On Saturday, September 19, Witta’s historic landscape and pioneer life will be on show. Witta cemetery – a memorial to Blackall Range residents – rests in the centre of this town once known as Teutoburg by its settlers. Take a visit and a step back in time.
The generous width of Witta Road which leads down to the centre of the village, seems a little overdone in a small rural community, but this grand approach is a clue to the fact that this place was once established as the centre of Maleny Parish in the 1870s.
Some of the first European settlers were English and Irish but the majority were from areas of continental Europe, from places which are today part of Germany or Poland.
As a result of their background, many families were Lutheran Christians. They called the new settlement Teutoburg, Parish of Maleny, County of March.
At the centre of Teutoburg lies the cemetery, which provides a lasting memorial to the people who worked hard to create a life for themselves here on the Blackall Range.
People like Carl Bergann, who arrived as an infant in 1885 with his mother and father. His father Ludwig helped to build Teutoburg’s first school and church. His mother, Auguste, worked hard to establish a dairy on their selection and made cheese.
When Carl passed away in 1941 he was found to have unusually high levels of arsenic in his system, but this was not thought to be as a result of foul play, rather that the arsenic had accumulated over time because he was in contact with it during his farming activities.
The settlers who selected land and lived at Teutoberg started arriving in 1878. The landscape then was covered in what is called ‘dense scrub’ on the old survey plans, it was rainforest.
The community in Teutoberg was very industrious. A petition to start a cemetery was lodged in 1892. The settlers together carried out the work required to clear the land and the cemetery was proclaimed in 1893.
Some settlers chose not to be buried in the cemetery, for instance Carl Bergann’s parents were buried on their own selection.
Early selectors worked hard to clear this land and to provide for themselves as they earned themselves a place they could call their own.
Buildings were made from timber. Trees were felled, sometimes using springboards to get above broad buttress roots, and broken down into slabs and planks using a pit saw.
Hand tools were used to work the timber, to make joints and to add simple decorative touches. Life was tough and there is more than one grave marker with ‘accidentally killed’ on it.
Even if you had come from elsewhere in Europe, land selection here required you to be a British Subject, because if you failed to meet any of the conditions set down in selection agreement, you forfeited your selection to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
Despite these conditions, for many selectors, the opportunity to own their own land would have been a key influence in their decision to live remotely, in a difficult place with hard manual labour being the order of most days.
The roads, or rather tracks up onto the Blackall Range were difficult for horse-drawn vehicles to travel along. The new arrivals initially had to negotiate the last kilometre or so through thick scrub, at least until they were able to clear a way through to where they were to set up home.
Initially many settlers left their family members with other Lutheran families in the South Brisbane areas of Bethania, Waterford and Logan. This was because living conditions were so difficult and there was little for children to do.
As the roads improved and they were able to farm the cleared land, they started to bring their families up to Teutoburg.
As the families moved in, the demand for a local school grew. A petition for this was successful in 1891 when the number of children requiring education reached 17.
The numbers of school-aged children living locally increased significantly when the Warne family fostered several children, parent-less wards of the State. The settlers got on with building a timber school building on the Reserve and the Maleny Provisional School opened in 1892.
You can visit Teutoburg any time, but a good time to do it will be Saturday September 19, 10am until sunset at Wittafest, a free community event celebrating our cultural heritage and including historical tours of the cemetery, school and church.