THE KRUMNOW SETTLEMENT*
I. Extract from the Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1880, p.4, col. 1.:
The "Peculiar People"
Death of an Eccentric Character
The German settlement of the sect known as "The Peculiar People," situated near Penshurst, has often been noticed in our columns, and it appears that the leader, or the prophet, as he was called, has now shuffled off this mortal coil, and left everything in confusion.The late Johann Frederick Krumnow was a man of eccentric habits, and the settlement was called Herrn Hut.
(Ed. comment: Today only two ruins remain; click on 'thumbnail' image for full size picture. Back command will bring back this page).
Although living so near Hamilton, the first intimation which we have of the death of this singular character was the announcement that the Curator of Intestate Estates had obtained a rule to administer his estate. Some years ago Mr Krumnow had what he called his testament prepared and had copies of it printed, which he usually showed to visitors to Herrn Hut to prove that he meant to leave his all to the "poor people", but like many other eminent men he put off the execution of it so that death overtook him before the will was signed.
The following sketch of Mr. Krumnow's career is from the pen of a gentleman who was on intimate terms with the deceased: ---
Mr. Krumnow was born in Germany, and having gone to Russia in his youth to propagate socialistic doctrines, was put in gaol in that country for some time and then sent over the border. Subsequently he became a missionary, some say a shepherd, in South Australia, but as the aborigines in that province were either fully posted in the social ethics of the missionary or the field of enterprise was too limited, Mr. Krumnow soon found his way to Melbourne, where he, it is said, worked at his trade as a tailor in Collingwood, then called New Town.
Here he gathered around him a few German families who believed in the doctrines which he taught, some of which were peculiar, one being that everything was to be held in common, and another that all sickness was to be cured without drugs or medical aid and by the power of prayer alone.
The latter doctrine nearly brought the small community at Herrn Hut on more than one occasion into collision with the law, through evidence given at coroners' inquests on persons who died at the settlement through want of proper medical treatment.
When at Collingwood and also at Herrn Hut Mr. Krumnow made his followers believe that he could raise the devil, and some of his dupes did actually think he had done so on one occasion in the garden. Subsequently however, when they had left the settlement they concluded that it was only a gooseberry bush after all that they had seen.
These people who were farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, saddlers, masons and other handicraftsmen clubbed their money together and entrusted Krumnow to buy 1600 acres for the prupose of forming a socialistic settlement at Herrn Hut near Mount Rouse, to which place they removed about 30 years ago. So industrious were they that they soon built a church, houses and barns and put a considerable extent of land under cultivation; they also fenced it in and made a splendid water-dam, both men and women, young and old working at these improvements with a will from day light to dark, stopping only to hold service in the church at mealtime, morning, noon and night, Mr. Krumnow being the pastor and registered as minister qualified to marry.
This happy state of things was not however to last, for some of the more energetic brethren now began to enquire into the title of the land when it was found that Krumnow had got the Crown Grants made out in his own name and would not re-convey to the society, these men left with their families, some buying land alongside the settlemtn on a section which they called Gnadenthal and where some of them still reside, others went into business in the neighbouring township of Penshurst where they succeeded so well that one of them gave up business a few years ago with an ample fortune and is now in California, where he went to escape the importunity of his wife, whose head had been turned through her connection with the Krumnow settlement.These people have on more than one occasion taken legal advice as to whether they could not recover their share of the property, but as the costs of an equity suit would have been more than their means would cover in case of failure, nothing ever came of it, and the property will be wound up by the Curator, as Mr. Krumnow never married and has no family.
(Ed.: Two large poplars grow at the wall, or inside this building)
In person Mr. Krumnow was a character; he was a little, deformed man, something like the German gnome which Mr. Wertheim has chosen to picture as the motto for his sewing machines. His face was dark and wrinkled, his hair, black, long and unkempt. In publich he always wore an overcoat of black cloth and latterly of opossum skin, which, with a broad-crowned German military "cheesecutter" cap, completed a costume which, as I have said, was characteristic of the man.
Mr. Krumnow was hospitable to a fault. No person ever left Herrn Hut without a meal or a bed at night, and as he himself often said, he liked to be kind to the poor people, some of whom, particularly the woman kind, used to impose on the old man to the extent of getting money from him to pay their debts after they had left the place. One or two families he placed on selections, and paid their rent for some years, as well as finding them food and labour for the working on their farms, and when the settlement at Hills Plains, near Benalla, of which Martia Heller was the leader and prophetess, was in want of food, Mr. Krumnow at once set out to succor them. He persuaded them to join his settlement and sent quite a string of waggons to journey all the distance to Hills Plains to bring them and their belongings to Herrn Hut.
The newcomers did not long agree with the old residents; assaults were committed, which were brought before the Penshurst Police Court, and in a few months time the prophetess and her followers dispersed themselves through the country.
When Maria Heller was there the old man was quite proud of his capture and showed her much attention, which seems to have aroused the jealousy of some of the other females. How strange that such an ugly little man could excite jealousy in the female breast!
Mr. Krumnow had a great horror of the law, but yet he was one of the late Mr. Nunn's best clients, and many a pound did he unprofitably spend in trying to save the Croxton farmers' common from being boughtup by the neighbouring squatter,
He had a perennial claim against the Mount Rouse Shire Council for compensation (as he called it) for work done by him in clearing the roads round his place and in making bridges on the same, and much fun has been enacted in the shire office when he attended to press his claims. On one occasion he pulled the president's ear and said, "You liar, you go hell, "which three latter words were a favourite expression of his to anyone he did not like.
I could tell a good many anecdotes of the old man, did space permit; one ,however, may suffice.
In the early days of the settlement he drew his supplies from Rutledge and Co., of Belfast, who sold his produce and generally acted as his bankers when he visited Belfast, and being a good customer, he was accommodated with a bedroom at the store, but on one occasion he came when the room was occupied by another good customer. The young men in the store, however, made him up a bed in a piano case in the back store. When bed time came, he was shown to his bed by two wags, Harper and Hutcheson, when he exclaimed, "What! me sleep here among all them rats! Me no like you Mr. Hutcheson." And he at once cleared out for an hotel. Mr. Krumnow did not like spirits, but he could get happy on port wine and his favourite "bottled ale of Mr. Byass and Co.", and since the departure of Madam Heller it is said that the poor old fellow took more port wine than was good for him, and so perhaps he forgot to sign his "testament".
His death took place at the settlement of Herrn Hut on the 3rd. October last, and the amount of his property, which the Curator will administer, is put down at (pound) 5826 18s 11d.
(Ed.: A simple 'no name' tombstone in a cluster of trees in a paddock further down, on the other side of the road is the only visible evidence that this was once a cemetery. Lodewyckx in 1931 refers to this as the burial site of an Aboriginal boy, i.e. the exact site of Krumnow's grave is uncertain.)
*Acknowledgement: We thank
John Mirtschin for taking us to the ruins of the Herrn Hut
settlement, and to the old cemetery and church foundation.
