The 15-year history of Mari Yamba mission has all the appearance of an ill-conceived and poorly managed project, resulting in the forced displacement of Aboriginal people from their homelands. Its establishment by the Hermannsburg-leaning Lutheran synod of Queensland (UGSLSQ) had more to do with the competition and splintering between various Lutheran synods than with an evangelical spirit, and foundered mainly on the particularly dogmatic, bureaucratic and authoritarian stance of Hermannsburg Lutherans. Like several other missions, it quickly outlived its historical position at the frontier of settlement causing the Queensland government to withdraw its support. The Mari Yamba mission residents were relocated to Cape Bedford mission in 1902. Mari Yamba itself has received very little historical attention. It was located near the present day Proserpine and Andromache State Forests.
After the final demise of Pastor Hausmann’s efforts at Bethesdain 1881 only one Aboriginal mission was operative in Queensland, run by the Catholic father McNab at Durundur (1877-1905, near Woodford). The Lutherans were just making a new entry into the Queensland field with the establishment of Cape Bedford in the untapped north in 1886, whereas the Aborigines Protection Society was reactivating the mission idea in the settled south by setting up a new reserve at Ipswich (Deebing Creek, or Purga) in 1887.
The instigator of Cape Bedford mission, Rev. Flierlfrom Neuendettelsau, during a visit to Queensland on his way to Papua New Guinea in 1886, appealed to all the German Lutheran synods to support a northern mission. However confessional disputes were increasingly dividing Queensland Lutherans who formed two competing Lutheran synods in 1885. As soon as the Immanuel Synod of South Australia agreed to support Flierl’s mission, the Queensland Hermannsburgers (UGSLSQ) withdrew from the idea and started to plan a mission of their own, because Hermannsburg had never collaborated with the Immanuel Synod whom they suspected of chiliasm.
Since the demise of the Bethesda mission in 1881, the Hermannsburg alumnis Rev. Hellmuth (at Beenleigh) and Rev. Heuer (at Mackay) had harboured the idea of setting up a mission under the general direction of Hermannsburg (Germany), like the Dieri mission at Coopers Creek (1866-74) in South Australia. Four candidates were dispatched from Hermannsburg in 1883 for a Queensland mission as well as for the German communities, but no mission was established until 1887. Heuer suggested the area north of Mackay as a promising field for the Hermannsburg/Danish synod in Queensland. An industrial mission had been run at Mackay with government funding from 1870 to 1885, but other than that only unsupervised ‘reserves’ had been set aside at Bowen, Cardwell and the Tully River to shelter Aborigines from rapidly advancing settlement. With Neuendettelsau, the Immanuel synod, as well as the Moravians getting interested in North Queensland, the Brisbane-based UGSLSQ also found the moment opportune to establish a northern mission.
The name chosen for the mission was Mari Yamba, meant to express that it was ‘a place for Murris’. Subsequently this was often anglicized as Marie Yamba. A reserve of about 30-36 square miles (about 20,000 acres) was gazetted in 1887, 25 miles south of Proserpine on the AndromacheRiver.
Instead of placing the mission under direction from Hermannsburg, a local committee was formed. This was because both Harms brothers founding the institution in Hermannsburg had now passed away, and Hermannsburg was venturing a rapprochement with the state church. This move further isolated the new mission.
In charge of the misson was Rev. Andreas Christian Claussen, a Hermannsburg graduate with a brief experience in a New Zealand Maori mission. His starting salary at Mari Yamba was £25, raised to £50 in 1890. Although his family is never mentioned, he arrived with several children and his wife who was a trained deaconess. It must be presumed that Mrs Claussen also rendered valuable services to the mission. Claussen was supported by Pastor Martin Doblies who had come to Australia on his own initiative and had served at Elim and Simbang. Doblies drew £15. In the same year the Queensland government appointed an untrained and unqualified settler to supervise its new ‘mission’ at Bloomfield at an annual salary of £300. Clearly the committee expected the motivation of its field workers to derive from some other source rather than a decent income.
