Bega Pioneers Museum

Fourter German Wagon

The Story

Location of Object:

Bega Pioneers’ Museum, 87 Bega St, Bega, NSW, 2550.


Accessibility of Object:

This object belongs to the Bega Valley Historical Society Inc., the organisation responsible for managing the Bega Pioneers’ Museum.

The museum is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10.00 am - 4.00 pm; Saturday 10.00 am - 2.00 pm. Closed public holidays.

In line with standard best practice long term preservation procedures, the museum maintains a regular rotating exhibition schedule, so there can be no guarantee that the item featured in this dossier will be on public display at any given time.

History and Provenance of Object:

The Fourter German Wagon is reputed to have been brought to Australia from Germany during the late 19th century by members of the immigrant Fourter family.

One of many German families who settled during the 19th century in what is now the Bega Valley Shire, the Fourters were late arrivals compared to some others. Adolf, who was born in Rottach, Bavaria, Germany in 1867, was 17 years of age when he arrived unaccompanied in Sydney on board the Taormina on 21 July, 1884. His parents Michael (aged 47) and Ottila (42) “Forder” [sic] with their other children Anna (11), Anton (8), Pauline / Paulina (6) and Monika (2) arrived on board the Marsala on 17 August the following year.


Adolf established a carting business, worked on the Pambula goldfields and also acquired 80 acres of land at Nethercote after that area was opened up in the late 1880s. While continuing his transport operations, he began developing his farmland, concentrating initially on maize and potato cropping until consistent good returns enabled him to move into dairying around 1904. The Pambula Voice reported in October that year that he had "...lately gone in for some fine Jersey cows..." Around the same time he also joined the list of suppliers of the Pambula Co-operative Creamery and Dairy Company's factory at Lochiel.


Focusing increasingly on dairying, Adolf put down pastures and in 1906 a journalist noted that he was "...a progressive farmer and believes in being up-to-date. His land is constantly kept clear of falling timber, whilst almost all of his paddocks have been laid down with grass. The herd is kept free from animals of an unprofitable nature, and in the well-kept separating room, testing appliances are found with a record of each cow's capabilities as a butter fat producer. Thus profitless animals are soon dispensed with, and the utmost benefit derives from his well-nigh forty cows. Mr. Fourter intends making further improvements on his property, including the erection of a silo, as he is convinced that this is an essential to every dairy."


Through this practice of systematic herd testing and carefully tracking each animal’s butter fat output, Adolf ensured unproductive beasts had no place on his farm. And it soon began paying dividends - by 1906, Model Farm's milk and cream returns were being noted in the local media, and despite the fact that the property had less acreage and a smaller herd than many others in the district, it consistently topped the list of cream suppliers to the Pambula butter factory.

From the 1900s, Adolf paid close attention to the improvement and expansion of the property and with the assistance of his sons Joe, Mick and Frank it continued to grow in both size and reputation. In 1911, the property was described as "...a Nethercote gold mine..." and according to District Stock Inspector Furness, "Fourter is progressive and thorough, and deserves to come out on top. He cultivates thoroughly and is not afraid to turn the earth up to make it yield its utmost. He feeds in the cheapest way by feeding off. The stock are the very best and well worth looking at; be they the cattle, horses, pigs or sheep. The milch herd are Jersey bred from pedigree sires and are culled heavily, not only for symmetry, but profitableness, pounds, shillings and pence being Mr. Fourter's object in dairying."


A keen follower of the herd recording movement, he paid particular attention to bloodlines and breeding, carefully selecting sires from good strains to ensure a high standard, high producing mob. Adolf's livestock breeding activities also reaped dividends at the saleyards while the increasingly diverse property cropped maize, oats and saciline, as well as raising pigs and sheep.

In 1916, with the ongoing demands of World War I and the increasingly short supply of farm labour, Adolf became one of the first in the Pambula District to install a milking machine, laying down concrete in his shed in May that year, and then taking delivery of the appliances in July. Local media noted that it would enable him “...to do without help in the sheds." Shortly afterwards, despite, or perhaps because of, their German roots, his son Isadore enlisted in the AIF; with another son, Frank, following in May 1918 after three previous attempts.


In 1919, Joe and Mick Fourter took a lease over Model Farm and in November that year local media announced Adolf’s retirement “...from farming pursuits…” However, it is evident that he remained actively involved in the running of the property and during the 1930s, it was still being referred to as Fourter and Son’s Model Farm. By that time it encompassed an area of 250 acres and was acknowledged as one of the most productive in the district.


