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The Lutherans

With all the company of heaven

These stories were written to commemorate the 150th anniversary (1857-2007) of the arrival in Brisbane of Pastor Carl Schirmeister (first registered Lutheran minister in Queensland) and Mrs. Alwine Schirmeister née Gehricke (first evangelical Lutheran deaconess in Australia).

These stories represent a small number Lutherans who participated in the sacramental life of this tradition of the church or who were at some time, or in some way, connected with it. They came from all walks of life.

Use the Toowong Cemetery map to help you visit the graves in this story.

Christian Thomas Wagner (4‑32‑1)

Christian Wagner was born in Germany in 1830 and died on 28 February 1903. He was buried two days later with Lutheran rites. Also here is his wife Elizabeth who died on 27 June 1912 aged 82 and their daughter Bertha Barbara who died on 11 March 1930 aged 62. Christian served on the church committee of St Andreas (St Andrews) congregation, Wickham Terrace.

Johannes Lather (4‑13‑33)

The Lather family of New Farm was also members of the St. Andreas congregation from before WWI. Johannes Lather was one of the earliest Trustees. He was born in Germany on 16 February 1825 and died at the age of 66, on 31 July 1891. His wife Lissetta was born on 5 August 1821, the daughter of Johann Hermann Schmalenbach and Anna Catherine Elberghagen. She died aged 77, on 30 September 1898.

Johannes Christian Brünnich (4‑10‑32)

Johannes Brünnich was born on 11 September 1861 in Görz, Austria‑Hungary (now Gorizia, Italy), the son of a Lutheran minister and mathematician. He studied chemistry in Switzerland, worked in Bohemia, Russia and Georgia. He migrated to Queensland in 1885. Rev. Schirmeister officiated at his marriage to Catherine (Kate) Terry on 22 April 1886, the daughter of a Brisbane watchmaker.

After managing a sugar‑refinery and maltings at Bulimba and working in Darwin, he joined the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. in 1897 as a chemist. He became the government agricultural chemist in the new Queensland Department of Agriculture and was lecturer in chemistry at the agricultural college at Gatton. He wrote more than 60 papers on applied chemistry, soils, plant and animal nutrition.

He was the Captain commanding the Gatton Squadron of the Queensland Light Horse. He suffered government interference during WWI and in 1920 was still trying to secure his confiscated papers. He was foundation member and fellow of the (Royal) Australian Chemical Institute and fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain (now Royal Chemical Institute).

He died on 3 July 1933 aged 71. His wife, Catherine, survived him for nearly twenty years, dying on 7 May 1951 aged 91. Also here are his son Harold Oscar Brünnich, who died on 17 August 1939 aged 48 and daughter Pauline Brünnich, who died 18 October 1965 aged 76.

Theodore Oscar Unmack (13‑4‑12)

German‑born Theodore Unmack (21 November 1835 ‑ 17 September 1919) arrived in Brisbane in 1860. He chaired a meeting at St. Andreas Lutheran Church in 1865 during a difficult time in the congregation. His first wife was Robina Bryce the daughter of John Bryce Glassford and Margaret Forsyth. She died on 10 September 1874 aged 39. The couple’s eldest son, Herbert Theodore died in Hamburg on 30 July 1869 aged 8 years and 8 months.

Theodore’s second wife of 42 years, Kathleen died on 12 August 1937 aged 86 and was cremated in Sydney. She was the mother of six of his children.

Theodore traded with his partner J. C. Heussler as a wholesale merchant and was the MLA for Toowong from 1888—1893 and Secretary for the Railways. He was a prominent Freemason who was buried with Presbyterian rites.

Theodore Unmack, 1889

Unmack, Theodore, 1889 - State Library of Queensland.

Ernst Otto and Regula Albertina Maier (13‑15‑5)

Ernst Otto Maier was born on 13 April 1853 in Köngen, Württemberg and died on 15 March 1905. He was the first of five Basel trained pastors to serve the “German Lutheran Church North Brisbane” (St Andreas) from 1888 until his death. This monument was erected by his family, friends and congregation. He is buried with his wife Regula Albertina Maier née Bunzli who was born on 1 April 1853 in Zurich, Switzerland and died on 11 August 1935 at Ipswich.

Also buried in the grave is Martha Maria Hiller née Maier who was born on 26 August 1880 at German Station (Nundah) and died on 4 December 1915. She was the organist at St. Andreas in 1900 before she married the Rev. Eugen Hiller (1870—1958) who was the pastor there in 1905‑06.

Gentner Family (13‑20‑3)

Friedericke Wilhelmine Gentner (née Gross) was born 16 July 1864 and died 7 October 1901. Her husband, Johann Frederick Gentner, who was a builder died on 2 December 1905 aged 71. The couple had nine children between 1868 and 1887. Johann had previously been married to Katharina Christina Maier, who had borne him six children before dying in May 1867.

Many members of the family are buried in the enclosure including son, Thomas Gentner, who was registered at birth as Gottlieb Tom, and his wife Auguste Louise née Kleinschmidt who died on 19 January 1955 aged 82. The family were members at St Andreas for several generations and lived at Harcourt Street, New Farm.

Carl Franz Alexander and Caroline Friedericke Alwine Schirmeister (13‑25‑6)

Carl (Charles) Franz Alexander Schirmeister was born on 22 July 1814, near Eberswalde, Prussia and died on 8 October 1887. He was for 30 years the pastor of the “German Evangelical Lutheran congregation of North Brisbane” which came to be known as St Andreas after 1881.

