TALES: Tragic story of family drowning
IT WAS considered the most "shocking occurrence of its kind" that had ever been recorded in the history of Woodburn to that date.
On February 15, 1922 Mrs Elsie Dagg, her sister-in-law Constance Dagg and Mrs Dagg's two young children Edward, 2 and Leonard, 10 months drowned in the river after the sulky they were in went over an embankment.
Circumstances surrounding the incident include the fact Mrs Dagg, her sister-in-law and the children had driven into Woodburn during the afternoon and set out on the return journey about 6.45pm.
The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser reported that Miss Dagg was driving and the vehicle had reached the home gate at about 7.pm.
"Mr Dagg, who was working near the house, observed the turnout approaching the entrance to the farm," the paper said.
"He then went on with his duties, and, seeing that the party had not reached home half an hour later, he proceeded to look for them."
Mr Dagg gathered friends who retraced the progress of the sulky to only discover that opposite the home gate wheel tracks led to the river.
Fear must have gripped Mr Dagg at this stage, and a closer inspection confirmed the worst.
The sulky was discovered a small way down the river with the dead horse still attached.
The bodies of the young family, however, were nowhere to be seen.
Search parties in boats with grappling irons worked through the night to no avail.
Conjecture surrounds what happened to cause such a mishap with the paper reporting something may have frightened the horse.
"It was surmised that Mrs Dagg got out and opened (the gate)," the paper stated.
"Evidently, something frightened the horse at this point, for the indications are that it backed across the road and into the river.
"Apparently Mrs Dagg followed and, seeing the tragedy jumped into the river to save her babes."
Mrs Dagg's body was the first to be found with Edward shortly afterwards.
Leonard was next to be found and Constance Dagg's body was eventually discovered by one of the searchers, a fisherman named Ford.
The family are buried in Woodburn cemetery.
- 'Tragic Occurrence at Woodburn', The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, Friday, February 17, 1922. Page 8, Accessed January 31, 2018.
- 'Woodburn Drowning Case', Casino and Kyogle Courier and North Coast Advertiser, Wednesday, February 22, 1922. Page 4, Accessed January 31, 2018.
- Australian Cemeteries Index, austcemindex.com, accessed January 31, 2018.