Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Philipp Jacob Oster (1830–1897)

by F. J. H. Blaess

This article was published:

Philipp Jacob Oster (1830-1897), Lutheran clergyman, was born on 16 February 1830 at Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine, son of Philippe Jacques Oster, Lutheran pastor, and his wife Sophie Emilie, née Stamm. His father moved to Metz, where he worked for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel as a missionary to the Jews; in 1843 he accepted a call to minister to Lutheran congregations in Posen. In 1847 ill health compelled him to resign and, after medical advice that a warmer climate would improve his health, he accepted the invitation of Lutheran migrants to go to South Australia with them as their pastor. He sailed with his family in the Gellert on 29 August 1847, but on the voyage he died and was buried at sea on 28 October. A staunch defender of orthodox Christian beliefs he had been an outspoken opponent of the Prussian Church Union, and in 1830-45 published several pamphlets which won him repute as a theologian.

Philipp Jacob had been educated at Strasbourg and Metz, and in 1843-47 at the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium at Posen, where he became friendly with Adolph Strempel who went with the Osters to South Australia. The Gellert arrived at Port Adelaide in December 1847. The two friends enrolled at Lobethal College to study under Pastor G. D. Fritzsche whose courses were designed to be equivalent to that of a theological faculty at a German university. Pioneering difficulties and strife within the congregations interrupted their work but after passing a preliminary examination in 1851 and matriculation in 1852, they studied theology, graduated and on 29 August 1855 were ordained.

Oster was naturalized and on 14 October he was installed as pastor of the Hoffnungsthal-Rosedale parish. For over forty-one years he faithfully served his parish and ministered to an increasing circle of congregations at Rowlands Flat, Lyndoch, Freeling, Pinkerton's Plains, Conconda, Dalkey (Balaklava) and Hummocks. In 1864 he was elected chairman of the committee which conducted negotiations with the Hermannsburg Mission Society in Hanover and in 1866-75 controlled the mission venture at Killalpaninna among the Dieri in central Australia. In 1856 he had been elected to the Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia and was president in 1873-97. In 1882-93 he also represented the Church on the council which ran the Hermannsburg Mission on the Finke River amongst the Aranda Aboriginals. He was highly respected for his calm judgment and impartiality. His placid nature, deep insight, thorough knowledge and qualities of leadership stood him in good stead in many church and interchurch meetings. Not easily swayed from what he believed to be the right course, he was ever ready to search the Scriptures for the truth and then follow it without hesitation.

On 8 July 1857 Oster had married Amalie Emilie Rieger (d.1918), who had migrated with her parents from Posen in 1847. Their first home was attached to the Hoffnungsthal Church. In 1863 they moved to Rosedale into a humble home which Oster had built. He died on 15 July 1897 and was buried in the Rosedale cemetery, survived by seven of their eleven children.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Iwan, Um des Glaubens Willen Nach Australien (Breslau, 1931)
  • A. Brauer, Under the Southern Cross (Adel, 1956)
  • Lutherische Kirchenbote für Australian, 24 (1897)
  • Lutheran Almanac (Adelaide), 1955
  • Oster papers and Church records (Lutheran Church Archives, Adelaide)
  • private information.

Citation details

F. J. H. Blaess, 'Oster, Philipp Jacob (1830–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 February, 1830
Strasbourg, Alsace-Moselle, France


15 July, 1897 (aged 67)
Rosenthal, South Australia, Australia

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