The Life of Anna Maria Hübinger


Anna Maria Hübinger (pronounced hoo-bing-ehr) was born 9 January 1823 in Winkel, a little Catholic village on the bank of the River Rhine close to Frankfurt. She was the third child of a carter named Johann Hübinger.

The name Hübinger probably means a person hailing from Hübingen: there are two villages of this name near the Rhine Gorge. One is in the Hunsrück Hills, nine kilometres due west of Bad Salzig. The other is in the Nassau Hills, 17 kilometres due east of Koblenz. Whether the Hübinger family can trace its origins to either has not yet been checked.

Winkel is one of a series of picturesque villages that line the right bank of the Rhine below Wiesbaden. It has old half-timbered houses alongside narrow lanes. One of the best-known sights in Winkel today is The Grey House, said to be the oldest habitable stone house in Germany. It is supposed to have been built by Archbishop Hrabanus Maurus before the year 850, though its early romanesque design would situate it between the 10th and 12th centuries.

We know nothing about Anna Maria's childhood other than what we can deduce from the history of the place: the 1820s and 1830s were times of peace, when the Rheingau was part of the Duchy of Nassau. The economy was largely based on grapes. Winkel was part of a major transport route: the river. Horses led along the riverbank towed barges in both directions and the first steam-powered boats were being introduced to the annoyance of boatmen dependent on oars or sail. Rheingau folk were pious Catholics speaking a peasant dialect famed for a directness bordering on rudeness.

Anna Maria's marriage on 18 October 1852 to Andreas Dreis, a widower from Lorchhausen — a village about 20 kilometres downriver — may well have been arranged for her. She was 29, and families from the area were teaming up to emigrate. The times were hard economically after a run of bad harvests in the Rheingau vineyards. A population explosion with a sharply increased cost of living was encouraging people to leave. The banns of marriage were read for three Sundays in both Winkel and Lorchhausen as required. On the Monday, Anna Maria and her brother Konrad went down to Winkel, where the priest, Father Johann Legner, pronounced her married, and noted the family's date of departure for Australia in his register, three weeks after the marriage.

The union can hardly have been a promising one for Anna Maria: Andreas was 44 and already had four children, three of them teenage. He was to be accompanied to Australia by both his brother and his mother. Anna Maria would have barely known her husband, but there was no time for a honeymoon. She was a last-minute addition to an alien family that was about to be plunged into the stress of a dangerous round-the-world voyage to a place where none of them would even know the language. This awful trial would be compounded by the natural antipathy the old woman would have had for her daughter-in-law, and the resentment the step-children must have shown towards their father's new wife.

Anna Maria and the Dreis clan proceeded to northern Germany, probably by river boat and then by rail, and reached the port of Hamburg, where they boarded a ship, the Triton, to start their new life in New South Wales. They arrived in Sydney Harbour in 1853, relieved not have been shipwrecked or killed by disease during the passage, and appear to have moved fairly promptly to Jerry's Plains, on the Hunter Valley about 100 kilometres from the coast and about 150 kilometres north of Sydney. (Jerry does not appear to have meant German: it did not develop as a slang term for German until the time of World War Two.) It was probably still bush-covered, and like many pioneers they would have first had to clear the land and build a house to live in.

In the spring of their first year in Australia, Anna Maria discovered she was pregnant, and gave birth to her first baby on 8 May 1854 at Jerry's Plains. She was to have six more children over a period of 14 years. After seven or eight years, the family must have given up on the enterprise at Jerry's Plains and moved down the valley to Belford, between the towns of Singleton and Maitland, by 1861. All through this time, she and her family must have endured the greatest privations as they struggled to make a living from farming. It is easy to imagine that the bitter start to her marriage would have left its scars. The mother-in-law, a sturdy old woman, hung on to life and died only eight years before Anna Maria did.

At the age of 44, Anna Maria had her last baby. The next year, on 24 November 1868, she died at Belford aged 45.

The death certificate is as follows:
Anna Maria Dryes formerly Hubinger, 45 yrs, died 24 Nov 1868 at Belford;
parents: John Hubinger, farmer, and Margaret Hubinger formerly Muller;
informant: William Dryes, brother-in-law, Belford:
registered: 25 Nov 1868 Singleton;
26 Nov 1868 RC Cemetery Singleton; [burial details faint];
born: Prussia, Germany, 15 years in NSW;
married: Prussia, Germany, aged 30, to Andrew Dryes; children: Anne 14, William 12, Hermann 10, Catherine 6, George 3, Hannah 1.
The cause of her early death was stated as peritonitis. This entry has the registry number 6044 (Patricks Plain). The transcript was kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson.

Spelling variants in Australian records and indexes: Hevenagh, Hybumah, Irvan (information kindly supplied by Jenny Paterson and Chrissy Fletcher).

Next: the forebears of Anna

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© Jean-Baptiste Piggin