Sunday 20 January 2013

Road trip – Barossa Valley

As someone who enjoys more than the odd drop of port, the fruits of the Barossa are well appreciated. This was also the first time that I went back to visit where Samuel Stiller and family first settled at Bethany near Tanunda after arriving on Australian shores in 1844.

Although the landscape was dry as to be expected for localities within a winter rainfall paten, the scenery was still pleasant. I’m told it’s at its best in the spring. Driving around the Adelaide Hills & the Barossa the towns are close together. The Qld measurement of how many stubbies between towns wouldn’t apply; you would be flat out consistently downing one. We were warned not to park under red gums searching for shade as on warm days visibly sound limbs fall off without warning. Check out the photo below for the sign we found on a tree near the Friedensberg cemetery where the maternal ancestor of my wife’s family is buried who coincidently immigrated to Australia on the same boat as my family.
Besides a couple of days relaxing we spent one day following up the movements back in the mid 1800’s of my wife’s family. One day going up into the mallee country at Lowbank where my great grandfather & as a young man my grandfather farmed. Where my great grandmother died in 1928 aged 49; where the drought in the early 1930’s was that bad that the few remaining livestock were fed off the thatch off the roofs of the buildings; the farm was surrendered to the bank and with what little processions the family still had moved to Qld where my great grandfathers brothers had pioneered settlement in the Downfall Creek valley. Then one day was spent at Bethany in the Barossa valley.

The first photo above is one I took from a high hill overlooking Bethany; all the buildings at the base of the hill belong to the two branches of the Stiller family who have remained on the original land. Until recent times the next three strips of land belonged to the family. Sadly modern day commercial pressures upon the small traditional vineyards are such that they are no longer viable. Not only has vineyards with greater scale as we saw at Griffiths in NSW on the way home have had an impact but also the market has been distorted by large investment scheme funds. One branch of the family has pulled their vines out and the other has very recently sold their vineyard fields and is looking to sell the house as well.

This quote comes from Random House, Discover Australia, Motoring Guide 1997 edition found in a short entry about Bethany.

This was the first major Barossa settlement founded in 1842 when more than 20 German Lutheran families arrived from Silesia to escape religious persecution. The original cottages stretched along the village street with farming strips reaching back behind them across to the village common; this was the pattern in Silesia.

Refer again to the first photo and you can see what can be called the village street across the upper left hand side of the photo. The houses for the village settlement are on this street & each parcel of land is a long narrow piece going back behind the cottages. This form of village settlement is again mentioned in this South Australian History web site as well as how the village employed a shepherd to care for the livestock on the village common. The village common was where I took the photo from. Talking to a younger cousin of my grandfather who is still in residence; he told me of how the shepherd would pick up the few milking cows from each little farm along the village street each morning & take them up to the common. Those cows would get so use to the routine that in the evening as he brought them back down the village street they would by themselves drop off into the correct farm yard to where they belonged. The shepherd’s cottage as it stands today is the last photo below.
Previous related discussion, Road trip - Broken Hill

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