Early German Immigrants to the Moreton Bay Settlement – 4 – The End of the Mission

Wilhelm Gericke with Auguste Richter, Carl Gerler and Johann Hermann formed a second party of missioners who had been commissioned on August 21, 1843, arrived in Sydney, January 2, 1844, and at Zions Hill on June, 1844.

The Aborigines continued to steal and it was during one such raid in 1845 that Haussmann nearly lost his life. The missioners had formed an outstation at Burpengary, the Nordga of the natives, where they had cultivated an area of some ten acres, which they planted with corn and potatoes. 11 

The outstation at Noogir (Burpengarry) was being manned by Haussmann when they came for maize and potatoes. As the natives drew near, calling him, Haussmann turned and fled into the hut. But not before they speared him in his back. They forced their way into the hut after him and it was only the diversion of ripping open a flour bag that saved his life.  Haussmann escaped and crawled back the 26 miles to Zion’s Hill and eventually went to Sydney for treatment. In time he made a good recovery.

Although the raiders now fled, for fear of reprisals by the police, the missionaries deemed it wise to close the out-station and concentrate solely on Zion’s Hill. Ironically, soon after, a group of Aborigines led some shipwrecked sailors safely to the missionaries, much to the joy of the crew! 12

In 1846 Dr. Simpson reported that the mission school had ceased to function, though probably a school was continued as a purely educational institution for the white children. 13

In 1846, the MORETON BAY COURIER reported:

 The Missions for spiritually enlightening the Blacks, and ameliorating their wretched condition, two of which were for some years existent in this district, are now both at an end. The Roman Catholic establishment at Dunwich is broken up; and the missionaries, the Rev. Messrs. Snell, Lewis, and Morris, left for Sydney by the William, on Thursday, en route to the Sandwich Islands. Our readers are, perhaps, aware, that the German Mission is also abandoned. Sir George Gipps, we think wisely, has discontinued the assistance, which it formerly received from the public revenue. –Moreton Bay Courier. 14

Old Mission Cottages at Zion Hill (Nundah), date unknown (Photo courtesy ‘Lost Brisbane’)

In 1848 when the Government decided to survey the reserve and sell blocks of land, some of the families brought a number of these blocks. They included the Zillmann, Franz, Gerler, Rode and Wagner families. 15

From the original settlement at Nundah, the families gradually dispersed, their descendents becoming absorbed in the general community, where they entered into all professions and callings in the national life of Queensland. When in 1885 the railway to Sandgate was built through the German Station, the Settlement had lost its distinctive racial note of German origin and was renamed Nundah.

Of the original missionaries:

Ambrosius Theophilus Wilhelm Hartenstein died at German Station on December 2, 1861.

Wilhelmine Christina Sempel died at German Station on August 21, 1858

In 1848, Messrs. Haussmann and Niquet went to Sydney to undertake a course in Divinity at Dr. Lang’s Australian College, and both were ordained.  Pastor Haussmann served Lutheran congregations in Victoria at German Town, at Bendigo, and returned to Queensland in 1861. In 1866 he established a new missionary undertaking near Beenleigh, which he named Bethesda. By 1883, the mission had proved a failure, and Pastor Haussmann, who had organised a German Lutheran congregation at Beenleigh, remained there as pastor, until his death on December 31, 1901.

Pastor Niquet left Brisbane in 1856 for Victoria, where he served a Lutheran pastor of a congregation at Ballarat. 

Pastor Schmidt left Brisbane in 1845, and went to Samoa as a missionary of the London Missionary Society.

Pastor Eipper left the Nundah mission in 1844. He joined the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales at Braidwood, near Maitland.  

Gottfried Wagner was ordained at Sydney on October 9, 1850.  He was in Tumut, New South Wales, until the end of 1851. Thereafter he lived at German Station, Nundah, until his death in September, 1893.

Mr. Franz, whose first wife was the widow of Moritz Schneider, died in 1891.

