Johann Georg KLEIN 1832-1859

The Kleins held administrative positions in their village into the latter part of the 1700s, as did the Wilhelmis. However when Philipp Klein married Elisabetha Wilhelmi in 1827, he had to rely on his knowledge of carpentry to support the family. The couple already had a daughter, Anna Juliana, when they exchanged vows, and seven more children were to follow during the next 19 years.

Their first son, Johann Georg, was born on 16th January 1832. He had the usual period of education in the village school, finishing in the year that he was confirmed, 1845. One of his father’s brothers had already left the village to try to earn a better living in England, and Johann Georg determined to follow his example. He was required to undertake a period of military service, and then obtained a permit to leave Nieder-Weisel for a period of two years. Reports of gold finds in Victoria prompted him to go there rather than to England.

In company with a group of young men of like mind, Johann Georg made his way by rail to the northern port of Hamburg, and obtained a passage on the sailing ship “Victoria” for the uncomfortable voyage to Port Phillip, where they disembarked in November 1854.

Like most of the newcomers, Johann Georg went to the gold-mining centre of Ballarat, and then followed the “rushes” as news came through of other finds. By 1859 he was in the Smythesdale region, where a number of friends from Nieder-Weisel had settled. On the afternoon of Saturday, 23rd January, he went to the storage dam of The Great Eastern Mining Company at Warrens Lead, near Smythes Creek, to cool off. He was warned of the dangers but, although he was unable to swim, he entered the water. Losing his footing on the slippery clay bank, he disappeared beneath the surface and drowned before bystanders could reach him.

A magisterial inquest found that Johann Georg had met his death by misadventure and he was interred in the newly opened cemetery at Smythesdale, just nine days after his 27th birthday.

Christoph, younger brother of Johann Georg, arrived in Victoria in 1857; it is not known if they met.

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