Monday, September 21, 2020

Death of a horse-breaker at Medlow Bath - Alfred Hermann FISCHER (c.1896-1917)


Alfred Fischer, Internment Camp photo 
National Archives of Australia (NAA D3507 1507)

It is the early hours of Saturday 1st December 1917, the overnight passenger train from the Central West township of Orange is steaming through the night on its way to Sydney. On board two men sit silently in a locked third class compartment. One man wearing civilian clothing lies back on the hard seat trying to sleep amid the constant rocking and clattering of wheels on the iron rails. On his wrists he wears a pair of steel handcuffs. The other man, his guard and escort, wears a khaki military uniform with a corporal’s single chevron, and also dozes fitfully. The guard's name is Brown. The man in the handcuffs is Alfred Hermann Fischer, who along with many of his countrymen and women had immigrated from Germany seeking a new life and new opportunities, dreams now cut short by the momentous events in far-away Europe, where men fight and die over a foot of mud.

By 1914 over 100,000 Germans were living in Australia, comprising around 2% of the population of five million. They were a well-established and generally well-liked community. However with the rising tension between the British and German Empires this began to change and German-Australian communities throughout the country found themselves the subject of suspicion and animosity. When war broke out in August 1914 that changed to outright hostility. Australia was rife with war fever and ordinary citizens were keen for ways to get involved, to ‘do their bit’. The sinking of the German light Cruiser SMS Emden by the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney in the Cocos Islands was one of Australia’s first actions of the war and excited the nation. The event created hysteria about possible German naval attack, immediately establishing cultural and national divisions within the community.

Within a week of the declaration of war, German and Austro-Hungarian residents of Australia were forced to register with the police. A fear of possible German-Australian 'conflicted loyalties' led to several regulations under the War Precautions Act 1914, such as forbidding German-Australians to leave Australia or send money overseas. These immigrants, naturalised subjects and German-speaking Australian-born, rapidly moved in the Australian consciousness from 'our Germans' to 'enemy aliens'.

It is now 3.00 am by the platform clock as the train pulls out of Mt Victoria station at the top of the Blue Mountains range west of Sydney. Alfred Fischer quietly sits up, opens his eyes and checks the station name. He massages his wrists where the handcuffs have dug into the flesh, not long now. At 22 years of age he is a small, quiet man, just 5’6” in height with brown hair, now dishevelled, and calm grey eyes. Beneath his shirt, his arms and chest are covered in tattoos that celebrate his life as a sailor,  horse breaker and stockman. On his right forearm appears a girl's head above a horseshoe, on his left forearm a bucking horse in a stockyard, on his chest a cowboy with a stockwhip and another bucking bronco. On his face a heavy scar runs down the left side where it cuts deep into the cheek bone: a memento of the stockyards and the wild bush horses.

Fischer had left his old life as a sailor and drifted up into Queensland looking for work, where he met up with a fellow German, Ernst Kuhlmann who was only a year older than himself. Both men soon gained the skills of stockman and station hands, well known for their horse breaking among the outback cattlemen and horse breeders. They were sober and industrious, they saved money and things were looking good for the future. Until that fateful day the police called and rounded them up with other German nationals, to be sent down south where they joined over 5,000 of their countrymen in the sprawling, crowded internment camp at Holsworthy military base, near Liverpool in south-western Sydney.

As the Great War progressed and propaganda about the ‘Hun’ German continued, the pressures on German-Australians increased. Many lost their jobs or found their communities no longer safe. Internment without charge or trial was implemented around the Country. By 1918 nearly 7,000 men, women and children had been interned in concentration camps by the Federal Government. 

Police Gazette notice, 21 November 1917 (Ancestry)

It was from Holsworthy, while assigned to a work party outside the camp, that Fischer and Kuhlmann had made a daring bid for freedom two weeks earlier. They made their way over 240 km to the country town of Orange where they hoped to find work on local farms and escape notice from the authorities. But Alfred could not stay hidden for long and was soon victim of an informer. Out of desperation he offered his gold signet ring to Constable Frazer the arresting officer, to let him go free. But the copper stood firm, Fischer was a prize and promotion could follow.

Alfred leans forward in his seat and clears his throat, it is time. “Kaporal, sir, I am needing the lavatory, most urgent, please you help me, yes?” Brown comes fully awake and curses quietly, “Alright now, I suppose you’ll be wantin’ the cuffs off, but mind you, I’ll be waitin’ outside, no tricks d’you hear me?” He quickly releases Alfred’s handcuffs, then unlocks the door of the compartment and the pair shuffle down the darkened corridor to the Gents at the end of the rocking carriage.

The minutes tick by as the train speeds downhill towards the small village of Medlow Bath, dominated by the new grand hotel Hydro Majestic established by society notable, yachtsman and department store owner Mark Foy. Then come the sounds of rising panic in the corridor, Brown is shouting and swearing and banging on the toilet door, whistles blow, heavy boots thump through the carriage; all to be drowned out by the roar of the passing west-bound goods train, rattling and buffeting the carriage windows in the night.

In the light of early dawn a group of railway fettlers find the broken body of a man lying on the rails just outside Medlow Bath station. The police and the undertaker are summoned from the nearby township of Katoomba and the plain wooden coffin is conveyed by cart to the police lockup at the courthouse, where the local G.P., Dr Alex Allen makes his examination.

The coroner brings down a verdict of ‘shock the result of injuries accidentally received through jumping from a train whilst endeavouring to escape from military custody’.

The burial at Katoomba cemetery on Monday 3rd December is a simple affair with no minister present. The undertaker records the place of death as ‘Killed on Railway Medlow Bath NSW’ and the informant as ‘Katoomba Police’. In December 1918, the authorities in Berlin issue an official German death certificate, on it the words ‘Medlow in Australier’ and the death date ‘1 Dez 1917’ can be read. The informant was his mother who reported that her son, a sailor and bachelor, 21 years of age of unknown religion, a resident of Dresden, was found dead in the region near Medlow Bath in Australia, hour of death unknown. 

German death certificate (Ancestry)

And there he lay as the decades passed, the moss-covered grave unmarked and soon forgotten in the bushland cemetery, out past the site where the foundation stone for the Blue Mountains District ANZAC Memorial Hospital would be laid in October 1925, under the shade of flowering gum trees, while above the chattering of parrots and the early morning warbling of magpies.

Graves Registration Certificate (Ancestry)

Following the cessation of hostilities at the end of WWII, the Commonwealth  War Graves Commission realised the need to consolidate the graves of enemy combatants and internees who had died in Australia and its territories in both World Wars. A site was identified near the Victorian town of Tatura where there had been a large WWII concentration camp for enemy aliens and POWs. A fine, new, purpose built German Military  Cemetery was established, which is now under the care of the Office of Australian War Graves. This cemetery contains the graves of 1 Turkish civilian,  190 German civilian internees of the 1914-1918 War and 60 German Army, German Air Force and German civilian internees of the 1939-1945 War.

