German Immigration to the Toowoomba Area



Family Tree







German Immigration to the Toowoomba Area


Early Toowoomba Photographic Album


The Initial German settlement on the Darling Downs 

The Darling Downs during the 1830s to 1860s was divided into large lease land holdings.   These settlers had come out from England, with reserves of capital, and had come to the Darling Downs taking large tracts of land under lease.   The rich grasslands of the Downs and the low lease rents gave rise to a rich pastoral aristocracy.   They chose to graze rather than till the rich soil.   Most of these holdings were self-sufficient in that they maintained tradesmen and workers on the station and as such relied very little on the services of the nearby towns of Toowoomba and Warwick.  This powerful squatter class held dominance over Queensland’s affairs.
In the 1850s there was a labour shortage on the pastoral properties of the Darling Downs due to the pastoral workers vanishing to the gold fields.   To counter this phenomenon, the squatter aristocracy used German agents to recruit German shepherd migrants.   German immigration to Australia under contract occurred between 1852 and 1855.  As the squatter’s properties were unfenced, a Shepherd’s job was to live in isolated areas of the property and protect a flock of sheep from dingoes, aboriginal hunters and generally keep the flock in the boundaries of the station.   They proved to be reliable, frugal and sober workers who managed to save sufficient cash out of their wages of 20 to 30 pounds per year (and rations) to enable them to purchase land in the Sixties.   These immigrants were forced to come out not through religious persecution as their South Australian counterparts had done but through agricultural disasters that caused famine and abandonment of uneconomical land holdings caused by generations of land division.

The Political Climate on the Darling Downs 1850 –1890

At the time of Queensland’s separation in 1859 there was a challenge to the squatters dominance by the merchants, artisans and professional men who were jealous of the Downs pastoralists pre-eminence, economic success and exploitation.   J.D. Lang and his followers pushed the ideals of the yeoman and these groups pressured the government into legislating the Selection Acts, acts which were designed to break up the large land holdings of the squatters into smaller holdings and make this land available to the farmer.   As the power in the Government was still held by the squatters, they closed ranks to defend their basic interest, and as such, the initial Selection Acts were framed to advantage the squatter.   These Acts allowed pre-emptive selection by the squatter of the choicest of lands and then the subdivision and conversion of leasehold to freehold land.   These allotments were offered to other settlers who had the capital to purchase and improve the land.   There was a practice of dummying whereby an entitled person to land, sold that privilege to the squatter and the squatter claimed the land under the entitled’s name thus ensuring that most of the original holding was kept intact.   As a result of the squatter’s devious practices sprang a great political movement led principally on the Downs by William H. Groom to defeat the power of the squatter and establish an agrarian society on the Downs.   Groom, an ex-convict from England who had served his time, had come to the Downs in 1856 initially as a storekeeper then hotelier.   He became partners in the ‘Toowoomba Chronicle’ one of the Downs newspapers, eventually owning it in his own right later on.   This paper was to serve as Groom’s mouthpiece in his political career which spanned from 1861 to 1901 which included Mayor of Toowoomba, MLA in the Queensland Parliament and the first member to represent the Darling Downs in the new Federal Government.

The Second wave of German Immigration to the Darling Downs

The initial German settlers with their strict moral habits and strong religious faith, created a reputation which recommended them to J.D.Lang as a Protestant yeoman class to counter the threatened invasion of ‘Roman Catholic paupers’ from Ireland.   Lang’s views were endorsed by Governor Bowen and the 1860 Select Committee on Immigration created a policy of assisted and land-order immigration.   Germans, once again recruited by agents, emigrated to Queensland between 1861 and 1866 when it was brought to a halt through economical factors, agricultural failures and wars.   Immigration resumed on modified lines in 1870.   Compared with other groups, there was a high proportion of married couples (45%), 25% of German immigrants were children under 12 years and there was a fairly high ratio of female unmarried settlers.   Immigration in numbers continued up to the mid 1870s but in Germany, confederation, the formation of an industrial empire, and the migration laws and harsh military service regulations discouraged immigration.   Nevertheless, 17,360 Germans migrants arrived in Queensland between 1861 and 1879. The Darling Downs, with its existing pastoral German population, attracted many of the government-assisted migrants although most settled on the scrubs lands of Moreton.  Logan, Albert, Caboolture, Rosewood, Laidley and Marburg.   In 1864 there were 1,250 German-born on the Downs representing 10.4% of the region’s population and in 1876 the number was 2,016 representing 7% of the region’s population.

