Maria Elisabetha RIEGELHUTH 1832-1894

Maria Elisabetha was the only daughter and the third child of Ambrosius Riegelhuth, a forester of Nieder-Weisel, and his wife, Susanna nee Haub; she was born on 31st July 1832. Her father died just after the birth of his fourth son in 1838. Susanna must have relied on relatives for the financial support of her young family. It was not surprising that 3 of the 4 children who survived infancy should have joined the mass emigration from the village. The firstborn son, Konrad, left for Victoria in 1854; Philipp in 1857.

Maria Elisabetha left Nieder-Weisel on 9th February 1856 to journey to England, probably via Rotterdam and Hull. A Maria E Riegelhuth sailed from Liverpool on 20th May 1856 with a group of villagers, including members of the Bill, Haub, Hauser, Kissler, Schimpf, and Schmidt families. Although her age was recorded as 20, (4 years too low), this was certainly Maria Elisabetha. “Red Jacket”, named for an Indian Chief whose effigy in full ceremonial dress ornamented its prow, got to Melbourne on 11th August. The voyage cost intermediate class passengers £16 each.

On 11th October 1860, Maria Elisabetha married Georg Heinrich Mathes in the Lutheran Church at Smythesdale, a few km southwest of the goldmining centre of Ballarat. Her bridegroom was the youngest child of a farmer of Bettenhausen, a small village about 20 km northeast of Nieder-Weisel. The newlyweds settled at Rocky Lead, to the southwest of Daylesford and their two children were born there – Conrad Henry in 1861, and Elizabeth Marie in 1865.

Henry and Maria Elisabetha operated a hotel in Rocky Lead (the Victoria) and Henry also owned the bakery. During 1868 and 1869, Henry drove the daily coach on the run between Rocky Lead and Creswick.

In 1881 the family moved to Sebastopol, to the south of Ballarat. Here, Henry acquired the Cambria Bakery (which he renamed Mathes & Son) situated in Victoria Street and later, until the 1940s, in Albert Street. Henry played an active role in many community-based projects and he became highly respected in the town. Before her death on 3rd April 1894 Maria Elisabetha saw her husband wearing the mayoral robes of office. The ‘Ballarat Courier’ reported that Mrs Maria Elisabeth Mathes was escorted to her last resting place in the Old Ballarat Cemetery by an extremely large cortege. Mourners included many emigrants from Nieder-Weisel.

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