Friday, 9 December 2016

Harkaway Lutheran Chuch

I wanted to find out about Lutheran Church at Harkaway so I started with one of my key resources for the history of the area  Early Days of Berwick and its surrounding districts and this (inter alia) is what the book said about the Church -
In 1869 it was decided to erect a school building. Under the guidance of builders Weise and Mayer, the settlers built a substantial weatherboard building more generally known as the German Church. On weekdays this served as a Church and on Sundays, a Church..... Because the school was  to be also used as a church, a bell was erected bear the building in 1869.....The earliest known Lutheran Pastor was Mattias Goethe, whose signature appears on the early marriage certificates. Then came Pastor Herlitz, who was suceeded by Pastor Schramm. Rev Hermann Herlitz was Pastor of the Lutheran Church at Melbourne and head of the Lutheran General Synod of Victoria.....At Harkaway during the Pastor's  absences the service swere conducted by  Dr G. Wanke. His son, the late Immanuel, acted as organist. (Early Days of Berwick, 3rd revised edition, 1979)



This photo of the Lutheran Church and bell tower is from Early Days of Berwick, 3rd revised edition, 1979.

This didn't tell me when the Church was demolished, neither did one of my other key resources In the Wake of the Pack Tracks, so I emailed Lyn Bradley, President of the Narre Warren & District Family History Group to see if the Group had any information on the Church and she sent me back a great document from 1935,  that they have in their Research Room. We don't know who wrote the article or where it was first published but it did tell us about the closure of  the Church  -   In later years due to many changes, the church in which the early settlers took such an active interest was closed. The organ was sold in 1912 and the building disposed of for removal -  so I assume the closure date was 1912 or a bit earlier and the building removed about the same time  - however there is more about the closing date below. The following is what the document had to say about the Church -

On December 11 1869 the local members of the Lutheran Church, desirous of erecting a church building secured a site having a frontage of 100 feet to Hessell's Road. The land was purchased  from the late Dr E.Wanke for the sum of 1 pound. Five trustees were elected, namely Messrs Louis Linsing, Ernest Hillbrick, John Fritzlaff, Heinrich Edebohis and Peter Erdman. As a result of a combined effort the church members erected a building which fulfilled the dual purpose of church and State school. By voluntary subscripion a bell was obtained, its weight being 210 lbs and its pleasing tone was the pride of the pioneers.  For many years Pastor Herliz (whose son, Dr Herliz, lives at Cheltenham) made the journey from Melbourne to conduct the services. He was very popular and the services were always well attended. In those days the late Mr I.G Wanke was one of those who presided at the organ.

The late Jacob Hessell conducted school for some time until transferred to the present school building.

On July 6 1882 five new trustees were appointed, Messrs Jacob Hessell, John Fritzlaff, Rudolph Halleur, August Dubburke and Rudolph Anderson. In later years due to many changes, the church in which the early settlers took such an active interest was closed. The organ was sold in 1912 and the building disposed of for removal. Two cypress trees that were planted many years ago by the late  Goulob Aurisich,   are still growing on the site. At the  special request of the then two remaining pioneers, the  late  I.G Wanke and R Anderson, the bell was retained, and being close to the cemetery. it is tolled on the occasion of funerals, and is always rung on New Years Eve.  Those interested having passed away the site was developed into a 'no mans land'.Consequently, on  on February 25, 1935 a public meeting was held in the local hall. Cr D Boyd presiding, and those members of the Lutheran Church who attended appointed three trustees for the site Messrs H.I Wanke, J.W Nicol and H. C Weist. Mr Wanke is chairman and Mr Weist secretary and treasurer. On Saturday last, June 8. the new trustees entered into possession to carry out out their duties

Emulating John Batman, who had 100 years ago turned the turf with  atwig on the bamsk of the Merri Creek, the chairman turned the turf on the site, but with a spade, and each trustee planted a tree to commemorate the occasion. The bell was removed, and the dangerous tower pulled down  after a service of more than 60 years. Thanks to the generous spirit of Mr Nicol and several other enthusiasts, material and labour is to be provided for a new tower fro the bell which, it is hoped, will ring out the old and welcome in the New Year for many years to come.  

The Bell Tower was officially opened on December 28 1935.



This is a report on the election of the Church Trustees as reported in the document, above.
Dandenong Journal March 7 1935

We have found this snippet of information in the Berwick Shire Council report in the Pakenham Gazette in 1917 (see below) which refers to the 'old Lutheran Church'  so this presents two possibilities - the Church building was still there in 1917 and hadn't been removed or else the site was locally known as the 'old Lutheran Church' even though the building did not exist.  


Pakenham Gazette June 8 1917

To throw another possibility into the mix the Narre Warren & District Family History Group also have a copy of  the Harkaway Cemetery: a brief history* in which an historic overview of Harkaway was written by Val Exell on September 29, 2000.  Mrs Exell writes this about the Church - On this site the belfry and the Lutheran Church were built in 1869, the bell coming from Germany. Until destroyed by fire the building was used for school on weekdays and Church on Sundays and closed in 1912. So the 1912 closure date is confirmed but Mrs Exell says the building was burnt down and not 'disposed of for removal'  

In the end whether the Church building was burnt down or removed (or possibly both) it doesn't really matter but I was a bit surprised that the Church closed as early as 1912 given the prevalence of the German ancestry amongst the Harkaway settlers, but the building was 43 years old by then and the Harkaway Hall was only three years old (it opened on June 9, 1909) so this would have been an alternate gathering place. 


This photo of the Church is from Oak Trees and Hedges:  a pictorial history of Narre Warren, Narre Warren North and Harkaway (published by the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society in 2002)

*Harkaway Cemetery: a brief history was created through a Work for the Dole program and published in 2001 by the Peninsula Training and Employment Program Inc.

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