Johann Konrad VORBACH 1826-1901

When he applied for naturalisation on 6th February 1892, John Vorbach, a farmer of Daylesford, noted that he was born in Nieder-Weisel and was 65 years old (born 1826 – 1827). The only Vorbach birth ever to occur in the village was that of a son to Katharina nee Lander on 28th November 1826, who stated that the father was a Wilhelm Vorbach from Holzhausen. He was present at the baptism and gave the boy his family name. Katharina eventually married a tailor, Nikolaus Winter. At his 1841 confirmation the boy was described as Konrad Vorbach, stepson of Nikolaus Winter, tailor, and the illegitimate son of Katharina nee Lander. Many males in Nieder-Weisel received the courtesy saint’s name Johann as a prefix to their given name.

Johann Konrad left Nieder-Weisel soon after his confirmation to start a new life in England. There, he met and married a German immigrant, Elisabetha Schild; their marriage took place in 1845 on 24th October in Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester. Each party gave this town as the usual place of residence; Johann Konrad’s occupation was farmer. Eliza (Shield) had a son, Conrad, in the Islington suburb of Liverpool on 19th July 1846; he was born at 4 Pepper Street. A second son, Philipp, died. Their first daughter was born in 1851; she was named for her mother. The next child, born in 1854, was named Sophia.

By 1856 the mass migration from Nieder-Weisel was in full swing and Johann Konrad no doubt encountered some of the villagers as they arrived in Liverpool to board their ships for Victoria. He was caught up in the gold fever and left with his family aboard “Pomona” on 26th February 1857. The voyage must have been a nightmare, with the girls only 6 and 3, and Elizabeth five months pregnant. Her third son was born in the far reaches of the Southern Ocean and was named in memory of the little boy they lost.

“Pomona” reached Port Phillip on 30th May, 94 days out. The group went first to Ballarat, where in August Elizabeth acted as mid-wife for Anna Elisabetha Zimmer, who arrived from Nieder-Weisel just before the Vorbachs; they may have been sharing a house. A number of Nieder-Weisel migrants had congregated at Smythesdale and the Vorbachs joined them. Their fourth son, Jacob, was born there in 1860. Johann Konrad later took his family to settle in Daylesford. Their last child, Henry, arrived there in 1865.

Although in 1892 he described himself as a farmer Johann Konrad had a hotel business in Daylesford. The family residence was at the foot of an extinct volcano known as Wombat Hill, which is a feature of the Daylesford topography. He and Elizabeth suffered an unexpected loss when their youngest son, Henry, died in 1887 at the age of 22, leaving a widow and young children. John, the eldest son, migrated to New Zealand, where he lived the rest of his life. Indirectly, this brought an end to his mother’s life. In 1894, Elizabeth booked a passage on the maiden voyage of the “Wairarapa” to Auckland, taking with her Annie, the eldest daughter of Sophia and John Hauser. The vessel was wrecked off Great Barrier Island on 24th October. Although the 18 year old kept her grandmother afloat for several hours, she eventually had to let her go and Elizabeth drowned. Her body was returned to Victoria to be buried in the Daylesford Cemetery.

Jacob Vorbach, using the name Forbes, went to Queensland and on to Canada, according to family lore. Sophia and Philip remained in the district and their children helped Johann Konrad to fill in his retirement years. Early in 1901, cancer of the liver was diagnosed and his life ended on 6th August at his Musk Vale home. He was buried in Daylesford Cemetery the next day.

(Johann Konrad’s half-brother, Konrad Winter, a son of Katharina nee Lander, lived in Yandoit for a period of at least twenty years till his death in 1911; the two men would have been in contact during the 1890s at least. Also, Wilhelm Vorbach 1787-1851 was a descendant of the Fortbachs, millers of Holzhausen).

View Johann Konrad's Family Chart

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