One of the challenges of family history is when little information emerges about a relatively-recent ancestor. One such is Helena Mariane* Aurora Scheer. She was born in Berlin in 1831, and later married Englishman Thomas William Dadswell and - later still - emigrated to Australia, never to see her homeland again.
[* Mariane was one of the names included on Helena's birth certificate, but which has not been seen on any other document.]
While much is known about the life of her husband Thomas Dadswell, much less has emerged about Helena who mothered their seven children and maintained the family household (and much of the business of the Dadswells Hotel at Dadswells Bridge in Western Victoria) until her death at the age of only 42.
This is what we do know about her early German ancestry:
- Johann Christoph Scheer, farmer, born ca 1749, died 18 March 1820
Anna Maria Lehmann, daughter of Johann Christian Lehmann
- Carl Friedrich Christoph Scheer (born 21 May 1800, soldier)
married 4 August 1822 in the Garrison Church, Berlin
Anna Elizabeth Tietz, daughter of Heinrich Tietz, of Kopenick
- Helena Mariane Aurora Scheer
(born Berlin 1831 - died Dadswells Bridge, Vic., 1873)
married 1856 in Berlin
(born Sussex, UK, 1828 - died Tarnagulla, Vic., 1908)
At this time, we are aware that Helena's German parents were Carl Friedrich Christoph Scheer (son of Christoph and Anna Maria (Lehman) Scheer), and Anna Elizabeth (Tietz) Scheer (daughter of Heinrich Tietz). Her parents married in the Garrison Church, Berlin, on 4 August 1822.
Helena was born in April 1831 and is thought to have met Thomas while he was working in Germany for the English railway construction contractor Thomas Brassey. Thomas had been previously married, and it is known that one of the children from his first marriage died in Berlin in 1855. No record has been found recording the fate of his first wife (Sarah Elizabeth Holmes), but possibly she also died in Berlin.
Thomas' German dictionary is dated 1856 (dated in what appears to be Thomas' handwriting), which suggests Helena would have been about 25 when they met.
No record of a marriage has been located, but shipping records show they left Liverpool, England, on 26 June 1857 aboard the John Linn, a sailing ship of 1,472 tons carrying 365 paying passengers for Melbourne, and a crew of 48.
Even though the voyage took almost 3 1/2 months and included "heavy weather" experience, Henry Dadswell (1894-1978) said he could remember a letter at his childhood Warrak home from English relatives, saying they thought the ship had made "remarkably good time".
The ship landed Helena and Thomas in Melbourne on 3 October. Eleven months later, Helena gave birth on 12 July 1858 to the first of their seven children - Charlotte Martha Ulricke Dadswell - while the couple were living in Vere Street, East Collingwood, now an inner-Melbourne suburb.
Soon after, Helena and Martha moved to live near Geelong with Thomas but it appears Thomas stayed only a short while - he was already living at Pleasant Creek (Stawell) when their second child, Alfred Otto Dadswell, was born on 28 February 1860.
In all probability, all the family moved to Stawell soon after, as Helena's next three children were born there, starting with Emma Elizabeth Dadswell on 28 September 1861.
By 1869, all the family - by now seven children - were living at Dadswells Hotel at what became known as Dadswells Bridge, mid-way between Stawell and Horsham.
The hotel included accommodation, a school and a post office, and all the while Thomas continued with sawmill and contracting businesses.
In one report, the Pleasant Creek News and Wimmera Advertiser referred to the couple as "mine hosts" and to "a sumptuous dinner, prepared in Mrs Dadswell's usual style", making clear that Helena was actively involved in the hotel business.
Tom Dadswell (1900-1985), one of Helena's grandsons, believed Helena to be artistic, and said he had been told she taught her daughter Helena Matilda (born 1867) to paint and her daughter Emma Elizabeth (born 1861) to do fine crochet work.
German-born Helena died when she was aged only 42, on 28 March 1873 after a year-long illness. The Pleasant Creek News and Wimmera Advertiser of 1 April 1873 recorded:
"A considerable assemblage of people attended at the Stawell cemetery on Sunday on the occasion of the funeral of Mrs T. Dadswell, of Ledcourt Bridge. Deceased and her husband have been residents in this neighbourhood a number of years, where they have been deservedly respected. She died after a long and painful illness, and leaves a large family of young children to mourn her loss."
A redgum marker with an inscription indicated her grave at Stawell Cemetery for many years, but could not be found during a family visit in 2002. A replacement gravestone has now been placed on the gravesite.
Sailing the John Linn to Australia – the Hazardous Trip
Thomas William Dadswell
Children of Helena and Thomas Dadswell
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