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4 corrections, most recently by finniss - Show corrections

AN OLD FRIEND OF THE BARON.

INTERVIEW WITH MR. F. E. H. W. KRICHAUFF.

Few if any in South Australia regretted more the death of Baron von Mueller than that stanch and worthy old colonist, Mr. F. E. H. W. Krichauff. In early man-

hood the two made each other's acquaintance, and the bonds of friendship grew stronger with succeeding years, and although separated in the evening of life these estimable men frequently corresponded, and each had a warm place in his heart for the other. The late Baron was Mr. Krichauff's oldest European acquaintance in Australia, and with the idea of gaining some interesting particulars of the eminent scientist's life, which nobody else — not even his only surviving sister. Mrs. Clara Weill, of Millicent — might recollect, a Registerr reporter waited on the venerable Chairman of our Agricultural Bureau at his home in Nor wood on Sunday evening. In answer to questions Mr. Krichauff said :— ' In 1842-3. while completing my College edu cation at Husum, in the Duchy of Schleswig I made his acquaintance. He was then, and

had been for some years, apprentice at the chemist shop of Mr. Becker, and having never passed through the higher classes of any Col ege it is only to be ascribed to his abnormal energy and studiousness into the early hours of the morning that he succeeded in mastering languages and became such an authority in botany. He had probably thus early as good a knowledge of the flora of the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein as Professor E. Nolte, and after he had passed his pharma ceutical examination at the University of Kiel, in 1846, he wrote a paper on Thlaspi Bursa Pastoris, for which he was created a Doctor of Philosophy. The health of his late sister Bertha, subsequently married to the late Mr. Doughty, of near Penola, required a warmer climate, and Dr. Preiss, of Herzberg, in Hanover, a botanist who had just then returned from Western Australia, advised him to go to South Australia. After a consultation with me, who was to follow later on, he iecided to go from Bremen, on board the Herman von Beckerath. which arrived at Port Adelaide on December 18, 1847. Several well-known South Australians were his fellow passengers, among them Messrs. Heuzen roeder, sen., and C. G. Schedlich ; also Messrs. Sobels, Gerke, and Rodemann, long since deceased. Until. I arrived on December 6, 1848, he was engaged in tho chemist shop of the late Mr. Moritz Heuzenroeder, in Rundle street, but had slso made botanical excursions to tho Murray Scrub, Guichen Bay, and to Mounts Arden and Brown. At our request Sir Samuel Davenport, K.C.M.G., purchased on December 24, 1848, from the Government, jointly with us, for subsequent division a section of land in the Bugle Ranges. On Mueller's part of twenty acres next to mine he had a cottage built, and remained there with his sister Clara for some months, intending to farm. This life, however, did not suit him, and he returned again to Adelaide for a salary of 15s. per week, until tho diggings tempted him to go to Victoria, where he intended to open a chemist shop, but was soon selected by Governor Latrobe as Government Botanist. As such he travelled all over Victoria, and also joined Gregory's expedition to North Aus tralia. On his return he accepted the position of Director of the Botanical Gardens at Melbourne until the present occupant relieved him of that duty in 1873. I doubt whether any other botanist has published so many works on botany and kindred sciences. His 'Select Plants' is translated into ever so many languages. The many decorations and honours which he received show the high ap preciation in which ho was held every where, and perhaps more so abroad than at his adopted home, which is indebted to him chiefly for the discovery, or at least descrip tion, of numberless plants. 'There's the Baron's last letter to me,' said Mr. Krichautf, at the same time handing it to the_ reporter. 'Am I to read it?' queried the scribe. 'Well, it's in German,' replied Mr. Krichauflf, with a smile. 