The story of Johann Friedrich Herbig- A German- Australian story

I love coming across an interesting story you were not expecting to find. Something that is in no brochure or tourist info. This is one we stumbled upon on the road that I thought was interesting, especially since my Dad came to this country in the late 1950’s from Europe for a new life. We were driving through Springton S.A. not intending to stop and we saw this tree. M

herbig tree
This amazing looking old river red gum tree stood out on the side of the road near Springton which we were just driving through  and we had to stop to have a look.
Old Herbig Red Gum
This could be 700 or 800 yrs old. When these trees are affected by fires they sent out new trunks. This one has multiple trunks.
old River Red gum home
The tree from the inside. It turned out it had quite a history! It was someone’s home for 5 yrs!

Herbig tree plaque

herbig photo
J F Herbig

Johann Friedrich Herbig came to Australia from Bremen in 1855 at 27yrs of age for a new life in South Australia. He had been a tailor but turned his interests to farming. He made this gnarled old hollow red gum tree his home for 5 years. He was the first of the Germans to settle in Springton.

His first job was on a dairy farm on which the tree stood. After considerable financial struggle he became the became the owner of this land. At 30yrs old he married 18yr old Caroline Rattery- a polish peasant who could not read or write. He brought her home to this tree. They had the first 2 of 16 children in this tree!

In 1860 they built a pine and pug dwelling 400 metres upstream from the tree and 4 yrs later built a stone cottage, which is still in use today. Almost penniless on his arrival the family assets had grown to nearly 1000 acres of some of the best land in the valley. He also helped to found the the Friedensberg Lutheran Congregration. M


Herbig family history

Huge Herbig family
Herbig married Caroline and brought his bride home to the tree. They had 16 children. The first 2 were born in the tree! These are photos of their children.

Friedrich Herbig died in 1886 aged 58 from brain damage after being injured in a fall. After his death Caroline’s children taught her to read and write so she could sign documents. She died at 87. Descendants (in 2004) numbered 841. Five families still live in the area. M

herbigs well and drinking trough
Across the tree from the tree was Herbig’s well and drinking trough carved out of a single log.
German stone Lutheran church
A good example of the German built Lutheran churches built in mid to late 1800’s in the area. This one just next to our free camp at Tarlee on a town sports field one night. The windows had stained glass but we covered to protect against vandals.

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