The first Germans came out with the South Australian Company in 1836 and most settled at Kingscote on Kangaroo Island. The first to land, on 27 July 1836, was Daniel Henry Schreyvogel from the Duke of York to be employed as clerk for the Company. Three days later P. Keiffe, from the Lady Mary Pelham, arrived and started as a labourer at the proposed whaling and sealing station.
In November 1838 Pastor Kavel brought a large group of German Lutheran migrants to South Australia. The first group of 21 Lutherans arrived on the Bengalee on 18 November followed two days later by the main group on the Prince George. They came to escape religious persecution at home, and Kavel settled them at Klemzig with the help of George Fife Angas.
Although Angas was given great credit for bringing out these Germans, it was certainly not new. As early as 1707 a large group of Germans had left their country for the same reason. They travelled via Rotterdam and London for America. In 1708 13,000 of them were sent to America at a cost of £135,000 paid for by the English government.
Within six months the Southern Australian reported that the industry and quiet perseverance of the German character had been fully developed in Klemzig. 'Four or five months only have elapsed since the hand of man began there to efface the features of the wilderness, yet nearly thirty houses have already been erected'.
In December 1838, Captain Dirk Hahn of the Zebra arrived with another 187 Lutheran migrants who settled on land belonging to Frederick Dutton. It had not been an easy trip for these immigrants, lack of space had made it impossible to take all their belongings and twenty-five chests of clothing had to be left behind. When they finally arrived they named their settlement Hahndorf.
After the death of the King of Prussia in June 1840, religious reasons to settle in South Australia changed for economic reasons. In March 1840 an Account of the Persecution of the Lutheran Church was published in England to put on record the treatment of the last ten years of this religious group in Prussia. One of the last ships to arrive in South Australia with religious refugees was the Skjold on 28 October 1841. Built in 1839, this Danish three masted ship was under command of Captain Hans Christian Claussen and was owned by C. Petersen of Sundeborg. She brought Pastor Frietzsche and more than two hundred Lutheran migrants. Before returning to Hamburg, the captain collected samples of South Australian wheat, barley and oats. They were judged in Germany as being equal to any other, the oats were considered to be superior to any they had seen before. Naturally, when this appeared in the Altona Mercury it created additional interest among farmers to migrate.
The migrants coming out on the Skjold, which was an emergency replacement for the Mary Stewart, would have had one the worst voyages out ever. Many of them had taken weeks to travel from Posen, Brandenberg and Silesia by road, canal and river to Hamburg to meet their ship. While waiting for the ship to arrive and being repaired, loaded and eventual departure time, four of them died and were buried at Hamburg. As a result of the delays several people ran out of money even before the ship left. After the ship left Hamburg a little girl of two died and was buried at Altona. Before reaching the open sea, a further two passengers died and were buried at Cuxhaven. A further forty-two passengers died during the voyage. The last one, Mrs Luise Reich on 26 October, was buried at sea near Kangaroo Island.
Several of these Lutheran migrants were among the first to start the settlements of Lobethal and Bethany. Lobethal was started by about thirty families who had obtained some two hundred acres between them. Another group which had already settled at Hahndorf and Bethany later moved to Moculta.
Only about five per cent of all German migrants who settled in South Australia came for religious reasons. The South Australian government soon realised the worth of these hard working Germans and published information about the colony for distribution in Germany. It hoped to get many more of these first class migrants. Although many migrated to America, which involved a much shorter and cheaper trip, a substantial number settled in South Australia.
By the mid 1840s there were enough Germans in South Australia to make it worthwhile to have their own newspaper. In 1847 the first German newspaper, Die Deutsche Post, edited by Johann Menge, was established in Adelaide. In 1850 some of the earlier German settlers formed the German Immigration Society to help newly arrived German migrants settle in South Australia. The Society's aims were to find work for them and protect them against 'the knavery of those who are ever ready to pray upon the unwary'. During the early 1850s more than two thousand German miners migrated from the Harz Mountains where mining had become costly, outdated and had to compete with very low prices. Many of these men found work in South Australia's copper mines and smelters.
