Autumn brings the cycle of growth and renewal to an end, in the garden, the vineyard and the lives of men and women

Our History

The Happ Family

Written by Erl Happ based on information provided by uncle Bert Happ, brother Peter, and our contemporaries in the Eastern states, Robert, and Steve Happ.

Nobody keeps diaries any more. The stuff that we are interested in tends to be regarded as either banal or too dangerous to commit to print. The attitude that I met when I inquired of my Uncle George about his parents and grandparents was that they were all God Fearing, well behaved types and ‘let’s leave it at that, shall we’! But I knew that every family has its black sheep (my dad for instance) so that didn’t cut any mustard with me. Family are the people who, when you really need help, you can count on them, but they are also your keenest critics. They don’t hold back. Family members who are in business together do not give each other the respect and tolerance that non family members get. That behaviour begins in the nursery and it’s always simmering below the surface. It’s a by-product of passion.

We must begin with Maria Eva Iffland (2/5/1835 to 21/3/1916) who arrived 4th April 1849 (age recorded as 16) in Sydney in the ship ‘Beulah’ with her parents Johan, aged 50 (winemaker) and Elizabetha 42 (wife) Conrad 17 (wine cooper), Annamaria 15 (House servant) and Clara 8 (sister). They came from the village of Eltville located on the steep southward facing slopes of the westward flowing Rhine River. These slopes are covered by grape vines. Wine has been made there since Roman times the largest vineyards associated with monasteries founded from about 1200 onwards. The area is called the Rheingau. The chief grape varieties are Rhine Riesling and Pinot noir. These Benedictines and the Cistercian monks were merry fellows as well as learned types familiar with hard manual work, metallurgy and hydraulic engineering. They copied the bible by hand decorating each page in a sumptuous style. Apart from celibacy, it sounds like a well balanced lifestyle.

The entire passenger complement in the ship Beulah comprising 47 husbands, 47 wives, 17 single people over the age of 14 and 44 under the age of 14 years were associated with the wine trade. These people came as assisted migrants in the prime of their lives. They had skills that were in demand in the colonial wine industry.

Eltville is close to Wiesbaden near Frankfurt. Across the Rhine River from Weisbaden on the southern bank is the city of Mainz, a mining centre. Metallurgy is a local skill.

In the Bishops castle in Eltville is a museum devoted to Gutenberg the man who invented moveable type and printed the first Bible. In walking distance from Eltville just down the valley is the village of Geisenheim, a university town with a vine research institute responsible for the propagation of many early maturing grape varieties to suit the brief northern European growing season. At latitude 50°north summers are short. In the last ten years we have hosted several vintage hands from the university at Geisenheim, all hard working types, all fond of a glass of wine or a beer.

What was Australia like at this time? In 1851 a legislative council of fifty four members came into existence in NSW with two thirds elected but the Governor still had the final say. Those who promoted the colony as a destination pointed out that the few thousand convicts whose life was still dependent on the Governor’s pleasure made up barely 2% of the population, while in the 3 years from 1848 to 1850, 62,000 free immigrants had arrived in the country. Australia was being represented as a “working man’s paradise”. Between 1832 and 1840 50,000 migrants had came as prisoners and 65,000 came as free settlers. In 1840 transportation of convicts to NSW ceased. Many obtained their freedom quite quickly. In 1851, when gold was discovered there were 187,000 people in NSW (including Queensland) but there were only seven females for every ten males. About 50% of the population had been actually born in the country and in terms of origin the rest came from Britain, Germany, China, Scandinavia, Polynesia, British India and Japan. The rate of increase in the population of New South Wales prior to 1850 averaged 5% per annum. But in the next ten years the population doubled. The first steamship arrived in Sydney in 1852 and the first railway construction began in 1851. In the ten years to 1860 3.3 million ounces of gold were produced in New South Wales and working men’s wages in Sydney were higher than anywhere else on the globe.

The Happ family in Germany were bakers and pastry cooks in Eltville. They owned ‘Kafé Happ’.