II. Extract from the Hamilton Spectator October 27, 1881:
Moravian Bretheren (Argus)
In the Supreme Court in Melbourne, before his honour Mr. Justice Holroyd, evidence was taken in the suit of Pratz v Weignall. The plaintiff was a member of a community known as the Moravian Bretheren. In the year 1852, a number of persons, including the plaintiff formed themselves into a society, one of the objects of which according to their rules, was that there should be a community of goods. With that object they agreed to purchase land and use it for the common support of their families. The objects of the society were stated to be principally to secure the safety of the souls of the members, to provide religious training for their children and to help destitute people and wayfarers. In the pursuance of that agreement the members who numbered about 20 bought into a common stock all their property, and purchased from Her Majesty 1,584 acres of land at Mount Rouse. The principal person of the society was the pastor Johan Frederick Krumnow and in his name the crown grants for the property were issued. The members settled on the land, cleared and cultivated it, Mr. Krumnow sold the produce and acted as general aent for the others. By the rules of the society, if any member died or resigned, his interest passed to the remaining members of the society. Mr. Krumnow died in October 1880, and Mr. Weignall, as the curator of the estates of deceased persons, obtained a rule to administer to his estate, and took possession generally of the property that stood in his name and proposed to sell the real estate including the farm at Mount Rouse known as Herrn Huth. It was with the object of preventing the sale and securing the property to the society that the suit was instituted. The curator was not aware of his own knowledge of some of the facts alleged by the plaintiff, and he therefore defended the suit, leaving it to the Court to determine any matters of law that might be raised. Several witnesses were examined, and other witnesses will be examined today.
III. Extract from the Hamilton Spectator 19 August, 1876
Petty Sessions: Wednesday 16.8.1876
Maria Heller was charged on warrant with being a dangerous lunatic. There being not the slightest reason to suppose that the prophetess was a lunatic, the Bench, after severely admonishing the German who swore the information, discharged her. She was then charged with assaulting one August Hildebrandt. F.Bieske was sworn as interpreter, and Gottlieb Kusch, on oath, stated: on the evening of Monday, the l4th inst. Maria Heller did nothing to me. I did not see her assault anyone for the last fortnight. August Hildebrandt, Senr., deposed: On Monday last, about 8 o'clock, I saw Maria Heller. She came to my house with seven or eight men and women. She called me a rogue, and used very bad language, at the same time striking me on the breast. She then threw great stones, but these did not hit me. Used bad language in German and threatened next time to take a knife to me. I was afraid to touch her, expecting the other people to knock me down. She then went to her own room. She often gets into such a passion, that Krumnow must run away. I am afraid that she will do one some harm. - Mary Hildebrandt, swore, deposed: I live in the same house with my father (the last witness) I remember Maria Heller coming to the door of our house on last Monday. She said she had a message and asked me to come out and speak to her. I did not go out. My father was in the bake house. I locked the door, but a short time afterwards, went out. Maria Heller then called me a w , and a thief, and used other disgusting language. I also saw her throw a large stone at my father. I am afraid of her, and was going to leave the place. I was quite close to her when she threw the stone. She put out her tongue at father, calling him an old wretch. I had no quarrel previously with Maria Heller.
Maria Heller, in defence, stated that Mary Hildebrandt had called the Germans lately arrived at Herrnhut the men lazy, and the women w s - particularising herself, and that she went to Mary Hildebrandt to get her to go to Mr Krumnow, for him to decide between them. The Bench found the defendant to keep the peace for six months, herself in 10 pounds, and one surety of 20 pounds. Mr Krumnow became surety, and the court rose.
IV. Extract from the Argus, 18/4/1885:
By "THE VAGABOND"
Cheviot-hills Station is part of
the old aboriginal reserve purchased from the Crown of the
present proprietors, Messrs. John and Thomas Hutton. Messrs.
Twomey are in possession of the larger portion of what was
originally Mr. John Cox's run, described in the old days by Mr.
Rolf Boldrewood "as the richest and best fattening in a rich
fattening district." Rescued by the Government for a native
reservation, it was afterwards let by tender, and then put up to
auction, and passed into the hands of the above gentlemen. The
country maintains its character to this day. We have a pleasant
drive to Cheviot-hills,and pleasant converse on old times. Then
comes the question, will I scale Mount Rouse, and view the
plains, lakes, the ountains, and perhaps even the sea? Or do I
prefer a drive round the country and a visit to the German
settlement at Hernnhut, the queer community founded by the late
"Pastor" Krumnow? I had never even heard of the place
or the man before, but as we bowl along the good roads in Mr.
Hutton's break I listen attentively to the story of Krumnow as
told by my friends the two brothers, with notes by Mr. Bree. A
strange, eventful history, truly, the records of which I have
supplemented by Mr. John S. Jenkins and other gentlemen.
Johann Friedrich Krumnow was a German Slav by birth, shoemaker by profession, a Socialist by opinion.. Cobbling and communism have ever gone together. Republican ideas generally follow the owl and the last. Your village Hampden is in most cases the local mender of soles and heels. The faith of Krumnow was strong within him. The times were out of joint, he felt he was born to set them right. Yet he had no personal gifts to recommend him. He was short in stature, "made up unfashionably," almost deformed. Krumnow's grating voice possessed no note to stir the souls of men.. He spoke German with the patois of a boor. He was uneducated. He had no single quality of nature in his favour. But within this misshapen body there was a fiery soul. Krumnow had faith in himself, and he inspired faith in others. If he was an impostor at the last, I imagine that he began by deceiving himself. To Krumnow there early came the ideas which possess many European peasants who can think. Why should the few have wealth and privilege, all the good things of earth in the present, and high seats promised them in heaven in the future, whilst the many in general, and Krumnow in particular, had no reward for hard toil and often hunger? The cruel bonds of law and of custom encompassed them. In the scheme of life arranged by their rulers they were but as dumb driven cattle. "There must be refuge!" For long years the heart of European humanity has been stirred by the question "Whither?". Many men have imagined that they had a mission-Heaven-sent perhance.. Krumnow was the one who would lead mankind to better things. So he, travelling like most German mechanics, from city to city and village to village, carried on the propaganda of modern times. Not that of faith as taught by Rome, but the revolutionary and socialist one which has ended for so many in Nihilism and Siberia, in the knout and the gibbet, in the red flag, the guillotine, a short shrift at Satory, and transportation to New Caledonia. For others, luckier, the result of the propaganda has been place and power in their own lands, or an old age of easy content under the Southern Cross. Not always is it that the worthiest survive.
V. "The Vagabond" article contin.
Poor, ignorant, misshapen Krumnow, preaching
his ideas of religious communism amongst his fellow-workmen in
Germany and Russia had little success. The White Hand of the
student has ever been more powerful in upheaving the Temple of
Despotism than the horny hand of the peasant. In the forties,
when Krumnow was young, men's hearts were astir, eager to change
the conditions which oppressed them or their fellows. Liberty and
life were freely risked. Krumnow himself ws laid up by the heels
in Russia. But he was soon released. The authorities, perhaps
thought that he was too miserable a specimen of humanity to do
any harm. Krumnow was not of the stuff of which marturs are made.
