Amputation saved life – briefly

1880 – Henry Yelverton was considered the most experienced timber merchant in the colony of Western Australia.

Henry Yelverton’s gravestone is almost illegible and some of the information on it is incorrect.

Yelverton was the man responsible for supplying timber for and constructing the Busselton jetty, the 1.8k heritage-listed landmark and major tourist attraction.

He was certainly one of the richest men in the region. As well as his timber mills, he had interests in a whaling station, an inn, a flour mill and smuggled tobacco. He was bankrupt twice, but recovered.  

He also initially recovered when a large log crushed him in January 1880.

He was supervising his timber operations at Quindalup when a log  weighing many tons was being moved up skids into position for being sawn.

But the chains pulling it snapped and the log rolled back over Yelverton’s body.

According to an information sign at Yelverton’s grave in Busselton’s historic cemetery, he instructed his foreman on how to amputate his leg. A hut was then built over him, as he was too unwell to be moved.

It is not known how long he stayed there, but by the day of his death  on April he had moved the several miles to his own house and was up and about using crutches.

He had performed his toiletry duties and gone outside, where he was talking to a man sharpening a saw.

His daughter, who was making his breakfast, saw him stumble.

When she went up to him he was in the agonies of death. He attempted to speak, but the words died on his lips, and in a few seconds, life was extinct.

west australian

It was April 1, 1880 and he was aged about 59  – his headstone says his date of death was April 1,  1888, aged 57.  Contemporaneous newspaper reports prove that year wrong however.

His wife Mary was laid to rest alongside him, as well as one of their 11 children.

Yelverton’s cracked headstone lies above his grave in Busselton’s historic cemetery. Image Sharyn Moodie 2020.

The timbers of the Busselton jetty. Images Sharyn Moodie 2020.

For more stories from Busselton’s historic cemetery, follow this link.

Busselton WA


Robertson, JR 2006, Australian Dictionary of Biography at

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), Tuesday 13 April 1880 – Page 3

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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