Andreas Happ was the first of the Happ brothers to come to Australia. His occupation was recorded as ‘wine cooper’. He came in the ship ‘Balmoral’. Andreas was bonded to work in Prospect NSW. His parents were Andreas Happ born 1791 in Lorch and Christina Josepha Mann born 1802 in Eltville. His father’s occupation was ‘merchant and soap maker’. His grandfather was also named Andreas.

Andreas Happ grew up in Eltville with his older brother George Joseph born 18/2/1823, Margaretha b. 28/11/1824, Christoph Carl b. 25/10/1826, Andreas Franz b. 3/12/1828, Regine b. 10/12/1830, Rosalie, b. 9/1/1833 and Anton Bernhard b. 7/2/1835

Family Anton Happ

Above: Anton Happ, his son Wilhelm and grandson Anton. Anton stayed in Eltville and operated a coffee shop, the shop still stands today. A Mrs Agnes Engle [nee happ] lived above the shop in the mid 1980’s

So, on 3d February 1850, at just 21 years of age, Andreas arrived in the ship ‘Balmoral’ as a ‘bounty’ passenger with a wife Amelia (nee Schmidt), one year prior to the discovery of gold in New South Wales. There is a story that Andreas had married a 14 year old Amelia Schmidt en voyage, the ceremony performed by the ship’s captain. One might imagine perhaps that the marriage took place at the insistence of Amelia’s father because it is said that she was pregnant. But, the ships records indicate that Amelia was in fact 17 years old and there were no other people with the surname Schmidt on board. Eight married couples arrived on the Balmoral with a total of 7 children. The religions that were recorded against each name included just 5 described as ‘Evangelists’ and all the rest ‘Church of Rome’. The adult’s occupations fell into just two groups. One was ‘wine cooper’ and the other ‘vine dresser’. In fact these people were recruited as skilled migrants and their passage cost them nothing. That is confirmed in the records of the individuals receiving assistance from the Government of New South Wales here

So much for shipboard romances and hanky panky! So much for weddings performed by ships captains!

Of interest is the fact that there is a marriage record for Andrew and Amelia for 1850 in Sydney. They recorded themselves as man and wife. Perhaps they eloped and sought to make their relationship secure in the eyes of God and the Government as soon as they arrived?

But, the union did not last and we don’t know why. In 1858 Andreas married the 20 year old Sarah Elizabeth Stearn (born Cambridgeshire England). She bore him seven children over the next twenty years while residing in Bathurst New South Wales in a house they called ‘Alloway Bank’. Sarah died aged 75 in 1905. Andreas followed at age 81 in 1909. There is a naturalization record for Andreas in the year 1903. There is a large group of Happs in NSW descended from this man. He was my great grandfather’s brother.

On the 12 February 1851 Edward Hargreaves announced the discovery of payable gold to interested drinkers at the Bathurst hotel. As a result of the ensuing gold rush by 1875 Bathurst was to support 69 hotels operating concurrently. Many of them would have been just a bark roofed cottage with a hitching rail out the front.

It is reported that in 1851 my great grandfather Christoph Karl Happ (25/10/1826-31/10/1890) paid his way to Sydney as a steerage passenger aboard the ship ‘Australia’. But no ship of this name is reported as arriving in New South Wales in 1851. A ship ‘Australia’ did exit from New Brunswick in Canada Thursday August 12th, 1852. This ship is reported to have been built by ‘a company of persons, who are fitting her out for the Australian diggings. She is divided into 64 shares, and has nearly as many owners, and it is probable it will carry out over that number of passengers’. The owners included Samuel Shaw, yeoman, one sixty-fourth share; Charles E. Weldon, yeoman, one sixty-fourth share; Tamberlane I. Campbell, yeoman, nine sixty fourth shares; George G. Prince, yeoman, two sixty-fourth shares; Thomas Whitney, yeoman, one sixty-fourth share and to Horatio N. Arnold, yeoman, one sixty-fourth share, all of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada.

However there is no record of the arrival of a ship called ‘Australia’ until 8th June 1853. None of the gentlemen listed above are recorded as passengers and they do not appear in the index of unassisted passengers arriving in NSW. In fact the ship Australia that arrived in June 1853 contained 328 English and Irish with 90 married, 153 single over the age of 14 years and 85 children under the age of 14. Christoph Carl is not recorded as a passenger or a crewman on that ship. It seems that Christoph Carl, and all the would-be goldminers from New Brunswick were early examples of what are described today as ‘boat people’. They slipped into the country undetected.

