The Willow’s hospital at Light Pass

Willows Hospital c.1920s resized

The Willows Private Hospital was begun by an early settler, Johann Gottfried Scholz, who settled at Light Pass in 1845. He had gained experience in bone setting and remedial massage in the Prussian army, and his skills were very much in demand in the local Barossa pioneer community, where injuries were common and specialized medical help often far away.

Willows hospital beginnings 1

An article in the Adelaide Mail, Saturday 19th Jan 1929, explained how the hospital was begun with a hefty donation from George Fife Angus, after the elder Mr Scholz was able to reset his broken femur, which doctors in Adelaide had been unable to mend.

“The foundation of the hospital was due to a remarkable incident in the life of the late Mr. G. Fyffe(sic) Angas. The latter had the misfortune to break a leg, and the limb was wrongly set.  Hearing of the success of the elder Mr. Scholz in setting limbs, Mr. Angas went to the farmhouse to consult him.

The story is told that the two ‘were sitting together discussing the break, Mr. Angas resting his injured knee on another chair. Without warning Mr. Scholz jumped on this leg, renewing the former fracture. Mr. Angas was, of course, exceedingly angry at first, but he soon found unlocked for ease (sic) from the skilful handling and setting of the broken leg. Within a short period, he recovered the full use of the limb, and in gratitude for this treatment contributed £500 to found the hospital.

This intuitive knowledge of anatomy and manipulative skill in setting bones and massaging ligatures is often passed down from father to son. Henry Scholz; who succeeded his father, was equally skilful”

Other sources suggest that it was in fact GF Angus’s son John whose bone was healed by Johann’s son, Dr Wilhelm Heinrich Scholz.  (No matter – these discrepancies in historical accounts are what keep us interested)! In any case, it was this donation that allowed the establishment of the Scholz Willow’s Hospital in 1856.

The original building was an extension to their family home – a pug cottage. However, their treatments were so successful that demand soon outstripped capacity, with people from all over Australia asking to be admitted.  Tom Reuther, in his podcast The Willows, recounts how some patients had to be housed in large, hollow gum trees.

JG Scholz’s son, Wilhelm Heinrich Scholz, expanded the hospital. Like his father, he was skilled in naturopathy and massage. A more substantial stone and brick building was constructed which could take 30 patients, and this opened in 1883. It provided massage rooms, hot baths, patient accommodation, and a lounge and dining room for patients. It employed up to 5 nurses, as well as domestic staff. Most of the food for the hospital patients was grown on the farm.

Scholzs medicine cabinet resized

The hospital specialised in treating fractures, muscle failure and rheumatic diseases. Many alternative treatments were used, including homeopathy, and the Scholz family produced a range of specialized medicines, ointments and poultices. Animals were not forgotten either, with vetinary products such as Scholz’s Berg oil being produced. Many of the products were produced by Albert Scholz (brother to Dr HB Scholz). He was a qualified chemist and produced the famous Scholz’s liniment, the Altona drops and other medicinal products in a room on the verandah of his house.

Willows Hospital X Ray machine advert 1922 resized

The willingness to use alternative methods and medicines continued down through the generations. Wilhelm’s son, Herbert Bernhard Scholz and his son, William Herbert Scholz, also became doctors and continued the work at the hospital. William later studied physiotherapy in the United States. When he returned in 1918, he introduced new treatments for patients with polio.  These included prescribing exercises instead of the traditional medical prescription of bed rest.

The hospital eventually closed in the 1960’s, having provided over 100 years of patient care. The State Heritage listed buildings are now used as a private residence.

Seven generations of the Scholz family have lived on this land, focusing on both healing, farming and viticulture. Vines have been grown on the property since Johann first settled there in 1845. In 1987 the family began producing wines under “The Willows Vineyard” label, and a cellar door operates on the property. You can now enjoy a restorative glass of wine at the cellar door, on this land that has been a place of health and healing for so many years.


The Willows Hospital at Light Pass | The Barossa Mag – article by Luke Rothe

19 Jan 1929 – LIGHT’S PASS HOSPITAL – Trove ( (article from the Adelaide Mail)

The Barossa Heritage Trail App.

Podcast: Tom Reuther – The Willows -Listen to Tom’s fascinating memories of the hospital.