THE VILLAGE HISTORY:
Anna Maria MATTHAUS
The Matthaus family first appeared in the village of Nieder-Weisel in the early 1700s. Johann Georg was a tapestry-maker and he apprenticed his sons, Christoph and Philipp, to this profession. In the next generation Philipp's son, Christoph, took up the more useful occupation of linen-weaving which his son, Philipp II, 1808-1851, later followed. In 1836 Philipp II married Katharina, second daughter of Johannes and Christina Adami. Three girls were born to this union, but only the first-born, Anna Maria on 9th January 1837, survived. Philipp's brother, confusingly known as Philipp Adami I, married the other Adami sister, Dorothea. Three of their four children survived, including Konrad born 1838.
Anna Maria lost her father in 1851 shortly before her confirmation. Her mother, fearful of further worsening of the lawlessness in the village, sent her to Victoria. Authority for Anna Maria and her cousin Konrad to leave Nieder-Weisel was approved on 8th October 1856. Anna Maria was with about 40 other villagers aboard the sailing ship "Sunshine" when she sailed from Liverpool on 5th November; there is no record of Konrad being with this group (he was married in Nieder-Weisel in 1866).
"Sunshine" reached Melbourne on 29th January 1857 and the immigrants from Nieder-Weisel went firstly to the gold-mining centre of Ballarat, whence to move on to more recent diggings at Smythes Creek, Ararat, Beechworth and Castlemaine. Anna Maria went with those who opted for the goldfields around Ararat. There, she became friendly with a Danish migrant, Karl Holmfeld. Karl was a seaman who had probably jumped ship in Melbourne - as many of the crewmen did - in order to try his luck on the goldfields. A native of Copenhagen, he was several years Anna Maria's senior. Nevertheless, a romance blossomed and the couple exchanged vows in about 1858 - the marriage record has not been found.
Whilst Karl searched for the elusive pot of gold, Anna Maria went about producing their family. She presented her husband with a son and heir on the third anniversary of her arrival in Victoria; not surprisingly, the child was given the name of his proud father, anglicised to Charles. Karl was at this time prospecting at Lamplough near Avoca and he then joined 20,000 other miners in the rush to McCullum's Creek near Maryborough. Anna Maria had their first daughter here - Mary, who was born in the primitive conditions of this tent city in May 1861. Her second daughter, Catherine, arrived two years later at Majorca near Avoca and another son was born there in April 1865; he was named Henry.
Moving continually around the diggings, living in makeshift housing, birthing in unsanitary conditions, feeding her babies, coping with the demands of the toddlers, not able to buy fresh vegetables or fruit - all this took its toll of Anna Maria's health. By late 1866, her persistent coughing was diagnosed as being a symptom of tuberculosis. No cure was available and, on 6th February 1867, at the age of 30, Anna Maria's brief life ended; her husband and children farewelled her two days later in the Majorca cemetery. At least, Anna Maria was spared the knowledge that two of her children, Catherine and Henry, would die of scarlet fever on the same dreadful day in 1868; they were buried beside her on 19th June.