Wife buries husband in kitchen
Captain John Martini (sic) is said to have died in 1871 in Western River. The incident is mentioned in the CWA booklet Kangaroo Island Past & Present published in 1951 page 41. Joy Seager mentions it in Kangaroo Island Doctor pages 41 & 42. Jill Gloyne & Jean Nunn both relate the incident but Jean cites the CWA booklet as her source. Martini (a retired sea captain?) apparently died from pneumonia and was buried by his wife in the earthen floor of their home. She then went for help by spring cart to Middle River. At that time the lease to Western River was held by “W. Hamilton”
Geoff Chapman: I have read several accounts about the incident in different books and records in the past. Captain Martini and his wife were out there living in a tin hut on their own at Western River. Story has it that when he died over-night and there was no one to help her, so his wife dug a grave in the dirt floor of the bedroom, along side the bed, then rolled him off the bed into the hole and buried him. Another story had him dying on a couch and was rolled off that into the grave. After that no one wanted to live in the tin hut! Don't blame them, I would not like to either!! I never heard anything about him being dug up and being reburied in a cemetery in Kingscote.
Bev Overton: It is not known how long this couple had resided at Western River. It is presumed that their small basic dwelling is now the house ruins to be found on the eastern side of the valley. To gain assistance from her nearest neighbour, Mrs Martini apparently "set out in the spring cart drawn by by a very slow horse to travel up the steep Breakneck Hill to the next cove, where she obtained help." What was her name?
The next cove is Middle River. Henry Snelling had taken up his first pastoral lease in 1864 (possibly for 12 square miles). So by 1871 he and his family had probably become permanent residents of the area, therefore it is presumed that Mrs Martini was able to gain assistance from the Snelling family. It was probably a 10 km journey for her and would have taken her several hours the negotiate the cart up and down the steep hills, so she may have stayed with the family overnight before making the return journey to Western River.
But, how did she return - by cart or by sea with one of the Snelling men/boys? How did she get her husband's dead body into the cart; how did she get to Kingscote and who officiated at the burial of her husband into the Pioneer Cemetery? His is an unmarked grave. What happened to her? Before she set out in the cart, did she take all of her/their belongings with her, or did she return to do this?
The Islander, Thursday March 2015, page 5. "Wife Buries Husband in Kitchen"
Chris Ward: While Bev Overton in her appeal in The Islander (March 5, 2015) has detailed her sources for the story there is no source for her assertion that the body was later got into the cart and was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. I can find nothing about any Martini people but I can well imagine the name being transcribed as Martin. BISA list five people by the name of Martini but there’s nothing that appears helpful.
A Captain Martin was present at the aftermath of the murder of Meredith c.1834. "...The boat put in at Yankalilla Bay, and one day, when his master was sitting on deck, reading his bible, the native got behind him and killed him with a tomahawk. This tomahawk was afterwards found by Captain Martin, with part of the hair and blood still upon it, but it is now lost..." Local News. (1844, September 24). Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 - 1844), p. 2. from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71630137
Bev Overton: Further Information and Research Questions
- Was his name Captain John Martini or Captain John Martin; Who was his wife; How old was he and his wife
- Was he retired or still working as a ships’ Captain
- When did they squat on the land (no lease for the land is known)
- Did they have children
- What farm animals and pets did they have; What form of land transport did they have
- Did they visit nearby neighbours – Hirst (Snug Cove) and Snelling (Middle River) - by boat and/or land
- Basic facts - he was ill and then died, she stayed and cared for him, and when he was dead she dug a hole and rolled him in and covered him up. Ok! It is written that the cottage/house had a dirt floor, and presumably the walls were timber. He was buried inside the cottage in a shallow grave.
- Years before Flinders/Baudin were at Kangaroo Island, he/they left “fowl and pigs” at different sheltered areas around Kangaroo Island for use by mariners. They would have proliferated in the years between release and Martini/Martin’s death. So, the suggestion of the Sheridan family [a laterl ease holder] may be correct – dirt floor, hungry pigs – easy for them to dig underneath the door or along the walls, and then to dig up the body sufficiently to feast on the decomposing body.
- It is presumed that she probably went to Middle River to Snelling for help. Think about the very steep county, up to 200 metres above sea level and 5 deep gullies. Did she walk? Breakneck Ridge/Track thru what is now Chapman’s - this would have taken her at least a day and night- 12 to 15km (nowadays). Did she have a horse and cart? If so, for the steep downward slopes, she may have tied a heavy tree branch or tree trunk onto the back of the cart to act as a brake! The horse would have had to be strong and well fed to be able to pull up the steep hill, and not get ‘run over’ by the cart on the way down the steep slope. Did she carry feed and water in the spring cart for the horse? Did she have food, water and clothes for herself? Was there a well-worn track to and from Western River and Middle River?
- Maybe they also visited Hirst* and the Lighthouse, so, possibly more help was available to her? But, to get to this house was another extremely steep hill.
- Or did she go by sea? Was she able to launch the “new” smaller boat and sail it? No – it was sold at Port Adelaide, Did she re-dig the ‘grave’ deeper, and leave him in-situ, or did she get help from her neighbours to dig him up, transfer his body to the spring cart? The possible land route for Mrs Martini to have travelled IF she took her husband’s body in the horse drawn cart to Kingscote for burial would have been along a narrow track (possibly hand-cleared by axe) - to Stokes Bay along the North Coast then inland to Springs Road - at least a trip of 41km (nowadays) to where this rough track ended at the “Palm Trees”. From then on she would have used any track wide enough for the horse to walk pulling the cart and her; at the very least it was 25km more to the Pioneer Cemetery (probably 66km in all)
- Or was she taken by Snelling in his boat to the Kingscote Pioneer Cemetery, having already arranged for a horse and cart to transfer the body?
*John Hirst firstly squatted from 1864 at Snug Cove. In 1872 he took out a huge pastoral lease no. 2802 for 93 square miles which stretched from Cape Borda to Seal Beach