As condensed and adapted largely from 'The ECKERMANN STORY 1849-1979', courtesy of the Eckerman family of Sth Australia.

LINK to Bowen pages See MAP of Germanic Europe circa 1830.

Mecklenburg in old German States
                Geographical Situation

From the Alps, north to the Baltic Sea and North Sea, the land falls down in huge steps. In the centre of the last step is the land of Mecklenburg. It is part of the northern states of Germany and the bridge to the three Scandinavian states.

Relations with Sweden, Norway and Denmark were not always peaceful, and Mecklenburg suffered most severely during the 'Thirty Years War', when the Danish, Swedish Croation and other armies effectively lived on the crops and cattle breeding of Mecklenburg agricultural estates, making it virtually impossible for the ordinary farmers to make a living.

The large step of Mecklenburg is not entirely flat; the land is somewhat undulating and is dotted with a great number of lakes, the largest of which is called 'Die Muritz', second only in size to the largest lake in Europe, 'Der Bodensee' (Lake of Constance) on the Swiss border.


From about 120 AD to 1000 AD heathen tribes occupied the Mecklenburg region. After several unsuccessful attempts by various emperors to convert these tribes to Christianity, Duke Heinrich der Löwe (Henry the Lion) completely subdued the land and began to settle it with many thousands of germanic people from Lower Saxony. Most of these migrants came from the districts of Hamburg, Winsen and Lüneburg, areas to the SW and west, along the Elbe river.

The feudal system of the Middle Ages was still active in the region in the mid 1800's. In the case of Mecklenburg land ownership was shared between the Grand Duke (Government), the Church, the Noblemen and the Cities. Political power was based on land ownership, and since each Nobleman, being the owner of an agricultural estate, had a seat and a vote in the Standerversammlung and therefore the same influence on legislation as the Bürgermeister (Mayor) of a town or city, there was no incentive for laws easing the life of the people working the land, as it would have meant less profit for the landowners.

People who left the land could only go into the cities, and few opportunities existed there outside the strict system of guilds. This is why it was crucial for Romaldous Subrzycki to have his qualifications as a bricklayer recognised when he arrived in the city of Lüneburg, and why it took him some time to achieve this.

In the mid 1800's there was active promotion of colonisation schemes for the Americas and for Australia and New Zealand, with agents touting for passengers, offering various combinations of passage and land to those who signed. The figures for migrants leaving Mecklenburg in 1850-1853 give an average of 6,000 people per year, and it may be assumed that similar figures applied imediately prior to this.

Life on the land

The Noblemen of the land owned large estates around which the divided the land into small farms. The farmers who took these small farms could ill afford to pay for them, so in return worked for the Noblemen on the large estate for about four days a week together with their own animals and servants, leaving little time to work on their own farms. According to local custom the farmers also had to supply the Noblemen with poultry at certain fixed times. Farm produce was supplied to the local Pastor, and to the teacher of the local school which their children attended.
While attending children was compulsory for all children from the age of six onwards, they also had to contribute to the upkeep of the family. As a consequence school was dispersed for the summer months. Around the year 1800 there were only a few properly trained teachers in rural schools, and the extremely large classes resulted in poorly educated children. Reading was taught from the hymm-book.

Sheep and Shepherds

There were two kinds of shepherd; one employed by a village, and one by an estate. The village shepherd tended the sheep of the villagers during the day, returning them to their owners at night, or minding them in his own home if some prior arrangement had been made. He also did the shearing. As most villagers were very poor they often had to emploiy their own children to take care of the sheep. At times they could not even afford to pay the shepherd, making his livelihood somewhat precarious.

The estate shepherd owned his own sheep and paid the estate Nobleman a type of 'grazing right',