Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Colonial Haute Cuisine - The Cafe de Paris

Isaac Lenneberg and the Cafe de Paris

The Courier 15.3.1864

Having obtained publican’s licence in March 1964, a German immigrant named Isaac Lenneberg opened the grandly named Cafe de Paris in Queen Street, Brisbane Town. It was not the only establishment of this name in the Australian Colonies, there were also Cafes de Paris in Sydney, Melbourne, and other towns.

The re-branding of the former Hart’s Cafe was announced in The Courier.

(Opposite to the Home of Parliament.)

I. H. LENNEBERG begs to announce that he has re-opened the above establishment   known as Hart's Cafe, where he is prepared to supply all kinds of the choicest WINES, ALES, SPIRITS, LIQUEURS. &c.

A Restaurant is attached, where a Table D’hôte is served daily, from 1 till 2 p.m.


And other meals stall hours of the day or evening, with tea and coffee.

The Cuisine combines all the luxuries of the season.

The bed-rooms are neatly fitted up, convenient, and well-ventilated.

To men of business and visitors the central situation and punctuality of arrangements require no comment.

Civility, promptitude, and cleanliness, are the "Household Words" at this establishment.[1]

Lenneberg’s Cafe de Paris soon became patronised by the prominent citizens of Brisbane Town and particularly popular as a meeting place of the substantial German community.  In August 1864, three eminent gentlemen of the German citizenry called a meeting to discuss a strategy regarding the Schleswig-Holstein conflict in their fatherland.[2]

The North Australian Thursday 4 August 1864

GERMAN GENERAL MEETING. The German inhabitants of Brisbane and surrounds are invited to a meeting on Monday, the 8th of this month, at 7:30 in the evening, at Lenneberg's cafe, Queen Street. Purpose of the meeting: - SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN.


The Meeting resolved to raise funds to support the families of the fallen.

OUR German citizens, with Dr. Emmelhainz as chairman, held a meeting at Lenneberg's Cafe de Paris in Queen-street, on Monday evening last, when the following resolutions were put and carried:—

That a subscription be made in favour of the widows and orphans of German soldiers killed in the battles of Schleswig-Holstein.

That the proceeds of the subscriptions be forwarded to the National Association in Germany (of which the Duke Ernest, of Saxe-Coburgh, is the President for distribution.

A subscription list was then opened, and the sum of £26 was collected. After a vote of thanks had been moved to the Chairman the meeting terminated.[4]

Before the year was out, disaster would strike at the heart of Brisbane Town.  Constructed largely of timber, the buildings were extremely vulnerable to fire, especially during a Queensland summer.  This was precisely what befell the town on a hot dry December night in 1864.  Amongst the victims of the huge conflagration was the Cafe de Paris.

The flames continued to spread onward, apparently gaining strength in contempt of the puny resistance offered to their might, until at half past eight o'clock advantage was taken of a temporary lull caused by the non-inflammable character of the roofing of some of the shops, to make one more vigorous effort to save the more valuable properties further up the street by pulling down the premises occupied by Mr. Lenneberg, and known as the Cafe de Paris.

It was too late, however, as before the men could more than partially demolish the structure the fire was upon them, and the bravest among them were compelled, by  the extreme heat, to make a precipitate retreat.

Queen Street Brisbane after the Great Fire of 1864

The enterprising Herr Lenneberg was soon back in business.  Within weeks he had found new premises and fitted out the new Cafe de Paris.  He announced the good news to his many patrons and even put on a free supper to bring back his clientele.

Darling Downs Gazette & General Advertiser 31.12.1864

MR. LENNEBERG, of the Café de Paris, recently destroyed by fire in Queen street, begs to return his sincere thanks to his old friends and the public generally for the kind and welcome assistance rendered to him on the night of the fire, and to inform them that he has taken the extensive

(Nearly opposite W. & B. Brookes')
Which he has fitted up in first-class style, and intends opening THIS EVENING, as the

A FREE SUPPER will be on the table at 8 o'clock TO-NIGHT, and he hopes to see as many of his old friends and the public as can make it convenient to attend.[5]

Early in the new year of 1865, the German community gathered for a Christmas celebration that had been postponed due to inclement weather.  The picnic feature a “Schutzen Fest” or shooting competition.  Isaac Lenneberg was called upon to cater the traditional German event. Understandably the stifling summer weather was not what they were used to and in an age before refrigeration, they were philosophical – after all “it was a picnic”!

