For a family historian, great-great-grandfather Culmer White is good value because he liked to write a letter. On Trove Tuesday 2 October, I shared a letter Culmer wrote to the papers thanking the Reverend who married him to Alice Hunt.
Only months before his death, an article in The Argus of 13 January 13 1938, stirred up memories from almost sixty years before when he was only twenty-two. His memory may have failed him a little as you will discover.
Firstly some background into the story. In July 1877, a Martin Wiberg stole over 5,000 freshly minted gold sovereigns from the steamer Avoca on a trip from Sydney to Melbourne. He was not initially suspected and was able to cart the sovereigns, hidden in bars of soap, close to Inverloch, Gippsland.
In October 1878, police captured him, only to have him escape again while supposedly leading them to his stash of sovereigns. In May 1879, police caught up with him again and he served out his term in Pentridge, which was only around four years. He was then believed to have drowned in the sea off Inverloch after his boat was found. In 1897, his name hit the papers again when a Melbourne resident on holiday, made conversation with him in Sweden.
And so to Culmer’s letter published in The Argus on 22 January 22 1938. It was one of two letters on that day devoted to Wiberg’s case.
Culmer wrote when he checked back in his ledger of 25 September 1879 he found the job for Martin Wiberg. On this date, Wiberg would have been in Pentridge after his recapture. Maybe it was an error while writing the letter and he really he meant 1878 at which time Wiberg was still at large as he was arrested for the first time in October 1878. Prior to his first arrest, Wiberg would have moved the sovereigns, but it is unlikely he would have done that during his second stint on the run in 1879.
While I was going back over this letter for the purpose of this post, I thought I would check if there were more “Letters to the Editor” on the Wiberg matter, hoping there may have been a rebuttal to Culmer’s letter in the following weeks. A rebuttal did come on February 12 from J.T.M. of Canterbury. He began by criticising the other letter published on the same day as Culmer’s. He then turned his attention to Culmer:
This story has so many twists and turns and newsletters from the Inverloch Historical Society in 2000, state that a local man, Samuel Laycock, may have been an accomplice to Wiberg. One day, some day, when I have time, I will put all the articles about this case on a Trove list.
It doesn’t matter that Culmer’s memory may have been fuzzy, the article once again demonstrates his lovely style of letter writing and good on him for keeping ledgers for over sixty years. I wonder where they got to? It also confirmed for me his presence in Gippsland during the late 1870s. He married Alice in 1881 at Fern Hill, Gippsland. Before I found the letter, I didn’t know where he was prior to 1881 or when he arrived in Australia from Kent. I have found some newspaper articles that have lead me to believe he may have “jumped ship” in 1875, but I’ll save that for another Trove Tuesday.
Of course, when I found Culmer’s letter I sent a copy to his granddaughter, my great-auntie Jean and like the previous letter, it brought back fond memories of her grandfather.