Johann August Schwerkolt (August) was born in Prussia in 1822. He was a brick maker by trade, but was employed as a brewer’s assistant. In 1849 he married his first wife, Paulina Richter, just prior to them both sailing to Australia on the Emmy, departing Hamburg on 11 September and arriving at Hobson’s Bay a few days before Christmas. It was a direct passage without any stops along the way.

Their first child Emil August Paul was born in 1850.

August was naturalised on 14 February 1853 and he was then able to purchase land in Northcote, where he settled and established a market garden. Over the next 13 years Paulina gave birth to eight children, although three died in infancy.

On 14 December 1861 August purchased 63 acres in Mitcham, a holding that had formerly been part of the estate of Patrick Riley, one of the first landowners in the district. In 1864 he set about building a stone cottage there from materials found on the property. During this time he would travel on foot between Northcote and Mitcham, transporting his belongings on a pair of saplings tied to his waist and dragged behind him.

August and Wilhemina Schwerkolt

The family had moved to Mitcham by 1865 as we know that is where the ninth child was born. During the next decade, August established a subsistence farm to support his growing family, beginning with charcoal burning; then progressing to farming, an orchard, wine-making and quarrying. By 1882 he had increased his land holding to 88 acres. In January 1884, Paulina died aged 60.

August remarried in 1865 to Maria Catherina Wilhelmina Oppel (Wilhelmina). Construction of the cottage which stands today began in 1885. Wilhelmina gave birth to twins on 22 November 1885 with only one surviving.

On 17 January 1887 – about four months before the birth of another daughter, Mary Elisabeth – August died of complications resulting from a bout of pneumonia and enteritis. He was buried with Paulina, in the Church of England section of Box Hill Cemetery.