Amongst the Germans there was a strong sense of national identity and resistance to complete assimilation.   In 1891, a generation after the first wave of agricultural settlement, there were 4,286 professed Lutherans on the Downs, 10% of the regional population and 18% of all Queensland Lutherans.

The Agrarians

Although the English and Irish population were more numerous than the Germans, their ability to farm small acreages was no match for the German adeptness.   Many German immigrants came from heavy land utilization areas (due to generational land division) and wine growing areas.   The Germans first tended to congregate in a few localities: Middle Ridge, Drayton, Meringandan, Glencoe, Geham and Goombungee and typically German language was spoken more than English.   These areas accounted for 54% of all Lutherans on the Downs in 1891.   However the other half of the Lutherans were scattered all over the Downs in Warwick, Allora, Spring Creek, Emu Creek and Cambooya.   These isolated settlers tended to have larger properties, intermarry more freely with their ‘foreign’ neighbours and became assimilated more rapidly than the Germans closer to Toowoomba.

In the beginning of the 1860's, the newly formed Queensland Government desperately needed monetary funds for capital works in the new state.    One of the forms of capital inflow was through the resumption of leaseholds by the state and auctioning them for freehold title.   Beginning with the stations close to Toowoomba and moving to the Central Downs, land was resumed for small selection and the most German settlers took up land in 40 to 100 acre blocks.   The German immigrant was poor when arriving in Australia and did not have the means to acquire larger land holdings.   Their tenacity, industry and frugality ensured their success whereas most other settlers gave up and walked off.   The German farmer had a preference for the red scrub soils against the black earth and hence dictated the areas .   On the whole, however, the group became unshakably ‘petty bourgeois’ in its search for property, security, acceptance and respectability.

The Lutheran Church

Most Germans came to the Downs in family units determined to preserve these standards and attitudes, which they thought, were threatened in their ‘new home’.   The Lutheran Church set about the preservation of German culture through group conformity to religious and social ideals.   The church was the pivot of most settlers’ existence and the only tangible link with the customs of the ‘Fatherland’.   Its members believed in Luther’s interpretation of the Bible, the right of the church to discipline its members and to influence all activities.   Committees appointed by the Church settled disputes amongst the Lutheran community.  It was a gross breach for a member to take another to law.   If a member committed a sin he was admonished three times, if he refused to repent he was called before the congregation and if he persisted he was expelled from the church.   The German-born pastors attempted to exercise the same degree of spiritual and temporal control over their flocks as they did in Germany.   This caused great resentment amongst the Australian-born who felt that such anachronisms were humiliating and unnecessary in open society.   The belief that the loss of the German language meant loss of the Lutheran faith caused retention and blind adherence to the German language.   This belief was nurtured by the German-born settlers but lost the church many of its native-born parishioners.   This drift from the church was accentuated by the scattered nature of Downs settlers, the difficulty in obtaining German pastors, the failure of the German education system and the different dialects used by the church and its adherents.

