Nitschke Family -
Article extracted from 'Max Nitschke's Hahndorf' on Reg Butler's computer files
Carl Nitschke’s father, also called Carl Nitschke, had bought a Section of land from Carl Ernst Schenscher, who moved to Monarto in the mid-1870s to continue cereal farming. Carl and Clara Nitschke came from Springton where Carl had managed a general store for his widowed mother-in-law Clara Luetzow, but had to give up because the doctor advised a more active life.
The Nitschke farm Carlton had been cleared very early in European settlement, but the crops failed to prosper after a while and another stand of wattle trees, blue gums and stringybark grew up where the land was too wet. Gus Nitschke cleared these again in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s.
Further up the creek against Jones Road, the Schenschers had trenched the land and grew grapes on each side of the creek. Wattles grew on the steep land leading up to Pain Road, while a small orchard of delicious cooking apples grew on the other side below the wattle and daub cottage perched further up on the rise. Pear trees grew in the creek itself.
On the corner of Carlton – where Jones Road turns into Balhannah Road, someone, perhaps the Schenschers, had operated a saw pit; surrounding landowners used to bring their huge logs to be cut here in pioneering times, but the grades were immensely steep for horse teams with logs. Carl Nitschke eventually filled the pit in and his son, Gus, planted silver wattles to hide the untidy remains. Gus Nitschke eventually sold this site to Benno Nitschke for his new home when he married Vera Paech.
On top of the hill behind the original Schenscher cottage, Carl built a new home of soapstone taken from a quarry on a hill of the farm, against Pain Road, and opposite the cottage of neighbouring farmers the Fix family. In time, he and his son Gus built a grand new house of sandstone taken from a quarry on his land, the Bush Paddock, on the left hand side of the road across the crossroad leading to Ravenswood. The new home, across the yard from the soapstone residence, became known as Carlton, the name it still bears today.
Carl and Clara Nitschke ran a productive mixed farm. Cows ranged on the cleared land around the house. The Nitschkes milked the cows and Clara separated the milk in a dairy room attached to the original soapstone cottage. Then she made butter which she sold to households in and around Hahndorf and to certain outlets in Adelaide – family friends, the Kramms, used to take the butter regularly to these customers. Carl did jobs around the farm and when not so busy, he went out building with his younger son, Gus, employing labourer Bob Petty from Hahndorf as mortar boy.
In 1912, Carl Nitschke bought Wittwer’s paddock in Hahndorf’s main street, after the Wittwers became bankrupt. He built a store room and barn from freestone taken from Faehrmann’s quarry behind the German Arms Hotel. In the store room, Carl kept his building tools and equipment while he built his own new home, and further barns and storage sheds. The new house boasted a kitchen separate from the rest of the house to keep the living rooms cool in summer. Across the way from the kitchen was a room specially constructed for son Alfred to develop negatives for his photography business and another room with a cement floor to become the separating room to make butter. Milk awaiting processing and the resulting butter were kept cool in a cellar constructed beneath the kitchen.
Carl and Clara moved here with their eldest son, Alfred, and left Carlton to their younger son, Gus, who was about to marry Ida Werner of Mannum. Shortly afterwards, Alf married Selma Wuttke of Echunga and the two households shared the new residence overlooking Hahndorf.
In his new house, the fourth Carl had built for himself, he lived with his wife, Clara, and unmarried eldest son, Alfred, who made a living as a music teacher and photographer. When Alf married Selma Wuttke of Echunga in 1916, he continued to live there with his wife and two daughters, until his premature death from a farm accident in 1922.
Carl Nitschke established an orchard by his new house in the main street and built a wood and iron shed with wooden storage racks to store the apples. Carl bought a 410 gauge double barrel shot gun loaded with powder to scare off rosella parrots. He also grew tobacco and maize. Made salt petre to cure tobacco and then smoked it in his pipe. Used to like to read the Abendschule, a publication from the USA, sitting in his big chair at night and enjoying a smoke on his pipe.
Carl bred farm horses from Polly, a percheron French black horse, geldings Jack, Jim and the youngest Finn, and Dinah a mare – a snake had bitten one of her legs and afterwards she always thumped that leg down harder. Gox Weatherald and Jack Nuske had stallions which they took round to service the district mares.
