The History of Christian's Minde Retreat
Christian's Minde was established by the Danish Ellmoos family in 1880.
This heritage-listed property is set on 11 acres of grounds in Jervis Bay Territory. Erected in 1896, Christian's Minde was the first guest house on the south coast between Sydney and Eden, and today retains the old-world atmosphere from its heyday in the 1920s.
The Christian's Minde settlement includes several guest houses, a cemetery and outbuildings.
Why is the settlement historically significant?
It was built in 1880 on land taken up by the Ellmoos family from Denmark. The death of Christian Ellmoos Jnr in 1888 explains the origin of the name of the property, Christian's Minde, which means "To the memory of Christian".
The buildings and their setting are important in illustrating the principal characteristics of late nineteenth and early twentieth century guest houses in the Jervis Bay district of the south coast.
These characteristics include the use of domestic-scale residential weatherboard buildings, influenced by the prevailing Federation style of the 1890s and early 1900s. The natural setting, and close relationship between the buildings and the foreshore, has rsulted in a place of considerable charm.
The Ellmoos Story
Christian's Minde was built from 1880 on land taken up by the Ellmoos family from Denmark. This is their story.
The story of the Ellmoos of Christian's Minde began on 26th February 1862, in the little Danish village of Ensted, near Hostrup, Aabenraa. On that date, cabinet maker and ship fitter Christian Nielsen Ellmoos married Louise Marie Petersen. Their second child, Jacob, became a seaman at the age of 15.
In 1878 he left his ship in Port Adelaide, South Australia, and decided to travel north. He walked over 1,000 miles and eventually established himself at the South Head Signal Station, near Watsons Bay, in Sydney. In those days, Watsons Bay was just a fishing village.
Acquiring a seaworthy boat, Jacob sailed south, fishing the coastal waters. He finally made his base at Cape St George lighthouse, on the southern headland of Jervis Bay.
On a fishing trip in November 1880, he crossed the bar at the entrance of Sussex Inlet - and thus began the Ellmoos family association with Sussex Inlet.
At left: Louise Ellmoos (nee Peterson) wife of Christian Snr.
Photo taken just before leaving Denmark in 1888.
Next to her is Christian Ellmoos Snr. in 1914.
Jacob's enthusiasm was contagious, and before long his brother Niels, aged 18, came out from Denmark to join him. He was closely followed by Christian Junior, Marie, Whilhelmina and Louise. Finally, in the spring of 1886, the parents, Christian and Louise, arrived with their three younger children - Thomas (10), Lorenz (7) and the baby, Anna, aged 3.
United again, the entire family started to build their new home. They cleared the land to plant crops; they raised livestock, and they caught fish for the Sydney market.
It was a pioneer existence. Building material was cut from the bush or dragged overland from the wrecks in Wreck Bay. The fish was taken to sea to be trans-shipped to the small coastal steamers. Their livestock was guarded and nursed through the changing seasons.
Then, twice in one year, tragedy came to this pioneering family.
In 1888, Niels, with two companions, sailed out of Jervis Bay, bound for Sydney, and they were all lost at sea.
The Entrance at Sussex Inlet, 1888.
The boats: Dannebrog and Sofagul, built by the Ellmoos family.
In the same year, Christian himself was caught in heavy weather while sailing in the Basin. His boat capsized and after several hours in the water, he finally walked home through the bush, only to die of pneumonia a short time later.
Despite the double tragedy, the family continued with the task of building, and created what was to become the only guest house on the NSW coast betweeen Port Hacking and Twofold Bay.
The small estasblishment opened for business in 1890. In memory of both her husband, who built it, and her son who had died before its completion, the home was given the Danish name of Christian's Minde, meaning "To the memory of Christian". The family held a traditional Danish wreath-laying ceremony before the roof was put on.
The Ellmoos family standing around a bottle meant to keep evil spirits away from the house.
(Old Danish custom.)
It was a brave venture to operate a business like this in such a remote area. At first, visitors had to travel by horse-drawn coach to Pelican Point on St George's Basin, and then by open sailing boat 9 miles across the Basin and down to Christian's Minde. Anyone who has experienced the Basin strong winds will appreciate the hazards of the journey!
At this time, the nearest neighbours were the families that staffed the old lighthouse on the Jervis Bay headland, and it was there that the Ellmoos children began their education.
Based on traditional Dutch food and hospitality, the business prospered, and the additional attractions of great fishing and the isolation and beauty of the area attracted more and more holiday-makers.
In 1905 Jacob and Sarah Loadsman (who was to become his wife in 1907) took over the management ofChristian's Minde and ran the guest house for the next ten years.
The Ellmoos family and guests in boats built by the family.
This was taken on the other side of the river, looking back at Christian's Minde.
The original boatshed with stalls is on the right (1910)
In 1915, the Commonwealth took over the land and part of the land bordering St Georges Basin as part of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The Ellmoos freehold was swapped for Federal leaseholds and Jacob, the only survivor of the original selectors, was eventually compensated for the lost of his freehold. This didn't happen willingly on the Government's part - there were many, many letters between Jacob's solicitor and the Minister's Department before anything resembling a fair compensation was offered. Jacob felt that the Government seemed to believe they could take away his land and business on the basis that he was merely a "foreigner".
Jacob then bought a large tract of land on the southern bank of the Inlet, which was still a part of NSW, and on which the existing town of Sussex Inlet slowly developed.
On a part of this site, Jacob established another famous guest house, Heimdall, which he and his family controlled until the site was purchased by the Sussex Inlet RSL club.
At the same time, Thomas Ellmoos and his wife, Jessie, became owners of Christian's Minde and ran the establishment until their retirement in 1940, when it was taken over by their son Niels (Dick).
Guests and famiy at Christian Minde's wharf, in Dannebrog and Sofagul and other rowboats built by the Ellmoos family (1910)
The increasing use of motor cars brought Thomas Ellmoos to search for a way into Christian's Minde other than by water. On horseback, he worked out a practical route through the bush from Collete Road, which runs out to HMAS Creswell. His son Niels cleared the scrub and built a track, and although it was not a journey to be tackled in a light-hearted spirit, for the first time visitors could travel by car from Sydney to Christian's Minde.
Upon his marriage, Thomas had built his cottage home to the north of the main house. This was later sold, enlarged by the new owner under the name of Sargood's, then re-bought by Thomas to become the annexe to the guest house.
Christian's Minde continued as a popular holiday resort until the difficult post-war years of the late 1940s, when Niels Ellmoos converted it into self-contained flats.
Upon their retirement, Thomas and Jessie had established their new home on the northern bank, and retained Sargood's as a business.
During the war it was used by the crews of flying boats based on St Georges Basin, and later became flats for the use of holiday makers.
North from Christian's Minde is the cottage in which Anna and George Junk lived for many years. Further north still, you'll find the original building of Sargood's (now known as Ellmoos), and beyond that is the home where Thomas' widow Jessie and daughter Mrs. Norma Mould lived.
The Ellmoos village complex remains on the site which Jacob originally explored, and in a little disused cemetery on a hill east of Christian's Minde, Christian Nieleon Ellmoos, Louise, Wilhelmina and Marie lie with other members of the family.