Johann signed the note with the Wendish form of his surname, ‘Swora’.
In the afternoon they spent several hours in Magdeburg, and after an evening devotion time of vespers, travelled to the famous Luther city of Wittenberg.
In the dark they had to cross the Elbe River on a steamer, and for some it was a scary experience. At 6 am they caught the train from Wittenberg for Hamburg and arrived there at 10.30 am. The proprietor of the guest house “Stadt Neuyork” was waiting for them and they appreciated his hospitality, the spacious rooms and the good meals.
The ship was due to leave in two days. A large group of Germans from Silesia were expected to join them but only 40 turned up,
so they booked the ‘HELENA’, a smaller ship than had first been planned. It was to be the HELENA’s maiden voyage.
“Even though we had written to them that we would be taking along a lot of luggage, they did not imagine, as they said, that there would be so much. They had therefore already filled so much space that there was no room for our things. It was therefore necessary for the crew to unload the goods that they had already loaded, which they did very unwillingly. Because of this unwillingness they stacked some of the things that we would have liked to have had with us at the bottom.” After threatening to go to the authorities, Johann Zwar had to go to the ship at 5 am to see to it that all those things stacked at the bottom would be brought up again!
Johann Zwar stayed in Hamburg with three of the other men to make some last minute arrangements while a steamer towed the loaded ship and its passengers a little way to Stade where it arrived about 8.30 am. The men caught up with them in the evening to find a number of unhappy people on the ship. The sailers had lost patience with loading and unloading the boxes, some weighing up to three quarters of a ton. Payment had to be worked out for all the extra luggage. Johann Zwar again threatened to go to the authorities or the police, quoted the shipping laws and the rights of migrants, and shut himself in a room to write a letter of complaint.
The shipping Supervisor came and they made mutually agreeable arrangements.
Johann noted: “Our ship was however not overloaded, because much of what we had was not heavy but took up much room,
such as 60 sheep, several pigs and poultry, and all the feed for the animals.”
Several boxes were returned to Hamburg and would be sent on to them in Australia by another ship leaving in October.
The voyage began on Saturday morning August 23rd 1851. They sailed down the estuary to Glueckstadt where bad weather held them up. While they waited Johann penned some more complaints which he intended to send to the police at Hamburg, but the captain advised Johann to send them to the ship’s owner. So Johann wrote another letter of complaint and then had a hair raising ride with several others in a tiny boat in rough weather to deliver the letter in Glueckstadt. However, the rough weather delayed the start of their journey. They tried to leave on the last day of August but had to turn back after several hours.
On September 3rd they sailed as far as Cuxhaven on the open sea. The doctor called with a letter from the ship’s owner that satisfied everyone.
They sailed on Wednesday September 4th.
But first Johann posted his first letter home. It would be published in the Wendish Newspaper run by his friend Schmöler.
Johann signed the letter off - “On the high seas near Cuxhaven, September 4, 1851.”
THE SEA JOURNEY
It was a strange experience for the migrants to be out on the open sea where they could see nothing but huge waves. Many of them, particularly the adults were soon seasick and spent several days with terrible attacks of vomiting. They sailed through the English Channel and could see France and England on either side.
Johann described the voyage as a pleasant one, “especially since all our migrant people were motivated by love; and love is needed everywhere.
We had daily divine services. Soon after breakfast we mostly assembled on deck where the men for the greater part smoked a pipe, others tailored men’s garments with the women sewing or mending dresses. The men engaged in discussions concerning Christian doctrine or more mundane affairs. As often as not the sea or the weather was the subject discussed, as also the events in nature, for instance a sunrise and sunset which are particularly beautiful in the tropics.”
Opinions varied widely on the meals. Johann thought the cook was neither pleasant nor capable and the sick people did not receive the food they needed.
Otherwise there were good supplies of bread, butter, and meat, all of good quality.
When there were problems it was Johann who took them up with the captain.
“The captain was somewhat miserly so that I had to confront him several times. Once we were served mouldy bread and the migrants were set on throwing it to the pigs. I had the bread gathered up and had the captain in a fix when I said, ’If you do not give us good bread this mouldy stuff will serve as evidence against you when we lodge a protest.’