Carl gave Finn to his son, Alfred Nitschke, to use as a farm draught horse. Alf’s wife, Selma Nitschke, had a buggy horse called Darky which her parents had given her as a wedding present. In water colours, Hans Heysen painted Alf with the horses at work harrowing, and won the Wynn Prize for this. Heysen renamed the horses Polly and Jack respectively for the painting. The Nitschkes continued to use the new names for their horses after that event.
In so-called retirement, Carl busied himself with farming, building and District Council affair, as well as Lutheran Church matters. c1928, Carl had a heart attack while he was stripping wattles on his former farm land near Fix’s cottage. His son and daughter-in-law, Gus and Ida Nitschke, together with their domestic Vera Liebelt, pushed Carl in a two-wheeled cart with no springs and nicknamed the man-killer, across paddocks to Carl’s main street residence, where Dr Auricht came to attend to him immediately and thereafter regularly. Carl had to take life much more quietly from then on; his granddaughter Lucie found him soon after he had died in his arm chair as he was resting in the late afternoon in 1932. Grandson Max found out about his grandfather’s death as he came out from music lessons at Millie Jaensch’s home in the main street and saw his father’s 1927 Oldsmobile pulled up outside undertaker Charlie Faehrmann’s home opposite.
Carl’s widow, Clara Nitschke, then moved to live with her son Gus at Carlton. She shared rooms in the first sandstone house which she and Carl had built when they first moved to Hahndorf from Springton, with Ida’s parents, Hermann and Maria Werner, whose farm across the Murray River from Mannum had been sold to help pay the racing debts of their son, Jonathan Jon Werner. Gus erected several brick rooms to enlarge the living quarters. Hermann Werner died first. The two Mutts loved to talk to their grandchildren about pioneering life. Clara became very thin from contracting cancer, and at last caught pneumonia. Dr Auricht placed her in the small private room facing Hahndorf in her former home which was now the Hahndorf Private Hospital. There Clara spent only one night, before she died.
Gus and Ida Nitschke continued to live in the Carlton homestead, until their second son, Vic, married Ivy Haebich, who had done housework on the farm for some time. Then Gus and Ida moved into the first home themselves, while Ida’s mother, Maria Werner, went into a cottage beside Wittwer’s former flour mill in Hahndorf’s main street. She was very happy here, visiting her many Jaensch relatives who lived in the town. Gradually, dementia set in, and she could no longer look after herself, even forgetting how to knit. She moved back to be with her daughter and son-in-law at Carlton until she died, and was buried in the Hahndorf Cemetery beside her husband.
The scale of farming changed dramatically in the mid-1920s. Before that time, not much mechanisation and everything done by hand with simple tools. Not big money in milk production – relied on local sales and butter made on the farm. Hay used to be scythed by hand, raked by hand to dry, and then stooked loose in sheds. Mechanical balers first used to make hay to send overseas for horses for troops in action in Turkey and North Africa during World War 1 – very slow and expensive machines for general use and not widespread until improved manufacturing methods and lower prices came about after WW11.
For farmers looking for income besides actual farming, wattle stripping had proved profitable for years, but there was little incentive for widespread land clearance due to the problem of what to do with the open country – poor crops and grazing grass. Field peas had been planted and then ploughed in on certain areas to manure on a small scale, but all had to be done by hand. Two things arrived at much the same time to utilise cleared land and massively increase profits for farmers – the discovery of subterranean clover and the formation of AMSCOL for the supply of fresh milk to metropolitan Adelaide. Moreover, wattle stripping remained profitable until the disastrous 1939 bushfires throughout the wattle lands in the Adelaide Hills
Much wattle stripping and land clearance on Gus Nitschke’s farm in the late 1920s and 1930s. All good gums and stringybarks left to mature further for building timber later. All other scrappy gums cleared first and then the stripped wattles – cut up for firewood to be sold privately and orders carted to Adelaide in a Chev 6 truck and 1934 British Bedford truck which carried 5 ton.
In the cooler weather when it was not too hot for the horses, Gus carted three loads of firewood a week to Littlehampton Brick Co works – two loads one day and one load the other - on a trolley drawn by three horses. A two-horse trolley took the wattle bark to Hallenstein’s bark mill at Ambleside Station – across the family farm and over a bridge across the creek where the Hahndorf Golf Course later was, and up to Pain Road, using a flat dip in the land, then across lower land to August Fix’s cottage and over Fix’s farm to Ambleside Road near Charlie Fix’s home and from there to Ambleside Station.
