Tilka Family - F542

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Tilka Family
Martin and Marie - F542
Caroline Tilka b1876.jpg
Caroline Tilka (b1876)
Name Martin Tilka
Lived b. abt 1841-42
Nationality  Germany
Name Marie Ksiwan
Lived b. abt 1843-44
Nationality  Germany
Caroline Tilka (b. abt 1859-60)
Anna Tilka (b. abt 1864-65)
Elizabeth Tilka (b. abt 1867-68)
Marie Tilka (b. abt 1869-70)
Gustav Tilka (b. abt 1872-73)
Carl Tilka (b. abt 1873-74)

In 1876, Martin Tilka, his wife Marie (nee Kschiwan) and their six children, left London for Australia in the City of Adelaide.

The family are listed in the passenger list for the voyage. All of the (known) passengers on this voyage were assisted migrants from Germany and were described as labourers.

Also on the voyage was a second Tilka family group - that of Martin's younger brother Mattheus. After arriving in South Australia, both Tilka families lived in Riverton for a time.[1] The Tilka families appear to have been part of the Wendish community in the Lusatia region around Kolkwitz in Prussia.[2]

The Wends

As a part of the Slavic migrations in the first millennium, splitting the just evolved Slav ethnicity into Southern, Eastern and Western groups, some West Slavs moved into the areas between the Elbe and Oder Rivers from east to west and from south to north. There, they assimilated the remaining Germanic population that had not left the area in the Migration period. Their German neighbors adapted the term they had been using for peoples east of the Elbe River before to the Slavs, calling them Wends as they called the Venedi before and probably the Vandals also.

In 983, many Wend tribes participated in a great uprising against the Holy Roman Empire, which before had established Christian missions, German colonies and German administrative institutions in pagan Wendish territories. The uprising was successful and the Wends delayed Germanisation for about two centuries.

After that victory, Wends were under increasing pressure from Germans, Danes and Poles. The Polish invaded Pomerania several times. The Danish often raided the Baltic shores (and, in turn, were often raided by the Wends). The Holy Roman Empire and its margraves tried to restore their marches.

From 12th to 14th century, German colonists settled in the Wend lands in large numbers, changing the area from Slav to German. The German population assimilated most of the Wends, making them disappear as an ethnic minority except for parts of the Kashubs and Sorbs.

Today, the term Wends is used primarily in historical contexts, but may also refer to Kashubians, Sorbs or people of Sorbian descent. The term Wends or Wendish is used in Germanic languages for Slavs living near or within Germanic (later German) settlement areas after the migration period. Therefore, this term does not describe a homogeneous people, but is rather applied to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it is (or was) used. Many place names and some family names in eastern Germany still are of Wendish origin today.

The German Empire

Franco-Prussian War, Battle of Mars-La-Tour, La ligne de feu by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot (1886)
Franco-Prussian War, Battle of Mars-La-Tour, La ligne de feu by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot (1886)

After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the surviving member states of the defunct Holy Roman Empire joined to form the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) — a rather loose organization, especially because the two great rivals, the Austrian Empire and the Prussian kingdom, each feared domination by the other. The German Confederation was a loose confederation of 39 states which essentially continued to act as independent countries.

The French Revolution in 1848 led to a seies of uprisings throughout Europe including a series of loosely coordinated protests and rebellions in the German Confederation seeking to challenge the status quo and stress pan-Germanism.

The Crimean War of 1854–55 and the Italian War of 1859 disrupted relations among Great Britain, France, Austria and Russia and restructured the European balance of power. A combination of agendas established Prussia as the leading German power.

Historians debate whether or not Otto von Bismarck, the Minister President of Prussia, had a master-plan to expand the North German Confederation to include the remaining independent German states into a single entity, or whether he simply sought to expand the power of the Kingdom of Prussia. Whether by 'luck' or by design, a series of wars enabled Bismark to establish a unified Germany without Austria:

Military successes in these wars - especially Prussian ones - generated enthusiasm and pride that politicians harnessed to promote unification. The German Empire, with Wilhelm I as German Emperor, was proclaimed on 18 January 1871.

This was the background situation in Germany when the Tilkas married in 1872 and departed England, in May 1876, for South Australia on the City of Adelaide.

Marriage and Children in Germany

Martin Tilka was born on 9 September 1842 at Kolkwitz, a small town near Cottbus in Prussia. (It is now in the state of Bandenberg in modern Germany.) He and Marie Kschiwan were married there on 7 September 1872. They migrated to South Australia on the City of Adelaide in 1876 with six children, Caroline (16), Ann (11), Elizabeth (8), Marie (6), Gustav (3) and Carl (2).

The ship's passenger list showed that Martin's age was 34 and Marie's age was 32. As they were married in 1872, it is unlikely that the four daughters were from their marriage.

