14 Nov Johann Rosentreter – Inquest 1887
Johann Rosentreter’s Inquest in 1887 – Testimony’s
Transcript by Roger Rosentreter
(Great Great Grandson of Johann)
Insertions marked as [some text] are personal comments/unreadable/additions/clarifications/etc.
Regarding the letter mentioned and in the Inquest attachment: It is written in very thick ink and is almost unreadable… A couple of translators have attempted a translation, but have not been successful.
The most they can tell me is that Johann’s letter to his son shows that he was very depressed. He lists problems and describes parts of his farm that he lost. He talks about money, fraud and lies. He speaks about the gravestone of his wife. One phrase can be deciphered as “your father is a murderer”, but we are unsure of the context. He accuses Wilhelm of ‘drinking’ all the farm income. It is a long letter and really quite disturbing.
My sincere thanks to Heidi Heil for deciphering the general details of Johann’s letter to Wilhelm. She is a professional translator of old German scripts. Get in contact with her if you need anything.
Esk, [QLD, Australia] 4th October 1887
Before [unreadable, possibly Otto, who appears to be the Coroner] Thompson [Unreadable]
Inquiry touching the death of Johann Rosentreter
Carl Bentet in brief duly sworn states:
I am a butcher residing at Lowood. I knew the deceased Johann Rosentreter. I last saw him on Wednesday the 28th September about half a mile [800 meters] from Lowood Railway Station. He was going towards the station. I did not speak to him.
[Unreadable] say prior to that I saw him at my home in Lowood. He gave me Seven Pounds & Ten Shillings and said “Take care of it until I need it”. I took the money. I asked him if he wanted a receipt for the money, he said he could trust me. He said in case he should to die, I should give it to his daughter [Wilhelmine Otilie]. I said “I don’t think you will die so soon”. He said “A man does not know when a thief of that sort will happen”. At that time he appeared [unreadable – possibly cheery as in in high spirits].
I have known [the] deceased for fourteen years. On the Wednesday when I saw him going towards the railway station at Lowood I heard he went to son by train.
When deceased gave me the money he said the reason he gave it to me was because he was afraid a woman with whom he was boarding would get it from him.
The deceased had a farm in Tarampa Road about two miles from Lowood and the woman with whom he boarded resides on the [unreadable] farm.
Signed: Carl Bentet
Wilhelm [William] Rosentreter in brief duly sworn states:
I am the son of the deceased Johann Rosentreter. I last saw him alive about three months ago near his residence on the Tarampa Road near Lowood.
On that occasion I did not speak to him. I walked away to avoid speaking to him. The reason for avoiding speaking to him was that about six months ago I remonstrated with him about his mode of life. [Unreadable] reason for so remonstrating was that [unreadable] he was living in adultery with a woman named Pohmann.
That was the last time I had any [verbal] communication with my father. I received some letters from him afterward to some of which I replied.
I recollect last Thursday, the 29th September, on the morning of that day I got up at about eight o’clock at my farm in Biarra. As soon as I got up I went [unreadable] to the stockyard – which is about five chains [100 meters for clarification] from the house. I went through the sliprail through the yard.
I saw a figure about two chains [40 meters] from the sliprail which at first I did not recognise. I then went closer and saw that it was my father. He was in a standing apparently standing on the ground. His head was a little to one side. I called out father, father come here.
I then became unconscious and fell down. When I came myself again my wife was standing by me and holding me. I then pointed my father out and to my wife and said go speak to him. She looked and then said to me “Can’t you see the rope round his neck, he is hung, come away, you must not touch him”. I then saw that he was suspended by a rope to a tree.
My wife and I then went near him and saw that he was dead.
I then went to a neighbour named Fred Seib, he was not home but I saw his wife and told her what had happened. I then returned home.
In less than an hour Mr Seib came. When he arrived, the body was still in the same position as when first I saw it. I then put a piece of [unreadable] round my father’s head.
I then went into Esk and reported the matter to the police and Dr Thompson. They came out and saw my father, the deceased. I left the body hanging until the police and Dr Thompson came. They then cut it down. It was there in the same position as when first I saw it with the exception that it was turned a little with the wind.
The rope by which the body was suspended consisted of two leg ropes [used for horses] tied together and which on the previous night were hanging on the rail in the stockyard. The ropes produced are the same.
The letter [which is mostly unreadable] produced is in the handwriting of my father and is written in the German language. I have partly read this letter and have come to understand part of it. In the letter my father accuses me of having avoided him. I know not what reason my father had for coming to Biarra and hanging himself.
The only disagreement I had had with my father was when I remonstrated with him about his way of living, except by letter.
My father had a freehold property at Tarampa Road near Lowood.
