Saturday, August 31, 2013

Deaths in Franklin, Tasmania

Today I discovered that I can check out the registered deaths in Tasmania in the 1800s on the Family Search website. My great great grandfather Dr William Lee Dawson was the medical officer in Franklin from 1854 until his death in 1871. More that twenty years ago, I had perused these records to discover what were the causes of death in Franklin and what types of cases Dr Dawson may have come across. Now that I can access them from home I have decided to take a more indepth look. So far it’s not looking good for newborns and babies under the age of one. However this is not the purpose of this post. 

On 16th October 1858, five people were accidentally killed by the felling of a tree. Those who lost their lives were settler Peter McEwen 45, farmer James Watson 19, Annie Montgomery 12, John McEwen 6 and labourer William Wellgrave 50. 


Family Search - Franklin Deaths 1858


I always wondered what happened to them. After rediscovering them today I decided to go to Trove. This is the first reference to the incident that I discovered.


The Hobart Town Daily Mercury, 20th october 1858, p. 3
THE LATE FATAL ACCIDENT AT THE HUON
The Steamer Culloden arrived from the Huon shortly after 5 o'clock last evening bringing some additional particulars of the late fatal accident at Long Bay. Mr Pitcher, the Schoolmaster was still alive when the Calloden left the Huon yesterday, and some hopes were entertained of his ultimate recovery. An inquest was held on Tuesday at Port Esperance, before the Coroner of the District, E.A. Walpole Esq. to enquire into the circumstances connected with the death of the unfortunate victims of the late catastrophe, when a verdict of accidental death was returned in each case. The body of Mr James Watson was yesterday brought to town for interment by the Culloden, the vessel having her ensign lowered half-mast as she came up the river. A great number of persons awaited the arrival of the Steamer at the Wharf, anxious no doubt to learn any additional particulars connected with this fatal occurrence, which has created no inconsiderable excitement in Hobart Town and the vicinity.

Although those who died ranged in age from 6 to 50, I had always imagined that it was a tree felling accident. However, that was not the case.

The Courier (Hobart), 19 October 1858, p. 4


SHOCKING ACCIDENT AT PORT ESPERANCE
The following appeared in our Town Edition yesterday : -
Since the calamitous fire in January 1854, when so many persons were burnt to death, there has not occurred in the colony a single accident with the loss of so many lives as that we are about to record. On Saturday last at about one o'clock, six persons, vis - Mr James Watson (son of the late Mr George Watson), Thomas McEwen, his two children (the eldest aged 14 years), Mr Pitcher, the schoolmaster of the place, and a man whose name is not yet ascertained, were taking shelter from a shower of rain in a small uninhabited hut usually termed by splitters 'a badger box', an immense gum-tree was blown down, and fell exactly on the hut. It seems that the widely-spreadng branches of the tree so enveloped the whole of the unfortunate inmates as to prevent escape, for they were all crushed beneath it. The only one who at present survives is Mr Pitcher, but very little hope is entertained of his life. The mangled remains of the five bodies present a melancholy spectacle. An inquest was to be held at twelve o'clock this day (Monday), at Port Esperance, before Mr Walpole, Coroner. The scene of this sad accident is not more than one hundred yards from where a lady, some few years ago, was killed in her house by the fall of a tree.


Even now not all is neatly tidied up. I don't know if Mr Pitcher died as a result of his injuries. He did not die in the Franklin district during the next 5 months. I presume Annie Montgomery was one of the two children of Thomas McEwen. Was she the daughter of his wife?


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