Passing of the Pioneers

At the end of last month, the Western District Families Pioneer Obituary Index had 696 pioneers listed. With this post, the number passes 700.  My ggg grandmother is the first pioneer for January and becomes pioneer number 697.  Therefore, the 700th pioneer obituary belongs to Thomas Fitzgerald of Warrnambool and appropriately so.  Thomas was 111 when he died and some early 20th-century genealogical investigation confirmed his age.  To see the full list of 711 pioneer obituaries at Western District Families go the Pioneer Obituary Index.  Don’t forget any underlined words in this post and others at Western District Families are links leading you to further information about a subject.

Ellen BARRY – Died 24 January 1882 at Colac. Ellen Barry, born in Tipperary, Ireland around 1823 was my ggg grandmother and her obituary was not like the others here.  Rather it was a news article, published across Australia after the events of the night of 24 January 1882 at Colac.  You can read more about Ellen’s tragic life and death in an earlier post “A Tragic Night”with links to further stories about Ellen.

Patrick HYLAND – Died January 1884 at Tarrington.  Patrick Hyland was born in Ireland around 1823 and as a newlywed in 1841, arrived in Portland with his wife Elizabeth Darcy.  He got a job working for Arthur Pilleau at Hilgay near Coleraine and remained there around ten years before taking up a position as overseer of Edward Henty’s Muntham Station.   In between, Patrick had a short stint as publican of the Sandford Hotel, transferring his licence in 1859.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/217208

THE RED BRICK BARN AT MUNTHAM STATION WAS ALREADY STANDING WHEN PATRICK HYLAND ARRIVED THERE AROUND 1851. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/217208

Footrot was rife through the Western District in those times and while at Muntham, Patrick introduced practices to eradicate it and with success.

hyland

“THE ARGYLE ROOMS.” Bell’s Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle (Melbourne, Vic. : 1857 – 1868) 16 May 1857: 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201372934

Patrick later moved to Tarrington and continued working for the Hentys at Stephen Henty’s Tarrington Estate.

John ROBERTSON – Died 16 January 1905 at Strathkellar. John Robertson was born at Ballater, Aberdeen, Scotland around 1823.  He arrived in Victoria with his family in 1840 on the John Bull. John’s father John Robertson Sr. settled first in at Broken River but as the land wasn’t suitable, he went into partnership with William Skene and purchased the Mount Mitchell Station west of Melbourne.  He eventually purchased more property including at Victoria Valley Station.  John Robertson Jr. eventually inherited the Victoria Valley property and settled there. In 1855, John married Mary Jane Carter, the daughter of Charles Carter of Rosebrook near Wartook in the Grampians and they had two sons and five daughters.

In 1881, John purchased the large property Skene at Strathkellar from the estate pf William Skene, John’s brother-in-law.  John also bought Gazette at Penshurst and Moyne Falls near Macarthur.  Aside from accumulating property, John was a  keen follower of horse racing as an owner and breeder and a devotee of coursing.  John Robertson was buried at the Old Hamilton Cemetery after the funeral cortege travelled from Skene to the cemetery taking two hours to cover the trip of around eight miles.  A further obituary for John Robertson is available on the link – John Robertson obituary 

Thomas FITZGERALD – Died 26 January 1909 at Warrnambool.  Thomas Fitzgerald was one of those people who was better known posthumously.  In 1904,  Thomas was admitted to the Warrnambool Benevolent Asylum.  At the time, he gave his age as 106 and those in charge were curious, so much so they wrote to Ireland for verification.   They received word back and found  Thomas was on the level.  He was born in Kerry, Ireland on 11 January 1798.  Therefore at the time of his death, he had just turned 111 years old.

Thomas Fitzgerald apparently arrived in Victoria in 1855 aboard the Margaret Chisholm, already aged fifty-seven.  I found only one reference to a barque Margaret Chisholm,  when she arrived Port of Melbourne on 1 June 1857 all they way from Corner Inlet,  Gippsland!  Thomas may have remembered his birthday but details of his arrival seem sketchy.  When Thomas died, news of the old man went around the country.  The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate published the following unflattering article with a dig at the Temperance movement.