He felt that his faith would be fruitless to produce works in
Europe. He must seek virgin soil. So in 1847 he came to South
Australia, and was for some three years a "missionary"
amongst the blacks, near Mount Gambier. He lived with them, and
was one of them. By exposure to the weather his dark complexion
became tanned almost black. He, on one ocasion, was nearly shot
by an enterprising settler who mistook him for an aboriginal. He
became known among the whites as "the native
blackbird". Krumnow does not appear to have satisfied his
ambition by a residence with the natives, although he enlarged
his ideas on morality. We next hear of him in lsol at
Collingwood, then the village of "Newtown". He was
working at his trade, combining with it, however, preaching and
prophesying. A small knot of Germans was at the time settled
there, and Krumnow soon worked on the superstitious
susceptibilities of their womenfolk.. He saw visions, the lord
appeared to him and endowed him with the gift of prophecy. He
could heal diseases by the laying of hands, he conversed with the
Spirits of Heaven and Hell! To an ordinary-minded citizen Krumnow
was simply a harmless lunatic. His pretensions to supernatural
powers ended in his one night professing "to raise the
devil" in his cabbage garden. Hysterical women drunk with
superstitious exaltation, affirmed that they saw the Prince of
Darkness appear and disappear at the command of Krumnow who thus
showed his command over the powers of evil. Truly he was a
prophet!. The devil has, politically, been raised in Collingwood
since then, and in each case the black arts used have been
brought into play for the individual benefit of the false
For there was a good deal of common sense under Krumnow's apparent madness. How much of altruism was there in his character? How much of pure egoism? Who can properly judge him, or any other man in this respect?. Krumnow, however, made a good many hard-headed Germans to believe in his unselfishness.. In 1852 we find him in Geelong preaching a religious commune - one of faith and works, all things in common, like the early Christians. This suited a few of his countrymen, whom Krumnow impressed, not only with his spiritual powers, but with the possession of earthly gifts essential to a chief controlling mundane things. His revelations were at least practical. To work was to pray. Withdrawing themselves from the world, they would seek the Light of the Hereafter, like the communities of Mount Lebanon and Amana, the "Separatists" or the "Perfectionists" of Oneida Creek, by "living the word" on earth. They bound themselveses together by a charter - perhaps the most curious document ever penned in Australia. The translation runs - "We, the undersigned, agreeing and accepted in the apostolic doctrine, hereby bind ourselves to uphold, follow, guard, and defend (in case of necessity even with our blood) the pure apostolic faith founded on the holy Word of God. We mutually join and bind ourselves in the bonds of love like brothers and sisters, and by this document call our brother missionary Krumnow as our preacher and teacher, to administer to us under the holy sacraments, baptise our children, and to marry those who wish to be married. We bind by this document our brother missionary Krumnow to adhere to the true apostolic faith, and under no circumstances to change or alter this doctrine, and demand of him to preach and teach us the faith, and to watch over our souls." This curious document was signed by 12 persons, and is the foundation of the brotherhood of Herrnhut, established near Penshurst. This was named after the town in Saxony where since 1722 the Moravian Brethren have been established, following out their laws of religious and social life and their works of charity. "Herrnhuter" are well known, at least by repute, and some of Krumnow's followers had belonged to the society which was to be the model of the one established on the Mount Rouse plains.
vi. The "Vagabond " article contin.
With the money of the common fund 1,000 acres
of land were selected and purchased by Krumnow in his own name.
Thenceforth "Brother" Krumnow was absolute, despot. He
conducted all the business transactions of the community, as well
as being their spiritual head. His followers had faith , which
they evidenced in their work. As well as farmers, they had in the
community several good tradesmen - masons and saddlers.. The
stone church was the first thing built, then the houses, the
schoolrom, and the barns. A large waterdam was made, and the land
cleared, fenced, and cultivated.. I do not suppose Krumnow had
ever read either Plato or Sir Thomas More, but he advocated many
of their theories. Community of wives, or at least
"complex" marriages" were allowed as in the
Republic and Oneida Creek, and here everyone worked as in Utopia.
Women and girls toiled in the fileds early and late, some clothed only with an old sack - toiled as hard as any negro slave.. Body and soul they were under the control of Krumnow. They believed that all diseases could be healed by prayer. Krumnow prayed the prayers.. On one or two occasions he nearly came within the reach of the law by allowing persons with broken bones to die for lack of medical advice. But the old fellow changed his views on this point, when near his own end, in 1861, and send sent for Dr. Dickenson, who could not save him from the effects of his debaucheries. Strong English ale, doctored port wine, and colonial beer do their work slowly but effectively.. Krumnow devoted himself to these beverages.. Once sole ruler of ?Herrnhut, he "drank, and gorged, and wantoned with the flesh," and was altogether an unmitigated old reprobate.. Krumnow had some trouble, however, with his people.. A few of the brethren early became disillusioned with their leader. They alleged that he had played a trick on them in purchasing the land in his own name.. They demanded transfer deeds, and the account of the cash earned by their labour. Lawyers were consulted, but nothing came of it. A prophetess arose - rival to Krumnow.. She predicted the date of his death, and having been seen in the common kitchen sharpening a knife with moninous threats, the pastor thought that, like Iesiah, she was going to fulfil her own prophecy, and in fear of his life, he slept for some time locked up in the church. Finding that Krumnow as their pastor was a fraud, and as their chief took everything, finding too that the communal system, which offers attraction to the German peasant in Germany presents no particular advantage in this free and young land - many of the brethren left Krumnow and set up for themselves. They bought land near here and called the settlement Gnadenthal, where they or their families still remain. One tradesman at Penshurs mad a competency and went to the States. Misshapen, fanatic, and, in his later years, drunken Krumnow remained for 28 years chief for the family at Herrnhut. He ruled the community by fear and not by love, although he exercised the right of free love. He was a dissipated Brigham Young or John Humphreys Noyes. Yet not by any means all bad. Certainly the church, and the school, and the dam, show that Krumnow had an idea at the start of directing his people to lead religious and useful lives.. But the strain of the power with which he became possessed, and the opportunities of self-indulgence overcame his impulses or theories for good. Yet Krumnow, perhaps, thought he was acting for the welfare of the community in playing the despot. He was always generous to his fellow countrymen, and no station threw open the hospitality more freely to the wandering swagman. Anyone could find meat and drink at Herrnhut. After a time they could be received into the community, with the privileges of hard work, coarse food, and the possible share of a wife. Krumnow was always free with his money, when he had any. He aided some people to settle at Condah. When a body of Moravians, some 12 years ago, came to Victoria and took up some land at Hills Plains, beyond Benalla, under the leadership of Maria Hiller, and came to grief, Krumnow behaved as nobly as his early teaching in Europe would demand.. To the nearly starving Moravians he twice sent half a dozen waggons with food the distance of 300 miles, and on their return they brought the whole community to Herrnhut. They, however, quarreled soon. . Miss Hiller, leader of the new Herrnhuter, could not agree with Krumnow, and soon left. One of my informants says, "She was too old and knew too much too much for the old man.". Krumnow had as great an objection to people who "wanted to know' as any clerk in the Circumlocution office. On the impulse of the moment he would be charitable, but he would admit none to his confidence, he would acknowledge no brotherhood.. He must be the Supreme Boss. The Socialist tramp of Germany and Russia was, in his way, as great a tyrant as the Czar of all the Russias. And he was just as suspicious. . Mr. John S. Jenkins tells me - "I once gav a Hungarian Socialist a lift in my buggy from Dunkeld to Penshurst. He had been all over the states, visiting the Communist and Socialist centres there, and had come here to seek Krumnow, who was known by his early reputation in Europe.
vii. The "Vagabond" article contin.
The stranger afterwards told me that the place
was a fraud. On the other hand the old fellow told me that the
other man wanted "to know too much." Krumnow, however,
was susceptible to the influences of the sex. He was a good deal
imposed on by an Englishwoman who joined the community, and, I am
told, did the "dear brother" business to perfection.
