When one of the German settlers to the Bega Valley exhibited wine at the inaugural Bega Show, people drank so much it caused “riotous behaviour”, as reported by one of the newspapers of the time.
This incident from the life of Johann Caspar Hergenhan is described, along with many others, in a book on the lives of him and his two brothers Johann Peter and Johann Kilian, who came from Germany to Australia independently of each other in the mid-1800s.
The 334-page book even goes back to the 1500s to find the first person associated with the family’s name – then spelled Herchenhan – who was a sheriff in a nearby medieval village to the brothers’ home town of Niklashausen.
It was written and researched by Shirley Sproats, the great-granddaughter of one of the three brothers, after she returned to Bega to attend the funeral of an aunt and was shown photos of her ancestors.
“It was just instant, and that’s where the seed was planted to go and research,” she said.
“What I wanted to do was simply find out who these three brothers were.”
After arriving in Australia the three men lived at Camden for a time before moving to the Bega Valley in the 1860s and selecting land at Stony Creek and Double Creek. One of the properties is still in the hands of their descendants today.
All three worked the land and would take fruit and vegetables for sale in Bega. They had vineyards each and Caspar was even rumoured to be the first vine grower in the region.
The brothers were stalwarts of agricultural shows of the time. Aside from providing the wine that caused the “riotous behaviour” at the first Bega Show in 1872, Caspar also exhibited a tobacco plant as well as a glass beehive to show bees at work.
“They were ever the viticulturists, orchardists and market gardeners,” Ms Sproats said.
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“They were also a very hospitable and social people and there has been wonderful write ups of weddings on their properties.”
She said the Hergenhan’s passed on their skills to their descendants, as the family learnt from father to son and mother to daughter.
“Farms were a family enterprise. No matter how young you were, you were given a job to do,” Ms Sproats said.
“As my father - who was brought up in that pioneering tradition - used to remind me, ‘I’m not going to raise useless kids’.”
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The Three Hergenhan Brothers: From Niklashausen, Germany to the Colony of NSW will be launched at 10.30am on Sunday, December 9 at the Hergenhan property Park Dale on Princes Hwy at Bega Valley Lookout Hill.
For inquiries contact Ray Hergenhan on 0419 283 911 or Rex Hergenhan on 0407 920 386. As the RSVP time has closed, those who have not stated they will attend are asked to bring a plate to share.
For book inquiries contact Ms Sproats on 0404 026 947.