Philipp RIEGELHUTH 1835-1890

Of the three sons raised by field-guard Ambrosius Riegelhuth and Susanna nee Haub, only the youngest remained in the village. The others chose to join the exodus to the Victorian goldfields in the mid 1850s; their only daughter did likewise.

Konrad was the first to go, in the earliest large group to leave the village, in 1854. The younger brother Philipp, born 2nd June 1835, was in the rear guard of the mass emigration, leaving the village after completing his military service in 1857. He joined a group of six other villagers, aged 16 to 24, who sailed from Liverpool aboard the ship “Annie Wilson” on 31st July 1857; four of these were young women from 16 to 20 years of age whose parents believed that they would be in less moral danger on the rough Victorian diggings than in an increasingly distressed village.

Captain Duckitt brought his ship safely into Port Phillip on 7th November 1857, and the newcomers made for the pre-arranged meeting place of Ballarat. Many of their friends had moved on to other centres by then and Philipp followed some of them to Smythes Creek, west of Ballarat. The villagers tended to keep together and Philipp found a sizeable number of the Nieder-Weisel immigrants in the developing township of Smythesdale. Like others, he believed that providing a service to the miners was likely to be more lucrative, and much less arduous, than joining them in their dank and dirty underground shafts and tunnels. Accordingly, he set up a boot and shoe making and repair business in Brooke Street, the main road through the town. He was one of the first Nieder-Weisel emigrants to make application for citizenship in the colony.

Among the group who assembled each Saturday night in the Mechanics Hall for the dancing was a young girl from Philipp’s home village, Christina Bill. She had been sent out to Victoria by her parents, who were concerned for her welfare, with a cousin and his bride; they arrived in the colony several weeks after Philipp’s group. They courted and, on July 1860, went back to Ballarat where, on Thursday 26th, they were married by Pastor J Niquet in the Lutheran Church. Philipp’s best man was Jakob Geibel from Nieder-Weisel.

Philipp brought his bride back to the home behind his shop where, early in February 1862, she gave him a son, Jacob, who was sponsored by Philipp’s best man – even though he had tragically lost his young wife in giving birth to their son, Philipp. On 26th May 1862, Philipp’s naturalisation letters came through and his new life seemed to be riding on an even keel. The next year, all this changed: Philipp transferred his business to East Ballarat and, while he was getting himself settled in, his son died of cholera. Christina was pregnant again and produced another son, George, on 9th October 1863.

This is the last record of Christina and her son. The boy’s birth and baptism details were recorded in the Family Book in Nieder-Weisel late in 1864; this suggests that Christina took him back to the village. It is unlikely that Christina would have undertaken a round trip to Germany, so it appears that she had decided to separate from Philipp. He lived on in Ballarat for 25 years. He was able to keep in touch with his brother Konrad, who lived nearby until his death in 1885. Philipp died five years later, on 16th February 1890, and their sister Maria Elisabetha died in 1894.

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