There is a story that Christoph Carl came to Australian to meet his childhood sweetheart Maria Eva Iffland . Certainly he married Maria Eva Iffland in 1854. Her sister Clara married Ludwig Yanz.

The Bordeaux blend Charles Andreas is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot

The Bordeaux blend Charles Andreas is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot

Christoph Karl Happ stated his occupation as pastry cook, but he became a grocer at 7 Bedford Street Newtown. He came to be known by his second name, Anglicised as ‘Charles’. This use of the second name was common at the time, particularly necessary in the Happ family where ‘Andreas ‘ had been used so repetitively even amongst siblings. We know that non English speaking immigrants frequently change their names to resemble something that the locals can pronounce. The children of Charles and Eva were christened in conformity as John born 6/1/1856, Charles Andrew 4/11/1857, Marie Christina 19/2/1861, Mary Eva 17/8/1863, Clara Louisa 18/5/1865, Charles Leopold 26/1/1868, Anthony Joseph 5/5/1871, Louis William 6/10/1874 and Maria Elizabeth 1/1/1877.

Charles Happ applied for naturalization on 1859 so that he could purchase land in Grafton. The certificate records that he was 33 years old, that he arrived in the ship Australia in 1851 but the figure 1 is indistinct and is interpreted as 1857. His origin is recorded as Napan, Germany. A search on ‘Napan’ reveals that it is a district in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Official forms don’t provide a lot of space to get the details absolutely correct. Perhaps Charles immigrated to America (like many other Happs) and did come to Australia with the enterprising gold seekers who slipped in unannounced.

Another snippet concerning the brothers Charles and Andreas came to light very recently with an email from Frances Happ in NSW who wrote:

Hi Erl, I was just reading your family history on your website and thought you might like to add the fact that both Andreas and Christoph Carl signed the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition,(as Andrew and Charly Happ) so we know where they were and what they were up to in 1853. The petition is viewable on the State Library of Victoria web site.

The Victorian Governor of the time sent in the troops to clean up the agitators at the Eureka Stockade. My wife, Ros’ great grandfather, John Jones was a pit sawyer in that district. The family passed on the information  that John supplied the planks for the coffins of those who died under the Eureka flag.

Charles Leopold Happ  was born in Liverpool street Sydney. He was Father to my father Frank Happ. My dad’s oldest brother Herbert Happ visited the family of his uncle Louis Happ perhaps in the 1920s. Herbert , or ‘Bert’ was not born until the year 1900.

Charles Happ predeceased his brother Andreas in 1890 at age 64. Maria Eva died 26 years later in 1916 aged 81, in a house called ‘Eltville’ in Carrington Street Concord Sydney. The generations following Charles and Eva were to find native Australian born partners and became ‘true colonials’.

Charles Leopold Happ came to Western Australia in 1892 and again in 1895. In WA the Kimberly gold rush started in 1885 and was followed by gold rushes to the Yilgarn, Southern Cross and Kalgoorlie. The population in Western Australia in 1891 was 49,782. By 1895 it had doubled to 100,515, and by 1901 had reached 184,124. In the 1890’s the Eastern States was in a financial depression following rampant speculation and influx of foreign capital in the 1880s. So, many of the immigrants to WA were ‘t’othersiders’.

In 1898 Charles Leopold married Ellen Gallagher, born in Perth in 1863. Her Irish mother Catherine McDermott came to Perth as an 18 year old in the year 1857 in ship ‘City of Bristol’ , the passengers were Irish girls recruited to address the gender imbalance of that time, marrying George ‘Gallicker’ in 1861. It’s strange for us to see how the names get to be spelt one way in one place and another in a second place.

I remember Nanna Ellen Happ as an old wrinkly who sported a number of prominent moles on her face and arms. That was probably the effect of sunshine and age on the delicate Irish skin. As a young girl she played marbles in Hay Street, the centre of Perth where the big department stores like Aherns and Myers were later to be located. In her childhood during the 1880’s Hay Street was just a dirt road.