The steamer “Diamond” took down a large number of the visitors, but there were many who proceeded to the trysting-place in cars and other vehicles. At one time it was estimated that there about three hundred persons on and near the camping-place.

To Mr. Lenneberg, of the Cafe de Paris, was entrusted the task of satisfying the thirst of all, and considering the bad spot which was selected for the encampment, he managed very well. The ginger-beer and lemonade were certainly very hot, as also were other equally enticing liquors. Fowls and pigs had a sultry appearance about them; but what of that? It was a picnic.[6]

Later in the year the Cafe de Paris was the venue chosen for a gathering to establish a “Deutcher Turn Verein” or German Club.

A MEETING of German residents in this town was held last evening at the Café de Paris, in Elizabeth-street, for the purpose of taking initiatory steps for the formation of a "Deutcher Turn Verein."

The following gentlemen were appointed to act as a provisional committee: Messrs. Horstmann, Homburg, Simmons, Bullanf, Caesarowicz, und Kieser. A general meeting, to be announced in the local papers, will be held, we understand, on Monday next, when the committee will be requested to report as follows:-

How far they have succeeded in obtaining suitable premises and also what funds it is likely will be raised, and expenditure incurred.[7]

The Deutscher Turn-Verein at Wooloongabbba, Brisbane

In 1876 fire again struck the premises of Isaac Lenneberg. On this occasion it appears the blaze was unintentionally started by a pair of inebriated intruders bent on helping themselves to supplies in the storeroom of Herr Lenneberg.

A FIRE was discovered by Senior Constable Driscoll, about eleven o'clock an Sunday night, in premises in Elizabeth-street, occupied as a wine and spirit store by Mr. I. H. Lenneberg, who, at the time, was absent at Pimpama.

The alarm was given at once, and the fire-bell brought a large body of constables and several members of the fire brigade, with a couple of reels of hose, to the spot in a few minutes. The water happened to be turned on, and in the course of half-an-hour the flames were entirely subdued.

We are informed by residents of the neighbourhood that one if not two men not belonging to the store were seen to enter the cellar by the back entrance on Sunday, and remain for a considerable time. One of the men brought out a bag which apparently contained bottles, and the men seemed partially drunk.[8]

A man was eventually brought to trial for the arson three months later.  Unfortunately for the prosecutor most of the witnesses had long since left town.  The Magistrate had no choice but to dismiss the case.

DOUGLAS CAMPBELL, on remand from last week, charged with having set fire to Mr. Lenneberg's store on the night of the 30th of January last, was again brought up at the Police Court yesterday morning.

The evidence adduced was that of a young man who was then in the employ of Mr. Page, hairdresser, of Queen Street, who deposed to having heard someone call out "fire," and to going down to Elizabeth Street by the right-of-way, where he saw a fire in Mr. Lenneberg's store. On looking at the grating to the cellar, he found a bag nailed against it, which he pulled off, and then saw a number of broken casks burning on the floor, in the centre of the cellar; but he did not see the prisoner anywhere about there.

-Sergeant Driscoll gave evidence of a similar character, except as to the fact of seeing a sudden glare 0f light in the store; could not see distinctly where it came from in the store owing to the fact of a number of cases being piled up in front of the windows; he also stated that on going round to the back of the cellar he found the door securely fastened, so much so that it had to be broken open with an axe, and on going in found a number of partially burned cases on the floor, and a mound of ashes about two feet high, which showed that a fire had been lighted there; also a number of bottles partially filled with Lorne whisky and rum.

