Friday, December 7, 2012

Doctor Von Lossberg is Missing

Dr. Henri von Lossberg was one of several German doctors active in early colonial Queensland. Like many of his fellows he had made the voyage to Australia as a ships’ surgeon on board an emigrant ship from Hamburg.

The barque, Alster, 347 tons, Captain C. P. Hanson, sailed from Hamburg for Brisbane, on the 16th of April last, and arrived in Moreton Bay Roadstead on Friday last, the 7th instant, after a favourable passage of 102 days from port to port.

The barque, Alster
She brings 112 German immigrants, who are under the medical supervision of Dr. Henri von Loss berg, the surgeon superintendent. Throughout the passage there has been but little sickness of any kind, and none of an infectious or contagious character. The prevalent diseases were those of a class likely to be induced by "a board-of-ship" life, such as catarrh and rheumatism. There was only one birth, no deaths. [1]

Dr. Henri von Lossberg
(State Library of  Queensland)
He soon set up practice in Ipswich and over the years became a spokesman and community leader amongst the substantial German population in the surrounding districts.

DR. VON LOSSBERG can be consulted daily at Mr. M. O'SULLIVAN'S private Family Boarding House East-street from 8 to 11 a.m. and from 2 to 5 in the afternoon.[2]

The ministrations of the good doctor were frequently mentioned in the local press, particularly to those citizens who met with misadventure in the bush. Snake bites were not uncommon, the European victims unaware and unused to the deadly threat posed by these indigenous serpents.

Daniel Burke, a bullock-driver, was bitten by a snake on Wednesday, the 18th instant. He was camped with his mates near the Seven-mile Creek, and in getting out of bed about ten o'clock, he was bitten near the ankle. He was taken to the neighbouring boarding-house, and his mates came into Ipswich for medical assistance.

A group of Australian snakes, engraving 1868 SLV
Dr. Lossberg went out to him and found the bitten part much swollen, and the man exhibiting the usual symptoms. The doctor opened and scarified the wound, and administered doses of ammonia, ipecacuanha, and brandy. The man, however, became drowsy and dispirited, and with difficulty was kept walking about. At about four o'clock his mate was unable to sit up with him any longer, and the patient himself could not take any more stimulus. Dr. Lossberg then took him in hand, and kept him in motion until the effects of the poison were overcome. The man has since completely recovered.[3]

Ipswich ca. 1870
Lest than a year after his arrival in the colony, the alarming news reached Brisbane Town that Dr. Von Lossberg had gone missing in the bush on a journey from Ipswich to the Logan River district where many German farmers had settled.

From Ipswich we hear that Dr. Von Lossberg is missing; and it is feared that he has gone astray in the bush somewhere between that town and the Logan.[4]

There was much concern amongst the local at Ipswich as to what might have befallen the doctor, who was by no means an experienced bushman. It was later found that the doctor had reached his destination, treated his patient, and left for his next call the following morning.

It seems that things went seriously wrong only a few miles down the track.

The doctor finally reappeared in Ipswich until a week later, and wrote of his misadventure in the local newspaper.

“I left the following day at ten a.m. (June 23), and a black boy accompanied me for about two miles on the road. At starting I was under the impression he would go with me to make the next station, about fifteen miles distant, as the country is a very mountainous one; but I could not induce him to do so.

From this time up to Tuesday, the 28th of June-viz., nearly six days and five nights, I was wandering about the bush. I lost my horse the second day after leaving Telamon Station. Not having matches or blankets with me, without food of any description, my condition during the cold nights is better imagined than described.” [5]

Despite the depredations of being lost and alone in the bush, not the least for a refined European, the hardy doctor managed to survived using his medical kit. He finally stumbled onto a sheep station.

“Having a little quinine and laudanum with me, I occasionally took small doses, which gave me great relief. When my strength was nearly failing me, on the sixth day, I fancied I heard the bleating of sheep. I made for the sound, and, after travelling a little while in that direction, I found myself at Mr. Collins, Maroon Station, where I was treated with princely hospitality.

Dugandan ca. 1900
I had sufficiently recovered to leave the next morning, and was kindly supplied with a horse. Passing Cudgen and Dugandan, I arrived in the evening at the Peak Mountain. I can't sufficiently thank the gentlemen at the above stations for their kindness and true Australian hospitality shown to me. I safely arrived here on Thursday last at mid-day."[6]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Courier Monday 10 August 1863
[2] North Australian and Queensland General Advertiser Thursday 20 August 1863
[3] The Brisbane Courier Monday 23 January 1865
[4] The Brisbane Courier Saturday 2 July 1864
[5] The Brisbane Courier Monday 4 July 1864
[6] The Brisbane Courier Monday 4 July 1864


  1. This was my relative. I am an American and this article was given to my by Neil, my Austrailan cousin. Now, to top it off, my daughter moved to Hamburg and had two sons, so it went full circle! How fun to read about the Dr. he certainly had adventures there and was a hearty soul!

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