Johannes VOLK 1829-~1891

Johannes Volk was a great-grandson of Christoph Volk, who migrated to the village in about 1730 and established a tailoring business there. Born 18th October 1829, Johannes was the second son of Katharina nee Studt, wife of David Volk. The family had only limited citizenship rights and the easing of apprenticeship rules had resulted in over-supply in all the traditional crafts, making the future quite uncertain for Johannes and his brothers. All four eventually went to Victoria, although one subsequently returned to Nieder-Weisel.

It is likely that Johannes was the ‘Johann Falk’ who travelled with Gerhard Hauser on “Eastern City”, which reached Melbourne on 11th August 1857, 1O4 days out of Liverpool. (On later documents his name was spelt with an F, and there is no record of any other person having this name. At 27 he would have completed his military obligation).

Nothing is known of his early movements around the colony, but it is likely that he went first to Ballarat and that he attended the wedding of his brother Jakob in the Lutheran Church there in 1864. His own marriage took place in the same church on 8th September 1866, with his brother George as best man. His young wife, Emma Maria Pinsch, was a daughter of Prussian migrants Johann Pinsch and Christina nee Zorga. After the nuptials, the couple went to the goldfields north of Ballarat, where Johannes continued to work as a digger.

In 1867 Maria gave birth to the first of their 9 children, a son named for his uncle Jakob, who lived near their home in Mount Prospect. A second son, named for another uncle, Nikolaus, arrived early in 1869. The first daughter, Ann Mary, was born in Barkstead in 1871.

Johannes’ brother Jakob moved away to the Talbot district at about this time and Nikolaus returned to Germany. However Maria’s mother was still in the area and was able to help both as grandmother and midwife. Maria had two more daughters and two more sons in Mount Prospect: Martha Christiana in 1873, Elizabeth Emma in 1875, John Henry in 1877 and Charles Herman in 1879 – who was the only one of their children who failed to survive. He died soon after they went south to the Rocky Lead when he was twelve weeks old. As was often the case, Maria quickly became pregnant again and Catherine Louise was born about twelve months after her baby brother died. The ninth child, Clara Emily, was born early in 1883. Johannes was then supporting his family by carting timber from the forests on the highlands to Ballarat.

Early in 1886 Maria started a tenth pregnancy; this would cost her life. She came to term at Christmastide but the birth went wrong – after two weeks of labour, Maria died of exhaustion and her child died with her. Johannes was left to cope with children who ranged from 3 to 15 years old. Ann took over the running of the household with help from her younger sisters. The older boys tried to help Johannes with the loading of the timber. His mother-in-law had died, but his sister-in-law in Ballarat was able to offer some support with the younger children and, like many families in their position, they somehow managed.

Johannes was 57 when his wife died and understandably he was badly shaken by her death; he turned to drinking as a palliative. Family lore holds that this resulted in his death. He disappeared on the way home from a drinking session some time in 1891 and is believed to have fallen into a derelict mineshaft. His body was never found despite a widespread search.

View Johannes's Family Chart

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