"THAT WARRNAMBOOL CENTENARIAN." Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954) 13 February 1909: .

“THAT WARRNAMBOOL CENTENARIAN.” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 13 February 1909: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138584038&gt;.

Henry Belfrage NIMMO – Died January 1915 at Camperdown.  Henry Nimmo was born in Falkirk, Scotland and arrived in the Western District around 1862.  Soon, he was participating in a sport he took up in Scotland, that of coursing and was a founding member of the Camperdown Coursing Club.  Laara Estate was a popular coursing venue and Henry was alway there with his often handy greyhounds.  In his later years, he took to spectating but as he grew older he found it difficult to spot the dogs.  On once occasion at Larra Estate, Henry commented to “Hotspur” the coursing correspondent for the Leader newspaper, “I cannot see the dogs, but mon, Hotspur, it’s a grand course.”

 

"PORT MORESBY." Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918) 30 June 1906: 36. .

“PORT MORESBY.” Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) 30 June 1906: 36. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198364516&gt;.

George WARREN – Died 24 January 1915 at Stawell.  George Warren was born around 1860 at Bourne End, Hertfordshire, England and arrived in Australia around 1874. He went straight to Lexington Station near Moyston to work and join an uncle,  James Graham. In 1877, George married Anne Flower Bennett and they took up land in the district.  Upon the death of an uncle Robert Graham in 1908, George and Ann’s daughter inherited his Halls Gap property Myrtlebank, located where the manmade reservoir Lake Bellfield is today. Robert Graham was one of the first freehold owners in the Fyans Valley.  George and Ann moved there and built and ran the Myrtlebank Guest House 

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/382906

MYTRLEBANK, HALLS GAP. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/382906

George was Church of England and even when struck with ill-health would make the trip to Stawell on Sundays travelling over twenty miles on a rough road.

"DISTRICT NEWS." Stawell News and Pleasant Creek Chronicle (Vic. : 1914 - 1918) 28 January 1915: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129499589

“DISTRICT NEWS.” Stawell News and Pleasant Creek Chronicle (Vic. : 1914 – 1918) 28 January 1915: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129499589

Along with Ann, George left seven daughters and five sons at the time of his death. Two sons were serving overseas. Francis Edgar Warren was killed at Gallipoli six months after his father’s death on 17 June 1915. Leslie Parsons Warren later returned home. Ann continued running Myrtlebank after George’s death until her own death in 1935 at Hamilton.     

Bridget CAREY – Died January 1916 at Hamilton.  Bridget was born in Ireland around 1835 and arrived in Victoria with her husband Joseph Lanphier. Joseph got work as an overseer of Kanawalla Estate just north of Hamilton but on 18 October 1875 at the age of fifty, he was killed on the property after a fall from a horse. Bridget moved closer to town, residing at Stanview on the Cavendish Road near the Hamilton Racecourse. Around 1908 Bridget, described as a robust woman, tripped on the step while entering St Mary’s Catholic Church (below) in Hamilton and was never the same.

ST MARY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH, HAMILTON. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63342

ST MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, HAMILTON. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63342

Although bedridden Bridget remained cheery to the end.  She left eight children at the time of her death.

James McNAUGHTON – Died 5 January 1917 at Ellerslie.  James was born at Perthshire, Scotland in 1832. During his twenties, James arrived in Portland with his family including his father James McNaughton Sr. and started work as a stonemason.  His occupation saw him work on some of Warrnambool and Portland’s main buildings and a number of homesteads. James married Mary Ann Osborne in 1860 and they moved to the Ellerslie district. Mary Ann died in 1915.  

Mary AHERN – Died 17 January 1917 at Hamilton. Mary Ahern was born in County Clare, Ireland in 1834 and arrived at Geelong on 6 June 1857 aboard the Black Eagle accompanied by her brother  Patrick in 1857. On arrival, they met their sister, Anne who had been in Victoria for four years. The Victorian Unassisted Passenger list has the following entry beside Patrick’s name. “Gone to visit sister at J.Gibson’s Fyans Street.”  Mary’s entry reveals she gained employment as a housemaid for three months for Mr Howe of Park Street, Kildare (Geelong West).  In 1859, Anne Ahern married Richard Elijah and they moved to Hamilton.  Mary stayed on in Geelong for a few years before moving to Ballarat where she remained until she bought a house in Clarendon Street Hamilton.  

