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Eipper, Christopher (1813–1894)

by Niel Gunson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Christopher Eipper (1813-1894), missionary and Presbyterian minister, was born on 20 August 1813 at Esslingen, Württemberg, Germany. He studied at the institutions of the Basle Missionary Society, Switzerland, in 1832-36, and of the Church Missionary Society at Islington in 1836. However, he and his German colleagues refused episcopal ordination because they would not submit to vows of unlimited obedience to a bishop, although they were prepared to receive Lutheran ordination. They consequently ceased their connexion with the Basle Committee. Eipper, together with Gottlieb Schreiner, father of the novelist Olive Schreiner, applied in March 1837 to Rev. John Dunmore Lang for appointment as missionaries to the Aboriginals at Moreton Bay. Schreiner decided to go to South Africa, but Eipper was accepted, together with a party of missionaries under the pastoral care of Rev. Karl Schmidt.

On 15 June 1837 at Shoreditch, London, Eipper married Harriet, daughter of John Gyles, a former missionary agriculturist at Tahiti; they had five sons and four daughters. On 27 June he was ordained at an Evangelical service by German and French Protestant clergy resident in London. The united mission party arrived in Sydney in the Minerva in January 1838. Schmidt and Eipper were admitted as members of the Presbyterian synod of New South Wales, and were delegated to form a presbytery of Moreton Bay. Eipper and fourteen others of the party sailed to Moreton Bay in the government schooner Isabella in March 1838 and, on the recommendation of the commandant, Major (Sir) Sydney Cotton, selected a site about seven miles (11 km) from Eagle Farm which they named Zion Hill (Nundah). Classes were conducted by Eipper, and Rev. J. C. S. Handt helped the newcomers to acquire the Aboriginal dialect.

The early history of the mission was first recorded by Eipper in his Statement of the Origin, Condition, and Prospects of the German Mission to the Aborigines at Moreton Bay (Sydney, 1841). Apart from the routine work, Eipper also travelled among the Aboriginals. When instructed that a new site for a mission was necessary the two ordained missionaries tried to find a suitable place in the Wide Bay district. In March 1843 Eipper joined Dr Stephen Simpson, acting administrator, in an expedition into this district, which Schmidt had already penetrated. Eipper kept a detailed journal of the expedition, which reached the Mary River on 1 April. In July 1843 Schmidt and Eipper jointly reported to the Sydney committee of the Society in Aid of the German Mission to the Aborigines, and again in September, but in October the Sydney society decided to abandon the mission. Eipper chose to remain with the lay missionaries, who proposed to support themselves by manual labour. However, in 1844 he left the mission to commence a Presbyterian cause at Braidwood, New South Wales. In 1848 he became minister at Paterson in the Maitland district. In 1851 he retired from the ministry, and later held several teaching positions at Muswellbrook and Aberdeen. He died at Charleyong in the Braidwood district on 2 September 1894. His eldest son, J. W. Christopher (1840-1905), was editor of the Maitland Mercury. One grandson, Rev. Albert James, became a noted Presbyterian missionary to the Aboriginals at Broome and Thursday Island. His other sons were pioneers in the Scone, Tomala and Warrah districts.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 19-20
  • J. D. Lang, An Appeal to Friends of Missions, on Behalf of German Mission to Aborigines of New South Wales (Syd, 1839)
  • H. J. J. Sparks, Queensland's First Free Settlement 1838-1938 (Brisb, 1938)
  • W. N. Gunson, ‘The Nundah Missionaries’, Journal (Royal Historical Society of Queensland), vol 6, no 3, 1960-61, pp 511-39
  • CSO, 1837, A1276, p 27 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Eipper papers (copy, National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Niel Gunson, 'Eipper, Christopher (1813–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/eipper-christopher-2020/text2483, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 20 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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