Rev. Andreas Christian Claussen was born on 6 June 1846 at Jardelund, near the German border to Denmark. He attended the Hermannsburg seminary from 1880 to 1885 and was sent to the Maori mission at Nelson, where he was ordained in February 1886. From 1887 to late 1893 he was at Mari Yamba together with his wife, but suffered ill health and was replaced. He was on sick leave for two years in Toowoomba and then became pastor at Highfields Christ for a year until his death on 14 August 1897. He left a widow and five under age children. Mrs. Claussen, whose name is not known, had been trained at the Flensburg college for deaconesses. 
Pastor Martin Doblies
Martin Doblies was born at Memel (now Klaipeda, Lithuania) in 1844 and trained at the Breklum Seminary in Schleswig (near the German border to Denmark). He was ordained in 1883 and became an itinerant preacher who came to Cooktown on his own initiative, where he assisted in the setting up of Elim (Cape Bedford), then worked alongside Rev. Johann Flierl at Simbang in New Guinea in 1886/87 where he contracted malaria. He then moved to Mari Yamba and afterwards served in German communities in Maryborough and Rockhampton, Plainland, Brisbane Nazareth, Rosevale, and Taabinga, and returned to Germany in 1926.
Source: Lutheran Archives Australia
Because it was a German-Danish synod, Claussen was to write quarterly reports in both German and Danish to the committee, which consisted of the Hermannsburgers Rev. J.F. Gössling as chair, Rev. J. Köhnke as secretary, G.R. Weise of Ipswich as treasurer, and H. Möring (or Mewing) from Pimpama Island (all German speakers). The committee met half-yearly and expected to keep a strict control of all expenses, such as which newspapers could be subscribed, or whether a new pump could be purchased. The mission staff were therefore hamstrung in their decision-making and always liable to be criticised after an opportune purchase of stock or materials. Only one of the committee, Gössling, had any missionary experience, at Bethesda (Kilalpaninna) and in New Zeland.
The committee approved of six staff altogether, at an annual wages of bill of £90 with meagre wages for each of them – £25 for the missionary in charge and £12 for the laymen. (It seems that only four staff actually went to Mari Yamba.) The government agreed to a monthly subsidy of £10. This meant that the financial support of the synod congregations was absolutely vital. However, the synod supporting the mission was unstable and disintegrated in 1889. Still, it did supply the mission with cast-off clothing, Christmas presents, for which the Toowoomba sewing group was already busy in April, and enough donations to run the mission despite the meagre government support.
Trouble was already on the horizon in May 1888 when Claussen cabled a resignation, unable to work with Doblies. The committee instead dismissed Doblies, who was not from Hermannsburg, and hoped for a replacement from Hermannsburg. Meanwhile it found a lay missionary to look after the agricultural and stock work, starting in November 1888. Hans Jürgen Norup of Laidley was appointed with a salary of £25 per annum, the same as Claussen and double that of the other two laymen, Markus Kierkegaard and Ludwig Larson.
By May 1889 the committee learned that ‘all the three colonists intend to leave the station’ because Claussen was living his own life, separate from the colonists. Within a couple of months of this complaint, Claussen took ill and was reported to be ‘on his deathbed’. A German-Danish split had formed both on the mission between the German pastor and the Danish laymen, and in the synod. The Danish synod members in Mackay observed that more than half the synod members were Danish, and they were underrepresented on the mission committee. The committee ignored this request and sacked the Danish laymen in July 1889. As a result the Danish withdrew from the synod. A sub-committee was formed in Mackay to support the mission.
This left Claussen at the mission with only Norup, who was asked to remain until his contract expired. Claussen suggested to subdivide the cultivated land and hand it over to the mission residents. His proposal was ignored. The committee lobbied Hermannsburg for a replacement pastor.
Ludwig Krause arrived in December 1890, but within three months of his arrival he requested to be released to Mackay, where a pastor was needed. Some nasty words were exchanged between the J. Tanzky from the Mackay sub-committee supporting Krause’s application and the Brisbane committee. Krause did go to Mackay, and was asked to refund the £30 which the committee had paid for his journey from Germany. His annual salary was £25.