Sampson SMITH – Died 26 January 1917 at Caramut. Sampson Smith arrived in Australia as a baby around 1852 when his parents landed at Warrnambool.  As a young man, he went to the Wimmera and ran his own farm at Dunmunkle.  In 1901, Sampson arrived in Caramut and took up the position of librarian at the Mechanics Institute.  He was also secretary of the institute and a secretary and trustee of the Caramut Cemetery.  He found time for a role as correspondent for the Caramut School committee and registrar of Birth, Deaths and Marriages in the town.  Sampson was a keen horticulturist and exhibited his flowers at local shows.  He left a widow and two daughters and six sons.  A further obituary was published in the Penshurst Free Press on the link  – Sampson Smith Obituary.

Margaret POWER – Died 5 January 1918 at Port Fairy. Margaret Power was born in Tipperary, Ireland around   During the 1850s, Margaret and her husband James Prior arrived in Melbourne aboard the Sarah Dixon.  They soon made their way to Port Fairy and settled and James worked as the curator of the Port Fairy Botanical Gardens.

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PORT FAIRY BOTANICAL GARDENS

Margaret and James had two sons and three daughters and attended the Port Fairy Catholic Church.  James died in 1911 and Margaret went to live with her daughter in Sackville Street where she died in 1918.

Friedrich LINKE – Died 29 January 1918 at Lake Linlithgow.  Friedrich Linke was born in Magdeburg, Germany around 1837 and arrived in South Australia in the early 1850s. He gained employment in Adelaide, saving his money before travelling to Victoria and selecting land just west of Lake Linlithgow near Penshurst.  In 1865, Friedrich married Anna Harnath and they went on to have twelve children. Friedrich was buried at the Tabor Cemetery.

Euphemia Adamson WALKER  – Died 23 January 1937 at Hamilton. Euphemia Walker was born at Dixie Estate, Camperdown around 1856.  Her father was Duncan Walker. In 1881, Euphemia married John Smith, manager at The Sisters and later Mount Noorat for Niel Black.

"Family Notices" The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 4 May 1881: .

“Family Notices” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 4 May 1881: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5988835&gt;.

In late 1885, John in partnership with Messrs Black Bros. sons of Niel Black purchased Grassdale Estate near Merino.

 J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/215963

GRASSDALE ESTATE HOMESTEAD. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/215963

Eventually, John became sole owner of the property and he and Euphemia went on to have three sons. During 1890, John was of ill health and spent three months recuperating in Camperdown, while Euphemia’s brother managed Grassdale.  In just a few years at Grassdale, Euphemia was receiving praise for her garden, a restoration of the garden of the former owner, John Coldham.

smith

"IN THE WANNON COUNTRY." The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946) 3 January 1891: .

“IN THE WANNON COUNTRY.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 3 January 1891: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140168027&gt;.

Euphemia was Presbyterian and taught Sunday School at Tahara. Meanwhile, John was a councillor with the Portland Shire. In November 1905, the 9000 acres of Grassdale Estate was subdivided into seventy-five lots and sold at auction.  John and Euphemia remained at Grassdale.  During February 1915, Euphemia and John’s son Eion Lindsay Smith sailed for Egypt with the 8th Light Horse Regiment. Eoin was killed at Gallipoli on 27 June 1915.  John Smith died at Grassdale in 1921 and Euphemia moved to Hamilton, residing at Coela in Gray Street and attended St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

Charles Arthur LEY – Died 17 January 1943 at Casterton.  Charles Ley was born in a shepherd’s hut on Dunrobin Station around 1860.  His education was limited to learning from his parents and a man known as Ben.  Charles first worked for Mr Target who founded the Casterton News, next for the proprietor of the Glenelg Inn at Casterton.  After a stint working with a butcher, delivering meat on horseback, Charles worked on the railway line between Henty and Sandford.  In 1885, he married Annie Cotter and he began work for James McPherson at Nangella.  From Nangella, Charles worked at Muntham, Wando Vale and Bella Vista until 1889. He then turned to share farming at Bella Vista and finally in 1912, Charles settled on an allotment from the subdivision of Dunrobin Station where he started life.  Charles was survived by three sons and two daughters.