Alfred Hermann Fischer
Tatura German Military Cemetery

In April 1961 the remains of Alfred Hermann Fischer were exhumed from Katoomba cemetery and re-interred in the Tatura German Military Cemetery, in a simple grave marked with a brass plaque, set in a wide, green lawn. Though far from his native land, the horse-breaker had regained his identity and could rest in peace.

Ernst Christian Kuhlmann, Internment Camp photo 
National Archives of Australia (NAA D3507 1509)

Alfred's companion and fellow escapee, Ernst Christian Kuhlmann was rearrested on the night of Saturday 29th January 1918 at Clermont near Summer Hill Creek outside Orange, where he had been working for a Mr Gazzard, an orchardist, he had enjoyed 43 days of liberty. Along with the other surviving internees, he was deported to Germany following the end of WWI.


John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian



Sue Schmitke at Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum assisted with the death certificate translation

Shane at Find a



Coroner’s Reports,

National Archives of Australia:  D3597:Album of identification photographs of enemy aliens (civilian and prisoner of war) interned at Liverpool Camp, NSW during World War I (with index) see:

Wood Coffill (Katoomba) Burial Index 1916 to 1945, Blue Mountains Family History Society.

Newspapers on Trove

Escaped Prisoners of War. (1917, November 21). New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime (Sydney : 1860 - 1930), p. 502. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from

GERMAN ESCAPEE RECAPTURED. (1917, December 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from

GERMAN REARRESTED. (1917, December 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from

Apprehensions. (1918, January 16). New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime (Sydney : 1860 - 1930), p. 34. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from  

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE (1918, January 4). The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW : 1871 - 1938), p. 19. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from

ESCAPED INTERNEE ARRESTED. (1917, November 30). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from


Other Websites

The Office of Australian War Graves

AWM War graves

Tatura War Cemetery on Find a Grave



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

“We polished everything” Osborne Ladies College, Blackheath

From the 1925 Prospectus

Many would recall the story of Miss Appleyard and her College for Young Ladies depicted in the film “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. Located at Macedon in Victoria this story could just as easily have played itself out in the dramatic scenery of the Blue Mountains where, in the late 19th and first half of the 20th Centuries, many private-venture schools run by idiosyncratic, sometimes eccentric, educators were established. One such school was the Osborne Ladies College, which moved to Blackheath from the Sydney suburb of Epping in 1923.

The 1925 Prospectus

The college established itself in a large, three-storey building that had originally been intended as a hotel. The property looked out over the Kanimbla and Megalong Valleys and had access to a variety of popular walking tracks. The college prospectus proclaimed the virtues of its setting “amidst scenery unequalled the world over and in a climate which defies disease”. To the people of Blackheath its location was known as ‘Paradise Hill’.

In pursuing her aim to produce refined, public spirited young ladies the headmistress, Violet Gibbons, drew upon her own patriotic passion for Britain and the British Navy. In the words of a former student, this became her “magnificent obsession”. Not only did her school take its name from the Royal Naval Training College on the Isle of Wight, but naval jargon, procedure and tradition permeated all aspects of school life.

From the 1925 Prospectus
The school’s dormitories, classrooms, dining and assembly rooms and even the bathroom became ‘ships’ and sailed the educational seas under such famous names as Sirius, Sydney, Revenge, Rodney, Pelican, Neptune and Nelson. The system of authority within the school paralleled a naval structure of command, the younger students beginning as midshipmen, or ‘middies’, attaining the rank of lieutenant or captain in their senior years. Teachers were commanders and the headmistress the Admiral who addressed her crew from the quarterdeck or bridge.

The School Library
Discipline was strict and order and Spartan comfort characterized the daily routine. Some former students were grateful for this, feeling it strengthened and matured them, though a number found it harsh and not to their liking. Morning inspection parades ensured, according to the college prospectus, “that the general appearance of the pupils is up to the standard of the R.N. in cleanliness and smartness. “We polished everything”, recalled one student, “our shoes, our buttons and our gum boots. Lots of spit and polish.”

A Class Room
Uniforms were designed along naval lines with jackets sporting six brass buttons and marching was a regular feature of college life. The girls marched in formal fashion to welcome important guests at the school gates on patriotic occasions like Anzac Day and a long, silent crocodile marched down to the post office to collect the mail. In the early mornings, whatever the weather, they marched to warm up and get their circulation going. “It didn’t matter how cold it was or whether it was snowing, we all went under the house where we kept our gum boots – cold, cold gum boots – put on rain coats and marched up and down the drive in all kinds of weather and then came back, put our gum boots back on their ledges and our rain coats back on their hooks and had porridge.”

From the 1925 Prospectus
At its peak Osborne accommodated 50-75 students drawn mainly from country areas in NSW but also from inter-state and even beyond Australia. They came from a cross-section of economic backgrounds and were prepared for Intermediate, Leaving Certificate and Matriculation examinations in subjects ranging from English, History, Geography, French, Latin, Mathematics and Science to Art, Music, Elocution and Dancing. Commercial and Domestic Science subjects were also included along with Physical Culture (including Eurythmics).

Osborne’s best years were the 1920s and 1930s. It struggled on after World War II and eventually closed its doors following the death of Miss Gibbons in 1958. The old building was burnt to the ground in the 1980s.

What are we to make of such a school today? Its notions of the qualities required to be a ‘lady’ now seem ‘old fashioned’ and some of its educational methods probably appear eccentric, antiquated or even mistaken. Yet, the range of experiences in learning and physical activity offered was broad and, if one goes by published exam results, prizes won by pupils and the recollections of ex-students, the quality of its education seems to have been of a generally high standard. Headmistresses like Miss Gibbons were independent and admirable women at a time when the opportunities for females to pursue professional careers were, to say the least, few. Their schools, while certainly ‘of their time’, filled an important social and educational niche.


Author: John Low, former Local Studies Librarian, Blue Mountains Library

Editor: John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian, Blue Mountains Library

All images from the Local Studies collection

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Church on Pulpit Hill - Unlocking a Blue Mountains Mystery

Edgar Church's headstone (photo by John Merriman)  
It has long been popularly held that a number of convicts who died while working on road gangs in the Blue Mountains were buried at Pulpit Hill, just west of Katoomba.  There are also folk traditions that free ‘pioneers’ were interred there.  However, when it comes to verifying these traditions, there are few accurate sources.  In the years after the Western Road to Bathurst was opened to traffic in 1815, Pulpit Hill became a recognised resting place for travellers and stock. In the 1830s there appears to have been a stockade in the vicinity and, in 1835, the ‘Shepherd & His Flock Inn’ opened for business.  There was also a police lock-up established there in the early 1860s.  

