Joseph Henry Jones – Joe The Quacker
Today I was very excited to see my very first article was published in Australian Family Tree Connections Magazine, September 2011 Issue.
I decided to submit this article because I think that my Great Great Grandfather Joseph Henry Jones has the best obituary I have ever read. They definitely don’t write them like this any more. Here is the obituary and my article as published.
From: Jamieson Chronicle, Saturday, November 9, 1895
Our representative at Gaffney’s Creek, The Other Vagabond reports: One of those horrible discoveries, which makes the most hardened of us shudder, was made on Wednesday last, by Mounted Constable Polmear. He had that morning received information that a man named Joseph Jones, an alluvial miner who was ‘a hatter’, on the Goulburn River, a few miles above Knockwood, had not been seen at his home for nearly 3 weeks. The energetic constable at once set about finding the missing digger. The result of shrewd and careful inquries caused him to take an old and unused bush track leading from Luarville, to the German Spur. Mr. James Cadam accompanied Mr. Polmear, and they had not proceeded more than a quarter of a mile from the Commercial Hotel, when the gruesome spectacle of poor Joe’s dead body, in a very advanced stage of decomposition, barred the way. The unfortunate man, who was known by the sobriquet of ‘Joe the Quacker’, had taken this track as a shortcut to his temporary home on the Goulburn River, never dreaming, no doubt, that instead of reaching his camp in good time, he would never see it again; that he would die a lonely and miserable death, within sight of the houses and active bustling humanity. He was about 60 years of age and though not of robust constitution, was lively and active but….Ah, the but….Joe had periodical failings. ‘Tis the old, old, very old story; an empty whiskey bottle; an empty pain killer bottle; a grinning corpse; a ghastly spectacle; a noisome thing; a hideous putrid mass to be tumbled into a coffin to fill a pauper’s grave; just one more nameless mound, which will for a short time mark the spot, where a little of the flotsam and jetsam of the bush were covered up out of sight. But the remains of unfortunate Joes are not buried as I write. The putrefactive remnants lie in an outhouse at the Commercial Hotel awaiting official enquiry.
My Great Great Grandfather Joseph Henry Jones, for many years, was my brickwall. I had followed his life until he seemed to disappear, after the death of his wife, Ellen Virginia Lowe, in 1872. This was followed soon after, by the death of his youngest child, Avonia, who was only 4 months old at the time her mother passed away. Sadly Avonia died from starvation, or ‘want of breastmilk’, as stated on her death certificate.
Joe was left with seven children to care for, ageing from 16 years down to Avonia aged 4 months. Unfortunately there was more tragedy and sadness for Joe in the coming years. In 1974, daughter Catherine Virginia passed away from epilepsy, age 12, followed by their son William Lowe at age 18, in 1893.
I had given up searching for any trace of Joe, after losing his trail, until another researcher alerted me to the death of his oldest child, Thomas James in a mining accident at Darlingford, Victoria in 1893. It was both exciting and sad to read the evidence he gave at the inquest. It seems father and son had been working side by side in the mine. While Joe went to put the billy on there was a landslide in the mine, and his son lost his life.
This led me to his death certificate, where I found that sadly, Joseph had been lying dead in the bush for a number of days before his death was discovered.
The lesson in this story of my brick wall is to keep in contact with other researchers who are following other branches of your family. You just never know what tiny snippet of information might be exactly what you are missing. This is the only way I found old Joe again. If not for comparing our research and keeping each other up to date with our progress, I would never have found Joe or read his obituary.
And what an obituary it is. I love the colourful writing and the dramatic tone of this obituary. How the obituaries we read in old newspapers differ from today. They make much more interesting reading than those of today, and definitely leave us feeling that we know the person being remembered
The Jamieson and Woods Point Chronicle; Victorian BDM Records; Victorian Inquest Records