With his nasal twang Krumnow's English was hardly understandable except his one favourite expression, "You bad man! You rogue. You liar! Me no like you! You go hell!" Bushmen and swagmen understood that Australian shibboleth. Krumnow's short stature protected him from many a thrashing. Not but what the little man was full of fight as he was of faith in himself.. He several times figured at Penshurst Police Court. Altoghether quite a refreshing and picturesque character this Krumnow. I would that I could have met him in the flesh.. His careers, as collected from the most reliable sources, I find most interesting. There is real human nature in it.. He was a live man anyhow, delaing with many complex questions of the bodily relation to the soul, of the present to the hereafter. He has gone to his place, and of him, as of Caesar, may be said, "the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones." There is no good said about Krumnow by the "family," who remained on the farm till his death and now claim possession of the property. Krumnow left no will, no document but a confession of faith. The curator of Intestate estates, always on the lookout for spoil, took possession of everything at Herrnhut, and the community would have been sold up but that the law stepped in. An equity suit was instituted against Mr. Weigall, and in November, 1881, the following decree, as agreed to by the plaintiff's and the defendant's counsel, was made: - "Declare that the intestate J.F. Krumnow in the bill mentioned was trustee for the Moravian Society at Herrnhut of the real and personal property in the bill mentioned; that Krumnow held the same for charitable purposes not clearly defined; direct an account of the property of the society that came to the hands of the defendant They're Weigall, or to the hands of any other person or persons by his order, or for his use, and of the application of such property; an account of the disbursements by the defendant as an administrator of the intestate Krumnow, and - the reasons therefor; an inquiry as to funeral expenses, and the purposes for which any debts were incurred by the defnedant ; an inquiry as to the real and personal property of the society, and who were the present members of the society; direct the master to settle a scheme for the future regulation and management of the 'society', and the application of its property, having regard to a draft bill that had been prepared for submission to Parliament; and a deed referred to in it."
VIII. The "Vagabond" Article contin.
Dr. Dickenson, of Hamilton, has
since been appointed trustee or "committee" of the
Herrnhut Society; but the law does not yet appear to appear to
have decided to whom the property belongs. Krumnow certainly was
not the "beneficial owner," although he usurped the
position. The Messrs. Hutton and Mr. Bree tell me much of these
things as we drive westward, past Gnadenthal, with its graveyard
and comfortable cottages, and the stoutest old German woman in
Australia.. Three miles from Penshurst we turn northwards. Before
me are the Linlithgow plains, and the mountains which I know so
well. The names of many historic pioneers are connected with the
staions which occupy the country for so many miles ahead, and on
which sheep have sole possession.. But in this immediate
neighbourhood there is plenty of cultivation. The land has been
well cleared and fenced , although it appears a little neglected
now. "Herrnhut", says Mr. Hutton. I confess I am
surprised. I had expected to see the outward signs of a colony, a
collection of pretty cottages in gardens, children playing
around, some light and life brought into existence. But there are
only four low bluestone buildings, small and mean, with iron
roofs, no verandahs to give shade, and which must be as hot and
uncomfortable as any dwellings in Australia. They might be
miners' cabins around Snowdon. These have been erected, as it
seems, haphazard in a paddock by the roadside.. A larger building
of wood, iron, and stone acts as a woolshed and barn. Neither
convenience, comfort, nor taste appears to have been consulted
here. Compare Hochkirch under Pastro Schurmann's rule, with this
republic of faith and works established under the tyranny of
Krumnow.. But looking on the other side of the road we see an
evidence of the faith of the Herrnhuter. Here, there is a
fair-sized stone church, larger and better than Pastor Schurmann
has been able to raise from his people. Faith was not dead here
at the commencement of the life of this utopian pseudo-Chrisitan
Far off in the filed by the side of the dam - a quiet pond, glistening in the sunshine - some mean are harvesting. The only living things in the paddock are some geese, which, plucked of their feathers after the cruel manner of the German boer, waddle about painfully. We "coo-ee" again, but with no response. Investigating the nearest building, we find that part of it appears to be used as a sort of office, as through the windows we see paper and ink on the table. Another room has been turned into a fowlhouse. "Coo-ee" again and a little man comes out. A rather saky, confidential little odd man this. He knows my companions and receives us courteously.. Brother Elmore is the present mouthpiece of the society, managing all the affairs of law and business. Brother Elmore, Englishman, came into the German community through marrying the daughter of one of the original brethren, follower of Krumnow. Brother Elmore, who has had an education and writes a clerky hand and a grammatical letter, is very glad, I think, to have a chat with men who can understand him.. He readily answers my questions. Buth there is a powere behind the throne. Fray Elmore appears and nudges and makes signs to her husband to keep his mouth shut, and generally shows herself suspicious and disagreeable. Born in Geelong, a child when Herrnhut was founded, Fray Elmore has had a hard life of it here in her youth. But now Pastor Krumnow is dead, she, I can see, is the real ruler of the community. Very loath indeed, is she to answer any questions as to about the church. She has acquired Krumnow's dislike for people who want to know too much, and has besides an idea that I am an emissary of Mr. Theyre Weigall, who next to the departed Krumnow, represents to her all the powers of evil. I find it very difficult to ascertain who are the present members of the society. There are only ten Germans living here now, and they, I imagine, must be closely packed. At one time, they say, 20 families were pigged together in these huts. Frau Elmore says only eight people have any claim to a share in the property, but as she includes her father, her husband, and herself amongst the eight, she starts with a good working minority in favour of her party. All she wants is to be "left alone." "Krumnow, the old thief, is dead, and therefore, everything belongs to us, and we can manage our own affairs," she says. I point out that it was through managing their own affairs that Krumnow got the property into his own hands, and that the law must prevent such an action being repeated by people who might convert everything to thei own hands. I think Frau Elmore would swear at me if she dared. "Ach Gott! listen to the lawyer." She could not have hurt my feelings more!
One thing is certain, religion is played out out at Herrnhut. Socialism is also dead here. No more community of property, no more complex matrimony. Frau Elmore is going to look particularly carefully after her own interests, we may be sure. All idea of a spiritual life has left these people. The school is deserted - there is no education here. What few children there are work in the fields or grub about the floors of the hovels. One is surprised not to see more children, until you remember that matrimony is always discouraged by the German communistic societies, and that here the practice of the Perfectionists of Oneida Creek was instituted by Krumnow. In America such societies have been business successes; in Australia, judging from the present condition of Herrnhut, they will always fail. The ruling spirit here now seems that of sordid avarice. Mad Krumnow "raising the devil" would be more interesting to me than this. The church now is quite neglected. It is with great difficulty that we procure the key of this building. It would have remained lost but that, becoming enterprising and investigating the common kitchen and eatingroom, a dismal apartment with an earthen floor, I address some salutations in German to the old man and the two old women there. This softens the heart of Frau Elmore, and she at last manages to find the church key. A very well built structure this, 31 years old. The doors have hardly been open since Krumnow's death, and inside we find that it has been left to the wild birds, who have flown through the broken panes of its eight large windows, and have made their nests and raised their young hither, and have defiled the place. The stone altar, or communion-table, is still covered with a once white cloth, and on this is a pewter services. There are also a stone font and a pulpit. An iron safe is the only fixed "property" here. We speculate as to what it may contain. The Frau says she does not know; she has never seen a key. She does not seem quite at home here. The influence of her master Krumnow lingers around these walls.
God's acre is behind the church - a few graves, just fenced off from the hay-field. There is only one head-plate, recording the earthly departure of "Frau Juliana Hildebrandt aus Schlesien in Preussen". The latest grave is that of the prophet Krumnow. He lies unsung and unhonoured. No grass grows on his grave as on the others. "The old wretch, he was too wicked," says the Frau, with a sudden burst of disgust at the memory of youthful degradations and hardships. I think that if I were a medical student I should be very much inclined to resurrect the prophet's body and examine his skull. For the church, I would make a school of it. The youthful Herrnhuter should not be allowed to grow up savages without even the faith which impelled their fathers to follow Krumnow, and find their life-purpose in work here. As regards the future objects of the society - it was certainly founded on the nature of a charity after the manner of the brotherhood of Herrnhut in Saxony. Against the good Moravians and their blameless mode of life there, I believe nothing can be said. Might not some responsible man of the brethren be asked over to take charge of our Australian Herrnhut? Let it remain a place where immigrants from Fatherland could find homes for a time, until they had learnt the manners and customs of Australian life. Or even in Victoria we have a Moravian pastor who is in charge of an aboriginal station - a gentleman eminently fitted, I believe, for any post of trust.. I think Herrnhut should always remain established for the benefit of the German race, by members of which it was founded. Sixteen hundred acres of good land, with improvements, buildings and stock, should not be left in the possession of one or two people. Legally they have no more right to be beneficial owners than Krumnow had.
