HENRY Weingarth came from Prussia to the Macleay where he became a noted businessman and publican before losing heavily in the 1890s Depression.
Henry was born in Sobernheim, Prussia, in 1829 and emigrated to Australia on the Marchioness of Londonderry in August 1854 with his brother Christian. Upon arrival in NSW, the brothers went to Mudgee where they may have tried at prospecting for gold. Christian died there of dysentery in 1857 and Henry moved to York St, Sydney, where he set himself up in business as a baker.
In 1860, Henry Weingarth married Bridget Canny, the eldest of seven children of John and Catherine Canny of Tuamgraney, County Clare, Ireland.
The couple had their first child, Henry Christian, in March 1861 and the following year Henry paid £20 to bring Bridget's recently widowed mother and the five remaining children to NSW. Bridget's sister, Margaret, had emigrated shortly after Bridget and had married a Charles Kennedy in Queensland.
Henry and Bridget moved to Darkwater Creek (now Belmore River) with their family in 1865, before Henry purchased a large block of land on the corner of Elbow and Tozer streets from William Robertson.
Robertson had built a two-storey hotel, the West Kempsey Inn, on the block in Elbow St away from the corner but by 1864 this had become a private residence accommodating the new Methodist Minister, the Reverend John Bowes.
On the corner of Elbow and Tozer streets, Henry built the West Kempsey Hotel, a 28-room, two-storey building with an iron roof. He was licensee from 1869 to 1882 when Charles Farrell took over the license. It is now Kempsey's oldest hotel still in operation.
Henry bought many properties in the land boom occurring in the 1880s and consulted several Aboriginal elders about where to build his permanent home for their growing family.
The elders showed him the height of the greatest flood ever and Henry sited his home well above this mark. The house, which he named Brompton, was built on a two acre block on the corner of River and Marsh streets and was a seven-room wooden house with wide verandahs.
By this time, Henry and Bridget had seven surviving children: Henry Christian (Harry), John Leopold (Jack), Frederick John, Christopher, Catherine (Cissie), Christina (Tina) and Mary Ann (Doll). Henry insisted that his children should have a good education and Catherine and Christina attended a Catholic Convent School in Balmain while John Leopold attended St Stanislaus College in Bathurst.
Of Bridget's siblings, Anne married John Hand, Mary married Thomas Lee and John Canny (Kenny) married Martha Geraghty. As none of the Canny family could read or write on arrival in Australia, their surname was written phonetically by officials as 'Kenny' which they adopted. All of the family were living in Kempsey by 1890.
The boom of the 1880s however was followed by the depression of 1890 and as banks and other financial institutions began to fail, they demanded more sureties for their loans.
Henry Weingarth felt he was under severe financial strain from the English, Scottish & Australian (ES&A) Bank. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at rearranging his finances, Henry took his own life on July 21, 1894. The ES&A Bank, despite assurances to the family that they had not pressured Henry, nevertheless took legal action and all his property including the West Kempsey Hotel was lost.
Despite this major setback, the family did very well. Henry Christian Weingarth was a publican with hotels on the Nambucca (Victoria Inn) and Kempsey (Federal Hotel). John Leopold became a licensed surveyor and designed the Randwick and Warwick Farm racecourses. Mary Ann (Doll) was an accomplished pianist composer and in 1890 published the Electra Waltz.
The author acknowledges the research of Lesle Berry and the late Rosamonde Combes in preparing this article.
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