Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sepia Saturday 296 : 12 September 2015

Sepia Saturday's prompt is an image from the California Historical Society.  

It is an advertisement for H Boettcher, a wine grower from Los Angeles. Boettcher was a manufacturer and dealer in wines and brandies.  He owned the trademark for San Pedro Wines.

Brisbane's climate (where I live) is sub-tropical whereas Los Angeles' climate is Mediterranean.  But there are a few wineries near Brisbane.  Places like Stanthorpe in the Granite Belt come to mind. And so I sip my glass of wine and ponder.

Picture Queensland's database  has photos of the Clinton Vineyard or Colinton Vineyard at Coominya.  I hadn't heard of it before.  

Coominya is 83km or 52 miles west of Brisbane in the Somerset Region.  It is in the county Cavendish and the Parish England.  Places near Coominya are Esk, the Wivenhoe Dam, Mount Tarampa and Buaraba Creek.  Last century, people called the area Bellevue, after the local pastoral property there.  

I'm not quite sure when the vineyard began but the first mention I can find of it on Trove is in December 1904.  A hailstorm damaged it,  as you can read in the following article.

Provincial Pickings. (1904, December 7). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947), p. 4 Edition: SECOND EDITION. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

Mrs Banff owned the vineyard at the time.; widow of Jacob Banff.  Jacob died in 6 August 1888 at the age of 51, according to the headstone in Lowood Cemetery.

Jacob Banff arrived in Brisbane 5 September 1863 on the Beausite from Hamburg.  

courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Negative number: 33814 

Jacob was 26 years old.  He came from Ernsthausen in Kurhessen and his parents were Carl and Anna Barbara Imhof. I can't read German to save my life and my knowledge of European history is rusty.  This article indicates that the region Jacob came from had suffered a famine 20 years before.  And this article reminds me that it was also the time of the German wars of unification.  This blog gives a great overview too.  When Jacob left Ernsthausen, it was part of the Austrian Empire but after the Austro-Prussian war or "7 week war", Prussia took over.  

 The Government gazette of 1873 (Page 1916) advises us that Jacob had the Box Dale Run in Wivenhoe and the brand B4S.  

Jacob married Julia Hannah Starck in 1872.  

Julia ( Julianne)  Stark arrived in Brisbane 12 August 1871.  She was 16 years old and came on the "Friedeburg" from Hamburg.  She came with her father Carl aged 51 and I think her aunt Johanne,  and her siblings:

Bertha aged 19

Carl aged 13

Wilhelmine aged 7

and Pauline aged 3

The family was originally from Clausdorf, Provinz Posen.  At the time this would have been part of Prussia and what is now Poland.

Julianna and Jacob Banff had 7 children that I have been able to find:

  1. 1876 Carl Hermann August 
  2. 1878 Edward
  3. 1880 Ida Christiana
  4. 1882 Frederick William
  5. 1884 Max
  6. 1886 Lotta
  7. 1888 Elisabeth

Jacob obtained a retail spirit dealers licence (Qld Police Gazette Vol X111 Page 85) in August 1874, .  

He owned the hotel at Fernvale.  This article gives an idea of what he was like as a host:

COUNTRY SKETCHES. (1877, July 19). Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 - 1908), p. 3. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

In 1884 there was a big fire which burned the hotel down.  Jacob was away looking after the property at Tarampa.  Julia and her servant escaped with their lives.  

The Morning Bulletin, ROCKHAMPTON. (1884, July 29). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

Four years later Jacob died, leaving Julia and her children to look after the vineyard.  Julia died in 1905.

Most articles about the vineyard appear between 1910 and 1929 - presumably its heyday.  

The pictures on State Library of Queensland's website date from 1900

Here is the vineyard...

courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland - Negative number: 87362

c 1912 courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland - Negative number: 87361

The group photo shows some of Jacob and Julia's children. On the left is William (aka Frederick William is aged about 30), then Elizabeth (aged about 24), then Lottie (aged about 22) and two unknown people.  Then over on the right is Ted (aka Edward aged about 34) and wearing a hat is Henry (aka John aged about 39).   To the right of Henry, at the end, is Mr Serisier the winemaker and excise officer.  