My good friend Mr. Bree and myself discuss these questions as we driveback to Hamilton by the salt lakes Linlithgow and Kennedy, which are covered with wild fowl. "The Major" was about when the former was named. The latter was called after the former owner of Croxton station. All around these lakes earthen tumuli are to be found - blackfellows' middens, but nothing but calcined bones are to be found in these heaps. Two large tumuli are, I am informed, enclosed within the premises of a publichouse at Croxton, near which we pass. No one knows the age of these last dim reminders of tribe or race. The blacks of the Western District, who are passing away, did not use them. Are these tumuli remains of a race which peopled the continent before the aboriginals we have supplanted? Thence back by fertile fields and homesteads chiefly in German occupation, which lie eastward of Hamilton. Northward to Dunkeld there are nothing but stations. Some day I may visit the district again , and avail myself of many kind invitations to tarry at pleasant homesteads which lie somewhere on this side of mountains and sky. (end of "Vagabond article).
IX . THE
Ed.: This chapter was compiled
to add data not available from the previous newspaper articles.
Extracted from Lodewyckx: "Die Deutschen in Australien", as translated by W.F. Herbert, July 1989:
Johann Friedrich Krumnow left Germany because of religion, according to his adherents. He was a tailor by profession, small in stature and spoke with an unpleasant nasal twang in a dialect that could scarcely be understood. During his stay in Hamburg (Ed.: Presumably while preparing for shipping), and on Board the "Catharina" he worked as a teacher; however, his behaviour towards girls was said not to be above repute, and in Australia he was removed from office. He landed in Adelaide together with a group of 130 immigrants from Posen. In Hahndorf he conducted prayer meetings in the houses and soon found a certain number of followers. The following story, which was confirmed in later years by the boys involved, is told about him: Some boys had gone hunting Opossums in the neighbourhood of Hahndorf; they had made a fire in the forest and were sitting around it, chatting to each other. Suddenly Krumnow approached them and in the nasal twang that was characteristic of him asked them, "Boys, have you faith?" "Certainly," cried the boys in unison. "Throw your caps into the fire; if you have faith they will not be burnt," said the strange man. The boys immediately did so. As was to be expected, they were consumed by the flames. Then Krumnow exclaimed, "You see! You have no faith! Here is some money for you to buy yourselves other caps." and with these words he disappeared in the bush. Reports differ about what his actual activity was. There is, however, no doubt that for him, exorcism was a matter of great importance. First, there is the case of a girl of a melancholy temperament which degenerated into deep hypochondria. He was convinced that the girl had already for some time been possessed of an evil spirit, which in the course of years had gained an increasingly firmer footing (sic.) in her. The only cure would therefore be to drive out the devil. "Afterall", he said, Jesus had also driven out evil spirits and had given us the commandment to follow in His footsteps." The parents gave their consent. He took her by the hand. He spoke to her in a friendly but determined manner, saying, "Look here all the time (pointing to his forehead) and don't think of anything else." "You evil spirit, come out of this girl and never return." These words caused great agitation in the girl, but Krumnow soon pacified her again. Evidently the girl had been set free from her affliction. After sveral days, however, her old hypochondria appeared agsin, this time much worse than before. Krumnow therefore declared that the devil had indeed been driven out, but that it had been a particularly stubborn devil, who had returned and had brought other evil spirits with it. The girl was then sent to recuperate, and after five or six months came back cured.
Of another case it is reported that Krumnow had wanted to exorcise an evil spirit from a married woman who was continually quarrelling with her husband and her neigtthours. Krumnow declared the reason wtly she easily became bad and angry was that an evil spirit lived in her heart. This evil spirit could however be driven out. He took the woman by the hand and began his work in his customary manner. There was, however, something or other in his method that the woman did not like. She grew angry, attacked him and chased him out of the house. Krummnow is then said to have explained that it was Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, that possessed the Woman and that was why he had not succeeded in driving it out. It is,however, a fact that the same person, who reported the above, willingly admitted as eye and ear witnesses that Krumnow was sometimcs succesful with his supposed exorcisms, and that mentally diseased and deranged persons were at least "set at ease and pacified" by him, even though they had not been completely cured. He seems to have exercised a certain psychic and hypnotic inlfluence on many people. Without thiis mysterious power it is difficult to explain how later on his commune in Victoria could come into being. A resolution moved by pastors Kavel and Fritzsche and passed in 1844 at the synod in Bethany points to ...the resolution was directed against one of Krummnow's teachings had the following wording: "As long as a Lutheran congregation, which administers the Office of the Keys, does not practise public exclusion and "the deliveriring of a person to Satan, provided that it does not blaspheme, we can have church fellowship with it." Krummnow must, however have enjoyed some measure of esteem, as is evidenced by the fact that pastor Kavel's congregations, especially Klemzig, urged him to approve Krummnow being sent as Missionary among the aborigines. This attempt, however, soon proved to be unseccessful.
Krummnow also played a part in the founding of Lobethal. Since none of the immigrants that had come to Australia on the "Skjold" was naturalized, none of them was able to buy land from the Government. Krummnow, who was already a British citizen, was prepared to buy the land for the settlers of the eighteen families. However, he wanted to use this opportunity to put his ideas into practice. At first he was prepared to buy the land only on ttle condition that the new settlers would practise common ownership and would allow only members of the congregation to live on it. Finally, after much squabbling, the land was actually bought and Krummmow transfered it to the 18 fathers of families, with whose monley it had been bought. Later on, however, all kinds of unlpleasantnesses and costs resulted from this, and it was not until 1850 that the people of Lobethal had extricated themselves from Krummnow's clutches.
