First settled by pastoralists, the area, then known as Sandalwood after George Teasdale’s station, was broken up by the government in the 1870s to provide more farming land and closer settlement. In 1876 a public cemetery was proclaimed but was used only for a very short time as most burials took place at the St Pauls Church cemetery after 1881. There are no headstones or records of who was buried there.
Two years later a government dam was constructed on section 191. Teasdale took up land close to the 40 metre deep government well on section 178 in the Hundred of Anna. Within a short time farmers wanted a whim erected over the well and in 1879 the tender from J Dicker for £55 was accepted.
Among some of the early farmers to call Sandleton home were the Semmler family. Their daughter Augusta Friedericke Semmler married 20 year old Johann Christian Heinrich Paschke on 11 October 1883. They were to have five sons and two daughters. JC Edward Bartsch, a labourer from Moculta arrived in 1880 and JFE Gerlach and his wife J Mathilda arrived in 1881.
Teasdale had named his place Sandalwood station, hence the early name of Sandalwood. It should not be mistaken for the Sandalwood halfway between Karoonda and Alawoona, or the school in the Hundred of Oladdie, opened by Thomas C Kildea in 1887, which had the same name.
Although looking very attractive to newly arriving farmers, the soil, vegetation and climate would prove major challenges for them. The soil of the gently undulating alluvial plains was mainly well-drained calcareous loam which would not remain wet for more than a day. Vegetation consisted of mainly Mallee scrub and rain was often absent for extended periods, if there was any at all.
As many of the new farmers were the sons of early German Lutheran migrants looking for their own property the Congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod was formed by Pastor GA Heidenrich of Bethany in September 1880. A church and a two-roomed school were built at a cost of £114.3 and dedicated on 16 October 1881. Trustees for the church and section 185c on which it was built were Daniel H Lemke, Ludwig Semmler, Wilhelm Sperling, Gustav Obst and Wilhelm Ullrich.
The school was conducted from January 1882, with Richard Bergmann as first teacher followed by Daniel Lemke. Bergmann took over from 1884 until 1889. The school closed in 1896 but the church remained open until 1955 after which services were conducted in private homes until 1969.
Not all farmers were German; there was also a small group who originally had come from Ireland and England. Among these were James Byrne, Edward Cowland, Walter Dicker, David and John Lambert and Joseph W Vigar and his wife Emily Teasdale. Vigar would later be postmaster, publican and pound keeper.
In the early years there were many deaths at Sandleton and the cemetery had already been used several times. Being a rural settlement this often meant a long walk for families from properties as far away as several kilometres. On 30 January 1883 Ludwig Semmler, born 7 September 1837, died. That same year on 15 October Horace Albert, only child of BG and LJ Brock had died. Johann Gottlieb Pfeiffer, born 27 August 1819, died on 9 February 1885. Little Anna Semmler passed away on 26 May 1885, not even four years old. Emma Elizabeth Nitschke, nee Klinger died on 8 June 1885. She was nearly 24 years old. Anna Elizabeth Semmler died on 3 March 1887 at the still young age of 43.
The Sandleton post office opened on 1 September 1881 in Daniel Lemke’s house but within a year residents felt the need for three mail deliveries a week instead of two. They petitioned the government and were successful in April 1883 when DH Lemke became the Mail Contractor for the next three years for a total payment of £135. His daughter Berthe had the contract between 1889 and 1892.
After some early struggles through very dry periods and less than average crops some farmers went looking to increase their holdings or buy land elsewhere. On 1 September 1883 the Observer carried this item; FOR SALE, in the HUNDRED of ANNA, Two Valuable SECTIONS, Nos. 186 and 187, containing 640 Acres, whereof 40 Acres are cultivated. Special attention must be drawn to a Well on this land, with an unlimited supply of good Water; also to a large Dam, so that besides own wants there is still an ample supply for neighbours, even during the driest seasons.
There was still more. A good substantial DWELLING-HOUSE, with Cellar, Stables, and all necessary Outhouses, is erected on the property, and the entire block is subdivided into six parts, well fenced on the two outer sides with sheep proof fencing. Possession may be taken on the 1st of February, 1884. Terms easy. Enquire by 1st October at F. Lemke's, living on the property; P.O., Sandleton; or at W. Lemke's, PO, Moculta.
On 6 December 1883 William Nickolai, farmer of Sandleton, selected more than 500 acres at £1 per acre in the Hundred of Bagot. A few weeks later JF Lemke was selling out. During the mid-1880s several selections in and around Sandleton were surrendered. In September 1885 it was reported at the Council meeting that the Sandleton dam had been cleaned. During the winter of 1886 some good rains fell making the dam level looking good. It is easy to understand that the farmers were very annoyed when the council wanted to sell the reservoir in October. No rainfall was reported for that month and the hot dry winds did a lot of damage to the wheat crop.
