By Marita Bardenhagen
The Sulzberger family derived its name from the town of Sulzberg, near Ratisbon, in Bavaria. The first known member of the family was Eleazar Sussman Sulzberger, c1600. This family had several members who were Rabbis. Their descendants arrived in the United States in August of 1849. These Sulzbergers settled in Philadelphia where they joined a paternal uncle who had emigrated to Philadelphia eleven years earlier in 1838. This is the line of the Sulzberger family of the New York Time’s fame. But there were more members of the family who were also motivated to migrate. One of these was Jakob Johann Sulzberger, born in 1815, who had also lived through the 1848 revolutions, (Wurttemberg traditionally favoured the French or Austrian over the Prussians). He was a coach builder from Grossbottwar, a small town, north of Stuttgart, in the wine district.
He and his second wife Barbara Regina née Nesper and four children, (Johan Jacob, 9 yrs from his first marriage, Gottlieb Conrad, 7 yrs, Gottfried Christian, 5 yrs, Christina Fredericka, 1 yr ) were a Lutheran branch of the family who immigrated to Tasmania in 1855. Why they chose Australia over America is uncertain as this would have been a pull factor for them and would have provided a ready-made base for them. Perhaps religion was the difference or perhaps they had lost contact if indeed there had ever been any. The American branch of the family departed under their own devices to escape the uncertainty of life under the Prussians, whereas the Australian branch were enticed by Mr James Herbert, the agent for Mr William Pritchard Weston of Hythe, Longford. JJ Sulzberger signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the 20th March 1855 agreeing to serve Mr Weston in VDL for two years from the date of his arrival. His duties were described as “farm labourer and when not engaged therein to assist in any other lawful work, and is at all times to obey all the lawful and reasonable commands of the said WP Weston”. In return Johann was paid 20 pounds per annum, supply a hut and weekly rations of “10 pounds of beef or mutton, 10 pounds flour 2 pounds of sugar and a quarter pound of tea or half pound raw coffee”.
Memorandum of Contract
But this description of farm labourer as many would know of the Bounty immigrants was misleading. Both Jakob and Regina could read and write as well as their three sons. Under Australian Government Emigration regulations a family could not consist of more than four children under the age of 12 years old and so the family fitted the correct description. Sufficient clothing, luggage and good health were all prerequisites for the voyage and families were inspected prior to disembarking. Jakob was in fact a coach builder as evidenced from the German records of immigration. But further evidence comes from the ‘tools of trade’ he brought with him to Tasmania.
The family arrived in Launceston on the 29th June 1855 departing on Sunday 1st April from Liverpool aboard the Montmorency of the Black ball line. It would appear that the families travelled from their towns to Hamburg and then to England. The fare cost eighteen pounds for each adult, nine pounds, nine shillings and nine pence for each child and four pounds one shilling for the baby. The voyage had taken 80 days and there were many other German families to keep them company on the voyage 168 Germans all told – including the Erb, Kelb and Dornauf families. The Germans occupied the forepart of the ship below and were described by the Rev James Buck as being “apparently satisfied with their accommodation and treatment.”
Some artefacts from this journey survive to this day including a butter container, and each person carried their personal 1823 Lutheran Bible. Other families accompanying them brought with them their passports, memorabilia, guns etc
Although the Bibles survive, the religion did not, much to the consternation of a travelling Lutheran pastor from SA who later bemoaned the fact that although there were many German families settling in Tasmania there was no inclination to establish a church.
By 1857 Mary Fanny was born registered from Hythe and two years later in 1859 Charles Edward was born while still at Longford. Both children had anglicised names and he family were members of the local Protestant church.
By 1867 J Sulzberger was leasing 40 acres from WP Weston and had also taken up land in the Lilydale area, ne of L’ton. But it was not until a further 16 years before the family held the deeds for their land once they were naturalised. However Jakob’s name dos not appear on the AOT list of persons applying for naturalization papers 1861-1903.
By 1888, the family owned a considerable amount of property in various tracts amounting to 687 acres, five houses, two huts, a store and a licensed house. The total value was estimated at one hundred and seventy-two pounds.
Although now settled at Lilydale, the Sulzberger men and youths walked approximately fifty kilometres to Longford at harvest time for employment in the established agricultural districts to supplement the income from their own farms. Produce of their farms was sold at the market in Launceston or carried to gold miners at Lisle, near Mt. Arthur. Jacob had a reputation of being very clever and his farm always seemed to flourish. Although he had a smattering of English, Jacob continued to speak predominantly in German until he died on the 19th September 1894 at seventy-nine years of age. Barbara had died earlier in 1889. This was timely because by WWI they would have been registered as aliens under the War Precaution Act.
The son from the first marriage Johan (jnr) is the subject of another migration story. Johan married Jeannie (née Phillips) and decided to migrate to NZ in 1897 with their family excepting one daughter who had married a Grandfield. (The Phillips arrived on the Katherine Shearer which was shipwrecked in Hobart Harbour in 1855. They had sailed from Scotland and Jeannie was only 10 days old when the ship foundered.) Johan’s family of eight children settled in the Taranaki district where their name is as synonymous with the district as it is with Lilydale in Tasmania.
By one generation, religion and language had been assimilated as evidenced by church membership with local protestant religions, naming of children, loss of language and no evidence of correspondence with their German cousins. But what of their cultural baggage they brought with them?
The children and descendants of Johan and Barbara went on to provide Tasmania and NZ rural districts with innovative farming practices, civic responsibility and community spirit – first PO mail service, threshing machines imported from Britain, organisers of rural shows, road trust members, church wardens, Secretary of the Board of Agriculture and a member of the Lilydale Farmers and Fruit growers’ Association, instrumental in building the first school, supporters of Bush Nursing Association, pound keeper, shop keeper, local vet, hotelier, and in the tradition of Grossbottwar the keeper of illegal stills and famous wine and cider makers. But they had congregated in Lilydale with other German families.
Marilyn Lake wrote of a Divided Society by concentrating on instances of conflict and racial hatred during WWI but if we look closer at the Tasmania landscape and delve into the little known rural districts we will find many stories of German families that wanted to be part of a new world melting pot. However although they became invisible via their assimilation, remnants of German culture still survive. Micro-histories providing thick description can help find and understand these indicators of what is was like to be German in Tasmania in the nineteenth century. You can still see the high-pitched roofs on outbuildings, occasional carved fretwork around verandahs and the names are still synonymous with the district.