Johann Georg RIEGELHUTH 1804-1892

Johann Georg had the distinction of being, at 50, the oldest person to immigrate from Nieder-Weisel to the Victorian goldfields. He left a nine year old son, Jakob, with his wife, Anna Maria Reuter, and joined a party of 20 or more villagers booked on the barque “Luise” for the long voyage from Hamburg to Port Philipp. This was the least costly (and most uncomfortable) way of getting to the Victorian goldfields. Three other sons born to this marriage had died in childhood and their only daughter, Maria Katharina, also had plans to leave the village.

Quite a lot of middle-aged men left the village to assess and report on conditions and prospects in the colony. As nearly 300 villagers followed in the next three to four years, their reports must have been positive. All the early immigrants from Nieder-Weisel went from Melbourne to Ballarat and then followed the gold rushes from goldfield to goldfield.

Like most diggers without families, Johann Georg left no trace of his movements around the Golden Triangle. However, it is known that his daughter arrived in the colony some time after he did, and that she married and eventually settled in Bendigo, with her husband Eduard Nicolai and their children. As Johann Georg died in this town, it is reasonable to infer that he spent his final years with Maria Katharina. He may also have been with the Nicolai family when Eduard was prospecting on The Loddon during most of the 1860s.

There is no way of telling why Johann Georg chose to remain away from his wife and son – perhaps he simply could not afford to return, and eventually became too old to face the return journey anyway. In July 1892, the long and colourful life of this descendant of generations of men who had occupied the magisterial and mayoral chairs of the village of Nieder-Weisel ended in its 88th year, more than 20,000 km from the place of his birth on 21st October 1804.

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