The Life of Andreas Dreis


Over many years, the Buffier family of East Maitland used to point out to visitors a brick chimney in a field next to the highway at Belford, 30 kilometres west of Maitland. The chimney, which disappeared in the 1990s when the main highway was widened, was all that remained of a farmhouse that once stood there. Tradition has it that this is the house where Hannah Dreis Buffier (1867-1949) was born: she used to tell her grandchildren so.

Wally Kelly and Pat Manning next to the chimney at Belford

Hannah was brought up by people called Justin, and had little to say about her natural parents. Her birth was never registered, but there is evidence enough that her father, the owner of this house, was Andreas Dreis, a German immigrant, born in 1808 at Lorchhausen on the banks of the River Rhine near Frankfurt. Land records may exist to confirm that Andreas was indeed the owner of this site.

Civil records in Germany tell us that Andreas Dreis was first married to a woman called Martha Korb. The wedding would have been in about 1835. She bore him four children, then died on 8 March 1851 when Andreas was 42. Andreas's widowed mother, Barbara Dreis, would have had to help care for these babes while Andreas was away at work. Their home village of Lorchhausen was picturesque but poor: its principal business was vine-growing and the making of wines, mostly sweetish whites traditionally called "hock" in English, and now known to wine buffs as Rheingau wine after the district of which Lorchhausen is the westernmost place. The commonest type of grape here is the riesling. Andreas probably owned or leased a terrace or two of grapevines, since he is described in German as a "winzer" or vine-dresser, but many of the villagers had other jobs as well in order to eke out a living.

Grape-growing has a long history in this part of Germany: it was introduced on the flats by the Romans. In the ninth and tenth centuries this form of agriculture spread northwards into the Rhine gorge at Lorchhausen and beyond by dint of terracing the steep, slaty hillsides. The wine areas typically had very large populations in a small space. The forms of inheritance led to vineyards being divided and subdivided until the plots became minute and barely economic. Wine prices were sensitive to demand and taste, making this form of agriculture much more speculative than cropping or pastoral farming. A decline set in from the start of the seventeenth century, partly caused by a loss of export markets as the fashion elsewhere in Europe changed from wine to beverages such as coffee and tea. More damage was done to the industry by the growth in taxes, excises and tolls imposed on it by a multitude of petty local lords. In the early nineteenth century, improvements came, but the region suffered from a series of bad harvests. There was near famine in 1846 and 1847 when European grain prices soared and potato rot was widespread. According to BASSEMANN-JORDAN, the German wines of 1849 and 1850 were adequate in quantity, but the quality was poor. In the night between 17 and 18 August 1851, hailstorms ruined much of that year's grape crop.

These knockbacks led many of Andreas's generation to opt for emigration. The most convenient and promising destination was America, but obtaining land required a far voyage into the interior. Emigration agents, working in cahoots with shipping companies and the New South Wales colonial government, had offered an alternative to experienced vine-dressers since 1849: a subsidised passage to Sydney as a "bounty migrant" with work assured on arrival (see STRUCK, p.97). The subsidy served to bring the cost of the longer passage into line with the cost of a one-way trip to the United States. Andreas probably would have sold his last crop of grapes while they were still on the vine and unripe. The harvest in this region does not usually take place until October.

The government of Nassau required him to obtain permission to depart and announce his intention by public notice. He declared his intention to leave on 17 September 1852 in the name "Andreas Dreiß" (the last letter, unique to the German alphabet, can be changed to "ss" in transcription, which is the way it is pronounced). His brother, "Wilhelm Dreiß" from Lorchhausen, also put in an application with the same date and destination, while applications for a couple of days later came from two other Lorchhausen families, those of Theodor Pohl and Balthasar Dreis (sic) (listed in STRUCK).