This evidence closed the case for the prosecution, Mr. Lewis stating that, owing to the time which had elapsed between the fire and the prisoner's arrest found great difficulty in getting more   witnesses, as they were all scattered, some them being in Cooktown and other places.
Police Magistrate said that there were a great many suspicions circumstances connected with the fire which seemed to point to Campbell; but at the same time he did not think they were such as would induce a jury to convict him, and he would therefore order his discharge. Prisoner was discharged accordingly.[9]

Brisbane Courier 23.2.1877

The following year Isaac Lenneberg decided to move on from the Cafe de Paris to a larger and better sited establishment.  The cafe continued to operate under a succession of proprietors and locations into the 1890s.

Edward and Charlotte Streets, Brisbane.
Proprietor: I. H. LENNEBERG,
Late of the Cafe de Paris, Queen-street.

I. H. L. notifies to his Patrons and the Public generally that, having taken and altered the above Hotel, he is now prepared to guarantee SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATION to Families, Commercial Travellers, Bushmen, &c, and keeping only the BEST BRANDS of WINES, ALES, and SPIRITS, can safely solicit a further share of the patronage so liberally bestowed upon him for the last twelve years.

Great facilities are offered intending visitors to Brisbane, the above Hotel being situated within three minutes' walk of the Wharves and five of the Railway Station.

The Cuisine is superintended by a noted Chef, vouching for the Table being second to none in town.

Ample Stable Accommodation.
Plunge and Shower Baths.
Sydney and daily papers taken in.[10]

The Exchange Hotel in 1929

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Courier Tuesday 15 March 1864
[2] The War of 1864 was fought between Prussia and Denmark over the sovereignty of the Danish-ruled duchies of Holstein and Schleswig. The war ended in October 1864, when the Treaty of Vienna ceded the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia.
[3] The North Australian Thursday 4 August 1864
[4] The North Australian Thursday 11 August 1864
[5] The Brisbane Courier Monday 26 December 1864
[6] The Brisbane Courier 3 January 1865
[7] The Brisbane Courier 23 May 1865
[8] The Queenslander Saturday 5 February 1876
[9] The Brisbane Courier Tuesday 2 May 1876
[10] The Brisbane Courier Friday 23 February 1877

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Wreck of the Sovereign

In the early years of the colony, steamers plied their way up and down the east coast of Australia.  They were much faster than overland travel and were essential to trade and communication.  Steamers of the time used a combination of sail power and steam driven paddle wheels.

Advertisement for a Steamer Company 1865

In March 1847 the steamer Sovereign was having difficulty leaving Moreton Bay on her way south to Sydney.  She was attempting to cross the bar at the southern entrance to the bay, between Stradbroke and Moreton Islands.

The Sovereign has been detained a week at the sea bar in consequence of the boisterous state of the weather. She had not left the Bay when the William spoke her on the 10th inst. The Tamar went out by the northern passage.[1]

Three day later the news reached Brisbane Town that a terrible fate had befallen the Sovereign.

The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 13 March 1847




THE melancholy intelligence of the total loss of the Sovereign steamer on the spit outside Amity Point, reached town at a late hour last night. This distressing event occurred in consequence of both engines having broken down while attempting to go over the bar.

She broke up a few minutes after striking on the spit, and the boats were destroyed at the same time. Only ten persons have been saved; and of those, three were so seriously wounded and disabled, that they were conveyed to the Hospital immediately on their arrival in town.

We cannot find words at present to express our feelings on being made acquainted with this sad catastrophe. In common with many others, we have to mourn the loss of friends thus hurried prematurely before their Maker. At the late hour at which we write, the greatest excitement prevails - many of the inhabitants are well nigh distracted at the loss of their relatives and friends.[2]

Among the ten survivors was the commander of the Sovereign, Captain Cape.

The Captain states there was no wind at the time the engines broke down; that he let go the anchors, notwithstanding which the rollers bore her rapidly on the spit, about four miles distant from Moreton Island, where she became a complete wreck in a very short time.[3]

Understandably the fact that the mail bag was recovered from the wreck was good news for the settlement. The mails were the main form of communication at the time, not only carrying personal messages but used for commercial dealings and government business.  The telegraph would not arrive in Queensland until the 1860s.

