Jacob HEINZ 1833-1876

Jakob was born to Anna Katharina nee Loh, wife of the linen-weaver Friederich Heinz, on the second last day of the year 1833. The couple had lost an earlier child when she was only 21 months old, and Anna Katharina had immediately started on another pregnancy. Three daughters were born after Jakob, Katharina in 1836 and twins in 1840.

Jakob was confirmed at Pentecost in 1847 and left school to help his father in the cottage industry which supported the family. In 1854 Jakob’s sense of adventure led him to join a group of young men from Nieder-Weisel who used the newly opened rail link from Frankfurt to reach the northern port of Hamburg. There they booked passages on the barque “Victoria” and, jammed uncomfortably into the small ship, made the long voyage to Port Phillip. Disembarking at Williamstown on 21 Nov 1854, they became the first large group to bring to Ballarat the unfamiliar Nieder-Weisel names of Riegelhuth, Studt, Haub, Reuter, Seip, Zimmer and Heinz.

For six years, Jakob prospected around the Golden Triangle. In 1857 his sister Katharina arrived in the colony with Christoph Hildebrand, her fiancee. No doubt Jakob contrived to meet them in Ballarat but later they went on to the northern goldfields around Beechworth, where they married in 1860.

Many other Nieder-Weiselerns followed the example and by 1860 fifteen percent of the inhabitants of the village had made the tiring trip to Victoria. However, it was not from amongst these that Jakob found his life’s companion: the bride he took was Eva, the daughter of farmer Peter Schneider from a neighbouring village in Germany; she was twelve years his junior.

Jakob and Eva lived in Ballarat for several years after their marriage and they had two sons during this time – George in 1861 and Frederick in 1863.

Jakob then joined the rush to a strike in the new and aptly named field at Dead Horse Gully, with a friend, Johannes Alt (who, despite his name, was not from Nieder-Weisel. Jakob stood as guarantor for the estate of Alt’s brother-in-law, using his team of horses as security – this suggests that he had decided that carrying supplies to the diggers was more lucrative than prospecting.

While they were in the Gully, Eva gave birth to a third son, John. In about 1866, they went back to the Ballarat district, where Oscar was born. The fifth child, born in Invermay, north of Ballarat, was also a boy, and Eva was no doubt very pleased when Louisa arrived in 1871 in the timber town of Bungaree, where Jakob was earning his living as a carrier. Two more daughters completed the family, Anna Katharina in 1873, Eva Elizabeth in 1875. In 1876 disaster struck. Jakob was killed by a fall of earth in the claim he was working as a tribute miner in Humffray Street Ballarat. WM Gaunt conducted an inquest and Jakob was buried in the Ballarat Cemetery on 16th April. John Heinz, of the firm of Heinz Bros Butchers, witnessed the burial and, with his brothers Christoph and Peter, acted as guardian for Jakob’s three youngest daughters. Jakob died intestate so that Eva required Letters of Administration to access the assets that Jakob had accumulated.

Unusually for those times all eight children grew to adulthood. Many of Jakob’s descendants live in Victoria today, while others are in the USA. Eva lived to greet her first grandchild; she died a few weeks after its birth, on 16th April 1888.

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