A talented musician, he was educated at Halle University and became a Pastor of the Prussian Union Church. He trained in the Gossner Mission Society in Berlin and in 1842 he, and others, were sent to the Chatham Islands and arrived there in 1843. When the mission came to an end, he worked as a tutor for the Hunt family on Pitt Island for 2 years. In poor health he went to New Zealand, then Sydney, arriving in Brisbane after the mission at German Station had closed.

The first Lutheran service was held in the city in May 1857 where he secured Crown Grants of Land for the church. He was the first registered Lutheran minister in Queensland after separation. Fluent in English, he traveled far and wide to minister to people and conduct services. He became the first President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Queensland.

His wife, Alwine, née Gehricke, (3 June 1818 - 30 November 1894) trained at the Elizabeth Deaconesses’ Home and Hospital in Berlin. With two other deaconesses she went to the Chatham Island in 1846 where she married. She became the first woman to be naturalised in Queensland on 21 June 1864. Alwine worked faithfully alongside of her husband. Her funeral service was conducted by Rev. E. O. Maier. Buried here is also their daughter Johanna Albertine Elizabeth Sachse. The headstone was erected by the congregation.

Ernst and Pauline Eschenhagen (9‑15‑5)

Karl Ernst Eschenhagen was born on 24 May 1850 at Crossen‑Oder, Lower Silesia in Prussia (now Poland) and died on 18 March 1906. His wife, Pauline Emma née Stegemann was born on 26 December 1869 and died on 4 July 1921. They lost a daughter, Agnes Pauline, in January 1899 aged 11 years. Before coming to Brisbane, Ernst spent some time in Fiji.

He was a leader in St Andreas Congregation for many years and operated a renowned and fashionable Café Eschenhagen in Brisbane which was under the personal patronage of every Governor from 1889—1914 and catered for many Government House functions. Their first shop was in George St near Herschell St and later had to move to larger premises in Queen St which could seat 480 people. Branches were opened elsewhere.

In 1895 Ernst wanted a German day school at St Andreas, where English‑speaking children were also admitted, which would be under the direction of a teacher who was fluent in both languages. He met his wife at St. Andreas and they married in 1886 producing six children.

Anti‑German feeling during WWI forced the business, which had been carried on by Mrs Eschenhagen, to be sold in November 1915.

One of their sons, Oskar Wilhelm Eschenhagen (1889—1969), who changed his name to Oscar Edwards during WWI, operated a successful transport business in Sydney but is better remembered, with his wife, as being art collectors. In the early 1950s they met Picasso and Matisse. He was an accomplished artist himself and gave works to galleries, which included the Queensland Art Gallery.

Johann Christian and Sophia Esther Heussler (13‑64‑11)

John Heussler was born on 15 June 1820 at Bockenheim, Germany (near Frankfurt‑am‑Main) and arrived in Queensland in 1854. His background was as a wine merchant in London and Holland. He married Sophia Esther, daughter of John and Christian Westgarth of Edinburgh. She came to Queensland from Victoria with her mother, also buried here, and sister, shortly after their arrival in Australia. John and Sophia Heussler married in Brisbane on 10 March 1859. John Christian died on 26 October 1907 and his widow died on 5 June 1914. While “religion was not to play a big role in his life”, he was buried according to Lutheran rites from Nazareth Church, Hawthorne Street, Woolloongabba.

He played a large role in immigration, particularly encouraging an estimated two thousand German Lutherans to come to Queensland. He built Fernberg, the current home of the Governor of Queensland but lost it to creditors in 1879. He was appointed a member of the Legislative Council in 1866, holding the position until his death. He became Honorary Consul for the German Empire and also for the Netherlands. In 1896 he opened the new school of the Nazareth Lutheran Church and presented a gift of 400 marks from the German Kaiser.


Research provided by Rev. Stephen Nuske, St Andrews Lutheran Church


  • Archives, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Wickham Terrace, Brisbane.
  • Beckmann, T.J. ‘Brunnich, Johannes Christian (1861-1933)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, 463-464.
  • Der Australischer Christenbote (monthly church periodical based in Melbourne) Oct. 1887; Dec.1894; March 1912. ,
  • Graetz, Joyce, An Open Book : The story of the Distribution and Production of Christian Literature by Lutherans in Australia, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 1988.
  • Gunson, Niel, ‘Schirmeister, Carl Friedrich Alexander Franz (1814-1887)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, Melbourne University Press, 1976, p. 90.
  • Heussler, Robert C., A Colonial Father: the story of German-born Queenslander J.C.Heussler, Book House, Sydney, 2001.
  • Jurgensen, Manfred; and Corkhill, Alan, The German Presence in Queensland, Department of German, University of Queensland, Albion Press Brisbane 1988.
  • Murtagh, Therese, Establishing Lutherans in Colonial Brisbane (unpublished paper), delivered Founders Day, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Brisbane 2005.
  • Radius, Newsletter of the University of Sydney Medical Graduates Association, Vol. 16, Number 1, Oct (2003), 29.
  • Natusch, Sheila, Hell and High Water – A German occupation of the Chatham Islands 1843-1920 , Pegasus Press, rev. ed. The Caxton Press, New Zealand, 1977
  • Shackleford, Max L. (editor), 125 Years: Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide, Bethlehem Lutheran Church Archives Committee, 1997.
  • Summers, H.J. The Eschenhagens: Saga of a Celebrated Family, The Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2 (1976-77), 135-144.
  • Turner, Pam, Down the island, Rocket Printing, Qld., 1999
  • Voigt, Johannes H. (editor) New Beginnings – The Germans in New South Wales and Queensland, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Federal Republic of Germany, 1983.
  • Weiss, J. Peter, Short General and Statistical History of the Australian Lutheran Church, Eden Hills, South Australia, 1999.

© 2012, Friends of Toowong Cemetery Association Inc. and Friends of Lutheran Archives Queensland