I figured out Henry's (aka John) birth date from his obituary.

Late Mr. J. Banff. (1953, July 9). Queensland Country Life (Qld. : 1900 - 1954), p. 16. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from 
Herman is not present because he died a year earlier as per this notice:

MR. HERMAN BANFF. (1911, November 8). Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 4 Edition: DAILY. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

I imagine his death was related to this incident reported a couple of years earlier:

AN ACCIDENT AT TARAMPA. (1909, July 15). Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 5 Edition: DAILY. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

Here is another photo of Henry with Mr Serisier standing outside the Bond Room (where the brandy was stored).

c 1912 courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland - Negative number: 87360

and another photo - this time of two unidentified men standing next to two fermentation vats.  

c. 1910 courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland - Negative number: 87361

They are without a doubt the biggest barrels I have ever seen.

There are quite a few newspaper articles describing the Clinton Vineyard at Coominya from the time.  One from the Queensland Times talks about the quality of the soil which did not seem auspicious.  But the Queensland Times reporter says in 1913: 

TW Scarborough (on a neighbouring farm) when showing me round his farm, carried a spade with him and sank holes at different places on his farm and could sink the spade to a depth of 3ft. and never touch clay - all beautiful damp, loose soil.  When about 4ft down a light reef of gravel is met with and from there on a decayed stone is gone through, until water is struck, only 7 ft from the surface.  And such beautiful water, having been filtered through such a natural filter-bed.
The reporter goes on to give an extensive description of the Banff Bros. homestead where he stayed the night.  

The country where the vines are laid out is situated on the northern side of Sandy Creek, about three miles from Coominya....during Friday last no fewer than 11 extra men were put on, and the total number of men engaged in the grape industry now reached 28.....The men begin work at 7am and discontinue at 12pm and have two hours for dinner, thus enjoying a rest in the excessive heat of the day...The grapes grown are mainly of the Royal Ascot variety and besides this there are Isabella's, Iona's and wine-grapes produced.  The area carrying crop this season is 37 acres and the estimated output is in the vicinity of 7,000 cases....Two wagons were engaged to carry the supply to Coominya railway and this week will be seen three wagons going, twice a day making a total of 300 cases per day, to be delivered on trucks....The brothers are contemplating paying extra attention to the wine industry, which quantity manufactured now amounts to 700 gallons annually.  They purpose erecting a distillery during the present year....the business of cattle-dealing is also extensively carried on, the total area of ground being 3200 acres.

courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland - Negative Number 129350

Banff and Mr Serisier expressed frustration in an article published
in March 1914 with having to wait for a Customs officer to come out to the farm before they could distill.  They emphasized to the reporter that:
brandy is made soley for the purpose   of fortifying wine, and not for straight out sale as brandy.  

The Banff brothers invited the Premier out to lay the foundation stone for their new cellar in September of that year.  He did come but, of course, other more pressing matters were on everyone's mind...the Great War.  

Frederick William was already doing his patriotic duty, serving with the 13th Light Horse.  He was appointed the area officer under the new defence scheme.

He served in the AIF, was wounded at Gallipoli and invalided home. You can read about his bravery here. 

OBITUARY. (1941, July 24). Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 4 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

Henry aka John was finding it difficult to staff the vineyard during the war.  This article from 1916 refers to applications for exemption from military service.

LOWOOD EXEMPTION COURT. (1916, November 8). Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 2 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from
Ernest Viertel must have escaped military duty because I cannot find a record of his service on the National Archives website.  He goes on to marry Jeanie Wurtz in 1918. Ernest and John were probably related by marriage.  Ernest's father Ernest Viertel Snr. married Wilhelmine Hubner in 1888.  John's maternal uncle Carl August Stark married Johanne Emilie Henrietta Hubner in 1880.  Here is a picture of Ernst Viertel Senior's family I found on Picture Queensland.

courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland - Negative Number 79530

I'd better wrap this post up now as you will no doubt deserve a wine after reading all of this.  But I did want to end with one of those odd cosmic synchronicity things that happen on Sepia Saturday.  