Franz August Joseph Rode died on May 27, 1903, at Victoria Street, West End. Probably, he was the last survivor of the original band of Goszner missionaries, being 92 years of age at the time of his death.16


11. Sparks, H.J.J. op.cit.

12. Turner, Pam, op.cit.

13. Sparks, H.J.J. op.cit.

14. Launceston Examiner, Saturday 1 August 1846

15. Nundah and Districts Historical Society Inc. op.cit.

16. Sparks, H.J.J. op.cit.

Early German Immigrants to the Moreton Bay Settlement – 03 – Conflict at the Mission Station

On July 5, 1841, Mr. Schmidt writes that he had commenced school­keeping, and had some days above 20 children around him. 

The native children who attended the mission school were taught side by side with the few children of the whites, the missioners thinking that in a mixed school the discipline of the white children would have a steadying effect on the black. The youngest children only of the natives, generally those about six years of age, could be persuaded to submit to school discipline. They learnt readily enough, but the constant habit of going into the bush with the tribe prevented any sustained training. The children would learn the Lord’s Prayer, and then when the tribe visited the township, repeat it to the whites in the Settlement in  return for  a  coin, a penny or a sixpence. 

Education was, in fact, merely a matter of merchandise to the native youngsters; attendance at school was regarded as a service rendered to the whites, to be paid for in food.5

The missionaries tried to learn the language and culture of the Aborigines and hoped, in time, to break down their nomadic habits. Many people at that point in time, believed the Aborigines to be no better than animals – depraved like the convicts in the nearby Moreton Bay Penal Settlement. Nevertheless the Lutheran missionaries were receiving financial aid from the mission society under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church and had been warmly welcomed on their arrival by Dr Lang.

The missionaries discouraged handouts from the start. Whenever the natives helped in the building or gardening, they were paid wages in the form of food. The Aborigines came to accept the missionaries and even attended the Sunday services. They always greatly enjoyed the hymn singing.

But thieving became rife amongst the natives. Night watches had to be kept in an effort to prevent raids on gardens. Even when the missionaries were summoned to prayer by the hammering of a tin dish, the natives came to learn this was the safest time to raid. Once, Haussmann was attached on an out-station and seriously wounded. 6

The worst attack came one night on 21st March 1840when the Aborigines approached carrying firebrands and menacing spears and clubs. … the missionaries fired warning shots to frighten them off. The commandant of the nearby Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, L. Gorman, demanded an explanation of the incident. He had heard that several natives had been wounded and regretted the incident because he had been on excellent terms with them for forty miles around. Opposition for the mission continued. The Government was convinced that Zion’s Hill should be closed down and a new mission established further away from the evil influence of the penal settlement. 8

Nundah Free Settlers Monument (photo by Lankiveil) This monument in modern-day Nundah commemorates the Zion Hill settlers.


5. Sparks, H.J.J. op.cit.

6. Turner, Pam; First European Settlement of Queensland 1838-1988’, Zion Lutheran Home 1987

7. Sparks, H.J.J. op.cit.

8. Turner, Pam, op.cit.

Early German Immigrants to the Moreton Bay Settlement – 02 – The Mission Station

As the result of Dr Lang’s visit to Pastor Gossner at the Bethlehem Evangelical Church in Berlin, ten laymen expressed willingness to undertake the journey:

Gottfried Haussmann, farmer, and his wife Louise Wilhelmina.

Johann Gottfried Wagner, a shoemaker.

Peter Niquet, bricklayer, and his wife Marie Sophia

Ambrosius Theophilus Wilhelm Hartenstein, weaver, and his wife Wilhelmine Christina

Johann Leopold Zillmann, blacksmith, and his wife Clara Louise.

Friedrich Theodor Franz, a tailor.

Ludwig Doege, a gardener.

August Rode, a cabinetmaker, and his wife Julia Emilia.

August Olbrecht, a shoemaker.

Moritz Schneider, medical student, and his wife Caroline. (Moritz died from typhus in the Sydney quarantine station). 

The party was joined by two clergymen, Carl Wilhelm Schmidt and Christoph Eipper, and their wives Louise and Harriet. Without these two clergymen the English parliament refused to provide financial assistance for the undertaking. 4

In all, with their wives and children, the party numbered twenty persons. 

