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(Gustavus) Adolphus Zwar (E1)

  • Born: 2.11.1854
  • Parents:
    Michael and Agnes Zwar nee Zimmer
    • Married:
    • Annie Louisa Gilbert
  • Lived:
    In Victoria, Australia all his life.
  • Died: 6.7.1934
  • Buried:

Detailed biography


Gustavus Adolphus Zwar was born near Melbourne on 2nd Feb 1854, the first child of Michael and Agnes Zwar. We are not sure exactly where, but I assume that his mother stayed with her parents, the Zimmers at Dry Creek, (Thomastown) for his birth, as she did for the birth of her second child, Anna.

Rachel Roberts (his daughter) thought he may have been born at Brunswick. Michael Zwar had worked there for Hoffmann’s at the brickworks, and it is said he carted bricks for the building of the Sarah Sands hotel, which opened in 1854. Michael had also bought land in Brunswick in 1851 but had sold it the following year.


In 1855 his father, Michael, bought land at Broadford. His mother, Agnes, stayed with the Zimmers until sometime after Anna, the second child was born, then she, Adolphus and Anna went to Broadford to rejoin Michael.


(I am not sure where Adolphus went to school. I guess he would have started school about 1860. There were then no Government schools in those days as we know them today. There was a National Schools Board, which registered the different schools, mainly run by the churches as well as some individuals interested in education. Michael Zwar applied with several others to the Government for finance towards a German school in Broadford but the application was refused, as there were not enough students.)
George Carlos

The Broadford history records:

“The Rev. William Singleton asked that their school be brought under the National School Board and in July 1857, No. 48, a Church of England school with Julius Armstrong as Head Teacher, was opened. Next year there were 27 children attending and the school received 115 pounds a year from the Government, the money being mainly for the teacher’s salary.”
Broadford, A Regional History, Page 95

However in the same Broadford history book the younger brother of Adolphus, John Zwar writes (page 26):

“I started to go to school at 6 years of age. The school was run by a Mr. W. E. Hammersley. The school room was attached to his house where his daughter, Miss Hammersley lives today.”

This was one of the first schools in Broadford. The Broadford history records that,

“One of the earliest schools was that of Mr. Hammersley – in High Street, to the north of Sunday Creek bridge, and although he died at an early age the school continued to function.”

One could assume from the above that Michael Zwar’s oldest children also attended Mr. Hammersley’s school.

[The Crowl’s have some schoolbooks which belonged originally to the younger children of Michael and Agnes Zwar, such as Agnes, Mary, Henry and Ada. These books are all inscribed “State School no. 1125 Broadford”. This school opened in 1873, years after Adolphus would have finished school.]

The Broadford history records that the Church of England school:

“closed in July 1873 and John Wright the Head Teacher applied for and was appointed to the new school, No. 1125 Broadford. This was a brick building thirty—six feet by eighteen feet and had accommodation for about seventy children, with a staff of three.”
Page 95

I recall one of the Broadford descendants saying that their ancestor went to a private school, and one day the name changed to the State school but nothing else changed! The school continued with the same head teacher and students. [Someone else may be able to confirm this – KZ].

It is apparent from the above that the oldest Zwar children went to Mr. Hammersley’s school and the youngest children went to the Broadford State School No. 1125.

Farm and country life

As the oldest of 11 children Adolphus learned to carry responsibility. He worked hard to help keep the farm going.

Adolphus is famous in the family for the courage and initiative he showed in an incident with his father. Father was suffering late one night from enjoying too much of the fruit of the vines they had growing on the property. Father cursed the vines and expressed the strong view that they would all be better off if they were ripped out. He cursed the wine in the casks and the suffering it brought. Adolphus did not wait for a second opinion. Late though it was in the night he went out and yoked up the draft horse and pulled out all the vines. Then he holed all the wine casks. There was an awful commotion the next morning when father woke up and saw how well his wishes had been carried out during the night while he slept!

