52 Ancestors Wk8 – Elizabeth Snedden Pt 2

Camellia in my front yard

Camellia in my front yard

I received an email this morning from a distant cousin in New Zealand. She found me through the post I wrote on Elizabeth Snedden in August 2012. I love it when I meet new family members through my blog as it highlights that something is working. Even if it is my tagging ability.

The email prompted me to go back to Trove and search again for Elizabeth. I had tried to find her death in the newspapers two years ago but had had no luck. Since then I have noticed that more Newcastle newspapers were being added and the email prompted me to try my luck. Success!

The circumstances of Elizabeth’s death were described in an article of the Maitland Weekly Mercury on 3 Feb 1912. The article is difficult to read so I have transcribed it below. It is a very sad story and continues to raise questions. As you will see, we still do not know why Elizabeth poisoned herself but do begin to feel how others around her felt.



Elizabeth Snedden, 18 years of age, a well known resident of Cessnock, died at her home on yesterday morning from the effects of drinking a quantity of Lysol. It appears that between 5am and 6am that morning the young woman went to her mother’s bedroom and said, “Mother, I have drunk a bottle of lysol.” She gave no reason for the rash act, and before her mother could ascertain anything the girl went into convulsions. The mother immediately sent for a doctor, and, in the meantime, administered emetics, but to no purpose. Dr Walker Smith arrived quickly, but the poison had done its work, and the girl, who was then beyond human aid, expired in a few minutes. The police have made inquiries but have been unable to ascertain any reason for the girl’s action. She was rather short tempered, and of somewhat peculiar disposition; but, so far as can be ascertained, she was not in trouble of any kind, and the parents are at a loss to account for the act. The sister of the deceased purchased the lysol the previous evening for deceased to use in the bath. It is said that she had a bath, using some of the lysol, and she evidently drank the remainder. Deceased was single, and had been in service at Cessnock for some time. Her parents who reside at King Street, Cessnock, are highly respected throughout the district.

An inquest was subsequently opened at the Cessnock Courthouse yesterday by Mr R Owen, district coroner, concerning the death of Elizabeth Snedden, which occurred at her parent’s residence at King Street, Cessnock yesterday morning.

Janet Smith said she knew deceased. She was her sister, and lived with her parents at Cessnock, where she was also staying. Deceased was a single woman, 18 years of age, and had no property. Her life was not insured, and she always enjoyed good health.  At five o’clock yesterday she asked witness for the loan of six pence and witness gave her half a crown. Deceased told her that she wanted to buy something to put in her bath and to wash her head. Deceased sent her sister, Esther, to the chemist for the antiseptic and about fifteen minutes later deceased was given the bottle. The bottle produced resembled the bottle purchased from the chemist, and was found on the chest of drawers in the deceased’s room. The bottle was full, but when found that morning was nearly empty. Deceased had a bath on the previous night before she went to bed. After having her bath, deceased had her tea. Deceased was in good health, but very quiet. At half past five o’clock on friday morning deceased came into the room where witness and her mother were sleeping and said she had drunk the contents of the bottle obtained from the chemist. She turned around, and went out on the verandah, and deceased’s mother followed her out. They tried to give her mustard and water, but failed as she kept her mouth closed. Witness went for Dr Walker Smith, who came back with her. Witness was with deceased until she died at half past seven o’clock that morning. She never spoke after telling them she had taken the poison. Deceased had a very bad temper but she could not account for her action. She was not in any trouble, and had no love affairs. Deceased was in service at Anstey’s Hotel, and had given notice that it was her intention to leave.

Dr Walker Smith said that when he saw deceased at six o’clock that morning she was suffering from poisoning, and was in such a weak state, that he could do nothing for her. Her physical condition was perfect.

Esther Snedden, nine years old, said that she purchased the antiseptic at her sister’s request. Deceased told her she wanted it to put into her bath.

The coroner returned a verdict to the effect that deceased died from the effects of a poison administered by herself.

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