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THE VILLAGE HISTORY:

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Johann Jakob WINTER
1810-?
Katharina Elisabetha KOHLER
1821-?

Johann Jakob, born 29th January 1810, was the fifth son of Ambrosius, master tailor in Nieder-Weisel, and his wife Maria Dorothea nee Bodenroeder. There were four younger sons in the family of twelve. Maria was devastated when their third daughter was born without hands or feet, and no woman in the village was prepared to stand as godmother to the child.

Ambrosius died in 1826 and the family soon began to disperse. The older brother Nikolaus took over the tailoring business while some of the brothers went to England trying to find work. Johann Jakob had a fine singing voice and became a member of a band of travelling troubadours. One of the female performers, Katharina Elisabetha Kohler, was from the German village of Langsdorf-by-Hungen. She was born on 2nd February 1821 to Hanss Georg Kohler and Katharina nee Steub of Langsdorf. Though Katharina Elisabetha was only 17, she agreed to marry Johann Jakob and the ceremony took place on 26th November 1838 in the industrial town of Manchester.

The couple remained in the British Isles for more than a decade before Johann Jakob took his wife back to  Nieder-Weisel. During this period the couple had no children, but Katharina was pregnant when they got to the village; she gave birth to a daughter, Juliana, on 22nd June 1849. It was only then that an entry was made in the Family Book recording their marriage in England. Another daughter, Katharina, was born on 30th September 1852 and this completed their small family, although the mother was still only 31 years of age.

Johann Jakob had been earning a living by trading but in 1854 he agreed to join his younger brother Johannes in spending a year or so on the diggings around Ballarat. Johannes and his wife took their children, but Johann Jakob and Katharina preferred leaving theirs with foster parents; Maria Dorothea had died in 1842, so perhaps his brother Nikolaus and his wife offered to look after them, as their daughter was travelling with the Winter group.

This party of 12 were among 444 passengers on the sailing ship "Fulwood" when it weighed anchor in the Mersey on Thursday, 5th October 1854. They faced a slow voyage to Melbourne, which was not reached until the mid summer sun had given them all the deep skin tan that would become so familiar.

The Winters went on to Ballarat, mecca of all the diggers, before spreading out around the rapidly-developing fields to the east and southwest. Just where Katharina and Johann Jakob spent the latter period of their residence in Victoria is not unknown; nor how long they persevered in the search for an adequate return on the time and money invested in this venture. It seems that all the Winter group, with the exception of their niece Katharina Elisabetha, returned to the village by about 1860. In their absence, their daughter Juliana had died at the age of seven. The couple had another daughter in Nieder-Weisel on 15th February 1862; she lived only a few hours. She was sponsored by her deformed aunt Anna Margaretha at the home baptism; somehow, the handless woman, now 43, was able to sign her name as godmother. Their daughter Katharina married in Nieder-Weisel on 24th May 1870; like her mother she was only 17 years old when she exchanged her vows with Jakob Haub XII.
 

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