Monday, May 13, 2019

Martina Cupit, the lost Aunt.

The story of Martina Cupit is a sad one. Hers is the story of what happens when hundreds of people have been sentenced to Transportation to Parts Beyond the Seas, hundreds of people who would now only have their sentence and their new home in common. Like all children of convicts, Martina had no grandparents, no cousins, no extended family, no one to step in and care for her when tragedy struck, which it did in 1878 when Martina who had just turned 8, and  her and her brother William, 11, became orphaned.

When their mother Sarah Murphy had died, and then their father Martin Cupit also passed, the children Martina and William were separated. Family stories tell that Martina was taken by the Franklin Catholic Church, and William by the local C of E. William remained in Franklin, their home town and never saw his sister again..

St Josephs Orphanage Registry  SWD 37 Libraries Tas

Four years after the children were separated, Martina was admitted into St Josephs Orphanage in Hobart. Where she had been those four years was unknown to her brother then and remains so to her family still trying to piece together her life today. Her Orphanage record entries show each year she was granted an extension until 1890. Unusually she stayed on at the Orphanage until she was 20. Perhaps she worked there or undertook some sort of Order in the church.

St Josephs Orphanage, Harrington Street, Hobart. State Library of Victoria

Martina's life must have taken a big turn on leaving the environment she had lived in for 8 years. She probably gained some employment, as by 1894 she was living in Launceston. Her daughter Eleanor May's birth was registered on 3 November 1894, with no father's name. Martina's address was recorded as 27 York Street.

Daily Telegraph 1 Sept 1894 Trove 

27 York Street, it would seem was some sort of hospital which also offered adoption services.
It is possible that the baby girl offered for adoption in Tuesday's paper 4th February may even have been Eleanor, but sadly at age 3 months on the 5th of February little Eleanor died.

Daily Telegraph 4 Feb 1895 Trove

In November 1896 Martina marries Toy Yot, a Chinese hawker, at the manse of the York Street Baptist Chapel. The local Baptist church is one that is very inclusive of the significant Chinese community in Launceston at that time. Obviously Martina has left her Catholic upbringing behind her somewhat.

Libraries tas

Martina lists her occupation as a domestic servant, her father as Martin Cupid, and her mother as the unknown Christina Norton. Perhaps this lady was the woman who took her for the missing four years? I've certainly found no record of this elusive lady.

The Chinese Community.

Although small (around 1000 in 1891), the Chinese community's local contribution is significant. The Chinese men who came to Tasmania around that time worked in the tin mines of the north east area. Most made their money and then returned to China. Some like, Toy Yot, stayed on and ran businesses, market gardens and even married local women. These men were generally respected in the community as hard working, honest men who contributed to the community, actively raising money for schools and hospitals. It was a Chinese Carnival that raised the funds to construct the Gorge pathway to the First Basin. 

However life wasn't always rosy for these men. A letter to the Editor of the Examiner in 1880 expressed some of the most dreadful and extreme views, calling these chinamen 'not of the highest order' and any European women they take on as a partner to be 'degraded beings' and 'scum of the earth'. The terrible tirade goes on to predict the children of such unions as a 'little generation of vipers who will form the very essence of vice and crime, besides tarnishing European blood and importing unknown diseases into the colony'. Whether Martina  faced this prejudice isn't known, but in 1897 they had their first child, Selma May. Their home is documented as 2/4 West Street. West Street and North Street form a tiny little laned network of old cottages flanked with bluestone gutters in the area of South Launceston nearby to where Toy would have run his market garden from.
Of the Chinese who stayed in Launceston, some did well. Men such as James Chung-Gon who also ran a market garden and a store. Toy would probably have had business and personal dealings with his fellow country-men who had made their home here.

James and Mary Chung-Gon sit for a family portrait with their children ( - Courtesy the Chung-Gon family) source

Certainly newspaper reports would indicate Toy had to stand up for himself. One of several reports  saw Toy assulted at the Chinese New Year celebrations in 1902. These celebrations were a time for the Launceston countrymen to mingle together, talk, eat, smoke and take tea, to reminisce and the hard working men would stop work for a few days. The evenings would hold festivities including lanterns, fireworks and more food. It was at 8:30 on Sunday evening during these celebrations when Toy Yot was assulted by a group of youths who started throwing stones at him. Onlookers called the police and the offenders ran off. At the trial conflicting evidence was  was heard in the Police Court. The 15 year old pleaded not guilty and his defence lawyer stated that it was quite possible Toy was struck by a firework which could cause the pain he complained of. The plaintiff, who displayed much intelligence, and a thorough grasp of cross examining the witnesses, conducted his own case. The defendant admitted one of his mates called out "Muckahi" (as extremely derogatory term) to Toy. The Police Magistrate after lecturing the defendant and the young guy who verbally abused Toy, dismissed the case.

Whatever life was like for Toy and Martina, there time together was short. As the years had progressed, her brother William was still in Franklin, in the south of the state. He was married in 1896 and begun his own family. He had a store in the town and continued to ask the catholic priest at the time about his sister. His hostility grew as he obtained no answers.