The "SOVEREIGN'S" MAIL. - When the mailbag was brought to Brisbane, and opened at the Post Office, the letters of course were found to be very much injured by the salt water; but being very closely packed and tied together, the outer parts only were destroyed by friction, after they became wetted.[4]

Fisherman's Hut at Amity Point

As the corpses were found they were buried nearby on Moreton Island. They made for a gruesome sight.

BODIES FOUND. - On Tuesday, the bodies of Mr. Brown, the second officer of the Sovereign, and Frederick McKellar, better known by the name of "Scotchy," were found on Moreton Island, about eight miles distant from the spot where the survivors of the wreck were saved.

The persons who discovered the remains were John D. Flynn, a fellow-servant of McKellar, Gray the ferryman. Murphy the constable and a man named Johnson, who remained on the Island for the purpose of interring the bodies, in the event of their being washed up on that part of the coast.

McKellar's corpse was much disfigured by the eagle-hawks; as was also that of Brown by the fish. On the person of the former, cheques and orders amounting to £76 were found enveloped in a piece of moleskin, which was sewn to his belt, and which has since been placed in the hands of the Police Magistrate.[5]

The  Moreton Bay Courier vowed to pursue the issue of the cause of the disaster referring to the talk around Brisbane Town the Sovereign was old and unseaworthy.

We shall calmly and dispassionately, and with a view to elicit the truth respecting the rumour generally current, that this ill- fated vessel was not sufficiently seaworthy for a voyage of upwards of 400 miles of sea navigation.[6]

The  Moreton Bay Courier reported that not only was the Sovereign in poor structural condition, but that her engines were designed for river navigation rather than steaming though the open sea.

From the opinions which have been elicited from the most competent persons who have examined the wreck, and from those who were previously acquainted with her condition, it is apparent that the timbers of the vessel were originally very defective as regards the planking and the fastenings, and greatly weakened subsequently by the number of treenail and bolt holes from repeated repairs; while the inner planking was perfectly rotten.

This will account for the facility with which the hull broke up, even before taking the ground. If we are correctly informed, the engines were the same as those which were on board the King William IVth—a vessel built entirely for river navigation: collectively of 35 horse-power, they never were calculated to encounter for any length of time the boisterous navigation between this place and Sydney, with no port of refuge between Moreton Bay and Port Stephens.

That they were not properly fitted is proved by the fact that the plummer boxes, in which the engine shafts revolve, were the first to give way. There was no wind at the time to cause any additional strain, un- fortunately so, as it turned out; for had there been a breeze, the safety of the vessel might have been ensured by making use of the sails.

Paddle Steamer Rigged for Sails

Then there was the question of the cargo of timber and bales of wool - whether it was properly secured and whether the steamer was overloaded.

The cargo consisted mostly of wool, of which forty bales were stowed on deck; besides a large quantity of billet-wood and coals. When the vessel was first struck by the sea three or four persons were either killed or disabled by the wool bales and the billets; two others had their limbs broken, and Mr. Dennis was severely injured in the head. The public can judge whether a vessel in such a state was fit to go to sea, or whether the passengers and crew had even a reasonable chance of escape.

Neither the agent nor the master can be blamed for sending the vessel to sea with so much lumber on deck. The Company have several steamers and several masters, and have had at least four different agents; but the practice in all cases has been the same. Moreover, complaints have frequently been made by the passengers of the mode in which the cargo has been stowed in the cabin and on deck, as it deprived them of that accommodation which they reasonably expected, and which they liberally paid for.

The fact that the Sovereign was attempting to use the South Passage to exit Moreton Bay was also called into question.  It was a shorter option to the North Passage around the top of Moreton Island but was far more perilous and would be avoided in the future.

With regard to the southern entrance into Moreton Bay, it may be observed that this place remained undiscovered until about the year 1826. Notwithstanding the previous examination by Flinders, Oxley, and others, some person unfortunately found what was asserted to be a shorter route to Sydney by forcing a vessel out to sea through the surf and shoals of the Amity Point passage.