Family folklore[3] suggests that the daughters eventually refused to have much to do with Martin's new wife and as a result fluctuated in their contact with their father too.

Voyage to Adelaide in 1876

Voyage to Adelaide in 1876
Under command of Captain Edward Alston
Departure port London
Departure date 26th May 1876
Arrival port Port Adelaide
Arrival date 18th August 1876
Voyage duration 84 days

We are aware that the Nissen Family, who were travelling on the same voyage as the Tilkas, received free passage from the South Australian Govenment to migrate to South Australia. As the City of Adelaide appears to have be exclusively used to carry German migrants for this voyage, it may be reasonable to assume that the Tilkas had also recieved free passage.

The reason for the Tilkas migrating to South Australia are not known. It may possibly have been due to the fighting in Europe where conscription was being used. From the court case described below, it is known that Martin Tilka fought in the wars against Austria and France for which he was decorated.[4]

Alternatively, or additionally, the reason may have been for economic reasons. Wends had been coming to Australia since 1848 and transportation and communication was becoming reliable and efficient. The Tilkas may have receieved word of the prosperous conditions in the new Australian colonies and were keen to try their luck.

Life and Children in South Australia

Martin and Marie had three additional daughters after arriving in South Australia[1]:

  • Caroline 27 October 1876 near Riverton (parents recorded as Martin Tilka & Maria Ksiwan)
  • Wilhelmine 30 August 1878 in Hundred of Dublin (parents recorded as Martin Tilka & Maria Kschiwan)
  • Christiana 19 December 1880 at Dublin (parents recorded as Martin Tilka & Maria Richman)

After living at Klemzig[5], Riverton, and Gilles[4], Martin had selected 118 acres in the Hundred of Dublin in January 1878.

In April 1883 he moved his family to Kangaroo Island where he had leased 310 acres near the Stunsail Boom River on the remote South Coast. Early in 1892 Martin Tilka leased 310 acres near Cygnet River, where he transferred his operations, which soon included the production of eucalyptus oil.

[Although at quite a young age, his daughters Carlina and Christina took over the Stunsailboom Station. There they built Tilka Hut - possibly by building onto an existing sealer’s cottage from the 1840s. They farmed there for many years, shearing sheep, scything grass, and doing all the heavy work normally undertaken by men. - see Christina, later.]

In January 1899 Martin extended his interest in the Cygnet River district when he secured a further 576 acres on perpetual lease at an annual rental of ₤1-2s-6d. Subsequently he was allotted another six sections comprising 2161 more acres.

About 1901, Martin tried his hand at gold mining on Kangaroo Island and sank an 80 foot shaft near Cygnet River - the Cygnet Mine. Martin made enough money to pay for a man in his employ and for other expenses, but not enough money to pay anything to himself.[6]

Martin and Marie lived happily until 1903, when Marie became influenced by Dowieism, the teachings of John Alexander Dowie, and their marriage broke up in relation to Martin's smoking (see newspaper article below).[4]

Later Years

Martin Tilka

In June 1908 Martin Tilka was driving a heavy dray with a load of provisions when the dray capsized into a lime pit. Martin who was pinned beneath it, suffered a badly cut leg and lacerated face, and was taken to Kingscote for medical attention.

Martin died on 17 August 1914 at Kingscote aged 72. His residence at the time was Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island.[1] On his way home he had fallen out of his dray and onto his head. His neighbours, the Cook family, saw the fall and ran to help him, but he was dead when they reached him. It is believed that the death was due to heart failure. His age at his death correlates with that given on the 1876 passenger list.

Marie Kschiwan

Marie Tilka, who was born in Brandenburg, Prussia, died at Cygnet River on the 16th November 1928 aged 90 years.[5] It is noted that this age suggests that she was born c1838; whereas her age on the 1876 passenger list suggested she was born c1843.

She had been living with her son-in-law and daughter Mr & Mrs W J May. Marie left two sons Adolf and Albert, and her three daughters Mrs A Boettcher, Mrs E Burgess and Mrs W May.

The four children of Martin’s first wife appeared to have found their own way on the mainland by the time the family moved to Kangaroo Island.

Caroline Tilka

Born in Prussia ca 1860. Caroline Tilka (17), daughter of Martin, married Samuel Terrell (45) on 15 July 1878 at the Registry Office, Adelaide. Samuel Terrell died at Stepney on 28 July 1881 age 47, and there appear to have been no children.

Caroline Terrell (29), widow, married Johann Carl Dohrmann (35) on 2 January 1890 at the Registry Office, Adelaide. They had a least five children born in Goodwood West – Arthur Edward Herbert (1889), Johanna Ida (1891), Caroline Maria Dora (1894), Louis Martin George (1895) and Albertina May (1901)

Hanna Tilka

Born in Prussia ca 1865, Hanna Tilka (26), daughter of Martin, married George Korreng (31) on 26 January 1892 at the Lutheran Parsonage in Adelaide. George had been born at Kolkwitz, Prussia in 1860, and had migrated with his parents and siblings in 1877.

