One of Australia’s oldest companies and now brand, Onkaparinga started in South Australia in 1869 in Hahndorf and then moved operations to Lobethal, situated 40 kilometres from Adelaide in the picturesque “Valley of Praise”.
Migrating from Germany, two brothers, Heinrich and Edward Kramm, both weavers, purchased and brought with them some machinery and established themselves in Hahndorf in a mud hut. Their original plant consisted of one carding machine, one spinning mule of 30 spools and 2 hand looms. The spinning mule was horse driven, the others all hand operated. This beginning was not so successful and in 1873, Mr. F.W. Kelinschmidt bought the machinery and the brothers’ expertise and relocated in his disused brewery at its present location in Lobethal, situated on the banks of the western arm of the Onkaparinga river. The wool was washed by hand and dried in the sun then teased by hand.
Despite a government contract for US$10,000 for supply of 10,000 yards of cloth, Kleinschmidt’s new venture could not survive and in 1877, a syndicate was formed with F.W. Kleinschmidt as Chairman. Extensive upgrading and building programs were undertaken and on 9th July 1877, the Lobethal Woollen and Tweed Company was opened for business. However the trouble was not over, for 1878 saw South Australia in severe drought conditions and trade depression together caused yet another forced temporary closure of operations in “Tweedvale” as it was known.
1883 saw the efforts of Mr. David Murphy come to fruition with a new company name, "The South Australian Woollen Factory” which was formed with US$20,000. More buildings were erected to house 16 new looms on the 10th November 1885, under the management of Mr. J.W. McGregor, later to become one of Australia’s largest wool brokers, 30 employees on a payroll expense of US$50 were off and running. This continued successfully into the next century.