The search that William had started, I could not resolve either. Martina and Selma appear on no searches, with site after site revealing nothing, including no death record. My suspicions are mounting, if she had descendants, she'd be on an internet family tree site. Toy, however still leaves me some clues.
In 1901 Toy pops a little notice in the local paper:

"My wife having left home without cause, anyone harboring her after this date will be prosectuted
Toy Yot, Market Gardner"

Hmmm, this poses a few questions. Jump back a year, 1900 was the year that produced two documents about Martina's fate. In July 1900, another marriage certificate emerges. Toy married Eva Christmas. I pay my money to apply for their original certificate in hope of ascertaining whether Toy is divorced or a widower. The document states he is a widower. There, sadly is my answer. So now I have a rough date and I apply to the registry for her death certificate. The next day I received a phone call from them stating they hold no record of her death. Her death was obviously not registered. The nice girl on the phone says she'll photocopy the new marriage certificate for me so I at least get my monies worth in some form or another. The original document reveals more than the transcribed one. Martina had died in 1899 and had left two living children. Toy was left with two small children and hastily married the 19 year old Eva who ran out on him in 1901. I find this second child in the deaths of the Federation Index. Little George Yot died in December 1900. Poor Eva, two small children to care for, then one of them dies. 

Some answers have emerged about Martina's life, but with more questions about the only aunt and the only cousin my grandmother had on her father's side surfacing with each new piece of information. 
Toy is found in newspapers and census records living in Westbury in 1903 and running his market garden there. How long he lived and where he died is still an unknown. Selma could have been adopted out, informally, as adoptions were then. I have researched every Selma and even every Selina (the handwrtten birth certificate could go either way) on record who married or may have died from 1900 onwards, to no avail. Did Selma survive? I'll probably never know. 

Everyone of her era who ever knew of Martina, who ever missed her or whoever pondered her absence in the family, has gone now, and I feel in their memory I have at least finally found them a few answers.

Friday, April 5, 2019

"The Floating Brothel"

 Susannah Mortimer.  Looking back, our paths had crossed before, I had quite literally walked over her grave and not known it.

On the quest to find all my maternal grandmother's New World roots, its Susannah and her husband Thomas O'Brien that have led me to the very first white settlers of both N.S.W. and Van Diemen's Land, right back in to the late 1700's.

Back in the late 70's, St Matthew's church in Glenorchy, Tasmania, a very pretty little old church, had, for a time, a Pentecostal minister preaching inside its thick sandstone walls. Lots of uni students made the trip from Sandy Bay to St Matthews every Sunday to worship here. Whenever I 'd made the trip to Hobart to visit my brother, I'd go there too with him, he was a uni student at the time, and we'd walk past Susannah Mortimer's headstone with not a clue she was our ggggg grandmother.

Considering we all have 64 of these such endowed grandmothers, I guess our ignorance was excusable.

                                            St Matthews


Susannah is seven generations back from me on my maternal line, thats my mother's mother's mother's, mother's, mother's mother's mother. Phew! Putting it like that though, somehow makes me feel quite clearly and strongly connected on that matriarchal line.

Susannah had stolen a sheep. She was convicted at Exeter Lent Assizes and was sentenced to be hanged. Later this was commuted to 7 years transportation to Australia. In the summer of 1789, 226 women were embarked upon the Lady Juliana, and left England for the other side of the world. This was the first of the human cargo Britain would be shipping to the New World since the arrival of the First Fleet a year earlier. On further research, I discover the Lady Juliana is indeed the famous "floating brothel". I have heard of this ship, but not imagined that I may have had an ancestor who was a passenger. This ship, although having left earlier than the second fleet, is still considered to be a second fleet vessel.
The females on board considered this an opportunity to better their lives and elevate their positions, and that first step was often prostitution, and to become a "wife" to a crew member. Susannah must have done just this as she conceived and gave birth to her daughter to crew man William Screech, on the long voyage out.

On arrival at the new colony, they were met with the Port Jackson settlement at near starvation and settlers angry that a ship had arrived not with supplies and food, but 'damned whores', many who are helpless and a dead weight on the settlement, according to Governor Phillip.

Three weeks later, the second fleet supply ships arrived. These women, brought out as 'breeding stock', proved themselves to be far more than the demeaning labels they were tarred with. They were 'freed from the strictures of traditional society and class, and saw their new home as a chance to create a new life for themselves- a life filled with unprecedented opportunities'.

Susannah was definitely one of these. With conditions at Port Jackson so desperate, 8 weeks later 194 of these male and women convicts were shipped to Norfolk Island. Here Susannah formed a relationship with 1st Fleet Marine settler Thomas O'Brien on his 60 acre farm. Thomas, as a mariner on the First Fleet, was given the option to stay in this new place, and a land grant. They married, had eight more children and ran a successful farm.

In 1987, on holiday, I walked through the old cemetery at Kingston on Norfolk Island. I remember seeing headstones from the late 1700's and being amazed by them. I had no idea Thomas and Susannah's 3rd child Mary Anne was buried there in 1795. Their 9th child, namesake Mary Anne was their child from whom I was descended from.

In 1808, when the Government had decided to close the Norfolk Island settlement, Thomas and Susannah, their children and 250 other settlers were shipped to Hobart aboard the City of Edinburgh. Thomas was granted 100 acres of land, as first class settlers, in the area that became known as O'Briens Bridge and would later be named Glenorchy.