Until now, the only nineteenth-century reference to graves in the vicinity came from the account of the French surgeon, René Primevère Lesson (1794–1849), who travelled over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst in early 1824.  In his journal, an extract of which was translated by Olive and Ward Havard and published in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Lesson wrote:

‘. . . we climbed a high eminence where the road formerly passed, for to-day it winds on the mountain side taking an easy grade. M. d’Urville and I climbed this old road with difficulty and we enjoyed the view of enormous precipices, deep chasms, in short the ruins of nature, which impressed us deeply. On this wind-beaten height stand rocks of various shapes. One of them bore the epitaph of a young man who died there in 1822, and whose still fresh grave will make me call this mount Mount Sepulchre.’[1]

Cox's Road of 1815 ascending Pulpit Hill (photo by John Merriman)
The burial traditions received virtually no mention in the early tourist guides. Perhaps this was a symptom of the social attitude referred to by local museum curator Melbourne Ward who found that, even in the 1940s, ‘it is not usual to mention the Convict, it is a subject to be hastily skimmed over or not mentioned at all.’ While convict relics were featured in his museums at Medlow Bath and Katoomba, he remained aware that to ‘many Australians the relics of those times are barbarous and should be forgotten.’[2]  An exception appears to be the Blue Mountains Railway Tourist Guide, published c. 1902. While there is no mention of the graves in the text, a map is included with the words ‘old cemetery’ located behind the Explorers’ Tree.  This map (printed originally by the Department of Lands, Sydney, in 1894) was re-used some years later by Harry Phillips in his The Blue Mountains & Jenolan Caves Illustrated Tourist Guide (c. 1914).  

In the debate over the authenticity of the Explorers’ Tree which was conducted in the letter columns of The Sydney Morning Herald in August-September 1905 there was, it would appear, no reference made to the graves at all (unlike the later debate in the columns of The Blue Mountains Echo in June 1983). There are, however, several interesting later references which also raise the question of just how many graves are supposed to be on Pulpit Hill.

In 1921 Mr G. Elliott, a resident of Katoomba, told ‘of how, over 60 years ago, he first saw these graves. At that time there were only three, and that long after the convicts had left the Mountains. Now these primitive memorials have been added to. By whom?’[3] The Sydney Morning Herald in March 1933 reported that: ‘Some twenty-two graves may be clearly discerned to-day, but the majority would seem to be the work of vandals and hoaxers. Twenty years ago, when Mrs Taylor, the wife of a rector of Katoomba, visited the spot there were only five, and, according to a Mr Peckman, an 84-year-old Katoomba resident . . . interviewed two or three years ago, there were originally only three. If Mr Peckman’s recollection is correct, it would seem that only three convicts were buried on Pulpit Hill.’[4]
In the 1930s a visitor from Britain commented: ‘On a local map is marked “Convict Graves” behind the Explorers’ Tree on the Bathurst Road. I visited these graves, and, to my surprise, found they consisted of sixteen heaps of rough stones, representing sixteen graves. At the foot of one grave is a stone, on which is roughly carved the name “Picot”, the remainder are nameless. As Picot is a common French name, this convict was probably French, or of French descent. I spoke to a local resident, who remembered when a wooden cross giving the name was on each grave, but they were all destroyed in a bushfire, and never replaced.’[5]
In 1960 Mr L. G. Bogus of Merriwa Street, Katoomba, a resident of the town for seventy years, wrote: ‘On the hill above the Explorers’ Tree there were seven mounds of earth and stones, which were said to be convicts’ graves . . . As a lad, we often visited these “graves”, and someone seems to have cared for them, for we would often find fresh wild flowers and ferns on the mounds, and all dead leaves and rubbish had been brushed away.’  Mr Bogus went on to suggest another theory about the occupants of the graves: ‘We were told that people from Katoomba and Megalong Valley had cared for these “graves”, some being aborigines [sic] who lived in Megalong Valley and in camps in the bush near where Catalina Park is now.’[6]
An unidentified grave on Pulpit Hill (photo by John Merriman)
During the debate about the Explorers’ Tree and the ‘graves’ in 1983, local naturalist and historian Isobel Bowden stated in a letter to the Mayor of the City of Blue Mountains that: ‘Sixty-five years ago the site [Pulpit Hill] was regarded as a genuine burial ground where several graves existed. More recently the area has been interfered with and the stones moved and scattered . . .’ As a child, she added, she had been taken up to see the graves.[7] Furthermore, a Mr. Edward Thompson, who wrote to The Blue Mountains Echo from Adelaide, was reported to have ‘visited the Tree in 1903 at the age of 10 and claims at that time there were three graves which belonged to a convict and two children - all of whom died of diphtheria. When [he] returned seven years later with friends, there were several more mounds of stone and the small ones had been lengthened.’[8]

Despite this conflicting evidence of multiple graves, when the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) of New South Wales employed consultants to conduct a Ground Penetrating Radar study in 2000, they determined that ‘there appears to be only one potential grave site in the investigated area’. They qualified this conclusion, however, by saying that if burials were shallow ‘the natural processes of weathering and the acidic nature of the soil’ might have erased all trace.[9]

If there is only one grave at Pulpit Hill, it is now possible to say with certainty who is buried in it.  It will be recalled that in the earliest known reference to a grave in the area, the French surgeon René Lesson referred to his travelling companion M. d’Urville.  This was Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont d’Urville (1790—1842), second in command of the Coquille, on which Lesson arrived in New South Wales in January 1824. He was later a significant Pacific and Antarctic explorer in his own right and also an important naturalist and ethnographer in our region.  Jules Verne, mentioned him in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and he is sometimes called ‘The French Captain Cook’.  Despite this, he is absent from the Australian Dictionary of Biography, just one example of how anglocentric our history still is!  The Mitchell Library has preserved a transcript of d’Urville’s shipboard journal during the voyage of the Coquille.  The original is held by the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris.  However, this account is little more than a navigational summary.  Far more interesting is what survives of d’Urville’s personal journal for this voyage, which Edward Duyker located in a bank vault in the explorer’s birthplace, Condé-sur-Noireau, Normandy, in 2007.   The preservation of the journal is all the more remarkable, because in the three months after the D-Day landings in 1944, the town was bombed 26 times by the Allies and 94% of its buildings were destroyed.