Over the years, Adolf and his sons took part in many agricultural competitions, securing an array of awards and prizes for their efforts. This included second place in the 1936 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW-sponsored Fodder Conservation Competition, repeating the achievement two years later before taking out the top position in 1939. According to a report, Model Farm had "...a very complete and balanced reserve..." that included two trench silos and pasture hay stored in a sound and well protected hay shed adjacent to the feeding stalls.

In 1936 Messrs. A. Fourter and Son were placed fourth in the statewide Farmer and Settler Dairy Farm Competition, also receiving a special prize for the quality of their milk and cream. They followed this in 1939 with first place in the Far South Section of the Dairy Farm Championship, run by the Department of Agriculture, Farmer and Settler newspaper, dairy factories and the Milk Board. To mark the judging for the state-wide category, Adolf and Joe opened Model Farm for a community field day in July, the "...highly successful..." event attracting an estimated 200 people as well as the various judges and officials. Model Farm also took out the Far South Coast division of the 1938 Improved Grasslands competition run by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW in conjunction with local agricultural societies, beating 19 entries from the Pambula, Bega and Cobargo districts.


In addition to his busy working life, Adolf was a keen supporter of the local community. He was a founding member of the Eden Exhibition Society and a loyal supporter of the Pambula A. H. and P. Society; an annual exhibitor and attendee at the Eden, Pambula, Bega and Candelo Shows; reputedly never missed a shareholder’s meeting of the Merimbula bacon co-operative factory; was a supplier and shareholder of the Pambula Co-operative Creamery and Dairy Company; and was so supportive of the Pambula District Hospital from its very early days that the board made him a life member.


And it was there in May 1946 that he passed away at the age of 79. According to reports, “For some years, he had not enjoyed good health and had been several times in hospital. Last Thursday an operation was performed in the hope of prolonging his life, but he never regained consciousness.” Noting that he was one of the most accomplished dairy farmers on the South Coast, his success “...in several Statewide competitions for best dairy farm it gained a place on at least one or two occasions…” was highlighted

Following Adolf's death, Joe continued to work Model Farm with similar success, taking out prizes and awards for cattle and produce locally and beyond. For a number of years, he also served as managing director of the Pambula Co-operative Creamery and Dairy Company.

Nolan Joseph (“Bill”) Fourter, the third generation of the family to work the property, initially leased the land from his father until, after Joe's death in 1962, ownership passed to him. Continuing in the tradition already set, he was an active member and exhibitor at the Pambula A. H. and P. Society for many years and in 1963 took out the Country Life Dairy Farm Improvement Competition.

However, unmarried and with no children to take the farm over, Bill decided to subdivide the majority of the land off, selling it as a working property in 1976 and retaining only the block upon which the family home stood. He continued to live there until his death in 2002.


The wagon remained in use on Fourter’s Model Farm at Nethercote between Eden and Pambula for many years before finally being superseded by more up-to-date equipment. It was then placed in storage in a shed on the property until December 2002 when it was donated to the Bega Pioneers' Museum by Peter Ubrihien.


Fourter's Road, the street that runs into the property at Nethercote, remembers the valuable and lengthy contribution of the family and their Model Farm property to the district.


Context:

Although German immigrants began arriving in the Australian colonies during the early years of white settlement, it wasn’t until 1847 when the government widened the assisted immigrants scheme to include skilled non-British European workers that numbers began to grow significantly.


The 19th century exodus of Germans from their homeland was a combination of religious, economic, political and social reasons - although not all were significant factors at the same time, nor were they necessarily independent of each other. Australia was an appealing destination at the time though because it enabled the immigrants to avoid religious persecution; escape a depressed economy; and evade military conscription. It also offered opportunities not available in their homeland - including the prospect of economic freedom; the chance to own a farm free of suffocating debt; and the availability of land. In the New South Wales colony, land ownership became increasingly accessible in the wake of the Robertson's Land Act of 1861 which opened up large areas for those hoping to pursue farming and agriculture.


In the period between 1850 and World War I, German settlers and their descendants comprised the largest group of non-British Europeans in Australia. They formed close communities, maintaining strong cultural ties and resilient links with their heritage, with prominent German settlements across New South Wales including those in the Bega district, as well as Albury, Grafton, Tenterfield, Armidale and Temora.


They brought with them many skills and traditions, amongst which was the so-called "German Wagon". Quite distinct from its British counterpart, these were recognised as being "typically" German in design. Characterised by outward sloping sides with four upright standards set into the ends of the cross support timbers over the axle beds, these vehicles were springless with spoked wheels noticeably larger at the rear than the front. The distinctive slatted sides could also be easily removed, providing numerous adaptations.

