Katharina Elizabetha HEINZ 1839-1918

Katharina Elisabetha was the third of the four children (all of whom would eventually settle in Victoria) born to Johann Konrad Heinz and his wife Elisabetha nee Maas. She was born on 29th October 1839 and was christened the following Sunday at the font in the village church where generations of her forebears had received their baptismal names from their sponsors.

When Katharina went off to the village school with her brothers and sister, she learned to keep out of the way of the rough and ready soldiers who moved through the villages as the civil wars raged throughout the region. By the early 1850s, her father had realised there was no decent future for his children in Nieder-Weisel. He joined a group of compatriots who left Hamburg late in 1854 on their way to the Victorian diggings. Katharina, with her elder sister Anna Juliana, would follow after Johann Konrad prepared for their arrival.

The girls made their farewells and left on the exciting journey early in 1856, travelling with friends from the Schimpf, Adami, Hildebrand, Reuter, Haub and Krausgrill families. They were not to know that, before they sailed from the busy embarkation port of Liverpool, their father had died on the Castlemaine diggings after a severe bout of dysentery. This sad news reached Juliana and Katharina soon after their vessel “Mindoro” arrived in Port Phillip on 14th July 1856 after 84 days at sea. The girls remained with those Nieder-Weiselerns who made for the Castlemaine goldfields. They had no difficulty finding employment as domestics.

Within eighteen months Juliana had married; her brother Johannes with his bride Katharina Wilhelmi arrived from Germany just in time to take part in the ceremony. Johannes moved on to Bendigo, but Katharina chose to remain with her sister and her husband Jakob Roth on the crowded Fryers Creek diggings; this resulted in her meeting Edwin Horatio Mackereth. Edwin and his brothers came to Victoria from Yorkshire to look for gold. He had been prospecting in the Avoca region but, like 30,000 other miners, had been attracted to the rich diggings south of Castlemaine.

Katharina Elisabetha married Edwin on 8th February 1860 in an Anglican ceremony celebrated in Christ Church, Castlemaine. Her marrying outside her Evangelist faith resulted in a rift with her mother that was never to be healed. Being a minor, the bride required official consent to her marriage. She was supported by a member of the Nieder-Weisel group, Katharina Riegelhuth/Reuter. Almost immediately after the wedding the pair went back to Avoca; here Katharina produced the first of their eight children later that year in the small wattle-and-bark hut that had replaced Edwin’s tent as their first family home. After young Edwin, came Ellanor in 1862, Victoria in 1864, and Alethra in 1865. Besides growing his crops, Edwin was kept busy enlarging their home to keep up with their expanding family. There was no money for hired help and Katharina had to assist in the fields with the harvesting, and in the dairy with the milking.

A second son, John, arrived in 1867, then Ada and Alfred at two year intervals. Edwin’s industry began to show dividends and he was able to build an imposing homestead modelled on the English lines – large family room flanked by bedrooms and living rooms, with separate kitchen. Here, Katharina was able to preside over the raising of her children in reasonable comfort – and to such good effect that each reached adulthood (including Charles, who arrived somewhat unexpectedly in 1880 when Katharina was 41). In later years, Edwin established the first vineyard in the area – his ‘Avoca Vineyard’ produced excellent table wines, including some of export quality.

Katharina’s marriage ended with Edwin’s death in 1916, aged 89. She survived for two more years before her death at Avoca, just one day after her 79th birthday. She was interred in the Avoca cemetery on Saturday, 2nd November 1918, a colonist of 62 years.

View Katharina Elisabetha's Family Chart

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