In my possession is a black and grey marble clock that was presented to Charles Leopold Happ by his workmates in the Midland workshops ‘as a token of esteem’ on the day of his wedding in 1898. I have also a small black folder containing the recipes that he used to create the paints that he used on the carriages of the Western Australian Government Railways where he was employed as painter and decorator.

We called Ellen Happ ‘Little Fat Nan’. As a young girl she worked for the ‘Western Australian’ newspaper as a proof-reader.

Charles Leopold died at the family home in Lamb Street Bassendean with its bull nosed verandah and enormous Moreton Bay fig tree at age 67. The house was situated between the Swan Districts football oval and the railway line. Ellen passed away twenty years later in the tiny but picturesque country town ‘Balingup’ where she kept house for her youngest son George who was ‘hard of hearing’, a bachelor but and well loved storekeeper in that tiny dairy farming and timber milling community. Ellen was 92 years old when she died.

Charles and Ellen had three sons Herbert (Bert), Frank (my father) and George and two daughters Edith, and Roslyn all born in East Perth. Bert took part in the early Redex Trials driving an FJ Holden around Australia. He drove his Ford V8 Customline between his store in Nannup and Perth taking little notice of the speed limits. Perhaps there weren’t any speed limits in those days. Aunt Edith married into European aristocracy and Roslyn the local pastoral aristocracy. Bert and George travelled to Europe between 1930 and 1935, ran a shop in Glasgow where George studied Engineering (the premier place for Engineering at the time) and the two brothers pedalled a tandem bicycle around Europe spending sufficient time in Germany to catch up with the relatives and learn to speak some German. Hitler came to power there in 1933 and George got the impression that he did good things for the country. Back in Australia during WW2 that sort of opinion became an embarrassment but unlike others with German background my two globe-trotting uncles were never interred.

Later, Bert’s second son Graham, (one of five sons) who shared his father’s passion for Henry Ford’s automobiles refreshed the relationship with the Eltville Happs by spending time as a motor mechanic working in the area. But, that line of the Happs is possibly no more, the last Agnes Happ, who lived above Kaffe Happ, was already an ancient but cheerful and engaging lady when we visited her in 1985, the last of the line to carry the Happ name. She could no longer get down from the second story so she leaned out the window and lowered the key on a string and we climbed the stairs to share a cup of tea. It was a delightful occasion even though we spoke no German and she no English.

Frank Happ

My father Frank Happ was born in 1908 in Bassendean. Leaving Fremantle Technical school at age 14 he started work as an apprentice watchmaker. He had enormous hands and when he laid them on your backside you were projected forwards at speed swinging by the left hand that he gripped you with. The hands were perhaps a reason why the watchmaking profession did not suit him but likely it was more a case of the Happs preference to be self employed. He was twenty one years of age in 1929 when the Wall Street stock market crashed and the Great Depression commenced. The unemployed would take a tin of sump oil and offer to oil people’s verandah boards. Otherwise the Jarrah boards would swell up in winter and spring the nails. In the early 1930s the work force shrank by 30%. For some years Frank was ‘on sustenance’ in the goldfields like a lot of other potentially troublesome young lads. During that period he took his father to the goldfields and it is said that he ‘had the time of his life’. Frank jumped trains to get about and reputedly walked from York to Widgiemooltha. He told his children stories of carrying kerosene drums full of water at each end of a pole, Chinese style, through the scrub, meeting a bungarra, a lizard that grows up to five feet in length (six or seven he said) and losing the water in fright. Water was scarce. To economise you used the water for washing then dripped it through a bag of charcoal and drank it. So today, when pressed I can turn groundwater that is full of dissolved minerals into clean drinking water. You can learn lots of useful stuff from your dad. Another was how to steer the car with your knee as you rolled a cigarette. He was never a drinker, but his connection with the fruit and vegetable trade led him to appreciate a glass of Marsala. He would bring home a flagon from Clarevale Isiah in Victoria Park. His ‘mark’ at the Metropolitan Fruit and Vegetable markets was ‘CashLM’. The LM was Lew Manolas, his Greek connection to the fruit and vegetable trade when Dad ran a delicatessen in North Perth.

