Lobethal was settled by Prussian Lutherans in 1842. The town's character and prosperity can be directly linked to the nature of its settlers. The 18 families and Pastor Fritzsche who formed the original Lobethal congregation already had a greater variety of skills than any early mining or forestry settlement and a cohesion rarely found in a colonial town.
Briefly called the German Arms, renamed Alma Hotel, now the Lobethal Hotel. Photographed in 1936
Here is some of Lobethal's history:
Lobethal's story begins in Prussia (now Germany, bordering Poland). From 1807 on, the emperor, Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, tried to unify his church, the Reformed (Calvinist) church, with the Protestant Lutherans in his country. The minority Lutherans refused as the Kaiser had named himself as Bishop of his new Union Church, effectively making himself its head. For Lutherans, separation of church and state was (and is) a fundamental doctrine, and the more they refused the more punitive the Kaiser became. The very name Lutheran was banned; pastor's property was confiscated and congregations were fined. By the 1830s Lutherans were being jailed for their faith; even deputations sent to speak with the Kaiser were imprisoned.
Pastor Fritzsche and Pastor Kavel
Two pastors who continued ministering in secret, Pastor A.L.C. Kavel and Pastor G.D. Fritzsche, began discussing emigration. Many Lutherans had already left for America and Canada rather than worship secretly in cellars and forests. However, the process of securing an exit visa was long and difficult; to be allowed to leave, Prussians had to agree to emigrate with their pastor as a whole congregation.
The South Australia Company
It was fortunate that Pastor Kavel met George Fife Angas in London. Kavel had intended to seek passage to America, where the majority of Lutherans had fled. Angas, with others, had an interest in the newly formed South Australia Company and was seeking paying settlers for Crown land the Company had surveyed in South Australia. (South Australia had been proclaimed a colony on December 28th 1836.) Impressed, Kavel invited Fritzsche and his congregation to leave for South Australia with him, but Fritzsche felt his calling was to stay and he declined. Enabled by financial help from Angas, Kavel and 166 Lutherans emigrated in 1838 to the new colony. More followed.
By 1840, Fritzsche's health was failing and he applied for permission to take his congregation to Australia, where he felt God wanted him to be. Friedrich Wilhelm had died in June of that year, yet there was no let-up in the persecution. Pastor Fritzsche and his congregation sold up, pooled their resources, and were finally granted an exit visa while they waited at the port of Hamburg. However, they were £300 short. British Quakers helped them with loans, as did Fritzsche's fiancée's mother, Frau Nerlich, enabling them to charter a ship. However, that ship needed repairs and delayed the near-penniless group in Hamburg for weeks. A substitute vessel, Skjold, set sail on 3rd July 1841.
The voyage was an ordeal. Delays, storms, and then illness. Over fifty of the 274 aboard died. On October 28th 1841, the congregation arrived at Port Misery (now Pt. Adelaide) and was met by fellow Lutherans. They were taken to land rented from George Fife Angas, where Lutherans had built a village named Klemzig.
There was also a group at Hahndorf and many of Fritzsche's congregation moved on there over the next few months. Kavel's vision was for all Lutherans to settle as a group, and he arranged the purchase of land in the Barossa Valley to that end, but he encountered resistance. Many were happily settled and others had doctrinal differences with Kavel.
Shepherd Müller and Praise Valley
In early 1842, Pastor Fritzsche and eighteen families at Hahndorf decided to go their own way. A member of this group, a shepherd working for the SA Company named Ferdinand Müller, told them of a valley he had seen to the north, near the western branch of the Onkaparinga River where land was available to buy. Frau Nerlich, now Fritzsche's mother-in-law, lent them money again. One hundred and sixty eight acres were bought at £1 per acre.
Ferdinand Mueller (older)
(However, as land could only be held by naturalised British citizens, a tailor named Krumnow took possession of it on the group's behalf. He had arrived in 1838 and was a communist and religious fanatic. It took the Lobethal community eight troublesome years to claim back all their property.)
A thanksgiving and dedication service was held under a tree in the new valley on May 4th 1842. Pastor Fritzsche read from II Chronicles 20:26, and named the new village their own lobe thal or Praise Valley, as written in the Lutheran Bible of the time.
Hufendorf layout of the farms
The community drew lots to apportion the new land. The democratic hufendorf layout of Lobethal's house blocks was traditionally German; long, narrow strips of about 3 acres. The house was built at the end, by the road, and the creek ran across the blocks, accessible to all. Behind the houses were farm
buildings such as cellars with lofts, then vegetable gardens and orchards and some of the animals were tethered by the creek. Oats, barley and rye grew at the far end. Other stock was pastured in nearby forest and fields. The main street was originally where Mill Road is now and many cottages along there are from early days.
Crude one-room slab huts were replaced in time by larger two-room cottages, barns, cellars, bake ovens and smoke-houses, most built in the German style. A high degree of craftsmanship can still be seen in the remaining buildings, some built entirely without nails. [For more detail, see History Trail/Walk Map.] Roofs were thatched, and later covered with wooden shingles. Several shingled roofs are still visible under galvanized iron roofs today.
