Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Unbecoming liberties - Trove Tuesday

In the early 1800s one of the main forms of entertainment was reading the newspapers which were often filled with scandalous and shocking articles. These were sensational in the fact that they were true and were often reported verbatim from the trials. From Trove the following the report was located about Catherine Connor who lived near Windsor and had originally charged William Connolly, a servant of her husband John, of rape. Following investigation into the allegations by the Windsor Police Bench, Catherine was charged with perjury. Catherine was “indicted for wilful and corrupt perjury, committed before the Bench of Magistrates at Windsor, on the investigation of a charge of rape…against one John Connolly.” The case was held at Sydney’s Supreme Court before Justice Stephen on 22 November 1826.  The story continues from the Sydney Gazette 25 November 1826 p. 3.  

It appeared in evidence, that a man named Connolly, was government servant to the husband of the prisoner, and that he (the husband), for a considerable time, suspected an improper intercourse between her and the man Connolly. On a particular day, however, Connolly obtained from his master a pass to proceed to Parramatta, and shortly after his departure the prisoner also left her home, which circumstance arousing the suspicions of her husband, he proceeded after the parties, and detected them together in the bush, at some distance on the Windsor Road. The prisoner, on seeing her husband approach, in order to screen herself, raised an outcry that Connolly had forced her off the road, and had committed a rape on her person, and on this charge he was subsequently brought before the Bench at Windsor. The prisoner there swore positively that Connolly not only forced her against her will on the occasion, but also that she never, at any other time had met him by appointment, nor allowed him to take any liberties whatever with her. A number of witnesses, however, were examined, who positively swore to the most disgraceful scenes having taken place, for months before between the parties, in consequence of which the Magistrates thought proper to dismiss the charge against Connolly, and to indict the prisoner for perjury. The trial lasted for six hours, during which a series of appointments between the prisoner and Connolly were unequivocally established by several witnesses, a number of whom also deposed to having seen them in situations which left no doubt whatever of a criminal intercourse having subsisted tor a length of time previous to the investigation before the Magistrates. 

The Australian 25 November 1826, p. 3 has a slightly different version from the above, with William Connolly’s revealing account:

Catherine Connor was sentenced to transportation for three years on the 28 December 1826 according to the Sydney Gazette, 30 December 1826, p. 3. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Christopher Watkin May and the dandy horse - Trove Tuesday

In the 1890s, the Hawkesbury claimed that Christopher May was the "father of cycling" despite the claims by Sydney newspapers and Mr W. R. George of the Sydney Bicycle Club. The Windsor & Richmond Gazette 21 March 1896 p. 6 stated:
Perhaps it will interest our cycling readers to know that Mr. Christopher May, over 82 years of age, a farmer, residing on the Hawkesbury, near Windsor, is the oldest living cyclist in Australia. A great controversy, as you know, has been going on in the Sydney and Melbourne papers lately as to who was entitled to this honor, and I think  to be the father of cycling. As Mr. George's experience only dates from 1866 or later, I think Mr. Christopher May can well lay claim to the title of grandfather, for he was the owner of a "dandy horse," and rode along Brickfield Hill in the year 1836. The old man told me the other day, with a good laugh, that he shortly after, on a Sunday, rode down the main street of Windsor and surprised the residents, who had never seen one before. Windsor was a more prosperous place then than now, and the population was larger, and the people, seeing the new-fangled machine and its rider careering down the hill in George-street, Windsor, went mad with excitement. the whole district turning out to witness a man astride of two wheels. Next day the police magistrate, old Lieutenant [Archibald] Bell, fearing a disturbance (be it remembered there was a rough element about in those stirring days), asked the young cyclist (for Christy was a young man once) not to appear in public again to disturb the minds of the people with his dandy horse - he feared a riot. At that time old Bell, the military magistrate, lived in Government House, which is still standing at the bottom of George-street. He came out to Australia with the 102nd Regiment, afterwards the Royal Veterans Company, and took part in Governor Bligh's arrest. Mr May is still in the land of the living, and although not a disciple of the bicycle, is still an active rider, and bestrides his old grey horse with all the activity of yore. 

