THE EMPTY GRAVE
A rich deposit of tin oxide was discovered near the summit of Mount Bischoff in 1871. David Blizzard was one of the first miners to work on the field.
David Blizzard, a native of England, came out to Tasmania as a young lad of 17. He sailed to Hobart per the Trade Wind together with his parents and nine siblings, all of whom were part of a program to bring honourable settlers to Tasmania. 
The Trade Wind departed from Gravesend on 6 November 1857. Onboard were 294 immigrants most of whom were Bounty passengers sponsored by the Hobart Town Immigration Society and Launceston Immigration Aid Society. On arrival, the Trade Wind was placed in quarantine after it was discovered four had died from typhus fever on the voyage. Typhus fever and whooping cough prevailed, and several more deaths occurred while the passengers were at the quarantine station at Impression Bay. Many were malnourished due to insufficiency of rations and debilitated owing to poor sanitary conditions onboard the Trade Wind.
After a month in quarantine, the Blizzard family soon made their way to the Circular Head district where David later met and married Susannah Blake.  The marriage was short-lived after Susannah died from tuberculosis on 11 December 1864, a month after the birth of their first child. David remarried eighteen months later to Charlotte Poke.
In the early 1870s, David went to work at the Mount Bischoff Mine. 
In 1927, Richard Hilder, locally known as an authority on the early history of northwestern Tasmania, penned an article on Theodore Kappler, who was the first to die at Mount Bischoff.  Many years earlier, Richard Hilder, had visited his grave only to learn much later that the grave was in fact empty. It was not until 1925 after Richard Hilder made some enquiries that he learnt of Theodore Kappler’s fate.
A grave had indeed been prepared for Theodore Kappler at Mount Bischoff, however, on the day of the funeral, a decision was made by Kappler’s employer to have his body conveyed to the coast.
In the lead up to Kappler’s demise, Richard documented David Blizzard’s challenging journey to seek medical help. 
“The winter and spring of 1874 had been sorely wet and most of the workers were exposed not only to the heavy rains, but to snowfalls and bitter frosts, and the ground underfoot was a continuous quagmire. But the work had to proceed and the workers braved the elements while cutting down trees, grubbing out rocks and roots, cross-cutting logs for the saw pits and rolling them into position for no horses were available.
“Working from ankle deep to knee deep in slush or water, it was impossible to keep clothing dry, and the men on returning from work found their tents or huts cheerless indeed, for no womenfolk had as yet taken up residence at Bischoff. Huge fires could be readily made, for the wood of the white myrtle tree, even when green, was an excellent burner. So drying clothes for next day’s use was a usual night-time pastime, combined with preparation of food.
“Under such conditions for working, the wonder was that sickness was not more prevalent, but the chief ailment among the men was a disposition to indigestion in various forms, due to lack of change of diet. But Kappler, who was apparently a very strong man and a great toiler, broke down under the rigorous work and climate and was compelled to rest. His companions rendered all the help they could while free from their own work, but the poor fellow grew worse, who was evidently hard hit by some serious lung disorder. The Manager contemplated obtaining medical attention for the stricken man, but to do so was a colossal task in the month of November 1874.
“After some consideration, the Manager decided to call up Dr Walker, who lived on a farm on the main coast road a few miles west of Ulverstone. After writing a letter fulling describing the sick man’s symptoms, the Manager called in a young married man named David Blizzard, to whom he expressed the wish that he should take the letter for delivery to Dr Walker some 60 miles away.
“At daylight David set out by the newly blazed track to Surrey Hills station (now Guildford Junction), and then turning northward, proceeded towards Hampshire Hills. The cart road had been little used for carting during winter and spring, and on its forest parts there was a great litter of fallen scrub and tree branches, and the usual boggy and stony patches. Not a single habitation could be seen the whole distance, from Surrey Hills till nearing Emu Bay. David struggled all day, and at nightfall sighted a small tenement nearly six miles from Emu Bay. It was occupied by a worthy couple named Rutter. Here the tired traveller got hospitality for the night and prepared for an early start the next morning.”