Despite d’Urville’s truly forbidding handwriting, in his journal we can read that he described the view from Pulpit Hill as that of an ‘immense diorama’. And that unlike Lesson–who makes no actual mention of Pulpit Hill and wrote cryptically of ‘Mount Sepulchre’ because of the ‘still fresh grave’ of a young man who died there in 1822–d’Urville, actually recorded, in English, what was written on the tomb.  Thus his journal now provides us with an opportunity to reinstate the long lost inscription: ‘Sacred to the Memory of Edgard [sic] Church who has departed this life, the 20 Juny [sic] 1822, aged 27 years’.[10] He also guessed, correctly, that this young man was ‘an unfortunate convict’[11] who died during road construction.  Edgar Church received a sentence of 7 year’s transportation at the Old Bailey, on 4 December 1816, for grand larceny: stealing, on the 9th of November, one trunk, value 16s., the property of Henry Bott and Wm. Payne [trunk makers in Leadenhall street,  London]’.[12] He was one of 220 convicts transported on the 566-ton Batavia (Capt. William Lamb) which departed Plymouth in October 1817 and arrived at Sydney, via Madeira, on 30 April 1818.[13] The Colonial Secretary’s Papers indicate that he was sent to Parramatta on arrival.[14] There is some discrepancy in his age cited by Dumont d’Urville on the grave inscription and his age given at the Old Bailey in December 1816 when he was said to have been 19 years old.  He was therefore born in either 1795 or 1797. 

The members of road gangs tended to be fitter, yet more trusted convicts, because of the greater opportunities such work offered to abscond and to turn to bushranging.  Despite the initial road constructed under the direction of William Cox, realignment, widening, new cuttings and repairs continued–indeed they still continue. Convict road workers were at risk of accidents from falling rocks and trees.  The accounts of early travellers on the road frequently record the difficulties horses, wagons and carts had on its steep gradients and loose surfaces.  Such conditions also presented numerous possibilities for fatal accidents.  However, Edgar Church’s life was not cut short by such an accident.

We know something of the actual circumstances of Church’s death from two depositions sworn before William Lawson, Justice of the Peace, at Bathurst on 23 June 1822.[15] Charles Connells an illiterate crown prisoner, declared that ‘on or about the 10th [sic] of June last 1822 he came to the road mens Huts on the Mountain Road about 9 o’clock at Night and was in one of the Huts lying down’ when two men from the road party came in from another hut, crying, and stated ‘Edgar Church was dead’.  Two men from Connells’ hut then went to investigate and returned saying that it was true and that ‘they supposed that it was the rum that [Superintendent and overseer of the New Road] Mr [Richard] Lewis had given him and one of his hands being in his mouth which had occasioned his Death’.[16] The other deponent was John Atkins, also illiterate, the driver of the government mountain cart.  He, too, declared that Edgar Church, like all the other men, had been given spirits by Mr Lewis and that ‘an Hour before his death the man appeared quite well but went and laid down in one corner of the hutt with his hands clasped together and laid with his mouth down towards the ground, and one of the men shortly after went to remove him to his Bed and said that he was dead’.  Atkins added, that ‘on examining the man they found him a corpse’.[17]

Superintendent Lewis probably gave his convicts rum as a reward for their work, but given the need to keep them fit for more labour, it seems unlikely that he would have given them an excessive quantity (by the standards of the day) on that winter’s night in the mountains, in 1822.   The rum is unlikely to have been adulterated, since none of the other convicts appears to have been adversely affected.  Of course, Edgar Church could have had another illness exacerbated, with fatal consequences, by alcohol.  This might have included mental health issues associated with poverty, the shame associated with criminal conviction and the ill-effects of an alcohol-based reward system. If Edgar Church drank all his ration in a very short period of time, he might simply have died from alcoholic poisoning which is known to have a severe effect on the respiratory system.  His ability to breath, while unconscious, could also have been hindered by his posture in the corner of the hut and the position of his hands near his face and mouth. 

Edgar Church’s sad death, nearly two centuries ago, highlights a debate in Australia about safe levels of alcohol consumption which is still with us to this day. And now that we know who he was, we should put a name to his nameless grave.  May he rest in peace, but no longer in anonymity.


Authors: Edward Duyker and John Low

Edward Duyker (Hon. Sen. Lecturer, Department of French Studies, University of Sydney), his book on Dumont d'Urville was published by Otago University Press in 2014 with the title "Dumont d'Urville, Explorer & Polymath"  

John Low is the former Local Studies Librarian at Blue Mountains City Library.

Editor: John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian, Blue Mountains Library

Note: this article originally appeared in the journal Doryanthes in 2009.

[1] Lesson, R. P., Journal, in Havard, O. and Havard, W. L. (trans.), ‘Some early French
 visitors to the Blue Mountains and Bathurst’, Royal Australian Historical Society
Journal and Proceedings, 1938, vol. xxiv, part iv, pp. 245–290 [part ii, Lesson’s
journal, pp. 260–90].
[2] From Ward’s notes quoted in Mauldon, Verena, Melbourne Ward’s Gallery of Natural History and Native Art, unpublished thesis, Sydney University,
1989, p. 39.
[3] The Blue Mountain Echo, 4 March 1921.
[4] The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 March 1933.
[5] Undated clipping from The Sydney Morning Herald, probably early 1930s, held in Local Studies Section, Blue Mountains City Library.
[6] The Blue Mountains Courier, 21 April, 1960.
[7] Letter dated 25 June, 1983, copy held in Local Studies Section, Blue Mountains City Library.
[8] The Blue Mountains Echo, 29 June 1983.
[9] Williams, S. ‘Pulpit Hill, Great Western Highway, Katoomba, NSW: Subsurface Investigation Using Ground Penetrating Radar To Identify Possible Grave Locations in a Cemetery on Pulpit Hill’, Egis Consulting Australia Pty Ltd for RTA [Roads and Traffic Authority] Technical Services, December 2000. Report No. CG1219 [copy held in the Local Studies Section, Blue Mountains City Library, Springwood].
[10] Dumont d’Urville, Ms journal de la Coquille 1823–4, Municipalité de Condé-sur-
Noireau, Ms 11, 1 février 1824, f. 130.  Whether d’Urville recorded the inscription in situ or at the end of his day’s travel is unknown.  It is possible he unconsciously recorded the common French spelling ‘Edgard’ and perhaps wrote ‘Juny’ because he could not discern (or remember) clearly whether Church died in June or July and therefore fudged the two months.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Proceedings of the Old Bailey, t18161204-14.
[13] See Australian Joint Copying Project, microfilm roll 88, Class and Piece Number HO11/2, Page Number 388 and Bateson, C., The Convict Ships, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1983, pp. 342–3.
[14] Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 4/3498, p. 151.
[15] ‘Depositions of John Connells and John Atkins respecting the  Death of Edgar Church one of the Mountain Road Party’, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 4/1798, pp. 141–2, State Record Office of New South Wales, microfilm reel 6065.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