By November 1891 the committee had the grandiose idea to build a school house for £100. It engaged carpenter Ernst Starke and purchased the materials, but the whole idea collapsed when Starke argued that he was not responsible for driving the stumps into the soil, and the transport of the materials to the mission exploded the budget. Claussen observed that the present school-house was only three years old and perfectly serviceable, and that what was needed was a decent house for himself, he was still living in a ‘humpy’. Instead, the committee decided to sell the building materials. Presumably a decent house for the missionary was a much less attractive fundraising goal than a new school.
After five years of struggle, Claussen requested a year’s leave of absence due to ill health, and this was granted subject to the arrival of a replacement, which took another year to arrange. As soon as Andreas Mohr arrived in July 1893 he expressed ‘serious misgivings’ about going to Mari Yamba. The committee acceded to his wish to go to a German congregation. Committee member Mewing (also referred to as Mehring or Möhring) took up the challenge as a stop gap, and the Claussens were finally able to move to Toowoomba in late 1893.
Andreas Mohr was born in Michelrieth, Bavaria, on 5 June 1851 and trained at Hermannsburg from 1885 to 1890. He left his wife behind in Germany when he came to Australia. He became a teacher at Bethania, and in 1893 Harms designated him for Mari Yamba. He duly arrived in Brisbane, spoke to the mission committee, but declined to go to the mission. He was already age 41. In July 1895 he finally agreed to be posted to Mari Yamba and was ordained, but he only stayed for about half a year, and returned to Logan in 1896 to assist Past Sültmann. In 1898 he became the pastor at Logan Reserve. Between 1898 and 1902 he went twice to Germany while being pastor at Douglas and Djuan. He is reputed to have travelled to Germany ten times altogether, and offered his service each time he returned to Australia, but eventually was declined. He died during World War I at Stuttgart in 1916.
'Two of the Mari Yamba mission boys who were later that year (1902)
taken by Father Freiboth to Cape Bedford together with several others'
Source: Freiboth file, Lutheran Archives Australia
Just prior to his departure from Mari Yamba Claussen reported that he had several children ready for baptism on the station, to which the committee responded that
those children ready for baptism be baptised and that the station arrange for them to be given into the care of Christian families as approved by the committee’ and ‘that Pastor Krause in Mackay be asked to baptise the children as soon as possible, and if they agree, to take them with him to Mackay’.
The committee clearly felt compelled to separate baptised children from their families and communities. It does not appear as if any children agreed to be baptised under these conditions.
However two Mari Yamba girls were baptised in Toowoomba in 1895, Maria and Magdalene. In 1893 Claussen had obtained permission from the committee to take with him ‘an orphan which the mother on her deathbed had committed to his care’.
In an oblique reference the committee noted in November 1894 that
the committee do not allow the children to return. If however, anyone takes the children of their own free will, the committee would not take the responsibility.
How Maria came to be at Toowoomba is unclear, presumably she had also been brought by Claussen. On hearing of her baptism, her mother at Mari Yamba said ‘I will cry myself to the grave now’, knowing that she had lost her daughter forever. Maria promised to come back to the station, but never did. Her mother was described as the daughter of ‘King Billiballo’.
The police magistrate at Mackay felt that
the mission had up to the present, failed to be of any practical and permanent benefit to the aboriginals in the district, and that the system adopted of endeavouring to improve the condition of the children of the local tribes was a wrong one, holding little or no prospect of success in the future.
When the Claussen family moved from Mari Yamba to Toowoomba in 1893, they took with them 11-year old Magdalene, who had been committed to their care by her dying mother. In May 1895 she was ceremoniously baptised at the mission festival in Toowoomba. Rev. Claussen died in 1897, and Magdalene remained with the family until Rev. Gössling took her back to Mari Yamba on a visit of inspection in 1900. By February 1901, the committee learned that Magdalene had been involved in a ‘violation of the sixth commandment’ (thou shalt not covet …’). What was meant was that the 19-year old had entered into a relationship with one of Claussen’s former pupils at Mari Yamba. The Brisbane committee decided that the man in question should be baptised and married to Magdalene as soon as possible.
