Fence the dams, the town cried

Charters Towers, 1885 – The drowning death of Nell Richards led for calls for the town’s dams to be fenced before any more children were lost.

Elizabeth Ellen, known as Nell, was watching her younger sister bathe with several other children at  Mr Mill’s dam at the top end of Mosman Street. Nell was on the bank minding “the baby’’, gender unknown.

When her sister got into trouble, having gone beyond her depth, Nell rushed in and pulled her to shallower water.

But somehow she had gotten herself into difficulty, and was lost to view.

The turmoil of the other children attracted the attention of a man who lived nearby.

“He lost no time in hurrying down, and plunged in where the girl had disappeared.

Nelliel is buried in Charter’s Tower’s historical cemetery. Images Sharyn Moodie 2021

“The water was twelve feet deep at this point; he dived and found the child, but she was then quite dead, having been nearly a quarter of an hour in the water.

“The father of the child (William) arrived just as she was brought out of the water a corpse.

“Great sympathy is felt for poor Richards and his wife. They are not in good circumstances, and have had many troubles within the past few years,” said the Northern Miner.

The newpaper went on to say that there had been fear of such a drowning among the children bathing in the town’s two dams.

“There is a dam at the top and another at the bottom of Mosman Street, both traps for human life, and the Municipal Council is bound to see that they are properly fenced in by zinc fences, so that children cannot get at them.

The town’s other dam, Plants dam, was also unfenced. Mosman Street can be seen running through the image. Image courtesy of State Library of Queensland.

 “It would be for the public safety that they were moved farther away, but, at any rate, there is no excuse for farther delay in fencing them, so as to protect the children of the town from drowning.

Sources: Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, Saturday 10 January 1885, p5

The Northern Miner, Thursday 8 January 1885, p2

Charters Towers, Qld

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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