As a preliminary to emigration, Andreas needed to find himself another wife. The emigration agent would have warned him: in Australia men far outnumbered the women. So, after a year and a half of being a widower, Andreas married a woman from Winkel, a village 20 kilometres up-river. Her name was Anna Maria Hübinger: she was 29. Andreas was 44. The marriage register notes that the couple emigrated straight after to Australia, as if to say this was the purpose of the bond. So there probably was no great feasting at the wedding on 18 October 1852. Nor was there any time to settle down afterwards: three weeks later they, the four children of the first marriage (Heinrich, 17, Andreas, 15, Friedrich, 13, and Barbara, 11) and Andreas's widowed mother Barbara were in the port of Hamburg, in northern Germany, boarding a ship, the Triton, to start a new life in the Antipodes.

Andreas and his family arrived in New South Wales in 1853. The Triton's human cargo had been made up mostly of vine-dressers and their families from the Rhine. They would have been relieved to have arrived, for the voyage was dangerous and they would have been ill-fed and often seasick. Their Australian sponsors expected the Germans, who probably knew no English, to work as gardeners and farmhands initially to repay the costs of the voyage. So far we have not researched what Andreas did in his first months in Australia, but we do know that many of the Germans gravitated after a while to the Hunter Valley, about 150 kilometres north of Sydney.

By May 1854, Andreas and his family appear to have settled at Jerry's Plains, a farming community on the Hunter about 100 kilometres from the coast. He may still have been there in 1861, when his 19-year-old daughter Barbara married there, and again in 1863, when Andreas jr. married a Jerry's Plains girl. Thereafter the evidence is unclear, but Andreas seems to have moved down the valley to Belford and then again to Lochinvar, which is quite close to Maitland. His brother, Wilhelm, apparently remained settled at Belford. The first four families from Lorchhausen must have sent news home that they were well and that Australia was a land of opportunity, because two years later, eight more Lorchhausen families signed up in 1854 to emigrate: their heads of households were Johann Wilhelm Korb, Karl Lehr, Jakob Müller, Heinrich Müller, Peter Nies, a widow Pohl, Theodor Rößler and Karl Sebastian Schiedhering. Korb may have been related to Andreas's first wife and the Müllers to Andreas's mother. Moreover Andreas was related to Pohls on his father's side and Rößlers on his mother's side. From the neighbouring village of Lorch, three Dreis families, also possibly kinsmen of Andreas, opted to go to Australia: Kaspar Joseph Dreis (15.4.1854), Christian Dreis (18.9.1854) and Johann Wilhelm Dreis (16.1.1855).

In Australia, Andreas had seven more children, the last when he was 58 or 59. Andreas's and Wilhelm's mother Barbara, who had accompanied the family to Australia, died after seven pioneering years in 1860. About six of his 11 children married during Andreas's lifetime, and he could claim about 18 grandchildren by the time he died, some older than his own children.

Six days before Andreas was to celebrate his 60th birthday, his second wife, Anna Maria, died. The baby, Hannah, was presumably farmed out to the Justin family soon after. What happened to the pre-schooler, George, is not known. Andreas did not marry a third time.

The name "Dreis" can also be spelled "Drais" in both Germany and Australia. The further Australian variants "Dries" and "Drice" have the advantage of encouraging a correct pronunciation (many Australians might think "Dreis" had to be pronounced "drees"). As he became australianised, Andreas appears to have changed his first name to Andrew and the spelling of his surname to "Dries" for this reason.

Andreas died at the age of 74, the stated cause of death being a seven-day bout with peritonitis. This is usually a complication of inflammation in some other abdominal organ, especially from burst ulcers. Judging by the large number of his children, grandchildren and friends and relations from Lorchhausen who had settled in the Hunter Valley, he must have had a massively attended funeral. He is buried in the Catholic cemetery at Lochinvar. It is not known if he left a will.

Additional information:

Spelling variants in records and indexes: Dreiss, Dries(s), Drice, Drise, Druis, Druse, Drees, Draes, Driss, Dress, Dryes, Drys, Decis, Treis, Tries, Tress, Trice, Thrice, Tryes, Troyce (information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

Listed in Wolf-Heino Struck's Die Auswanderung aus dem Herzogtum Nassau (1806-1866) (Emigration from the Duchy of Nassau), 1966. Date of his emigration advertisement in local newspaper was 17 Sep 1852. The name is spelled Dreiß (Dreiss) in this record and no mention is made of wife and family.

