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Christian Gottlieb Teichelmann (1807–1888)

by Heide Kneebone

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Clamor Wilhelm Schürmann

Christian Gottlieb Teichelmann (1807-1888), and Clamor Wilhelm Schürmann (1815-1893), were Lutheran missionaries and pastors. Teichelmann was born on 15 December 1807 at Dahme, in the German kingdom of Saxony, one of eight children of Friedrich August Teichelmann, master cloth-maker, and his wife Johanna Rosina, née Böttcher. After attending school until the age of 14, he was apprenticed to a carpenter then spent four years travelling as a carpenter's assistant in Saxony and Prussia.

In 1829 Teichelmann travelled to Berlin and took private tuition in algebra, arithmetic and geometry as preparation for acceptance into the Royal Building Trades School, which he attended in 1830-31. During these years he came into contact with pupils from Jaenicke's Missionschule and his early wish for missionary service was reawakened. He entered the school in September 1831.

Schürmann had been born on 7 June 1815 in Schledehausen, near Osnabrück, Hanover, youngest son of Johann Adam Schürmann and his wife Maria Elisabeth, née Ebcker. His father died when Clamor Wilhelm was aged 1 and his mother when he was 11. After his elementary education he applied to enter Jaenicke's Missionsschule, Berlin, to follow his brother Johann Adam, later a missionary at Benares, India, and was accepted on 23 July 1832.

The students were taught Latin, English, Greek and Hebrew as well as foreign geography, world history, Church history and theology. A call was received from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts for missionaries to serve in India. Both declined, however, due to the requirement that they sign the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England and be ordained in that denomination. Meanwhile, the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society of Dresden had been approached by Pastor A. L. C. Kavel and George Fife Angas about missionaries for South Australia. On 1 September 1836 Teichelmann and Schürmann entered the society's seminary, where they received additional tuition, including Hebrew and Greek, and were ordained as Lutheran pastors on 4 February 1838. They reached Adelaide on 12 October in the Pestonjee Bomanjee, which also carried Governor Gawler.

With little financial support, the two missionaries soon established the first school for Aborigines in South Australia, initially in the open air, then at Piltawodli (possum house) near Adelaide gaol. Teichelmann and Schürmann published Outlines of a Grammar: Vocabulary and Phraseology of the Aboriginal Language of South Australia, Spoken by the Natives in and for Some Distance Around Adelaide (1840), including some 2000 words of what is now known as the Kaurna language. Their work became an invaluable resource for modern Kaurna language reclamation.

Perhaps a more rigid and intractable personality than his younger colleague, Teichelmann was, like him, a gifted and diligent student of indigenous language who forthrightly voiced the sufferings of the Aboriginal people of Adelaide. Gawler paid tribute to this work and respected the two as 'serious, intelligent, persevering Christian men'. In 1840, with the arrival of two further missionaries from Dresden, Teichelmann was appointed government interpreter, while Samuel Klose took over the running of the school (which closed in 1845). Teichelmann published Aboriginals of South Australia: Illustrative and Explanatory Note of the Manners, Customs, Habits and Superstitions of the Natives of South Australia in 1841. In November 1842 he moved to Happy Valley and attempted to establish a mission farm, Ebenezer, with the aim of inducing indigenous people to settle and work the land but, lacking funding, the venture failed.

On Christmas Day 1843 in Adelaide Teichelmann married with Church of Scotland forms 21-year-old Margaret Nicholson. They had fourteen children. In 1846 the family moved back to Adelaide and next year to a farm near Morphett Vale. To supplement his income, Teichelmann commuted fortnightly to Adelaide as guest pastor to the new Lutheran congregation, Old Trinity. In 1856 he accepted a call to the Lutheran congregation of Salem, and founded congregations at Callington and Monarto. Here he revisited his early language work and compiled a manuscript of his Kaurna vocabulary and grammatical notes (1857) which he sent to Sir George Grey in South Africa.