Thomas and Susannah farmed their property and raised their children. An 1819 Muster records Thomas on his farm with ten acres in wheat, one in peas and beans, three in potatoes and forty-six in pasture. His children are recorded as Catherine 27 yrs, unmarried; Agnes 24 and unmarried, Elizabeth 20, unmarried; James 19; William 17; Margaret 12 and Thomas age 11. Where our Mary was, I don't know, she would have been 15. This is Thomas' last paper trail, and it is presumed he died and was buried on the property as three years later in 1822, his two sons James and William are recorded as living on the farm. The following year 1823, our Mary married John Smith. Thomas and Susannah had 63 grandchildren. The ambitions of these "Floating Brothel" women were realised. Despite the authorities' prejudices and sterotypes, they were the women who laid the foundations of  our culture and society, worked hard with their husbands building their new homes and lives.

Susannah reached the age of 86 and died in 1846 and was buried in St Matthews. The cemetery was covered by  widening of the road, and the headstones moved closer to the church.
The bridge at O'Briens Bridge serviced the local community for nearly half a century, built on the corner of the O'Brien property, crossing Humphrey's Rivulet near the old Wesleyan chapel, which still stands today.

Established in 1831, this is one of Tasmania's oldest churches on land donated by James O'Brien.
                                                                                                    Undated photograph (1900-1920) LINC Tasmania NS392-1-783

Duncan Grant 2018

Monday, February 25, 2019

A stroll through Franklin and Castle Forbes Bay in 1875.

Strolling through Franklin and Castle Forbes:

Its 1875. 
John and Mary Smith and Joseph and Mary Lovell are well into their 70’s and were still living in the area they had settled in 30 years previously. They had both produced large families and subsequently had lived to see their many grandchildren as well. Both men worked in the timber industry as did their sons and grandsons.

On his approach to Franklin in July of that year, the Mercury’s Special Correspondent writes:
Fruit gardens and orchards become less frequent as you go further south. The forest is more universal; the foliage is greener and more luxuriant; the trunks of the trees are more thickly clad with moss; the fern in all its beautiful varieties is met with in larger profusion; and at shorter intervals, creeks deep, clear and rapid, or shallow and turbid, according to the formation of the country, are more numerous. They were bold men who, from whatever cause, became the pioneers of progress and civilization in this particular part of the Huon district.


He describes a cleared fringe along the river bank, an average width of two to three miles, beyond which are trackless forests and tangled undergrowth which forms an impassable barrier.  Franklin has a population of five to six hundred, three churches, a Mechanics Institute, several stores which would not disgrace Hobart, three public houses and a number of substantial private dwellings, some quite well-to-do, he reports. Fruit is grown here, chiefly raspberries and blackcurrants.
Two miles south of Franklin as he passes through Castle Forbes Bay, he describes the surrounds. He describes 60 inhabitants, consisting mostly of children, some of whom were certainly John and Mary Smith’s grandchildren. The youngest of John and Mary’s eight children, Isaac, would have been 33 when he strolled through the district in 1875. The most remarkable feature of Castle Forbes Bay he describes is the four-mile tramway belonging to Messrs. Smith, running from the river into the forest. A subsequent Tour Through Tasmania in 1877 again describes the tramway as a work of art: it is taken over steep ranges on the zig-zag principle, and is about the quaintest, roughest, crookedest piece of civil engineering in the Australian colonies.
This tramway is again described in 1880 as a “wonderful tramroad seen through the timber, climbing the hill in some places apparently so steep that the mystery is how locomotion on such a road is possible”.

When John and Joseph began timbering, conditions were difficult. Mr Johnson Dean wrote about the early 1850’s in his book  “On Sea and Land”.  The rising ground behind Franklin was partly cleared, but the dry trees, hundreds of feet high, and bare of leaves and bark, some standing, some lying in all directions, suggested to the newcomer the scene of a great battle. And such indeed it was, for the early pioneers had to fight for every acre of land, against trees from one to twenty yards in circumference at the butt and filled in between with scrub 20ft high and so thick that the sun was only just visible through the foliage. The swamp gums and stringy bark when carefully selected could be split into shingles, or into pailings, 7 inches wide by 6 feet long, and half an inch thick. These often had to be carried on men’s shoulders long distances out of the bush to a ‘slab’ road whence they could be carried to the riverside.

                                                                      Huon Valley

Many of the settlers were then living in two roomed slab, or bark huts.

Early settlers grew potatoes, sufficient wheat to make grist for the mill, and the only other crops reported were barley and peas to feed the pigs. The principal work was splitting shingles, laths, posts, and rails. There were no horses to do the carrying, the prepared timber being carried by the splitters on their backs to the water’s edge and some astonishingly heavy loads were conveyed in this manner. Very few settlers employed labour, as the price of produce was so low, that there was little, if anything, left after the necessary groceries and clothing were paid for. Later, prison labour was availed of by settlers. These men were described as third class pass holders. They were paid 3s, 6d. per week. Most were boarded in the homes of their masters, the only distinction made, being the provision of a separate table at meal time. For a few years the gold rush in Victoria from 1851, caused a great boom in the timber trade of the Huon, with the banks of the river almost lined with sawpits. When this slowed a good many of the timber workers became permanent settlers, and most of them ultimately took up orcharding. In 1869 plenty of timber dealers, sawyers and splitters attended a meeting at the Alabama Hotel, Shipwrights Point to discuss the Governor-in-Council’s recent announcement that licensing fees for timber cutting were being hiked from 1s per week, to 2s.6d. for each person employed. Mr M Darcy of Castle Forbes Bay explained to the chairman that the splitters worked 4 miles back from the water’s edge, and were obliged to carry timber on their backs for a distance of ½ mile out of the bush; then have it carted 1 ½ miles on road made by the settlers themselves, next  have it sledged ½ mile, when it was finally trammed 1 ½ miles to the beach. It was resolved at the meeting that the levy was both unjust and oppressive and would thereby cripple the remnant of the timber trade now left.

