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Message in bottle a plea for help

Andrew Nielsen is trying to track down a distress letter his great-great-grandfather sent during the 1890 flood. He is holding a copy of The Bundaberg Mail from 1898.
Andrew Nielsen is trying to track down a distress letter his great-great-grandfather sent during the 1890 flood. He is holding a copy of The Bundaberg Mail from 1898. Mike Knott

WITH floodwaters lapping at his house back in 1890, William Edward Chandler had few options to get news of his family’s plight to the outside world.

So he wrote a letter describing the situation, put it in a bottle and threw it into the flooding Burnett River.

Unfortunately, the letter was not found until 1893, a little late to send help to Mr Chandler.

The finding of the letter was reported in the then Bundaberg Mail, which also mentioned it was being kept at the newspaper’s offices.

But now Mr Chandler’s great-great-grandson Andrew Nielsen is trying to find out if it still exists and who has it.

Mr Nielsen is hoping the letter still exists in an archive somewhere.

He said his interest in his ancestor was sparked when two women from Perth came to Bundaberg trying to find out more about their great-uncle, who was Mr Chandler.

Mr Nielsen started looking into his ancestor and discovered a man with a colourful past.

After immigrating to Queensland from the West Indies, Mr Chandler and some accomplices held up a stagecoach which happened to be occupied by the then mayor of Ipswich.

The men were caught and sent to jail, but were later released after representations by their victim.

Mr Nielsen said Mr Chandler then started a saddlery business which was a success, and later moved to the Bundaberg area where he settled on a farm with business partner William Jenkins.

Mr Chandler died on May 3, 1900.

“Our ultimate aim was to find his resting place as we knew he was buried on the farm at Electra,” Mr Nielsen said.

“By finding old land records we managed to track down the property, then named Perseverance Farm.”

Mr Nielsen said after talking to some locals he managed to find out where Mr Chandler’s house stood and where his grave had been.

“A dairy shed had been built on top of the grave,” he said.

“I talked to the son of a former owner of the farm who remembers his father being angry because tenants had not respected the grave.”



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