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Published June 21st 2015
If only they knew their legacy
It was 1842 when 28 Prussian families leased some land north of Adelaide in a picturesque valley alongside a creek. Little did they know that their pioneering spirit was to lead to the creation of one of most well known and acclaimed wine regions in the world, the Barossa Valley.
The 28 families, under the care of Pastor GD Fritzsche, named their village Bethanien, a name which was later changed to Bethany after World War One and the decision to remove German names from Australian towns. Life was difficult for the early pioneers with disease, poor living conditions and a strange climate contributing to a high number of deaths. As a result many locals at Bethany elected to move to other more popular areas, and in particular the growing Barossa Valley, leaving behind a legacy.
Today, Bethany continues to be a small close knit community centred around the main Lutheran Church. The community is based largely on farming, fruit and grape growing and winemaking. Bethany is also the small village that Tour Down Under cyclists head through on the annual adventure through the Barossa and their eventual climb up to Menglers Hill, thus creating international interest in the village. To quell that interest, the Bethany Historical Walk was formed.
The walk commences at the Lutheran Church on Bethany Road. The first church in Bethany was built in 1845 with mud walls and a thatched roof. Growth in the area saw the need to develop the current church which was constructed in 1883 and is still used today. Behind the church, and within the grounds is the former school and teacher's residences, now forming part of the Barossa Vineyard Cottages bed and breakfast.
The old Lutheran manse is across the road from the Church, while next door is the Pioneer Cemetery. One of the oldest cemeteries in the district, the cemetery reflects part of the sad heritage of pioneering with a section reserved for young children, whose mortality rate was exceptionally high in the early years of the village.
The former homes of many of the original families appear alongside the road in traditional German Hufendorf style, with houses built at the front and their farmland stretched out at right angles in long narrow strips, each with access to the water supply from the nearby Tanunda Creek. This arrangement enabled many of the farmlets to prosper and grow cereal crops, vegetables and fruit.
On the side road is the Bethany Cottage Bed and Breakfast. These buildings have been restored and slightly modified since they were originally built 110 years as the Lindner Meatworks, albeit the distinctive high pitched slaughter shed, the timber cattle races and the smoke house still remain and create interesting conversation for visitors to the B&B.
Continuing east along the main road we pass further private homes of some of the original pioneers of the village. Some homes have been restored, while some remain close to their original construction from the late 19th Century. Thiele House, on the corner of Thiele and Bethany Roads is one such house that still remains as is, albeit its use nowadays is confined to being a farm shed.
Bethany Road crosses Tanunda Creek at this point, and also crosses the Heysen Trail as it comes down from the hills around the Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park on its way to Tanunda. A 5km walk towards the hills from this point along the Heysen Trail takes you through some beautiful valleys and to the top of a range, with some great views in many directions.
On the northern side of the main road, Sonntag House appears. Originally a family home, the house has had a few lives, with its most recent being as Bethany Reserve Cottage, a delightful little B&B. Next door is the classic Schulz Farm Shed, an excellent example of a slabsided, thatch-roofed implement shed that is believed to be close to 170 years old.
On the southern side of the road is the Bethany Reserve. Originally set up as a water reserve due to its adjacency to the creek, the reserve provided pasture to those settlers who were passing through the district. Over the years, the Barossa Council has improved the reserve such that it now has a playground, large grassed area, toilet facilities and a shelter. The reserve is a popular destination for weekend wine wanderers as they collect some local products to complement their picnic basket under the shady gum trees.
The final destination on the walk is the Schrapel Quarry, a facility that was used to supply stone and crushed metal for many local buildings and roads. The quarry closed many years back, and with that closure the family turned to wine with the resulting creation of Bethany Wines, a small boutique winery on the top of the hill overlooking the village of Bethany.
The historical walk of Bethany may be undertaken at any time with further information and maps available from the Barossa Information Centre or the Bethany historical website. Information boards and small signage exists along the majority of the walk. Most of the residences are now private property, and visitors are asked to respect the rights of the owners when completing the walk.