Thursday, 16 January 2014

Hawkeye 1891






A Waihi man tied to a boiler had a miraculous escape from death.  The large boiler, for a new steam engine at the Waihi mine, was being transported in a cart drawn by two horses.  The roads on the way to Waihi were well known to be of a particularly rough nature and the boiler was jolted a great deal.  To save the driver, Mr Crimmins, from the effects of the jolting he was bound to the boiler.  All went well for 20 miles but coming to the scene of the work there was a very rough bit of road and it was suggested the courageous Mr Crimmins be untied.  The bonds were loosened and the dray started off again.  A moment later the dray, boiler and horses all toppled over an embankment.  Mr Crimmins, being of light build, shot ahead.  As he looked up he saw the boiler coming after him and he leapt out of the way.  The boiler leapt also, Mr Crimmins jumped again and got clear of danger.  The boiler was not injured in any way.

The social and intellectual sphere of Tapu were delighted with their Mutual Improvement Association.  It had a first class president in Mr Samuel Cooper, and the Secretary and Treasurer were tireless in providing stimulating matter for the Saturday evening programmes.  One meeting was devoted entirely to songs, essays and recitations and another to the vexing question "Are Trade Unions beneficial to society at large?"  This subject occupied the whole of the evening and was "well ventilated."  Coming programmes included the early history of Tapu and readings from Mr Charles Dickens.   There was a good sprinkling of the fairer sex at the meetings and "there is no doubt as we progress the thing will become quite popular...it is a step in the right direction as it supplies our youth with matter which may prove useful to them as they grow up in years."

 The disgraceful state of the Thames to Tairua road bore out the Tairua correspondent's prophecy of an accident waiting to happen.   Constable Joyce's horse put a hoof into one of the plentiful potholes that pitted the road throwing him heavily to the ground.  Mr H Laycock, who was accompanying the constable, went to his assistance.  The constable was in a dazed and stupefied condition and after a great deal of exertion Mr Laycocok managed to get him on his horse and led him back to the hotel.  The concussed constable remained confused for three hours before he realised what had happened to him.  He was quite delirious through the night but  towards morning  an improvement took place and he was brought home.  Constable Joyce had a suspected dislocated shoulder or a broken collarbone but as there was no doctor in Tairua it was hard to say which.  Did Thames councilors intend to keep Tairua people waiting until the road got so bad that communication was entirely cut off between Tairua and Thames before something was done?

The new telephone line from Paeroa to Waihi was nearly complete.  Mr Martin, the linesman, had had a difficult job with the work, which was however, most satisfactory.  The line ran via Karangahake and Mr D Campbell was to work the Waihi end.

Mr Andrew Fleming, cattle salesman of Parawai, visited Paeroa with a view to arranging cattle sales in that town.  "This will be a good boon to the district which rears a large number of store cattle  and is a good market for fat cattle."

"WANTED - 10 young ladies to travel the Australian colonies.  Apply to Mrs Webbe, Allaways Boarding House, after arrival of Argyle on Wednesday."


© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The husband is quite distracted.




Early Thames - rudimentary amenities were often death traps. (Looking south from Irishtown.)


         The husband is quite distracted.

            Rebecca Brown, 1873, Shortland cemetery.



"Mamma is down the well,"   five year old Janet Brown told her astonished neighbour Mrs Powell shortly before noon  in May 1873.  Mrs Powell, her husband and some other neighbours rushed to the well in  Murphy's Lane, Block 27 at  Shortland, Thames where they saw Rebecca Brown immersed in about four foot of water.


Thomas Johnston, a miner, immediately climbed into the well.   He kept Rebecca's head above water but feared she was dead.  Dr Lethbridge was sent for.  Rebecca was pulled up from the well and frantic efforts to revive her  were made by the gathered neighbours. 

To his horror Mr Johnson then felt the body of a  child at the bottom of the well. 

Dr Lethbridge arrived, but it was too late, both mother and child were dead.

Rebecca was in the habit of inspecting the well daily to see what water was in it.  It was supposed she was in the act of looking down with her small daughter, Sarah, in her arms when she became giddy and fell in.  Rebecca had just weaned the child who had "been ailing from the effects of the milk."

 The sad affair cast quite a gloom over the neighbourhood.  "The husband is quite distracted," reported the  Daily Southern Cross.  He was left with two children - a boy and a girl.

The funeral of Rebecca Brown, aged 36,  was largely attended with many women and children present.

An inquest was held at the Globe Hotel in Rolleston Street.  Henry Brown, miner,  stated  he last saw his wife at 6.30 in the morning.  He was sent for about 2 that afternoon and when he arrived  home he found his wife and child dead.

The well was about three feet wide, 12 or 13 feet deep and had about four feet of water in it.
It  had not been in use for some time and  was always covered over with a lid.   Rebecca was  careful in keeping the well covered. 

Five year old Janet Brown told her father that her mother went down to the earth closet at the end of garden.  She took the baby with her.  Her mother went to look at  the water in the well, when the baby fell down and her mother jumped down after it.  The little girl looked down the well and seeing her mother's hair, went for Mrs Powell.

When carefully and kindly  questioned at the inquest  Janet said her mother had a bad finger and the baby wrestled out of her hand.  She saw her mother jump down after the baby.

Two of the jurymen - who were also neighbours and had been present at the time - believed Rebecca was still alive when Thomas Johnston went down the well.  To Dr Lethbridge she appeared quite dead, but as he was informed there seemed to be some signs of life, he tried resuscitation but without effect.  He felt Rebecca had fainted at the same time she fell into the well.  He could not see how she could be drowned in so little water.

The jury returned the verdict that Mrs Brown  "accidentally drowned in a well while endeavouring to save her child and that the death of the child was caused by its falling into a well."

Rebecca Brown and Sarah Brown were buried in the same coffin at Shortland cemetery.


 Drowning in wells in the early days of European settlement was a frequent cause of death - children and the elderly were usually the victims.

 Collecting water in the 1880s and early 1900s was a daily chore before town water supplies were introduced.  Many collected water from their roofs into wooden barrels while others had wells.  The need for water in keeping a house running meant it was quite a preoccupation of the housewife who had to carry it by the bucket load.  Clothes washing, mopping wooden floors, cleaning dishes, cooking, drinking, bathing, keeping animals and vegetable gardens watered, wetting early earthen floors and keeping surfaces wiped free of the incessant dust all called for frequent visits to the well.



In 1869, four years before Mrs Brown's drowning,  James Charles Smith, a little boy, was found drowned in a well near the English Church, Shortland at the Thames Goldfield.  At the inquest the jury returned a verdict of "accidental death".   A rider was added that it was desirable that all uncovered wells should be fenced in or otherwise protected so as to prevent accidents of this nature.

Two years later  a little boy called Norton, aged two, fell into an open well in his backyard  at the rear of the Odd Fellows Hall, Richmond Street.  A man named Creeny was passing at the time and came to the assistance of the mother, lifting the "poor little fellow" out of the water.  Dr Fox was sent for and immediately applied the usual remedies - but all efforts to restore animation were unsuccessful. 

At Paeroa in 1907 a three and a half year old Maori boy drowned at Awaiti Pa.   His mother and adopted mother gave evidence at the inquest that he was playing in the corn and when he was missed a search was made and his body found in the well.

In 1912,  18 month old Arthur James Turner of Port Charles  went missing from his family home of Hillside Farm, Moehau.   His parents, after searching for him,  found him in the well at the back of the house. 


(Source Papers Past, Sir George Grey Special Collections AWNS 7-A16669 )  


© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014