THE VILLAGE HISTORY:
Konrad was born in Nieder-Weisel at 5 am on 29th May 1858. His life must have been in danger after the birth as Pastor Kayser baptised him the next day. His godfather was the sieve maker Konrad Wetzel, a cousin of his mother Katharina nee Wetzel. Pastor Kayser noted that the father was a Danish seaman, Severin Plough, who had - according to an English certificate that was not presented - married the mother in Tynemouth, Northumberland. The baby was the second son and third child to this marriage.
The ancestry of Nils Severin Plough is not known; his birthplace was Copenhagen. The Wetzel family had been in Nieder-Weisel for several generations since Henrich Wetzel set up his sieve making plant in the village. Katharina lost her father in 1848 and her mother took her and her brothers Johannes and Johann Georg to Newcastle in England, where they were more likely to find employment than in rural Germany. It was here that, in 1853, Katharina and Severin Plough met and married. Konrad's sister, Margaretha, was born in 1854 and his brother John (who did not survive), in 1856. Their father then decided to join the gold rush to Victoria. However Katharina became pregnant again and she went back to Nieder-Weisel with her daughter while Severin, who had signed on as a crewman on "Young America" sailed for Melbourne. Konrad was born exactly six weeks later.
It was not until 1862 that Katharina followed her husband to Victoria. With Konrad, Margaretha, and four other children whose parents had decided not to return to the village, she took passage on the "Shalimar". Konrad was only 4 years old as the sails were set and the elegant clipper left the Mersey on 22nd August 1862, with 86 days of a novel and exciting experience ahead of him.
Reaching Melbourne on 15th November, the party went to Ballarat to deliver the children Katharina had chaperoned, and to meet up with the father Konrad had never seen and Margaretha could barely recall. By 1864, Konrad had two brothers to help mind and a new house to live in at Mount Prospect, north-east of Ballarat. There were also cousins living down the road that he was taken to visit now and again. In next few years two sisters and a brother (who did not live long) arrived. By 1870 the family was in Sebastopol, Ballarat and Konrad was at school.
Disaster then struck the family. Konrad's mother developed heart disease, from which she died late in 1870. With help from Konrad, Margaretha tried to run the home but, on 17th May 1872, their father died suddenly and the family had to be split up.
Konrad, at 14, was old enough to work. Margaretha went back to Mount Prospect, where she eventually married; Konrad may have gone with her. The later years of Konrad's life are still a mystery. There are two versions of his story - that he immigrated to New Zealand or that he went to Tasmania.