Celebrating South Australia


19 March 1927 Caroline Herbig

 19 March 1927   Caroline Herbig

 Caroline Herbig died on 19 March 1927. Caroline came to South Australia from Germany, at the age of 16 years, with her two uncles and their families. Within a short time one uncle, Johann Leske, was killed in an accident. On the day of the funeral Caroline was left to look after the two young Leske children at the farmhouse when a man, who thought there was money hidden in the house, attacked her, hung her from a tree and stabbed her in the chest. The tree bent with her weight and she was able to struggle free and, in spite of her injuries, run to neighbours for help.

The next year, at 18, Caroline married Johann Friedrich Herbig, a tailor by trade, who had taken up some land near Springton in the Barossa Valley. There they lived in the base of a large, old gum tree for several years. The tree was 70 feet high and 20 feet across the base at its widest. On 4 August 1859 Caroline gave birth to her first child, a son. With the birth of a second son Friedrich built a two roomed pine and pug house, and Caroline went on to bear another 14 children.

Friedrich died in 1886 but Caroline lived another 40 years, and outlived seven of her 16 children. She could write only her name and speak just a little English yet this child of peasant stock displayed amazing strength and durability. 

On 24 November 1968 the descendants of Caroline and Friedrich Herbig held a reunion, and unveiled a plaque on the knotted and gnarled old tree as a memorial to a remarkable woman. The plaque reads: 'This tree served as the home of Johann Friedrich Herbig in the years 1855-60'. The tree is a memorial to Caroline, and her family, and a reminder of the hardships many early settlers had to endure.

David Herbig, Once there was a very old Gum Tree, 1979.
Judith Brown, Country Life in Pioneer South Australia,   Rigby, 1977, pp. 81-85.
Eric Gunton, Memorial in Stone , 1984.