Jakob RIEGELHUTH 1823-? & Maria Dorothea LENZ 1824-1871

Johann Georg RIEGELHUTH 1853-1863

Jakob was the younger of two brothers who married two sisters. The elder brother, Johann Jakob, and Anna Elisabetha Lenz were married in 1844; Jakob and Maria Dorothea (born 10th December 1824) on 8th December 1850. Jakob’s sister-in-law died several months later and Johann Jakob married Christina Lenz, from a family that would immigrate en bloc to Victoria during the 1850s.

The fact that the boys’ grandfather Georg Henrich Riegelhuth had been the village Mayor counted for little in the new administration and their father had weaved linen in their crowded home to support his wife Anna Margaretha nee Knipper and the five girls and three boys they had successfully raised to adulthood. The sixth of these was Jakob, born 13th October 1823.

Jakob and his brother worked on the weaving looms with their father when they finished school; this did not provide a very lucrative income and, when his brother decided to migrate, Jakob arranged to do likewise. Jakob and Maria Dorothea lost their first-born child but a son, Johann Georg, born in 1853, was healthy and they decided to take him to Victoria with them, leaving their infant daughter Anna Margaretha in Nieder-Weisel. The Lenz grandparents, Friedrich and Anna Elisabetha nee Haffer, had died when Maria Dorothea was just starting at school; Jakob’s mother was also dead, so the baby was left with foster parents.

Jakob and Maria Dorothea did not go with the main Lenz group; instead, they joined a party of 30 or so villagers who booked on the “Sir W F Williams” sailing from Liverpool in May 1857. It was a poor choice as the ship encountered severe cyclones as it moved into the southern latitudes and for much of the voyage the frightened passengers were kept in their cramped quarters whilst the crew battled to keep the ship afloat.

After weathering further storms in the Bight, the vessel sailed into Hobart Town on 19th August; this was the only group of migrants from Nieder-Weisel that arrived in Victoria via Tasmania. They were taken across Bass Strait on the steamer “City of Hobart, disembarking on 31st August. It had been a particularly frightening ordeal for the four year old Johann Georg and his Kissler playmates.

Most of the young Nieder-Weisel couples with this group (Kissler, Marx, Heinz, Dilges, Koch) stayed in Ballarat but others, including Jakob and Maria Dorothea, went to the diggings at Smythesdale, to the west. There, in 1860, Maria Dorothea produced a daughter, Juliana. Another girl, Elizabeth, was born in 1861 but she died in her first year.

Some of Jakob’s companions went further west, and he followed these to the Beaufort region. His son Johann George was now approaching adolescence but on 25th October 1863 he died in their home in the small township of Raglan. This event prompted Jakob and Maria Dorothea to change their minds about living permanently in Victoria and they went back to the village. Maria Dorothea died in Nieder-Weisel on 5th February 1871 in her 47th year.

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