During January 1891 DH Lemke harvested some 700 acres averaging 20 bushels. It was good but only happened occasionally. On average there was a reasonable crop only once in every five years. There was no rain in October 1895 when it was badly needed. Crops were dying rapidly and once again no chance of a crop for this season. When most of the crop had died there was a heavy storm blowing down haystacks and causing even more damage. The following year was the same story, ‘hot, dry winds; wheat crops greatly damaged’.
As with any other religion, there were different believes and interpretations of the teachings of the Lutheran Church. When the Lutheran Synod was held at Hahndorf in 1895, Pastors Hoefner and Hossfeld were expelled from the ELSA. The majority of the St Paul congregation supported Hoefner and broke away to form the Pilgrim congregation. This involved establishing their own church, school and cemetery on land donated by Gottlieb Semmler. Between 1895 and 1973 there have been 58 known burials in this cemetery, including 25 children.
Seven months after his death, DH Lemke’s property was auctioned by C von Bertouch on 11 February 1898. It included section 189 of 383 acres, which had been cleared by grubbing and contained two dams and a two-roomed cottage, sections 167 and 172 of 484 acres and section 274 of 323 acres. Section 185 of 441 acres came with a six-roomed stone house, a large underground tank and stable for 12 horses. The new owners would become neighbours of the Gerlach family who lived on section 186.
There were also numerous implements, which included, ‘10 Useful Farm Horses and Harness, 3 Reapers (one new), Winnower, New English Waggon, 2 German Waggons and Buggy, Spring Cart and Harness, 2 3-Furrow Stump-Jump Ploughs, 1 Stump jumping Scarifier, 2 Scarifiers, 3 Sets Harrows, Hay Rake, Roller, Sowing Machine, 6 Iron Tanks, Anvil and Blacksmith's Tools, Weighing Machine, Valuable Grubbing Machine, 60 Sheets Galvanized Iron, Wheelbarrow, Saddle and Bridle, and lots of Sundries. ALSO AMERICAN ORGAN. Terms: Cash for Farm Stock and Implements. For Land, one-third cash deposit and balance in one month without Interest, except under special arrangements’.
In October 1899 the Kapunda newspaper reported that AH Semmler, while deepening a well on his property, had met with an accident. It was caused by a bucket being drawn up, ‘caught against the side, and dislodged a stone, which fell upon Mr. Semmler and inflicted a terrible wound on his forehead. He called out for the rope, which was let down as speedily as possible and he was brought to the surface, when it was seen that his forehead was completely smashed in, a portion of the brain showing. Those present attended to his injuries with as little delay as possible. Mr. Pfeiffer, a neighbour, drove the sufferer to the Willows Hospital at Light's Pass. After an examination, Mr. Schulz advised the patient's removal to the Kapunda Hospital. Every care and attention was bestowed by Dr Glynn, but Mr. Semmler gradually sank, and eventually died. The deceased leaves a widow. Mr. Semmler was much esteemed’.
The start of the new century only brought more heartache and trouble. Sixteen year old Annie Jurecky, eldest daughter of W Jurecky, was kicked by a horse and died on 24 April 1901. The bad seasons had been replaced by a severe drought which would last for a few years. On 21 January 1902 farmers held a meeting at the Annadale Hotel to press the government for seed wheat after crops had failed once again. Many of them were still in depth from past years. Feed was so scarce that some had to sell their poultry as they had no money to buy feed.
Total rainfall at Sandleton in 1902 had only been 5.62 inches with an average of 9.08 inches for the last 15 years. This time the drought was widespread. Belton in the north only had 3.56 inches and Farina, even further north, recorded a meagre 1.84 inches. Several places recorded their lowest rainfall for that year. In August 1903 they had a little rainfall but now they had troubles with the ever increasing number of rabbits. To increase the soil fertility farmers resorted to stubble burning. But this too had deadly consequences as the six year old daughter of W Kruger got caught in it and burnt to death.
Regardless of the many setbacks most people held on and tried to make the best of it. In 1895 the Pilgrim Lutheran church and school had been opened and in 1909 Sandleton even got a government school which opened in August with 15 students enrolled. It stayed open until 1941 but had closed a few times during those years as the Education Department required at least 13 students on the roll.
