John Ahrens

From Hotels of Ballarat
John Ahrens
Born c. 1822, c.1828
Hamburg, Germany
Died 7 October 1869
Geelong, Victoria
Occupation Publican
Years active 1857-1866
Known for Royal Exchange Hotel
Exchange Hotel
Junction Hotel, Stawell
Home town Ballarat
Spouse(s) Bedelia Frawley

John Ahrens was a publican in Ballarat, <1857-1866>.

History[edit | edit source]

John Ahrens was born c. 1822 in Hamburg, Germany, according to his Naturalisation Certificate[1], or in c.1828 according to the age on his Freemason's records.[2] He was the son of Jocham Ahrens.[3] He became a citizen on 12 February 1857.[1]

Ahrens was granted the license for the Exchange Hotel in Bridge Street in June 1857.[4]. It was renewed in June 1859.[5]

In December 1857 John Ahrens led a committee to support James Wray after Wray's hotel, the Imperial, had been destroyed by fire:

THE LATE FIRE-A meeting convened by advertisement, was held yesterday afternoon at the North Grant Hotel, Main Road, for the purpose of taking into consideration the best means of assisting Mr Wray, the proprietor of the Imperial Hotel, Bakery Hill, which was destroyed by fire on Thursday last. Several gentlemen were present, and the following were appointed as a committee to carry out the objects of the meeting:-Messrs Ahrens, Cherry, Kayser, Smith, Lewis, Armstrong, Chown, and King. It was proposed by Mr Ahrens, seconded by Mr Smith, that subscription lists be printed, and left at the various hotels within the district; the motion was carried. The meeting then adjourned until ten o'clock this (Wednesday) morning, when steps will be taken for canvassing. The above movement is highly commendable, and speaks volumes for the good feeling existing among the licensed victuallers as a body, of whom the meeting was chiefly composed. It is impossible to tell, at what time any one of them may be reduced to destitution by a casualty of this nature, especially in a town like ours, where the hotels themselves, and the houses surrounding them are composed of such combustible materials. The loss of Mr Wray is estimated at over a thousand pounds, but we doubt not that through the kindness of his fellow tradesmen and the public, his loss will he considerable reduced.[6]

On 26 June 1860, Ahrens was initiated into the Ballarat Lodge of the Freemasons.[2] On 26 April 1865 he was initiated into the United Tradesmen's Lodge of Ballarat East.[7]

In June 1862 the Pioneer Lodge held its meetings at Ahrens' hotel:

At the half-yearly meeting of the Pioneer lodge, A.I.O. of O.F., held on Monday evening at Ahrens' Exchange Hotel, for the election of officers for the ensuing half-year, P.V.G. Brother Monro was unanimously elected N.G., and Brother Frazer was unanimously-elected V.G.;and present secretary Brother Drake was unanimously re elected. After the election the brethren partook of an excellent supper served up by Host Brother Ahrens in his usual capital style. An address to P.G. Brother Simmons on the occasion of his retirement from office was presented after supper.[8]

Ahrens is listed as the publican of the Exchange Hotel in Dickers Directory of Ballarat 1865-1866.[9] His license was renewed in July 1864.[10]

In 1868 he married Bedelia Frawley.[11]

In 1869 Ahrens is at the Junction Hotel, Reefs, South Scotchmans, Crowlands, Stawell.[12]

Ahrens died on 7 October 1869[3] :

AHRENS.—On the 7th October, at Garden-street, Geelong, John Ahrens, aged forty-six years, formerly of Hamburgh, Germany ; late of Ballarat.[13]

THE Friends of Mr JOHN AHRENS (formerly of the Exchange Hotel, Bridge street), are respectfully invited to follow his remains. The funeral will move from the B.V.R. Orderly-room on Sunday, the 10th instant, at half-past two o'clock, to St. Paul's Church, when, after the service is performed, will procced from thence to the place of interment, New Ballarat Cemetery.[14]

His funeral was not quite as respectful as the funeral notice hoped for:

The outrageous and disgraceful conduct of young men and boys whenever an excuse for a gathering occurs has frequently been commented on by the Press, but the following from the Star, which purports to be a description of what took place at the funeral of the late Mr John Ahrens, sergeant in the third company of the Ballarat Volunteer Rangers, exceeds any previous reported occurrence of the kind. Our contemporary writes—" It was really painful to listen to the sounds of disturbances which were created during the burial by the crowds of hobbledehoys who accompanied the funeral. They clambered on the trees and broke down the branches, also breaking the shrubs of the cemetery and everything else breakable, and in the midst of the most solemn part of the ceremonial a boy was being pelted while sitting on a branch only fifteen yards distant from the grave by nearly a hundred others scattered around, cheers being kept up all the time, only interrupted at last by the first volley from the firing party. We saw at least one policeman on the ground, but no interference was attempted." We (Star) understand that at the funeral of Sergeant Ahrens on Sunday, a slight dispute occured between the senior officer Captain Smith and Captain Sleep, who took command on the way to the cemetery. On the return Captain Smith resumed command, and while in that position some expression is said to have been made use of by Captain Sleep, which his senior officer threatened to report to head quarters.[15]

