John W. Robley, son of Isaac Robley

Shocking Death at Durham

John, W. Robley, son of Mr. Isaac Robley, of Rogers Hill, killed while working alone in Councillor Smith's grist-mill.

Durham's usual quiet was sadly disturbed on Saturday evening by the announcement that the lifeless body of John W. Robley had been found in Smith's mill, the mill being in motion with no one about to tell how, or when, the unfortunate boy met his death.

For the following information concerning the circumstances under which deceased worked, we are indebted to Coroner Smith Anderson, who held an inquest:

The jury consisted of: Robt. Stewart, foreman; Wm. MacDonald, James Patterson, Charles Clarke, W. Franklin Smith, Robt. SutherLand, James A. Thompson, James R. McLean, Henry Matheson, George I. Stewart, Joseph C. McLeod and John Leithead.

James W. Smith, having been sworn, testified as follows: I am the proprietor of grist-mill. Deceased had been in my employ since Nov. 1st., as helper in the mill. He had been employed with me in Spring of 1906 in same capacity. The last two months I had been in habit of leaving him in charge of the mill, when it was running. He was employed with his father's consent. On Saturday I was in Pictou attending Council. Was there several days, but spoke to him every evening by telephone to learn how he was getting along. He knew he could call in my brother who was near if he needed assistance. Deceased lived at my home. When he did not come home at 6 o'clock I feared there might be something wrong at the mill. When I arrived at 5 or 5.30 my little boy told me that John had been having trouble with a belt and as soon as i came home I had better go up. I sent the boy to the mill to tell him to come home, and as it was Saturday evening I would drive him home. My boy came back and said he could not find John, that he thought he must be hiding on him. I felt no uneasiness until after six 0'clock, when with W. O. Crieghton, who was at my place, I drove to the mill, met George Smith, a neighbour, coming out of the mill, who said something was wrong; that he found the mill running very fast and had stopped it. I went about to see if machinery was all right on main floor. Then went below to examine driving gear. Here I found deceased tangled in main shaft. Deceased's father knew that I had been in the habit of leaving him in charge of the mill. always found him very careful. I had cautioned him and forbid him to go around the gear and shaft when mill was going. Nobody was allowed around there when mill was going. Burning of body was due to coming in contact with the heated shaft.

The foregoing evidence was really all of public interest that could be learned. Others who gave evidence were W.O. Creighton and George Smith, who were with Mr. James W. Smith when he found the body; and Selwyn Smith and Dr. J.A. Murray, of West River.

Selwyn Smith regarded young Robley as competent to run the mill. Witness was working in sight of the mill and used to drop in to see him. Deceased had warned witness who was fixing a spout one day, that he ought not to go near the main shaft, that the owner had cautioned him (deceased) about doing so.

Dr. Murray gave it as his opinion that death was due to strangulation. It might have been celebral concussion, although he found no direct evidence of this.

The jury rerurned a verdict of accidental death, exonerating the proprietor of the mill from responsibility.

John Robley was about 17 years of age, an industrious young fellow, favorably spoken of by the people of Durham. His remains were interred at Durham yesterday afternoon.

To the father, who has in a short period suffered sore bereavements, THE ADVOCATE offers such consolation as sincere words can give.

Pictou Advocate 15 January, 1907

John William Robley: born 27 July 1890; christened 28 November 1890; died 12 January 1907 aged 16.