The first teacher was MR Meischel, born 23 January 1889. She was replaced by Mary E Burge followed by Robert A Greenwood and Sylvia G Messenger. The last teacher was Charlie J Cower. The church remained in use until 1960. Among the farmers listed in 1901 were August Baude, Gottlieb Gerlach, Wilhelm Jurecky, Friedrich Kokeger, Levi Koop, Carl Marks, Wilhelm Nickolai, Julius Schwertfeger and Gustav Teusner. Max Wittig was the teacher and postmaster.
Several of these farmers’ children attended the Pilgrim School in 1902 when Max Wittig was the teacher and postmaster. There were Emma, Bertha and Lydia Jurecky, Ester, Johannes and Alf Schwertfeger, Hulda and Meta Pfeiffer, Lydia and Emil Saegenschnitter, Selma Auricht and Ewald Sperling.
In February 1905 LL Koop sold his land, farm, stock, implements and furniture as he was leaving the district. By 1906 there had been some more changes. A few farmers had gone while others had moved in to replace them. Interestingly, all those with the first name of Wilhelm had changed it to William. This time among those listed were; Friedrich Frost, Senior and Junior, Julius Pfeiffer, H and W Saegenschnitter, William Gerlach, William Jurecky, William Kruger, Gustav Lemke, Carl Marks, Julius Schwertfeger, William Sperling, G Teusner and William Ullrich.
There was also a high turnover among the teaching staff at Sandleton. Most of the early teachers were young single girls, often on their first appointment. Among them were Louis Albers in 1906, Maude Regina Meischel appointed provisional teacher at £80. She was transferred to Coorabie and was replaced by May Evelyn Burge in 1911. Sylvia Messenger also started in 1911. Annie Isabel McLean, born 2 May 1887 was appointed in 1913 at £100 per annum. She transferred to Gordon in 1916 when Mary McLachlan took her place.
Mary had been appointed on 18 December as a Provisional teacher. Alice M Mc Ellister started in February 1918. In 1927 Miss Davis was teaching at Sandleton. At the end of the year she was replaced by FDB Bryan and in 1930 it was LC Williams’ turn. During that year the school was closed and some children had to attend the school at Stonefield some twelve kilometres away.
Between 1910 and 1914 there was even a private school run by JEF Louis Alpers who was also the postmaster from 1903 until his death. He taught a few children whose parents thought that there was too much English in the Government school. His last student was Walter Frost. Alpers died in May 1915 when Friedrich William Frost became the new postmaster for a few months. Mrs C Bertha Ullrich took up her duties later that year and remained at the office until 1932.
In 1902 Edward Cowland was appointed Justice of the Peace which saved people from a long walk to one of the neighbouring settlements. In 1906 some farmers started to deepen their wells in the hope of obtaining more water. Finally in May 1908 they got some flooding rains. When the mail coach tried to cross the flooded Pine Creek it overturned. Nobody seemed to care too much, even though the mail was very wet but still readable. After all they had rain! Things could only get better now.
George Teasdale, the long-time settler, made use of the opportunity and sold out in January 1910. He was not the only one. FJ Schwertfeger sold his land to F Frost in September 1910. The Frost family who lived a kilometre away from the church and school consisted of two boys and two girls. Thirteen years old Sara was in grade 8 in 1917. By the end of 1911 the weather was again dry and no stock was allowed to be watered at the well as the water was now required for human consumption only.
After several very dry spells there seemed to be an improvement in the amount of rain and the time it fell. In December 1913 C Marks had harvested a good crop and was the first to have his wheat delivered and sold to E Buckerfield & Sons of Sedan.
A new Pilgrim church was built in 1914 by Jack and Emil Rasmus. It closed in 1960. The last marriage celebrated in it was that of Alma S Marks and Bernhard L Krollig on 7 April 1947. Their daughter Alice was the last to be baptised in it. Religion and education remained important to these Lutheran inhabitants of Sandleton. Most would get their children educated at a Lutheran school or attending church wherever it was.
The government school held its annual picnic at McBeans Scrub which was no doubt attended by all students, their parents and friends. Attending the Government school in 1914 were Ruby Bartsch, Sally, Bertha and Frieda Pfeiffer, Ben, Sara and Walter Frost, Clara, Sophie and Jack Gerlach, Herbert and Ben Marks, Oscar Wuttke, Harry Saegenschnitter, Paul Nickolai and Jack Tremellon which was three more than the minimum requirement to keep it open.
Difficult times were once again experienced after the outbreak of the First World War. Anyone with a German name experienced some problems. It did not matter if they were recent migrants or the sons of long established migrants. In some cases a son could be fighting with the AIF while his parents would be harassed at home.