Claussen was never to return to Mari Yamba, and the experience with Hermannsburg graduates had not been good, both Krause and Mohr having deserted to German congregations. The committee widened its net of requests and obtained a new candidate from Neuendettelsau, Ernst Richard Hansche, who arrived in November 1894. The committee noticed that Hansche’s English was sparse, but decided that the school must be conducted in English. At this time the schools were conducted in German at Bloomfield (from about 1891 to1895) and at Hope Valley (from about 1893 to 1900).
Ernst Richard Hansche was born on 10 September 1863 in Dresden, and attended the Neuendettelsau seminary from 1891 to 1894. He was ordained at Kottbus in 1894 and served as missionary for Mari Yamba from September 1894 to March 1898. He performed the first baptisms in any Lutheran mission in Queensland, but his Neuendettelsau background conflicted with the synodal expectations of the Hermannsburg-leaning UGSLSQ. On his dismissal he immediately quit the synod and returned to Germany. In 1899 he was re-assigned to mission service in New Guinea.
The mission was now short of lay helpers. J. Tanzky and his wife from Mackay offered themselves as workers at the handsome salary of £80 for the two in January 1895, but by May the couple left and turned the Mackay congregation against the mission. Hansche also had the help of committee member G. R. Weise as station manager. But he battled against negative official reports and an uncooperative committee.
To Hansche’s proud report within a few months of his arrival, that he had baptised a grown up man and a child, the committee expressed ‘serious displeasure’. It was too soon, ‘and at such time with no other than the missionary present’. The committee lost its confidence in Hansche. He was clearly unfamiliar with the synodal differences among Lutherans.
A proper baptism was staged in Toowoomba at the mission festival in May 1895, as a demonstration of how these things ought to be done. Magdalena, aged 13 and Maria, aged 15, were ceremoniously baptised in the presence of seven pastors and before a large crowd, the ceremony being held in English because of the numerous ‘English people’ present, and the event reported in the mission press.
Hansche conducted his own public relations by sending frequent reports to the Neuendettelsau newsletter Kirchliche Mitteilungen. He also sent a group photo taken on the occasion of the baptism of Martha in white baptismal dress, which demonstrated to the editors how much elevated the Aborigines were from the influence of Christianity as demonstrated by the clean, complete clothing and ennobled facial features.
In December 1896 Mari Yamba had a baptism according to the synodal expectations. During a visit by committee member Holtermann, and in the presence of two Mackay pastors Hansche baptised Hannes, Josef and Anchen (presumably Annchen, a female). By this time Hansche was casting around for alternative positions in the other states, expressing his exasperation with the micro-confessional differences between synods with which he could not have familiarised himself during his short stay in Brisbane and remote posting.
Martha was one of the first two baptismal candidates at Mari Yamba in about May 1895. Apart from a deathbed baptism in 1892 at Hope Valley, these were the first baptisms on Lutheran missions in Queensland. But instead of praise Hansche earned the criticism of his mission committee.
Martha was of mixed descent and became a helpmeet to the Freiboth family when they arrived at Mari Yamba in 1889. In 1901 Freiboth sought to prevent her from marrying Emmerson (presumably a white man), but was instructed by the Home Secretary that since her age could not be reliably determined the marriage could not be prevented.
In July 1895 Andreas Mohr finally agreed to go to Mari Yamba and was duly ordained. But he soon complained about the ‘dominant behaviour of missionary Hansche’. By this time the committee was scandalized by a letter from the Colonial Secretary which named all its members and criticized the missionary and the management of the station by Mr. Weise. This was followed with a report from a government inspector which alleged that there was no evidence of any religious exercises of any kind at the mission. The committee washed its hands of Hansche and cast around for a replacement.
