Johann Ernst Jacob

Johann Ernst Jacob

Johann Ernst Jacob, born on 9 March 1835 in Silesia, arrived in South Australia in 1860, having paid his own fare, hoping to work on an Aboriginal mission. While living at Mount Torrens he got his chance when on 9 October 1866, together with missionaries Gossling and Homann and Lay-helper Vogelsang, he set out for the far north of South Australia to establish a Lutheran mission among the Dieri Aborigines.

For a number of years it was his job to keep up the supplies needed by the missionaries, their family and others who lived at the new mission called Bethesda. These long trips, across sandhills and gibber plains taking up to three months to complete, were made during scorcing heat, duststorms and floods.

On 4 September 1878 Jacob married Maria Elisabeth Auricht, born 10 May 1841 at Klemzig. Maria already had five children, from a previous marriage to Wilhelm Gustav Irrgang, and only took her youngest child to Killalpaninna. The Jacobs had one son and were married for twenty-nine years. After many years on the road Jacob was placed in charge of the sheep at Etadunna, while younger men now made the trip to the Marree railway station.

To find work for many of the Aborigines who had settled semi-permanently at the Mission the Lutherans opened several out stations with flocks of sheep cared for by the natives under the supervision of Jacob who went to live with his family at Etadunna. The Jacobs were well known and liked for their excellent fruit and vegetable garden at Etadunna. Both Jacob and Vogelsang were paid $40 per year plus their keep and clothing for their work of love and service.

After having lived in a tent and outdoors for most of the time Jacob now started with the building of a substantial home. It was later enlarged and modernised when taken over by the Oldfield Family when the mission closed. Jacob also built the large woolshed. To ensure a reliable water supply for their garden and the house he sank two wells.

Both Maria Jacob and her sister, Mrs Vogelsang, lived a life of service to their religious beliefs and the Aborigines. She remained at the mission for more than two years after her husband died in 1907. After Johann Ernst Jacob's death, his work was continued by his step-son Jack Irrgang until 1915. After thirty-one years service at the mission Maria was offered a pension but declined. Maria died 13 October 1924 leaving a portion of her small estate for mission purposes.


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