Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 2) – Johanne Schippan and Her Family





The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 2) – Johanne Schippan and Her Family

 Johanne Schippan had come to Australia as a nine year old girl from Prussia. She had emigrated with her parents and her brother. The family first lived in Victoria, but later moved to the larger German community that had settled in the Valleys north of Adelaide.
 These areas were settled by the Germans who missed out on the lad around Hahndorf and other Germanic settlements, but in the mid north and Long Plains, these settlers would find areas much akin to their homelands and start settlements like Ebenezer, Bethel and Bethany.

  Johanne was the matriarch of the family, and as was done at the time, always asked her husband’s opinion on all matters. The opposite of Matthes, Johanne was much loved in the Towitta area for her hospitality.  Johanne was the one the children would go to when they needed encouragement, support or parental love, as Matthes, like most men of his period, was somewhat disconnected to his children and only really gave them attention when they had to learn something or he was dispensing punishment.

 Johanne witnessed her husband’s shooting charges, and probably issued a sigh of relief when he was acquitted, 7 children to raise on her own would have been a nightmare. Only three years after her husband’s trial, she would see her oldest daughter, Pauline, die of tuberculosis in 1899.
The Schippans: Gustave, Matthes, Mary, Johanne and Wilhelm


 In 1899, some of the older children in the family had moved on, and found work in other areas. Heinrich was working on a farm near Keyneton, and Fritz was working in another town in the Barossa Valley.
The two other boys, August and Wilhelm, still lived at home, and barely ventured out into the community, both boys were considered uneducated, and somewhat mentally disadvantaged.

 Mary and Bertha worked together in a local cannery. Other workers often commented on the fact they didn’t seem like sisters, but more like Mother and Daughter. Mary was a tall young woman with deep brown eyes, attractive, quiet and somewhat quiet. She was nervous and next never left home at night.
 Bertha on the other hand was an outgoing young lady, about to become a young woman. She was strong and of strong will, and was by far Matthes favourite child. She had her Dad wrapped neatly around her finger and could easily subdue his anger with a quick smile and a batter of her eyelashes.
 The two Schippan girls worked hard in the nearby town of Angaston, inside the Yalumba fruit canning factory.

 The Schippan family lived in a primitive house, with a number of sheds surrounding it, It had two large underground water tanks, and a partially underground dairy. The Men of the house were slowly building a new house for the family, but for now, the Parents and daughters all lived within the main house, and boys all shared a large shed a few meters out the back of the house


In 1902 Matthes Schippan had been in the area for 27 years and had cultivated a 65ha farm whose settlements included a cottage with a kitchen garden and substantial farm buildings. Matthes had recently built a ‘new’ house to replace the crumbling pug and pine, and this house was built to last – along with two huge underground water tanks and a cool underground dairy.

Next Week: The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 3) – Intruder