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Wends

In the Middle Ages the term "Wends" often referred to Western Slavs living within the Holy Roman Empire, though not always. Mieszko I, the first historical ruler of Poland, also appeared as "Dagome, King of the Wends" (Old Norse: Vindakonungr). The name has also survived in Finnic languages (Finnish: Venäjä, Estonian: Vene, Karelian: Veneä) denoting Russia.

Wends (Old English: Winedas, Old Norse: Vindr, German: Wenden, Winden, Danish: Vendere, Swedish: Vender, Polish: Wendowie) is a historical name for West Slavs living near Germanic settlement areas. It does not refer to a homogeneous people, but to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it is used.

Are you Wendish?

The Wends or Sorbs are members of the slavic race of people who were originally located in the area north of the Black sea near the River Dnieper in Asia. In about 500CE, they moved westward mainly along river valleys to northern-central Europe where they settled between the Rivers Elbe and Oder. This occurred following the collapse of the Roman Empire and the devastation of Europe caused by the Huns, Bulgars and Avars in the late 400s.

King Waldemar IV of Denmark who died in 1375 assumed the official title of "King of the Wends" and this title was used by Danish monarchs until 1972.

These slavic tribes were early referred to as Venedi, the named germanised to "Wends" and they included five main groups, the Sorbs, the Polabs and Obodrites, the Veletians, the Ploni and the Lusatians.

They spoke a slavic language, which is illustrated in surnames such as "Nowak" which means "new man", or in German "Neumann", and "Starick", which means "old man", or in German "Altmann".

Wendish Slavic names were often germanised, as happened with "Nowak" to "Noack". However, because the Germanic use of the word "Wends" to describe these slavic settlers in the whole of Central Europe and later in Lusatia became a derogatory term, the residents in Lusatia in the 20th century called themselves the Sorbs of Lusatia.

Australian Wends

Settlement in Australia

Groups of Wends sailed to Australia from 1848 onwards. Sailing ships named the Alfred, the Australian and Peter Godeffroy arrived in 1848 with passengers who had to supply their own bedding, cutlery and crockery. Food supplied by the shipping Company included sauerkraut, potatoes, salt meat and herrings, cheese, dried fruit, rice, tea and coffee. Drinking water often became stale and fresh water was sometimes caught on an out-stretched sail.

In 1850, the ship San Francisco arrived in Adelaide where many of the immigrants moved to Hope Valley and later in 1854 to Peters Hill. Also in 1850, the ship Prebislav arrived in Melbourne, where some Wends settled at Westgarthtown or Thomastown north of Melbourne.

The Helene in 1851 conveyed a large group of Wends to Port Adelaide. They first settled at Rosenthal/Rosedale in South Australia and then after harvest, some, including the Albert, Burger, Deutscher, Mirtschin and Urban families, moved on to Portland and then to Penshurst, Gnadenthal and Hochkirch/Tarrington in Western Victoria. The Malvina Vidal and the Steinwarder in 1854 brought more groups of Wends to Melbourne and Adelaide, with some Malvina Vidal passengers going from Melbourne to Adelaide on the ship Havilah. As passengers sought places to settle, some found temporary homes in Klemzig, Hope Valley, Blumberg (Birdwood) or Rosenthal (Rosedale).

Ebenezer located north of the Barossa Valley in 1852 became the new home of most of the Helene passengers who were Saxon Wends, including the families Dallwitz, Hennersdorf, Kleinig, Lieschke, Lowke, Mickan, Pannach, Wenke, J. Urban and J. Zwar.

Peters Hill was the destination of many of the San Francisco passengers who were Prussian Wends in 1854, including families Borrack, Duldig, Groch, Hondow, Huppatz, Noack, Petatz, Proposch, Schuppan, Teschner and Zerna.

From here, some moved on to larger farms on Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula, the River Murray and the Wimmera-Mallee in Victoria.

St Kitts and surrounding Neukirch-Dutton were settled in about 1855 by Saxon and Silesian Wends from Upper Lusatia, including families Bartsch, Biar, Biele, Bobach, Braunack, Burdack, Damschke, Doecke, Gersch, Eckert, Freund, Jenke, Kilian, Kleinig, Lieschke, Lehmann, Noack, Prochno, Pose and Schauschik.

Bethany was the home of the Pechs. Hoffnungsthal or Valley of Hope near Lyndoch attracted the families of Dahlitz, Gassan, Gorman, Gniel, Kappler, Kilian, Lehmann, Noack, Matuschka, Miatke, Proposch, Pumpa and Schuppan.

From the 1860s onwards, some of the above or their sons needed more land so they moved to new areas being opened up in South Australia around Port Lincoln, Yorketown, Saddleworth, Tanunda, Emu Downs, Appila, Booleroo Centre, Quorn and Hawker. Some moved to the Wimmera-Mallee region in Victoria, some moved to the WallaWalla and Henty districts in New South Wales and some moved north to Queensland. This pattern of wendish internal migration and settlement clearly illustrates the growth of Australia's expanding agricultural frontier. However, it is now clear that this agricultural frontier was too extensive, when we consider the insufficient rain for dry farming, the drift sand and the rising salt with the raising of the underground water-table in some unsuitable areas where large tracts of land were cleared of their bushes and trees. Those farmers, including wendish descendants, who are engaged in tree-planting are helping to rectify this.

Please see the Bound for South Australia Project for Lists of passengers that arrived on the above vessels mentioned.

References