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Past Events

PSA Emigrants from Nieder Weisel

by Kevin Zwar, John Noack

Our Pleasant Sunday Afternoon on 6 April 2008 included a Community Lunch, our AGM and a talk on Nieder Weisel.

We began with a community lunch at Ivanhoe Lutheran Church at 12.30 pm, followed by the Society’s A.G.M. The Directory on p.8 lists the office-bearers and committee members who were elected. We welcome the addition of Western District historian Betty Huf to our committee as a Researcher.

In his President’s Report John Noack thanked both our members who provide financial support through their membership subscriptions and also our committee members who donate their time and effort to fulfil the aims of our Society.

Our Computer Manager Joel Blackburn continues to develop user-friendly family history programs containing useful records and data; our Treasurer Clay Kruger is always busy keeping the financial records up to date and helping to organise events like our Tarrington visit in March; our Librarian Janice Blackburn always finds more books and articles that need cataloguing and Ed and Glad Koch manage to keep up with selecting relevant articles from the many journals which arrive each week.

Kevin Zwar has fully embraced our Computer Age and works very hard to answer the many family history questions which come in on our Wendsonline facility. Robert Wuchatsch and Betty Huf have offered valuable contributions to some research questions and our Secretary Glenys Wollermann always compiles our minutes and deals with our mail in a most efficient manner.

Our guest speakers, Kevin Zwar and Lena Mirtschin, then presented information about the immigrants from Nieder-Weisel to Australia in the 1850s. Kevin compared this group with the Wendish immigrants, and Lena and Frieda Mirtschin reported on their study of the Nieder-Weisel people in the Ballarat area, where one can stay in the beautifully restored Nieder-Weisel mansion for a Bed and Breakfast.

The Wends and the Nieder-Weisel Folk in Victoria

The Nieder-Weisel people all came from the same village in Hesse, a German State, and over 300 emigrated to Victoria. Most knew each other and many families were inter-related. About a third of them returned to Nieder-Weisel, some after striking it rich and some when tragedy took their loved ones. There was a strong connection to return to home. The Wends came from a large area of numerous villages, with some in Prussia and the others in the Kingdom of Saxony and many Wends were complete strangers to each other. A few returned home but not as many as the Nieder-Weisel people. A few from each group went on to America.

The Nieder-Weisel people were all fluent in German. Some had made their way to England in desperation to find work. They had been in England for years and left from there when the news came of great gold discoveries on the other side of the world, in California and New South Wales, and then Victoria. Some Nieder-Weisel people therefore spoke English.

The Wends were fluent in their Wendish language and a number also spoke German but hardly any spoke English before arriving in Australia. The Wends tended to catch the train to Hamburg and then took German ships to Australia. Some went to South Australia and later trekked inland to Victoria and New South Wales.

The Wends settled in the Western part of Victoria, around Hamilton and Horsham, and some around Melbourne.

Almost without exception the Nieder-Weisel folk went by ship to Melbourne, usually via England. They met up with other German speakers in Melbourne and walked to the Ballarat goldfields where they met up with friends and relatives. Those who stayed on after the gold rushes settled in the centre of Victoria, from Ballarat to Bendigo to Yackandanda.

Both groups came from Lutheran areas in Europe. In Victoria a number of Nieder-Weisel folk married English or Irish partners and became attached to English-speaking Churches as all Lutheran services and most social events were in German. The Wends who settled in the Western part of Victoria tended to marry Wends or Germans and remained connected to the Lutheran Church. So far we haven’t found any Wends who married Nieder-Weisel folk, but it probably happened somewhere in Victoria.

One can appreciate better that some people left Europe because of the wars and compulsory military service when one reads the experience of the Nieder-Weisel people. As a reward for winning the battle that took the Nieder-Weisel village, Napoleon’s soldiers were given more than a day when they could rampage and help themselves to anything they could lay their hands on in the district. The Nieder-Weisel people were devastated and hated the French, but some months later when the Prussians and their allies won back the area their soldiers were given the same rights. No wonder the locals ended up in poverty. Poverty was so prevalent that crime flourished. Parents sent their teenage daughters overseas rather than have them grow up in a community where morals had sunk to low depths.

We are indebted to Kelvin Williams for compiling the history of the Nieder-Weisel people before he died in 1999. One can read the excellent Nieder-Weisel Story in much more detail on the website
The Nieder-Weisel descendants propose to fund and erect a plaque to honour the pioneering spirit of many German families that migrated to Victoria after 1853 from the village of Nieder-Weisel near Frankfurt am Main.

Some of these families were Adami, Belloff, Bill, Bodenroeder, Broek, Dern, Dilges, Fett, Geibel, Gerlach, Giehl, Haintz, Haub, Hauser, Heinz, Hildebrand, Hinklemann, Jung, Kissler, Klein, Klippel, Klos, Knipper, Koch, Kohler, Krausgrill, Leichner, Lemp, Lenz, Loh, Maas, Marx, Matthaus, Muller, Plough, Reuss, Reuter, Richter, Riegelhuth, Schimpf, Scmidt, Seip,Studt, Volk, Vorbach, Wetzel, Wilhelmi, Winter, Worner, Zeiss, Ziegler and Zimmer.