J. W. Berghofer and Berghofer Pass, Mount Victoria

JW Berghofer (SHS 185)
During the 19th Century German-Australians constituted the largest non-British immigrant group in the colonies: over 4% in 1861. By comparison the Chinese, as the second-largest, came to 3.28%; the Italians as the third-largest made up only 0.21%, and the total migrant population of 48 other ethnic communities amounted to only 3.25%. Organised large-scale immigration started with the arrival in 1838 of groups of Lutheran farming communities from the eastern provinces of Prussia. Many were experienced vineyard workers and were welcomed in South Australia where they established communities in the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley, a small number even went into the desert to spread the Faith among the Indigenous people. 
A smaller wave in the wake of the failed German revolution of 1848 brought a different group of immigrants, including outspoken democrats and liberals dissatisfied with the lack of political reform in Germany who chose a country promising constitutional democracy and progress towards their ideal of a unified nation state. A third wave of German immigrants was part of the huge number of fortune-hunters who arrived during the gold rush years of the 1850s. When the goldfields were exhausted, many of the diggers and tradesmen of German origin took up farming in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.
Johannes Wilhelm Berghöfer was born in the village of Münchhausen in the province of Kurhessen, Germany in 1840. In 1855 he accompanied his mother Anna, née Althaus, and four siblings, as steerage passengers to New South Wales, there to join his father Wilhelm Christian Berghöfer (1806-1890). In 1853 Wilhelm had left Germany on board the ‘Triten’ sailing from Hamburg ahead of his family to prepare the way. They were seeking a new life and opportunities in Australia where four more children were born. William soon found work as a farm labourer in the Bankstown area where his family joined him.
By 1864 William had saved enough money to buy his own piece of land Road from the merchant, manufacturer and philanthropist Ebenezer Vickery (1827-1906), on Rocky Point near the Sydney suburb of Sans Souci, a place name with a German connection. Sans Souci takes its name from a grand house built on Rocky Point Road on land bought in 1853, by Thomas Holt (1811–1888), a wool merchant and politician, for his German wife. It was named after Sanssouci in Potsdam, Germany, the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. 
In the 1850s English and Irish migrants had settled along the Rocky Point Road in Sydney’s south where the suburbs of Kogarah and Sans Souci, where they found fertile land and an access track to the City markets. German settlers also found land there, helping to turn the area into a great vegetable supplier for the expanding suburbs. Although coming from a staunch Lutheran background in Germany, the Berghofers joined the Anglican Church and became active in community affairs, attending the first Anglican service in the district in 1867.
William Berghofer became a successful and dedicated market gardener. His holdings occupied over 4 acres, he grew rhubarb, peas, potatoes and beans and his garden was typical of many others in the area, some of them worked by his devout and industrious German countrymen. He was a foundation member of the St Paul's Anglican Church at Kogarah and chairman of the committee that planned and established the church building in 1868-69. There were 45 children attending school in the church building, until the first separate school was established in 1876. He was also a prominent member of the Rocky Point Road Trust that managed repairs and construction contracts. William died on 31st May 1890 and was buried at St Paul's, Kogarah, the church he had helped to establish 21 years earlier.
William’s son Johannes Wilhelm anglicized his name to John William when he arrived in Australia and the family adopted the name Berghofer without the accent. The strong sixteen year old youth initially worked as a farm hand for a local landowner followed by a position as overseer of roadworks. In 1867 he married Katherine Spring (1850-1945) a girl from the Rhineland whose family farmed a small holding in nearby Rockdale. Following his marriage, John purchased land from his father and began farming on his own account, later acquiring more land from Ebenezer Vickery. 
John and Katherine Berghofer 1901 (courtesy Blue Mountains Historical Society)
 By 1874 John, now in his mid-thirties, had a growing family of four boys and a girl. When one of his brothers contracted a serious illness, he realised there was no local burial ground, so he campaigned for land to establish Kogarah Cemetery. In the same year he formed a committee for the establishment of a Public School.
Around 1870 John Berghofer decided to try his luck on the ‘diggings’ and travelled on foot with three companions to the Hill End and Gulgong goldfields. By then the easily accessible alluvial gold had be largely worked out and mining companies were formed to get at the deeper deposits. The group had little success and Berghofer found work as a carpenter and engineer while teaching Sunday school to the miners’ children. Returning after a few months, he resumed farming on the cabbage patch at Kogarah, but it was through this adventure that he first travelled over the Blue Mountains.
In 1876 while the Kogarah School was still being built, John Berghofer took up a position of considerable responsibility in the Kanimbla Valley, managing ‘Kanimbla’ station for his old benefactor Ebenezer Vickery. Vickery gave Berghofer full authority to deal with all matters at Kanimbla, which was a massive landholding by today’s standards, encompassing nearly the whole of the parish of Kanimbla including about 10,000 acres of freehold land and more under lease-hold.
Berghofer set to work with a will, first building his own homestead to accommodate his growing family, he then built a brick residence for Vickery as a summer resort. In 1878 he became a naturalized Australian citizen. Two daughters were born during this period which may have encouraged him to build a new schoolhouse for his own children and the dozen families of the Kanimbla Valley. Originally a half time school when founded in 1869, by 1882 Kanimbla School had reached the required minimum of 25 pupils to move from a half-time to a full-time public school later known as Duddawarra School.
Mount Victoria Inn 1887, named Rosenthal by Berghofer (PF 996)
The diligent and hardworking Berghofer prospered and in 1892 purchased a property in Little Hartley at the foot of Victoria pass, known as ‘The Foot of the Hill’. On the land stood an old semi-derelict coaching inn, the ‘Mount Victoria Inn’, built in 1839 by convict labour, for William Cummings of Bathurst and first licensed as the Crown and Horses Inn.  This he renovated and renamed 'Rosenthal' (Valley of the Roses) in memory of the old Berghofer homestead in Hessia, making it his family home. Around 1890 he purchased land in Montgomery Street, Mount Victoria and financed constructed of two semi-detached cottages for lease. The cottages, known as Larsen’s Cottages, were built by Neils (Peter) Larsen, father of poet Henry Lawson and ex-husband of feminist Louisa Lawson. It is said that the young Henry assisted his father with the house painting and may have briefly attended a local private school run by another German immigrant, Henry Rienits. 
By this time Berghofer had become a familiar figure in the settlement of Mount Victoria, where a small German expatriate community developed. Always well-dressed in a dark suit, bow tie and Homburg hat, he wore a top hat for special occasions and to church on Sundays. The Montgomery Street venture proved successful and he followed it with a general store with living accommodation on the corner of Selsdon Street, which was leased to store-keepers from 1912 to 1923. The accompanying residence known as Berghofer’s House was leased to tenants for much of the sixty years that Berghofer and later his widow owned it.
Berghofer’s primary residence after 1892 was 'Rosenthal', except for the period 1898 to 1903 when he returned to Kanimbla homestead as Vickery’s manager, by which time his family had grown to five sons and six daughters. He and his compatriots were also active in the affairs of the town: Charles Prott was the Mount Victoria postmaster and a crack rifle shot, winning the Queen’s Cup, his nickname was ‘Bismarck’, and Albert Kunz opened ‘The Ladies College’ in 1891. Henry Guenther Rienits was headmaster and founder of ‘The School’ a private boarding school for young gentlemen of good family, which opened in 1885. All were active members of the Mount Victoria Progress Association, Mount York Reserve Trust, Rifle Club, Town Band and Masonic Lodge. 
The Macquarie Obelisk 1980s (PF 182-1)
In 1900 Berghofer campaigned for the building of the Macquarie Obelisk at Mount York and developed a strong interest in Australian history. Later he accompanied his friend Frank Walker, president of the Royal Australian Historical Society, to the summit of Mount Blaxland, to confirm the track of the explorers who had opened the way for European expansion over the Blue Mountains in 1813. 
Berghofer in cart pointing to Mount Blaxland, 1913 (SHS 185)
In 1907 when the Shire of Blaxland was proclaimed, encompassing the area from Hartley to Lithgow, Berghofer was elected its first President and continued as an active member of the Shire council until 1916. The poor German peasant boy who had arrived in Sydney nearly 50 years before had come a long way.
Following a meeting in the Sydney Town Hall in October 1912 the State Governor, Lord Chelmsford, moved the first motion, “That arrangements be made to celebrate the centenary of the gallant efforts of Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson in crossing the then impenetrable and unassailable Blue Mountains in May, 1813, and thus assisting to develop the present magnificent pastoral and farming lands.” Mr. J. W. Berghofer seconded the motion, which was carried.
Crossing Centenary celebrations at Mount York 1913 (LS images)
