You will find families of German ancestry across the broader New England, the Hunter wine-growing areas, at Clarence Town, in Grafton, at Armidale or Tenterfield.
Many can trace their local presence to the middle of the 19th century, many of those to the actions of one remarkable man who left a powerful imprint on New England life.
Karl Ludwig Wilhelm Kirchner was born in 1814.
Wilhelm attended the local grammar school and then, at age 18, went to stay with family friends in Manchester, the heart of the emerging industrial revolution. While there, he met two Sydney merchants, Alex Campbell and Thomas Walker, who aroused his interest in the colony of NSW.
The young Wilhelm’s commercial interests in Manchester and Frankfurt prospered. By 1839, he had accumulated enough money to buy a cabin class ticket on the Mary, arriving in Sydney on July 20, 1839.
In Sydney, the 25-year-old established his own successful merchant firm. His home became a gathering centre for Sydney’s still small German-speaking community. He also met and married Australian-born lass Frances Murdoch Stirling.
One of those who visited the house was the Prussian explorer and naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt. Ludwig had arrived in Sydney on February 14, 1842. His aim was to explore inland Australia.
In September 1842, Leichhardt visited the Hunter River Valley to study the geology, flora and fauna, and observe farming methods. He then set out on his own on a specimen-collecting journey that took him from Newcastle to Moreton Bay.
In October 1844, Leichhardt set out on a privately organised expedition to travel from the Darling Downs to Port Essington on the Coburg Peninsula in what is now the Northern Territory. The expedition had been given up as lost. Their delayed arrival at Port Essington made Leichhardt a hero.
In March 1848, Leichhardt led another expedition from the Darling Downs intending to travel overland to the Swan River settlement. The expedition vanished, creating a mystery that is still not resolved.
Amiable to his friends, Leichhardt was described by his detractors as jealous, selfish, suspicious and slovenly. However, he was a dedicated scientist and meticulous recorder who would allow nothing, including his poor eyesight, to stand in his way.
Leichhardt’s observations from his first Hunter Valley trip convinced him that lack of people was holding the colony back. He felt that those from Germany would make good settlers.
Jim Belshaw’s email is email@example.com. He blogs at http://newenglandaustralia.blogspot.com.au/ and http://newenglandhistory.blogspot.com.au
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