The dangers of mining — Konrad Butz

Mining activities in the Yackandandah district were a source of great wealth during the 1850s and 1860s, but, due to the dangerous nature of the profession it was also the source of much despair.

A cursory analysis of coroners records from Yackandandah reveals twenty five deaths as a result of ‘fall of earth’ between 1855 and 1881 where an inquest was held. More extensive records (notably the Victorian Mining Accident Index) provides details of over 9,000 mining accidents, many resulting in death, from the 1850s to the 1940s.

Konrad Butz was one such miner who met his fate whilst working on John Chisolm’s claim in Allan’s Flat. It was September 1865 and Konrad, along with Chisholm and Johannes Mueller, were working to undermine a cut 60 ft in length, leaving three legs for support.

The three men were working in the claim when the earth began to give way around them. Chisholm was able to jump to safety, Mueller did too, but not before being struck by the falling earth. Both men looked back to see if Konrad made it to safety, but they could not see him.

Mueller ran to the adjoining claim to rally others to help dig Konrad from the earth. They dug trenches for two hours, finding nothing but Konrad’s tools. The decision was made to turn the water on to wash the earth away. After ‘a great deal of ground’ was washed away, they found Konrad—his feet upwards and his head in a hole.

Konrad Butz, a native of Germany, had only been working with Chisholm and Mueller for a fortnight and died without leaving any property or information regarding next of kin.

He is buried in the Yackandandah Cemetery, Church of England section, grave number unknown.