See also Queensland Family Historian vol. 7 no. 5 Oct 1986 p. 82 for details of the emigrants from Lorch and Lorchhausen from civil records (information from Henning Schroder):
Andreas Dreis b.30 Nov 1808 in Lorchhausen, son of Andreas Dreis and Barbara (Müller) Dreis, m2.18 Oct 1852 in Lorchhausen Anna Maria Hübinger (b.9 Jan 1823 Winkel, daughter of Johann Hübinger and Margaretha (Müller) Hübinger). Emigrated to Australia 11 Nov 1852.
(note supplied by Jenny Paterson)

Transcript of Immigration Board inspection at Sydney:
Dreis: Andreas, 43, vinedresser, native of Lorchhausen, Nassau.
Parents: Andreas & Barbara. Mother living (on board). Father dead.
Roman Catholic, ??can read and write, ??No relations in colony.
??Health good, ??Complaints none. ??
Paid £40 (this was the bounty paid to the agent, not to Andreas!) Wife Anna Maria, 30, native of Winkel, Nassau.
Parents Johann & Margaretha Hubinger, both dead.
Roman Catholic
Heinrich 17, can read & write
Freidrick 13, can read & write
Barbara 11, can read & write
From Reel 4/4936 (State Archives of New South Wales?)

Introduced by: Thomas Jarman Hawkins, Bathurst (but was possibly sent to someone else)
Fellow employees: Johann Wilhelm Dreis Theodor Pohl on Triton
(information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

1857 address: Jump Up Creek /parish West Maitland /Co Northumberland
occupation: farmer
Child's baptismal sponsors: Amon Crowder, Catherine Corp [Hermann Kauter, Catharina Kauter nee Korb]
(information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

1859 address: Belford /parish West Maitland /Co.Northumberland
occupation: farmer
Child's baptismal sponsors: Herman Conder, Catherine Conder [Kauter]
(information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

1862 address: Belford, Black Creek /parish West Maitland /Co Northumb.
occupation: farmer
child's bapt.sponsors: James Massey, Anne Massey
(information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

1867 address: Belford /parish West Maitland /Co Northumberland
Child's baptismal sponsors: Timothy Doherty, Johanna Doherty
(information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

Naturalization: 12 Dec 1861 vol. 3 p. 32 no. 111 (memorial no. 61/5046)
Name: Andrew Dryes [Dreis]
Age: 52
Origin: Lorchhausen, Duchy of Nassau, Germany
Ship: Trident 1853 [Triton]
Residence: District of Patricks Plains.
(information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

Post Office Directory 1862:
Camberwell, County Durham, Parish of Camberwell and Electoral and Police District of Patrick's Plains, 131 miles N. of Sydney:
Dries, Andrew, farmer, Foybrook
Dries, Henry, farmer, Foybrook
See also Wise Directory 1890 p. 395
Drice, Andrew & Henry, farmers, Ravensworth
(information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

Gillian Baker notes (June 2001): I have ... been given some information on the land holdings of Andrew and Henry Dries around Ravensworth. Andrew and Henry ... seem to have made their living from stock. They owned a reasonable small holding. If anyone would like a copy of the land holdings I can get it to you. I think it would be best if I copied it and sent it to you by snail mail as it would be rather confusing any other way.

The death certificate.
Andrew Dries, farmer 74 yrs d. 5 Mar 1883 at Lochinvar;
born: Germany, 30 years in NSW;
parents: Andrew Balthasa Dries and (not known);
married: l. Germany, aged 27, to Martha Korb, 2. Germany, aged 44, to Ann Hubinger; children: 1. Henry 48, Andres 45, Frederick 43, Barbara 40 living, 3 females deceased, 2. Ann 30, William, Herman, Catherine, George (ages not known), Hannah 16;
informant: Andrew Dries, son, near Ravensworth;
buried: 6 Mar 1883 RC Cemetery Lochinvar.
This in turn is indexed as: Andrew Dries d. 1883 at Lochinvar, reg. no. 9071 (Maitland West); father: Andrew.
(information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson)

Next: the ancestors of Andreas

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