Thomas Harpur Matthews (1893-1916)

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Thomas Harpur Matthews
Sex: Male
Birth: 10/11/1893 Port Adelaide, South Australia
Death: 29/4/1916 Port Adelaide, South Australia
Father: Walter John Matthews
Mother: Ann Elizabeth Underdown

Thomas Harpur Matthews was the fourth child of Walter & Ann Elizabeth Matthews (nee Underdown). His siblings were Walter, William, Robert & possibly a Lillian.

By the age of 22, he was a clerk in the Port Adelaide area.

Mysterious DeathEdit

Thomas was found dead floating in the Pt Adelaide River. Information on the death is found in a police report to the Coroner from the Police Station in Port Adelaide dated May 8 1918, addressed to the City Coroner, Adelaide. It states:-


I have the honor to report for your information that at about 9pm this date a telephone message was received at this station from the Club House hotel to the effect that a body was floating in the river near Jervois bridge. F.C.S. Beaney and Booth went at once and recovered the body which has been identified as that of Thomas Harpur Matthews, a clerk, aged 22½ years, son of Mr Thomas Walter Matthews, storekeeper of Church St. Port Adelaide. The deceased Thomas Harpur Matthews was reported to the Police on Sunday April 30th, 1916 as having been missing from his home since 4.30pm on the previous afternoon, April 29th. Oliver Stephn Olsen, blacksmith residing at Hargrave St. Peterhead informed me that he was in his company for some time during the afternoon. At about 5.30pm, Olsen was in the Port hotel, Port Adelaide when deceased came in, and they had a couple of drinks together. Deceased became rather the worse for drink and Olsen told him that if he would come that he would drive him home in his (Olsen’s) sulky. This was about 6pm and acting under instructions from deceased Olsen drove him to the house of a Mrs. Annie Russell in Leadenhall St, Port Adelaide where deceased got out of the sulky and Olsen never saw him again.

Thomas harpur matthews grave

Mrs. Russell states that deceased came to her house at about 6.15pm on Saturday April 29th and remained with her until 8.30 or 8.45pm when he left, saying he was going to go home. She states that he was under the influence of drink when he came to her house and brought a bottle of beer with him which they drank together. Mrs. Russell’s house is about 150 yards from the Canal, which runs into the river, and about 800 yards from the river at the point where deceased was found. Deceased lived about mid-way between Russell’s and the river, but not in a direct line. Bertie George Freak a labourer residing at Webber St, Queenstown saw the body of deceased floating in the river at about 8.45am this date and informed the licensee of the Club House hotel who telephoned the police. I searched the body at the Morgue and found 5/10 in money, knife, papers, and a gold watch and chain. The watch had stopped at 8.28. There does not appear to be any external marks of violence on the body.

I have the honor to be Sir Your Obedient Servant P.J. Donnellan

Written across the letter in red ink are the words “Inquest at the Adelaide Court House at 4pm on 9th May 1916.” Unfortunately, the inquest papers are no longer available for viewing as they were in a selection of inquest papers that were pulped during World War II. Written in black ink on the back of the letter, it states “The deceased came to his death at Port Adelaide on or about the 29th day of April 1916 and the evidence does not show the cause of death.”

This is supported by his death certificate which states “evidence does not show cause of death”. He was a single, 22 year-old clerk at the time of his death.


Thomas is buried in the Cheltenham Cemtery, Cheltenham, along with his parents.


  • Births, Deaths and Marriages registrations
  • Police report to the coroner
  • Cheltenham Cemetery records

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