The Ranch

John Zwar was 5 years younger than Adolphus but he records incidents in their early days:

“My father and mother now came to live here and father split slabs and built a house which is still standing at the “Ranch”. …. When I was four or five years old I can remember the black fellows coming begging for food. They were a nuisance to the people because they got too lazy to catch their own food. One black with his wife used to come very often and ask for a Goulburn “cut” of bread which meant a big thick one. A Melbourne “cut” meaning a thin one. … there were great numbers of kangaroos about.

When I was a boy the Round Hill now owned by Mr. Holden was covered with honeysuckle trees. They were about 30 feet high with a round top about 20 feet across with the exception for a few light lightwood trees there were no other kind growing. It was a lovely sight when they were in bloom. Opossums would very often come from long distances to feed on the leaves and we used to go on moon—light nights and catch them and make rugs with their skins. Also native cats, a small animal not quite the size of a rabbit. They were brown with white spots over the back about the size of a shilling. There were a few quite black with those white spots. They were beautiful little creatures but very rare. They lived on birds, crickets and grasshoppers. There were also native bears all over the place but an epidemic broke out amongst them and the native cats and they all died. There were hundreds of these nice trees about but when the seed fell and the young ones came up the cattle ate them and the old trees dying there is now nothing but a bare hill.”

The Tales of a Grandfather John William Walter Zwar (1934)

Marriage and “Kimberley”

Adolphus bought land just up the road from the Zwar family home before he was married. He married Annie Gilbert in January 1888 and the same year they built the house they named “Kimberley”. It was mainly a dairy farm but they also ran some sheep. Adolphus ran sheep on the ‘Sheoaks’ property, a grazing piece of land on the Melbourne side of Broadford.

John Zwar (Canberra, 1982) recalls that the three brothers Adolphus, John and Charles worked together in a partnership for some time as “Zwar Bros”. They grew oats and cut it into chaff and exported it to South Africa during the Boer War. They grew a lot of oats.

Rachel Roberts described her father as,

“A quiet and reserved man. He didn’t seek the limelight. A big man. Honest and hard working. Kind. Well liked. Generous with wood and eggs.”
from an interview

Rachel also described her mother Annie as

“a marvelous woman and a great help to Adolphus. Clever. Good at Fancy Work and Handcrafts.”

They had four daughters, Agnes, Ivy, Olive and Rachel, the last one born in the first month of the year 1900.

Retirement in Melbourne

About 1920 Annie and Adolphus sold out and retired to Moonee Ponds in Melbourne. His daughter Rachel recalled that Adolphus enjoyed life in retirement, going to see others at the cattle markets and playing drafts with a friend.

His cousin, Mrs. Ziebell (nee Zimmer) lived at Thomastown and was quite impressed with Dolph’s lifestyle in retirement.

”He was flash… had servants, big home. He brought a bag of lollies when he came from Moonee Ponds.”
interviewed with KZ, 8.9.1977


John Zwar (Canberra) remembers hearing them say that “Adolphus died holding Annie’s hand”. It was 6th July 1934 and he was 80 years old. They had been married 46 years.

A newspaper of the day recorded:

“The death has occurred suddenly of Mr. A. Zwar at his home, Learmonth Street, Moonee Ponds. Born at Brunswick in 1854 (then known as Philiptown) Mr. Zwar’s parents selected land at Broadford when he was aged two years. Later he bought land adjoining the old home property, and worked it for many years. Fifteen years ago he sold this large grazing property and retired to Moonee Ponds to live. Mr. Zwar was a brother of Mr. A. M. Zwar, M.L.C., and of Mr. H. P. Zwar, M.L.A. He leaves a widow and four daughters (Mrs. 0. Brown, Mrs. A. H. Lowe, Mrs. L. A. Johnstone and Mrs. E. J. Roberts). The funeral took place in the Broadford Cemetery.”

Annie survived him by eight and a half years and she died on the 29th January 1943.

© Kevin P Zwar