Half-timbered cottage, c1850
Black kitchens in the houses
Traditional Prussian farmhouses had a flürkuchenhaus (cooking passage) or küche-schwarze (black kitchen) and many Lobethal houses did also. These were large, brick domed or vented cooking halls immediately facing the front door.
The centrally located wood fired oven and chimney/s heated the entire house, and formed the centre of food activities. Only a few recognisable black kitchens still exist because of renovations and modernisation. Sometimes, separate bake
Bake oven and smokehouse
ovens were added onto the rear of the house, often with smokehouses to smoke and cure meat and fish. Examples of these can still be seen.
The Lutheran Church
Zum Weinberg Christi
The first structure on the church land, which had been donated by one of the congregation, was a two-room manse (now demolished) for Pastor Fritzsche and his wife.
In 1843, the year after settlement, work began on a permanent church building.
Bricks fired in a kiln nearby were carried by women in bags and aprons on their way to Sunday worship. During the week, after work, the men of the town built. It is likely that local brewer, FW Kleinschmidt, was head builder. Finished and dedicated in 1845, Zum Weinberg Christi, or St John's, was the first permanent Lutheran Church built in Australia.
Zum Weinberg Christi, Lobethal old Lutheran Church
A memorial to Pastor Fritzsche stands in front of the church on the site. He died in 1863 and his grave is behind the church. Until replaced in 1992 by a new church, the old Lobethal Lutheran Church was the oldest Lutheran church still in regular use in the southern hemisphere.
Pastor Fritzsche's memorial
Pastor Fritzsche's original house was converted into the school building, but rapidly became too small. A new school was built in 1850, dedicated in 1851, and remained in use for 50 years. Sadly, the building no longer exists.
Lutheran schoolhouse, built 1850
In 1844 a new house was built for the pastor's mother-in-law, Frau Nerlich. This became the manse after Fritzsche's wife died & he moved in with his mother-in-
Old Lutheran manse
law. In 1867, a new dwelling replaced it as the church manse and headmaster's residence (which is now 50 Main St.).
Manse and head teacher's residence, built 1867
Australia's first Lutheran Seminary
Built in 1845, the seminary is a half-timbered, rendered building and the first Lutheran seminary in Australia. Two students enrolled with Pastor Fritzsche. The building has survived, due mainly to the efforts of Jonas Vanagas, a Lithuanian migrant, who settled in Lobethal after WW2. In the 1960s a modern museum was built around the seminary building and it can be visited today. It is called the Lobethal Museum and Archives.
At one stage there were several Lutheran churches in Lobethal, most now used by other denominations. One unused Lutheran church held the beginnings of a thriving business: the Kumnick Cricket Bat Factory (see below).
Lobethal, along with many other settlements with German names, was forced to accept a change of name during World War I because of the anti-German feeling arosed. Lobethal became Tweedvale for a time, in honour of the Mill. It reverted to Lobethal in late 1935. (Hahndorf became Ambleside, Klemzig was changed to Gaza. However, Blumberg became Birdwood and never changed back.)
The South Australian Almanac for 1844 states: The returns from settlers to Lobethall (sic) comprise 50 acres wheat, 10 acres barley, 1 acre maize, 10 acres potatoes, 17 acres gardens, 40 cattle, 2 ponies, 32 pigs and 11 goats.
Hard working and enterprising, Gordon Young called them in the book, Lobethal - Valley of Praise.
Brewing, hop growing and hop kilns:
In 1851 F.W. Kleinschmidt built a brewery near where the Mill chimney stands now. He gave up brewing to grow hops in 1869, and in 1872 sold his brewing equipment to the Johnston brothers at Oakbank.
It is this building which later housed the very start of what became the famous Onkaparinga mill at Lobethal.
F.W. Kleinschmidt's brewery building, 1852
Kleinschmidt's hop kiln
Lobethal once held a thriving hop-growing industry, one of three areas to do so in South Australia. F.W. Kleinschmidt grew hops in fields at the southern end of
Kleinschmidt's hop kiln, seen from Lenswood Road, to the right of the road
Lobethal. His hop kiln (2 Adelaide Road) later became part of the Mill and was converted into a house and its roof completely altered. For a large photo of F.W. Kleinschmidt, and a pictorial guide (and more) of hop-growing and brewing, take a look in the Lobethal Bierhaus, 3 Main Street, where brewing has returned to Lobethal.
Müller's hop kiln
Hop-growing, late 1800s, on the Müller farm at Neudorf. The building on the right is the hop kiln
In 1860, August Müller, (brother of the shepherd, Ferdinand, who recommended the valley to the settlers), built a hop kiln just out of Lobethal at Neudorf. That kiln burned down in a bushfire in 1900, but August then rebuilt it a short way west, copying the original blueprint. It is most likely to be now one of only two remaining intact hop kilns in South Australia. You can still see the original square roof and cowled flue. (Oast houses have a circular layout, hop kilns, square.) It is also known as Miller's hop kiln because he anglicised his name in the early 1900s.
