The area around the Milendella Creek was first settled by German migrants. They leased their land, cleared it and established their homes and farms. Soon they bought the land to give them security.
Although they worked hard and were a close-knit community, it took a long time before any kind of service became available. Meanwhile their children walked to school every day at nearby Palmer and on Sundays the whole family made their way to one of the two Lutheran Churches at Palmer.
These early settlers were not afraid of hard work. They made long days developing their properties and providing as much and as many of their needs themselves as possible. Any surplus production was sold and their women often walked into Palmer with cans of cream to Oppatt’s Depot.
Land was made available for a water reserve in 1881 and Johann Gottlieb Loechel, the local butcher, secured the tender in February 1882 to sink and timber a new well. Ten years later it was deepened by the District Council. Johann remained the butcher until replaced by his son Otto. When Otto died in 1930 Louis Krause took over and expanded the business by supplying his services to both Palmer and Mannum residents.
In 1891 the settlers decided to build their own church at Milendella but with hard times due to both drought and economic conditions this was not completed until two years later when the Zion Lutheran Church was dedicated on 19 December 1893. Its founders were members of the Loechel, Bormann, Zadow and Rochow families.
Zion Lutheran Church
A post office was established and a general store was opened by H and W Zadow, who employed their brother in law, Alf Schubert, to run it. When it finally closed Alf and his family moved to Cambrai. A new store was later opened by L and M Gregory.
Milendella remained a typical German settlement for a long time. It had close connections with many of the other small towns in the Adelaide Hills and later the Murray Mallee. During school holidays German families often sent their children by train, which was referred to as the Berlin Express, to Milendella for reunions with their relatives.
The Milendella School had been opened at the start of the school year in 1883. Most of the first students had transferred from the Palmer School run by Mr Giersche. The first name entered on the Milendella Register on 5 February 1883 was that of Carl Friedrich Gustav Fischer, born on 13 January 1876, the son of Friedrich Fischer, farmer. The second entry was Carl’s brother, Carl Richard Alfred, born on 6 February 1877.
Among others enrolled that day were Reinhold Gustav and his brother Alfred August sons of Gotlieb Rochow. Johann Zadow enrolled his three sons William, Heinrich and Bernhardt while August and Carl Wegener, both farmers also enrolled their sons as did Wilhelm Bormann. Gotlieb Loechel recorded the names of two daughters and a son and Gustav Wegener a son and a daughter.
The total number on the roll for the first day was 21 students. Others followed at a later stage making a total of 34 for 1883. Enrolments for 1884 showed that several farmers had moved to Milendella from other areas as their children had previously attended school at Summerfeldt, Lobethal and Rhine Villa. Johann Friedrich Schulz was appointed Monitor (paid) at the school on 9 December 1892.
The last student to be enrolled at the school on 7 February 1966 was Johan Scholtens, born 30 January 1958. He had been attending the school before when his father, Aike Scholtens, was Postmaster at Cambrai. When the school finally closed its doors in 1967 some 500 students had received part or all of their education at the Milendella School.
In September 1910 the school held its annual picnic and although the weather was 'boisterous' many people from far and wide attended. During the afternoon races and other sports were organised and in the evening a wedding took place at the Lutheran Church. The happy couple were Mr Oertel and Miss Rochow. The Rev. H. Harms officiated.
During these years many of the same names keep turning up showing that many of the sons remained in the area where they married and in turn had their children attending the local school.
Milendella School August 1933.
In 1910 five farmers at Milendella went by the name Bormann, three had the surname Loechel, three others were Schulte, five were Wegener and two were called Zadow. The postmaster at that time was Herman Lindner. Three years later Milendella had a population of 116 and Lindner was still the postmaster and at the public school M. Elwood was the teacher. Now there were seven Bormanns listed as farmers. Among the other farmers listed were five Wegeners, Gustav and Hermann Fromm, Emil Rosenzweig, Friedrich Horstmann, Lewis Jackson, J. Maxwell, H. Rathjen, Alf Schulte, E.R. Zadow and Mrs Susanna Zadow.
This concentration of so many German families and the ill feeling towards them during WW1 resulted in the Federal Army Intelligence to plant someone on the Palmer School staff to spy on Milendella citizens. Regardless of all this, and the changing of German geographical names by the South Australian government, farmers mostly tried to ignore it and instead concentrated on their farms.
In later years this paid off when they won regularly prizes in agricultural and horticultural shows. In 1935 the Bank of Adelaide displayed a wheat sample some 75 cm in length from O.E. Rosenzweig’s farm. Many other prizes were won at the yearly Palmer shows as well.
The Milendella Cemetery was opened in 1891.