Katharina KISSLER 1841-1883
Johann Jakob Kissler and his wife Susanna nee Maas had a family of thirteen children between 1835 and 1854; fortunately the father was able to earn a good living from his craft of nail making. The sixth child, Katharina, was born on 6th August 1841. She had a sister Anna Margaretha who was 18 months older, and the two became inseparable, flanked as they were by two older and five younger brothers. It was no great surprise to anyone when the girls decided to go to Victoria together with their brother Konrad.
The trio travelled on “Red Jacket”, which left Liverpool on 20th May 1856; twelve other villagers enjoyed the novel experience with them. Arriving at Melbourne on 11th August the “Keayslears” and their companions went to the mining centre of Ballarat. Konrad found work as a miner and the girls as domestics, but on 8th May 1858 Konrad died.
Among the circle of friends the girls had made were two young Germans who, although from different villages, had travelled out together on “South Carolina” in 1856; they had remained as mates since then. In December 1858, Anna Margaretha married Konrad Ratz of Gambach, and Katharina sponsored their first-born daughter the following year. In June 1860, Katharina married Konrad’s partner, Johann Konrad Zoller, a son of Kaspar and Margaretha Zoller of Kirch-Gons, a small village an hour’s walk from Nieder-Weisel. Their happiness was brief, as Johann Konrad died only 7 months later, on 4th January 1861.
There was no shortage of suitors for young widows in the colony, and Katharina married again sixteen months later. Her second husband was Johann Georg Wetzel from her village. They were married in the Lutheran Church in Ballarat on 1st May 1862, with Anna Margaretha as matron-of-honour. A girl born in November was named for her aunt. In the next twenty years, fourteen other children were to follow: George 1863; Anna Katharina 1865; Henry Conrad 1866; Catherine 1868; Mary Eliza 1869; Mary 1871; Louisa 1872; Conrad George 1874; Henry Frederick 1875; John Frederick 1876; Susanna 1877; Henry John 1879; Jacob 1880; Clara Christina 1882.
All these children were born in the Rocky Lead/Creswick/Mount Prospect area north of Ballarat, the later ones in the Wetzel home on Langdon’s Hill. Inevitably, some did not survive the hardships of pioneering life: Catherina, Anna Katharina, Henry Frederick, and Henry John were to rest forever in sad little graves on Mount Prospect.
Katharina was 41 years old when Clara was born and would surely have welcomed an end to her child-bearing but she became pregnant again several months later. She was not able to feed Clara, who died later that year. Exhausted by this ordeal, Katharina could not deliver the new baby and she died in childbirth. She was buried with her five children on 3rd March 1883 – but at least she was spared the further ordeal of watching four more of her children die during the course of that dreadful year.
View Katharina's Family Chart