The Germans became strongly associated with the Barossa Valley, where they established the towns of Bethany, Langmeil, Ebenezer, Hoffnungsthal and several others. They also settled in the Adelaide Hills naming their towns Blumberg, Lobethal, South Rhine and Grunthal. German immigrants, and later their descendants, helped with the opening up of agricultural lands in the mid north, as far north as Quorn and Bruce on the Willochra Plains and the Wirrabara area. One of these was Claus Botherim, born in Schleswig Holstein. As a sailor he was involved in the German Danish war and while in the Southern Ocean decided to stay in Australia. He settled near Tothill Creek and married Margaret Murray. In 1863 he and his family moved to the Wirrabara forest where he found work at Norman's Gully.
Claus Botherim changed his name to Bathern and bought his own bullock team and eventually bought land in the Hundred of Apilla. In 1882 he used thirty bullocks to haul a steam engine into the forest to drive the circular saw. At times he acted as a saw sharpener, scribe, teacher and confidant. Other German migrants moved to the South East and the Murray Mallee. They were not interested in land speculation they rather worked their lands to sell the produce or their labour. At the same time they reproduced a pattern of self-contained village settlement previously tried and proven in Europe.
Most of the early German immigrants were extremely poor and therefore migration to South Australia was an improvement in both economic and religious matters. Although there were many exceptions, most Germans kept mainly to themselves and married their own kind, kept up their language, customs, such as the Liedertafel and skittle alley, religion and education system. Wherever they went they established their German schools.
Within six months of arrival many of the Germans showed a willingness to sign the oath of allegiance and on 24 May 1839, Queen Victoria's birthday, 123 German men took the oath. Among these were members of the Kavel and Thiele families and Johannes Menge. Four months later ten of these men were naturalised and were now able to buy Crown land.
Only a small percentage of these hard working German immigrants settled in or around Adelaide. Those who did came mainly from the middle, professional or cultured classes of the German cities. They established many important industries such as silversmithing, winemaking and the weaving of woolen cloth. Among some of the better known German migrants were Johann Menge, mineralogist, Ulrich Hubbe, 'Father of the Real Property Act', chemist Max Bernbaum. J.A. Herggott, a botanist with John McDouall Stuart, who discovered Hergott Springs in 1859, and Dr Carl Mucke. Another was Theo Heuzenroeder. Born in Schwanewede, near Bremen where he was educated, he came to Adelaide in 1859. After a few years he moved to Hahndorf where he took charge of the Post and Telegraph Office as well as running his own chemist shop. In 1866 he moved to Tanunda where he carried on a very extensive business.
Adolph von Treuer, born in 1822 in Wartzburg, Bavaria and educated at the University of Dorpat, came to Australia in 1855. While learning English he taught various languages in private schools. He became a clerk at the South Australian Railways and from there transferred to the Post Office. During the 1860s he became confidential manager for Robert Barr Smith, a position he held until his death. He served as German Council from 1866-1883. He was one of the original members of the Council of Education and a founding member of the University of Adelaide. He supported the Adelaide Liedertafel and was President of the Adelaide Orpheus Society. When he died in 1894 his funeral was attended by Members of Parliament, Officers of the Education and Police Departments, and many members of Elder Smith & Co, including Peter Wait, V.E. Phillipson and T.E. Barr Smith.
Another well known migrant was, Carl Linger, who wrote the music for Song of Australia, which impressed Charles Cameron Kingston, the Premier of South Australia, so much that he asked public school teachers to teach it to all their students. Linger was also the founder of the Adelaide Liedertafel in 1858. There were also Richard Schomburgk, a director of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, and Friedrich von Lindrum, winemaker, billiard table manufacturer and billiard player. Others who made a name for themselves were Wendt the jeweller, Henry Steiner, silversmith, Menz the biscuit maker, Basedow the politician, Seppelt the wine maker and Gustav Gebhardt.