b. 1866 Ashfield, Sydney, NSW, Australia - d. 1926 Sydney, NSW, Australia

Samuel Frederick Christian Kirchner was born in the family home at 23 John Street, Ashfield, Sydney, on 12 April 1866. His parents were Samuel Friedrich Christian Kirchner and Mary nee Mead.

This was his father's second marriage, he was the only child.

Young Samuel's father and his first wife, Friederike Catherina nee Knapp, a German lady, had three sons and one daughter before the untimely death of Friederike in 1863.

This sad event left Samuel with three children to care for (son Johann had died in 1859). He engaged a housekeeper, Mary Mead, my grandfather's mother.

Information on Samuel's younger days is limited; he is shown as a brick-maker on his wedding certificate in 1889. His mother's father Charles Mead was a brick maker, having emigrated from Stewkley in Buckinghamshire, England. The Stewkley area of England is known for its quality bricks.

His first wife was Esther Harriet Vitler from Fish River near Binda in NSW. They were married in September 1889 at St David's Church, Dobroyd, Ashfield.

The background on Samuel's first wife Esther Harriet Vitler tells a sad story. An interesting fact we have is that her mother Esther Quince arrived from UK with her parents and siblings on the "Bussorah Merchant" - the same ship as Samuel's mother Mary Mead (also travelling with her parents and siblings).

This possibly set the framework for a friendship between Mary Kirchner nee Mead and Esther Vitler nee Quince that would last through the years....

Esther Quince married Robert William Vitler on 1 March 1865 at Binda, NSW. Robert was a shepherd for Joseph Clements and lived in a remote hut on the Clements property at Markdale. The home of Robert and his family was at a place they called 'Cabbage-Garden Creek' which was near the junction of the Crookwell and Lachlan Rivers about fifteen kms south west of Markdale. The Lachlan was originally called Fish River. (Some of these details from a fellow Vitler researcher).

Esther Harriet and her siblings lived an isolated life in the country; they did not attend school as distances were too great, but learned the ways of life from their chores in and around the home. A particular point of interest concerning one of Esther Harriet's siblings is that in 1879 her half-sister Annie, aged 16, married Charles Thomas Smith (22) and the two of them moved to Narrawa - 70 kms from Markdale. This is of interest because of the involvement between Annie's husband Charles and Esther Harriet revealed later in this narrative.

In 1878 Esther Harriet's father Robert William Vitler died from a fall from his horse and his wife and family relocated to Burrowa while Esther Harriet (aged 11) and her older brother John Robert (aged 12) both remained and were employed in the Markdale area. Such young ages for the two Vitler children to be left at Markdale - where did they live, what were they "employed" as.......?

To concentrate on Esther and her sad story we see from a NSW Birth entry that aged just 14 she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter Matilda Jane Vitler on 25 September 1882 at Markdale. It is believed that her mother returned from Burrowa to Markdale to assist with the birth.

Who was the father of the child and what happened in the next couple of years remains a mystery but a report in the NSW Police Gazette dated 26 March 1884 sheds some light when it states the following:

Burrowa - A warrant has been issued by the Burrowa Bench for the arrest of Charles Thomas Smith, charged with unlawfully deserting his wife Annie, at Fish River, near Burrowa, on the 8th December last. Smith is about 27 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches high, dark complexion, brown hair, chin shaved, burn mark on one jaw; a labourer. Is accompanied by Harriet Vitler, about 16 years of age, 5 feet high, stout build, fair complexion. Has a female infant with her. Supposed to have gone to Kiandra. Offender's wife and children are in a very destitute condition.

Report from NSW Police Gazeette

The above report suggests that Annie's husband Charles Thomas Smith was possibly the father of her younger half-sister Esther's child.

Although Esther Harriet was living at Markdale and Charles Thomas Smith at Narrawa (a distance of some 70 kms) it is not unreasonable to suggest that there may have been times when any or all of the three sets of family members may have visited each other - Esther Harriet's mother - Burrowa (now changed to Boorowa), Charles and Annie - Narrawa and Esther Harriet - Markdale. These possible visits would have provided opportunity for a liaison of whatever kind between Esther Harriet and her brother-in-law Charles Thomas Smith.

At the time her first child Matilda Jane Vitler was conceived Esther Harriet was just 14; she was very possibly a naive and immature girl having grown up in a remote country area, while her brother-in-law was an experienced married man of 25. A recipe for disaster for young Esther Harriet as can be seen from further details on her life.

It seems that Charles must have returned at least temporarily to his wife Annie as she had a son in June 1885. However Esther and Charles were living together as man and wife around the same time when a second daughter Isabella Smith was born 5 October 1885 in Cullinga, a mining settlement near Cootamundra in NSW.

Two years passed and what took place in that time we will probably never know.