Sarah Harriet Ann WARREN – Died 13 January 1950 at Cobden.  Sarah Cooke was born around 1877 at Elaine and in 1898 she married Jens Rasmussen at Ballarat. In 1907, they moved to Cobden and ran a boarding house in Curdie Street opposite the Cobden Catholic Church for twenty-five years. Sarah attended Cobden’s St Mary’s Church of England. During WW1, Jens enlisted at the age of forty-three and left for France in January 1916, serving with the 2nd Tunnelling Company before returning to Australia in 1918. Moving on from the boarding house, Jens and Sarah bought a farm at Jancourt East where they remained until a few years before Sarah’s death when they returned to Cobden in retirement.  On  25 December 1949, Sarah and Jens celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary and within weeks, Sarah died aged seventy-three. She left four sons, one daughter and thirteen grandchildren.  Jens, around four years older than his late wife, remarried in 1952 but died around six weeks later during June 1952.

Trove Tuesday – Ladies of the Night

It is not surprising Pam Jennings was able to write three volumes of her book, Wild and Wondrous Women of Geelong if this week’s Trove Tuesday article from the Boxing Day, 1848 edition of the  Geelong Advertiser  is anything to go by.  Not only that,  my own wild and wondrous ggg grandmother Ellen Barry and her sister Mary were living in Geelong at the time and I have found references to both of them in Volume 3 (1870-1879).  Despite Ellen’s vices, I doubt she would have been the type to take a ride in Geelong’s “nuisance” cab.

CHRISTMAS. (1848, December 26). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1847 - 1851), p. 2 Edition: MORNING. Retrieved May 21, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93133214

CHRISTMAS. (1848, December 26). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1847 – 1851), p. 2 Edition: MORNING. Retrieved May 21, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93133214

Soon we will be able to read more from the Geelong Advertiser on Trove, with issues from 1857 to 1918 due to be added in the 2013/14 financial year.  This is exciting news for anyone with family in Geelong, including myself, but also Western District researchers.  You can read more about it on the Geelong and District blog.

 

Trove Tuesday – A Whale of a Time

I stumbled across this little gem only because it shared a page with an article I believe is about the sister of my ggg grandmother Ellen Barry.  That article from The Argus of June 1, 1849,  mentions a Mary Walker, the married name of Mary Barry.  Why do I think it is about my Mary Walker?  Aside from the fact she was living in Melbourne then, the article is under the heading “Police Office” with Mary and another woman described as “two notorious termagants”.  My Mary Walker caused an immigration agent to lose his bounty on her, thanks to her disruptive behavior on the voyage from Ireland to Port Phillip.

As I rolled my eyes at possibly another discovery of a misdemeanor by one of the Barry girls, I noticed this little snippet two columns over.

Domestic Intelligence. (1849, June 1). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 1 Supplement: Supplement to the Argus.. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4765656

Great news for the whales! At last their winter home in the seas off the south-west of Victoria was safe to visit again.  Whaling was a huge industry at  both Portland and Port Fairy with Portland’s first whaling station established in 1833 and  Port Fairy’s  in 1835. By the 1840s, few whales existed and whaling was no longer considered commercially viable and the whaling stations closed.

As the article notes, by the end of the 1840s, whales where appearing again.  Today,their descendants visit the waters of Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland and have become a huge boost to tourism during the colder months.  Warrnambool particularly has benefited from  whale watching, however this year the main attractions have made only brief visits, preferring Port Fairy, with daily sightings close to shore of up to 13 whales.   Portland too has had whales and over the past few days a whale and her calf have been off the breakwater, oblivious to the slaughters over 170 years ago.