Teichelmann remained active in church life, contributing to the discussion on the resumption of mission work at Lake Killalpaninna in 1866. He retired to farm at Haywood Park, Stansbury, Yorke Peninsula, where he died on 31 May 1888. His wife, six sons and four daughters survived him.

In September 1840 Schürmann had taken up a government position as deputy-protector of Aborigines at Port Lincoln. As interpreter he often accompanied police investigations and travelled to Adelaide for court proceedings, but had difficulty harmonizing this work with his missionary activities. By the end of that year he had collected 500 words of the Parnkalla (Banggarla) language. He repeatedly requested government support for an agricultural settlement and school for the Aboriginal population away from the influence of European settlers. In 1843 he was recalled to Adelaide as court interpreter and next year published a dictionary of 2000 entries, A Vocabulary of the Parnkalla Language, Spoken by the Natives Inhabiting the Western Shores of Spencer's Gulf. Back at Port Lincoln in 1844, Schürmann wrote:

It is bad enough that a great part of the colonists are inimical to the natives; it is worse that the law, as it stands at present, does not extend its protection to them, but it is too bad when the press lends its influence to their destruction.

He published The Aboriginal Tribes of Port Lincoln in 1846.

Next year Schürmann moved to work with the Dresden missionary H. A. E. Meyer at Encounter Bay. He purchased land to farm and on 11 February 1847 in the schoolhouse there married with Lutheran rites Wilhelmine Charlotte Maschmedt, like him from Osnabrück. They had nine children. After the Encounter Bay mission attempt was abandoned, Schürmann returned to Port Lincoln in December 1848 as Aboriginal interpreter and in 1850 opened a school, with instruction in the Parnkalla language, at nearby Wallala. In 1852 funding was withdrawn and pupils were transferred to the Native Training Institution at Poonindie, established by Archdeacon Mathew Hale with a similar vision for educating and christianizing the Aboriginal community, but with no learning or teaching in indigenous languages.

Rejecting again the offer of Church of England ordination, in 1853 Schürmann followed a call to Portland, Victoria, to minister to a German congregation. He also travelled extensively throughout the Wimmera, serving German settlers. From 1883 he was editor of the Kirchenbote and in 1885 became president of the Victorian district of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia.

Schürmann was small in stature with a ruddy complexion and a genial disposition. He was a gifted linguist and a compassionate and dedicated missionary, and his documentation of the indigenous languages in the Adelaide and Port Lincoln areas was an enduring legacy. Predeceased by his wife in 1891, Schürmann died on 3 March 1893 while attending synod at Bethany, South Australia; he was buried in West Terrace cemetery, Adelaide, and later reinterred in South Hamilton cemetery. Four sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Fr Hesekiel (ed), Darstellung der Ordinationsfeier von Zwei Nach Sudaustralien Bestimmten Missionaren in der St. Bartholomaikirche zu Altenburg am 5. Sonntage Nach Epiphanias 1838 (Altenburg, 1838)
  • T. Hebart, Die Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Australien (Adel, 1938)
  • J. F. O’Donnell, The Teichelmann Family in Australia (Adel, 1974)
  • A. Brauer, Under the Southern Cross (Adel, 1985)
  • E. A. Schurmann, I’d Rather Dig Potatoes (Adel, 1987)
  • J. Harris, One Blood (Syd, 1994)
  • R. Amery, Warrabarna Kaurna! (Lisse, Netherlands, 2000)
  • C. Rathjen, ‘A Difficult and Boring Task’, Journal of Friends of Lutheran Archives, no 8, 1998, p 59
  • Observer (Adelaide), 9 June 1888, p 1087, 11 Mar 1893, p 30
  • Teichelmann and Schürmann files (Lutheran Archives, Adelaide).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Heide Kneebone, 'Teichelmann, Christian Gottlieb (1807–1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 December, 1807
Dahme, Saxony, Germany


31 May, 1888 (aged 80)
Stansbury, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.