Elisabetha SCHIMPF 1837-1923

Three of the six surviving children born to Andreas Schimpf (born 12th December 1794, died 31st October 1874) and his wife Anna Juliana Reuter (born 21st December 1795, died 22nd March 1857), who were married on 3rd December 1817, emigrated to Victoria during the mass exodus of the 1850s. The eldest son, Christoph, was the first to depart, sailing from Hamburg in 1854 on an exploratory trip to Ballarat, to determine the feasibility of taking his family to settle in the colony of Victoria. It was probably his recommendation that persuaded the youngest child Elisabetha, born 11th March 1837, to go with a party of disenchanted villagers who were aboard “Mindoro” when it left Liverpool on 22nd April 1856. Her group of thirteen included seven young women who were under the age of 21.

The ship reached Melbourne on 14th July 1856, and the migrants went to the gold-mining centre of Ballarat. Some members of of the group had relatives in Bendigo, and Elisabetha stayed with them. Jakob, Elisabetha’s youngest brother, arrived in the colony in August 1857, bringing her the sad news of the death of their mother in March that year. Christoph Schimpf returned to his wife and children in Nieder-Weisel the next year.

It took Elisabetha only two years to choose the partner she wished to share her life with; she was married in Sandhurst in March 1859 to Johann Friedrich Illies, an immigrant from the northern German city of Hanover; he was eight years her senior. Elisabetha gave birth to a son, Imar Theodor, soon after their marriage, when they were living in the quaintly named settlement of New Chum Gully. A second son arrived in 1862 at Sandhurst; they named him John Edward.

Elisabetha became pregnant again in mid-1862 and the couple hoped for the birth of a daughter; this turned out to be so, but Johann Friedrich did not live to see her. On 7th December 1863 he was bringing home a dray that had been repaired and the badly trained mare pulling it became fractious. He got down to hold her head till she settled but she reared and pulled the dray over him. The doctor who attended him had no idea of the extent of Johann’s internal injuries and he left him in Elisabetha’s care; she watched over him all night but he died the next day. A coronial inquiry held in the Barker’s Arms Hotel in Irishtown returned the predictable verdict of Death by Misadventure. Their daughter, Catherine Elizabeth, was born in March 1864.

Elisabetha did not marry again although she was only in her mid-20s when she was widowed. Her brother Jakob, who lived in the area, remained single throughout his life. It is not unreasonable to assume that he helped to support Elisabetha and her children, especially during the first difficult few years of her widowhood. Later, her first-born son would be able to take on the role of breadwinner for the family.

Details of Elisabetha’s life after 1865 have not been found to date. There is no evidence that any of her children were married. Imar Theodore died in 1881 in Sandhurst at the age of 22; there is no record of the death of either his sister or his brother in Victoria. Elisabetha’s brother Jakob died at Huntly (just north of Bendigo) in 1910.

Elisabetha survived her husband by 60 years. Her life came to an end in Bendigo in 1923 when she was in her 86th year; she was buried in the White Hills cemetery.

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