                                                                Huon River

Life was certainly hard for the settlers of this district, and not just carting timber.

One month after the 1875 write up, the Tasmanian Tribune reported the loss of two little Castle Forbes boys to croup, the first a poor little fellow of about six years, a son of Mr. David Smith, John and Mary’s grandson, and the other a fine promising young fellow of about 10 years old, and an only son of Mr. Denis Reilley. Life was tough, there were plenty of losses and hardships for these families. Timber getting was dangerous and catastrophic losses from bush fire was a constant risk too. The Colonial Times in January 1854 reports that the Huon’s rapid progress and flourishing timber trade has made it one of the most noted if not the most valuable settlement in the colony; but the recent calamitous fire has awakened deep sympathy in the heart of colonists. Fundraising events ensued in Hobart to assist those who had lost everything. Again in 1858, another dreadful fire fanned by winds was burning in many miles of bushland. Castle Forbes Bay and Glaziers Bay bore the brunt of more fire in 1859, with loss of homes and crops. The very livelihood of these settlers was their greatest risk, and their greatest loss too with cut timber, sawmills, crops and homes all often lost to the devastating fires that this area was and still is, sadly susceptible to.

The Mercury reported in April 1878 of the sufferings of David Smith at Castle Forbes Bay, stating “misfortunes never come singly”. David lost pailings stacked in the bush and destruction of tramroad in prevalent bushfires which were only just eased by rain. ‘The same gentleman had a valuable horse killed the previous week whilst carting pailings on the tramroad. ‘The wagon drawn by two horses, coming down an incline, by some means, probably a defective brake- overpowered the horse in the shafts…killing it upon the spot, capsizing the wagon and injuring Mr Smith’s son.

John and Mary Smith had at least 8 children (and at least 27 grandchildren) : Sons John, David, Thomas and Isaac; daughters Elizabeth, Mary, Susannah and Martha.

Thomas and Amelia Smith seated front right. The other old gentleman is William Coventry, Amelia's father. Three of William's daughters married three of John Smith's sons. Amelia married Thomas, Margaret married Isaac and Mary Anne married David. 1904
sourced Cooper Family Tree

Thomas Smith
                                         John Smith jnr, looking remarkably like his father, below

It was in November that year that John Smith’s death was announced in the newspaper. He must have been widely known as Victorian and New Zealand papers were advised to copy.

                                                 Aged 83 “His end was peace”.

                                                            John Smith snr

All sources trove newspaper articles.  8961714  201736666  29809428  8856640  201488444  8938544  226506491

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Lovells and the Smiths. Part II

Although she died when I was 17, my memories of my maternal grandmother are significant.
I knew her well enough to know she had, like many of her generation a definite cognisance of social class. Researching her background, this has puzzled me, where did this perception come from? Why did she place herself seemily above her predominantly convict heritage?

Did the descendants of convicts push their heritage so far away from them that they ignored completely their working and criminal class?

A visual Family Tree of Nanna's heritage, stars are convicts or children of convicts. .........sorry Nanna, I know you'd hate this

It was in the marriage of her great grandparents Samuel Lovell and Elizabeth Smith that I find two classes meeting, and the difficulties faced by the convict class.

We have Elizabeth's father, convict made good, John Smith, rejected from Fernlands by Lady Jane Franklin.

Map from LIST. The large shaded area is Franklin......

 ....close up of Castle Forbes Bay showing John Smith's property

Then we have Samuel Lovell's parents who met with immediate favour by Lady Jane when they applied for Fernlands. Joseph Lovell and Mary Dawson with three children, arrived in Hobart in 1828 aboard the Hind, as free settlers. I must admit to feeling a little disappointed on finding the first non-convict Tasmanian settlers in my Nanna's ancestry! The Lovells rented a farm at Browns River ( Kingston Beach) but when applying for Fernlands property, Lady Jane wrote of Lovell:

a person of the name of Lovell who rents a small farm at Brown's River, & is desirous of taking one of the allotments at the Huon. He had visited the spot which is better than that he now rents & having a family of 8 sons & 1 daughter with a wife and a brother he desires to obtain something he can call his own & is lead... to think of the Huon because they are all so united there, & of the same society, he being like the majority of my tenants there, a Wesleyan. The man's countenance & man were so prepossessing that I did not hesitate to promise him the allotment he wished provided the persons to whom he referred me for his character...spoke favourably of him.

Kingston Beach circa 1890, much later than when the Lovells settled there and it was called Browns River. 

At this stage, Lady Jane seems resigned and accepting  her Wesleyan tenants. As it turned out one of Joseph's character references let him down. A Methodist missionary named Turner said of him :
hardworking, sober & honest, but not as I understand a very faithful member of the (Wesleyan) Society.....I told Mr Turner I thought it possible that (Lovell) was a little given to religious cant. Mr T agreed to this & acknowledged that he had been suspended for 3 months from the Wesleyan Society for litigious conduct. On the whole however he thought it might not be easy to find a family more eligible.