Now free of small sticks which used to lodge in and clog up the stomachs of cattle, the land was ideal for intensive grazing. ASK MAX – how were small sticks cleared? As land was cleared, it was supered and sown with subterranean clover and perennial rye grass for cows to eat.
Subterranean clover for clover seed production at first in the paddock next to Hahndorf township which Carl Nitschke had bought from the Thiele family. This was cleared land already. The new superphosphate spread to enrich the soil; Grass allowed to grow for a couple of years before making the first cut. Clover cut by machine and then raked by hand for drying before threshing for high price clover seed. When clover seed prices dropped, the whole farm was superphosphated and herds of milking cows ranged freely over the lush pastures. At first, superphosphate was expensive and many farmers were suspicious of its benefits. To encourage sales, super agents used to pay farmers to drill the message Top dress for profit on hillsides and other prominent places in paddocks, so that passers-by could see the results from growing grass with super.
The milking cows allowed to range freely except for a paddock next to Hahndorf township where the grass was cut for clover threshing and hay. Family put the phone on to help with taking orders for hay and firewood.
Labourers were Italian migrants – Tillio Tarca, John and Tony Quaisley – and two others, who had all emigrated during the Depression to get work; the two nameless ones returned to Italy eventually. These Italians lived in a cosy one-room shack which they erected on the lee-ward side of a steep hill on Schroeder’s former paddock across from Nitschke’s homestead (which Gus Nitschke bought when Rebensberg was sold in the mid-1920s). The men slep at one end of the room and did their cooking and eating at the other end. On summer evenings, the men stood in a line on the brow of the hill facing Carlton after the paddock had been stripped and gave impromptu concerts in Italian. Pines planted there, but they died because the soil was too dry. Land cleared once more and perennial rye grass and clover planted there instead.
In the 1930s, Gus Nitschke took on a chaff contract with Haigh’s Balcrest Stud at Balhannah. Hay frames attached to a 3-ton Bedford truck to load the hay for supply once a week. Load taken to the Government weighbridge near the Balhannah Hotel for weighing before delivery. Cousins Alf and Blundy Nitschke of Littlehampton took over the contract when Gus gave up farming for building full-time in early 1950s.
While Gus Nitschke was busy with the formation of the Hahndorf Oval in 1935-1936, his cousin Lydia Obst’s son, Ron, came down from Greenock to do general farm work for a while. Ron had only left school, and was not as robust as he could have been, as he was becoming stooped from a kidney injury sustained after someone hit him in the kidneys with a clod of earth during skylarking in a vineyard in the vicinity of his home at Greenock. Ron was very musical – he was learning to play the piano accordion when he lived at Hahndorf, and became good friends with Gus’s youngest son, Max, who had similar interests. Ron later ran his own dance band in the Barossa Valley. Very musical like his uncle Charlie Nitschke, a son of great-uncle Ferdinand Nitschke.
Ida Nitschke ran some 280 cows to be milked for milk, cream and butter. At first, she milked all these by hand, but in 1936, the Nitschkes installed an International milking machine – the 1st in the Hahndorf district. Neighbouring farmers visited to see how the plant worked. Milk production reached 20 10 gallon cans, each weighing 1cwt when full, a day during spring.
Also some 20 cows in Schroeders’ paddock. 30-40 Heifers kept in the Bush Paddock next to Ravenswood. Uncle Gus and Louis the Italian built a plank milking shed in Schroeder’s paddock for those cows. Neighbouring cousins Benno and Oscar Nitschke ran only some 30 cows because they continued to strip wattles and sell bark.
Ravenswood Lane ran in a rectangle around the Bush Paddock. Uncle Gustav and Grandfather Carl Nitschke inherited 200 acres each of the Bush Paddock from their father Carl Nitschke Senr. A wild steep gully nicknamed Devil’s Glen on Uncle Gustav’s land. The gully and surrounding scrub nicknamed Nitschke’s Forest – a wonderful place for especially young people from Hahndorf and Balhannah to pick wild flowers and shoot rabbits.
