I’ve always been interested in family history. Sometimes a snippet received from a relative leads  to an intriguing and in this case, very sad story.

My maternal grandmother Nora was an Upston, from the rural district of Reedy Marsh, in  north-west Tasmania.   The family emigrated from Attleborough, in Norfolk. One of my grandmother’s  uncles was Henry Upston, born circa 1853.  My cousin Frank Upston recently sent me some pages of family history, and beside Henry’s name was the comment, ‘Believed robbed and drowned in the Yarra.’

Oh my goodness, could this be true? When I checked the newspaper archive TROVE there were several reports about his mysterious death in the winter of 1893. He was only thirty years old.

Henry had recently moved to Melbourne, and paid a visit to his cousin Alfred Osborne ‘s home in regional Windsor. He left on June 17, intending to travel to Albury, or possibly Benalla, where other relatives lived. No-one knew why he changed his mind and headed back to Melbourne…..and the river.

South Wharf, Yarra River.

Identification was made via some papers which had  somehow survived in his pocket. Police also found the  address of his aunt, a Mrs Dodgson, of Queensberry Street in North Melbourne. Mrs Dodgson was grief stricken and shocked to hear of her nephew’s death, and to have to identify his body. She had believed he was fit and well and living in Tasmania, working as a coachman.

Apparently Henry had been absent from his city lodgings for about three weeks.


Suicide was one possibility of course, but there was no reason to think he was depressed, or had been in any sort of trouble.

Foul play was  suspected almost immediately, because the belongings he was travelling  with could not be found.   He had left his cousin’s place carrying  a carpet bag, and an overcoat borrowed from Alfred. What had become of these? Had he fallen in the icy cold Yarra river during a struggle with an assailant?

Letters were sent to Tasmania seeking more information about his move to Victoria. Whether there was a response was never documented.

An inquest was held, but the outcome offered no answers. In mid July The Argus reported on the inquiry;

There were no marks of violence upon the body. If there had been, the loss of the overcoat and the bag, coupled with that fact, would have been sufficient to have given the case a more serious aspect, and have led at least to a more searching investigation than that accorded to the ordinary case of ‘found drowned.‘ So that was it, case closed.

No grave can be found, and I have been unable to find a death notice. I hope the poor young fellow was given a decent burial.


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