THE VILLAGE HISTORY:
When the widowed Anna Elisabetha Heinz left Nieder-Weisel with her twin sons and daughter Katharina in 1856, her younger son stayed with foster parents. For the next seven years Johannes attended the village school, learning to read and write. With the others in his group he was confirmed in 1862, and an application for him to join his mother in Victoria was approved. In company with a number of 'Hinns' children and an adult chaperone he sailed on 22nd August 1862 from Liverpool aboard "Shalimar"; they arrived in Melbourne on 15th November. Johannes travelled to Smythesdale to join his family. Their neighbour in Brooke Street was Gernand Bang, an emigrant from Butzbach. He operated a butcher shop in which the Heinz twins, Johann Peter and Christoph, were indentured as apprentices; Johannes joined his brothers in this work.
In 1865, with financial backing from Bang and their mother the brothers opened a small butcher's shop of their own on the old Skipton Road out of Ballarat. This was the start of what would become "Heinz Bros" - the largest retail-wholesale-export meat supply enterprise in the colony. The first shop soon expanded into larger premises in Hertford Street Sebastopol, and thence into Main Road and Bridge Road in Ballarat proper. The growing number of single employees was provided with accommodation. A much larger property was later acquired in Sturt Street.
In 1877, Johannes married another German migrant, Sophia Elisa Carolina Deppe. They settled in Webster Street Ballarat, where their three sons and five daughters were born:- Amanda Maria Elisabetha in 1878; Olga Catharina Magdalena in 1880; Bertha Augusta Sophia in 1881; Albert Christoph in 1883; Walter Peter in 1885; Alice Hermina in 1887; John Ludwig in 1889 and Louisa Florence in 1893.
Originally the junior partner in the business, Johann (John) eventually assumed sole control. Peter died prematurely in 1888, and then Christoph retired to nearby Buninyong. Stud farms were opened at Cardigan and Nerrima to breed prime beef, and horses for an increasing number of meat delivery vans. The range of products was extended to include an ice-making plant that could service a large part of the State. The number of employees passed 100.
John played an important part in the life of the community. He was a member of the Turf Club, President of the Rowing Club, a Trustee of the Fire Brigade, President of the Deutscher Verein. He was closely associated with investment and mining companies and, with friends, spent £3,000 converting the Academy of Music into the Her Majesty Theatre. In the Ballarat Council he stood for North Ward successfully on ten occasions. He also served a term as Mayor of the city - a remarkable achievement for a man whose early life was spent in a small village in Germany. John did not forget his roots; his home in Ballarat was named after his hometown of Nieder-Weisel and his stud farm 'Wetterau' as a reminder of the region in which the village can be found; it takes its name from the creek-sized River Wetter.
John re-visited Nieder-Weisel when he went back to Germany for consultation about his poor health in 1901. The trip seemed to benefit him, but his health deteriorated again in 1905. He was operated on, but died of peritonitis on 29th June, aged 55. John Heinz was buried in the New Cemetery the following day. He was honoured by the flying of flags at half-mast from many public buildings, including the city hall, and many local dignitaries followed his cortege to his final resting place. Sophia lived for another eighteen years; after her death in Elwood she was taken back to Ballarat to be buried with her husband.
An imposing monument over his grave is a continuing reminder of the achievements of a man who arguably was the most successful of the 350 migrants who came to this State from the village of Nieder-Weisel.