Soon after this Krummnow left South Australia and found a new field for his activities in Victoria. Some of his adherents allowed themselves to be talked into bequeathing their money and property to him. With this money he bougtlt about 200 acres of land some fifteen miles to the southeast of Hamilton. There, between the two congregations of Gnadenttlal and Tabor, which still exist, and in the middle of this excellent wheat country, a not inconsiderable communistic settlement came into being. The Church was dedicated in 1854. Of the 12 to 15 buildings belonging to this settlement, three still (1931) stand. The walls built of heavy blue stones are about 2 feet thick. One of the houses is still covered with the old German shingle roof . On its one side was the school room and on the other the baking oven. On the second house, which served as living quarters, the shingle roof had been replaced by corrugated iron. This corrugated iron is supposed to have been made in ttle settlement and is three times as thick as normal corrugated iron of today. The third building is now without a roof and is in a greater state of disrepair. It once served as living quarters and hospital. Next to it stand two stately old poplar trees. At a few other places the foundations of other houses are still clearly visible. However, the old building materials have been carried off. In the middle of the group of houses there still existss a deep well, which was also built of hevy blue stones. When we visited the place recently it was full, almost to the top, of good water. The full bucket was pulled up on a rope or chain by means of a winch, as still happens today in mainy places on the land in Germany. A little further up, on the other side of the main rorad that passes through the middle of the property, are the ruins of the church. It was probably able to seat ahout 100 people. Next to it is the cemetery where Krummnow lies huried. It is difficult to tell one grave from the other. We found neither crosses nor any other kind of monument, with the exception of one grave stone with a cross on it. It is said that an aboriginal boy, whom Krummnow had baptized, lies buried there. No monument graces the resting place of the founder. His grave lies in the shadow of a huge old pine tree and of young eucalypts. That is all that is still left of the "Herrnhut" congregation, for that is what this settlement was called. Formerly there were also a woolshed, a communal kitchen and other huildings. It is not easy to form a clear idea of Krummnow's teaching and of his religious practices. In his mind there was probably a confused mixture of Slav mysticism and primitive religious ideas that had their origin in a naive, literal interpretation of certain bible passages. His adherents (some are still alive) maintain that he "preached the pure word of God". Others call him a fanatic. It seems certain that he proclaimed the imminent second coming of Christ and the millennium. We have already seen how he attempted to drive out evil spirits. If boys in the neighboourhood came into his property, possibly chasing a rabbit or for some other reason, and annoyed him, he would call out to them in his nasal twang, "I'll drive the devil out of you." If, on the other hand, anyone ackknowledged his office and addressed him as "Pastor" he would smile, highly delighted. Krummnow baptized children and administered Holy Communion. Children could not be confirmed until they had received the Holy Spirit. There were certain children that he never warrted to baptize because they were too sinful. These Children were first supposed to receive the Holy Spirit before he could baptize them. One such girl that he never wanted to baptize was later baptized at the age of about fourteen or fifteen by pastor Schurmann.
X. Historical background contin.
Reliable witnesses maintain that he treated children and adults without mercy. For trivial offences he would lock up children for days in the church, so that they almost died of hunger and thirst. Nevertheless his faithful adherents were devoted to him with all their being and accepted his prouncements as oracles. In 1861 a certain weaver and clockmaker,Moritz Wehner, turned up in Castlemaine and Tarrangower. He pretended to be a Pastor and as such offered his services to the Germans who lived there. Of him it was said that he professed to be a follower of Krummnow's sect. Apart from that, we have not heard of any propaganda to the outside world for Krummnow's congregation. As far as the economic affairs of the commune are concerned, these too were dealt with arbitrarily and in a simple manner hy Krummnow himself. Naturally the workmen had to give their work without pay, and they did this gladly too, at least during the first yecars when the houses, the church and other necessary buildings were being erected. At that time the undertaking was still new and all the mambers were still full of enthusiasm. Possibly their willingness to work was furthered hy the prospect of occupying a specially favoured place next to their lender in the millennium. In the years that followed the work expected of them became much less. Sheepfarming did not require much hard work, apart from the few weeks in the year when the sheep had to he shorn. After all, they had an abundance of mutton, and since the land was fairly fertile there wi l l mostly have been no lack of vegetables, milk, butter etc . Through the sale of wool they received money for clothes and other needs. Neighhouring German settlers also liked to get a sheep from time to time from Herrnhut, to have fresh meat; for at that time these settlers did little sheepfarming themselves. In this way no one had to work very hard at Herrnhut. On the other hand, of course, no wages were paid except what the members of the commune needed daily to live on. Often there were strange goings-on in the settlement, for hawkers and swagmen often came there. They were received hospitaby and stayed as long as they liked. Although Krummnnw had bought the land with the money of the community he had had it registered in his own name. When this became known later on there was great agitation in Herrnhut, and several members became rebellious against their leader. He is suppposed to have been locked up in his house for a few days. Some members demanded their share of the commune property again. This claim was however, rejected by the courts. At its heyday Herrnhut is said to hnve had ahout 50 inhabitants. In the course of years, however, one ofter the other of the best workmen and the young men who saw the chance of improving their position in the neighhourhood, withdrew frnm the commune. 'I'hus the little settlement dwindled away more and more, and after a quarter of a century the end seemed to have come. However, at that time (1876) there suddenly came a considerable addition to the population and the commune was increased in numhers to its original strength. This came about as follows:
A year earlier another communistic settlement had been founded in Hill Plains in Northeast Victoria, about 40 miles from Benalla. Its leader was a woman called Maria Magdalena Engelliebe (Angellove) Heller, who upon divine inspiration had emigrated to Australia with 75 people from the District between Liegnitz and Haynau (Silesia) . She was born on the 13th April 1841, in Wilhelmsdorf as the daughter of a gardener. At her baptism she received the names Dorothea Ernestine but later she adolrted the name:s Maria Magdalena Engelliebe. She was confirmed in 1855. On her certificate of confirmation it says of her: "quite stupid, almost feeble minded. A grand-nephew who was still (1931) a resident in Wilhelmsdorf reports that she was clairvoyant and had foretold events that had remarkably come to pass. She certainly supposed to have been ugly Her speech and hearing; were coarse and unpleasant. However, she too kept her people under strict discipline. If a labourer worked outside of her congregation for a while, and handed over to her his labouriously earned money to the last cent, she would even hurl ahuse at him, because in her opinion it was such a small sum. From time to time Maria Heller would lapse into a state of religious ecstasy and then the "Awakening Voice" would speak through her, admonishing people to repent and be converted. This same voice is said to have caused her to emigrate. By the way, Maria Heller is said to have foretold the strangest things, eg. that she was to give birth to the two witnesses that are mentioned in the Revelation of John (Ch.11,3), whereby she would then he destined to rule on this earth. She had furthermore prophesied that she would lead her people to Jerusalem after years and from there back again to Germany. But the new settlement soon suffered great privation. Becauseuse of the great distances it was extremely difficult to obtain provisions. An illness that they called "Foulmouth" broke out; it was probably scurvy - and whole families died of it.
Then Krummnow came to Hill Plains and he knew how to induce Maria Heller and her people to move to Herrnhut where in any case, so he said, there was room enough arnd beautiful houses stood in readiness for them. The bags of wheat that had already been harvested in Hill Plains were converted into ready cash (it is said that Krummnow pocketed the money) and the entire colony moved to Herrnhut. It is reported that the peope clapped their hands in astonishment when so may people all at once arrived there. About this time all kinds of more or less phantastic reports ahout the prophetess and her adherents appeared in the papers. The "Austrailishe Christienbote" (Autralian Christian Messenger) of August 1876 reported that Maria Heller had heen arrested by the Penhurst police as a dangerous lunatic. However, reliable persons deny this. Relations between Krummnow and Maria Heller soon reached breaking point. They could not agree about leadership in the commune and so Maria Heller left it with her own people. Pastor Schurmann accepted them into the Lutheran congregation of Tabor, and published an article in the "Lutherischer Kirchenbote" (Lutheran Church Measenger) under the heading "Ehrenrettung" ("vindicaition"), in which he designated the unfavourable reports that had appeared about Maria Heller in German and English papers in Australia as slander. Pastor Schurmann declares that when the membes of Heller's congregation joined the Lutheran congregation of Tabor on the 13th Sunday after Trinity, 1876, all of thern emphatically rejected the accusation that Maria had foretold future things. On ttre other hand, they had testified to their complete agreement with the teachings of the Lutheran Church. "Every one, " Schurmann continues," who has had closer contact with these dear fellow countrymen, realises at once that they are upright, faithful, pious, diligent and bright people, who have definitely not deserved all the libel they have been subjected to." Schurmann explains that these libellous rumours had their origin in the fact that the Heller's congregation of more than 60 persons, who did not understand a word of English ,and wanted to stay close together, in spite of their predicament, must have made a strange impression on their English neighbours. Furthermore, he blames Krummnow. "Meanwhile all would have been well," he says," if they had remained on their land in Hill Plains, where with steady hard work they had already cleared and made arable huge fields; and if they had not fallen into the clutches of the notorious Krummnow. Misled by this man, whose reputation was alreridy well known in South Australia, whose cunning and audacious impertinence had already beguiled many a naive person before them, they came to Krummrrow's Herrnhut, and instead of the promised spiritual and temporal delights, they found mostly depravity and disorder. The disappointment of the people thus deceived can hardly be imagined." "Schurmann explains the accusation that Heller was a lunatic as follows: "Maria Heller has also been accused of being a lunatic and was sentenced to a bond of £10; how did this come about? Simply because the people came to our Church and our services and this incurred most distressing persecution and most vehement accusation. And because M. Heller had the courage to demand Krummnow, who combined all spiritual and temporal power in his person, to enquire into the accusation, the latter hid himself from her and all the others and then coached an unscrupulous memher of those people to accuse Marira Heller on oath of lunacy; and when that failed, to describe her before court as a disturber of the peace . Everyone can see from the bond of (pounds) 10 that the whole affair was recognized in its true light by the court, and for forms sake a paltry little fine was imposed." Thus for Schurmann's "Vindication".