Although the safety and superiority of the northern entrance had been established by Lieut. Flinders in 1797; and subsequently by the Hon. Capt. Rous in the Rainbow, by Sir James Stirling in the Success, and by Captain Freeman of the merchant schooner William, who came in, at night, about three years ago, and frequently since that time without difficulty, it was abandoned on the recommendation of less competent persons, and the pilot was stationed permanently at Amity Point, where, in bad weather, it is impossible to get out to board vessels in the offing, when his services are required.

The  Moreton Bay Courier  did not call into question the conduct of the Captain and crew, rather lauding their professional behaviour.

We cannot conclude without noticing the gallant and energetic conduct of Capt. Cape, who in the hour of unexpected danger manifested that promptitude and coolness which, situated as he was, did him infinite credit. The crew likewise did not, as it has too often happened on similar occasions, become panic-struck and bewildered; but imitating the noble example set them by their commander, left no means untried that could by any possibility have ensured the safety of the passengers and vessel.

Two months later, in May 1847, a poet, self-styled as “Malwyn”, inspired by a newspaper report of the sad demise of the Sovereign, contributed a poem to the Port Phillip Herald in Victoria.


(From the Port Phillip Herald.) 

They have parted from the shore,
To reach it never more;
And now are on the wave,
And now-are in their grave!  
It is a tale soon told;
Twice-thrice-the billows rolled,
One shriek-and we can mark
No longer that poor bark; 
O'erwhelmed from keel to mast, 
 The surges have her fast,
With two score souls-asleep
Under the waters deep.

There was a shriek; yet two
Stood calm amid that crew;
A husband and a wife
They had been linked in life 
By ties of holier kind
Than those the many bind;
And now in death's dark hour,
They felt Religion's power:
No more of storms for them,
Of Earth's unquiet weather -
The waves' roar was their requiem,
They've gone to Heav'n together!*

* "There is no hope for us, Mary, we shall go to Heaven together!" were the words of Mr. - to his wife just before the vessel sunk.[7]


The Sovereign was not to be the last vessel to come to grief in the South Passage. 

Eight years later, the Aurora, a German emigrant ship from Hamburg, mistaking the South Passage for the safer route to the north, was wrecked on Moreton Island.  Unlike the Sovereign all on board were safely brought ashore on the island after the Captain was able to run the crippled ship aground on the beach.

To this day fishing boats continue occasionally to become victims of the turbulent waters of the Amity Passage.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier, Saturday 13 March 1847
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier, Saturday 13 March 1847
[3] The Moreton Bay Courier, Saturday 13 March 1847
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier, Saturday 20 March 1847
[5] The Moreton Bay Courier, Saturday 20 March 1847
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier, Saturday 20 March 1847
[7] The Moreton Bay Courier, Saturday 15 May 1847

Monday, May 7, 2012

Alleged Ravishing at the Freemasons’ Hotel

In 1863, one of the largest hotels in Brisbane Town was the Freemasons’ Hotel in Albert Street.  It had been taken over the previous year by a new lessee, Henry Meyer, and was well patronised by the German community.

Advertisement in The Courier, September 1, 1862 

On a night in January 1863, strange events were afoot at the Freemasons’ Hotel.  It would all come to light in Court after the landlord, one Henry Meyer, was charged with “Assault with intent to ravish and carnally know one Wilhelmina Backhaus”.[1]

She gave her evidence as follows: On the night of the 5th January I was awakened from my sleep in my own bed - I was undressed - by Mr. Meyer coming into my room with this piece of candle (producing half of a stearine[2] candle) lighted. He put the candle over my face. I said, in German, "Hallo." He said, in German, "Hallo, where's your husband?" We always talked German. I said, "I don't know; I think he's in the bar."

