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.
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 www.abc.net.au/localstories
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.