Elizabeth Tilka

Born in Prussia ca 1868, Elizabeth Tilka (27) died unmarried on 12 January 1896 at Inkerman near Port Wakefield.

Marie Tilka

Born in Prussia ca 1870. She could possibly have been Mary Tilka, the (unmarried?) mother of Albert Alexander Tilka, who died aged 10 weeks at Goodwood West on 23 March 1898.

The five children of Martin and Marie all became residents of Kangaroo Island.

Gustav Adolf Tilka

Born in Prussia ca 1873, he became known as Adolf. Gustaf Adolf Tilka (39) son of Martin, married Louise Bertha Boettcher (27) on 13 January 1914 in the Methodist Manse, Pirie St, Adelaide.

On 17 December 1928 Mr. G. A. Tilka (55), of Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, sustained a fractured spine when he was thrown from a cart when the horse he was driving bolted. He died at the Adelaide Hospital on Saturday 9 February 1929.

Karl Albert Tilka

Born in Prussia ca 1874, he was always known as Albert. Karl Albert Tilka (38), son of Martin, married Magaret Hamer (33) on 24 November 1914 in the Methodist Manse, Pirie St, Adelaide.

Gustav Adolf and Karl Albert each separately applied for a gold mining lease of 20 acres near Snaky Creek, Hundred of Cassini KI, east of Martin Tilka’s block, as pegged out. Tilka’s shaft is mentioned in October 1906.

Carolina Tilka

Born in South Australia in 1876, she came to be known as Carlina. Carolina Tilka (27) married William John May (25) on 24 January 1905 in JJ Bates Schoolroom, Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island.

They lived at the existing Tilka Hut. Their first child Alfred John May (1906-1980) was born at Rocky River, near Cape Borda. He was followed by Edith Alice (1907-1988), Edmond Ernest (1909-1991), Frank William (1913-1943), Sylvia, Roy and Ida (needs to be checked).

Carlina and Bill May played a significant role in helping the shipwrecked survivors from the French ship 'Montebello' which had gone aground near their Stunsailboom Station in the early hours of Sunday the 18th November 1906.

Percy May (born ca 1885), the hero of the ‘Montebello’ shipwreck was a younger brother of Bill May - they were splendid horsemen and thorough bushmen, sons of a settler at Rocky River. Percy was a wallaby trapper, but was working as a shearer at Karatta Station. He happened to be passing the mouth of the Stunsail Boom River while delivering a letter from his brother Bill to the Tilkas’ Stunsailboom Station.

Coming across some of the stranded French sailors there, Percy set out on an epic overnight ride of 50 miles to Kingscote, and had to ford nine swollen creeks. He reported the wreck and made the return journey the next day with the message that the ship-wrecked crew should be assembled at Vivonne Bay, 10 miles from the wreck, to be picked up by the ‘Governor Musgrave’ survey ship and repatriated to Port Adelaide. The sailors were taken to Vivonne Bay in drays by Ed Burgess and George Wright of Mount Pleasant Station, as well as by Christina Tilka and Bill May.

Some weeks later Percy May was presented with a gold medal and a pair of marine binoculars, a gift from the French Government for services rendered. Subsequently, the Tilka sisters used the timbers from the ‘Montebello’ wreck to build their shearing shed.

In the 1920s Carlina bought a T Model Ford car. When it had finished its useful life (she never got on with it very well), it was cut in half and the rear section was converted to a jinker-type buggy. Bill and Carlina travelled to Kingscote for years, right up to the late 1940s at least, in this useful little buggy.

Carlina kept on shoeing horses until she was 75 years old. Caroline May née Tilka died on 29 January 1959 aged 82. Her husband William John May passed away on 29 April 1966 at the age of 87, and was buried with Carlina in the Kingscote Cemetery.

Wilhelmina Tilka

Wilhelmina Tilka (23) married Edward Burgess (26) on 7 October 1902 in Schoolroom, Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island.[1]

Their children included Ida Valerie Burgess who was born at Mount Pleasant KI on 14 July 1903, and Ivy Myrtle Minnie Burgess, born 12 December 1904 at Mount Eleanor KI. At the Kangaroo Island Show in November 1912, ‘an instructive display of Eucalyptus Oil production was made by Mr E Burgess who was awarded a first prize’.

Edward Burgess passed away on 6 September 1948, aged 72 years, and Wilhelmina died on 28 December 1948, aged 70. They were buried together in the Kingscote Cemetery.

