Konrad HILDEBRAND 1840-1919

When the farmhand Konrad Hildebrand V went to the village church in Nieder-Weisel during the Sunday afternoon prayer service on 26th June 1841, there had been no public proclamation of his intended marriage because his bride was the mother of an illegitimate child. Susanna Reuhl was from Holzheim, a few kilometres north of Butzbach, where her father was a field-guard. Her son had been born on 14th October 1840 and baptised Konrad Reuhl. After the couple had exchanged vows they signed a marriage contract which provided that Konrad would accept parentage of Susanna’s son.

Now legally a Hildebrand, the little boy grew up in the modest home with his sister Katharina, born in 1843. In the over-crowded church school he learned his three Rs. He was confirmed in 1854, the year in which Susanna gave birth to a second daughter, Anna Margaretha, whose arrival completed their smaller than usual family. Conditions in the village were by then very bad and in 1857 Konrad senior took his son and elder daughter to Australia. They left Liverpool aboard the “Queen of the East” and reached Melbourne on 24th February 1858 after a tedious journey lasting 101 days. Though he had turned 17 before the ship sailed on 16th November, young Konrad was listed as a 12 year old child – that enabled him to travel half fare, and in the same berth as the others. The fourth person on the ticket was a 25 year old spinster, ‘Eliza Hauser‘, also from the village.

Konrad quickly grew into a powerful man. He operated a horse-drawn cab service in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. His knowledge of horses, and this strength, gave him the qualifications that were needed for employment as a coach driver for Cobb & Co. He drove the very first passenger coach over the newly-opened route to Sale, in Gippsland, a three-day journey along ill-defined tracks where a saw and an axe for clearing trees from the road were as much a part of the driver’s equipment as his whip.

In 1866 Konrad married Elisabetha Theiss, the daughter of a German immigrant from Lindenstruth. The ceremony was held in the Lutheran Church in Fitzroy on 3rd July, not far from the bride’s home. Konrad was by then driving a regular service into Bairnsdale so the couple made their home in Sale; the house in which their six children were born, in Cunningham Street, is still standing. Their eldest child, Mary Ann, arrived in 1867, followed by Henry in 1868, William 1870, Margaret 1872, Frederick 1873 and Thomas 1875.

As his fortunes improved, Konrad set up livery stables and hired out horses, buggies and coaches. He preferred to hide his German origin and claimed to be from South Africa – he used the name Cornelius in preference to Konrad. In 1885 he applied for naturalisation and the papers were issued on 19th October. He had a genial personality that made him well-liked by the passengers; in 1884, a group of business men who used the service presented him with a gold watch and chain, as a testimonial to his driving skills and his obliging and helpful manner. When, in 1899, the Bairnsdale-Moe coach service terminated, Konrad was paid the ultimate compliment of being asked to take this last coach out of Bairnsdale, nearly forty years after bringing the first coach into the township.

Konrad’s father had returned to Nieder-Weisel; he died three years after Susanna at the age of 85 in 1895. Konrad’s sister lived most of her married life in central and northern Victoria until in 1904 her husband was transferred to Sale. Their two families lived close to one another for several years, during which period many of their children were married.

Konrad lived into his 79th year. He died in Sale on 19th May 1919 and was buried in the cemetery there. Elisabetha also lived to the age of 78 and was buried with her husband of 53 years.

View Konrad's Family Chart

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