'He wrote to me on August 29 offering phylloxera vino resisting seeds from America. I apprised the Bureau of this at the next meeting, and it was decided that I should accept the offer, which I did. After I asked for thoso seeds I could not understand why I never got them, but the     Baron must have been ill then, and that is why I have not heard any more about the matter. ' You frequently corresponded with him?' ' Oh, yes. I might mention that Sir Samuel Davenport was an old friend of the Baron's, because when he arrived in the colony his eldest sister went to stay with then Mr. Davenport at Macclesfiold. For several years she dwelt with Mrs. Davenport. Oh, yes; he has visited South Australia since he went to Victoria. About fourteen years ago he was here, and two or three years ago he came to see me with Mr. Holtze. The funny thing about the man was that he was altogether self-taught. My father-in-law (Mr. Ludwig Fischer), who was present in the room during the interview, and who is hale and hearty at eighty-six years of life, actually believes that he was apprenticed for seven years, so when his indentures were signed he must have been a boy of about sixteen. He was twenty-three years old when he came out here. At the time I met him, whenever he had a free day he would go-collecting plants, and he had a very nice herbarium. He was so anxious afterwards in Australia to obtain all possible plants that he asked me to let him have my herbarium which I had left home in Germany. I had offered it here, but the Government would not accept it for our Museum, and so I told him he could have it. The Victorian Government paid to get the collection out from Germany, and it is now embodied in the herbarium in Melbourne. The deceased tried by all possible means to obtain a collection of plants from any neigh bourhood. My father-in-law who was   formerly botanic gardener in Kiel, went out collecting for him as well as many others. Mr. Fischer found a plant, a new genus, which the Baron afterwards called Duttonia, after Mr. Francis Dutton. 'He has been a member of ever so many Pharmaceutical Societies. He took a very great interest in exploration, and tried by all   possible means to get parties equipped for the purpose of finding traces of Leichhardt. Baron von Mueller also took great interest in Antarctic exploration, and altogether was a very active member of the Victorian Geo graphical Society. When out with Gregory's expedition he found a great many new plants;   one afterwards named 'Adanasonia Gregoria'   being very remarkable. The deceased took a great interest in the Finke River Mission Station. He was constantly in communication with the Rev. Mr. Kempe. and sent seeds up there, from which they have raised a great many plants.'' It was Baron von Mueller who recom mended the introduction of marram grass into Victoria, and it was at his suggestion that the first attempt to improve it was made at Port Fairy. How successful this was is a matter of history. Mr. Krichauff brought the grass under the notice of South Australians as early as 1888, but the department could not manage to get any seed at the time. Baron von Mueller was, however, more fortunate. 'It was when he was at the University of   Kiel preparing for his examination and I was at the University in Berlin that we communi cated with each other about the trip to Aus tralia. Before that time his sister was recom nended to go to Madeira. but Dr. Preiss, who had just returned from Western Australia, where he had collected a lot of plants, ad vised, Mr. Mueller, with whom he was in communication, that it would be just as well to go to Australia. Before I decided to leave Germany I went with my father-in-law and saw Dr. Preiss. and got a little more information about South Australia and Australia generally. And that was a lovely trip through the Hartz Mountains.' 'Have you anything anecdotal you can tell me about your old friend?' '' There are many little anecdotes that might be told, but they are more for friendly and private circulation.'' 'What do you say to telling me a couple?'   'Well, if you must hear them you must, I suppose. When I arrived in the colony we took a trip together up to Bugle Ranges on foot. I was not more than about a week in the colony, and in an awfully weak state to walk all that distance. I was very much surprised to see Mr. von. Mueller with something on his back, and I could not make out what it was. We were going to stay with Mr. Schedlich, the present Postmaster of North Adelaide, who had taken a piece of land from Sir Samuel Davenport at    