A Tragic Night – 24 January 1882

Late on 24 January 1882, Mrs Ellen Gamble of Colac was lonely.  Calling at her son’s home, a few doors from her own cottage, she tried to persuade him to drink rum with her.  He refused, so she suggested her six-year-old granddaughter, Mary Ann,  go home with her for company.  Thankfully, the child was already asleep and her mother refused.  Ellen returned to her empty home and continued to drink.  Her husband lived elsewhere in the town, probably because of her intemperance. At some point in the late hours of the day, an incident occurred, most likely involving a candle, which would see her small weatherboard cottage quickly go up in flames.  With the fire doused, little remained.  That night my ggg grandmother made the news.  It may not have been the first time, but it would be the last.

A WOMAN BURNT TO DEATH. (1882, January 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 8. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11530343

 

ACCIDENTS AND OFFENCES. (1882, February 22). Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1876 – 1889), p. 22. Retrieved January 23, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63185567

How did a woman, in her late fifties and mother of seven come to live this seemingly lonely, drunken existence?

Ellen Barry was born in Ireland around 1823, the daughter of Edward Barry and Johanna Gould.  It was some time before I had any leads on her arrival in Australia, but I knew it was early as I had found her marriage in 1844 to Thomas Gamble.  Thanks to the website Came to Port Phillip by 1847, I was able to find out more not only of her arrival, but her character.

There are three “Ellen Barrys” listed on the site.  One is a seventeen-year-old from Tipperary, Ireland arriving in December 1840 aboard the Orient with her older sister Mary.  I decided to trace Mary Barry and found her marriage to Robert Walker in 1841, time spent in Colac in 1852 and her death in 1905. Her parents were Edward Barry and Johanna Gould.  Through Mary, I had found my Ellen.

The girls were bounty passengers. Something that made me think I had found the right girls was a report on the voyage.  Mary, nineteen, and a group of up to twenty girls were disruptive during the trip and Mary’s bounty was withheld from the immigration agent, Mr Marshall.  Allegations included them causing problems among the married couples and distracting the crew from their work.  One can only imagine the behaviour they were engaging in.

Port Phillip. (1841, January 21). Australasian Chronicle (Sydney, NSW : 1839 – 1843), p. 2. Retrieved January 24, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31730577

Bawdy Irish girls were not the only cargo on the ship making the news.  A pipe organ for St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney was a much-anticipated arrival, as reported in the Australian Chronicle (Sydney 1839-1849) on 26 January 26 1841. Sadly too, it came to a fiery end in 1865 when the Cathedral was destroyed by fire, as reported in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser on 1 July 1865.

DESTRUCTION OF ST. MARY’S CATHEDRAL, IN SYDNEY, BY FIRE. (1865, July 1). The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), p. 3. Retrieved January 24, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18696838

Also on board was a pure bred Durham bull imported by none other than immigration agent, Mr Marshall.  It appears to have been better cared for than the human cargo.

Port Phillip. (1841, January 4). The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser (NSW : 1838 – 1841), p. 2 Edition: MORNING. Retrieved January 24, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32187808

After finding a reference to Ellen in the book “St Mary’s Geelong: It’s Founding Community“, a check of the Orient passenger list was called for as the Biographical Index in the book, lists Ellen,  (Helen in the book) as arriving on the Thetis in 1842 with a sister Mary.  The passenger lists are available online at  NSW State Records.  The list for the Orient shows Ellen, seventeen and Mary, nineteen from Tipperary, Ireland, Roman Catholic, neither able to read or write and their occupations were housemaids.  The passenger list for the Thetis had only an Anne Barry aged twenty-seven from Clare, no Ellen or Mary.

Ellen stayed in Melbourne after her arrival and in 1844 she married Thomas Gamble at St Francis Catholic Church, Victoria’s first Catholic church. 

ST. FRANCIS CHURCH, MELBOURNE 1845. Image printed from stone by Thomas Ham. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/108235

ST. FRANCIS CHURCH, MELBOURNE 1845. Image printed from stone by Thomas Ham. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/108235

Their first child, Matthew, my gg grandfather, was born in Newtown in 1845.  “St Mary’s Geelong: It’s Founding Community” mentions early church records showing his birthplace as the Newtown which became Collingwood.