Sadly Mr May passed away a few years after this article appeared. His obituary appeared in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette  28 July 1900 p. 9. He is buried in the Windsor Catholic Cemetery with various other family members.

Christopher Watkin May's headstone in the Windsor Catholic Cemetery

Henry Lawson’s birthday - Trove Tuesday

June 17th, marks Henry Lawson’s 146th birth date but did you know there is a connection between Lawson and the Hawkesbury district?

Henry Lawson (1867-1922) was born in 1867 in Grenfell and after a difficult childhood, went onto become one of Australia’s literary personalities.

After gaining a reputation as a writer of short stories and verse, by the early 1900s Henry’s career declined. His life often spiralled out of control but for the latter part of his life, he was cared for by his loyal friend, Mrs Isabella Byers. Mrs Byers operated the North Sydney Coffee Palace, and was herself a poet and an admirer of Lawson’s talent. On 2 September 1922, Lawson died of cerebral haemorrhage in Isabella’s care.

Isabella Byers was in fact Isabella Ward and was born in the Hawkesbury, daughter of James and Isabella Ward. In 1885, Isabella married Charles Byers but the couple apparently separated, with Isabella living independently. After devoting over twenty years of her life to the care of Henry Lawson, Isabella passed away in November 1930 aged 82 years. 

Sydney Morning Herald 14 November 1930 p. 8 
Her brother Joseph William Ward, was elected an alderman of Windsor Municipal Council and in 1910 became Mayor. Joseph was originally a carpenter by trade and then established his own business in Windsor. His son then operated his business while Joseph went into farming. Joseph was well-known around the Hawkesbury district and was heavily involved in the community through his work with the volunteers, sport and politics. Around the time the War commenced, the Ward’s moved to Sydney. Joseph’s wife Ambrosine Isabella (nee Bushell) died in 1926 and Joseph died in 1928 aged 82.   Both are buried at St. Matthew’s Church of England Cemetery, Windsor. 

The Good Wards of Windsor compiled by Olive Lawson, and published by DeerubbinPress has additional information about the Ward family.  Read some of Henry Lawson’s titles online for free.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Scheyville Government Agricultural Training Farm

In 1910, Scheyville, the Government Agricultural Training Farm was set up on the outskirts of Windsor on part of the Pitt Town Common which had been a Government Labour Settlement during the 1890s.  The farm (2,500 acres) was established by Francis William Schey (1857-1913), politician, union leader and public servant. It was originally a Government Labour Settlement during the 1890s depression, to provide basic upkeep in return for labour before closing in the 1900s.

During the 1900s the Australian Government established a subscription to raise money to purchase a  Dreadnought battleship for Britain. When Australia set up the Navy the money was not required and instead was used to sponsor British boys to come to Australia and learn basic agricultural skills and was known as the Dreadnought Scheme.  

Horsedrawn plough at Scheyville Training Farm circa 1926
Courtesy State Records

Various crops and vegetables were grown at Scheyville and students also learnt shearing, dairying, sawmilling, blacksmithing, saddlery and wheelwrighting and then to find employment on rural properties. Unfortunately the work was hard and the boys were often unsuited to rural life. Many of the boys were young, homesick whilst some were taken advantage of.  When the scheme folded in the 1930s, over 5,500 boys had migrated to the farm.

Group photograph of immigrant boys and farm workers at Scheyville Training Farms
Courtesy State Records 

During World War 2, Scheyville was used for training and then afterwards was occupied by migrants, mainly from Europe, who arrived in Australia in large numbers after the war. The migrant hostel provided lodgings until they could become established with employment and housing. On the whole, migrants had good memories of their time at Scheyville. The Migrant Hostel closed in 1964. You can read about the memories of migrants and their experiences at Scheyville on the Migration Heritage website Field of Memories.

The locality where the hostel was located, now bears the name Scheyville. Several buildings still remain and the farm now forms part of the Scheyville National Park.