In July 1837, the missionaries and their families sailed from Bremen for Greenock, Scotland, where they embarked on “the fine first­class Bristol-built ship Minerva, 380 tons, under the command of Captain Thomas Furlong.” 

The Minerva arrived at Sydney on January 23, 1838. On March 19, several of the missionaries left for Moreton Bay in the Government schooner Isabella, 126 tons, Captain More. They arrived at Moreton Bay on March 30, 1838, the remainder of the party arriving in June of the same year. 

When the missionaries arrived at Moreton Bay, the Settlement was on the verge of being transformed from a penal to a free settlement. The convicts, who in 1831 numbered 1,066, were being gradually withdrawn, and in 1837, the year before the arrival of the missionaries, only 300 were left. 

The area between the Settlement and the coast remained in the undisturbed possession of the blacks. In this area, a site was allotted for the formation of the mission station, covering about 640 acres, by Major Cotton, Commandant of the Penal Settlement at the time of their arrival. 

In his 1841 account Pastor Eipper describes the missionaries settlement:

“Their settlement is situated on a hill, from which they have given it the name of Zions Hill, it consists of eleven cottages with enclosed yards, kitchens, storehouses, etc.: these cottages are built in a line on the ridge of the hill from east to west.  In front of the houses small gardens are laid out down the hill towards a lagoon; at its base and in the rear of the yards larger gardens run down on the opposite descent. The houses are either thatched or covered with hark; the walls are built with slabs and plastered with clay both inside and outside, being whitewashed with a species of white clay found on the spot, and mixed with sand.  The ceilings are formed of plaits of grass and clay wound about sticks laid across the tie-beams, and the floors of slabs smoothed with the adze; each cottage having two or three rooms and one fireplace.” 

Sketch of the German Mission Station at Zion Hill


4. Nundah and Districts Historical Society Inc. op.cit.

Early German Immigrants to the Moreton Bay Settlement – 01 – The Missionaries:

From Moreton Bay’s beginning as a penal settlement in 1824, the authorities   intended to use it as a base for missionary work among the aborigines. The Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, intimated through the Attorney General, Mr. Saxe Banister, to a deputation from the London Missionary Society, a wish that something might he attempted on behalf of the aborigines.

In his book Cooksland Dr. John Dunmore Lang describes the genesis of the German Lutheran Mission he was instrumental in founding at Nundah: “My attention,” he writes, “was strongly directed to the subject of establishing a mission to the aborigines of Australia so early as the year 1831, and during that year, and in the year 1834 I made  three  successive  attempts to establish such a mission by means of Scotch missionaries, but without success.

The difficulty of securing Scottish missionaries was probably due to the fact that at the time there was an exodus of Scottish peasants to Canada, and that the Scottish clergy preferred to follow their own flocks to minister to their spiritual needs in the new home they sought beyond the seas. 1

In 1837 Dr Lang had been in Great Britain in search of missionaries to evangelise the Aborigines in the Moreton Bay area. He had been about to return to Australia without any success when he heard of Pastor Johannes Evangelista Gossner and his lay-missionary training centre at the Bethlehem Evangelical Church in Berlin. Dr Lang travelled to Berlin and enthusiastically outlined his plans to Pastor Gossner and his students, saying he felt Moreton Bay was ideally suited to a mission station. 2

A knowledge of Australia was widespread throughout German-speaking Europe: Yde T’Jercxzoon Holman, or Holleman, was second in command of the Heemskerk on Tasman’s second voyage, and on Cook’s second voyage he was accompanied by two German scientists, Johann Reinhold Forster and his son, Johann Georg Adam. The son’s work in particular, with its account of the Great Barrier Reef, was widely read.  A German account of’ the third voyage was also published. Flinders on his voyage in the Investigator (1801-1803) had with him an Austrian, Ferdinand Bauer, whose account of the voyage was embellished with 1400 illustrations of Australian botanical specimens. 3

Doryanthes excelsa

This is an image of Doryanthes excelsa from Ferdinand Bauer’s ‘Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae’.


1. Sparks, H.J.J.; Queensland’s First Free Settlement 1838–1938.

2. Nundah and Districts Historical Society Inc.