Daily milk delivery to Blakiston cheese factory, which AMSCOL owned, where the milk was prepared for the Adelaide metropolitan fresh milk market and any excess turned into cheese. Milk cans unloaded into vats and then steam cleaned and sterilised, before reloading onto the truck for next morning’s run. Extra cans kept on the truck for any unexpected extra milk. Empty cans swapped for full cans at each pickup point.
The Spoehrs from Balhannah ran the milk deliveries – this particular run started at Carlton, then picked up from Neumanns, Benno and Oscar Nitschke, Ravenswood Paechs, Bob Mooneys, Alf Hirtes, George Warlands and several smaller producers nearer Littlehampton. This run took about three hours, between 8-11am, to finish each day. Max Nitschke did this run for Spoehrs when they were busy carting apples to Pt Adelaide during the height of the fruit season.
When WW11 broke out, the SA Govt directed the milk market. Blakiston closed down and all milk had to be delivered to Jacobs factory in Mt Barker, but still sold through AMSCOL – manpower shortages and fuel rationing. When the free market was restored after the war was over, Gus changed to the Kenton Valley Co-Op, because that organization gave a much better return for milk sold; he joined the Co-Op Board and helped to run the organization.
The family gave up cows entirely in 1946 (except for several house cows), and, with water from the newly completed dam, turned to irrigated potato growing on shares for some 20-30 acres, and grazing sheep and fat lambs on the rest.
Gus Nitschke bought land in the Upper South-East, when superphosphate became economical to make the soil productive. He made this land over to Vic and Max in shares. Gus as builder and Max as mortar boy went down to begin building a house and wool shed for Max in 1947 – put the walls up that year and then went down again to put on the roof in 1948. Max remained on his farm and married Queenie Stoneham in 1950.
Gus returned to the S-E for the next couple of years, clover threshing with Jim Hicks during the season; Gus and Lew Klose fed the thresher, with Alma Gallasch as cook living in the shearer’s kitchen and cook house. Then decided to go building full-time with his cousin Art Nitschke (who had been maintenance man at Jacobs factory at Mt Barker), taking on Hahndorf men Andy Thiele as mortar boy and Jim Gommers as plasterer. They built a number of homes for S-E farmers, beginning with Bert McLaren’s Mt Gambier stone house at Kingston, then repairs and extensions to the old Marcollat Homestead etc. Then the team decided to go building full-time only at home in the Adelaide Hills. Gus’s building team knew when he was angry because his moustache began to twitch; very angry twitch on each side.
Gus wanted to settle his eldest son, Ron, on a nearby farm. At first thought of Gus Martin’s farm, but the hills too steep and scrubby. Vic Paech eventually bought the property, but he found the land too difficult to manage as well, and sold to Neumanns who came from Tailem Bend. Reta Paech and later her sister Vera, came to stay with their grandparents the Hennigs in Hahndorf, in order to go to school. Benno Nitschke married Vera Paech and his brother Oscar married Monica Neumann.
Gus Nitschke eventually decided on Rudelius’s farm (formerly Reimann’s) when it came on the market as a deceased estate. A great family friend, Hermann Homburg the solicitor and politician, was executor for the will and took tenders to dispose of the farm. The highest bid was £2,000. Hermann informed Gus of the price and Gus immediately offered £2,100 for the 117 acres. Dunns lived there as dairy farmers, until Ron married and lived there himself. Two small wells, one with a hand windlass, the other with Kaesler pump and Blackstone engine to drive it to draw water; the Blackstone engine also powered a saw bench. Greens, who had the farm after Ron, constructed a dam.
Max’s wife, Queenie Stoneham, came from Pt Wakefield. She got a job as nurse to the twins and house girl for Newbery the chemist at Wallaroo. She used to go to Hahndorf with Mrs Newberry when she visited her Pade and Williams relatives there. Queenie crossed the road to listen to Hahndorf Band practice in JO Thiele’s shed on Sunday evenings. Max was one of the bandsmen. Queenie then worked as a domestic in the Clare and Aldgate Hotels, a job she loved. When her mother came to Adelaide to stay with Bert Stoneham, she took a night job with Covent Gardens Restaurant in King William St to earn some money. Kitchens and dining rooms on three floors. Queenie was washing dishes in one of the upper floor kitchens when a fire spread after fat caught fire on the stove. She tried to climb down a ladder onto the verandah but lost her footing and fell onto the verandah. Severe burns to much of her body. 5 people lost their lives.
