Louise Schäfer (c1836-1917)

Louise Schäfer (c1836-1917) Foundation member, Historical Society of Victoria

Louise Schäfer was one of only a few women who could claim to be foundation members of the Historical Society of Victoria when it was established in May 1909. (She was the fourth woman to join.) By then she was 71 years old and because she had lived in Victoria since 1856 she was accepted as an honorary member.

She was also one of the few women members of the Society who came from a non-British background. Born in Holstein in the north of Germany in about 1836, she was the daughter of Heinrich Andresen, a carpenter, and his wife Maria Jensen. She sailed from Hamburg in 1856 on board the Europa aged twenty.

On 23 May 1857 she married fellow German, Heinrich Carl Theodor (Theodor) Schäfer from Altona, Hamburg, who had arrived three years before her. They were married at the Castlemaine schoolroom by the Church of England clergyman, as there was no Lutheran Church in the area at the time.

The Schäfers lived at Maldon until 1877 and during this period Louise gave birth to seven daughters and two sons and mourned the death of one daughter in infancy.

Image: Theodor Schäfer’s saddlery business, Main Street, Maldon. Image courtesy Maldon Museum and Archives Association.


Her husband’s life can be seen in more detail through his business and community activities. Theodor Schäfer ran a saddlery business in Main Street, Maldon. He was a member of the Maldon Volunteer Fire Brigade and Treasurer (and later President) of the local German Club. He was also a member of the Maldon School Board of Advice, the school his children attended.

The family left Maldon for Melbourne at the end of 1877 after twenty years in the town. In Melbourne, Schäfer ran a saddlery business in Bourke Street but the family lived in Hoddle Street, Richmond.


Shortly after their move to Melbourne, 17 year old Emma died of typhoid and four of the other children also fell ill, but survived. Another son, Theodor, was born in 1880. The family moved, first to LaTrobe Street and then to Perth House in Dudley Street, West Melbourne, where Theodor senior died in early February 1882, aged 51, leaving Louise to raise her eight children as best she could. Her husband’s estate amounted to only £380 and there was some delay in distributing the money. It was not until 1889 that each of the seven surviving children (a boy had died in 1883) was granted £25 each and Louise £125.

In 1889, Louise Schäfer married again, to another German Albert August Pikrot. She was 52 years old and still had four children living at home, the youngest only nine years old. Her husband was 46 and had been a bandsman in the Royal Navy. Four years after he was discharged, styling himself Professor of Music, he and Louise were living in Parkville.

Pikrot was gone from the scene by 1898 and Louise resumed using the surname Schäfer. What happened to him after their brief marriage is unknown.

In May 1909, Mrs Louise Schäfer of Waverley Villa, 49 Morrah Street, Parkville, wrote to the Historical Society in response to its recent article in the Argus newspaper asking for stories relating to Victoria’s early history. She had, she said, ‘roamed about with my husband all through the early part of the diggings and can well remember all the interesting details of that period.’ She mentioned, too, that ‘Dr Kopferberg, a mate of my husband, returned to Germany and he gave lectures there in Frankfurt am Main on the Dairy [diary] of mine which I gave him.’ The pity is that Florian Kupferberg (Kopferberg) took the diary out of the country when he returned to Frankfurt in 1864, so her stories were lost to Victorian history. And although she joined the Society, there is no evidence in its collection that she ever contributed any writings related to her personal history.

Her husband’s ‘mate’ Florian Kupferberg died in 1885 aged 56. It would be interesting to know how long he lectured on his Australian goldfield adventures, what stories he told and more intriguingly, what happened to the diary after his death.

Louise Schäfer died in 1917. Although her death certificate was issued in her legal name – Louise Pikrot – she is buried as Louise Schäfer in the Lutheran Section of Melbourne General Cemetery with her first husband.

Cheryl Griffin March 2021


RHSV archives – membership records, early correspondence

Castlemaine Historical Society – local information including marriage details, Kupferberg information

Maldon Museum and Archives Association – photograph of Schäfer’s saddlery business and index to the Tarrangower Times 1858-1878

Melbourne General Cemetery monumental inscription transcriptions, courtesy Genealogical Society of Victoria

Victorian Unassisted Inward Shipping, Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV)

Hamburg Shipping lists

Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes

Age, 7 February 1882

Argus, 6 May 1878, 19 October 1885

Mt Alexander Mail, 8 April 1856, 11 September 1857, 24 June 1858, 18 August 1858 (Kupferberg)

(Ballarat) Star, 12 February 1858, 29 September 1864 (Kupferberg)

Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 1864 (Kupferberg)

Richmond Rate Book, 1879

Sands and McDougall Directories, 1881, 1882, 1890-1896, 1898, 1917

PROV, VPRS 12024/P0001 unit 14, Companies and Miscellaneous Applications Files, #244, 1889. Re: will and codicil of Heinrich Carl Theodor Schafer

Melbourne Hospital Admissions Book, 7 November 1895, courtesy Genealogical Society of Victoria

Victorian Police Gazette, 28 February 1898

Victorian electoral rolls, 1903-1914

National Archives of Australia – naturalisation papers (Kupferberg)

Royal Navy records, accessed via Ancestry (Pikrot)

1881 English Census (Pikrot)

Victorian Police Gazette, 22 June 1881 (Pikrot)

Darlinghurst Gaol entrance book, 11 October 1881 (Pikrot)