For more information check the National Archives of Australia finding aid, Good British Stock and website Field of Memories

Friday, 14 June 2013

Hawkesbury River floods

The Hawkesbury River has a long history of floods and when Governor Phillip and his party explored the district shortly after arrival, debri was noted in the tree branches. In 1799 the river rose over 15m followed by three huge floods recorded including 1806. 1809, 1817 and 1819 saw a number of floods with heights reaching 14m and widespread damage in the Hawkesbury. 

Inhabitants had a period of calm with no major floods for over thirty years. Then successive floods in June 1864 caused major problems in the Hawkesbury, when the river rose and peaked at 14.64m. Buildings were seriously damaged, several were completely destroyed. Over 1000 people were made destitute with many families having no homes to go to. The agricultural district suffered heavy losses. Stacks of hay and corn were carried away, also pigs, cattle and horses.   

But the biggest was yet to come. On 17 June 1867 it began to rain.  The rain continued and became heavier and strong winds blew. By 20 June 1867, the whole district was covered with water, as far as the eye could see.  Within a few days the levels were almost to the height of the 1864 flood and rising quickly. All the available boats were answering the distress calls of inhabitants, so additional boats were sent from Sydney on a special train, arriving at Windsor. By 22 June the water was rising at the rate of seven inches per hour eventually reaching a massive 19.26m

Source: Illustrated Sydney News 16 July 1867, p. 8. 

Amazingly there was only one report of fatalities as a result of this flood. members of the Eather family drowned at Cornwallis. Two wives and their ten children were drowned, the two husbands and one boy were saved. Not all of the bodies were immediately recovered, but those that were, are located in the Windsor Catholic Cemetery. The body of a child was found several months later, at Freemans Reach, and another inquest was held. 

When waters receded, the destruction along the Hawkesbury were revealed and heavy losses were recorded. The floods covered a large part of NSW including Goulburn and the Hunter district, however the Hawkesbury was the worst hit. 

Although there have been numerous floods since European settlement, there has been nothing like the 1867 disastrous flood. It was almost 100 years later when floodwaters rose to 15.1m mark. A relatively short time later, in 1964 another flood occurred, the river rising 14.51m. 

Source: Windsor floods, date unknown.
Tyrrell Photographic Collection, Powerhouse Museum

For more information about Hawkesbury floods, check historic newspaper accounts on Trove and also Disastrous decade : flood and fire in Windsor 1864-1874 by Michelle Nichols (Berowra Heights, N.S.W. : Deerubbin Press, 2001)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Trove Tuesday - Death of Andrew Thompson 1773-1810

Andrew Thompson, despite arriving in the colony as a convict on the Pitt in 1792, went on to become one of the Hawkesbury's most celebrated pioneers. Thompson was renowned for his work as a Chief Constable, and magistrate but was also a farmer, brewer and businessman, accumulating a huge estate.  His premature death in 1810 was mourned by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the elite of the colony as well as the local Hawkesbury community. His obituary in the Sydney Gazette reads

