What’s in the name – Ludmilla?

There is a suburb in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia called by the Russian name Ludmilla.  This is the story of Ludmilla Holtze, but most importantly of her family.

Holtze family was a prominent family in the area.  At least 4 places in Northern Territory are called after their names– suburb Ludmilla, suburb Holtze, Ludmilla Creek and Wallaby Holtze Road.

“They had come as aliens seeking refuge, they were leaving [for Adelaide] beloved, respected citizens of Australia”, wrote their granddaughter in 1891 (Elena Govor, “Australia in the Russian mirror”, page 124)

The story goes that Ludmilla Creek in Darwin was originally named after Ludmilla Holtze by her eldest brother. Then the first reference to suburb Ludmilla was in 1890 when the surveyor Gustav Sabine named the suburb using the creek’s name.

Ludmilla was the daughter of Maurice Holtze, curator of the Darwin Botanical Gardens, and his wife Evlampia Holtze.

Maurice William Holtze (1840 – 1923) was born in Hannover to C. Holtze, son of a chief inspector of orphan houses and French mother.  He received an appropriate education in his country and became a landscape gardener.  At the age of 22 in 1862 he migrated to St Petersburg, Russia.

The only two facts known from Trove newspaper articles and Australian archive records about his life in Russia are his work at Imperial Gardens in St Petersburg and his marriage to a Russian woman.

Imperial Gardens of St Petersburg in 19th century were known as Botanical Gardens. The gardens, the oldest Botanical gardens in Russia, were founded in 1714 by order of Peter the Great as the Apothecary’s Garden and soon became the center for horticultural research.  The majority of the staff were hired from overseas.

Within 3 years of his uneventful life in St Petersburg, in 1865, he married Evlampia, a daughter of Surgeon-Captain Semen Mesinzoff and Sophia Ivanowna. Department of Arts and  Museums in NT has a big collection of photographs of this family.

Evlampia (1848 –6 July 1937) and Maurice had 3 kids born in St Petersburg – Nicholas (1866-1913), Wladimir (1867-1961) and Ludmilla (1871-1971). All kids had Russian Orthodox names: Wladimir, also was known as Waldemar and nicknamed Wallaby in Australia, is a Russian male name Vladimir. Nicholas stands for a Russian name Nikolai.  Youngest son Alexis born in Australia (1883 -1938) was more likely to represent Russian name Aleksei. And daughter Ludmila (with one L) is Russian, of course.

Holtze family late 1860s in Russia http://hdl.handle.net/10070/11960
Holtze family late 1860s in Russia

Maurice “lived for ten years among the Slavs” and migrated to Australia with the family in September 1872.  You can learn the full story of his forced migration in the book written by the descendant of Evlampia and Maurice- “The Holtze saga “ by Wynnis Ruediger.  The book gives a full account on how Maurice and Evlampia met, their early life in Russia, migration and life in Australia.

When Holtze family arrived to Australia in 1872, Palmerston (the original name for Darwin) just started developing. The town was officially founded in 1869 with a small settlement of 135 men and women at Port Darwin. The construction of Australian Overland Telegraph Line in early 1870s and the discovery of gold at Pine Creek in 1871 accelerated the growth of the town.

Holtze family was amongst the first Darwin pioneers.  Maurice leased the 180 miles piece of land in 1876 and

“for some years there was a struggle for existence against adverse circumstances, in which he and his wife displayed signs of courage and patient industry”. (1)

When the family arrived to the country they did not know English.

“Maurice Holtze was excused on an account of being a foreigner and not understanding English” notes Northern Territory Times and Gazette on 13 February 1875

They could not communicate with neighbours or be employed, they felt complete strangers in a new settlement.

Elena Govor writes in her book “Australia in the Russian mirror” that

Evlampia Holtze http://hdl.handle.net/10070/11960
Evlampia Holtze

“Evlampia’s Russian origin still manifested itself in her Russian Orthodox religion, some Russian dishes in her cuisine, a Russian peasant costume for her daughter for a fancy dress ball, a subscription to a Russian newspaper, her tales to children and grandchildren about her life in Russia and hospitality to occasional Russian travellers.”

Maurice Holtze became a Government Gardener at the Palmerston Botanic Gardens (1878-1891), director of Experimental Gardens in Darwin and a curator of Botanical Gardens in Adelaide, South Australia from 1891 until his retirement in 1917.

Son Nicholas was a curator of Darwin Botanical Gardens. Waldemar took on a different carrier in Overland Telegraph. Alexis was an editor at various Australian newspapers and radio manager in his later career. Ludmilla Holtze lived a long life – 100 years. She went to study arts at School of Design in Adelaide, in 1889 married Charles William Hughes and had a big family.

Since the marriage and the birth of three kids occurred in St Petersburg I would recommend to descendants of Evlampia to write to the archive in St Petersburg.  This archive digitised (but not indexed) all metrical records in their possession. The records are now online in an archive’s internal  database.  The chances are big that the vital records of the family survived.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.