I found that an Otto Boettcher had arranged the funerals for Frederick and John. Weird huh?

Family Notices. (1941, July 24). Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 1 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

Family Notices. (1953, June 8). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

I wonder if he was related in any way to Henry Boettcher of California?

Otto's parents were Gustav Bottcher and Wilhelmina Hoepner.

Gustav Boettcher, aged 20, came out to Brisbane with his parents Johann and Anna on the British Consul in 1882.  He had many brothers and sisters: Maria 15, Carl 13, Fred 12, Eliza 10, Ada 7, Johanne 4 and Daniel 2.   Ancestry tells me that Gustav was from Braunswalde, West Prussia which I understand from this message on Rootsweb is near Stuhm and Marienburg in Poland.

Gustav's son Otto changed his name by deed poll from Otto Gustav to Owen George Bottcher. He married Alma Hohnke in 1909.  They in turn had Howard in 1916 who died earlier this year.  You can read his obituary here.

Now to return to H Boettcher in Los Angeles.  The H stands for Herman as per this site here. Ancestry also tells me that the name Boettcher means cooper in German. If you are still reading this and haven't fallen into a coma, you may be interested to know that my maiden name is Conner which can mean inspector or examiner.  'Nuff said.

Back to Herman Boettcher This document tells us that Herman had a brother called Charles and he came from Kolleda, Germany.  Of course we can't be sure that Hermann came from there too but it's a pretty good guess.  

Ah well....Germany and Poland are not too far apart and things were a bit troubled at the time....perhaps Gustav Boettcher from Ipswich near Brisbane and Herman Boettcher from Los Angeles in America were related.  Those with access to American records on Ancestry might want to investigate more.  I've run out of puff.

According to this website descendants of the Banff family still operate a vineyard in the area.  Perhaps we'll travel out there soon and sample some of their wares.  Lord knows I think I deserve it after writing this post.

For more stories on viticulture go here.


Little Nell said...

Oh dear, hailstorms, fires and and dangerous horses - too many disasters, I need cheering up. Pour me a glass of wine please.

Barbara Fisher said...

Hello Alex, I’m so impressed with the amount of research you put into this post. I’ve run out of puff reading it, although I’m not complaining as I found it fascinating. I also appreciated all the links and notes of where you found each piece of information.

Mike Brubaker said...

It's fascinating to read about German immigrants to Australia and their influence compared to those German families who chose America. The German traditions of beer and wine were only part of a rich cultural exchange. Those two barrels (vats?) are a champion example of the cooper's craft. In America they would be made of White Oak wood which is watertight, unlike Red Oak. The details on the newspaper reports are terrific reading. Between the lines, very bad hotels must have been pretty common.

Jo Featherston said...

Another of your amazingly complex blogs about local but unrelated people! The Banff family certainly had to endure a lot of adverse happenings. My niece is married to a vintner of Italian descent, who grows grapes on the family property near Griffith NSW, and I know frost wiped out much of his crop a season or two ago.

Alex Daw said...

Well at least the Banffs had presumably a good supply to tide them over the tough times ;)

Alex Daw said...

Dear Barbara - thank you for noticing the efforts I took to carefully annotate nearly drove me nuts but is so important yes? And I'm glad that despite that, it still was of enough interest to keep reading.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Mike - see that's what I like about know what the vats would be made I want to know what the Banffs vats were made of and won't rest til I go out there and find out. Stay tuned.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Jo - it's a rare but enjoyable disorder that I have ;) I was always very impressed with an old school friend in the Adelaide Hills who had her own boutique vineyard there for a while which produced very fine wine. They've given it away now though - a lot of hard yakka I think.