XI. Historical background contin.
There is no reason to doubt that Schurmann had wanted to present the real facts honestly and truthfully. His account, however, is not entirely convincing. From his own words it becomes evident that he had to try hard to put "his dear fellow countrymen" in a favourable light. He was dealing with very uneducated People, who for months had had to suffer great bodily and spiritual afflictions and petty tyranny and finally sought" peace of mind and deliverance in Schurmann's congregation. Under such circumstance, it can scarcely be expccted that they were always consistent in their evidience. From statements of eye witnesses, who are still (1931) alive, it follows that M.Heller without doubtt suffered fits of ecstasy and that during such attncks she probably uttered alot of nonsense. What she actually said can no longer he precisely ascertained. But what has been reported about it, is in complete agreement with what is known about other religious fanatics, and these reports are therefore not improbable. On the 30th Novcmber, 1876, Maria Heller, who was then 34 years old, was married to Ernst Scholz a tailor in the Lutheran Church of Hochkirch by pastor Schurmann. Her marriage certificate states that she was born in Wilhelmsdorf, Silesia; her occupation seamstress. She died childless on the 13th March, 1906. Matters now came to a swift end with Krummnow and his congregation. The founder died on the 3rd.October, 1880. Nobody knew how old he was. Only eight persons had remairred faithful to him until his death. At his graveside on of the suviving faithful adherents, called Hildebrand, made a speech. While on the one hand he praised the spiritual gifts and good qualities of the deceased, on the other hand he hinted at certain more or lers well known weaknesses in his character, which he endeavoured to describe as human and excusable. These weaknesses are said to have been two fold: they refer to the relations of the old bachelor with certain of his youthful female adherents and to his tendency to drink during the last years of his life - many entertainig anecdotes ahout that are still told in the district. In these matter, however, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between truth and fiction. A personality such as Krunrmnow's must have heen exposed to endless gossip among his less well-meaning neighbours. However that may be, with his death his commune went to ruin completely. Hildebrand returned to Germany with his family. Herrnhut was heavily in debt and was put up for public auction. Most of the buildings were demolished and the building materials carried off and used elsewhere. The church was turned into a barn and stable on the Property of Mr. Ernst Huf of Croxton East. The year 1854 and the letters G.H. (Gemeinde Herrnhut) are still partly decipherable on the board above the church door. Thus, after almost thirty years, this remarkable social. experiment came to an end. To look at Krurnmttow was almost like a misshapen dwarf. His religious ideas were confused arrd fanatic. He merely possessed a certain measure of peasant cunning, he knew how to iingratiate himself with people and on others he exercised a strange power of attraction.
A small group remained faittrful to him to the end and a few of his adherents hold his memory in esteem to this very day.
XII. Two Little-Known
19th Century Communes in Victoria
Extract from C. Meyer's article in the Vic. Hist. Journal, 1978. Only information insufficiently or not at all referred to in previous sections in this serial have been included:
"During the l9th century, several German religious sects chose to escape the continued imposition of a State religion upon their beliefs, German Quakers, Pietists, Moravians and Mennonites settled in various parts of America, South America and England, while a small number of dissenters decided to come to Australia, where they had heard that there was not only free exercise of religion but also cheap or free land.
The Krumnow Community at Mt. Rouse (Penshurst) near Hamilton.'Herrnhut'
Johann Friedrich Krumnow was born in Posen, Prussia, in 1811 and emigrated to South Aust'ralia in 1839 on the 'Catherina' together with scme 130 Germans who sought to escape the relioious persecution of the Prussian State Church. Due to a physical deformity (he is said to have had a hump) and an unpleasantly nasal voice, Krumnow's ambition to become a Lutheran pastor was thwarted and he trained a a tai.lor but, both in Germany and now in the infant Harndorf German community, he kept his ambition alive by holding regular prayer meetings in private homes, more fundamentalist and mystically. At one stage he tried to become a missionary amongst the neighbouring aborigines but his application for the position was,not accepted . He soon got into trouble with the resident German communities; in one case he offered to act as purchaser for newly arrived Germans from the 'Skiold' - on condition that the eighteen families concerned live as an economic and religious commune. They refused to do this but the land deal was finalised albeit in Krumnow's name, so that the Lobethal settlers later £ound it necessary to resort to legal action to gain possession of their land. In the end he was ex-communicated from the Lutheran Church. Krumnow found it prudent to leave South Australia for Victoria, and is next heard of in 1851 in Collingwood (then cailed Newtown), working at his trade and also preaching amongst the small German population.
In 1852 he moved to Geelong, preaching a religious commune where, like the early Christians, all things were to be held in common. A proclamation of March 1853 had opened land for selection and sale in the Hamilton-Penshurst (Mt. Rouse) area, and so in September 1853 Krumnow, with money from several of his followers, purchased 1584, acres - again.in his own name.