Edward was born in 1847. The Ancestry Australian Birth Index shows his birthplace as Ashbourne, near Woodend.  I tend to think it is Ashby, Geelong, later to become Geelong West, as third son Mark Thomas was born in 1851 at Kildare, Geelong, now also known as Geelong West.

Soon after, the Gamble family moved to Colac as brickmaker Thomas had a job opportunity in the town.  The move would see him set up a brick making business in Colac.

Thanks to the wonderful Geelong and District database, I was able to find the also wonderful, award-winning online  Colac Court of Petty Sessions register 1849-1865.  It is a pleasure to read the digital images of the register and to see the original handwriting.  Ellen appeared seven times from 1851 to 1860.  Most offences stemmed from drunkenness.

  •  December 1851 – faced the Colac court for being drunk – charge dismissed.
  • Monday 9 October 1854 – faced court for being drunk on Rice’s Licensed Premises – fined  £2
  • 2 January 1856 – unknown charge – fined  £2
  • 30 May 1857 –  fined 2/7 for breaking glass
  • 5 July 1857 – drunk and using obscene language – dismissed
  • 22 July 1857 – drunk in a public place £1  fine – if not paid “to be locked up for one week”
  • 30 October 1860 – drunk

Ellen was aged twenty-five to thirty-four during this time and by 1861 she had seven children, the eldest fifteen and four under five.  She had babies in 1851, 1856 and 1857 when five of the offences were committed.

It seems Ellen left a legacy.  Her son William Gamble faced court for a domestic dispute with his wife’s sister and husband.  A grandson, Robert Gamble, faced court for petty crimes and at one stage was in imprisoned in a reformatory and escaped!  Another grandson, Joseph Henry Gamble, my great-grandfather also battled with alcohol, committed petty crimes and died alone, estranged from his family.

That brings us back to 1882 and the night Ellen died in such sad circumstances, which saw her reported in the papers as either an old or elderly woman.  Sadly her last newspaper account was not a glowing obituary such as those posted at Passing of the Pioneers.  She was a pioneer, one of the early ones, normally held in high regard, yet Ellen was remembered as an old drunken woman who died in a fire. To date, I have found twelve different newspaper reports on her death and I am sure I will find more, not only of that fateful day but her earlier activities.

There is a reference to Ellen in the book “Wild and Wondrous Women of Geelong“, this time as a victim of an attack by another woman, but I doubt it was without provocation.  That is how I like to remember Ellen, one of my favourite ancestors, as a “Wild and Wondrous Woman”.

MORE ABOUT ELLEN BARRY

Ellen’s Inquest

Ellen’s Incarceration

Misadventures, Deaths and Near Misses

You have found your ancestor’s date of death, but you are wondering how they died.  You could buy a death certificate, but a certificate for all relatives can be a costly business.  Newspapers are the answer.  With the growing number of Australian newspapers available to search at Trove, there is a good chance you may find an article on your relative’s demise.  In turn, it may lead to an obituary which can also be a wealth of information, but I will discuss those in a future post.

When I began reading old newspapers, I was amazed at the number of deaths and accidents reported, compared to today’s papers.  It seemed even the smallest of accidents could make newspapers right around Australia.  Death reports were explicit and sparing little detail.  However, despite the nature of these reports, I do find them intriguing reading and they can show when, where and how a family member died.  Also accident reports show information that you may never have found otherwise.  I may never have known that my great great grandmother lost the top of her finger or my great great aunt was bitten by a snake.

Horse related accidents were naturally common whether  falls or buggy accidents.  As the years passed, motor cars where the culprits, with many stories of them rolling or hitting trees.  The increasing number of  motor cars also caused some problems for those still using horses as their main source of transport.  Fire was also a common cause of death or accidents.  Candles, coppers and fire places all increased the risk of burns.

Following are some examples of deaths and accidents involving my family members found in the papers at Trove:

Charles Bishop worked at Weerangourt Station, Byaduk,  but I found he also died there.  While chopping wood in 1916,he suffered heart failure and died at the age of 60.   I found this reported in four newspapers.

I feel sorry for poor James Elston.  He died at only 21.  The first article I found on him was in 1901, eight years before he died.  James had broken his leg, but this was the fifth break in two years.  He was sent to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.  The Barrier Miner published in Broken Hill reported the accident as a possible record breaker.

