Brother Robert Roberts described Tasmania on his first visit in 1896 in these words:

“Its slow growth, by comparison with Australia and New Zealand, is due to the greater farming and grazing eligibility of the two latter countries, and also the early discovery of gold in Australia, which diverted the emigration stream from Tasmania. Though so limited a community, Tasmania is an autonomous state, having all the apparatus of government—Governor, two Houses of Parliament, Premier, Civil Service, &c… In a geological sense, Tasmania belongs to Australia. Its soil, trees, and animals are identical: but in climate, it differs considerably. It is not subject to the same heat, and knows nothing of the droughts that are frequent in Australia. It is cool and bright, and temperate during most parts of the year; in this respect resembling New Zealand. Tasmania is Australia improved as a habitable country.” (The Christadelphian, March 1897, page 103)

The beginning

Individual Christadelphians visited Tasmania as early as 1869 and the early 1880s, perhaps only for a short time. However, with the arrival in 1884 of a Brother J. Smith in Scottsdale (62km north-east of Launceston) there were three. In 1884, Brother Smith:

“…was disappointed to find there was only one family in the island—bro. and sister Strand [in Launceston]—with whom he at once communicated, and received a most cordial invitation to their house, which he accepted, and arrived there on Saturday, the 8th November. On Sunday they met to show forth the Lord’s death in the breaking of bread, which was a great comfort to each of them. It was probably the first meeting of the kind ever held in Tasmania, but bro. Smith trusts it will not be the last, if the present age continues.” (The Christadelphian, March 1885, page 143)

1890 saw the beginnings of an ecclesia in Hobart. Whilst Sister Strand moved to Melbourne after her husband left her, a Sister King arrived from England. Her husband, John, was baptised soon afterwards when Brother Henry Stapleton arrived from England. Sadly, Brother Smith left the Truth at this time.

Fluctuating numbers

In 1896, Brother King of Hobart lamented the impact of the frequent movement of brothers and sisters:

“Since we commenced proclaiming the Truth in Hobart we have had 13 immersions, and by the end of this month we expect 11 out of the number will remove to other parts for employment, etc. It is hard to part with those we love, and having nursed and brought them up, but we pray they may be strengthened and sustained to be able to bring up children around themselves, even children of the Kingdom.” (Bible Shield & Reflector, February 1896, page 243)

Visit of Robert Roberts

Brother Robert Roberts arrived in Tasmania in mid-March 1896 after a tour of New Zealand. In Hobart he:

“…was received at the harbour landing-stage by brother King and brother Large (the former from England: the latter, the local fruit of brother King’s faithfulness in the Truth). I found there were in all about eight or a dozen brethren and sisters in the town and neighbourhood. A few years ago there were none.” (The Christadelphian, March 1897, page 103)

Brother Roberts lectured twice in Hobart.

After four days in Hobart he travelled to Launceston by train where he stayed five days. Brother Roberts described this journey:

“Left Hobart by the 8 a.m. train for Launceston, the only other city of moment in Tasmania, and situated on the north of the island, looking over to Australia. The distance from Hobart to Launceston is not much over a hundred miles as the crow flies, but the windings of the railway among the hills, to avoid tunnelling, makes the distance considerably greater. It took the train six hours to do the distance. The route lay through a country more suited to the artist than to the agriculturist—all hills and valleys, with very little flat country. The valleys and hill-slopes, however, are fairly cultivated.” (The Christadelphian, March 1897, page 105)

Brother Henry Stapleton described the visit of Brother Roberts, who arrived in Launceston on Wednesday 18 March, and during his stay delivered three lectures:

“Wednesday, March 18th, subject: “Where are our dead friends, or does death end all?” There was an audience of about 300. Numerous questions were asked at the close of the lecture which were dealt with in the usual way. On Friday, March 20th, about the same number being present, bro. Roberts delivered a stirring lecture, the subject being, “Christ is coming to the earth again. What is his mission?” On Sunday afternoon, March 22nd, brother Roberts delivered his third lecture to an attentive and appreciative audience of about 200, the subject being, “The Refuge from the Storm, or What must I do to be saved?” We had a number of large posters and a thousand handbills, and the lectures were well advertised in the daily papers. Considering the good attendance it may be said that the Truth has had such a hearing in Launceston that will never be forgotten. Our brother’s visit was a source of much comfort and encouragement.” (Bible Shield & Reflector, May 1896, page 304)

Hobart and district

In 1962 Brother Ken Niejalke described the commencement of the ecclesia, and its recent history:

“The Truth has been in Hobart since about 1890 but never, it appears, has there been any considerable number of brethren and sisters. For almost 20 years more recently, an ecclesia ceased to exist, but even during this period a very small number of sisters endured the hardship and held fast. They were partially isolated from one another and seldom saw any others of like precious faith.” (The Christadelphian, 1962, page 229)

In 1893 there were three brothers and a sister in Hobart—Brother and Sister King, Brother Kite and Brother George Goodwin. In 1894, there were 11 members with the recent baptisms of William George Hayton, Ernest Alfred Griggs and his wife, Adelina, and with the arrival of Brother and Sister Wilson from Sydney. In 1894, the ecclesia met in Upper Argyle Street (home of Brother John King), and in 1897, the Hobart ecclesia moved to the Lodge Room, Temperance Hall “with a hope of getting more of the alien to attend.”