We immediately received good bread. On another occasion a large barrel of smelly water was sent up for our use, but when we complained to the captain we received another and better supply. Even though I was required to present all these complaints the captain did not hate me, but rather liked me the more for it
and said as my wife approached the time of her confinement that he was ready to place everything at her disposal.
He also showed me the ocean charts on which the sealanes and also the sandbanks and danger spots were indicated.”
They went through a number of storms.
Johann wrote: “On the evening of September 19th we experienced a violent electrical storm and everyone took shelter between decks.
There was no panic noticeable as the migrants sang one hymn of praise after the other.”
They had another severe storm on September 27th. The ship was rocking so violently they could not hold their Wendish Service.
Meanwhile they enjoyed watching the whales as well as sharks, dolphins and flying fish. But it was particularly the whales that fascinated them. Everyone hurried on deck to get a view when there were whales about. Sometimes birds followed them. They caught an albatross and tied a little board to its neck with the message “The ship ‘Helene’ of Hamburg’ before letting it go.
On Friday 21st November a wild storm sent waves over the deck and water poured between decks. Several days later an even worse storm lashed the ship. During this storm a sailor fell about 34 yards onto the deck while trying to lower the masthead and a number of crossarms. He was not hurt. Johann Zwar noted this sailor would often sing the song “In the darkest night the sailors will find the smallest place of pleasure, but in the broadest daylight they can not see the largest Church”, and hoped the fall might help reform him.
By November 27th they were so far south of Edward Island and close to the Antarctica it began to snow and every one looked for their warmest clothes. Some had none and they suffered a lot from the cold. The same evening a fierce gale began to rage and they thought it would smash everything to pieces. They called on God for mercy. The strong westerly gales quickly drove them past Kerguelen Island on November 29th and then past the Amsterdam and St Paul Islands on December 3rd.
On 4th December the sea was still rough. Magdalena was going into labour.
Johann Zwar records: “At 6 am we were together in bed drinking coffee when a huge wave suddenly hurled itself over the ship, covered the deck
and rushed between decks. It also entered my cabin so that little Maria, who was still asleep, was completely covered with water. I lifted her up
but I and my wife found ourselves sitting in water. There was a considerable amount of water between decks,
and boxes, cups, boots and other things were floating around everywhere.
We had to change into new, dry clothes but every bed and pillow was soaked and all the while, the hour of birth was drawing nearer.
But God that very day sent warm weather so that the beds all dried. That afternoon my wife gave birth to a son and that without the doctor assisting.
The captain and all others were happy about this event and congratulated me, particularly since they had feared that the anxiety experienced may have affected my wife adversely. However all went well and our new little son was baptized on December 14th. He was a healthy child which caused us to be very happy.
However our joy was soon taken according to God’s will for he passed away after several days and was buried at sea on December 21st, 1851
not far from the first Australian Island” (Kangaroo Island – translator) – as Johann also mentions, it is only 60 miles from Adelaide).
Andreas Pannach (a fellow passenger) was sent to make contact with the Wends at Rosedale while the rest of the migrants visited Adelaide. There they heard that the Rosedale Wends had sold their properties and were intending to move hundreds of miles east to Portland Bay in the new colony of Victoria where there were other Germans and Wends already living in or near Melbourne, including Johann’s brother Michael. At first Johann’s group thought they would leave their main goods on the ship as it would be passing near Portland Bay on its way to Melbourne, and all the Wends could be in Victoria together. Then Pannach arrived back with the news that the Rosedale Wends had indeed sold, but first needed help with their harvest, and they only intended moving to Victoria in March. When the Rosedale people arrived with a number of wagons to pick them up, the Zwar group decided to rent a house in Port Adelaide to store their goods, and took only their most immediate needs with them to Rosedale. As it turned out only a few families later moved on to Victoria, including Hundrack, Burger, Mirtschin and Rentsch. They eventually settled inland from Portland Bay, at Tabor, near Hamilton on rich volcanic grazing country. Other Wends to settle there in the early days included Albert, Deutscher, Hempel, Petschel, Stephan and Urban.
