Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kavel, August Ludwig Christian (1798–1860)

by D. Van Abbè

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

This is a shared entry with Gotthard Daniel Fritzsche

August Ludwig Christian Kavel (1798-1860), by unknown photographer

August Ludwig Christian Kavel (1798-1860), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5478

August Ludwig Christian Kavel (1798-1860), Lutheran pastor, was born at Berlin, the son of poor parents. Gotthard Daniel Fritzsche (1797-1863), Lutheran pastor, was born at Liebenwerda, Saxony, the son of the town musician. From his Liebenwerda school Fritzsche went to the Dresden Gymnasium and then studied theology at the University of Breslau. After graduating in 1823 he taught for some years in a school for Jewish children, and was ordained in 1835.

In the bitter church struggle arising from the King of Prussia's attempt in 1817 to enforce unity of Lutherans and Calvinists within his realm, Kavel was at first inclined to follow the royal decree, but later found obedience incompatible with his conscience. In 1835 he resigned from his parish at Züllichau in Brandenburg and was sent by the congregation to Hamburg, to seek aid in migrating to America where they might worship with free consciences. In Hamburg Kavel heard of George Fife Angas and went to England. After tedious negotiations with the Prussian government over exit permits, Angas advanced the money to enable Kavel and some two hundred of his flock to pay their passages to South Australia. The dispirited southern Prussians reached Adelaide in 1838, and found a land of promise thriving there. They then sent a call to Fritzsche, who had also renounced the state church and as an itinerant pastor had narrowly escaped arrest several times. In February 1840 Fritzsche went to Hamburg where he was invited to be pastor of a group of Lutherans waiting to emigrate to Australia. After many difficulties with money and ships and long delay in Hamburg, the 250 migrants embarked in July 1841 for South Australia, an ill-fated voyage on which more than a fifth of the party died. Fritzsche was accompanied by his young fiancée, Dorette Nehrlich, whom he married on 11 January 1842.

Kavel and Fritzsche with their fellows were among the forerunners of a stream of German colonists. The early days were not without their difficulties. Whether they came in 1838 in the Prince George with Kavel, in 1839 in the Zebra with the charitable Captain Dirk Hahn, or in 1842 in the Skjold with Fritzsche, the colonists had little money and few possessions. Kavel was a great inspiration to them and negotiated with Angas's agents the lease of land near Adelaide, which became the settlement of Klemzig, named after one of Kavel's German parishes. It soon became obvious that this was not large enough for the settlers to fulfil their obligations to Angas and to provide for themselves adequately. Captain Hahn had arranged for his shipload to rent land in the Adelaide hills, their site being named Hahndorf in his honour. Fritzsche's group later founded a settlement called Lobethal.

Inspired by the geologist Johannes Menge, Kavel negotiated with Charles Flaxman, Angas's representative, to take over a much larger area in the Barossa valley. The financial terms were hard, but Kavel kept his congregation together in good heart, and their dogged devotion to agriculture helped to pull both Angas and the province through some dangerous times. In the Barossa district were founded the townships of Bethany and Langmeil (Tanunda), where Kavel settled after the death in child-birth of his English wife; he married his German housekeeper in 1851, and died on 11 February 1860.

Since the Hahndorf settlement was not easy for Kavel to visit regularly, Fritzsche's arrival was a relief and it was arranged that he should serve the southern settlement of Lutherans whilst Kavel served the northern. This division became serious when the question of taking up land in the Barossa valley divided the migrants: some felt that the Hahndorf men ought to leave their homes and share in opening up the Barossa. The bad feeling broke out in fierce controversy, when in 1845 and 1846 Kavel and Fritzsche disagreed on doctrinal questions; the division was all the sadder because Fritzsche's wife died early in 1845. Fritzsche died on 22 October 1863.

Fritzsche was a theologian of some standing with works respected in Lutheran circles far beyond Australia; Kavel tended to millennial doctrines then fashionable in Lutheran thought. From their beginnings the German settlements had minor feuds on questions of orthodoxy; at the Bethany synod in 1846, however, Kavel and Fritzsche quarrelled irreconcilably and severed organizational connexions. The split between Kavel and Fritzsche resulted in two separate synods, which, after gathering in Lutheran bodies elsewhere in Australia, later became the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia and Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia. But in spite of their divisions, the German settlements led by Kavel and Fritzsche retained some national distinctions, and their industry and culture contributed richly to South Australia's development.

Kavel was a born leader and succeeded in settling his congregations with no other means than moral authority. He encouraged early naturalization, and kept his followers together in rural occupations until they prospered. Fritzsche had qualities complementary to Kavel's. He was distinguished above all for his devotion to the cause of education. He encouraged the pioneer settlements to support schools and build churches. At Lobethal he started in 1842 the first Lutheran theological seminary in Australia. Himself an excellent musician, he encouraged music in his congregations.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Hodder, George Fife Angas, Father and Founder of South Australia (Lond, 1891)
  • J. S. Lyng, Non-Britishers in Australia (Melb, 1927)
  • A. Grenfell Price, Founders and Pioneers of South Australia (Adel, 1929)
  • A. Lodewyckx, Die Deutschen in Australien (Stuttgart, 1932)
  • T. J. Hebart, Die Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Australien (Adel, 1938), and translation with J. Stolz, The United Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Australia (Adel, 1938)
  • A. Brauer, Under the Southern Cross: History of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (Adel, 1956).

Citation details

D. Van Abbè, 'Kavel, August Ludwig Christian (1798–1860)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kavel-august-ludwig-christian-2287/text2945, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 26 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

August Ludwig Christian Kavel (1798-1860), by unknown photographer

August Ludwig Christian Kavel (1798-1860), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5478

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1798
Berlin, Germany

Death

11 February 1860
South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation