains in the Kingdon of Hanover) arrived in Adelaide - 1100 alone between March 1849 and January 1855. How did this sudden influx of Germans from one particular region come about? In 1848, the Ministry of Finance in Hanover and the local authorities in the Harz had decided that in order to improve the economic situation of the region, emigrations should be encouraged 2. South Australia was picked as the most promising location for several reasons:
- The predominant industry in the Harz had always been mining. By the late 18th century, the government-owned mines experienced economic dificulties, mostly due to falling prices for metals. Futhermore, the mine shafts had reached great depth, which made raising the ore expensive. By the middle of the 19th century everybody expected the mines to close within the next decade or two.
- Not only had the actual mining process become difficult and costly, some special working conditions had developed in the region over the centuries. For example, miners were generally not discharged, even if less work was available. Free medical attention, unemployment benefits and pensions for retired miners, their widows and for orphans made mining in the Harz costly, even though the sum paid each individual was very small. Futhermore, the population rose from 25,008 in 1825 to 30,173 in 1846 - an increase of more than 20% - leading to higher expenses in poor relief etc.3
- In order to finance the emigrations, the government decided to grant financial aid not as a gift but as an interest-free loan. Therefore, the authorities were looking for a place where emigrants could earn good wages, since this would enable them to pay back the loan quickly. South Australia, with its recently discovered Burra Mine, seemed to fit the bill, especially since letters from emigrants already in South Australia were favourable.
- Finally, the consul of the Kingdom of Hanover to South Austrlia, Mr C. L. Meyer, was in Bremen at the time the decision was ma\le. His offer to help the emigrants, his description of South Australia, as well as his willingness to collect the interest-free loans for a small provision, helped sway the local authorities.
On 8 August 1848, public notices were put up. In them it was explained that anybody interested in emigrating to South Australia could apply for financial aid. Information on the climate, average wages and cost of living was also provided. Within a few weeks, more than 700 people indicated their willingness to leave. Those who owed large sums of money. whose families were too large, who would leave dependants behind or who were in poor physical health were not supported, reducing the number of emigrants in 1848 to 300.
The reasons given by the emigrants for wanting to leave are manifold. Most left due to immediate economic problems or because they wanted a better future for the children. A large number, however, also had more personal reasons for emigrating: a missed promotion, trouble with the in- laws or hopes for a physically less demanding job.
Fourteen groups left the Harz between 1848 and 1854, the largest consisting of 246 emigrants and the smallest of 8. All emigrations followed the same pattern. After the emigrant had received a positive answer to his application, often only four to six weeks prior to departure, he started preparing for emigration. This usually included making or buying new clothing for the entire family, selling everything the family could not take as well as getting the necessary papers, i.e. passport, certificate of birth etc., ready. On the day of departure, everybody would assemble at a pre-arranged spot and then walk or drive to Vienenburg, a distance of roughly 20 kilometres. There they would spend the night, and early the next morning board the train for the day-long trip to either Bremerhaven or Hamburg 4,At the train-station they would be met by the shipping agent, who had already arranged their accomodation. The next morning they would go to see the British Ambassador, and there sign a statement to the effect that they had received a certain amount of money as an interest-free loan, which they would pay back within three or four years of their arrival in Australia. After that they boarded the ship and sailed in the next few days.5
The voyage itself was generally uneventful, taking 100 to 120 days. On the "George Washington", however, 28 emigrants died of the cholera, and the "Dockenhuden" was rammed in the English channel, necessitating a stop at Plymouth for several months.
In Port Adelaide, the Harz emigrants would be met by Consul Meyer or his partner Bernard Noltenius. They would help sort out any problems, at times handing out money to truly needy emigrants, remind them that they would have to pay back their loans, and, most importantly, would try to provide them with jobs. Usually, all were employed within a week of their arrival.
The Harz emigrants quickly migrated all over South Australia and Victoria. Initially, most seem to have moved to and worked at the Burra mine, but within a few years the majority had taken up farming or had returned to their old trades - shoemakers, blacksmiths and carpenters or cabinetmakers being most prominent. The discovery of gold lured many to Victoria, and a number of families settled there permanently. Organised migrations to the Wimmera region also took place in the 1870's. Only two people left Australia again - one going to California, the other returning to the Harz. Most families might not have become rich instantly, but they were better off than in Germany.
The reasons why the government stopped supporting emigrations are fairly simple:
- By 1855, more than 2000 inhabitants had left the Harz for overseas countries, several hundred for German towns. The local authorities feared a lack of workers, and by 1855 girls and women were offered employment in the mines, something usually not done in the Harz.
- The second reason is the fact that only a very few of the migrants paid back the money they had received. Altogether, the Ministry of Finance spend 72,000 Thaler during the six years and received 2,500 Thaler back. Considering the time and trouble expended in trying to get the loans repaid, the authorities decided that the money so far being given to emigrants would be better spent in trying to improve the situation in the Harz.
A list of the family names of the emigrants 1848 to 1854 has been attached to this paper. More extensive information, i.e. first names, age, occupation and residence in Germany, family members, ship they travelled on as well as any kind of information on what they did in Australia is available at the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society
(Hans) Mahrenholtz, Norddeutsche in aller Welt: Auswanderer nach Australien, Nord-und Sudamerika 1825-1846, in: Norddeutsche Familienkunde, Jg. 15, 1966, pp. 215-222,
Karl Dietsch, Auswanderungen von Harzer Bergleuten, in: Festschrift zur 200 Jahrfeier der TU Clausthal. Bd. 1, Clausthal-Zellerfeld 1975.
Douglas Pike, Paradise of Dissent. South Australia 1829-1857. (London/Melbourne/New York 1957)
C.A. Price, German Settlers in South Australia, 1840-1940, in: Historical Studies, (Australia and New Zealand 6 (1854), pp. 441-451):
1. By 1857, roughly 11,000 Germans had arrived in South Australia. An undetermined number, however, continued on to other states. Cf. Pike and Price.
2. The administration of the Harz was the 'Berghauptmannschaft", later the 'Berg-und Forstamt'. The Ministry of Finance was directly responsible for the Berghauptmannschaft Clausthal.
3. Dietsch, p. 237.
4. Until 1851 they left from Bremerhaven, then from Hamburg.
5. The ships were:
|"George Washington"||25.10.1848 - 2.3.1849|
|"Auguste and Meline"||17.12.1848- 3.4.1849|
|"Ceres"||10.12.1849 - 22.4.1850|
|"Leontine"||7.5.1850 - 13.8.1850|
|"Herder"||4.6.1851 - 21.9.1851|
|"Dockenhuden"||20.11.1851 - 26.2.1852|
|"Alfred"||7 .6.1852 - 10.1 0.1852|
|"Dockenhuden"||26.11.1852 - 10.5.1853|
|"Steinvorder/Steinwarder"||31.5.1853 - 6.11.1853|
|"Hermann"||14.7.1853 - 19.11.1853|
|"Cesar Godeffroy"||28.9.1853 - 1.1.1854|
|"Iserbrook"||18.11.1853 - 14.3.1854|
|"Wandrahm"||13.4.1854 - 8.8.1854|
|"Johan Cesar"||9.10.1854 - 1.1.1855|
( Scanned document umlaut appears as an upper case letters)
|BaumgUrtel nee OrlamUnder||Gericke||Kierig/Gerig||Ohlenrodt||Sebbes|