At Hawkesbury, Green Hills, on Monday the 22d Instant, after a lingering and severe illness, aged 37, Andrew Thompson, Esq. Magistrate of that District. In retracing the last twenty years of the life of this exemplary and much lamented Character will not be held uncharitable to glance at the lapse from rectitude which in an early and inexperienced period of youth destined him to these shores, since it will stamp a more honourable Tribute to his Memory to have it recorded, that from his first arrival in this Country he uniformly conducted himself with that strict regard to morality and integrity, as to obtain and enjoy the countenance and protection of several succeeding Governors; active, intelligent and industrious, of manners mild and conciliatory, with a heart generous and humane, Mr. Thompson was enabled to accumulate considerable property; and what was more valuable to him, to possess the confidence and esteem of some of the most distinguished Characters in this Country; the consciousness of which surmounted the private solicitude of revisiting his native Country, and led him rather to yield to the wish of passing the evening of his life where his manhood had been meritoriously exerted, than of returning to the land which gave him birth. Mr Thompson's intrinsic good qualities were appreciated by His Excellency the present Governor, who soon after his arrival here was pleased to appoint him a Magistrate, for which situation Mr. Thompson's natural good sense and a superior knowledge of the Laws of his Country peculiarly qualified him. 
Nor can we close this Tribute to his Memory without recurring to the important services Mr. Thompson rendered this Colony, and many of his fellow-creatures, during the heavy and public distresses which the floods at the Hawkesbury produced amongst the Settlers in that extensive District; Mr. Thompson's exertions were on a late occasion for two days and two nights unremittingly directed to the assistance of the sufferers, and we hasten to add, that in these offices of humanity, he not only exposed himself to personal danger, but laid the foundation for that illness which has deprived the World of a valuable life.
During the unfortunate Disturbances which lately disrupted this Colony, he, whose death we now lament, held on the even "Tenor of his Way," and acquitted himself with mildness, moderation and wisdom, and when the ruthless Hand of Death arrested his earthly career, he yield with becoming fortitude, and left this World for a better, with humble and devout resignation, and an exemplary confidence in the Mercies of his God.
Source: Family Notices. (1810, October 27). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article628118

The square, located on a ridge between the Hawkesbury River and South Creek, was named Thompson Square by Macquarie in honour of his friend. He also erected a lengthy monument on his grave in St. Matthew's Church of England Cemetery in 1813 with "respect and esteem for the Memory of the deceased." 

Nichols Bakery, Windsor Street Richmond

The image of the Nichols Bakery & General Store located in Windsor Street, Richmond is one of our family’s treasured photographs linking the Nichols family to the Hawkesbury district. The photograph appears to have been taken towards the end of World War I, probably 1916-1918.

Nichols Bakery & General Store, Richmond NSW
(Nichols Family Archives)

Ernest Nichols, my Great Grandfather, arrived in Sydney in 1912. He migrated to Australia from England. Ernest was born in London in 1875 and from the 1890s was employed as baker. He was originally employed by Henry Purvis who ran the North Finchley Hygenic Bakery at 81 High Street.  Purvis was a ‘high class cook and confectioner’ and when he died in 1908  Ernest stayed on and worked for the estate. When he made the decision to migrate, the Purvis Company supplied Ern with an excellent reference, with the Manager recording Ern was leaving “entirely of his own accord, to try his fortune in a new country and we are very sorry and very reluctant to lose his services and we have no hesitation in recommending him for any position suited to his abilities and capacity. We consider him absolutely trustworthy and hardworking and have always found him to take an intelligent interest in anything he had in hand.”   

Ern’s wife Annie and their only son, William ‘Bill’ Robert aged ten, followed several months later, arriving in Sydney in 1913. Ern’s Recipe Book has survived and in it is recorded seven varieties of making yeast, baker’s recipes for Queen cakes, Madeira Cake, Cornflour Cream Buns, Coconut Mac’s, Cheese Curd etc. 

Shortly after Ern, Annie and Bill settled in Australia, his younger brother Wilfred decided to join him in Australia. Wilfred and his family arrived in 1913 and the two families enjoyed a close relationship throughout their lives. Ern and the family originally settled at Tilba on the South Coast of NSW and for a short time he did a bakery run between Tweed Heads and Coolangatta before eventually settling in Richmond. Here he operated the Nichols Bakery and General Store which was located in Windsor Street, Richmond. The store sold bread as well as a variety of goods. Brother Wilfred and his family were also living in Richmond at this time.

Ern left Richmond in the 1920s and tried his luck at poultry farming at Cowflats in Schofields. This venture did not last long and they then moved to Riverstone. He was employed again in the bakery business working for Charlie Fisher, at the local bakery on the night shift. Son Bill worked as a mechanic for Wally Heap and then commenced a hire car business in Richmond in the early 1920s. Bill later moved to Riverstone where he operated the first Taxi service in Riverstone and established Nichols Service Station in 1927.

Aged 92 years old, Ern died in 1967.