The decaying grave of Mr William John Spencer who lost his life digging a well.
The decaying grave of Mr William John Spencer who lost his life digging a well. Samantha Elley

A LOOK BACK: Spencer digs a hole only to lose his life

WILLIAM John Spencer was a family man with three young children.

He would have had a whole life ahead of him and possibly more children to carry on his name, except for one sad day when he found himself working at the bottom of a well.

He was a farmer in the Deep Creek area near Casino, when he and another man were sinking a well.

Sinking a well on a farm was often an amazing engineering feat which was dug to many feet down to find water for the household or for stock.

Despite the obvious dangers of depth and cave-ins, early pioneers also had to contend with emissions of bad air, such as carbon dioxide, seeping into the space.

On this fateful day Mr Spencer was at the bottom of the well when he called out to his braceman, 'Heave up'.

The braceman responded by working the rope to pull up the bucket Mr Spencer was riding on to get him out of the well.

Unfortunately, whether already overcome by fumes or he slipped, but Mr Spencer fell off the bucket.

Newspaper reports of the day said he fell a distance of nine feet back to the bottom of the well.

The braceman raced to get help where he found Charles Junor milling corn about a quarter of a mile away.

Mr Junor went down the well but fell some distance.

When the braceman managed to find more help and the two men were extracted from the well, they were both dead.

A coroner's report held in South Casino stated:

'Accidently suffocated through an excess of carbon dioxide in a well in which they were working'.

Mr Spencer's grave now lies forlorn in Casino cemetery covered in dirt and grass.

References

Observer, Adelaide, SA Saturday, December 2, 1905

The Maitland Weekly Mercury, Saturday, December 2, 1905

Registers of Coroners Inquests 1905

The Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser, Tuesday, December 19, 1905.



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