Early in 1852 Johann Zwar and many of his group settled in the Barossa Valley in South Australia and formed a settlement that became known as Ebenezer. It was one of the two main Wendish settlements in South Australia. The other was at Peter’s Hill. For a few years they had a Wendish School (possibly the only Wendish School in Australia). After a few years it became a German School. Many of the Wends were also fluent in German, although some of the women and children could only speak Wendish.
In 1854 Johann’s brother Peter arrived from Saxony with his bride Magdalena, and they lived with Johann for a while. Then Peter and Magdalena moved onto a small farming property nearby and lived there for ten years. Peter was a carpenter and built a number of houses in the District.
Johann’s wife Magdalena had been ill with tuberculosis for some time. She died on October 22nd 1859, aged 40 years. Johann's friends had been urging him to marrying again for the sake of his three young children. He realised that a string of housekeepers would not give the children the training in home life and home skills he would like them to have. He eventually accepted the idea and decided his new wife should be a Wend, one of his own nationality. This cut his choice to almost nil in South Australia. The Wends numbered only about one tenth of the Lutheran population, and the eligible ones had all been spoken for. Then his friend Pannach said that surely there might be one in Melbourne! This reminded Johann of Anna Kaiser, the brother of Andreas Kaiser where Johann had stayed for most of his time in Melbourne. In fact Anna had been a guest at Johann’s first marriage in Saxony when she was a ten year old, so he knew her family well. Anna was now 25 years old. With his friend Pannach’s encouragement and after lots of prayers Johann wrote to Anna on November 22nd 1862. She replied and soon Johann was on his way to Melbourne again.
“After an exchange of several letters I travelled to Melbourne again at the beginning of March 1863, and discussed and decided the matter in God’s name, and so Pastor Goethe married us on April 6th 1863." Johann’s brother Michael Zwar and Anna’s brother Andreas Kaiser were the witnesses to the marriage.
"After eight days we said our farewells and travelled to South Australia by a favorable sea voyage which took three days. We landed safely in Adelaide, and for the remaining 50 miles to our destination at Ebenezer we took the train for half that distance, and the rest by vehicle, arriving safely. We were received with great joy by our three girls and all our acquaintances. As far as our new household situation is concerned, we have been together now for four months and at least now we know each other, and there is nothing negative to report; rather, we praise God for his gracious guidance, that he allowed us to wait and then brought us together in such a wonderful way.
We are happy about our children, that they have a great love and attachment to Anna as their mother.
And Anna also loves them dearly, and so we all live together happily by God’s grace – and to the present time we are all in good health.”
The quotations are from a lengthy letter Johann wrote to Anna’s father and step-mother in Saxony to tell them about his marriage to their daughter.
Anna 21 (born 1837) and her brother Johann 31 (born c.1827) left for Adelaide in November 1857, on board the ALFRED. Her father Peter travelled with them to Hamburg and it was a particularly sad time for them all when they parted. Anna had dreaded the coming parting. She had also been afraid of boarding a ship but her fears disappeared when she went on board because it looked to be no where near as dangerous as they had made her feel at home. Maria Altus was also single and a friend from the neighbouring village of Nechern and travelled with Anna. It took 16 weeks to reach Adelaide. They went through several violent storms when she feared for her life. They were in Port Adelaide for a week, then three days later they landed in Melbourne, in February 1858.
They hoped their brother Andreas and sister Maria would be in Melbourne to meet them, but they were actually about 100 kilometres inland on the Ballarat goldfields and did not know Anna and Johann were arriving. So Anna and Johann went and stayed with the Zimmers. Anna agreed to work for the Zimmer family for a year. At first Anna did not like it in Australia, partly because she did not enjoy working for the Zimmers. About a month later her brother Andreas turned up. Pastor Goethe had gone to the goldfields to take a service and told him his sister and brother had arrived in Melbourne. Then Andreas married Maria Finger, and Anna took over Maria’s job keeping house for an English family. She enjoyed the work, and soon learnt to speak English.
For more information on this family, visit Kevin P. Zwar's website http://www.zwar-zwahr.com/ancestors/02johann/02_johann_detailed.htm