Tag Archives: Bishop

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.


The Harmans of Byaduk

I grew up in Hamilton, with Byaduk only about 20 kilometres from my home.  I passed through it on trips to coastal Port Fairy, visited the nearby dormant volcano Mt Napier with school and heard stories about the Byaduk caves.  Never for a minute did I know that I had any link to the small town with its drystone fences and rocky paddocks.

I  had heard of the Harmans from the conversations of my great uncles and aunties,  but when I asked who they were Nana would just say they are “cousins”, so I figured they were not that closely related.  It was not until I started finding out more about my family tree and Nana told me all the names she knew, I discovered that her mother Sarah was a Harman.

My Great Grandmother Sarah Elizabeth Harman

When first researching, I would look through records for certain family names and would often come up with very little. That was until I started on the Harmans.  There was loads of information and they soon became my favourite family, and not just for the ease of researching them.  I discovered an upstanding, religious family that always dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.  A family that got involved in the community whether it be building schools, ploughing competitions, the Methodist church or the Farmers Union.  Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s,  they were a well known family in the district.

Coming to Australia in three separate groups, Joseph and Sarah Harman and their mostly grown up children, reunited in Port Fairy during the mid 1850s.  They established themselves in the town, but with the land opening up in 1861 they moved to newly settled Byaduk around 1863.  Joseph was the first boot maker in the town, while  sons James, Jonathon and Reuben began farming the stony land.  George, who was second eldest, seemed to have no wish to farm and by the late 1860s had returned to Port Fairy where he worked for the local council.

The family grew and by the turn of the century another generation of Harmans were raising families with the union of marriage linking them to other well  known families in the district, including the Kinghorns, Bishops and Olivers.  The family was also beginning to branch out to other parts of the state, including Gippsland. In 1907, three members of the Harman family appear in a photograph of Byaduk pioneers, James, Jonathan and Reuben’s wife Elizabeth.

Byaduk Pioneers 1907

I eventually left Hamilton and did not return to Byaduk until the 1990s to visit the cemetery.  By this time I knew something of the Harman’s standing in the community but had not realised that there was so much recognition of it.  While not that surprised to find a road named after them, I was surprised the Byaduk Caves had names Harman’s Cave No 1 and Harman’s Cave No 2 and that the volcanic lava flow that runs from Mt Napier to Byaduk is called “Harman Valley”.  Also the Byaduk area has been recognised as part of the Kanawika Global Geopark

The Harman Valley, Byaduk

The name of Harman is not common in  Byaduk today but I am proud that ongoing recognition of their presence there is ensured.


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