Carl Friedrich Graebner (1862-1949) was Concordia’s second headmaster from 1904 to 1939. He was born in Missouri, USA and was a parish pastor before accepting a call to the College.
He and his family were very relieved to finally arrive in Adelaide on 28 December 1905. They had endured a hot night on a stuffy and overcrowded train from Victoria, and were not at all prepared for the challenges of the day ahead. Dr Graebner recalls this experience in his memoirs.
"There was not a soul at the station to meet us, although I had notified someone of our intended departure from Murtoa. So the family, consisting of myself, my dear wife and the six children, carried our luggage to King William Street. … we took an Unley tram (horse-drawn) and with our load of baggage… we trudged up Cheltenham Street in the heat of the day and finally landed at the front door of the College. It was evident to us at once that we were not expected… I rang the front door bell and after some time someone came to the door and opened it. An unknown face. A strange woman. But she was probably just as astonished as we were.
We retired early that night, being very weary, sleeping on the floor in various upstairs rooms where mattresses could be spread on the bare boards."
Graebner was active in areas beyond his role as headmaster. At a time when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia was moving from the predominant use of German to the exclusive use of English, the bilingual Graebner was an influence for ongoing change. This was partly a response to the hostility directed at Australian Lutherans of German descent during World War I.
When the South Australian Parliament debated a bill aimed at limiting teaching in the German language, Graebner headed a deputation to Parliament in June 1915. He emphasized the church’s loyalty to the British Empire and insisted that the focus of Lutheran schools was not nationalistic, but educational and religious. Graebner also worked with Lutheran War Relief and was one of the founders of the Myrtle Bank Soldiers Home.
After he retired from the headmastership in 1939, Graebner continued as president of the theological seminary until 1941. He died on 5 June 1949 at the age of 86 and was buried in the West Terrace cemetery.
Jenni van Wageningen