Poor Otto! A Tragic Accident in 1894

Deaths & Funerals Events
Photo: Pixabay

In the second half of the 19th century a “Grand Tour” was no longer fashionable. Young upper-class European men who had come of age and had enough money, in the 17th and 18th century and even in the early 19th century loved to undertake a “Grand Tour” in search for art and culture and some pleasure. By the 19th century transportation all over the world became quicker and better. There were not only boats but also trains. Also nobles and royals travelled further than ever, often looking for adventure.

Two of these men who decided to discover the world were the Austrian brothers Count Otto (1842-1894) and Count Erwein (1849-1924) von Wurmbrand-Stuppach, a mediatized house. They were two of the eleven children of Count Wilhelm (1806-1884) and his wife Countess Bertha, born Countess von Nostitz-Rieneck (1816-1888). Where Erwein in the end returned to Austria and got married, Otto found his tragic end in Australia. A few traces of both men can be found on Ancestry.

The brothers show up in the Police Gazette of New South Wales in June 1879 for the first time. The notice says:

“Information is requested respecting Counts Otto and Erwein Wurmbrand, who arrived in Melbourne on the 25th August 1876, and were last heard of at the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel, Booligal. They left there in the month of June 1877, stating their intention of going to Cowl Cowl Station, where inquiries have been made without obtaining any trace. They were endeavoring to borrow money at Booligal to take them to Westbrook Station, Queensland, to which place they may have gone.”

The next time Erwein can be traced is in The South Australian Police Gazette of 21 September 1881 when third-class constable E. Wurmbrand has been promoted to be second-class constable from 1st inst. inclusive. He might have been the one who in 1883-1884 was stationed in Peake. Erwein is mentioned again in the Gazette of 12 March 1884, when he is listed as having been promoted to be first-class from the 1st inst. of the mounted police. He might also be Constable C. Wurmbrand who was transfered to the Northern Territory Police according to the Gazette of 18 April 1888. Finally in the Gazette of 5 June 1889 he is listed as having resigned on 30 November 1888 from the Northern Territory Police.

Also Otto seems to have joined the foot police. The South Australian Police Gazette of 5 May 1880 however mentions him as having resigned “on the 30th ultimo”. The Gazette of 11 July 1883 announces something totally different:

“Otto von Wurmbrand, a laborer, a native of Austria, aged 41 years, height 6ft., black hair, turning grey, brown eyes; sentenced to two months’ hard labor, for larceny from John A. Beschivitz, at Hahndorf.”

Then nothing can be found at Ancestry anymore until his tragic death. What happened? The entry in the Register of Coroners’ Inquests of New South Wales dated 2 June 1894 gives the tragic answer.

“Otto Wurmbrand, 52 years, Austria, gentleman. No autopsy. We find that the said Otto Wurmbrand on the railway line at Rockdale in the district of Sydney in the said [unreadable to me] on the first day of June AD 1894 died from the effects of injuries received on the same day through being run over by a train but has by though on what means he received the injuries the evidence adduced does not enable us to say.”

In the Register of Bodies brought to the South Sydney Morgue it says:

“Otto Wurmbrand, 52 years, Austria. Found 6.40 Rockdale Station. His body is so very much muliated by the train that no description can be given. Clothes destroyed.”

The last mentioning of Otto Wurmbrand is in the New South Wales Government Gazette in June 1895.

“Wurmbrandt, Otto, 52, Austria. Died: Rockdale of effects of injuries accidentally received. He leaves: personal effects valued at £10.”

Ottos remains were nevertheless buried at Rockwood Catholic Cemeteries, Sydney (Sect. M1 Row 3MONBL13 Plot 1), says the website Find A Grave. There is supposedly a stone saying he was born on 29 May 1842 and died on 1 June 1894.

The Almanach de Gotha of 1895 by the way states that Otto married Ethel Mary Potter of Paramatta, New South Wales. I couldn’t find a trace of this supposed marriage though. The Almanach de Gotha of 1900 no longer mentions this marriage.

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