Further detail from Vitler researcher: On 3 October 1887 a destitute Harriet and her two daughters Matilda and Isabella, were admitted to the Benevolent Asylum at Liverpool, NSW. They were listed in the records as - Esther Harriet Vitler, thirty years, Matilda Jane five years, Isabella two years. Harriet was expecting her third child and had contracted the disease Syphilis. Her daughter Isabella was also gravely ill, the result of a disease called Marasmus - a wasting disease she had suffered since birth - malnutrition occurring in infants and young children, caused by insufficient intake of calories or protein and characterized by thinness, dry skin, poor muscle development, and irritability.

Three weeks after admission, on 24th October 1887, a third child Lydia Maria Smith was born to nineteen year old Harriet. This child was born at the Benevolent Asylum and her birth was registered in Sydney, by Harriet who records herself as thirty years old Esther Harriet Smith - mother.

She has added 10 years to her actual age and appears to have been suggesting she was a married woman.

What a tragic situation for a young girl to find herself in!

Information (also from Vitler researcher) tells us that on 8th December 1887 Harriet's first born daughter, Matilda Jane Vitler was discharged from the Benevolent Asylum by the 'Boarding Out Officer', and disappeared to places unknown. The records of the B/A do not give any details as to Matilda's placement. It is suspected that she may have been adopted/fostered and her name changed. Nothing further has been discovered no marriage, no death etc. Matilda and her whereabouts remain a mystery.

On 24 February 1888 Esther's daughter Lydia Maria Smith died in the Benevolent Asylum aged just 4 months. As if that wasn't enough her 2 year old daughter Isabella Smith died just 2 short weeks later of Congenital Syphilis.

Harriet remained at the Benevolent Asylum for another three-and-a-half months after the deaths of her two daughters, before being discharged 'with permission' on 25th June 1888 as Hester Vitler.

What happened to Esther Harriet Vitler when she suddenly found herself alone in the city of Sydney...? A suggestion is that she may have been "taken in" by Samuel Kirchner and his 2nd wife Mary nee Mead, possibly as household help, and possibly because of the presumed friendship through the years between Mary Kirchner nee Mead and her mother Esther Vitler nee Quince.

This then could be how Esther Harriet Vitler came to meet Samuel Frederick Christian Kirchner, son of SFC Kirchner Senior and Mary nee Mead.

Whether or not Esther Harriet passed on the details of her early years and the three daughters she bore to her half-sister Annie's husband Charles Thomas Smith is not known. It seems unlikely as none of the documentation relating to her life with Samuel Kirchner showed any mention of previous issue.

On 4th September 1889 twenty-one year old Esther Harriet Vitler married twenty-three year old Samuel Frederick Christian Kirchner, at Ashfield.

Esther Harriet Vitler and Samuel Frederick Christian Kirchner
NOTE: Occasion and date of this photograph are not known
Photo courtesy H Watkins

Seven months later on 8 April 1890 Samuel and Esther's first child was born - a son - Samuel Frederick. His birth was registered by his mother who gave her name as Esther Harriet (nee Vitler). She also stated previous issue as nil.

A second son, August Archibald, was born to Samuel and Esther in 1895. Sadly, he was a tragic casualty of the First World War when he was killed in action at Bapaume in France.

The family was living at this time in "Wurrtemberg Cottage" the home Samuel senior had built in Ashfield.

NOTE: Previously there was a photo of a home currently at 23 John Street, Ashfield illustrated here and interesting as it was to believe this was the home of SFC Kirchner Snr. it has now been established that a change in street numbering occurred prior to the registration of my father's birth in 1919. Earlier street number for the original Kirchner home was 23 John Street.

NOTE: (as at 2015) In 1917, house numbering was made uniform across Sydney and many streets changed from odd to even numbers on both sides of the streets and started from number 1 at the other end of the street.
Red brick semi detached houses replaced the old Kirchner home - the waterboard plan and the Council rate books will confirm this. Information from Ashfield & District Historical Society, PO Box 20, Ashfield NSW 1800

Sadly no photo of the original Kirchner home has been located.

Esther Harriet Kirchner died 19 May, 1896 aged 29 years and is buried with her husband S F C Kirchner (Junior) in a double grave in Rookwood Cemetery. Her Death Certificate states cause of death to have been Lympho Sarcoma of throat, exhaustion, length of illness about 14 months. It appears she may have been very ill since around March 1895, possibly never recovering from the birth of her son August Archibald.

NOTE: other researchers have delved back in time regarding the ancestors of Esther Harriet Vitler - I have included just the bare details as background on my Grandfather Samuel Frederick Christian Kirchner's first wife.

Following Esther Harriet's death did Samuel find himself a housekeeper as his father had done? There is a gap of nearly ten years before Samuel's 2nd marriage to Mary Jane......

Click here for what we know of the early years of Mary Jane McDonald.


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