The Blue Mountains Centenary Committee organising committee was established with Mr. Frank Walker, president of the Royal Australian Historical Society as presidential chair and Berghofer among the vice presidents, with Henry Rienits as organising secretary. The Celebrations focused on Mount York and began with a vice-regal banquet in Mount Victoria on 28 May 1913, at which Berghofer was hailed as ‘the father of the celebration movement’ and recognised as the force behind the memorial pavilion at Mount York, unveiled later that day. Such was the crowning day in John William Berghofer’s public career, he was now 73 years old and it had been a full and eventful life with a distinguished career in community service. Nobody could have doubted his patriotic spirit, although at times he may have been seen as somewhat hardheaded and persistent. But clouds were gathering on the horizon.
Mount York Monument (PF 193-1)
By 1914 over 100,000 Germans were living in Australia, comprising around 2% of the population of five million. They were a well-established and generally well-liked community. However with the rising tension between the British and German Empires this began to change and German-Australian communities throughout the country found themselves the subject of suspicion and animosity. When war broke out in August 1914 that changed to outright hostility. Australia was rife with war fever and ordinary citizens were keen for ways to get involved, to ‘do their bit’. The sinking of the German light Cruiser SMS Emden by the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney in the Cocos Islands was one of Australia’s first actions of the war and excited the nation. The event created hysteria about possible German naval attack, immediately establishing cultural and national divisions within the community.
Within a week of the declaration of war, German and Austro-Hungarian residents of Australia were forced to register with the police. A fear of possible German-Australian 'conflicted loyalties' led to several regulations under the War Precautions Act 1914, such as forbidding German-Australians to leave Australia or send money overseas. These immigrants, naturalised subjects and Australian-born people rapidly moved in the Australian consciousness from 'our Germans' to 'enemy aliens'.
As the war progressed and propaganda about the 'Hun' German continued, the pressures on German-Australians increased. Many lost their jobs or found their communities no longer safe. Internment without charge or trial was implemented around Australia. By 1918 nearly 7 000 men, women and children were interned by the Australian Government. Some were interned voluntarily after they were no longer able to support their families; others were German settlers deported from former German colonies in the Pacific; others still were working class men who had been born in Australia to a German father or grandfather. The aim of internment was to protect Australians and the Australian war effort from 'disaffected and disloyal' 'enemy aliens'.
In NSW the principal place of internment was Holsworthy Military Camp where between 5000 and 6000 men were detained. Women and children of German and Austrian descent, detained by the British in Asia, were interned at Bourke and later Molonglo near Canberra. Former gaols were also used. Men were interned at Berrima Gaol (constructed in the 1840s) and Trial Bay Gaol (constructed 1886). Others were carefully watched by the police and neighbours. Germans lost their jobs or had their business destroyed. Some voluntarily went into camps so their wives and children could survive on a government allowance. At the end of the War, 6150 internees from NSW were deported back to Germany on various ships, in a Government-backed form of ethnic cleansing.
It was not only people who suffered. Dachshunds were routinely kicked or stoned to death in the streets of England and similarly treated in Australia. Owners of Dachshunds that dared venture out into public risked being assaulted and labeled as German sympathizers, or having their pet ripped from their arms to be kicked and stomped to death in front of them. Under such duress, the Dachshund population of the Allied world crashed during the Great War. In Chicago a frightened breeder; after being harassed and tormented by overzealous patriots and self-proclaimed spy catchers, is said to have gone home and shot every Dachshund in his kennel rather than face further reprisal. In 1913, 217 Dachshunds were registered in Britain; in 1919, none. In the United States the poor Dachshund went from one of the ten most popular breeds in 1913 to being represented by 12 survivors in 1919.
The Great War had provided a welcome opportunity to realise one of Prime Minister Billy Hughes’ long-held aims, namely “the eradication of German influences from the trade of all parts of the Empire”. This was to be achieved by diverting “trade from enemy to Empire”, as Hughes put it.
In 1916 the NSW Labor Government enacted the Naturalized Subjects Franchise Act which stipulated that ‘any naturalized British subject of enemy origin shall be incapable of sitting or voting in the Legislative Assembly, the Municipality of Sydney and any Council or Shire’. The act also deprived such naturalized subjects of the right to vote, to officiate as a JP and from holding a publican’s licence. It directly targeted two men, one was John Berghofer. In the NSW parliament it was opposed by Hon. JP Fitzgerald MLA who described it as ‘an act of cruelty directed at Councilor Berghofer, a faithful and loyal citizen’, and that ‘a considerable amount of cruelty would here be perpetuated in the case of Councillor Berghofer’, ‘I refuse to be a party to persecute a few helpless old men’.
The other helpless old man also caught up in the anti-German hysteria was Charles Lindeman, originally ‘Lindermann’, (1859-1931) who was removed from his position on Katoomba Council by the same Act. He was forced to sell his guesthouse and dairy in Leura and spent the last fifteen years of his life in obscurity. Thanks to local historian Jim Smith, Lindeman's name has been rescued by the rediscovery and restoration of the historic walking track that he surveyed and built: Lindeman Pass at Wentworth Falls. But that is another story.
Blue Mountains Identities 1890 (PF 147).
Charles Prott is back row end left, Henry Rienits is back row end right.
Henry Rienits closed his boys’ school which never reopened, it was offered to the government as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers in 1915 and in 1920 it was being used for meetings of the Mount Victoria Progress Association. But not wishing to be outdone, he also had a pass named after him, probably before the War. Rienits Pass appears in a 1919 tourist map of Mount Victoria and connects Pulpit rock at the southern end of Kanimbla Valley Road with Ross Cave via the top of the Mount Victoria escarpment. Rienits and his wife Kate lived at ‘The Lindens’ in Montgomery Street, the linden tree being of great significance in Germanic mythology, and was a keen amateur geologist. He donated minerals, rocks and fossils to the NSW Dept. of Mines and taught geology to his pupils at The School. In 1903 he prospected for coal in Victoria Creek, driving a tunnel into the hillside which was later exploited by his son Oswald.
While Charles William Prott had been naturalised in Sydney on 18 August 1903, making him a British subject, it would appear that he never lost his German accent. To save himself some trouble, Prott told anyone who asked that he was from Belgium. Rather than evoking the usual anti-German sentiment, he was seen as some sort of hero. Things began to unravel when the Belgian Consul in Sydney heard of these claims through people wanting to ascertain their accuracy. The Department of External Affairs was contacted in February 1916 seeking clarification of his status. The truth came out although it is not clear as to the actual impact on Protts life. There is no indication that the Belgian Consul actually pursued the subject any further.
Twenty two ratepayers petitioned Cr. Berghofer to resign his seat in the Blaxland Shire Council but he resisted. In reply he stated that he was naturalized in 1878, and his home and family were here. He held a number of public positions and defied any man to say he had spoken or acted disloyally. He had lived in Australia for practically a lifetime and reared a large family, many of whom were married to Australians. He had worked hard, cleared the bush, and used his strength and ability for the good of the country. Until the Government said he was not fit to hold the position, he would remain in it.
But it was not to be, the Naturalized Subjects Franchise Act finally forced John Berghofer's resignation from the Blaxland Shire Council, and public pressure even made him anglicize the name of his home to ‘Rosedale’. Ironically Berghofer's youngest son Lewis George Berghofer, was fighting with the AIF in France at the same time - although under the assumed name of George Bridge. Two nephews who also bore the Berghofer name had enlisted under assumed names. In fact some 18,000 German-Australian soldiers fought with the Australian Imperial Force against their ancestral homeland. Local sentiment however was not entirely against Berghofer as the Daily Telegraph reported:
DISFRANCHISEMENT. . CASE OF CR. BERGHOFER. LITHGOW, Wednesday. — As the result of the passing of the Aliens Disfranchisement Bill, Mr. J. W. Berghofer, Little Hartley, and representative of C Riding in the Blaxland Shire, has been disfranchised. Mr. Berghofer, who has had a long and honorable career as a Councillor, has been notified to this effect by the shire clerk. At Friday's meeting, the Council will be asked to fix the date for the election of a successor. Mr. Berghofer would have attended the meeting, but he has fractured his ankle as the result of which he will be confined to his house for some time. Sympathy will he extended to the veteran colonist, who has been in Australia for 60 years. He has proved himself a capable citizen— one who has done more towards the development of the country than most men.
Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW: 1883 - 1930), Thursday 4 May 1916, page 4

