Freiboth, Georg Christoph (1858-1922)

Prepared by: 
Regina Ganter

G.C. Freiboth is best remembered for taking the remainder of the Mari Yamba people to Hope Valley in 1902. As a lay missionary he was a veteran of the Finke River mission and drew on his Hermannsburg networks to obtain a posting to Mari Yamba. For four years he built up the station which had been neglected, but the mission was forced to close down because no ordained missionary could be found to staff it. Only a diary records his perspective, since few records were kept about lay-missionaries.


Christoph and Magdalena Freiboth
before coming to Australia, ca 1882

Source: Freiboth file, Lutheran Archives Australia

The family home at Langeloh, Germany
The home of Magdalena Freiboth (nee Röhrs)

Source: Freiboth file, Lutheran Archives Australia

Georg Christoph Freiboth was born in Mühlausen, Thüringen, on 2 February 1858. He joined the Hermannsburg community where he met Anna Magdalena Röhrs (born 11. 6.1860). They married in a group wedding of several young couples at Hermannsburg. Freiboth was in the reserve army and so when he was allocated to service as lay missionary in Australia, he had to first extricate himself from military service duties. This meant he was stripped of his German citizenship. He must have been around age 24.
The couple spent twelve years at the Finke River mission and then moved to Petersburg in South Australia in 1894 where they stayed for a year with Freiboth’s brother-in-law H. Koch.[1] At Petersburg the Koch family lived with their children Maria Wilhelmine (Marie), Emma and Christoph, born in March 1893. Freiboth bought a property at Petersburg which was not prospering, and after about five years of battling he cast around for alternatives.
From his period in Hermannsburg (Germany) Freiboth knew a number of the pastors in Queensland. Gössling, who was the mission director of Mari Yamba had been a founder of Bethesda in 1867. Freiboth approached Pastor Heuer in Toowoomba, and was invited to go to Mari Yamba at £30 per year. He sold up everything and came to Brisbane with his family, now including the 5-month old baby Anna.
They were landed at Bowen harbour and made their way south to Mari Yamba, staying overnight about halfway at Kelsey Creek near Prosperine. They had to cross several creeks and the Andromache River which was so swollen that Freiboth had to carry his wife and children across. 
About twelfe miles from Mari Yamba they were greeted by missionary Hansche and a party of mission residents who had come to help. Freiboth, a veteran of missions, was somewhat taken aback by the appearance presented by Hansche and the mission:
He was bare-footed, hatless and with only trousers and shirt. The last-mentioned had a large tear in the back – a funny reception. Well, we did get there, but what a desperate situation. There was nothing in order, so we had to get to work and clear up.[2]
The Freiboth family arrived at the mission on Friday 11 March 1898, and the very next day Weise and missionary Hansche left to catch the steamer in Bowen. This was indeed a poor reception. Mrs Freiboth and children put the kitchen and house in order with the help of Martha, the first girl baptised on a Lutheran mission in Queensland. On Monday Freiboth made a start on the gardens. ‘Things were simply desolate and, generally in complete disorder’.[3]
From April 1900 his three eldest children were sent to the Köhnke family to attend school at Beenleigh, so that they, too became immersed in the networks of German Lutheran migrants.[4]
Gradually the mission population began to increase. But the government objected to a mission without a missionary.
The Land Ranger came and questioned me extensively, measured the buildings and such like more. In this way, even before I was advised by my mission committee, I was given notice. In this manner my four years of work among this heathen tribe at Mari Yamba came to an end. …. We left Mari Yamba on Queen’s Birthday in 1902[5]


It took Freiboth a month to comply with all the requirements placed on him by Missionary Schwarz at Cape Bedford for the removal of the people from Mari Yamba (see Mari Yamba entry).
Finally they moved to Plainland on the Darling Downs where they took over Rev. Gössling’s farm for six years. Eventually they moved to Kumbia, a German Lutheran congregation formed in 1909 in the Kingaroy Shire, where Freiboth died age 63 on 10 July 1922, and Anna Freiboth at age 74 on 11 July 1934.[6]

[1] Presumably this H. Koch was not the Immanuel Synod member H. Koch who moved to Bloomfield mission in February 1888, otherwise it would be difficult to understand in what sense H. Koch was a brother-in-law, since Koch’s wife was from the Schröder family, and Freiboth’s wife was a Röhrs.
[2] Freiboth Diary, in Freiboth file, Lutheran Archives Australia.
[3] Freiboth Diary, in Freiboth file, Lutheran Archives Australia.
[4] Marie Freiboth later worked at the manse occupied by Pastor Hörlein at Laidley. The Queensland Lutheran, 8 April 1953, p. 8.
[5] Freiboth Diary, in Freiboth file, Lutheran Archives Australia.