So Meyer said, "If I was your husband, I would go into bed at the same time as you." I said, "What for?" So Meyer said, "It is no harm to us; I'll take your husband's place in bed." I said to him, "No, Mr. Meyer, that will not do;" and sent him away. I said, "I stick to my husband, and you stick to your wife." So Meyer said, "I don't care a button for my wife; I want another woman."

After this seductive patter, Meyer proceeded with the ravishing.

So Meyer then blow the candle out and put it on the looking-glass, and shut the door; and then he came into bed.

 [The witness then described most circumstantially that an attempt to assault her criminally had been made by the defendant, and in spite of her remonstrances and exertions to put him away, and against her consent; the assault was nearly being consummated, when complainant said] -

 "Meyer, if you do not keep quiet now, I'll call my husband, and your missus."

So soon as I said those words (continued the witness) my husband opened the door, and found Meyer in bed.

Colonial Bar Room

At this point Henry Meyer’s lawyer pursued the standard defence of the time in cases of this kind, seeking to discredit the complainant by raising doubts as to her truthfulness and her morality.

Mr. Petrie: Did you make no noise, nor sing out?

Witness: I said I would tell my husband, and all the people. Meyer took the piece of candle and looked about, and outside the door, and said "Oh, don't sing out, there's nobody there."

Mr. Petrie: Do you know what time it was?
Witness: It was after I went to bed.

Mr. Warry: How long was he in bed altogether?

Witness: About a quarter of an hour. He said he had looked outside and nobody was about, and my husband was quite comfortable. He did not go out of the room at all. He looked out before he came in.

I have known Meyer for two or three weeks since I came from Rockhampton. My husband and I were lodging there. I did not sing out because I was undressed. I had no petticoat on, or I would have run away. Meyer was stronger than I, and I could not get from him. He had a glass in his hand; he was not drunk, he was not sober. When my husband opened the door my husband saw him, and as he went out he passed my husband.

Early view of Albert Street, Brisbane

The logical person to support this testimony would have been the complainant’s husband who had interrupted the ravishing.  After he commenced his evidence, the defence successfully objected to his appearing as a witness.

Sebastian Backhaus being called into the witness-box, Mr. Garrick objected to the evidence of the husband, and eventually his objection was allowed, though not till after the witness had been sworn and given part of his evidence

At this point the testimony of the complainant gets rather confusing.  None of the parade of witnesses could or would confirm Frau Backhaus’s story.

19th Century housemaid
Mary Anne Bell deposed: On the 5th of this month I was engaged as housemaid in the hotel kept by Mr. Meyer. In the after- noon the master spoke to me about the condition of the rooms, and said they were not clean enough and must be cleaned again. Between eight and nine o'clock that night he went up stairs with me to look at the rooms. He had a piece of candle in his hand.

I did not go into complainant's bedroom. I remained to dust a room and saw master go along the passage and into a bedroom on the left hand - not the complainant's room. Saw him return in about two minutes afterwards with a piece of candle in his hand. I was in the rooms upstairs about twenty minutes. 

While there I must have heard any loud talking, if there had been any, in complainant's room. I heard nothing. When I came down stairs Mr. Meyer was in the bar; it was nearly nine o'clock when I came down. I did not see Meyer after that time; but one of the girls told me he had gone to bed.

James Mackie, a lodger at the Freemasons' Hotel, deposed that on the evening of the 5th. between seven and ten o'clock, he and three other men were sitting on the balcony, within two yards of the complainant's bedroom door, and that he neither heard or saw anyone in the room.

Richard Moldner, a German, gave evidence showing that complainant had not been guarded or modest in her conduct towards him; she having one day gone into his room while he was lying on his bed, and asked him to "shout."[3]

Not surprisingly, the Bench were quick to dismiss the case.

This closed the defendant's case, and the Bench, without asking Mr. Garrick to address the court, dismissed the case.

Thus, despite the lengthy proceedings of the court, what actually occurred on that night in January 1863, at the Freemasons’ Hotel remains unresolved.  But it certainly made good copy for The Courier.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Courier 17.1.1863
[2] Commercial name of a tallow candle. (OED)
[3] i.e. buy her a drink.