Frank Happ was a gregarious fellow, and like many a lad, told jokes, loved an all night game of cards and a bet on the horses. Like his mother he had a fund of ‘card tricks’ to fascinate us kids. He was described as ‘happy go lucky’. But to me that could have meant ‘irresponsible’. The town called him ‘Happy’ but his brother called him ‘Ho’. Frank was 6 feet and an inch in height, with tightly curled black hair and dark brown eyes. Cricket and football and any form of sport were his passion along with tuneful music and cheap detective stories. Frank was an accomplished spin bowler and, as a batsman, loved to hit other bowlers out of the ground. Frank never visited a medico, but like Mum, had a set of good looking false teeth from his twenties. He suffered from ‘piles’ that he would tuck in as necessary when playing bowls. He was never an embarrassment to us kids. He was just ‘dad’ and we knew that ‘the piles’ was the reason that he occasionally got a bit ‘cranky’. He turned up to Church at Christmas and Easter but it was Mum who had the greater interest in things religious so she converted to Catholicism just to keep it simple for her kids. Mum and Dad had two marriage ceremonies on the same day, one in an Anglican Church, to suit her family and another Catholic one later on at home to keep Dad’s sisters happy.

Mum and Dad met and married when dad was running the mill store in Wilga, a mill town run by the Adelaide Timber Co owned by a branch of the Shepherdson family. Wilga is located between Grimwade and Boyup Brook. It’s a lonely place in the middle of nowhere. Out the back of the store was a Sherman tank that replaced the horse drawn ‘whim’ in pulling trees out of the forest. Wilga is in the middle of a sea of Jarrah trees. The mill cut a lot of railway sleepers but it also had its own planning and thicknessing shop working on fully dried timber. The whole place burnt down more than once and was replaced. Fire in sawdust is an insidious thing.

I was born in Wilga, have fond memories of waking up from an afternoon sleep when the country has that orange tint to it, fruit trees in the garden, wild cats caterwauling at night, dad taking a gun to them, milking our own cow and the ice blocks that the Shepherson girls brought us from their kero fridge when Mum and I came back from Bunbury hospital where they took our tonsils out, a package deal for mother and son. I am a lifelong fan of homemade Palomino cordial topped with ice blocks and the Peters ice cream that came once a week to uncle Georges shop in Balingup. George would hand out the ice cream to any kid that walked in.

The Depression of the thirties led Frank to regard government jobs as desirable, and thus a worthy aspiration for his children. In his last years Frank and brother George had two stores in Balingup when one would have been plenty. So George had the bottom shop and Dad the top shop. Like many a shopkeeper George didn’t like competition so they tended to specialise. Dad had the bulk fuel, the vegetables and papers and George had the groceries, a petrol pump and drapery. This is where Erl, Peter, Elizabeth grew up as teenagers, learned to dance in the school socials, became acquainted with tin canoes and tractors and learned to kick a football. Balingup had its own football team dressed up in black and white the Swan Districts and Collingwood football colours. There were grass tennis courts and a big bowling green. Two state champion bowlers lived in Balingup, Aussie Bailey and ‘River’ Dave Scott. The annual club championship was played out under lights between these two legends and the town turned out to watch the contest. Brothers Bang and Kelvin Alsopp who ran a local carrying firm played football for Claremont in the ‘League’. The local dairy farmers and timber mill workers played football into their forties.



Jeremy and his sister Suzanne enjoying a giggle with their grandmother Eunice Happ

Jeremy and his sister Suzanne enjoying a giggle with their grandmother Eunice Happ

Franks wife (my mum) Eunice was a Moore from Boyup Brook who are farmers and large landholders today but starting as timber workers who ran cattle in the bush that was burnt on an annual basis to generate fresh tender growth and no doubt to thin it out. Eunice was a born and bred country girl, a rock solid mother through thick and thin. She looked after herself until the day she died at 93 years, living close to Erl and daughter Liz, in Busselton, fondly supported by daughter Liz who saw her every day. In her last years Eunice rode a three wheeler to the shops or down to the beach. Had she been able to obtain her titanium knee a few years earlier, she might have been more mobile. For several years her knees and ankles were in very poor condition. That didn’t stop her hobbling into the picture theatre when she wanted to see a show, the observers no doubt expecting her to crumple at any moment. Eunice never considered herself as ‘old’ and in fact, she never did get old. She liked to keep in touch with what was happening. She had that happy knack of being interested in other people. So when she held you in conversation you would think that perhaps you were being ‘pumped’ for information. Her style of management was remarkably unobtrusive. You never realised it was happening. She had an earthy sense of humour and a giggle.