Wagons as built by or for the early German settlers remained basically the same as those illustrated in an 1817 publication showing a wagon conveying wine by the early Romans. It thus represents a design and style used by the German peoples for upwards of two thousand years.

Found on many of the farms worked by German pioneers throughout New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland, these wagons were utilised for a multitude of purposes - to transport produce, timber, household goods, farm equipment and passengers, and were sometimes also covered with fabric for sleeping quarters until housing was available.

The typical colour scheme for traditional German wagons was blue and red. This evolved from the combination first used in early Lutheran Churches, blue symbolising heavenly love and the colour of truth, and red the colour of blood or fire and representing confession as well as the Holy Spirit. Over the years, these colours were adopted for the German wagon, with the wheels often painted red and the body blue.

Fabric, design, manufacture and condition:

A timber and iron unsprung four wheeled typical "German" style wagon.

Vertical struts frame sides with four upright standards set into the end of cross support timbers over axle beds. Attached to standards are distinctive slatted timber sides sloping slightly outwards which are readily removable, providing numerous adaptations. The hinged opening tailgate enabled ease of loading and unloading. It features an adjustable perch (the main longitudinal undercarriage member); wheels made of timber with timber spokes and iron rims; timber shafts and iron fittings for team.

The wagon was originally painted in the traditional blue and red colour scheme, remnants of which still remain evident today.

The timber used in manufacture is unidentified. Assessment of the species could help to pinpoint the country of origin and confirm the wagon's importation from Germany to Australia.


Maker:

Unknown.

Used by:

The Fourter family of Model Farm, Nethercote.

Condition:

In original condition, with an outstanding level of integrity, retaining all of its original elements and with no apparent major alterations. It also retains rare and highly important evidence of its original blue and red colour scheme. Timber planking does show signs of age, wear and damage.

Marks:

Unknown.

Production date:

Unconfirmed.

(Said anecdotally to date from the 1840s and to have been imported by the Fourter family when they immigrated from Germany. This is currently factually unconfirmed.)


Comparative examples:

Collection:

Description:

Jindera Pioneer Museum, Jindera, NSW.

German Wagon, timber and iron construction, local manufacture.

Cobb and Co Museum, Toowoomba, QLD

German Wagon, timber and iron, rebuilt after fire damage in 1981.

Cobb and Co Museum, Toowoomba, QLD

German Wagon, timber and iron.

Mallala Museum, Mallala, SA

German Wagon / Konzag's waggon, timber and iron.


The particular significance of this Object:

The Fourter German Wagon is an important, rare and impressive part of the Bega Pioneers' Museum collection.

The agricultural and pastoral industries have long been and remain a valuable social and economic story in the Bega Valley region and this wagon provides an important link with the role German immigrants played in this heritage. It is a rare, tangible reminder of the cultural traditions and practices brought to the region by this group of immigrants and represents an essential part of the German migrant experience in Australia. It is indicative of the 19th century journeys and settlement patterns of Germans immigrating to Australia and the Bega Valley region and provides a valuable extant link with their crucial farming activities in the district.

Featuring characteristic design elements, it demonstrates a traditionally constructed unsprung German wagon made popular in Australia as a result of the increasing number of German immigrants arriving during the mid- to late-19th century. Depicting an instantly identifiable type, it is an aesthetically valuable illustration of traditional construction, design and use. Rare extant evidence of the original red and blue colour scheme strengthens this link with German culture and traditions.

A valuable illustration of the evolution of transportation and farming technology in the region, it was an important early agricultural tool. It has close links with three generations of the German immigrant Fourter family and their award-winning Nethercote property Model Farm, and is associated with a number of other important local enterprises and businesses, including Munn's Maizena Factory, Honeysuckle Co-operative Bacon Factory, Pambula Co-operative Creamery and Dairy Company and the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company.

An excellent representative demonstration of the style of wagon introduced into Australia by 19th century German immigrants and used on their farming properties, it is a rare surviving example of a once common type. A particularly well provenanced illustration of its type, despite the significant level of German settlement in the area, it is the only known extant example in the Bega Valley region. Although in need of some conservation intervention, it is in original condition, with a high level of integrity and retains many rare and important elements.

The Fourter wagon has powerful interpretative potential to contribute to the story of German immigration to and resettlement in Australian in general and the Bega Valley region in particular over an extensive part of the 19th century; as well as providing an opportunity to convey information about traditional German wagon design, style and construction techniques.

