Johann Georg REUSS 1822-1874

Johann Georg Reuss was born in Nieder-Weisel on 13th February 1822, the second of four sons born to Johann Jakob Reuss and Anna Margaretha nee Hildebrand. The Reuss family had been farmers but, when he married in 1818, Johann Jakob had been reduced to working as a labourer on one of the large farm estates.

Long before the news of gold finds would attract many of the villagers to the New World countries, the Reuss brothers had made their way to England. The eldest brother remained there indefinitely, but Johann Georg, Henrich and Christoph went on to Australia. During the years he was in England, Georg made a living by hawking goods and by putting his musical talents to good use. On 7th April 1845 he married Margaretha, a daughter of fellow hawker Konrad Hoehn, also from Germany, and Elisabetha nee Damm. The marriage took place in St Mary’s Church, Gateshead in County Durham; the bride was four years younger than the groom. The couple moved north to Edinburgh, where a daughter, Margaretha, was born in 1846. A son, Henrich – who was probably sponsored by his uncle – was born in about 1848 but did not survive. Their second daughter, Anna Elisabetha, also died in infancy. The family was living in Scott’s Close when the 1851 census was taken. Henrich and their father Johann Jakob were living with them; each adult gave Musician as the usual occupation.

Later that year they went across to Glasgow, where Christoph was born in their home at 24 Broad Close. He was baptised in St Andrew’s Episcopal Chapel on 18th August 1851, and again it seems likely that his uncle was the sponsor. A fourth child, Katharina, was born in about 1854. Fascinated by the reports of instant fortunes being made on the Victorian goldfields, Georg paid £49 from his savings for passages on “South Carolina”. They sailed from Liverpool on 14th April 1855, and reached Melbourne on 24th July after 102 days at sea. The passenger list shows Catherine, 13, with the family. Her birth year of 1842 was three years before Georg and Margaretha married, so they may have been chaperoning her for friends or relatives.

Georg presumably met up with his brother Henrich, who got to Melbourne a year ahead of them. After a year of prospecting, they returned to Melbourne, where Margaretha gave birth to a daughter, Christina, on 29th July 1856. When the child was able to travel, they went up to Sydney, probably by sea. Henrich, who married in June 1857, lived with them in the Swan Street home in which Margaretha produced her fifth daughter, Rosina Margaretha, on 4th June 1858. Once more, Georg waited until the little girl was old enough to travel and then headed back to Victoria; however she died soon after they reached there.

On 9th October 1859, Margaretha gave birth to her sixth daughter, who was sponsored by Henrich’s wife, Katharina. A fortnight earlier, she had done the same when Katharina gave birth to her first daughter. These births took place at Spring Creek near Beechworth. The next year Margaretha junior turned 14; in accordance with the Nieder-Weisel custom she was sent to be confirmed in the Lutheran Church in East Melbourne.

The brothers then separated, Henrich going to Albury whilst George took his family north. They got to Young just as the long-smouldering animosity between the European and Chinese miners erupted into bloody rioting on the new Lambing Flats field. George also tried his luck on the rush to Forbes but he then returned to settle permanently in Young. Three more children arrived during this period. Like other pioneering women, Margaretha had to cope with the birth and upbringing of her children under primitive and changing conditions.

When the alluvial diggings were worked out, George returned to his occupation of hawking. This eventually brought about his death in the most peculiar circumstances. Late in 1874, he took his horse and dray to Goulburn, about 200 km to the east, to collect a load of oranges and farm produce. On the way back, he camped for a night outside the township of Binalong. The next morning his body, with face bloodied, was found partly submerged in Binalong Creek; an inquest on 10th December could not determine the cause of his death.

Christopher Reuss arranged for his father’s body to be taken back to Young. It was buried there in the Church of England section of the cemetery on 12th December 1874. George was survived by his wife (who died of consumption on 15th September 1882 and was buried with him), and by seven of his children. Christopher operated a hairdressing business in the town for over sixty years until he was well into his eighties. Margaretha, wife of Jakob Haub (also of Nieder-Weisel) remained in Young for a similar length of time.

View Johann Georg's Family Chart

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