Aboriginal people existed in the south coast region long before the sea rose to its current level and the Bherwerre Peninsula was created. More than 100 pre historic Aboriginal sites have been recorded on the Bherwerre Peninsula including shell middens, rock shelters, burial sites and ceremonial grounds. Aboriginal people established camps where food and water was abundant and hunting and gathering was bountiful. The main sources of foods were yams, berries, and native animals such as kangaroos, possums and echidnas. Prior to European occupation the area around Sussex Inlet was occupied by the Dhurga Aboriginal tribe who called the basin behind the Inlet Bherwerre and it was renowned for an abundant supply of fish.
Today the Booderee National Park on the shores opposite Sussex Inlet are managed by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and there are many stories of a strong respect between the Aboriginal people and the Ellmoos family who shared their love of fishing and early boat building.
The oldest existing building in the Sussex Inlet district is the Christian's Minde complex located on the north shore of the Inlet. The following is a brief history of the buildings.
The story of the Ellmoos of Christian's Minde began on 26th February 1862, in the little Danish village of Ensted,near Hostrup, Aabenraa, with the marriage of a cabinet maker and ship fitter Christian Nielsen Ellmoos to Louise Marie Petersen - and with the birth of their second child, Jacob. At the age of 15 Jacob became a seaman and 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, which was then a fishing village. Acquiring a seaworthy boat he sailed south, fishing the coastal waters and 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. He found rich fishing grounds and un spoilt beauty and soon sought and was granted a selection of 1200 acres of land on the northern bank of the inlet.
Jacob's news to his family in Denmark must have been full of enthusiasm, for before long his brother Niels, aged 18, arrived at the inlet and was followed by Christian Junior, Marie, Wilhelmina and Louise. Finally in the spring of 1886, the parents, Christian and Louise, arrived with the three younger children - Thomas, aged 10, Lorenz, aged 7 and baby Anna, aged 3. United again, the entire family commenced the establishment of their new home and livelihood, building timber dwellings, clearing the land for crops, raising livestock and fishing 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 transhipped to the small coastal steamers, the livestock guarded and nursed through the changing seasons. Then, twice in the one year, tragedy came to the pioneering family. In 1888 Niels with two companions sailed out of Jervis Bay bound for Sydney and were lost at sea. 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 and died 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 between Port Hacking and Twofold Bay. The small establishment opened for business in 1890 and the home was given the Danish name of Christian's Minde meaning "To the memory of Christian". by Louise Marie, in memory of both her husband (who built it) and son who had died before its completion, during a traditional Danish wreath-laying ceremony before the roof was put on. Operating such a business in a remote area was a brave venture. Visitors first travelled by horse-drawn coach to Pelican Point on St Georges Basin and then by open sailing boat 9 miles across the basin and down to Christian's Minde. Those who have experienced the basin in strong winds will appreciate the hazards of the journey.
At that 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 Danish food and hospitality, the business prospered and the additional fascination of great fishing and the isolation and beauty of the area attracted more and more holiday makers.
In 1905, Jacob and Sarah Loadsman (they married in 1907) took over the management of Christian's Minde and ran the guest house for the next ten years.
The other surviving Ellmoos children married over an extended period- Marie to Paul Hoffman (1892) and Louise to Martin Muller (1895), both former members of the German Navy. Lorenz to Elsie Lancaster (1906), Thomas to Jessie Jennings (1908), and the youngest, Anna to George Junk.(1925). Wilhemina - never married.(died 1920).
In 1915 the Commonwealth took over the Inlet and part of the land bordering St Georges Basin as a 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 loss of his the freehold, (not willingly on the Governments part - there where many, many letters between Jacob's solicitor and the Minister's Department before anything resembling a fair compensation was offered - they seemed to believe they could take away his land and business on the basis that he was merely "a foreigner" ). He 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.
Boating on the Inlet
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). They developed and expanded the business, maintaining it as a favourite resort of Sydney professional men.
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 the College 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. The track was later extended to the entrance and later still, improved by the Forestry Commission. It is now shown on the latest maps as Ellmoos Road.
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 1940's 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 is 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 Nielson Ellmoos, Louise, Wilhelmina and Marie lie with other members of the family.