Elisabetha REUTER 1838-1873

Although she emigrated from Nieder-Weisel, Elisabetha was born in Durham in England. Her parents, Johann Jakob Reuter and Katharina nee Jung, were married in 1830. After their son Jakob was born in 1831, they left the village in search of better work prospects. They went back in 1835 for the birth of Katharina but, when she died late in 1836, they again went to England. After Elisabetha’s birth on 1st April 1838, the family returned to Nieder-Weisel, where a son, Christoph, was born in 1842. Their father was still able to get work only as a casual farm hand and the prospects for his children were bleak. In 1851, when Elisabetha was 12, he died.

Elisabetha left the village in 1854 for Victoria with two travelling companions, also teen-age. To keep the cost as low as possible they travelled to Hamburg and booked passage on the tiny sailing ship “Luise”. As a consequence, they endured 19 weeks cramped in ‘between-decks’ accommodation with 130 other passengers, ending when they sailed into Port Phillip on 23rd February 1855.

Two groups had preceded them and the girls went first to Ballarat to join them. Later, Elisabetha went with a group of Nieder-Weiselerns to the goldfields around Daylesford. Here she fell in love with Louis Tognini, one of thousands of Swiss-Italians who had flocked to this region. They married in the first week of 1860.

More than six years passed before Elisabetha produced their first child, Elizabeth; by this time, Louis was mining in an area known as “Blanket Flat”, because so many of the diggers had no other materials to use for covering the camp sites. A second child arrived about 18 months later whilst they were in Eganstown; she was named Mary Magdalena. Elisabetha was probably in poor health for much of her time in Victoria. In any event, she had no more children and she survived for only six years after Mary’s birth. She died in her 35th year in Daylesford in April 1873. Louis’s brother and his wife, living nearby, were able to help foster the two girls. Elisabetha’s brother Christoph, who also emigrated in 1854, is known to have lived in Daylesford for several years but had probably shifted to Melbourne before his sister’s death.

Louis Tognini survived Elisabetha by 30 years; he died in 1903 in the Daylesford hospital.

Both the girls married but Mary (Polglaze) died at the age of 21. Her sister had a daughter, Lottie Madelena, but a year later her husband, Francis Frederick Upton, died prematurely at the age of 31. The misfortunes of the Tognini family continued when the only grandchild, Lottie, died in 1908 just after her 18th birthday. Nobody was left to tend the graves of Elisabetha and her family in the Daylesford Cemetery.

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