THE VILLAGE HISTORY:
Born on 2nd February 1819, Peter was the second son of Kaspar Hildebrand and his wife, the widowed Elisabetha Haub nee Hauser. Peter had an older sister, Anna Elisabetha, who was a twin to Johann Georg. A younger sister, Maria Katharina, completed the small family group.
Traditionally, the boys would have been trained to take over the running of the oil milling business that the family had operated for generations, but in the aftermath of the Napoleonic incursions they faced a hopeless future, working as casual labourers on one of the farming estates at the whim of the leaseholders, and the weather. Peter was one of the first of the villagers to look elsewhere to the future - he left Nieder-Weisel in the late 1830s, perhaps timing his departure to avoid conscription into the army. He went to England where the industrial revolution had created a plenitude of jobs.
Peter found work as a sawyer in Stockton, south of Newcastle. In 1842 he married Katharina Krill, who was also from Hesse-Darmstadt. After their first son was born the couple moved to Leeds, where Peter's sister Maria Katharina and her husband Johannes Haub lived. The two men were skilled musicians and they used these talents to make a living. The two families occupied homes in York Street, an area favoured by German immigrants. In the next decade, Peter and Katharina had seven more children: Catherine in 1845; Conrad in 1847; Elizabeth and Christopher in 1851; Heinrich in 1854; Johannes in 1855; and Margaretha in 1857. Johannes died in infancy.
Peter's elder sister migrated to America with her husband Christoph Jung after living in England, Scotland and Victoria, and in March 1857 Johann Georg became the fourth member of the family to leave Nieder-Weisel; he called at Leeds on his way to Liverpool and may have influenced Peter to follow him to Australia. In any event, Peter and his family embarked for Melbourne on the "Herald" on 22nd October 1857; the family name was mis-spelt 'Elderbrand'. There was another family of the same name, George and wife Elizabeth, with five children. George was the same age as Peter and also a musician, so it is likely that the groups were associated, though not related. No doubt their musical talents were appreciated in the evenings of that tedious 123 day voyage to Hobsons Bay.
Reaching Williamstown on 22nd February 1858, George Hildebrand took his family via the Victorian goldfields to the wool-growing region of southern New South Wales, where they provided musical concerts in the shearing sheds. Peter, on the other hand, stayed in Melbourne where he continued to earn a living as a musician. In January 1860, Katharina gave birth to another child, named for the little boy they lost, in their home in Evans Lane, off Lonsdale Street in Melbourne. Later the family moved to Fitzroy and the younger children attended the Lutheran Church School in Grey Street, East Melbourne. In time, all their children but Christopher married; the older boys, with financial help from their parents, went farming.
In his later years Peter was employed as a storeman. He developed TB in 1880 and died of this disease two days before the end of the year. Peter owned no real estate; his personal assets, valued at £575, passed to Katharina. She moved from her home at 125 Kerr Street, Fitzroy to nearby Napier Street where she died fourteen years later. Peter Hildebrand and Katharina Krill rest together in Melbourne Cemetery, the grave well marked with a headstone erected by their children. Over a century later their 75 great-grandchildren include twelve males who may perpetuate the family name that runs back at least 400 years into the early history of the village of Nieder-Weisel.
(Peter's sister Maria Katharina, her husband Johannes Haub, and their child immigrated to California; they may have used the name Hope).