I might have thought Lady Jane could be happy with a Methodist who wasn't quite as dyed in the wool as her other tenants, but she must have been warming to them! Lady Jane didn't record whether she accepted Joseph or not, but he did relocate to the Huon one way or another. Census records show the Lovells at "Huon River" in 1848, and "Franklin" in 1851. They show John Smith at "Fernlands" in 1842, "Huon River" in 1843, and "Castle Forbes Bay" also 1843 and 1851.

A petition signed by locals, including James Smith and Samuel Lovell (John and Joseph's sons) to the Government for the improvement of the Huon Road in 1843.                                Tas Archives

John Smith and Joseph Lovell, united in geneology when their children married each other, both lived into old age. Joseph died in 1878 at age 78 from old age and general decay; his wife Mary died 6 months later, also 78. John Smith reached 83 and also died in 1878 from the same cause as his peer, with his wife Mary also reaching 83 and dying in 1887.
Strangely, the next recorded death on the lovely handwritten Death Registry of Franklin after John Smith less than a month later, is Martin Cupit, age 53. Who knows if the two convicted and transported men's paths ever crossed, its probable, but 17 years later Martin's son marries John's ggrandaughter, my Nanna's parents.

                                                                                                             Libraries tas, Names search

So finally I'm piecing together a picture of my Nanna's family, the Lovells and the Smiths, original settlers, and how they formed the rich Huon Valley heritage I've discovered she had. Only one more couple to go, and that's the O'Briens, John Smith's wife's parents, and this pair turn out to be the most fascinating of all!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Lovells and the Smiths. Part I

"Samuel Lovell and Elizabeth Smith, I'm searching for your parents."

With a name like Smith, I had procrastinated on finding her origins, thinking she’d be hard, but thinking the Lovells might be somewhat easier. Ancestry tells me Elizabeth Smith’s father was a John Smith, a convict, but I have to verify this myself, not just trust Ancestry.

Of the 528 entries on the names Index for John Smith Convict, I find 40 in the decade that fits. I find a John Smith, police # 91 on the Lady Castlereagh, and after spending over an hour transcribing his difficult to read, lengthy record, I’m beginning to think something isn’t quite right here. This is what a researcher does, gets the source document and verifies any information. Theres a note on the side “to be hanged” in 1832, with other crimes out of synch with dates I have of John’s marriage. It takes me ages to realise prisoner #90 on the Lady Castlereagh is also John Smith, and this is the one I’m after.

John Smith married Mary Anne Brien (I now have 2 Mary (O') Briens in my ancestry tree) on the 10th March 1823 by R Knopwood at St Davids, Hobart Town. The certificate indicates that John was a convict on the Lady Castlereagh and age 28, while Mary was free and 18. After much searching for these two, I finally found proof that these were indeed my ancestors. The genealogy gods atop Mt Olympus who look down on us mortal researchers, smiled on me as I found Mary Ann Smith’s death record. Mary Ann Smith dies at age 83, a widow, of old age at Franklin in 1887. Her death was registered by Charles Rose, who states he is her grandson in law, at Franklin. What a gift, absolute proof that this Mary Smith was ours!

With the correct John Smith, I then find the genealogist’s pot of gold, someone else who has done all the work, written it up and put it online there for us all to read, including photos.

John Smith, looking quite the aged gentleman with his velvet collar.
And his daughter Elizabeth, my gggg grandmother, her dress including a very fine train.

John and Mary began their married life in Launceston but moved back to Glenorchy with three children in 1830 when the fourth child was born. Wesleyan Church Baptisms show that John age 7, Elizabeth age 6, Mary age 4 and Susanna age 5 weeks were all baptised in Hobart, with their abode being O'Brien's Bridge, Mary's father's property. Mary’s father, Thomas O'Brien, owned land in Glenorchy and John was able to obtain some of this land originally grated to his father in law. He worked as a sawyer. John did very well for himself.

Lady Jane Franklin now steps into the picture.

In 1839, John applied for land in what was a new developing settlement called Huon Fernlands. Fernlands was a 1280-acre property purchased by Lady Jane Franklin in 1838. As the governor’s wife, Lady Jane was unusually active in the affairs of the colony. She embarked on some incredibly varied, and perhaps very self indulgent, projects to better the colony, including overland exploration of the south and west, establishing schools, aiding the female convict cause, erecting a Grecian temple to further cultural aspirations and (disastrously) adopting and anglicizing aboriginal girl Mathinna.

 Lady Franklin established Fernlands to aid deserving emigrants better themselves.
It seems Lady Jane had a pretty clear view of who might be ‘deserving’. Preferably Anglican, no Catholics, religious, non-drinkers, no ex-convicts, folks of a good character reference who would keep things nice.

Lady Franklin was prepared to accept settlers who were not Anglicans in her new settlement but was worried about the influx of Methodists “a very ambitious people, aiming to make proselytes to their sect as much as to the common cause of evangelical Christianity, and they work on the lower passions of human nature to obtain their objects”. She did find them useful in that their zeal and activity made them “a very useful bulwark against the encroachment of popery, and as such I chiefly value them”. She did want to get the Archdeacon to get his skates on and officially open the new Anglican chapel lest it become “quite a Methodist Chapel

Lady Jane was extremely involved with her tenants and seemed to be very happy to receive them regularly at Government House, to hear their complaints, to meet wives and children and then, fortunately, comment on the meetings in great detail in her journals. She directly oversaw and took a personal interest in religious matters, rental arrears, housing, schools, roads and the personal lives of her tenants as her settlement grew.

