Where on earth is Blumbergville?

From Australia’s Jewish Past:

Where in the world is Blumbergville ?

a small town in queensland

First published in J-Wire December 7, 2021

Blumbergville no longer exists by that name, but when the small village in the Scenic Rim Region of Queensland, was established in 1885, it was one of the very few Australian towns ever to be named for a Jewish family.

Blumbergville was named for the Blumberg family, consisting of three brothers who sought to escape Russia’s mandatory military service to seek their fortunes. Levi, Adolph and Max Blumberg made their way from Latvia via London to Queensland in October 1882.

The township already had a population of German settlers and, this perhaps attracted the German-speaking brothers. They quickly established trades. Max, worked as a sheep-shearer; and Levi and Adolph set up the very first store in the Dugandan district in 1882. They sold dairy and poultry items, acted as agents for local farmers’ produce, and established a reputation for ‘honest dealing’.

The store very quickly became a centre for trade in the area and the brothers were recognised for their role in developing the town when it was officially named Blumbergville in 1885. In the Dugandan Scrub region, a few of the 40 or 50 families sold goods from rough farm shops, but the enterprising Blumberg’s wider range of more interesting wares brought great excitement. A number of buildings had been built on Dugandan Flat to the south of the township where the brothers built a four-room cottage and store on higher ground, which survived the flood of 1887.

When the railway was built locals chose a new name – Boonah, and the region became known as Boonah and Dugandan. In the 2016 census the locality of Boonah, as it is known today, had a population of 2,484 people.

Mail was directed to Blumbergs via Ipswich which, until 1884, when a post receiving office opened at Blumberg’s store under the care of Mr Levi Blumberg, now a Justice of the Peace and the most important person in the Boonah Police Court. Because the store became so well known that the surrounding area soon was named Blumbergville. The establishment of the post-receiving office increased the brothers’ business enormously and a new building was built next to the original Blumberg Bros Store and the original cottage remained as their residence.

Max was a shoe and boot merchant at the store, and the brothers also built the Australian Hotel in 1888. In 1890 Adolph replaced the manager they had employed and, Levi’s widow, Elizabeth Blumberg took over the management after Adolph.

The brothers branched out into pursuits both profitable and charitable, and, as well as building the Australian Hotel and donating land for the building of a Catholic Church, the store soon became a chain, with a second store at Mt. Alford and a third and fourth in Blumbergville.

Blumbergville did not retain its quaint, but cumbersome name – according to some residents. In 1888, a railway station opened and the town was renamed Boonah.

The change in name certainly did not interfere with the Blumberg family’s standing in the community. All three brothers served as trustees and committee members for various town-building enterprises, including a School of Arts and a library. Levi and Abram both married and had children.

The Blumbergs were by no means the only Jewish family in Boonah, but no formal congregation or synagogue was ever established in the town, and the subsequent generations moved away or married out.

While the Blumberg clan in Australia was strengthened by the migration of more Latvian cousins, the original Blumbergs have no known remaining descendants in Boonah, the town once named for them.

From Australia's Jewish Past is written by Ruth Lilian OAM for AJHS and published weekly in J-Wire. ​