Their Story

July 13th, 2017
Their Story
Three generations of Schaefers once farmed land now known as the Newenham Estate, and as the last living male relative with the surname, John hopes to preserve the history of the property.

Before him, John’s father, grandfather and great grandfather all worked and lived on the Flaxley Road farm in Mount Barker.

It all began with Christoph and Florentine Braendler, whose family owned much of the land south-west of Mount Barker during the 1900s.

In 1914, the couple welcomed their only child Olga Braendler. John’s nana was born and raised on the farm, hand digging potatoes, milking cows and chopping firewood.

Olga married Laurie Schaefer in 1935 and they were given 36 hectares of land and a four bedroom cottage. They named the farm Pinjarra, meaning ‘place of the swamp’.

The couple had three children, John’s father Kyle, Yvonne and Beverly.

Together, John’s father and grandfather rebuilt the dairy on the farm, which is now demolished, plus a large shed and rainwater tank.

During the 60s, the family continued milking cows and growing potatoes, as well as growing clover and gherkins.

As developments continue at Newenham Estate, John wants his family’s history to be remembered and there are plans to name parks, trails, or reserves after the Schaefer family.

The original cottage has been preserved and restored for use as the Newenham information and sales centre and community hub.

“I want to preserve the history of the farm so the next generations, or people who come up from the city, will know what we did here,” John said.

“My father would probably be very happy that the cottage is still here and for the land, he would be sad, but that’s the way things progress.

“It’s nice to see that Newenham will have parks, walking trails and bigger blocks.
“There’s nothing worse than cramming in as many houses as you can on a piece of land.”

Kyle and his wife Pam sold the farm in 2000 and moved to the Riverland to retire.
John still recalls the day of the clearing sale.

“My first daughter had just been born, I have pictures of her crawling through the paddock,” he said.

“My Nana and Papa were there sitting in the car because they couldn’t move too well.
“It was a pretty sad day.”

With many farmers struggling, John decided to move onto new territory, instead of buying the farm.

“I realised I was always going to farm, but I saw how tough my father had it on the land,” he said.

“I still work outside, all my jobs have been on the land, and after the farm was sold I would still dig spuds or cart hay for people.

“You learn a fair bit growing up on a farm.”

John cherishes his fond childhood memories growing up on the farm.

“I loved being on the land – driving tractors and the ute up and down the paddock when I was 10 years old, just being able to come home from school, go down to the creek and muck around,” he said.

“When we were growing up, all four of us kids, plus mum and dad, we had one toilet outside.

“It was probably about 20 metres from the house and in the cold nights it was a bit of a drama - it’s actually still standing today, although it’s been painted up a bit since then.”

John now lives in Meadows with Narelle and has two children 17 year old Chloe and 14 years old Riley.

As the last remaining male Schaefer, John hopes his family name will live on at Newenham Estate.
“It’s about preserving history because too much of this stuff gets forgotten,” he said.

“When I was younger, this didn’t bother me too much but as you get older, and now that my dad and papa are gone, it’s important to me – once I’m gone, that’s it.

“I have children, but they’re two girls and in my family I have three sisters, so the Schaefer name stops with me – unless I can talk one of my girls into having a hyphenated second name.
“I’m just happy that our story is getting out there.”

John’s Aunty Bev Paech also fondly recalls growing up on the farm alongside her brother and sister.

She lived on the farm for 13 years and during that time the land was primarily used for growing potatoes and milking cows.

“I remember as a young girl going down to the farm after school and shifting sprinklers by hand, milking cows and digging potatoes,” she said.

“It was a great place to grow up and I’m still on a farm today, so it means so much to us.

“It’s important to realise that Mount Barker was an agricultural area and it’s sad to see that it’s being developed.

“I think the history of the farm should be remembered.”

Today, Bev lives at Wistow with her husband Stephen raising beef cattle.

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