Ancestry and Descendants of Henry Wagner who immigrated to Toowoomba Australia



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Wagner Photo Album and Descendants

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Ancestry of Henry Wagner

 The village of Oberzell, Hessen, Germany, the ancestral town of Henry Wagner is located about 60 kilometres northeast of Frankfurt am Main, just south of Fulda, and a few miles west of the Bavarian border at a hilly area east of the city of Schluechtern. Oberzell is mentioned historically for the first time in 1167 AD.   The village probably already existed some centuries before.    The name Oberzell translated to english means 'Upper Cell', the word 'Cell' meaning that it was the residence of Christian Monks.    It is thought that the Monks from either the monasteries of Fulda or Schluechtern may have established the town.   The residents were small tradesmen and farmers, living in houses with barns attached, huddled together and surrounded with fields and small forests.  The Lutheran church (formerly Reformed until the emperor ruled that the Lutheran and Reformed churches merge about 1817) stands on a high spot among the homes.  Even into the 20th century the streets were unpaved, the gutters cobblestone, and there were no sidewalks.   Today Oberzell along with the villages of Ortsteilen Altengronau, Breunings, Jossa, Mottgers, Neuengronau, Sannerz, Schwarzenfels, Sterbfritz, Weichersbach, Weiperz and Züntersbach are now incorporated into the town of Sinntal.

On the 15th of February 1829 in Oberzell, Heinrich Wagner was born to Martin and Elisabeth (Knoll) Wagner.   He was the second oldest of approximately seven children.    Martin at the time of marriage to Elisabeth in 1823 was a soldier in the army and would have been involved in the Napoleonic wars.  

Oberzell had a population of about 1500 in 1840 then dwindled to about 1000 today.   Between 1845 and 1850, there were crop failures.  A disease appeared among the potatoes and was made worse by a lot of rainfall.   The hunger experienced in the village drove many residents to imigrate to the new world.

The first of these emigrant  stories of Phillip Kuhlthau is contained here  and further information on Sue Foster's Webpage - Middlesex County Immigration and Emigration from Oberzell.   Further information on Milltown is at this website Historic Milltown     

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Immigration to the Toowoomba Area

It was in the year of 1855 that Henry was enticed to emigrate to Australia as a Shepherd and boarded the ‘Johann Caesar’ to Moreton Bay arriving 8 February 1856.   Henry's birth was in 1829 but immigration and naturalization documents indicate he was born in 1833.   This could be explained by the fact that German immigration agents acting for the Australian Government and squatters would not recruit immigrants who were over the age of 25 years.   He lied about his age so that he would fulfill the age criteria.

The question remains why didn’t he follow Phillip Kuhlthau to Milltown?   The answer probably lies in the fact that he would have had to pay for his passage to America and most Oberzellers at the time were poor.   Being sponsored by a pastoralist, the passage was paid to Australia in return for contracting to serve his employer for two years.

In the last part of the 1850s there was a movement to subdivide the large pastoral leases into agrarian lots.   On the 17 September 1860, small subdivided acre lots of the pastoral lease ‘Eton Vale’ were to be sold by the Government.   This auction attracted a great deal of interest from the German settlers at the time not only because of the size and prospective value of the lots, but this was the first land generally available to them. Henry bid for and was granted Lot 130 Section 12 in the County of Aubigny which in time was know as Middle Ridge.   Other selectors on that day were the Bauer and Weis families.

Henry was not naturalized at the time of purchase, the date of his application testifies to this.  Henry applied for naturalization on 24 October 1860 and this was granted on 15 December 1860.   At the time he was in the employ of James Taylor Esq., a powerful leader of the squatter aristocracy.   It is not known if Taylor was Henry’s immigration sponsor.

Descendants of Henry Wagner

Henry married Elisabeth Bauer in 1862, a daughter of Friedrich and Katharina who were neighbours at Middle Ridge, and they settled on his farm named ‘Auenstein Villa’.   Here they raised a family of six sons and five daughters.   Their children married into the Muller, Robb, Weis, Gregg, Beh, Hegarty and Platz families.

Henry was a shire councilor on the Middle Ridge Shire Council in 1880s to early 1890s.   There is evidence that the Wagner family maintained close ties to the Groom family through Elisabeth’s employment in her early years in the Groom family’s hotel, employment of their sons in Groom’s newspaper the ‘Toowoomba Chronicle’ and a wreath from W.H. Groom’s widow at Elisabeth’s funeral.   Henry’s election to the Middle Ridge Shire council showed the esteem the German community held for him.   He may have been instrumental in organizing the German community behind William Groom's election victories.

He died at his Ruthven Street home on Thursday 17 November 1892 aged 63 years from cancer of the stomach after six weeks of illness and buried at the Drayton/Toowoomba Cemetery.   Henry was probably of the Lutheran faith.    The marriage to Elisabeth Bauer was performed in the St. Luke's Church of England and he is buried in the Church of England section of the Cemetery.    Both he and Elisabeth funerals were officiated by Presbyterian Ministers.    Henry was one of the signatories on the 'memorial' to re-instate Pastor Carl Anger and it is thought that this episode may have been the catalyst for the Wagner family to adopt other religions.   Henry's children are buried in different denominal areas (Presbyterian, Church of England and Roman Catholic) of the Toowoomba/Drayton Cemetery.

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