But Hansche was left hanging at the mission for more than two years while Mohr and Weise both returned to Brisbane, and reported unfavourably. Mohr had always felt misplaced at the mission and his English was also poor. He criticised Hansche for occupying himself with reading. Weise criticised both Mohr and Hansche for being inappropriately dressed, and allowing one of the girls to sleep in a room in the mission house. Committee members Heuer and Holtermann essentially confirmed the criticism of the government, that ‘Hansche has not fostered spiritual life greatly’, and the ‘tuition periods are not always adhered to’. The mission house was neglected, and the place needed someone who understood agriculture, ‘because whatever you try will grow’.
Hansche had to hold the fort until a replacement was found, assisted by Weise. The committee was now so desperate that it asked Doblies to step in again, but he declined. The list of pastors who declined to go to the mission is considerable: Krause refused to stay, Mohr refused to go, Kempe from Finke River had second thoughts.
Finally an experienced lay missionary was found in Georg Christoph Freiboth. He arrived in March 1898, and the very next day Hansche and Weise left. This left Freiboth in charge of the mission, but he was not ordained and there was still no missionary in sight. Nor were there any Aboriginal people. In July Freiboth reported that there were now eight adults and a number of children: ‘more than before’.
Freiboth was a tenacious man. He had been one of the last men standing at Finke River (Hermannsburg, Central Australia), and he stayed at Mari Yamba for four years, until the end. Gradually the mission population increased again, to 38 in June 1899. Because they could not find a missionary, the committee devolved the pastoral care of the mission to Rev. Ludwig Krause in Mackay, who was to visit the mission twice a year for three days at £2 each trip. There was hardly any community support, raising only £8 in one year. As Freiboth expressed it, ‘the mission urge of the local congregations was feeble.’ The rigidity of the mission committee had a lot to answer for in this regard.
Fuelled by settler complaints about a ‘lack of discipline’ at the mission, and pressure on land, the government withheld its subsidy for five months insisting that a qualified pastor must be at the mission. This was a remarkable turnaround from the attitude twelve years earlier when Bloomfield was liberally financed without a pastor.
Vast changes had just taken place in Queensland with the introduction of the Aborigines Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act in 1897, with which the Queensland government took charge of Aboriginal affairs, as Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia had already done. Government support for missions was qualified inasmuch as they had to play a role within the overall government policy. Aboriginal settlements ought to be well beyond settled boundaries. A network of missions and government reserves was now being developed, and protectors were empowered to move any of the 20,000 Aboriginal people left in Queensland, against their will. In February 1899 the Queensland government appointed the police commissioner, the Chief Protector of Aborigines and the Home Secretary (W. E. Roth, W. E. Parry-Okeden, J.F.G. Foxton ) as trustees of all missions including Mari Yamba, essentially placing them under government powers.
The Brisbane Courier reported in November 1899 that the mission had made ‘good progress’ and that the number of Indigenous people using the mission was increasing. Many of the mission residents were of mixed descent.The station was in good order, but its budget had taken a nosedive, and it had run up a £200 debt with the local store. The synod convention held at Toowoomba in 1901 decided to dismantle the mission. The movable property was sold and the debts were settled. The government agreed to pay £100 for the improvements on land.
In November 1901 Rev. Schwarz had negotiated with the Mari Yamba mission committee for some funding support to take on the remaining mission residents from Mari Yamba, and with the Queensland government to finance their transport. It took Freiboth a month to comply with all the requirements Schwarz had for him. Freiboth left his family with the Grosskreutz family in Proserpine while he took the 25 remaining mission residents to Cooktown. One cleared out in Bowen. He took some of them to Cape Bedford, stayed there for two weeks and then took the others to Bloomfield, where Poland was winding down that mission. (Freiboth’s diary specifies ‘half of my natives’, but according to the mission committee, seven were taken to Bloomfield and 17 remained at Hope Valley). Schwarz’s sister-in-law Miss Allen accompanied him from Cape Bedford to Bloomfield to visit the Polands. They rode to Cooktown to catch the government sailing boat, which took four days by sea. At Bloomfield he was to dismantle the mission house for removal to Cape Bedford. It took another two weeks before they reached Cooktown again. Presumably Schwarz used the government’s transport allowance for the removal of Mari Yamba people to have some building materials brought to Hope Valley.
