I acknowledge the Traditional Owners on whose land I walk, I work and I live. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Swedes, Danes and Norwegians all

Across the Queensland sugar districts the first small selectors were typically Anglo-Celtic or local-born of that origin. However in the Herbert River Valley a significant number of those who took up small land holdings and who would go on to farm sugar cane were from Denmark, Norway and Sweden an origin masked in some cases by the Anglicizing of their names. For instance, Charles Watson identified as a Swede when questioned as to his nationality by the 1889 Royal Commission panel. William Johnson was actually Wilhelm Sorensen.  What is also notable about this first cohort is that most came either with wives, or married soon after arrival in Australia. This is in contrast to the rest of vanguard leading the charge north, young single men with adventurous spirits who literally risked all, spirits, health and money. The intrepid women who came, many with children in the folds of their skirts, did so knowing that the tropical climate was documented to be detrimental to women’s and children’s health.
August Anderssen was an immigrant from Sweden. He, his wife Eva and son John arrived in Bowen in August 1872 as assisted passengers. He gave his occupation as carpenter. His wife was a domestic. They immediately secured work helping to establish Arthur and Frank Neame’s Macknade Plantation and Mill. The family remained at Macknade for about eight years until August seized his opportunity to obtain land of his own. In that time the Anderssen family befriended other new arrivals.
Johan Ingebright (John) Alm, was one of these new arrivals, and in time marriage between their children would unite the two families. John was born in Norway and married Danish born Antonia Praetorius in Bowen in 1872. He was 21 years old and gave his profession as ‘bushman’ while his wife’s profession was ‘domestic’. By the following year he was employed by Henry Stone, first acknowledged European resident of the Herbert River Valley, and manager of the Scott Bros., properties of Valley of Lagoons and Herbert Vale. Alm consequently may have managed William Bairstow Ingham’s property.

Neils Christian Rosendahl arrived in Townsville from Denmark in 1869. His wife was fellow Dane, Anne (Ane) Mortensen. They were in Cardwell when their son, Christian was born in June 1872. After coming to the Valley Neils was permitted to occupy some land owned by the Neame brothers and Waller.

Harald Hoffensetz and William Johnson (Wilhelm Sorenson) both arrived in the Valley in 1872, accompanying John Hull who selected a property that he called Blackrock. There he tried to grow tobacco with the assistance of Hoffensetz and Johnson. Harald Hoffensetz migrated to Australia from Denmark in 1871 aboard the ship, the Gutenberg. He was 22 years old when he married Norwegian immigrant Augusta Pedersen in Rockhampton in 1872 and from there they proceeded to the Herbert River Valley. At Blackrock on Christmas day of that year, Harald Hoffensetz’s wife Augusta gave birth to a baby boy they named Julius, the sixth baby born in the wider district of the Valley, and the first of their 11 children. Hoffensetz got his start, clearing the land and farming for himself on Arnot’s Rippple Creek selection in 1877. 

The interconnectivity  of these first immigrant Nordic families is further illustrated by the marriage of Jutta Louisa Maria Hoffensetz to Lauritz Nielsen, land holder, plantation overseer and later storekeeper.  

The forces that pushed this remarkable cohort of Danes, Swedes and Norwegians from their homelands and pulled them to the Herbert River Valley are worthy of further investigation  and wider recognition. 
Land holders and business men, Lower Herbert circa 1882. Charles Watson, sitting on ground, far right (Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Photographic Collection)

Mrs Jutta Nielsen (nee Hoffensetz) with sons Oscar and Herbert (Source: Hinchinbrook Shire Library Photographic Collection)

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