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THE WARRONG TRAGEDIES.

 

Whilst researching Myles Staunton and his family the following details were found on the death of his brother Michael and his family in 1877 in the Western District of Victoria.


Michael Staunton, his wife Mary and 19-year-old son John lived on a 136 acre farm, which was free title at Warrong, in the Western District of Victoria. Warrong was the aboriginal name for "place of many trees".

There are entries for a Michael Staunton, aged 24, arriving into Victoria on the "Prince Consort" in July 1861 and Mary Staunton, age 30, dairymaid, and John Staunton, age 10, arriving on the "Southern Ocean" in March, 1868.


Michael Staunton died as a result of a gunshot wound in the left side on August 15th, 1877. An inquest was held on August 16th, 1877 with a verdict of accidental death although self-inflicted. He was 41 years of age.

His son John in evidence to the inquest said his father was repairing an old horse pistol in the house and he heard a shot, turned around and saw his father with the pistol in his hand and said, "Oh father what have you done". He replied, "I am shot". He carried his father to a bed and went to a neighbor for assistance. He then rode to Belfast [Port Fairy] for a priest and doctor. Father O' Dowd came to the house but his father was dead before they arrived.

After Michael's funeral at Tower Hill Cemetery, Koroit on August 17th, 1877 a neighbor Patrick O'Brien was returning to his farm with his wife after attending the funeral the day earlier and decided to call in on the Staunton farm to see how Mrs. Staunton and John were faring. On arrival at the farm, they were welcomed by John who stated he could not get anyone to stay with his mother. [His mother actually had consumption and was not expected to live long.] Patrick O'Brien left his wife at the house and took his dray home. He later returned with his brother and found John lying on his mother's bed asleep. He went into the kitchen with his wife and brother. They were presently joined by John Staunton and Mrs. O'Brien advised John to go back, lie down and get some rest. John replied, "I have cried enough".

John then went into the skillion alone and, immediately after, the report of a gun was heard. On Patrick O'Brien trying to open the door, he found he could not but looked over and found the body of John Staunton lying against the door. He moaned two or three times but expired almost directly. He noticed he had placed the gun on a bench between two bags and laying his chest over the muzzle and shot himself - the ball manufactured from tea coverings entered his left chest and came out at the shoulder.

Patrick O'Brien stated he did not think that the lad was out of his mind, but he seemed to fret very much for the loss of his father. He had heard nothing to suppose that John had caused his father's death. O'Brien was with the father when he died and the son had gone for the priest and Michael Staunton said he was afraid he would be dead before John arrived back with the priest and told the women to hurry washing his feet as he was getting so cold. He said nothing about John having shot him.

Thomas Gapes a neighbor stated that earlier in the day he was at the house with his wife and went away leaving his wife with the sick woman. Before he was out of sight his wife ran after him and said she would not stay in the house as "Johnny was going cranky". Gapes went back and found the lad walking around the place on his knees. He refused to get up and on being remonstrated with said he was doing penance for his poor father. Afterwards he came into the house and asked his mother if she wanted anything. About five o'clock that evening he said, "Bad as mother is, I shall be gone before her". Witness told him to keep quiet and not to fret so much. Witness left the house later that evening and returned with Patrick O'Brien after the occurrence.


At the coroners inquest the jury returned a verdict to the effect that John Staunton met his death from a gunshot wound self inflicted whilst suffering from temporary mental derangement owing to the death of his father.


Mrs. Mary Staunton who had previously been given up by the doctors, on being told the sad news of her son's death, simply said, "I knew as much", gradually sank and expired in an hour and a half.

An inquest was held on her death and a witness Mrs. Ellen O'Brien stated that on being told of her son's death said, "Oh, It's the bad gun that's done it". Mrs. O'Brien replied, "I suppose it is the gun that has done all the work". Mrs. Staunton said, "No" but made no further remark. She began to flush and breath heavily and presently went off very quietly.

In reply to questions from the jury Mrs. O'Brien said that Mrs. Staunton remarked that she "thought it would come to that" meaning the death of her son and she further said "we will be buried this week".

Dr. Fleetwood made a post mortem examination on the body of Mrs. Staunton and found that she had been suffering from consumption and fatty degeneration of the heart, in her condition death might have resulted at any moment. The examination showed the heart was so weak it could be torn up in strips like paper.

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical testimony.


CONCLUSION.

Witnesses and newspaper articles stated Michael and John Staunton were very close and were on the best of terms and it was often remarked how fond they were of each other. No post mortem examination was held on the father. The circumstances of his having been shot near the hip on the left side throws doubt on the statement that the wound was self inflicted.

Strong suspicions were entertained in the locality that the son accidentally inflicted the wound which terminated the life of his father and that the shock he sustained at seeing the result of his carelessness unseated his reason causing him to take his own life.

"In the short space of four days a family of three, father, mother, and son passed from time to eternity". [Warrnambool Standard, August 21st, 1877]

Michael Staunton was buried at Tower Hill cemetery on August 17th, 1877 and Mary and John were buried, also at Tower Hill, on August 20th, 1877

Click here for Death Certificate for Michael Staunton.


Michael Staunton died intestate, that is he did not leave a will, and the Argus newspaper August 21st, 1877 carried a notice of application to the Supreme Court of Victoria for Letters of Administration to be granted to Myles Staunton, farmer of Koroit and James Staunton, boundary rider of  Penshurst, brothers and next of kin of the deceased.

The Warrong property was referred to the will of Myles Staunton.


If you can add or correct any of this information

Please email Ray Lane

rjlane@netspace.net.au

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