Women of Mari Yamba, 1902
Some of the women who were instructed by Father Freiboth at Mari Yamba,
in front of the church also used as school, shortly before being taken
to Cape Bedford, 1902
Source: Freiboth file,Lutheran Archives Australia
In 1908 Rev. Poland listed by name all residents of Hope Valley. He indicated that nine people from Mari Yamba had been baptized that year, Bunggari (Christie, over 30 years old), Demtihi (Charley, around 30), Georgie (over 20), Albert (under 20), Mapin (ca, 17), Darken (ca. 15), Patty (ca. 13), Topsie (Bessie, over 20), Annie (under 20). He also listed the young men Daron and George and the girl Winnie. Altogether his list contains only twelve Mari Yamba people – half of the number moved there seven years earlier. A number of them had already been evicted because they were more used than Hope Valley residents to interactions with Europeans, and had, in the opinion of Rev. Schwarz, been ‘spoiled’ through inapproporiate contact.Roger Hart, whose life story has been published by John Haviland, married one of the Mari Yamba people, and the Bowen family came to considerable prominence in the Hopevale community.
 Theile, Otto, letter from New Guinea to Lutheran Archives Australia, 27. 10.1838, Claussen file. Letter to Pastor Hildemann, ‘assorted Correspondence’, UELCA, Bloomfield Mission Correspondence 1885-1891, Lutheran Archives Australia. Weiss, Peter, Short General and Statistical History of the Australian Lutheran Church, Lutheran Archives Australia, 2001-2007.
Weiss, Peter, Short General and Statistical History of the Australian Lutheran Church, Lutheran Archives Australia, 2001-2007. Theile, Otto, One hundred Years of the Lutheran Church in Queensland, Lutheran Church of Australia, Milton, 1938.
 Weiss, Peter, Short General and Statistical History of the Australian Lutheran Church, Lutheran Archives Australia, 2001-2007. Harms, Hartwig, Träume und Tränen - Hermannsburger Missionare und die Wirkungen ihrer Arbeit in Australien und Neuseeland, Hermannsburg, Verlag Ludwig Harms Haus, 2003, p. 291.
 Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, January 1894, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, July 1892, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, November 1894, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 ‘Von Mari Yamba’ Kirchliche Mitteilungen, 1895, No.11, p. 86.
Brisbane Courier, 26 October 1894, p. 7, citing Major Moore, police magistrate at Mackay.
Brisbane Courier, 26 October 1894, p. 7 Weiss, Peter, Short General and Statistical History of the Australian Lutheran Church, Lutheran Archives Australia, 2001-2007, p. 246.
 Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, May 1895, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 ‘Kirchliche Nachrichten’, Kirchen- und Missionszeitung Nr. 10, 31 May 1895, p.80.
 ‘Von Mari Yamba’ Kirchliche Mitteilungen, 1895, no. 11, p. 87.
 Letters by Hansche to Oster, President of ESLSA in South Australia, 11 June 1896 and to the president of another synod, 12 June 1896, Hansche file, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, November 1901, Lutheran Archives Australia.
6 Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, 29 January 1896, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, 7 January 1896, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, 3 May 1896, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 Heuer reporting in February 1896, and Holtermann reporting in December 1896, Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, Lutheran Archives Australia.
 Freiboth Diary, in Freiboth file, Lutheran Archives Australia.
Kirchliche Mitteilungen, 1886-1907, Nos 2 and 3, p.471, March 1902. Haviland, John with Roger Hart, Old Man Fog and the last Aborigines of Barrow Point, Bathurst, Crawford House Publishing, 1998: 203.
 February 1902 and July 1902, Minute Book for the Mission Committee of the German-Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland, 1887-1903, Lutheran Archives Australia.