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25 January 1839 Captain Hahn

 25 January 1839   Captain Hahn

On his arrival in South Australia late in 1838 Captain Dirk Hahn met William Dutton who spoke German fluently having spent his childhood in Germany. It was agreed that the German immigrants Hahn had brought to the colony should settle in the area at Mount Barker where Dutton and his partners held land. Hahn and a party went to view the country. This is an extract from his reminiscences:

On January 25th at 8 in the morning I climbed Mount Barker. From its top I saw Lake Alexandrina as well as the River Murray. The land on the other side of this mount again lay there before me wonderfully beautiful, although not quite so level, and not so heavily timbered. I cut the following letters in the topmost and largest tree of the mount: D.M.H. of the 'Zebra' Altona 1839.

Apparently Hahn so was so taken with the country that he wanted to settle there himself, but had to return to his ship, and to his wife in Europe. He did not return, but his name is perpetuated in Hahndorf. The village was established along the lines of the old Prussian pattern: a long straight road with equal-sized farmlets placed on either side. The plots were narrow but deep and were divided into segments to be used for the various mixed farming activities of the peasants. The people suffered badly in the first winter due to poor housing and lack of good food. But the hard working Germans, determined to establish themselves, tilled their fields, built their homes of local stone, and by 1840 had built their first church.

Hahndorf is the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia. A plaque commemorating Captain Dirk Hahn was unveiled on 15 August 1982.

Extracts from the Reminiscences of Captain Dirk Meinertz Hahn 1838-39,   Volume 1, 245; translated from the German by Dr F. J. H. Blaess and Dr L. A. Triebel, South AustralianaVolume 3 No 2, September 1964.
Anni Luur Fox, Ian Harmstorf, Gordon Young, 'Hahndorf', in Historic Places of Australia, Australian Council of National Trusts, 1978, pp. 532-543.

Tags: Hahn Captain, Hahndorf

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