Krumnow was now 42 years old. After fire in 1851 destroyed the original wood and thatch buildings, his followers built over a dozen substantial bluestone dwellings, with roofs first of shingles and then of heavy corrugated iron evidently manufactured on the premises. Cracks were filled'with pug and the interior walls were whitewashed. A deep communal well was excavated and lined with bluestone, and a large stone church capable of holding some 100 worshippers was built on a slight rise. The Argus (29.4.1857) described the church as "60 feet long by 27 feet in width, and the roof is 40 feet from the floor. " A much later description by a descendant of one of the members also mentions double entrance doors of blackwood inscribed "18 GH 54" and that the floor and walls were "in a firm cement." Beside the church a small cemetery served to bury commune members. Sheep-raising seems to have been the chief activity on the commune, but some cultivation for daily food was also undertaken and the commune had cattle and horses ; extra milk and pickled butter were sold to a Mr. Ross of Penshurst who disposed of it on the nearby Ararat goldfields and this, plus the proceeds from the sale of wool (Krumnow was an excellent shearer and on occasions gave lessons to local people),provided enough money to run the settlement. Of course individual members gave of their labour without wages so that running costs were minimal. Relations with neighbouring farmers were cordial if distant and in an area where few sheep were run it was common for farmers to buy fresh meat from Herrnhut. A large artificial pond also gave sanctuary to thousands of geese and game birds and farmers also came to shoot these. But, although Herrrihut was tolerated, there are on the other hand anecdotes which show that the surrounding Lutheran Germans were not always so cordial. On one occasion.the Herrnhuters purchased 200 head of Queensland cattle and, while those in charge were absent, "a number of these Lutherans with whips and dogs drove the cattle at a gallop to the Station. The cattle were nearly fat, with the result (that) the whole mob died before morning. The resulting loss was 2000 pounds, a severe blow from which the Moravian never recovered. E. Elmore, the daughter of F.Elmore, who had married one of the German community... described how, in earlier years Herrnhut gave sanctuary to over three hundred aborigines who hunted kangaroos on the property and left many middens at their camping ground. We also hear of a constant stream of swagmen and other transients being welcomed and accommodated in one of the bluestone buildings. For these and others, Bibles were supplied in many languages including Welsh and Chinese. Krumnow organised the farmwork and daily routine of the.members and of course preached regularly in the church. At 6 am a bell brought the community to the day's work. Breakfast was at 7 am and lunch at 12 noon. True to the ideals of community living, the kitchen was used by all and meals eaten together, but Krumnow himself had separate meals in his own little house (the lintels of which were only five feet high to suit his small size) and these were prepared by the baker, Mr. Hildebrandt. Thus, in a fairly peaceful atmosphere, some 50 members lived together in the heyday of the commune, and The Argus was moved to note approvingly (28.4.1857) that "the people, proverbially sober and industrious, are prospering as they deserve to do." From available evidence there is no need, to accept the rather biased description by 'Vagabond' (S.James) that the women and young girls "toiled in the fields early and late, some clothed only in an old sack - toiled as hard as any negro siave" but it has been claimed with some probability that Krumnow himself spent his days drinking "strong English ale, doctored port vrine and colonial beer." All was not quite well; in time certain members became discontented with the running of the commune; a demand that they see the title to their property revealed that Krumnow had bought the land not as trustee to the community but in his own name and in the ensuing quarrel Krumnow is said to have been locked up in his house for two days. Several members left Herrnhut and bought land nearby in a section∑then called Gnadenthal or went to Penshurst, so that by 1875 the numbers had dwindled sharply. Maria Heller's group was (at that time) in dire straits and on two occasions the Herrnhuters sent waggons with food; the prospect of good land and empty houses was attractive enough to convince the Hill Plains leader to 'emigrate' to Herrnhut ard so in late 1875 or early 1876 some 50 people arrived at Herrnhut. With two such disparate and volatile personalities as Krumnow and Maria Heller, it was inevitable that quarrels over the leadership of the enlarged community should develop; it was also exacerbated by events which indicated that, far from being one harmonious community, the two groups tended to gather around their own leaders.Thus, the entire wheat harvest was lost when Maria Heller's followers gave her a birthday party lasting five days. Hostilities culminated in 1876 when the commune baker, August Hildebrand (perhaps instigated by Krumnow) charged Heller before the Mt. Rouse Court of Petty Sessions with being "a dangerous lunatic." In the end the court ruled that "there being not the slightest reason to suppose that the prophetess was a lunatic," Hildebrandt should be severely reprimanded. Maria Heller was bound to keep the peace for six months on a bond of 10 pounds and, somewhat strangely under the circumstances, Krumnow offered himself as surety for a further 20. With this sort of atmosphere it is not surprising that several of the Hill Plains members left Herrnhut and became members of the nearby Tabor congregation. On 30th November 1876, Maria Heller herself was married in Pastor Schurmann's church at Hochkirch (Tarrington) to Ernst Schulz and,within a year, most of the Heller followers had left Herrnhut and settled in the Penshurst district, so that the commune began to deteriorate rapidly. Apart from a brief mention in the Mt.Rouse Shire Council where Krumnow claimed compensation for having "executed works on the shire roads," little more is heard of Herrnhut until 1885, when The Argus contributor 'Vagabond' visited and described the situation there...
XIII.Contin. from Chapter XII
Only ten Germans still lived there. One couple is worthy of comment, the Elmores. 'Frederick Elmore' was the pseudonym of the journalist Samuel Marsden Knight, whose great uncle was the historical Rev.Samuel Marsden. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, Elmore had not intended to stay at Herrnhut: "I never heard of Herrn Huth (sic) until I was near Mt. Rouse, nor of the German parson (i.e. Krumnow-CM) and I determined to see the place. I never intended remaining more than a day or two... I thought Herrn Huth was inhabited by very simple-minded religious people, although labouring under many great delusions " he wrote in a letter of 3.11.1872 to his wife Louisa (nee Rohr). Louisa had come to Herrnhut at its foundation with her parents and after getting to know Elmore through his offer of English lessons, married him in 1871. He was not impressed by the commune and built for his wife a house of. bluestone next to the settlement. Though he regarded Krumnow as "that prince of imposters and devil-inspired man", from the death of Krumnow in 1880 he acted as legal adviser to the community until his death in 1890. Towards the end of his life, Krumnow made some attempts to legally regulate the settlement by preparing a draft bill to be submitted to Parliament for the purpose of having the community incorporated as a religious society; another, a deed poll, which declared the doctrines and practices of the proposed society; and a third which petitioned the Legislative Assembly to pass the bill; but since he never signed the documents, no action appears to have been taken. On October 3, 1880, Krumnow suceumbed to a progressive paralysis for which he had received treatment from Dr. Dickenson of Penshurst and he was buried in the commune cemetery next to the church after a stirring graveside speech by Mr. Hildebrandt at which a grieving swagman is said to have tried to jump into the grave. One of the rules of the community provided that no interest in the property of the community should pass to any one member, but that on the death of any member all of his rights and entitlements should cease. Therefore at this stage the then Curator of Estates of Deceased Persons, Mr. T. Neigall, was appointed to wind up the almost defunct community and proposed to sell the land in order to satisfy certain mortgagees from whom Krumnow had obtained funds in the past.
A legal action before Acting Chief Justice Molesworth in the Supreme Court resulted but it soon became obvious that no clear description existed as to the exact nature of the 'society' at Herrnhut and that the most that could be ascertained was that Krumnow held the same for charitable purposes not clearly defined." Accordingly the Master at Equity was directed to settle upon the future regulation and management of the community and appointed Dickenson as trustee of the Herrnhut society. Four years later, on l9th February 1885, the Court met again to decide on a claim for mortgage interest of 606 pounds and 5 shillings, or payment by Dickenson of the original mortgage amount of 2500 pounds; apparently at about the same time a Mr. Hodgson had applied to purchase the property and had obtained the consent of the remaining members. For reasons unknown the actual sale was not concluded until 1889 and, in the meantime, The Argus correspondent 'Vagabond' in i885 gives us an entertaining description of the community, part of which has already been alluded to.
In 1897 the land was divided into 160-acre lots and sold separately.
Was Friedrich Krumnow an evil man ? From the contemporary accounts, plus the reminiscences passed down to the grandchildren of F.Elmore, it would appear that he was an opportunist with a golden tongue,able to convirce simple German folk of his religious powers. Certainly, he took advantaoe of their simplicity in financial matters and seems to have been convinced of his own importance to the extent, that, apart from his exorcisms, on at least one occasion he tried to fly. He was caught in a blanket and broke a leg. A granddaughte of F. Elmore recalls that at his burial the surviving members wanted him buried face downwards so that he could not scratch his way out again. The full truth will never be known.
When the present writer visited the area in 1977 some of the walls of the same three houses (as described by Dr. A. Lodewyckx) were still standing but the well and all other traces were gone."
Note added in proof: When the present writer visited the area on 10 April 1999, only the two ruins in the photographs, a barely visible foundation of the church, and the tombstone could be seen.
The 'Krumnow serial is now complete and is being followed by Jack Chesswas' "Memories from Penshurst's Past".
Monday, 27 December 1999