Nitschke Family as Builders
Carl Nitschke combined farming and building when he came to live at Carlton. He also taught his younger son, Gus, how to become a mason. One of their projects was the old Mt Barker Hospital – Carl and Gus went every day with horse and dray to continue building.
Carl went back to building full-time after he retired from farming c1913. He had a trade account with Harris Scarfe for his building supplies. His son, Gus Nitschke, inherited this account. Harris Scarfe had a SS Jaguar steam truck with two solid tyre trailers to bring steel up from Pt Adelaide. Carl bought his timber from Cowell Bros at Norwood. Carl employed Bob Petty as his mortar-boy. Some 4-5 years before he died in 1932, Carl Nitschke completed his last big building project – Tom Shueard’s new house and greengrocer store opposite the Hotel Ambleside. Shueard’s building was difficult, as the land was steep and the new buildings had to be placed on high foundations.
Gus also went building full-time after he retired from farming. His cousin, Art Nitschke, helped him. Andy Thiele acted as mortar boy. Asked to do the Institute extensions – had to do four jobs before he could start – the large Cousins Club meeting room on his son Ron Nitschke’s house in Windsor Ave, a new brick house for Vin and Rita O’Brien on Windmill Hill, newlyweds Brian and Margaret Pym’s homestead at Rockleigh, and a house for Alf Rohrlach at Charleston. This team then, along with Don Thiele’s house on Pine Ave, started the Hahndorf Institute extensions; Gus Nitschke did his work free as his contribution to the cause. A difficult job, as the building was large and on high foundations – very much like the Shueard problem his father had faced across the road some thirty years earlier. Gus and Art also did the outside walls of the new fire station. Benno and Oscar did the inside walls, so poor, but hidden by the plaster.
Gus Nitschke great friends with Senator Ted Mattner who had a farm between Balhannah and Mt Barker Junction. Mattners had built a dam and encouraged his friend to do the same on a wonderful site on his farm Carlton – Ravenswood Creek ran down the valley, augmented by a smaller stream, blackberry-infested Schroeder’s Creek (wonderful for local rabbiters), rising on Gottlob Hirte’s farm, on which Uncle Gustav Nitschke had a small dam to water stock and a vegetable garden.
Gus engaged an architect to plan a dam using reinforced concrete, but that was too expensive in Depression days during the 1930s. In the end, Gus decided to construct an earthworks dam, which he began to build on the day Britain declared war on Germany in 1939. He had his sons Vic and Max to help him. Gus and Max dug a 2’ wide trench across the creek down to the stone and filled the trench with clay and put 6’ wide cement pipes 50’ long through the creek to take the water while the dam was being built. At the bottom end, Gus installed a wheel valve to shut off the water after building had finished – Jim Painter, Jean Hicks father – got the valve through the SAR where he worked.
Gus’s eldest son Ron came from his own farm each morning to plough up soil on each side of the rising earth wall, using a little Caterpiller 10 tractor pulling a single furrow plough.
Alfred Nitschke - family at Littlehampton.
Alfred Nitschke sold his farm after Auntie Pauline Polly died. He went to live with his eldest daughter Clara Zilm. He bought a black Dodge tourer SA 7727 with side curtains for his eldest son Art Nitschke who lived nearby to take him to St Michael’s to church each Sunday. Art’s wife Viola rarely went to church. Auntie Polly died in 1923, the year Zilms’ daughter Lorna was born and Uncle Alf died in the year that their only son Murray was born. Uncle Alf died while he was getting ready for church one Sunday morning.
In retirement from farming, Uncle Alf formed a small building group with his son Art, and sons-in-law Ben Heinjus and Dick Schroeder. Art Nitschke drew up the plans for some 60 homes in the Mt Barker, Hahndorf district. Practical and affordable homes, which featured a freestone front and brick for the rest – built homes in Albert Road for Dick Schroeders, Roy Schroeders, and Ben Heinjus. The group also built a house next to the Institute at Hahndorf for Dick Schroeder’s sister Alma and her first husband Ren Gallasch. Uncle Alf did not go out building for very long, but the others kept going for a while afterwards.