Bugle Ranges. When we arrived there we found a friend of Mr. Schedlich's sitting before the chimney making damper. He was not a little astonished to see Mueller and myself enter. He rose, and said 'Good gracious, what shall I feed you on? Schedlich is not at home, having gone to Macclesfield to get some tea, and I have no more flour, or indeed any thing else. Mueller turned round and said, ' I've got a piece of bacon; and that's what   he had been carrying all the way on his back, Schedlich had to go to the neighbours and beg flour to feed his hungry men. The Baron could walk any distance, and most of his ex cursions were made on foot. That trip of his to Mount Arden and Mount Brown was no   little undertaking, considering he walked there in 1848 unaccompanied. On one occasion we were sawing down a big sheaoak-tree on his land with a crosscut saw for the purpose of making uprights for the house. Wo had nearly finished the job, and were sitting in the shade, when the tree came suddenly down upon us. I mention this to show you the Baron was not afraid of work. But farming did not suit him, and he liked studying better. In the back room of Heuzenroeder's shop you would see him almost any night working till 1 or 2 o'clock. He never married.' 'I suppose he could not find time for that?' 'No; he was married to botany. Sir Samuel Davenport had a very high opinion of deceased, and I am sure the next time we meet he will express his sorrow that he will not see him any more. I was very much surprised to hear of his sudden death. It was sudden to me because I never expected anything of the kind — that he would be called away so quickly. But, after all, it is no wonder, for there he lived in a cottage in South Yarra, where I visited him once. He had an attendant, of course, but I believe it is not very likely he had very much care. He lived very simply. No, he was not a recluse; but, on the contrary,   not very many years ago he went to balls and danced, an amusement of which he was very fond.' Mr. Krichauff showed our representative several volumes of the various works which he had forwarded to him. On the fly-leaf of 'Select Extra-tropical Plants' is the inscrip   tion 'For friendly remembrance and occa sional use from the writer of these pages.' 'Vegetation of the Chatham Islands' was "offered in most friendly remembrance by the author.' 'Introduction of Botanical Teach   ing at the Schools of Victoria' is very simple and admirably adapted for the purpose for which it was intended. The Baron was the author of something like seventy or eighty different botanical works. "The Iconography of the Australian Species   of Acacia' is another valuable work of his, and of which Mr. Krichauff possesses an author's copy.   At the meeting of the Australasian Associa tion of Science held in Adelaide in September, 1893, Baron von Mueller forwarded notes in advocacy of another attempt being made to find traces of Dr. Leichardt and his party, lost since 1848. After reviewing the known tacts the Baron said: — 'This would be worthily following up the searches of Hovendon, Hely, Gregory, and MacIntyre (the emissary of the brave Melbourne Ladies' Leichardt Search Committee of 1865 — most of them now num bering with the dead). The Adelaide meeting might then decide by formal resolutions on the indicated new expedition, and in securing there and then the funds for it at once. It would be a glorious act, the melancholic lustre of which would add for all time to the renown of the Adelaide meeting of 1893. My own first appeal on behalf of Dr. Leichardt and his companions was made about 1850 — indeed also from South Australia — when a letter from Sir Thomas Mitchell to me was published in the 'South Australian', and when in the German newspaper of Ade laide I proposed at some length of   detail a search from the Albert River southward, views which subsequent events proved as having been quite recommendatory at the time. This year's season is singu larly favourable for any Australian desert travels, and Leichardt's last position cannot be very far from the boundary of South Australia, which colony indeed he also much enriched by his early northern discoveries. As regards the cause of the annihilation of the expedition, four could bring this sad fate about, namely, floods, hostility of the natives, discord in the party, or want of water. The last mentioned would have an overwhelming probability for it. Leichardt was a gold medallist of tho R.G.S. of London and of the Paris Geographic Society. His mapping during the first expe dition was as extensive as his discovery of pastoral country was vast, not to speak of no end of watercourses and ranges, all now studded with stations and other settlements. It is almost a stigma to Australia, notwith standing somo heroic efforts made, that we could not yet fix the extent of his last and doubtless also brilliant achievements— that we could neither yet build a tomb over his and his comrades remains. Indeed, it has taken less time to trace even the fates of La Perouse and of Franklin, under infinitely greater doubts and difficulties to contend with than have beset for the forty-five years now lapsed already since the Prussian geographer disappeared to solve the mysteries of his lamentable and cruel fate.'

THE LATE BARON VON MUELLER.

       

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