Katharina WETZEL 1832-1870

The earliest record of the Wetzel name in Nieder-Weisel is from 31st March 1715 when Anna Margaretha Wetzel, wife of Henrich, gave birth to Anton, the second son born to this couple. Henrich, who was probably from Gambach, established a sieve-making business in the village in about 1712. Anton, his son Johann Georg, and his grandson Anton carried on the family business but changing circumstances in the 1800s forced Katharina’s father, Konrad III, to seek casual farm work to support his family. As was customary, the immigrant Wetzel family inter-married with others who had limited rights in the village – Reinhard, Emmel, Lander, Giehl and Arg. Konrad’s wife, Margaretha Arg, was from Holzheim, north of Butzbach.

Of the seven children born to Konrad and his wife, only Katharina and her younger brothers, Johannes and Johann Georg, were still living in 1844. Four years later, their father died and his widow took the family to the industrial port of Newcastle in England where, presumably, they were able to find work in the factories there. They settled in the south-side area of Gateshead, where Johannes died unexpectedly in 1853, two days after turning 19.

At about this time Katharina married Nils Severin Plough, from Denmark. They remained in Newcastle where in 1854 a daughter, Margaretha, was born. A son, John, born in 1856, died in infancy. Severin joined the gold rush to Victoria; he signed on as a crewman on “Young America” which left Liverpool on 18th April 1858. Katharina gave birth to a second son, Konrad, the same year. Katharina remained with her mother – it may be that the women went back to the village because in 1862, when Katharina emigrated to Australia, she had in her care four youngsters from Nieder-Weisel as well as her own children. A worrying time must have faced her as she took her charges aboard “Shalimar” for the 12 week journey to Melbourne, and no doubt it was a relief to see the heads at Port Philipp on 15th November. Severin helped her deliver the children to their families in Ballarat – one of them, Johannes Heinz, was to become the first German-born Mayor of the city in time to come.

Katharina gave birth to a son, Lauritz Jensen, in July 1862 and another, John Georg, in 1864. Soon after this the family moved to the Mount Prospect district, between Creswick and Daylesford. Three more children were born there: Dorothea Frederika in 1866, Ova Christina in 1868 and a boy who died before he could be named. They returned then to a more civilised life in Sebastopol, which was then a satellite town of Ballarat. Katharina developed a serious heart abnormality that led to gangrene in her arms. Unfortunately she was pregnant again and, although she was able to deliver the baby, a girl whom they named Hansine Sophia, it lived for only a short time. Katharina died later that year in Ballarat West Hospital and was buried on 3rd December 1870 in Ballarat cemetery.

Katharina’s brother, Johann Georg Wetzel, who had lived near the Ploughs in Mount Prospect, was not able to offer Severin much assistance as his wife was pregnant with their seventh child. Margaretha was old enough to run the household but there was an even bigger upheaval when Severin himself died on 17th May 1872 and the younger children had to be put into homes or fostered out.

View Katharina's Family Chart

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