A Marino Boy Puts Up a Record. (1901, August 29). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888-1954), p. 2. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44302344

In March, 1908, James was back in hospital.  He had been thrown from a buggy and fell on a fence.  As a result he fractured his spine between the shoulder blades and was crippled, his condition critical.  In January 1909, it was report that James had succumbed to injuries at the Hamilton Hospital.

Robert McClintock died from heart strain and tetanus as a result of chasing a fox.  This was in 1913 and Robert was only 18.  I decided to search Trove with the phrase “chasing a fox” and it threw up many articles about  deaths and accidents incurred while chasing foxes.  Some had fallen from horses, others accidentally shot by themselves or others died  the way of Robert McClintock.

Jane Diwell’s death in 1909 demonstrates the dangers women faced doing simple housekeeping tasks.  Married to Samuel Hazeldine,  Jane was in a back shed at their home in Murtoa boiling up beeswax and turpentine, when her clothes caught fire.  Despite desperate attempts by her husband to save her, she died from her burns.  Samuel received severe burns to his hands.

Frederick Hazeldine of Murtoa, was watching the eclipse of the sun in 1910, when the 10 year old slipped off a fence and broke his arm

Frank Coulson was only 17 when he met his fate in 1935.  His body was found near Digby.  He had sustained a fractured skull and his pony’s saddle and bridle were lying close by.  Different articles tried to offer and explanation to his death from having been kicked in the head by the pony or haven fallen awkwardly as the pony jumped a fence.

George Gamble lost his life after a cave in at the Colac Brick Works in 1910.  He was dug out but later died at the Colac Hospital,

Mary Jane Hodgins(Mrs Matthew Gamble, below), my great great grandmother,  lost the top of her finger in an accident involving a horse.  Notice that this took place in Colac, Victoria, but was reported as far away as Maitland, New South Wales

GENERAL NEWS. (1877, September 1). The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843-1893), p. 7. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18829977

In 1906, Amy Margaret Bubb, Mrs Benjamin Combridge, was bitten by a snake which had hidden in a mattress.  Her daughter Amy was darning the mattress and noticed something she thought was mice, moving inside.  She called her mother who hit the mattress and was bitten by a black snake on the wrist.  Young Amy ran to the neighbours’ house almost a kilometre away through paddocks and returned with a Mrs Arklay.  By this time, Amy snr’s arm was black.  Mrs Arklay made an incision and drew black blood from the wound which saved Amy.  This article ran in Tasmania and Adelaide as well as The Argus.

I had known that my great, great, great grandfather William Diwell had died in a fall at the Merino Flour Mill in 1871, but I have since found that he was severely injured three years earlier.  In 1868, the Merino school-house verandah was falling down, so William volunteered to remove it.  Part of the verandah fell on him and his was pulled out suffering a severe head injury.  By all accounts if the full verandah had of fell on him he would have been crushed to death.  He was 43 at the time and I think he may have been lucky to make it 46 when he did die.

The most gruesome article I have ready about one of my family members, is that of my great, great, great grandmother Ellen Barry, Mrs Gamble.  Ellen was a feisty Irish woman, often in the courts and rather fond of a drink.  One night in January 1882, Ellen was home alone in her cottage in Colac, when a fire broke out.  The next day, the coroner found that due to Ellen’s propensity for a tipple, it was most likely she had knocked a candle which started the fire.

A WOMAN BURNT TO DEATH. (1882, January 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), p. 8. Retrieved June 5, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11530343

These few examples prove how much you can find out about  your ancestor’s death, not to mention their life before death.  If you are using Trove, it is useful to search  all the papers available because as Mary Jane Hodgins’ accident  shows, incidents can be reported interstate.  You can use filters to narrow your search down, particularly if you have a specific date.

In a future post I will share some of the other articles I have found which don’t relate to my family, but show the value of these stories in developing an understanding of  how precarious life could be for those living in the 19th and early 20th century.  We can also learn how death was considered in those times by the style of writing and the depth of description.  Most importantly for family historians, our ancestors become more than just a one-dimensional date on a page.