John Smith applied for consideration, after which Lady Jane wrote of him: One John Smith, who had originally been a prisoner- he has been in the colony 22 years and bears an excellent character and is a very religious man. I told him however that by admitting him, I made a singular exception in his favour, contrary to the principle on which I founded the establishment which was for the encouragement of free emigrants, that however I did not think many persons who had come to the colony under similar circumstances could bring me such tests of worth as he could, and if they could, they should have the same advantage.

After John discovered he was knocked back, he came back to Lady Jane: John Smith came to me this morning to plead his case, having seen Mr. Waterhouse  who had told him the objections that existed to his settling in the Huon Fernlands. I promised Smith in consequence of his disappointment to do something for him, at any future time if able” 
The well respected Rev John Waterhouse had recently been appointed General Superintendent of Wesleyan Missions in New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand and the south seas to assist infant churches at the ends of the earth.  He was based in Hobart, but travelled widely.

So, John Smith was fighting a bit of an uphill battle for himself, having both a convict stain and it seemed a Methodist stain too. A couple of other Methodists from Glenorchy were successful in gaining tenancy at Fernlands. Stephen Stebbins, noted as Smith’s friend, and who supported Smith’s application even after his suitability was challenged. Thomas Webb, another religious non-conformist from Glenorchy had also moved in to Fernlands by December 1839. 

Though excluded from Fernlands John Smith settled in the Huon by buying 100 acres of crown Land at Castle Forbes Bay in January 1841, possibly assisted by Lady Jane who may have come good to her word. Local newspapers advertised Crown Land at Castle Forbes Bay in 1840 and 41,for 12 shillings an acre, and it must have been this release that John Smith bought from. 
Castle Forbes Bay is just south of Franklin, so it must have pretty well bordered Lady Jane’s Fernlands estate.

Once the Smiths had settled in Castle Forbes Bay, others settlers came to the district too. Land was regularly advertised in local papers in the early 1850's. In 1854 an Abstinence Society was formed, so obviously Lady Jane's hopes of a non-drinking community hadn't ensued, in Castle Forbes at least. 
By 1855 it was reported there were so many children in the district a school was required, and the Board of Education granted 100 pounds per annum for a school house. John and Mary's youngest son, Isaac was 12 by then, so it was a bit late in coming for the Smith children. Despite this, it was John Smith snr who proposed; and then seconded by Mr Williams, the establishment of a school at Castle Forbes Bay, embracing Shipwrights Point, and, on being put to the Chairman was carried unanimously.
Farming was becoming well established, but it was in the timber industry that these men toiled. By 1856 and 57 Dr Crowthe and James Scully were advertising plenty of employment for sawyers, splitters and bushmen at Castle Forbes Bay. This was probably what drew men like Martin Cupit and Charles Rose to the area. More on this coming up soon.

 Libraries tas name search accessed 20 Sept 2018
 Mackaness, 1977, page 108; AOT, NS 279/2/9, pages 3-4
 A History of the Huon and the Far South , chapter 3 the Tenant Farmers
 AOT, NS 279/2/9, page 23
 Wooley, Richie & Smith, Wayne, A History of the Huon and Far South, page 78
A Brief account of the life and activities of Rev. John Waterhouse : more particularly from the time of his arrival in Van Diemen's Land until his death  TROVE
 Hobart Town Gazette, 23 Oct 1840; AOT, Kent County Survey Diagram 1/149
 Wooley, Richie & Smith, Wayne, A History of the Huon and Far South, page 78

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Samuel Lovell and Elizabeth Smith

My last blog about Mary Rose, was a peep into the life of the fourth of my grandmother's grandparents. Having found no birth record for my Mary Rose nee Lovell, I now look backwards to find her parents.

I find their beautifully hand written  marriage document. Samuel Lovell age 20, a farmer, marries Elizabeth Smith, age 17 at the Huon Chapel on 20th April 1843. Witness are Joseph Lovell and John Smith, either brothers or fathers, and all parties sign their names with an X.

There are a few clues here. Firstly, they are in Huon. We are now getting into far earlier times of settlement in the Huon area. The X means illiteracy, common amoung convicts. The Rank, they call it Rank, not Profession, is Farmer. This could perhaps indicate a non-convict as even if free, convict status is usually recorded on a marriage certificate (the only Samuel Lovell on the convict register is a non-contender). Obviously I'll need to go further back to find Samuel's origins.

Huon Chapel is possibly the early church building at Franklin.

Five years after their marriage, a Census record lists Samuel and Elizabeth living at Huon River with two little kiddies, and again in 1851, at what is now listed as Franklin, with four children. Samuel is a settler, a farmer, a sawyer and a master mariner on each birth registry. Finally I find their 5th child an as yet unnamed female born on Christmas day 1852, this would be our Mary and would explain why I could never find her birth certificate under her name.

Sadly Elizabeth dies in 1854 at the young age of 26, with our little Mary only 2. Elizabeth is probably buried in the beautiful, but dilapidated old cemetery in Franklin.