He became a Catholic, despite his Freemasonry, and after his death this caused a controversy prompting his wife to write to the paper:

THE LATE MR AHRENS. TO THE EDITOR OF THE STAR. Sir,—My attention has been drawn to a letter lately published in your paper by Mr Cummins, in which, he refers to me as a witness that Mr Ahrens adopted the Roman Catholic religion in a state of in sensibility, and cites a portion of a private letter of mine which he in some way obtained possession of as a proof of his statement. The letter, a portion of which he quotes, was written to Mr Scott, shoemaker, of Bridge street, whom I should not have written to had I for a moment thought that he would, for the purposes of a public discussion, disclose the contents of a private letter regarding the dead. It seems to me that the argument of Mr Cummins resolves itself into this. Mr Ahrens did not embrace the Roman Catholic religion, because when he was received into the Roman Catholic Church he was in a state of insensibility. I must confess I cannot understand this argument, for even if Mr Ahrens, when the sacrament of baptism, was administered was not sensible and not able to express his own assent, it by no means follows that he was not thereby received into the Church anymore than it would follow that, because an infant was unable to give sensible assent to the same baptism, it was not thereby received as a member of the church too. As Mr Cummins himself would say, the baptism is only an " outward and visible sign," and the real issue therefore is and must be, not as to the state of mind of Mr Ahrens at the time of baptism, but as to his state of mind when in full possession of all clear senses; and as Mr Cummins has called upon my testimony, I will give it. Since Mr Ahrens was married to me, and during our marriage, he attended Mr Cummins' church twice only, though living near that church and in good health, for about eight months, which was " an outward and visible sign" of no great adherence to one church; and, after his last attendance at Mr Cummins' church, he attended the Roman Catholic Church with me, though once only, which was "an outward and visible sign" of his joining another. Moreover, I can say, and I can bring more testimony than my own to prove it, that Mr Ahrens repeatedly told me that he had embraced the Roman Catholic faith before he or I left Ballarat, when he was in full possession of all his senses; and after his arrival at Pleasant Creek he was at tended by a Roman Catholic clergyman, and stated to others besides myself, that he believed in the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and would never attend any other. This is the testimony which I as " the late Mr Ahrens' Roman Catholic wife " give in the matter, which Mr Cummins ought to receive, for ho can hardly accept one statement of mine for his own purpose and discredit the other. At any rate it is the truth. Having written this much I must be excused from taking any further part in this controversy. I entered into it with reluctance, and only did so because when called as witness, I desired to tell the whole truth. Having told it I have done, but I would suggest to Mr Cummins that, inasmuch as the question of Mr Ahrens' faith at the time of his death is a fact which it is useless to argue upon, and which argument cannot alter, it seems to me that the present controversy is utterly useless, and that it would be more Christian, more manly, and more decent, to forbear to wound the feelings of the living, and allow the dead to rest in peace. -Yours, &c., Dealia Ahrens, Reefs, Pleasant Creek.[16]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Ahrens, John, Cert. No. 46, Chief Secretary's Department. Index to Naturalization Certificates (1851–1922), VPRS 4396. Public Record Office Victoria, North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ahrens, John, Lodge 1019, Folio 90, Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers; Description: Register of Admissions: Country and Foreign 'I', #940-1205, fols 1-319
  3. 3.0 3.1 Australian Death Index, Victoria, 1869, Ref. No. 9089
  4. 1857 'GENERAL ANNUAL LICENSING MEETING.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 13 June, p. 2. , viewed 20 Aug 2017,
  5. 1859 'AFTERNOON SITTINGS.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 14 June, p. 3. , viewed 26 Aug 2019,
  6. 1857 'Local and General News.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 30 December, p. 3. , viewed 16 Jul 2018,
  7. Ahrens, John, Lodge No. 744, 1046, Folio 259, Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers; Description: Register of Contributions: Country and Foreign Lodges, 966-1050 (1832); 668-748 (1863)
  8. 1862 'NEWS AND NOTES.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 2 July, p. 2. , viewed 18 Jan 2020,
  9. Dickers, F. M., Directory of Ballarat and Ballarat District, 1865-1866, pg. 177,
  10. 1864 'BALLARAT EAST LICENSING MEETING.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 2 July, p. 4. , viewed 18 Apr 2021,
  11. Australian Marriage Index, Victori, 1868, Ref. No. 2350
  12. Public Record Office Victoria; North Melbourne, Australia; Series Title: 6895/P Shire of Stawell Valuation and Rate Books (Microfilm Copy of VPRS 3770) [1861-1950]
  13. 1869 'Family Notices', The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), 9 October, p. 2. , viewed 16 Jul 2018,
  14. 1869 'Advertising', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 9 October, p. 3. , viewed 16 Jul 2018,
  15. 1869 'CURRENT TOPICS.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), 12 October, p. 2. , viewed 16 Jul 2018,
  16. 1869 'THE LATE MR AHRENS.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 8 November, p. 4. , viewed 16 Jul 2018,

External links[edit | edit source]