In 1863 the suspension of a Pastor Carl August Angar from the Lutheran Ministry in Toowoomba caused the Lutheran community to split and a separate church was formed .  Mr Angar had been brought out from Germany because of a shortage of German clergy on the Darling Downs.   He was ordained by Pastor Scheirmeister from the Nundah Mission in Brisbane, and was the first resident pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church Toowoomba.   It appears that Pastor Angar was unacquainted with the forms to be filled out in the case of death.   It appears that he mistakenly or maliciously forged a doctor's name to a death certificate for one of his parishioners.    Pastor Angar, after some representations by 'interested persons', was removed from his post.   There was protest from some in the church and they sent a 'memorial' the Registrar General  to have him re-instated to the list of Registered Ministers .   Pastor Angar was not re-instated and together with a number of parishioners formed the Independent German Church in Perth Street Toowoomba.    Pastor Anger was pastor of this church from 1864 to 1872 and it appears that he ministered to this congregation without proper Government authority.

In 1893 ten Lutheran congregations, served by five pastors, were in existence on the Downs.   With the exception of Westbrook, all were in the Toowoomba, Highfields and Goombungee area.   Failure to service other isolated congregations meant these congregations were lost to the faith.   The Germans had difficulties in coping with problems of pioneering and preventing the adaptation of British culture.   When the church realized that although social assimilation was inevitable and  the church could survive and flourish with the English language, it was too late to recover lost ground.


Politically, the Germans on the Downs were quick to appreciate the power of their votes, even when intensive political activity was not a traditional part of their community life.   The constituencies of Drayton, Toowoomba and Aubigny, where the concentration of German settlers was the highest, the Germans through their characteristic block-voting controlled the political fortunes of three representatives.   The Germans were fully supportive of their patron William H. Groom who had established close ties with the new settlers as no other Briton had done.  He negotiated their land orders, transacted their business, and smoothed difficulties that the German migrants encountered when dealing with the bureaucracy. The Germans were motivated to participate in Downs politics.  The Aliens Act of 1867 granted immediate citizenship to all those taking the oath of allegiance but prevented aliens from holding freehold land.   As land acquisition was their main objective, these regulations created a large German minority vote.   Their economic aspirations drew them to the politics of Groom and his associates who advocated personal advancement through education and hard work.   When their group allegiance was given to a politician, little could waive it.   However, after the Germans had supported Groom in securing the election of Perkins in Aubigny in 1878, at the next election Perkins alienated this vote by referring to the Germans wine as ‘hogwash’.   Perkins new brewery was in competition to German produced wine.   The German vote elected Groom in 1862 and this vote was never lost.   There were attempts to unseat him and notably by a German small holder Henry Roessler, who was totally rejected by his fellow-countrymen in favour of Groom.   The voting power of the Germans was so strong, squatters tried to remove German voters from the electoral rolls, which further incensed and consolidated the Germans behind Groom.   The Germans had a passion for spectacle, with brass bands and flags marching to the polling places behind their leaders to vote solidly for Groom.   Francis Kates from Allora and Jocob Horwitz from Warwick one a miller and the other a storekeeper contested and won Downs constituencies between 1878 and 1893.


The Germans’ initial willingness ‘to hire themselves for whatever they could get’ was an early source of friction but in general, they were not competitors on the labour market.   British-German relationships were regarded as excellent in the nineteenth century, but cordial, surface attitudes did conceal some economic and political animosity.   The successes Germans had at farming and their block-voting at elections caused resentment at times.   World War 1 inflamed latent antagonisms.  Voting in the Military Service Referendum Regulations of 1917 disqualified every naturalized British subject who was born in an enemy country.   As this disenfranchised all German-born naturalized Australians, who had seen their sons go off to war it was seen as a humiliating form of discrimination.   German street names and place names were changed and there was an attempt to burn the Toowoomba Lutheran Church.

German immigrants were regarded as; white, Protestant, apparently ‘liberal’ politically, and present in manageable numbers.   The British minority overlooked their initial non-conformity to social mores.

-Condensed from D.E. Waterson's 'Squatter Selector and Storekeeper'


Early Toowoomba Photographic Album

german immigration to

Wagner ] Weis ] [ Toowoomba ]