By 1902, the ecclesia numbered only three.

Daily Telegraph, 11/3/1896, page 1 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/153496505?se archTerm=%22dead%20friends%22

Launceston and district

In 1894, there were six brothers and sisters in the north of Tasmania—Brother and Sister Barnard, Brother and Sister Henry Stapleton, Sister Coulson and Sister Strand, at Longford, 23km to the south. Brother Stapleton reported that there were eight members in 1901:

“Launceston—Our ecclesia now consists of three brethren and five sisters – viz., brethren Barnard, King, and the writer; sisters Barnard, Hindell, King, Roberts, and Stapleton. – Henry Stapleton” (The Christadelphian, November 1901, page 504)

In 1902, there were nine members, including Sister Case from Melbourne.

Devonport

Brother Kite lived in Devonport in 1896. By 1901, he was joined by Brother Holdcroft. An ecclesia of seven members existed in Devonport in 1902.

Zeehan

Zeehan was a mining town 230km west of Launceston. Its population peaked at 10,000 about 1910. Today is has about 700 people. This rise and decline in mining areas was common throughout Australia. The first brother here was Hedley Doidge:

HOBART (Tas.)

Since our last report we have had the pleasure of hearing a good confession by Hedley Doidge (33, formerly neutral) and assisting him to put on Christ. He has returned to his mining home at Zeehan, where, by our Father’s help, he intends to use himself for God and the Truth…

Many are aware of the terrible bush fires, which occurred recently in Tasmania. Our Bro. and Sister Goodwin, living in the bush, had the house in which they were living (not their own) and their furniture, etc., entirely destroyed. They only sustained slight burnings, but their loss to them is great, as most of their clothing was destroyed also; they had a terrible fight to escape from the fire. I shall be pleased indeed to receive assistance and forward it to our Brother Goodwin.

John King, Andrew Street, N. Hobart, Tas.”

(Bible Shield & Reflector, February 1898, page 18)

In about September 1898, Brother Hedley Doidge was joined by Brother Pettigrew snr. from Melbourne. In 1905, three baptisms occurred in Zeehan:

“Mesdames HARRIET ANN MOSS (39), and CATHERINE WARD (57), and a daughter of the latter, viz., MAIDA MAY WARD (21). They have come to us from the Seventh Day Adventists, and we pray that the good work begun in them may go on to its consummation.” (The Christadelphian, September 1905, page 429)

In 1903, Mrs. Charlotte Frances McCabe, of Queenstown was baptised at Zeehan. There were three members in 1904 and six in 1906.

Huon

In 1898, Brother Robert Roberts mentioned that there were two brethren in Huon, referring to Huonville, which is about 40km south-west of Hobart. The details of the Huonville ecclesia are quite interesting:

“HOBART (Tas.) – Since writing our last report, we have the pleasure of recording the progress of the Truth in this part of the world, as evidenced, by our assisting four to put on the name of Christ, all residing at Huonville, about 23 miles from Hobart, viz – Mr. T. BRANCHET, formerly Baptist, brother to Sister Goodwin, of Hobart; Mr. JOHN SHEPHERD, formerly Christian Disciple; Mr. PETER FIFE, and his son Mr. ALEXANDER FIFE, both formerly Christian Disciples. These are the result of certain seed sown by Bros. Goodwin and Midson of Hobart.

Bros. P. Fife and Shepherd are the trustees of the Christian Chapel at Huonville, and constitute almost the sole remnant in the neighbourhood of its former congregation. The building is now used for Christadelphian purposes, and will soon, we trust, by our Father’s blessing, become the meeting place for an increased number, as we hear favourable reports from this district; certain are interested and ere long we hope to be able to report progress. – John King, 125 Bathurst St., Hobart.” (Shield, November 1898, page 204)

Appeals for Immigrants

From 1945 onwards, it appears that there were only a few sisters in Hobart. In the July 1959 Shield, it is reported by Brother Ken Niejalke that a Brother Tom Ormerod was baptised in Hobart. This effectively marks the recommencement of the Hobart ecclesia after about 13 years with no brethren.

Public lectures were held in Hobart with the assistance of brethren from Launceston, resulting in a large number of contacts—far more than could be followed up by the small ecclesia. Brother Ken issued a number of appeals for help. His appeal for brethren to move to Hobart bore fruit in 1962:

“HOBART (Tasmania). – Vikings Room, Y.M.C.A., 55 Argyle Street. 2, 7; School, Glenorchy, 10. – We have been very pleased to welcome from Maidenhead ecclesia bro. Hubert and sis. Vera Taylor and family. Our brother and sister have come with the express intention of strengthening the work force for the Truth in this part, and they have already proved to be of great assistance. We have lots of work before us, more really than we can capably manage. Our call is still going out to those willing to put “their hand to the plough. – Ken Niejalke” (The Christadelphian, 1962, page 238)

Within months, Brother Hubert began his regular appeals for more immigrants to settle in Hobart. Responses to these appeals commenced in 1963 with additional immigrants from England.