Signed: Wilhelm Rosentreter
Frederick [Fred] Sieb in brief duly sworn states:
I am a farmer residing at Biarra. I know the previous witness William Rosentreter. I know the deceased Johann Rosentreter.
I remember Thursday last the 29th September. In consequence I learnt I had to go to Rosentreter’s house at about nine o’clock in the morning of that day.
I there saw Johann Rosentreter the deceased hanging under a tree. I examined the body and found that he was dead. I concluded that he had been dead for three or four hours. I was at the body when the police arrived and they [possibly then] cut it down. It was then in the same position as when found. I saw it excepting that it had turned a little.
About six or seven months ago the deceased was living on his farm at Biarra. I have not seen him there for five or six months.
The handwriting in the letter produced is that of the deceased.
About three months ago I was present when a conversation took place between my wife and the previous witness William Rosentreter. My wife told him that she had had a communication with his father in which he said he would come to Biarra and that one of them should die.
Signed: Frederick Sieb
Frederick Gutzke in brief duly sworn states:
I am a farmer residing at Tarampa Road – near the late residence of the deceased.
I last saw the deceased on Tuesday evening the 27th September. On the evening of that day he came to my home. On the Tuesday when I saw the deceased, he asked me for a [favour]. He said “I want to pray to morrow [tomorrow] morning”.
The deceased then began to pray and said “Oh my, oh my, all my property is gone.”
I then said [This is a speculative transcription] “You had better go ask your son Willie for what he talk about?” Deceased replied “No, I wrote him three letter, he never wrote me back. When I go to see Willie I won’t come back no more.”
I said “What do you mean by that?” The deceased replied “The first tree is mine”. This communication took place on the Saturday [unreadable] to the Tuesday when I last saw him alive. I saw him also on the Sunday & Tuesday.
Signed: Frederick Gutzke
Paul Mendelsohn in brief duly sworn states:
I am a [unreadable] carrying on business as such. I understand the German language and can read the German writing.
I have read the letter produced marked exhibit B – found of it to be badly written and about unintelligible.
The general purport of the letter is abrading and accusing against the witness son [Wilhelm].
In one place [unreadable] is made to a farewell, which I took to be a farewell greeting.
The whole tone of the letter is rather melancholy and [unreadable] as being the result of inquiry done by his son.
The letter is signed Johann Rosentreter. It is also signed on the margin of one of the pages, Your Father, Johann Rosentreter.
On the envelope there is some writing on which is said “Give me my prayer book”. [Unreadable] writing on the envelope is unintelligible. It is addressed to Wilhelm Rosentreter and underneath, Your Father Johann Rosentreter.
I conclude the writer of the letter was labouring under an idea of injustice.
Signed: Paul Mendelsohn
[Unreadable] Francis Morecraft in brief duly sworn states:
I am Senior Constable stationed at Esk. I remember Thursday the 29th September last. I accompanied Dr [Otto?] Thompson and the previous witness Wilhelm Rosentreter to his farm at Biarra.
About two chains [40 meters] from the stockyard I saw suspended by the neck a body. It was suspended from the limb of a tree and the [body?] was about an inch and a half [35 mm] or two inches [50 mm] from the ground. The body was fully dressed in dark thread clothes and black boots.
I cut the body down and examined it. I found the hemp rope was a [unreadable] rope. The neck was broken at the second joint. Under the rope round the neck the flesh was discoloured and the lower parts of the body were also discoloured when I examined it. I should say that the body had been dead twelve to fourteen hours. It was just beginning to turn and smell.
I searched the pockets and in the trouser pocket I found a piece of a bladder containing 8/9 [possibly money – Eight Shillings, Nine Pence?], a pipe and some tobacco. In the [unreadable] coat pocket I found an envelope containing three sheets of note paper. I cannot understand it. I have shown it to Saul Mendelsohn a previous witness. The letter is marked Exhibit B.
I identify the body as that of Johann Rosentreter. I examined the tree in which deceased was hanging. It was a low one. There were three branches up the trunk of the tree on which the bark was slightly marked at the forks. On one of the branches going out from the trunk of the tree there were also fresh marks.
A person jumping off that branch with a length of rope fastened around his neck such as the deceased had would just barely reach the ground.
I examined the deceased’s boots, there were marks in the centre, on the side and rough bark dust adhering to the leather.
Dr Thompson gave an order for the burial of the body. [We know the body was buried on the farm and cannot to date find a record of a Death Certificate]
Signed: Francis Morecraft
Read the original inquest documents (.pdf)
(Last Update – 24 Dec 2020) This is a work in progress and more information will be added as it is discovered. If you have additional information, or want to tell a story, please email us.