In the years following the Great War, John Berghofer withdrew from public life, living quietly at his home in Little Hartley which he again referred to as ‘Rosenthal’. Until, on a cool, blustery day in April 1927 in the drizzling rain, the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, visited the memorial compound at Mount York on their return from a trip to Jenolan Caves. Both John Berghofer and Henry Reinits were presented to the royal visitors. The occasion was organised by Henry’s daughter Annie, referred to as Miss Rienits in a contemporary account. Of his three daughters she was the only one unmarried in 1927 and in fact never married.

As Berghofer shook hands with British royalty, did the old man appreciate the deep irony of this brief meeting with the Duke of York? It was well known that the future king had descended from German nobility: he was the great-grandson of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and his great-grandmother was Queen Victoria, daughter of the Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
The Duke and Duchess of York at Mount York 1927 (PF 2074-1)
The Duchess of York’s words were recorded in a contemporary newspaper with a variation of his name which provides a clue that Berghofer retained the original German pronunciation and an extra year was added to his age at the time:

‘A Wonderful Road’
When John William Berghoefer, 88 year old pioneer and ‘Father of Mount Victoria,’ was introduced to the Duchess of York, the octogenarian had a heart storm. Her words as he took her hand were, ‘Oh Mr. Berghofer, what a wonderful road you have made over these rugged mountains!’

Was the royal recognition enough to wash away the years of persecution? Did he think back on his long life of service to his adopted country and, looking down at his calloused hands, whisper to himself “Ich habe sehr gearbeitet schwer” (I have worked so hard) and feel some final vindication?

John Berghofer died some two months later, aged 87 and was buried in the family plot in Mount Victoria cemetery.​ His wife Katherine survived him by 18 years, dying in 1945 at the age of 95 and is buried next to her husband. Today, his legacy is visible in the explorers’ obelisk and centenary monument at Mount York, his home ‘Rosedale’, the store in Selsdon Street and the rental cottages that he built. Let us now turn to the other monument that bears his name.
Berghofer Pass from the walking tack (photo: John Merriman)
Berghofer Pass
In the early years the 20th Century motor cars were having a tough time climbing the steep Victoria Pass, in some cases requiring horses to assist them. Hotels and guest houses east of Mount Victoria, in Blackheath, Katoomba and Leura, as well as the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath, however, saw the opportunity afforded by the new faster and more comfortable means of transport and began offering one day motor coach tours to Jenolan Caves.

Surveyor Thomas Mitchell had designed and built Victoria Pass in 1842, using convict labour, for horse, foot and coach traffic. This route replaced several early attempts to find a descent of the western escarpment from Mount York, including William Cox’s original 1815 road. Following the arrival of the railway to Mt Victoria in 1868, the infant Blue Mountains tourism industry in the upper Mountains began to develop itineraries taking in scenic views, waterfalls, and lookouts. With the opening of a direct road to Jenolan Caves in 1882, the Mount Victoria hotels had looked to gain a share of the lucrative tourist market by offering daily coach trips to the ‘far-famed Fish River caves’ as Jenolan was then known. The coach trip however, could be eventful as a newspaper remarked.