Six years later on the 24th of December, Samuel marries again. Myra Thorpe is a widow and age 35 and their ceremony is witnessed by William and Louisa Scott. Samuel and Myra have four more children together.

Myra is easily researched because she was a convict. Convicts lives were so regulated and documented by the authorities that primary sources often abound. Myra came aboard the Cadet in 1847 as Myra Baggelly. Her conduct record shows he had an illegitimate son George in 1851 and applied for permission to marry Andrew Thorpe in 1853 which was granted as she married him 48 days later as Myra Bayley. Andrew and Myra had three children together. They lived at Cairns Bay where Andrew was a sawyer.

google images Cairns Bay. Old house on Scott's Road, probably named after William and Louisa, witnesses at Samuel and Myra's wedding.

I've found it interesting in my family research to get an overview of how convicts married and how they managed to integrate into a society with prejudices against them.

Martin Cupit, convict, married Sarah Murphy, daughter of a convict but with the added social disadvantage of having been an inmate of the Queen's Orphanage. Both building their lives from the social and cultural bottom-of-the-heap upwards. 

Charles Rose, son of a convict woman marries Mary Lovell, who is looking like she may have free settlers background, up a rung. 

And later, Kezia Rose, comfortably removed from her partial convict heritage, marries William Cupit, son of a convict.
The females of the place had the advantage. With an immense gender imbalance, women could afford to be picky and their choice of men seeking a wife was from a large potential pool. Plenty of fish in the sea.

So Myra did well in marrying Samuel. Myra also bucked the trend with her children. Well known historian (and my lecturer) Hamish Maxwell-Stewart is researching fertility and child bearing rates amoung convict women in Van Diemen's land. Surprisingly he identified convict women as on an average producing .9 children after arrival, that's less than one per woman. In other words, they had very few offspring. He explains this possibly because their lives were so regulated and when they did marry, they were older. This has certainly been the case for my two Irish forebears, by the time they married, children were a non event.

But for Myra, even though she married Samuel at age 38, she had four more children and with her previous four, she must have brought that average figure up considerably. Myra registered a couple of these births herself and named herself Mary and Maria.

Perhaps this explains why our Mary got married at age 15. Here was her father with his new wife producing more children and she needed to make her own way. She was married and out before their last daughter was born in 1869 when Myra was 47.

Visual Family Tree, with our Mary, born 1852, Mary being my maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother. Apologies to Samuel, Myra and the children. Elizabeth is a likeness taken from a photo found on a genealogy site:    

So far no real answers as to who Samuel Lovell was and why he ended up in the Huon, and then there's Elizabeth, what of her parents? This means I've now got four more people to reseach, Mary Rose's grandparents. Stay tuned for the next exciting installment.

My recent trip to Franklin found me walking the old cemetery. There are few graves sites intact and legible, but I came across some names I recognised from my research.
The very first grave I find is dear Lottie. She was David Cupit's fiancee. She nursed David until he died at age 30 from gassing in WW1, and was 'adopted' into the Cupit family and never married. She has no descendants, but is remembered.

Next I find Louie and Maria Diefenbach, Sarah Cupit's friend.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Female Convict Health Assignment

Our last utas unit was one of the most challenging yet. Our final assignment was putting one convict in a greater context. I choose the topic of risks to convict health on the journey out to the Colony.

My previous research and blog on my ancestor, Mary Brien, had made me very curious about her mental health as her behaviour just seemed to reveal traces of depression, trauma and even bi-polar.

As I began my research into my chosen topic, having no idea whether I'd get anywhere close to assignment material, a fascinating insight into female convict mental health unfolded. Hysteria, as it was then called, was pretty rife, as you would indeed expect in such traumatic circumstances these women found themselves in. 

This essay discusses health risks of female convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land between 1822 and 1853. The key aspect presented is that of mental health. Mental illness even today can be difficult to diagnose and quantify. The circumstances such as these convict women found themselves in, such as desperate social and economic conditions, imprisonment, exile and forced separation from their children, must have been fertile ground for anxiety, depression, trauma and to use an outdated term, a nervous breakdown.

An example of a typical convict was Mary Brien. Mary arrived in VDL on the Blackfriar in 1851, age 30, with her ten-year-old daughter. She was reported as being troublesome in the Irish prison but quiet on the voyage out. [i] Upon arrival her daughter was taken to the Orphanage, mother and daughter separated.[ii]  Mary is not mentioned by John Moody, the Surgeon Superintendent on the Blackfriar, so she obviously suffered no illness severe enough to be hospitalized or logged. Nevertheless, Mary’s subsequent life in the colony was not particularly trouble-free.
When Mary’s postings began, the first lasted less than two weeks. Mary was then shunted between Brickfields Hiring depot and the House of Correction five times until her second hiring a year later. It seems Mary’s first year didn’t go so smoothly. Examination of Mary’s record reveals a pattern. Each year for the next six years, she had short stints of hiring followed by more time at Brickfields, two court appearances and even more time at the House of Correction.[iii] Clearly, she was a difficult one. Mary was continually reprimanded, namely, for insolence, misconduct and neglect of duty. It seems Mary had an attitude problem. Was Mary just a fiery Irish woman, or did her mental and emotional issues run deeper?