David Blizzard explains: “I got an early start for Emu Bay. I felt stiff until I warmed up a bit. I arrived at the Bay (via old Surrey Hills Road) in time for breakfast, and fortunately fell in with Captain William Jones at once. I found the horse I was to ride was out at the Uplands farm near Cooee Creek. The Captain kindly sent a man out for it, and he insisted I should have a good breakfast and a bit of rest before going further.
“When the horse arrived I felt much disappointment. It was not a riding back but a half-draught I was to take back to Mt Bischoff. I was provided with a good saddle and bridle and at once mounted the shaggy heeled steed and set out for Dr Walker’s farm, fully 16 miles away, by a sandy rocky road, not a single foot of which was properly metalled. It was a far more tedious and suffering journey than foot padding from Bischoff the previous day. I had to work my passage with painful sensation.
“I found Dr Walker at home, and without delay he read the Manager’s letter, then expressed his opinion that Kappler could not live. However, he said he would go back with me to Mt Bischoff and see for himself, but it would be a few hours before he was ready. He told me to look after my horse and take some rest, and that we would be able to reach the township of Emu Bay that night.
“Late in the afternoon Dr Walker and I set out on the first stage of that tiring journey back to Mt Bischoff. Arriving at Emu Bay, we put up for the night at Mrs Wiseman’s hostelry in the Marine Terrace. I was kindly treated for I was skin-sore and felt a bit exhausted, and dreaded the further journey the following day.
“The doctor and I rose early in preparation for an early start, but discovered that Dr Walker’s horse had cast a shoe. To get that shoe on took until 10:00 am, and then we were ready for that long, fatiguing journey to Mt Bischoff.
“I took a tomahawk in order to cut away the straggling scrub we would encounter about our horses’ legs and overhead while riding through the forest parts of the road. Without any serious mishaps we travelled slowly together, making occasionally brief stops to stretch our weary limbs, for we were both stiff and sore. In successive stages we passed Hampshire Hills, Surrey Hills and the Hellyer River ford, and through the blazed tree track from Surrey Hills to the myrtle forest, reaching the Mount at 11 o’clock that night. Dr Walker at once attended the stricken miner, but his case was hopeless. Kappler died a few days later.”
After Kappler’s body was conveyed to the coast, his disappointed workmates reverently filled the grave that had been dug at Waratah River Falls, then placed a head and foot board on it made from hard blackwood, afterwards fencing the grave securely. It remained a silent momento of his workmates’ devotion for many years, but ultimately it became neglected and passed into oblivion.
At the bottom of the page are several of the earliest photos taken at Mount Bischoff. The photo depicted above, ore shoots at white face loading station, was taken circa 1885. Further below are the names of the early workers at Mount Bischoff in 1873 and 1874.
 After transportation ceased in 1853, several organisations were formed to recruit labourers not only as an alternative to convict labour but with the expectation that a superior type of migrants “accustomed to moral restraints and of industrious habits” could improve the moral status of the lower class.
 24 year old farmer, David Blizzard, married 19 year old Susannah Blake at the St Paul’s Church in Stanley on 29 July 1864.
 Mining commenced after the establishment of the Bischoff Tin Mining Company in August 1873.
 Mining manager, Theodore Kappler aged 29 died from pneumonia on 21 November 1874.
 Abridged from an article published in the Advocate on 25 July 1927
Through David Blizzard and Richard Gardner, Richard Hilder was able to compile the names of the early workers at Mount Bischoff in 1873 and 1874. They were:
Richard Hilder is my maternal great grandfather. Thank you for sharing this story. Richard Hilder was such a prolific writer for the local paper. I really enjoy reading his recollections of early tasmania on Trove
If it wasn’t for Richard Hilder, many descendants would not have known the lives of their ancestors. It is credit to him that we have so many wonderful stories.
What a really interesting article. Thank you. The pioneers certainly suffered in the harsh conditions.
You’re most welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.
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