|Country of Origin||Germany|
|Date of Birth||24/1/1825|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1854|
|Submitted by||Yvonne Edward|
Martin Berg was born to Martin Berg and Anna Maria Ladiges on January 1825, in Holm in the Parish of Wedel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. He married Catherina Elsabe Ladiges [1827-1912] daughter of Jurgen Detlev Ladiges and Anna Catherina Witt on 31th May 1850 in Wedel Germany, at the home of the bride’s parents.
On 1st May 1852 their first child Catherina Maria Margaretha was born in Holm. With wages in Germany extremely low, no social welfare provisions available and democracy suppressed, the gold rush in Victoria was an appealing alternative. At the age of 29 Martin decided to try his fortune in the goldfields of Australia, intending subsequently to return to his homeland. Martin and Catherina boarded the ship ‘Sophie’ in Hamburg on the 20th April 1854 leaving their only child in the care of Catherina’s Mother and Stepfather. After a very rough voyage, they landed in Melbourne three and a half months later on the 3rd of August 1854. Martin’s occupation was listed as Landmann or ‘farmer’ on the Unassisted Immigration to Victoria Index.
Martin and Catherina travelled the rough journey to Creswick gold fields along with the many others flocking to the area. Gold was discovered in the Creswick area in 1851 and at the height of the gold rush there were over 20,000 miners living mainly in tents in the immediate area, stretching from Salty Creek to Long Point. As far as the eye could see it was a mass of diggers who honeycombed the area with shafts, in an eager pursuit of the precious metal. Unfortunately the gold was mainly in leads 50-60 feet underground, which made it very difficult to find. Despite the odd success story, miners working the shallow ground gradually declined through the the 1860’s.
Martin and Catherina camped in the area known as Red Streak for some time before building a small cottage. Municipal rates were only imposed in the year 1858 and Martin is listed as paying rates of 8 pounds in Red Streak in 1858/1859 and 8 pound 10 shillings in 1859/1860, which would indicate a reasonable sized miner’s dwelling. After a period of approximately six years, struggling to survive the hardships of gold prospecting, they gave up all hope of striking it rich. By this time they had added another three children to their family, making their small cottage very crowded. They very wisely purchased land in 1860 and set up a dairy farm on the Creswick Creek, ‘one mile below the Diggers’ Arms Hotel’, which was also a General Store on the Long Point Road. Martin and Catherina lived in a two room cottage on the property, and worked hard at cultivating the land. On seven acres they planted oats, potatoes, and wheat, as well as building a stable for their draughthorse. They had 14 milking cows, six heifers, five steers, one bull, and pigs. They generated extra income by selling milk, produce and pork to the miners.
During the six years they were on this farm they had another two children. Henry born 1863 and Catherine Elizabeth born 1864. In 1862 they received the tragic news that the daughter they had left behind in Germany had passed away from diphtheria which was raging at the time. It was a miracle that the letter reached them as it was addressed: ‘Martin Berg Criswick Creek Australien’
In 1865 Martin selected 40 acres at Graham\’s Hill, about three miles from Creswick. In 1870 he added another 20 acres adjoining his property and built a beautiful home on it. They had eight children altogether 4 boys and 4 girls, losing two in infancy and the daughter left behind in Germany. Martin was witness to the worst mining disaster in Australia’s history which occurred at the New Australasia Mining Company on 12th December 1882, adjacent to Martin Berg’s property. When one lead was exhausted of its gold it was flooded and the next lead commenced. When the new lead was laid, an error occurred and it went dangerously close to the flooded lead. Two miners heard the sound of rushing water and the next minute, water, gravel and sand poured through the roof. 29 men were trapped and only 7 were rescued.
Martin Berg died on his farm at Graham\’s Hill, Ballarat Shire, on 19th of October 1896 aged 71.