Back in the early 1980s, when attending university at Armidale, I used to travel past the small New England tablelands community of Dundee. A name like that makes you envisage a Scottish landscape and memories of Celtic origins – which is how the region certainly feels.
The New England region is still the centre of sheep, Celtic memories and bleak landscapes punctuated by granitic monoliths. Situated a few kilometres south of Deepwater on the New England Highway, located between Tenterfield and Glen Innes, this rural area is in the heart of granitic boulder-strewn landscape of New England. This region is today known as the Celtic heartland, mainly settled by Scottish pastoralists and the labouring Irish sheep-herders, the open and bleak landscape mirroring the old world feel of northern Scotland. Nearby Glen Innes even has an annual Celtic Festival to honour its Scottish origins.
For more than 25 years I had passed the almost hidden Dundee Cemetery, hidden from the highway by a sea of grassland. However, this time I decided to pull in for a quick reconnoitre. Cemeteries often give you a quick snapshot into the settlement history of an area. I knew that many German settlers had come to the Tenterfield area (Bruxner, Petrie, Sommerlad, Kneipp) in the late 19th Century and that the Dundee area had a number of the large Hartmann and Kneipp families settle as farmers or graziers over the years. How extensive this German settlement was I wasn’t sure of. After strolling through the small cemetery, with maybe 200 headstones, my perception of a dominant Scottish settlement in Dundee was very much altered. Rows of headstones with surnames such as Hartmann, Kneipp and Bargen dominated the cemetery. It could be seen that Hermann, Frank, Adolph and Gustav were the most popular ‘given’ names amongst the headstone titles. In fact after wandering throughout the rows there were very few headstones illustrating a Scottish settlement origin. I would guestimate that at least 60% of all headstones were indicative of this early (1860-1890) German settlement phase.
Many German migrants who were first brought to the Tableland as labourers for the pastoral properties, took up land under the free selection acts. They tended to select properties in groups. Around Tenterfield there was Jacob Heiss, Claus Lohse, Georg Petrie, and Johan Heinrich (John Henry) Sommerlad. Around Dundee, there was Wilhelm Bargen, Herman Hartmann, Frederick Kiehne, Johann (John) Baptist Kneipp, and Charles Schmidt (Smith). At Kelly’s Plains, south of Armidale, and at Tilbuster and Puddleduck, north of Armidale, there was Ambros Brandscheid, Wilhelm Dill, David Fittler, Conrad Fuchs, Andreas and Anton Lasker, August Mies, Jacob Frederick Scheef, and Ernst Gottlieb Schwilk.
Othfresen: Home of the Kneipp family at Dundee, northern Tablelands, NSW
The recent publication Different Sights: Immigrants in New England (Wilton 2009) gives details of German immigration to the New England area and the case history shown below (from this publication) gives an indication of the origins of the Dundee German community. As with many areas in southern Queensland, the only clues remaining of the areas “German-ness” are the names – the extensive number of headstones showing the once dominant German farming community that lived in an area called Dundee! I have yet to investigate whether there may be any (small) other cultural remnants of these German origins surviving in the area. Yarns, legends or jokes – or possibly some oral musical/instrumental items – may still show the extensive German origins of the area.