Kroehnerts battled on against heavy blows of fate

Henry Reuben Kroehnert (1884-1969) and his mother Matilda Kroehnert nee Davis (1838-1924), taken in 1899. Picture: Kroehnert family

Henry Reuben Kroehnert (1884-1969) and his mother Matilda Kroehnert nee Davis (1838-1924), taken in 1899. Picture: Kroehnert family

My ancestor Rudolph Franz Hugo Kroehnert arrived in Australia in 1854 on the Earl Selkirk.

The graves of Rudolph and Matilda Kroehnert and four of their 14 children at St Peter's 
Anglican Cemetery, Richmond. Picture: L. Knight

The graves of Rudolph and Matilda Kroehnert and four of their 14 children at St Peter's Anglican Cemetery, Richmond. Picture: L. Knight

Rudolph was born in 1827 in Tilsit, East Prussia (now Sovetsk, Russia). He was the youngest of the six children of Johann Daniel and Charlotte Juliane Kroehnert. When he was almost 27 he journeyed to England and then sailed to Sydney. ]

Joseph Lowe, also from East Prussia, sailed as a steward on the same vessel. After their arrival, the two compatriots opened a shop together in the Hawkesbury.

In 1855, Rudolph married Matilda Davis of Yarramundi, daughter of Charles Davis and Eliza Pearce, at St Peter’s, Richmond. It was a double wedding, with Joseph Lowe marrying another local girl, Mary Ann Wilson.

Rudolph became naturalised in 1858 as he wanted to purchase land and being a citizen was a pre-requisite.

The young Kroehnert family endured tragedy when their first-born George, died from dysentery in 1863, aged almost seven. Another son, my grandfather, Henry Reuben Kroehnert, told me that his parents were so distressed that it was their doctor, John Selkirk, who chose the plot of ground at St Peter’s cemetery, Richmond for the burial.

Floods also affected the family, with over five major floods from the time of their arrival, including the sizeable inundation of 1864.

Kroehnert was declared insolvent in 1864 and these records revealed a piece of the missing puzzle.

Between July and December 1864, Rudolph Kroehnert left home at Upper Richmond with two drays loaded up with his goods, accompanied by a servant, William Cross. He was travelling to Dubbo, Mudgee, Coonamble and Walgett.

On his way back he stopped at Hartley where one might suppose he visited his wife’s relatives at Little Hartley when passing through.

He described his occupation: “I have been engaged as a Hawker…… I used to travel about the country with goods for sale.” He also described a robbery which occurred in 1864. “I got robbed after leaving Hartley three miles the other side of Springwood on 9th December” and he goes onto describe the manner of this incident in detail, even including the weather, then describes the effect of this misfortune on his livelihood.

“I am now earning a living by drawing water and doing little things for my neighbours.”

During these years Rudolph lost his land at North Richmond, mortgaged to Mr Rouse, as all of his assets were listed and seized, though finally his household furniture, consisting of a sofa table, bedstead and bedding, nine chairs, wearing apparel and sundries valued at ₤5, were left for the use of his wife.

By 1866, the Kroehnerts had moved away from the Hawkesbury to live in the Strathfield area, where Rudolph worked as a woodcarter.

He died in 1895, at Enfield and was buried at Richmond with his son George, where succeeding generations of Kroehnerts are also buried. Although never financially well off again, this story of the first Kroehnerts in Australia shows how they battled on in adversity.