Albert John Jaench, born on 26 May 1890 at Sandleton was one of many who enlisted for service. He left Australia on 7 March 1916 and served in Egypt and France. Promoted to Sergeant in 1918 he returned home on the Somali on 1 June 1919.
When the Belgian Relief Fund was established donations were made by Friedrich Wilhelm and GH Saegenschnitter, Mrs RL Pfeiffer, CA and FW Frost, M Kruger, RE Gerlach, FQA Sperling and FAW Jurecky. When the Commonwealth Government was pushing for compulsory military service overseas, Frost’s room was listed as a polling place for the referendum in October 1916 and April 1917. His place would again be used for polling in December 1922 for the election of a new government.
During these years there was also a change in the mode of transport. More men were now looking at the possibility of buying a car or motorbike. In June 1916 AG Pfeiffer bought a motorbike, registration number 8330. No personalised number plates yet. In February 1917 Albert Gustav Pfeiffer bought a Humber motorbike, registration number 8011. A year later it was Albert Pfeiffer who bought a Studebaker which had registration number 613. FH Marks bought a new Overland car in April 1925. By that time his registration number was 43666. Several other families would soon be mobile as well.
When the war was over and most things back to normal William Kuhn of Fair View, Sandleton thought it was the right time to get engaged to Maude Meischel, daughter of FGW Meischel police man of Red Hill. In August 1919 Pastor Lehmann married Fred G Fiegert and Frieda Emma Jurecky as well as Gustav W Saegenschnitter and Anna Lydia Jurecky. In June 1922 G Ben Seidel and Bertha S Pfeiffer were married. Bertha’ mother, nee Semmler was one of 11 children. Her parents had arrived from Germany in 1854 and had lived for some time in Lyndoch and Springton.
During the 1920s farmer Gustav Adolph Kuhn and his wife Ernestine lived in Sandleton. Gustav Pfeiffer, a shearer by trade, had to spend some time in prison in 1922 as he was unable to pay his debts. Another unhappy man was Ernst Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger. Selina Bertha Siller, spinster of Black Hill, had promised to marry him. However, when he started building a house for them she got cold feet and reneged on her promise. He took her to court demanding at least £200 damages. Kruger was awarded £50.
Arnold Frost, born on 24 October 1923, only son of Gustav and Martha Elizabeth Frost and brother of Ella, Minna and Vera, died at the Angaston hospital on 28 February 1926. Friedrich Wilhelm Saegenschnitter who had recently died left an estate valued at £2,675.
More progress became evident when a telephone service was opened at Gustav and Vera Frost’s house in November 1927. Communication with the wider world was very important for all, not just the farmers. On 31 December a high price was exacted for it when both Percy Kuhn, aged 16, who worked for mail contractor AM Jurecky and VC Veal aged 45 were drowned in the River Murray after their boat was swamped in rough water. Three years later in 1933, postal services also were conducted from the Frost home until 1960. In 1961 Graydon T Grigg became the postmaster and kept that job until 1974 when postal services were stopped at Sandleton.
At the end of the 1925 school year Miss Teagle was leaving the district. A farewell social was held at G Frost’s house where Miss Teagle was presented with a silver-mounted oak tray. No school records have survived for Sandleton but from newspapers and other records we can still get at least some idea of what went on. In April 1926, 13 children were attending school where Miss Neuhaus was teaching. Among them were 10 years old Pear Stieler and Percy Kuhn who was 11 years old.
In March 1931 Vera Frost, who had attended the Stonefield school, received her qualifying certificate with a mark of 608 points. When the Sandleton school had only 11 boys and 1 girl on its roll, the government teacher was withdrawn as at least 13 students had to be enrolled. Luckily they did subsidise Vera Frost who did a good job from 1936-1939. During 1939 when an additional student made up the magic number a government teacher was appointed but the school finally closed altogether on 25 May 1941.
At the outbreak of World War II several of Sandleton’s young, and not so young volunteered for overseas service. One of the first was Edwin Albert Teusner, born on 12 April 1902. When he enlisted on 22 June 1940 he was married to Nellie Irene and they had three children. By the time he was discharged on 3 July 1947 he had gained the rank of Sergeant. Clarrie Richard Kruger, all of 18 years old, served in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve as a stoker. Laurance Mervin Donhardt, born on 10 April 1926, was also 18 when he signed up on 22 May 1944. He was discharged on 30 September 1947. Other volunteers were; Berthold Edgar Teusner, born 9 January 1901, Gottlieb Albert Steinke, born 24 August 1906 and Alex Frank Teusner, born 6 March 1906.