Evidence of convict women’s mental states after transportation is scant, and Mary’s mental state is speculation only, however evidence is prevalent as to the mental health of women such as Mary on the long voyage out. John Moody commented that it was not an easy thing to assess the physical and mental states of so many who have come to him from the confines of a difficult prison situation. With so many temperaments to manage, making on the spot diagnosis of mental health would have been impossible. It didn’t take too long before John Moody had a mental heath issue to deal with though. The night before sailing, John describes treating Catherine Walsh, a Lunatic who was lucid upon embarkation. As it was too late to disembark her, the poor girl was strait jacketed. Again, after two months at sea, he describes Anne Torpey, a ‘stout girl of nervous temperament’, one night jumping out of bed screaming and running about in a frantic state. She was hospitalized for several days.[iv]

                                        Surgeons reports give fascinating insight into the voyage out.

The terminology used at the time, was Hysteria. By the 1800’s Hysteria was being seen by professionals as less of a disease of the uterus or demon possession, and more correctly as a mental condition. Symptoms described by these surgeons were seizure like paroxysms, fainting, irrational behavior and unresponsive and hyper responsive conditions, symptoms that would now be recognized as depression in all its forms, traumatic stress and anxiety.[v]
Indeed, on closer examination of Surgeon’s reports from female transportation ships, Hysteria pops up regularly. It had to be quite disruptive and severe to make a Hospital admission. Of these reports, some are brief and to the point, while others are extremely detailed and give fascinating insight to day to day life on board. Some Surgeons comment predominantly on weather, while others, conditions of cleanliness and routines of the women. Frequently Hysteria is listed on the summary only and some surgeons make mention of its prevalence only in their remarks written at the end of the voyage. Hence, cases of Hysteria were possibly far more common than is reported, as many needed no treatment.  

Surgeon Superintendent Charles Smith gives an insight into the psychological state of the Irish females in his charge. The Duke of Cornwall sailed in July 1850, immediately preceding the Blackfriar. Charles had a huge caseload of twenty-six cases of Hysteria to deal with. His opening remarks stated that the Irish were a highly susceptible race and that the women ‘suffered much from Grief and depression of Spirits at leaving their friends and native Country’. He states many of the women were not put on the sick list as their paroxysms were of short duration and their general health was good. He describes varied symptoms such as loss of power of speech, paralysis and ‘extravagant hallucinations’.[vi]


In 1849 John Moody, then surgeon on the Lord Auckland, also refers to the spirits of the women on board. He treats them with ‘kindness, at the same time with firmness’ to restore their spirits, noting its no easy matter where Irish convicts are concerned.[vii] Surgeon A.F. Macleroy (Phoebe 1845) reports of seasickness, ‘accompanied as usual in females with Syncope <[fainting]> & Hysteria in various degrees & shapes, many cases being very troublesome tho’ not placed on the Sick List.[viii] Surgeon James Clarke’s (Greenlaw 1844) general remarks comment almost entirely on food and diet, but he does generalize about the extreme mental depression of women on his Sick List and how this is generally the case amongst the lower and ignorant Irish class.[ix] Signs and symptoms of  mental suffering are also scattered throughout the English female ships, even with several suicide attempts mentioned.[x] Most Surgeons report they handle their cases successfully with treatments ranging from ‘constant employment’ to shaving the head and cold-water ablutions, blood-letting, enemas and various dosages of substances such as Submuriate of Mercury, aloetic pills and Laudanum.

                     Surgeon Superintendent James Hall on 4 ships 1820-1833, Aust Convict & Convict Ships Board, pintrest

Examination of sixty-four Surgeons reports of both Irish and English female ships which landed in VDL, twenty-nine made mention of one or more cases of Hysteria, an indication of the mental and emotional stress of women undertaking a voyage with incredible risks and uncertainties.[xi] Given the series of traumatic events these women endured, it would be highly likely that many of them would indeed have their mental health severely compromised. Likewise, the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder would be a high possibility, hence affecting their ability to reintegrate successfully with an extremely high probability of developing alcohol dependence.[xii]

Mary Brien gained her freedom and married George Gray in 1859. [xiii]  Whether married life settled her, is also unknown, but in 1875 Mary Brien-ex-Gray, died a pauper in a residence on the corner of Molle and Golbourn Streets in Hobart.[xiv]
To conclude, that Mary Breen suffered from any ill mental health is pure conjecture. She had times of compliance and times of turbulence.  Why was she a difficult woman? Perhaps she suffered from mental illness and was damaged by a system which intended to force conformity, limit personal freedom and ‘reform’ the wild ones, but had little understanding of emotional and mental suffering, treatment and subsequent personal and societal cost.

                                                                                                                                convict love token

[i]  NAME_INDEXES:1375061 accessed 8 August 2018
[ii] orphan accessed8 June 2018
[iii] Female convicts in VDL database, Female Convicts Research Centre Accessed 16 June 2018
[v] Women and Hysteria in the History of Mental Health accessed 1 Aug 2018
[x], Emma Eugenia1846, East London1843, Mary Ann 1822, Tasmania 1844
[xiv] "Australia, Tasmania, Miscellaneous Records, 1829-2001," database with images, FamilySearch (Cemetery records > Burials and cremations, Cornelian Bay Cemetery > Feb 1875-Jul 1876, AF70/1/2 no 699-1186 > image 101 of 510; Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart. Accessed 20 July 2018