The Victoria, or Mitchell Pass has a grade of 1 in 8 and was well known to the old-time travellers, in the days when the famous coaching firm of Cobb and Co. ruled supreme. The drivers of those coaches when they came to this hill, then known as 'One Tree Hill' from an enormous gum tree that graced the pinnacle, used to say, with gentle pleasantry, "Will the gentlemen passengers please walk up this little pinch?" Then they drove off at a good pace for a mile and half, allowing the tired passengers a chance to 'stretch their legs,' as they humorously phrased it, when in reality it was a long, steep walk, especially on a hot day. Wiping the large beads of perspiration from their brows with big coloured handkerchiefs, and wringing them out, the passengers would storm sarcastic blessings on the driver until they again met the coach. At Perry's Hotel, the present site of the Mount Victoria Post Office, all would alight, with parched throats, and the unanimous cry of 'Ave a drink.'
Evening News, Sydney, Saturday 30 December 1911

So as the horse gave way to the motor car in the early 20th Century, the steep road remained just as much a problem for the early vehicles.
Tour car departing Mount Victoria for Jenolan Caves 1926 (LS images)
John Berghofer had business interests in the town and was not a man to sit idly by when a problem demanded a solution. He rose to the occasion and in 1906 rediscovered a ground survey of an alternate route made 20 years earlier. This was an easier grade from skirted Victoria Pass crossing Mount York road and passing below Mitchell’s famous stone causeway with its massive convict built abutments, to emerge near the foot of the descent. His search was recorded in a contemporary account.

Five years ago Mr. Berghofer, a gentleman of considerable influence in Blue Mountains circles, and then president of the Blaxland Shire Council, gave the matter his serious attention. Having heard of the survey made by Mr. Gee, after a very strenuous search, crawling on hands and knees around the sheer face of the cliff, he at last located the surveyor's marks and urged upon the Government the great advantage of making the road along this new path, especially so with the enormous increase of traffic that was going along the Bathurst Road. He was successful in inducing Mr. Lee, the then Minister for Works, to favourably consider the matter and it is entirely due to Mr. Berghofer's pioneering efforts that travellers will have this new road, deservedly named Berghofer Pass. (ibid.)
Berghofer Pass under construction (courtesy Blue Mountains Historical Society)
Construction commenced in 1907 and continued for five years with several interruptions due to finding constraints. When the new pass opening in February 1912 it became immediately popular with regular use by traffic until the early 1920s, when grade improvements to Victoria Pass and the advent of more powerful motor cars made it redundant. Although of a gentler grade, it had sharp curves that followed the contours, and the numerous embankments and culverts required constant maintenance, it was officially closed to traffic in 1949. Today it is signposted and used as a walking track. The original road extended much further that the present one and included what is now known as Berghofer Drive, as well as part of St George Parade and also a small section of Mount York Road. 
One of the fine stone culverts (photo: John Merriman)
In addition to the many fine stonework walls and culverts formed during construction of the pass, a water trough for horses and travelling stock was carved into the sandstone near the halfway mark. The horse trough is supplemented with a small, lower receptacle at the right height for dogs. Both are filled by natural seepage from the rock and remain a source of drinking water for native birds, bush animals, and thirsty walkers.
The Berghofer inscription showing the deeper lettering
after restoration (photo: John Merriman)
A direct physical reminder of the opprobrium to which Berghofer was subjected lies along the bottom section of the old road where an inscription: ‘Berghofer Pass 1909 S. 75 M. B. 49 M’ i.e. Sydney 75 miles, Bathurst 49 miles, is proudly inscribed high on the rock wall just below the fine stone arched culvert which crosses a small rainforest creek. Keen eyed observers will note that Berghofer's name appears deeper than the other lettering. In 1915 when the Coo-ee March from Gilgandra to Sydney was ascending the Pass, some eager recruits, incensed by the sight of a German name, smashed it from the cliff face before passing on to Sydney and their uncertain fate in the Hellfire of the Western Front, many never to return. It is likely that a more systematic removal was carried out at a later date by the Shire Council.
The name Berghofer Pass was also changed to Victoria Pass by resolution of Blue Mountains Shire Council, with the present Victoria Pass reverting to its earlier name of Mitchell’s Pass. This has led to some confusion as Blaxland Shire Council apparently never assented to any such change.
The 2013 Coo-ee March re-enactment followed the same route but with less concern for the name above their heads. The inscription was restored shortly before Berghofer’s death by Blue Mountains Shire Council, a gesture which gave him ‘intense satisfaction’. Bergman asserts that it was restored by his old friend Henry Dalziell in 1954, this may refer to renewal of part or whole of the inscription. In 1990 a memorial brass plaque was erected on the Pass by proud John Berghofer descendants, some of whom travelled from Germany for the occasion.
The horse trough with smaller dog bowl (photo: John Merriman)
Berghofer Pass remains an easy, graded walking track open to the public, shady and cool in summer with the tinkle of dripping water over moss-covered stone and the sounds of echoing birdsong. At any time of year it has magnificent views over the Hartley Valley, and the quiet visitor may even hear the faint tramp of boots as the original Coo-ee recruits march into history, perhaps softly singing ‘Tipperary’. Its usefulness as a road is now long past but it remains a monument to its builder, a man of singular vision and boundless energy. A man whose dress and manners marked his as subtly different  from those around him, but whose misfortune was that his native tongue marked him as an enemy, and resulted in shameful treatment by his adopted land.

·       Bergman, George. (1954). John William Berghofer, the life of a Blue Mountains pioneer. Lithgow & District Historical Society.
·       Fox, Brian. (2006). Blue Mountains Geographical Dictionary. Bathurst, the author.
·       Fox, Brian. (2019). Upper Blue Mountains Bush Walking Club Greater Blue Mountains National Park – Blue Mountains National Park- Berghofer Pass -Monday 19th August 2019 -Track Notes
·       Innes, Paul. (2005). Johannes (John) Berghofer and Berghofer’s Pass.
·       Jack, Ian. (2000). Blue Mountains Heritage Inventory.
·       Low, John. (1998). The Mount Victoria Inn and John William Berghofer.  Pictorial Memories Blue Mountains. Kingsclear Press.
·       Low, John. (2019). Travelling to Wonderland: the emergence of coach services to Jenolan Caves in the pre-motor era. Blue Mountains History Journal, issue 9.
·       Morrison, Don. (1994). Characters of the Post 1813, History of Hartley Valley.
·       Rickwood, Peter C and Joan E Steele. (2019). Henri Rienits, amateur geologist and principal of The School at Mount Victoria, 2019. Blue Mountains History Journal, issue 9.
·       Smith, Jim. (1990). The Blue Mountains mystery track: Lindeman Pass. Winmalee, Three Sisters Productions,
·       Smith, Jim. (1983). Bushwalkabout: One stockman and his dog. Blue Mountains Gazette.

John Merriman 2020.

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