The Moore brothers, Cecil, Lionel and Keith of Boyup Brooke, mums cousins, were early adopters of bulldozers used for clearing the land and sinking dams and were well known across the south west. Lionel Moore did a lot of work with the Grain Pool, selling grain internationally. He was also a pretty smart footballer. Mums father ran the generator for Boyup Brook’s first power supply. Self reliant and resourceful people, they could turn their hand to anything.

George Happ of Balingup was a great reader, subscribed to the National Geographic and the Saturday Evening Post, looked after his cats, generous to a fault and delighted in showing his nephews how to properly fit a new handle into a hammer or an axe. He was an active member of an all ladies oil and water painting group in Bridgetown, taking pride in writing his own ticketing in the store. Unfortunately, none of his girlfriends came up to the standard desired by George’s sisters who came down to Balingup check on him at regular intervals. Being hard of hearing was a bit of a handicap but that did not mean that George was boring. He could tell jokes all night long. As a university student on holidays with my urbane mate Graham Delaney, George treated us to a whisky drinking, joke telling night in front of the Metters No2 that went through till breakfast. Dad was disgusted with his younger brother because we were obligated to work at the tin mine in Greenbushes the next day. It was a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

A fellow called ‘Erland’ (second name unknown), came to school in Perth from his home in Dutch controlled Indonesia. He studied at Christian Brothers, ‘The Terrace’ in Perth in the twenties, when Perth was a very small town with dirt roads, partnered my aunt Edith to social occasions and was a family favourite. My dad must have been impressed with this fellow because he called me ‘Erland’. I never met Erland. What the hell was Dad thinking of? It would have been preferable to call me Andreas or even ‘Sue’. It’s easier to explain than ‘Erland’. With a name like Erland’ people think I’m a recent migrant.


Erl and Ros Happ in the early nineteen eighties

Erl and Ros Happ in the early nineteen eighties


Ros and Erl’s oldest son Myles and wife Jacquie have four children representing a fifth generation of Australian born Happs. James, Rosie-Jane, Finnegan and Ignatius enjoy an English grandfather from Liverpool with a strong Catholic background and a Chinese grandmother from Shanghai, our much loved Jim and Jane Cummins. It’s great to have the gene pool properly expanded. Jane’s family left their substantial possessions in Shanghai in 1949 and are scattered around the globe. She has taken all the family on trips to China and helped me out on a wine trip to Chongqing. Jane has forgotten nothing and moves about like a local.

Eldest grandson James Jackson Happ graduated from high school in November 2013 with a TEE score of 98.7 and looks to be headed for a career in aerospace engineering. Will there be a family successor to take over Erl’s wine enterprise. It’s unlikely. Successive generations of Happs tend to do their own ‘thing’. Anyway, it’s not just Erl’s wine enterprise; there are a lot of generous people devoted to the cause.

In the broad context, the south west of Western Australia is a faraway place. It’s never been easy to sustain life here. Wine is a new industry; it’s a luxury good unlike grain, beef, jarrah sleepers, milk or cheese. It will be interesting to see how the wine industry develops and it’s been exciting to be part of it. It’s only recently that Western Australian mining has become the powerhouse of the national economy. The connection with China will be very interesting. Our young people really do need to speak Chinese. If we could speak Chinese half as well as the Chinese speak English we might perceive them to be less inscrutable. We would know what they are talking about. From their point of view, not much has changed, we are still the barbarians. That is something that we must address.

Post vintage cleaning of picking buckets. Yes, we've done it.

Yes, We’ve done it! the post vintage cleaning of picking buckets.  Erl with two very important pioneers, his sister Liz Jennings (on the left) and long time stalwart Lyn Foster in the middle. One could not hope for a more earnest and reliable team.