Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Trove Tuesday: In which Lemuel is shockingly injured

Gold mining was a dangerous occupation. I have quite a few horrible stories attached to various people on my family tree, stories of men and boys trying to earn a living from digging into the earth to gain the gold (or other metals) and being injured or killed in the process. This is one of them.

In 1909 my great-grandfather's cousin, Louisa Cameron, married Lemuel Williams who was a miner. In 1917 they were both about 30 years old and living at Beechworth in northern Victoria. They had six young children.

Lemuel was badly injured in a work accident. He was working at a molybdenite mine at Everton when an unexploded explosive exploded. [Don't you love the English language? Those last three words do actually make sense!] I had to research what molybdenite is. Apparently it is used, amongst other things, as an alloy for strengthening steel and the Everton mine was Victoria's most productive. Lemuel had charged a hole with explosive using two charges and only one fired so after a while he went to check and was standing close when the second charge fired.

Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth), 5 Dec 1917
Lemuel was taken to the Ovens District Hospital at Beechworth - that's a journey of eight miles, probably by horse and cart, that must have been dreadful - and then he was treated in the hospital for fractures on his skull and damaged eyes. What did Louisa do while he was in hospital? She had children to care for and their income had ceased so it must have been a very worrying time for them.

A month later there was a newspaper article about the state of Lemuel's health. He is deeply scarred and is still having trouble with his eyes but plans to go back to work 'in a week or two'. As it turns out that might have been a little optimistic because four months later there was another newspaper notice stating that he had only just gone back to work. So he was about five months off work and there was no such thing as unemployment benefits or compensation in those days. I wonder if his eyesight was permanently damaged.

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 5 Jan 1918
Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 5 May 1918
Lemuel and Louisa had four more children before Louisa died in 1937 at the age of 52. Lemuel married again, to Helena Roy, and lived until 1963 when he was 77 years old.

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