Clara Nitschke married Art Zilm. After their marriage at St Michael’s Hahndorf they had their reception at the family farm at Littlehampton. Her cousin Alf Nitschke of Hahndorf took the wedding photos. Zilms went to live on a farm near Lameroo, but the heat, dust and flies were too much for Clara. They came to live in Albert Road at Mt Barker in a rather small house, which was greatly expanded to include a huge dining room and a long enclosed back verandah. Family, friends and neighbours used to gather for games evenings, which included Find the penny. Two rows of some half a dozen people sat opposite each other at a table and one row passed a penny along. At a given signal, the other side had to guess which person sitting opposite held the penny under one hand.
Alma Nitschke married Ben Heinjus at St Michael’s Hahndorf. Their reception held at Ben and Alma Paech’s Union Hotel at Hahndorf. They went farming on a farm on Heinjus Road near Strathalbyn. The family firm built their farm house. Gave up farming and went to live in Albert Road at Mt Barker.
Annie Nitschke married Dick Schroeder at St Michael’s Hahndorf. Their reception held at Ben and Alma Paech’s Union Hotel at Hahndorf. Lived on Rebensberg Farm between Hahndorf and Shady Grove, which Dick inherited from his father. Dick developed a nervous condition from constant worrying over his work and decided to sell in 1926. Grasbys from Balhannah bought the property, except for a scrub paddock across the road from Carlton, which Annie’s cousin Gus Nitschke had already bought some time before.
Art Nitschke married Viola Werner at St Michael’s Hahndorf. They had their reception at Carlton on tables laid out between the two homesteads. Viola’s parents, Hermann Werner and Maria nee Jaensch, were living in the rear homestead, per courtesy of their daughter and son-in-law Ida and Gus Nitschke. Cigarettes were laid out with the food for guests to enjoy.
Gustav Nitschke - family
Uncle Gustav Nitschke received a split in the head when falling rock fell on him when the Nitschke brothers were quarrying stone. His mother used spittal to put on the wound and then pressed the two portions together. The parts healed except for a scar, but later in life the sections grew downward and pressed on Gustav’s brain developing water on the brain. He developed a huge head and could not work anymore – spent a lot of time sitting in the garden watched over by his wife and children. His brothers from Hahndorf and Blakiston used to visit him together and reminisce. By the early 1920s, Uncle became almost bedridden and required constant attention because he was in so much pain.
Tante Hulda used to invalid nursing. She had looked after her mother-in-law in her final years, when she could no longer look after herself in her small cottage on her son Carl Nitschke’s property across the road. Granny Nitschke developed severe arthritis from working outside and also driving her buggy in all weathers to take dairy produce to the East End Market every week. She used to scream out in pain when Tante Hulda and Alma used to wash her back, because the joints were inflamed.
Tante Hulda very friendly with her niece and nephew, Annie and Dick Schroeder, at Rebensberg, the adjoining farm. Used to baby-sit their son Roy when they went out in the evening.
Tante Hulda Nitschke used to pay her great-nephews Ron then Vic then Max Nitschke 1d to bring her week’s mail and the Chronicle which their family had collected from the Hahndorf PO during the week, over to her every Saturday morning. Her family and her brother-in-law Carl Nitschke and his son Gus shared Box 4 at the PO. John Nitschke still retains Box 4.
Tante Hulda Nitschke used to graze horses and cows in the damp hilly soil above the house – a very wet block and not good for much else.
Benno Nitschke was a baling contractor and was coming home from work on the other side of Nairne. The Melbourne Express hit his truck on the level crossing. The cow catcher tossed the vehicle above the funnel. Benno was still inside the cab – unconscious for a fortnight and woke up in hospital. Benno and Oscar often very tired from hard farm work and went to sleep in church.
Hermann Nitschke - family
Hermann Nitschke was a labourer at Wittwer’s flour mill until it closed c1913 and then became a casual labourer for district farmers and township householders. Used to love going shooting with 16-guage shot gun. Also a keen member of the Hahndorf Rifle Club. How was he related to JW Nitschke farmer Callington 1887?
Lance and Jim Nitschke came from the Hotel Ambleside to go to school.