In 1900, Australian troops were serving in the Boer war. At a tiny school at Reedy Marsh in northern Tasmania, pupils were raising money for The Children’s Patriotic Fund.

Scholars at Reedy Marsh School

Nora May Upston was my maternal grandmother. Charles Arthur Upston was my great uncle, and Minnie my great aunt. These three little ones were effectively orphans; the illegitimate offspring of Eleanor Upston. She was the ‘black sheep’ of an otherwise very respectable family. Eleanor had left Reedy Marsh; and the sixpences would have been provided by the children’s loving grandparents, Eliza and George Upston.


In 1903, 14 year old Minnie died in tragic circumstances;

Eliza Upston, residing at Reedy Marsh, deposed that she identified the deceased as Minnie Upston, her grandchild ….Last Thursday the deceased was with other children in the bush near the house. There was a log on fire which had been burning for several days. The child got a lot of dry boughs and placed them on the fire and as she turned away the flames caught her skirt. She tried to put them out by rolling on the ground, but failed and she called her aunt, who came to her assistance. Her clothes were burnt off to her waist. (The Examiner, November 4 1903)

The poor child was taken to Deloraine by her grandmother; seven tortuous miles by horse and trap. She was treated in the township by Dr. Douglas Robinson, but on Sunday he ordered her to be taken for treatment in Launceston. Eliza arrived with Minnie on the train next day, but the girl collapsed and died in Tamar Street on the way to the hospital.

Here is a photo of Grandmother Eliza Upston (nee Pinner), followed by a photo of Grandfather George Upston. They of course were my great-great-grandparents

Eliza Upston, nee Pinner. of Reedy Marsh.
Gorge Upston of ReedyMarsh

There was no mention of Minnie’s mother when the death notice appeared in The Examiner.

In the years that followed, Eliza and George Upston continued to care for their grandchildren. Charles had an intellectual impairment, and after Nora married he continued to live with his grandparents. It seems he remained with George after Eliza died in 1915. Both he and Nora were remembered in George’s will, written in 1917.

Inquest re death of Minnie Upston at Reedy Marsh

George Upston died in 1924;

Ad for sale of George Upston's farm at Reedy Marsh.

Eleonora died in Victoria in 1942, outliving her three children. Charles had died in a Tasmanian mental asylum from bronchial pneumonia. So little was known of him that the inquest into his death does not even state his age. My grandmother Nora was a severe asthmatic, and she too died from pneumonia in 1937, aged 44. Here she is in a rare photo with the first five of her ten children.

Nora Larcombe and her children at Reedy Marsh.
Nora and the first five of her ten children.

Judging by the style of her hat, the following photo appears to date from the Edwardian era, circa 1910. She was already living in Melbourne. I can’t really judge my great-grandmother, because I know so little about her. However, the absence of parents must have been very hard for her children, despite the love of Eliza and George and the extended Upston family

Eleanor Upston


  1. What a tragic story

    • Pauline

      Yes, poor Minnie. I wish I knew more about Eleanora and her relationship with my grandmother…if there was one.

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