Miller's hop kiln now
Friedrich August ‘Brandy' Kumnick was a distiller. It is likely that the cellar of 81 Main Street was his bond store. Above it, built in 1877, are three joined workingman's cottages, each with its own entry, a parlour, a bedroom and a kitchen.
Bond store, Main Street
Three joined cottages above the bond store on Main Street
The Lobethal Woollen Mill / Onkaparinga Woollen Company
F.W. Kleinschmidt's brewery building held the beginnings of a woollen mill which grew to be a household name in Australia and a symbol of quality known world-wide. In about 1870, equipment from a tiny mill in Hahndorf was moved into Kleinschmidt's old brewery building and set up, along with new machinery
Lobethal Tweed Factory in the 1870s
released from customs, by the Kumnick brothers (Carl Ferdinand ‘Carpenter' Kumnick and August ‘Brandy' Kumnick) and Kleinschmidt. This mill was called the Lobethal Woollen Factory. Over the next 17 years, the company grew, sold shares, failed, and was restarted and reformed, sometimes with a change of name (the Lobethal Woollen and Tweed Factory, and by 1883, the South Australian Woollen Company).
Mill buildings, office in centre
Buildings were added as it grew and an adequate water supply was a constant problem. During that time, the heavy carts loaded with wool could not manage the steep end of Mill Road and so the "lower road", the one which ran through the middle of the hufendorf farms, became Lobethal's Main Street.
Mill office building, photographed in 1960, later demolished to create parking spaces for two cars
In 1887 a Scotsman, Robert Redpath, came in as manager. He improved productivity and lobbied for a better water supply for the South Australian Woollen Company. Uniforms worn by railway workers and armed forces were supplied by the Lobethal mill by 1891. Despite a serious fire in 1914, the mill again supplied blanket and uniforms for the armed forces. Lobethal's reservoirs (now in Bushland Park) were enlarged to provide enough water, but the request for a rail line to the town was turned down. According to Carol Brockhoff's book, Onkaparinga - the story of a mill, during WWII the mill produced 250 miles (400 km) of heavy khaki overcoating, 300 miles (480 km) of tunicking, and many more of flannel for underclothing.
The name of the company changed in 1929 to the Onkaparinga Woollen Company, in line with the company's headquarters in Gawler Place, Adelaide, which was Onkaparinga House.
As the mill expanded, more buildings were added, machinery modernised and the Company bought other mills. From 30 employees in 1899 to 1000 in 1968 in various locations. It was the first woollen mill in Australia to install computers (1976).
Mill chimney 1994, last time at full height
Photo by Merv Camens
Pressure from cheaper imports, acrylic textiles and unequal government subsidies and tariffs led to the mill's eventual decline. A major fire in 1986 did not help matters. The Onkaparinga Woollen Mill effectively ended in 1989, when it employed 190 people at the mill, though several efforts to maintain the world-quality and -famous Onkaparinga brand continued for a year or more. It was a very sad end.
Many of the Mill's buildings have been lost or destroyed over time, some as recently as 1994 when the large wool store was demolished, a blocked drain being the reason given. Mill Road was diverted to run between the chimney and the next building over, the gap became a parking area.
1994 demolition of wool store - photos by Merv Camens
The chimney's height was reduced by at least one quarter.
Today there is a display of some of the mill's machinery and produce, hosted by the Onkaparinga Woollen Mill Museum Inc. in Building 26 and tours are available. The mill buildings also contain a variety of businesses, wineries and cellar doors.
Gold mining near Lobethal
From the late 1840s small amounts of gold were found in the Onkaparinga valley. Most mining was concentrated near Balhannah (Grünthal) and Woodside, but in the 1880s several mines were established near Lobethal. The largest were Golden Hill, Federal, and Golden Thorpe mines. In all, a recorded total of 400 ounces (11.2 kg) was produced from the Lobethal Goldfield.
The Kumnick Cricket Bat Factory
On the factory's old site, just next to the Lobethal Bakery, there is a memorial: a table, two benches, and a cricket bat and ball commemorating the Kumnick Cricket Bat Factory. In 1895, E.P. Kumnick took over his father's carpentry business and began making cricket bats. (Ewald's father was Carl Ferdinand 'Carpenter' Kumnick.) Initially he used a corner of a disused church building but later moved to larger premises. At the business's peak, says the commemorative plaque, it produced over 15,000 bats a year and employed 16 men. The factory finally closed in 1956, six years after E.P. Kumnick's death.
Memorial, next to Lobethal Bakery
Re the story of the factory's Lobethal willows having come from cuttings taken from Napoleon's grave site: The ships bringing the Prussians to South Australia did sail around the Cape of Good Hope, passing at a distance from the island of St. Helena, where Napoleon is buried. Shipping did not wish to sail too near the south-western African coast for safety reasons. The willows on St. Helena are weeping willows, suitable only for basket-weaving, not for cricket bats, and it is a recorded fact that Kumnick did not use them, instead using other local willow introduced from Europe. However, if there is any credible record of the Prussians stopping off at St. Helena or of collecting weeping-willow cuttings from the grave site, please advise this website.
Compiled and written by Erica Ashton
Please advise of any errors or omissions to Erica c/o this website.