In addition, it has the capacity to link with and support the interpretation of themes and storylines such as settling, developing and building the region; the early and ongoing importance of agriculture, farming and dairying locally; the development and evolution of land based transportation methods; land use patterns; rural and regional industries; migration, migrant groups and migration journeys; churches and religion; and labour, working and employment.


Themes:

Main theme:

National themes

2. PEOPLING AUSTRALIA

State themes

Ethnic influences

Local themes

Settler Heritage in Bega Valley Shire


Other themes:

National themes

2. PEOPLING AUSTRALIA

3. DEVELOPING LOCAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL ECONOMIES

4. BUILDING SETTLEMENTS, TOWNS AND CITIES

5. WORKING

8. DEVELOPING AUSTRALIA’S CULTURAL LIFE

State themes

Migration

Agriculture

Commerce

Industry

Pastoralism

Technology

Transport

Accommodation

Labour

Religion

Local themes

Coming to live in Bega Valley Shire

Working the land in Bega Valley Shire

Economic survival in Bega Valley Shire

Building and Industrial development within Bega Valley Shire

Pastoralism in Bega Valley Shire

Technological Innovation within Bega Valley Shire

Challenging terrains: Getting about in Bega Valley Shire

Housing locals and visitors to the shire

Working in Bega Valley Shire

Religious life in Bega Valley Shire


Thematic storylines:

Settling, developing and building the region

Settling, developing and building the region – The selectors

Transport – Land based

The development and evolution of transportation methods

Land use patterns

Rural and regional industries – Agricultural and pastoral

Rural and regional industries – Farming and agricultural properties

Rural and regional industries - Dairying

Rural and regional industries – Crops and grains.

Rural and regional industries – Pig raising

Migration, migrant groups and migration journeys – German

Churches and religion

Labour, working and employment

Notable people and families


Geographically associated places / sites:

Bega Pioneers Museum and collections

Associated / linked places / sites / items / people:

Fourter family

Adolph Fourter

Joe Fourter

Mick Fourter

Bill Fourter

Model Farm, Fourter's Road, Nethercote, NSW, 2549.

Nethercote

Pambula

Eden

Pambula Co-operative Creamery and Dairy Company

Munn’s Maizena Company

Honeysuckle Co-operative Bacon Factory

Hillside plough from Model Farm, donated by Joe Fourter, Bega Pioneers' Museum (accession number Z798)

German horse collar from Model Farm, donated by Joe Fourter, Bega Pioneers' Museum (accession number Z847)

“J. Fourter, Registered dairyman” tin sign, private ownership.

Assorted trophies, awarded by Pambula A. H. & P. Society to members of the Fourter family, private ownership.


Heritage listings (statutory and non-statutory):

Further information:

Bega Pioneers Museum https://pioneersmuseum.wordpress.com/285-2/german-wagon/

Museum of the South East https://www.mose.org.au/collection/fourters-german-wagon/

George, Angela, Down on the Farm, The Magnet, 26 August, 1997, p. 16

Encyclopedia of South East History - Fourter’s German Wagon


Contributors to this ‘library’:

Angela George and Pat Raymond, February 2019.


Acknowledgements, Rights and Permissions:

Acknowledgement of Bega Valley Historical Society Inc., Angela George and Pat Raymond.

© Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.


References and bibliography:

  • Age
  • Argus
  • Bega Budget
  • Bega District News
  • Bega Standard
  • Bega Valley Genealogy Society (comp.) Bega Courthouse - Index to Death Registers 1871-1918
  • Bombala Times
  • Brady, Edwin James, Australia Unlimited, G. Robertson, Melbourne, 1918
  • Daily Telegraph
  • Dunn's Almanac, 1921
  • Eden Magnet
  • Eden Observer
  • Evening News
  • Express and Telegraph
  • Farmer and Settler
  • Fourter, Adolf, Certificate of Naturalization, 17 January 1899
  • Fourter, Bill, pers. comm.
  • Fourter, George Anthony, Certificate of Naturalisation, 24 August 19??
  • Goulburn Evening Penny Post
  • Herald
  • Magnet-Voice
  • Marsala, shipping list, 19 August, 1885
  • Pambula Voice
  • Raleigh Sun
  • Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser
  • South Australian Advertiser
  • South Australian Register
  • Shoalhaven Telegraph
  • Southern Record and Advertiser
  • Southern Star
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • Taormina, shipping list, 21 July, 1884
  • Twofold Bay Magnet
From the collection of the Bega Valley Historical Society Inc. Image by Angi High for Museum of the South East, © South East Arts (NSW) Inc.


Location

87 Bega Street, Bega NSW 2550.