Christina Tilka

Christina was the driving force behind the young sisters’ farm enterprise at Stunsail Boom River, and controlled the finances. They had a horse, a couple of implements to be dragged behind it, a couple of cows, and some sheep. They tilled some fields around the house, grew some crops, supplied milk and eggs to the district (a few other farming families) and shore sheep by hand with steel hand shears. Apparently though, their main income (that paid off Christina's personal debt for the land) was from possum and wallaby skins and furs. They did their own tanning using local acacia bark etc. and once or twice a year they'd load up their little dray and make the 2 or 3 day drive into Kingscote to sell them.

In January 1907 the Government had arranged with 18 lessees to surrender the balance of their leases comprising 480,000 acres, expecting that 268,000 acres of it would be suitable for growing cereals. Christina Tilka relinquished 32 square miles at Stunsail Boom River, and her brother Albert Tilka gave up 43 square miles at Eleanor North.

At the Elder Smith wool sales in November 1907, Miss Christina Tilka of Cygnet River achieved 10 pence per lb. At the Kangaroo Island Show in November 1912, merino wool with perfect staple 11½ inches long, taken from a sheep not shorn for 3 years, was exhibited as a novelty by Miss Tilka.

It was said that Christina was a ‘tough nut’, hard working, determined, independent, and extremely capable. She stayed on her farm working extremely hard, and resisted settling into the "married life" of that era long after her sisters. Christina was still single at the age of 33 in 1914, but at some time subsequently she married William August Boettcher, who operated an orchard and farming block near Cygnet River. It is not known if there were any children.

August Boettcher was the major prizewinner in the fruit and vegetable section at the KI Show both in November 1929 and November 1930. August and Christina used a sulky in the early 1920s to travel into Kingscote. Later August used a horse-drawn trolley which he loaded with fruit and vegetables to sell as a hawker in Kingscote. Still later a specially built motor van was introduced in one of the most successful trading enterprises on Kangaroo Island.

Christina Boettcher née Tilka died on 17 August 1963, aged 82 years, and her husband William August Boeetcher, died on 2 August 1971 at the age of 87. They were buried together in the Kingscote Cemetery.

Newspaper Article on Court Case for Judicial Separataion




In the Supreme Court on Friday morning, before his Honor the Chief Justice, Martin Tilka, farmer, of Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island, brought a petition, for judicial separation against his wife, Maria Tilka, on the ground of continued, desertion for over two years.

The petition setout that the parties were married on September 7, 1872, in Germany, and that they had lived together in Germany for four years and subsequently at Riverton, Gilles, Dublin, and Kangaroo Island, South Australia, until October, 1903, when the respondent left the petitioner without any reasonable cause and had not returned to him. There were five grown-up children.

Mr. C. M. Muirhead, appeared for the petitioner and the respondent did not enter an apperance.

The petitioner spoke English indifferently, and Mr. Alfread Krichauff acted as interpreter.

Mr. Muirhead, in his opening, said the trouble between the parties had arisen through the respondent joining the Dowieites. The petitioner deposed that he was a farmer living at Kangaroo Island. He supported the allegations set out in the petition, and said that he had fought in the German-Austrian and the Franco-Prussian wars. He had medals for each. The witness and his wife live happily together till 1903. He had been a smoker ever since he was a grown-up man. In 1903 or thereabouts the Dowieities began preaching and visiting at Kangaroo Island.

The respondent could not speak English, but her daughters explained the doctrines of the Dowities to her. On the day she left the petitioner she said, "Go back, you stinkpot." Prior to this she had told the petitioner that he must not smoke in the house, but could go out into the garden to smoke. After this he did not smoke in the house.

The Chief Justice - Well, I'm very much of her way of thinking.

The witness continuing said that after that she objected to him smoking in the garden.

The Chief Justice - That was the result of giving in in the first instance. You had better be firm when you take the first step, Mr. Krichauff. I believe you are a bachelor.

The witness, continuing, said for about three months before the respondent left him they occupied different rooms. The respondent, when coming near the witness used to put her handkerclrief over her nose. He discontinued smoking altogether for a month and told his daughter that he had not been smoking. In October, 1903, the respondent, without saying a word to the witness, left him and went to their son-in-law's place and subsequently to their son's place. She had never returned to him and he had not asked her to do so.

He went to the son's house once a fortnight, but his wife went away as soon as she saw him.

His Honor found the desertion proved and decreed a judicial separation.

The Advertiser, Saturday 22 September 1906[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Index of SA BM&Ds through 1876 – 1914
  2. http://www.wendishheritage.org.au/wends/families.php Wendish Heritage Society of Australia
  3. Sabina Douglas-Hill email 6-July-2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 The Advertiser, Saturday 22 September 1906
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Observer, 1 December 1928, page 49b - Obituary for Marie Tilka
  6. The Advertiser, Thursday 18 October 1906